In his new book Nothing Is Impossible, Christopher Reeve offers inspiration and hope, but the Hollywood icon also demonstrates his enduring sense of humor.
In a chapter titled Religion, Reeve tells the story of his involvement with Scientology during 1975.
The saga begins outside a supermarket where the actor runs into a Scientologist promoting a “free personality test.” Reeve obliges him and takes the test, curious to find out its results.
The next day in the “plush…inner sanctum of…[Scientology's] headquarters…suitable for the president or CEO of a major corporation” he is told the bad news. Scientologists warn Reeve that he is carrying “heavy ‘baggage’” and suffers from a litany of personal problems.
But of course they can provide the needed “‘training’” to help him, which they say he should begin immediately.
So the future Superman takes Scientology courses hoping one day he will “go Clear,” which is Scientology jargon for reaching a supposed advanced state of consciousness made possible through their training.
Reeve writes about an exercise called “‘TRO’ (Training Routine Zero)” and explains, “The objective was to empty our minds of extraneous thoughts (‘clutter’)” And “whenever our own clutter tried to come back in, we were…to acknowledge its return and then command it to go away.”
Doesn’t this sound like “brainwashing“?
The actor tells readers that TRO only cost him “a few hundred dollars.” But after that came “auditing,” which he describes as “outrageously expensive.” And Reeve says Scientology wanted “$3,000 in advance” for that service, which was billed at a “$100 an hour in 1975.”
He explains that the “auditor” used an “E-Meter,” which is “a simple box with a window that contained a fluctuating needle and a card with numbers from one to ten. Two wires running out of the box…were attached to tin cans,” which he was asked to hold.
Apparently it didn’t take x-ray vision for Reeve to conclude that the “E-meter was basically a crude lie detector.”
What Reeve subsequently details sounds like an interrogation. The actor was asked to “recall the use of…illegal substances…painkillers…anything stronger than aspirin.” He says, “My drug rundown used up for or five sessions.”
But Reeve had “growing skepticism about Scientology.” So he decided to run his own test.
He told the auditor a long story supposedly about a past life, but he made it all up, based upon a Greek myth.
However, the auditor didn’t detect anything, even with the help of the trusty “E-Meter.”
It was then that the “Man of Steel” decided he was done with Scientology. Reeve writes, “The fact that I got away with a blatant fabrication completely devalued my belief in the process.”
Summing up a religious critique the actor says, “My problem has always been with religious dogma intended to manipulate behavior.”
Elsewhere in the book Reeve recounts exposure to Transcendental Meditation, a run-in with a devotee of Baba Muktanananda, an awareness weekend seminar, Deepak Chopra, “Harmonic Convergence” and “rebirthing.”
But Christopher Reeve never became another movie star devoted to some guru or “cult.” And it’s refreshing to find a celebrity that isn’t another annoying Hollywood cliché, constantly promoting some leader, special mentor or weird group.
Even after life dealt Reeve a tough hand in 1995 through a freak accident that paralyzed his body, he still didn’t grasp for some self-serving, comforting or convenient belief system.
Instead, the actor says God wants us to “do our best” and simply “discern the truth.” And Reeve cites a guiding principle espoused by the pragmatic Abraham Lincoln, “When I do good I feel good. When I do bad I feel bad. And that’s my religion.”
It seems Scientology has more to learn from Superman than he ever could have taken in from its endless courses and “auditing.”
Maybe this movie star should teach some Hollywood Scientologists like Tom Cruise and John Travolta?
Given his current circumstances many might think Christopher Reeve is bitter. But the actor centers much of his life and faith upon the value of hope.
He concludes at the end of his book, “When we have hope, we discover powers, within ourselves we may have never known—the power to make sacrifices, to endure, to heal, and to love. Once we choose hope, everything is possible.”