Sea Org

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Sea Org
Sea Org logo.svg
Motto "Revenimus" ("We come back")[1]
Formation 1967[2]
Type Paramilitary
Headquarters Gold Base, California (Church of Scientology headquarters).
Sea Org mainly located in Clearwater, Florida; Copenhagen; London; Los Angeles; Saint Hill Manor; and on the Freewinds
Leader David Miscavige
Staff 6,000[2]
Website "What is the Sea Organization?", Scientology.org

The Sea Organization, or Sea Org, is a paramilitary[3] wing of the Church of Scientology, comprising the church's most dedicated members.[4] It has also been described as a private naval force,[5] and has operated several vessels in its past. As of 2009, it consisted of approximately 6,000 members, according to official Scientology statistics.[2] The Sea Org was established on 12 August 1967 by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Dianetics and Scientology, initially on board four ships, the Diana, the Athena, the Apollo, and the Excalibur.

In 1971, the Sea Org assumed responsibility for the ecclesiastical development of the church, and in particular the delivery of the upper levels of its auditing and training, known as Operating Thetan or OT levels.[6] In 1981, under the aegis of the Commodore's Messenger Organization led by David Miscavige, the Sea Org dissolved the Guardian's Office (GO) and assumed full responsibility for the international management of the Church, later reassigning the duties of the GO to the Office of Special Affairs in 1983 during the corporate restructuring of the Church.[7]

It moved to land-based organizations in 1975, though maritime customs persist, with many members wearing naval-style uniforms and addressing both male and female officers as "sir."[8] In 1988, the church purchased a 440-foot (130 m) motor vessel, the Freewinds, which docks in Curacao in the southern Caribbean and is used as a religious retreat and training centre, staffed entirely by Sea Org members.[2] Sea Org members make a lifetime commitment to Scientology by signing a billion-year contract that is officially described as a symbolic pledge.[9] In exchange, members are given free room and board, and a small weekly allowance. Sea Org members agree to strict codes of discipline, such as disavowing premarital sex, working long hours (on average at least 100 hours per week)[10] and living in communal housing, referred to as "berthings".[11] They are allowed to marry, but must relinquish their membership if they have or want to raise children.[12]

Background[edit]

L. Ron Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology in 1953 and the Sea Org in 1967.

J. Gordon Melton writes that Scientology is an esoteric Gnostic system based on the belief that the self, or thetan, is trapped in what it calls MEST, matter, energy, space and time. Scientology aims to restore the thetan to a state of "total freedom" from MEST through long courses of study and auditing, which rid the thetan of "engrams", recordings of distressing experiences from this and previous lives. The first significant aim of this training is the state of "Clear". Hubbard developed higher levels of training in the Sea Org, enabling the subject to live as an Operating Thetan (OT). An OT is said by the church to be able to experience the self outside the constraints of the body, a process Scientologists call "exteriorization".[6]

According to Hubbard, and Scientology's creation myth, much of the galaxy was ruled tens of millions of years ago by the Galactic Confederacy, comprising 26 stars and 76 planets, including Earth, then known as Teegeeack. The confederacy was controlled by a tyrant named Xenu, who sent people from other planets to Earth because of over-crowding. Their souls attached themselves in clusters to human bodies, so that each person on Earth became a collection of entities, rather than a single personality. Part of the mission of Scientology is to rid people of these extra entities, known as body thetans. Religious scholar Hugh Urban writes that the Sea Org resembles a group within the Galactic Confederacy known as the "Loyal Officers" who overthrew Xenu.[13]

Hubbard wrote that he formed the Sea Org to help Operating Thetans push through what he called the "Wall of Fire" (OT III, the training level that reveals the creation myth), in isolation from anything that might distract them. Stephen A. Kent (2001) argues that at least part of the reason for the establishment of the Sea Org was that the Church of Scientology's practices encountered resistance from the American Food and Drug Administration and the IRS, and from the governments of Australia, the UK and Rhodesia. Sailing on the high seas meant the church could escape their attention.[14]

Structure[edit]

Estates Project Force[edit]

All new recruits are required to complete a compulsory novitiate before they are allowed to join the Sea Org, which has been described as a boot camp.[15] During this phase, recruits are not yet considered to be Sea Org members, and are required to address all Sea Org members, regardless of rank, as "sir" as well as having to run everywhere instead of walking.[citation needed] Married couples are separated for the duration of the EPF and are not allowed to have private or intimate contact with each other.

