"It's high-end beautiful but not ostentatious," decorated with Craftsman furniture, and draperies and other items that were designed to be changed with the seasons, Schless Pressley said.
"The whole theory of that house was that before Hubbard died in 1986, David Miscavige told us, Hubbard told him he was going to come back and make himself visible within 13 years," Schless Pressley said.
The mansion, Rinder said, is merely a museum that contains most of Hubbard's belongings.
"It's preserved because the life of L. Ron Hubbard is extremely important to Scientologists," he said.
Miscavige, who spent his teenage years as one of Hubbard's cadre of young aides, rose to the head of Scientology after the founder's death. Little known outside the organization, Miscavige in the early 1990s succeeded in gaining tax-exempt status for the church after he and another Scientology official personally approached the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service to negotiate a settlement.
As chairman of the board of the Religious Technology Center, which holds the lucrative rights to the Scientology and Dianetics trademarks, he is the church's ultimate authority — and is treated as such.
Miscavige's living quarters and offices in renovated bungalows were modest compared with Bonnie View but reflected his taste for the best of the best, including state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment, said ex-members who viewed the accommodations.
"He's about five-seven, and everything was built in proportion to his body size," Schless Pressley said. "And everything was the best. You know how everybody has a pen cup on his desk? His pen cup had about 20 Montblanc pens in it."
Shelly Britt, who joined Scientology at 17, said she was at the base for nearly 20 years before leaving the church in 2002. She said she worked directly with Miscavige much of that time. She recalled a Beverly Hills tailor visiting to measure Miscavige for his suits, and said moldings of his feet were taken and sent to London for custom-made shoes.
"His lifestyle so far exceeds anyone else's. He had his own personal staff to handle his food and his room and his clothes and his ironing and his dogs," she said. "His uniforms were specially tailored, and he had, like, Egyptian cotton shirts, special pants, special shoes, special everything. And it was all of the highest quality."
Although Hines, Britt and other ex-members describe Miscavige as extremely demanding of those under his command, they say he treated Cruise "like a king." Among other things, Britt said, Miscavige and his wife attended the star's 1990 wedding to Kidman in Colorado and then followed up with frequent gifts.
"They don't do that for every celebrity," she said. "I remember one time I had to go pick up one of those big fancy picnic baskets and china and silver and take it out to Burbank to Tom's pilot. I even took pictures of it so Dave and his wife could see I took it out to the plane."
Rinder said that Cruise was treated no differently from other members and that his highly public support of Scientology came straight from his heart.
"It's a reflection of his own decisions and personal conviction," Rinder said.
The church's belief in the power of celebrity to promote Scientology dates to its earliest days when, in 1955, the church issued "Project Celebrity," a call to arms for Scientologists to recruit show business "quarry" such as Walt Disney, Liberace and Greta Garbo to help expand the religion's reach.
Although the church failed to enlist those famous figures, it has been successful in attracting many others in addition to Cruise, including John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Juliette Lewis, Isaac Hayes, Anne Archer, Jenna Elfman, Beck and Chick Corea.
More than any other celebrity, Cruise has helped fuel the growth of the church, which claims a worldwide membership of 10 million and in the last two years has opened major centers in South Africa, Russia, Britain and Venezuela. Cruise joined Miscavige last year for the opening of a church in Madrid.
In his own spiritual life, Cruise has continued to climb the "Bridge to Total Freedom," Scientology's path to enlightenment. International Scientology News, a church magazine, reported last year that the actor had embarked on one of the highest levels of training, "OT VII" — for Operating Thetan VII.
At these higher levels — and at a potential cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars — Scientologists learn Hubbard's secret theory of human suffering, which he traces to a galactic battle waged 75 million years ago by an evil tyrant named Xenu.
According to court documents made public by The Times in the 1980s, Hubbard espoused the belief that Xenu captured the souls, or thetans, of enemies and electronically implanted false concepts in them to keep them confused about his dirty work. The goal of these advanced courses is to become aware of the trauma and free of its effects.
At Cruise's high level of training, ex-members say, devotees also are charged with actively spreading the organization's less secretive beliefs and advancing its crusades, including Hubbard's deep disdain for psychiatry, a profession that once dismissed his teachings as quackery.
"When you hear Tom Cruise talking about psychiatrists and drugs," said one prominent former Scientologist who knows Cruise, "you are hearing from the grave the voice of L. Ron Hubbard speaking."