I never, ever, heard anyone believing that...
The way I understood the drill was to teach you that intention is not shouting, is not doing it yourself (raise the ashtray)
Simply intention, nothing else...without a via...
People doing the drill usually didn't expect to move the ashtray any other way than manually, however, after doing (then) "OT 8" (once it was released), it was expected that they'd be able to move objects with their intention (without the via of their hands).
At the time people in Orgs believed L. Ron Hubbard was being honest with them. As far as I know they still do.
Perhaps someone can post a link to the Grade Chart of that era.
Hubbard made millions, and justified slave labor and Fair Game, and other abuses, with the promise of the EP of - then - "OT 8."