While on the EPF, recruits perform five hours of manual labor every day, in addition to a five-hour study period that consists of studying several Scientology courses, including the Basic Study Manual, an introductory course in study tech, Introduction to Scientology Ethics, a basic course in Scientology ethics, as well as courses concerning the history of the Sea Org and personal hygiene & grooming. Like the RPF, the EPF does not have a definite schedule. A recruit graduates the EPF as soon as all the required courses have been completed and upon successfully undergoing a mandatory security check, they are then allowed to join the Sea Org as full members.[16]

Location[edit]

The church's cruise ship, the Freewinds, staffed by Sea Org members

In 1975, the church sold the Sea Org's ships and moved the organization to land bases around the world, which as of 2003, were operating in Clearwater, Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, Saint Hill Manor in the UK, and Sydney, with smaller offices in Budapest, Johannesburg, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, and Toronto.[6] In 1987, they purchased a ship, La Bohème, which they renamed Freewinds. The highest levels of Scientology are taught on this ship, including OT VIII, and important social occasions are held there.[17]

Billion-year contract[edit]

According to Hubbard, the Sea Org's mission is "an exploration into both time and space".[13] Sea Org members act as goodwill representatives and administrators of Scientology; all policy and administrative posts in the church's key organizations are held by Sea Org members.[6] Most members are given room, board and a weekly allowance of about $75.[18]

In accordance with Scientology beliefs, members are expected to return to the Sea Org when they are reborn; the Sea Org's motto is "We Come Back".[1] Members must therefore sign a symbolic billion-year "religious commitment", pledging to "get ethics in on this planet and the universe".[19] The church contends that the contract is merely symbolic of the dedication members are expected to give to the organization, and that they are free to leave if they wish. After signing, members report to the Estates Project Force, the Sea Org's induction program; Melton writes that members may take several years between signing the commitment and attending the induction. Once induction is completed, the final decision to join is made.[20]

Members who leave the Sea Org are issued a "freeloader's bill", retroactively billing them for any auditing or training they have received. Although the bill is not legally enforceable, these Scientologists may not receive services at any Scientology organization until they pay the bill and perform an ethics course.[21]

Marriage and family[edit]

Further information: Scientology and abortion

Sea Org members may marry one another, but are not permitted to marry outside the organization; extra-marital sex is also prohibited. According to Melton, couples with children must leave the Sea Org and return to other staff positions within the church until the child is six years old; thereafter the children are raised communally and allowed to visit their parents in the Sea Org at weekends. Children of members have themselves joined the Sea Org when they came of age.[22] Several former members have said they were advised (or even forced) to have an abortion when they became pregnant to avoid being sent to lower organizations.[23] Scientology presents itself as opposed to abortion and actively speaks out against it in its publications.[18]

Rehabilitation Project Force[edit]

Further information: Rehabilitation Project Force

The Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) was created in January 1974 as a system of work camps set up by the Sea Org, intended to isolate and rehabilitate members who have not lived up to the church's expectations, have failed security checks, or have violated certain policies. Melton writes that the RPF areas are located within Sea Org facilities, and that there are no locks on the doors.[24]

Many ex-Sea Org members have reported gruelling treatment. According to Melton, there are eight hours of physical work – such as painting, plumbing, and upkeep of grounds – six days a week; the work may involve teaching the member a skill such as carpentry. Members also spend five hours a day studying with or auditing a partner.[24] Former Scientologist Jon Atack argued, in A Piece of Blue Sky (1990), that treatment of Sea Org members in the RPF was a "careful imitation of techniques long-used by the military to obtain unquestioning obedience and immediate compliance to orders, or more simply to break men's spirits ..."[25] One former member, Gerry Armstrong, said that during his time in the Sea Org in the 1970s he spent over two years banished to the RPF as a punishment:

It was essentially a prison to which crew who were considered nonproducers, security risks, or just wanted to leave the Sea Org, were assigned. Hubbard's RPF policies established the conditions. RPF members were segregated and not allowed to communicate to anyone else. They had their own spaces and were not allowed in normal crew areas of the ship. They ate after normal crew had eaten, and only whatever was left over from the crew meal. Their berthing was the worst on board, in a roach-infested, filthy and unventilated cargo hold. They wore black boilersuits, even in the hottest weather. They were required to run everywhere. Discipline was harsh and bizarre, with running laps of the ship assigned for the slightest infraction like failing to address a senior with "Sir." Work was hard and the schedule rigid with seven hours' sleep time from lights out to lights on, short meal breaks, no liberties and no free time ...

