Since the age of 14, San Francisco native Steve Latch has dedicated his life to the Church of Scientology's spiritual counseling regime.

Like all serious Scientologists, he began with "auditing" sessions using the e-meter, a simple biofeedback machine that purports to measure unconscious thoughts that impede spiritual development.

Born in 1964, this second-generation church member climbed through Scientology's various levels of mental functioning--steps on a spiritual ladder that promise enlightenment and "literal immortality."

Scientologists call it "moving up the bridge."

"I'm at a very, very high level," Latch said. "I feel like I have a great understanding of myself spiritually--I can decide what I want, and the power of that decision alone can allow the material universe to align with my decision."

Latch's father, San Francisco chiropractor Lloyd Latch, and his mother, Connie, joined the Church of Scientology in the 1970s. They credit its counseling program with saving a once-troubled marriage.

They have four grown sons. One wants nothing to do with Scientology. Two joined their father's chiropractic business and remain church members. Steve, their eldest son, has spent the last 19 years on the staff of the Church of Scientology in San Francisco.

"My parents never said I had to do Scientology auditing," he said. "Scientology is passed down on to families by the application of it, of living a drug-free life, using our study technologies, interacting in the community."

Steve's mother, Connie, says Scientology inspired her to work with poor children in the Tenderloin's Boeddeker Park, where she dresses up as "Happy Cat" and passes out a Hubbard tract called "The Way to Happiness."

She said she has no regrets about the money she and her family have spent over the years on Scientology counseling and auditing sessions. "We believe in giving back," said Connie, sitting in a conference room inside her husband's bustling practice on Van Ness Avenue. "I could not put a price on the benefit we have obtained."

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