When one young woman ordered into the RPF took the assignment too lightly, Hubbard created the RPF's RPF and assigned her to it, an even more degrading experience, cut off even from the RPF, kept under guard, forced to clean the ship's bilges, and allowed even less sleep.[25]

Analysis[edit]

Several scholars, writers and former members have compared the Sea Org to a paramilitary group.[26] In Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography (2008), Andrew Morton described it as a "fraternal paramilitary organization", and wrote that members are instructed to read The Art of War by warfare expert Sun Tzu, and On War by General Carl von Clausewitz. He wrote that Scientology leader David Miscavige created an elite unit within the Sea Org called the "SEALs", named after the United States Navy SEALs, who receive better lodging, sustenance, and uniforms than other Sea Org members.[27]

Lawrence Wright wrote in The New Yorker in 2011 that the Sea Org used small children drawn from Scientology families for what the article described as forced child labour. The article described extremely inhumane conditions, with children spending years in the Sea Org, sequestered from mainstream life.[12]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Atack 1990, p. 175.
  2. ^ a b c d Melton 2009, pp. 26–27.*"What is the Sea Organization?", Church of Scientology, accessed 10 July 2012.
  3. ^ Stark and Bainbridge 1996, p. 213.
    • Dawson 2006, p. 38: "Members of the paramilitary Sea Org sign billion-year contracts of absolute loyalty and service to the highest leadership of the Church of Scientology."
    • Former member Aaron Judge in Squires, 29 November 2009: "The Sea Org is like a military organization. You live in cramped quarters, are served food in the cafeteria area and you basically work from 8:30 in the morning through to 11:15 at night."
    • Former Scientology auditor Bruce Hines in Cooper, 2 December 2005: "It's very much a military organization. You wear a uniform, there's saluting, marching, standing at attention."
  4. ^ "WHAT IS THE SEA ORGANIZATION?". Church of Scientology International. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Russell Miller (15 November 1987). "Farce and fear in Scientology's private navy [extract from "Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard"]". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Melton 2003, pp. 44–47.
  7. ^ Chris Owen (August 1997). "Scientology's Secret Service 2. The Guardian Office (1966-83)". Operation Clambake. Andreas Heldal Lund. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Reitman, 23 February 2006, p. 1.
  9. ^ "IS IT TRUE THAT PEOPLE IN THE SEA ORG SIGN A BILLION-YEAR CONTRACT?". Church of Scientology International. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Tony Ortega. "Scientology's Own Promotional Material Attests to 15-Year-Olds in the Sea Org". Runnin' Scared. Village Voice. 
  11. ^ Headley, Marc (2009), Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology, BFG Books, p. 358, retrieved 8 July 2013 
  12. ^ a b Wright, 14 February 2011.
  13. ^ a b Urban 2011, pp. 124–127.
  14. ^ Kent 2001, pp. 111–112, footnote 23.
  15. ^ Abigail Pesta website=The Daily Beast. "Scientology’s Sea Org: A Story of Escape for Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise". Newsweek/The Daily Beast LLC. 
  16. ^ Stephen A. Kent (13 September 2000). Brainwashing in Scientology's Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF). Interior Ministry - Behörde für Inneres — Arbeitsgruppe Scientology und Landeszentrale fuür politische Bildung. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  17. ^ For an example of the latter, see Reitman 2011, p. 284.
  18. ^ a b St. Petersburg Times, 18 July 2004.
  19. ^ Copy of Sea Org agreement form, Los Angeles Times, accessed 10 July 2012.
    • Also see Melton 2003, pp. 51–52.
  20. ^ Melton 2003, p. 50.
  21. ^ Farley, 24 June 2006, pp. 1A, 14A.
  22. ^ Melton 2003, p. 53.
  23. ^ Kent 1999.
  24. ^ a b Melton 2003, p. 57ff.
  25. ^ a b Atack 1990, p. 206.
  26. ^ Stark and Bainbridge 1996, p. 213.
    • Dawson 2006, p. 38: "Members of the paramilitary Sea Org sign billion-year contracts of absolute loyalty and service to the highest leadership of the Church of Scientology."
    • Former member Aaron Judge in Squires, 29 November 2009: "The Sea Org is like a military organization. You live in cramped quarters, are served food in the cafeteria area and you basically work from 8:30 in the morning through to 11:15 at night."
    • Former Scientology auditor Bruce Hines in Cooper, 2 December 2005: "It's very much a military organization. You wear a uniform, there's saluting, marching, standing at attention."
  27. ^ Morton 2008, pp. 126, 135–137.

References[edit]

Books and papers
News items

Further reading[edit]