Why I Never Joined The Sea Org
I believe in the purpose and the mission of the Sea Org. I appreciate the difficult circumstances under which Sea Org members function, and the difficult jobs they’re called upon to do. The following is not meant to be an indictment of all Sea Org members or the organization as a whole. It is simply a set of events that caused me personally to decide I didn’t want to be a member. I believe that, one way or another, the Sea Org deviated from LRH’s original dream with regard to it. And now, thirty years on, I believe circumstances to be far worse than I detail here.
It was the late ’70s, early ’80s. My then wife (we’ll call her Cassie) and I had been on staff for a few years. I was the Treasury Sec and Cassie was the HCO Cope Officer. Because I was the Treasury Secretary, I was under the constant scrutiny of the Guardian’s Office (GO). My Assistant Guardian/Finance (AGF) was a bright lady who was in my office as much as hers. Her presence and scrutiny didn’t bother me, since I had nothing to hide. That is, until my wife and I began to accumulate debts and our creditors started to call the org. Naturally, as org staff members, we got next to nothing for pay. Not even enough to cover groceries much of the time. Once the collection calls started, I was in panic mode that the GO would find out and flay me alive. The GO did not have a sense of humor about such things.
Ultimately, the result was that Cassie and I blew from staff. Naturally, our departure, per policy, resulted in SP declares for both of us. (No, we didn’t take any money or mishandle any funds from the org.) We ended up staying with her parents in another city for a time, while we got jobs and accumulated enough money to get our own apartment. Ultimately we were relatively happy where we were. We were saving up to pay our freeloader debts.
At the time WISE International was located in Clearwater, just down the street from Flag. Somehow we got the HCO Exec Sec (HES) of WISE on our lines, and she convinced us to accept a deal with her. We would move to Clearwater and go on staff temporarily at WISE. We’d do some marketing work for them, for which they’d pay us wog rates, which money we would use to pay off our debts and then join the Sea Org. All WISE Int personnel were Sea Org at the time.
So we quit our jobs, sold our car, packed our stuff into a U-Haul and started off across country. Unfortunately, by the time we got to WISE, a garrison mission had fired into WISE, and our “deal” was off. The HES was still there, but demoted.
We spent a bit of time trying to figure out what to do. We finally got some marketing work out of WISE and a little money. But not enough to pay both our freeloader debts. Meantime, we lived in berthing, ate at the Executive Mess along with the rest of the WISE crew, worked on odd jobs at WISE on a Sea Org schedule, etc. In other words, for all intents and purposes, we lived and worked as Sea Org members for a time. Beyond the marketing work we’d done, all other work we did for WISE was unpaid. They did not put us on their staff pay line-up.
In addition to our work for WISE, we worked with the Mission 2nd on our condition formulas, since we were still technically declared (we had to do our A-Es). The mission 2nd was a tall, skinny fellow from Scotland who was supposed to be the premier Ethics Officer on multiple continents. We’ll call him Angus. He took an immediate liking to Cassie. She was newer to Scientology was easily impressed by Angus. Angus was less than impressed by me.
The Shower Wall
When we first got to the base, we were put in a small room in an upper floor of the Ft Harrison hotel (FH). The room was dingy and still had some of the stuff from the prior occupant in it. But the worst part was that, when you went into the bathroom, you noticed that the bathtub/shower had two shower curtains. One was where you’d expect it to be, on a rod, placed in such a position that it would prevent water from being splashed all over the bathroom.
But there was a second shower curtain, this one on the opposite side of the tub, directly against the wall and covering the side wall against which the tub was installed. Why? Turns out there was a hole in the wall, big around as a person’s torso. Why? Because the tile on the wall of the tub apparently had deteriorated to such an extent that it had fallen into the tub. And it had never been replaced. Rather than have a full repair done, someone had decided a better idea was simply to put a shower curtain over it.
I got the impression this wasn’t the only room at the FH which had problems like this. We spent a few weeks at the FH before they moved us to a hotel a couple of miles away.
Apparently, there was a rule at Flag we weren’t aware of when we arrived. TVs weren’t allowed. TVs like the one we’d brought with us on the trip. Why? There was some advice from Ron which condemned television. Of course, rather than treat an “advice” as advice, it was treated like orders or policy. And of course, you couldn’t find a copy of this advice. So a hidden data line of supposed advice from Ron turned into rigid policy.
Of course, on a Sea Org schedule, I’m not sure who had the time to watch a lot of TV. This was before the advent of VCRs and DVDs. So it wasn’t like you could watch the latest episode of MASH from last week. There were probably five whole channels, and you’d be limited to whatever happened to be on on one of those five channels when you happened to have time to watch TV.
I ran into a similar thing later, when I moved to LA. Someone at Pac Base had gotten hold of an LRH advice condemning fragrances. As a consequence, all scented products of any kind were completely banned from the base. Advice = Orders = Policy.
I can’t blame people for avoiding scented products. I do. It’s the robotic inability to distinguish between advice and orders and policy that struck me as so foreign. You want to discourage people from watching TV, publish the advice broadly and let them make their own decision. Don’t treat adults like children and forbid something which never killed anyone unless it fell on them.
They had this thing at Flag Mess called the “Mess Presidents Committee”, which represented all the various orgs which ate at the base. These folks made various decisions with regard to our food and such.
Now, you must understand that the food at the base was beyond bad. It was nearly inedible, much less almost completely lacking in full nutrition. We had to go get a greasy hamburger off base once a week to keep up our spirits about it. I started looking into why. The first and most obvious reason was that this base of 800 staff had one and only one cook working in the galley, one Ronnie Rathbun. The second thing I found out was that the particular selection of food we were eating (mostly crackers and vegetables, with some fruit) was the result of a decision by the Mess Presidents Committee. It was something called “The Pritikin Diet”. The question was why they would decide on such a debilitating diet.
Apparently, as some point prior, there had been a lot of illness on the base (maybe there still was; I don’t know). Someone had requested the advice of Mary Sue. Her response was a suggestion that the base be put on the Pritikin Diet. Why? Because the natives from whom the diet was copied had almost no illness among their people.
Of course, all this presented some fairly obvious and blatant outpoints to me. First, you’ve got illness, so you’ve got a situation requiring PTS handlings, not dietary restrictions. Second, you’ve got a situation where you’ve got a glaring omission in the galley– cooks! One cook for 800 people is quite a few too few. Under those circumstances, I can imagine the food would be horrible. As a consequence, I can imagine that staff would avoid the mess. Failing to eat would predispose them to illness. And of course, now that you had people eating nothing but crackers and vegetables, the situation would be no better, if not worse.
Was this the best a group of 800 Sea Org members could come up with in terms of handling an understaffed galley and rampant crew illness? Seriously?
What work we did for WISE (except the marketing bit) was done for no money. We lived and worked under the same conditions as the Sea Org members of WISE, but didn’t get paid. At one point, I asserted that, since Cassie and I were there at WISE working on the same terms as everyone else, we really should be paid. The answer from the Mission 2nd was that we or I could submit a CSW to be paid, and presumably would have to submit such a CSW every week.
Now, to some extent I can understand this viewpoint. You want something, don’t just expect it to come to you. CSW for it. Of course. On the other hand, if you brought on new crew, wouldn’t you automatically add them to the payroll? Would you wait for a new staff member at the local Taco Bell or car dealership to submit a CSW before you’d pay him? Or would you automatically add him to the pay roster?
And if you think about it, this put WISE out-exchange with us. Any reasonably intelligent Scientologist should be able to spot that kind of outpoint almost immediately. And correct it.
Sea Org Personnel Are Superior
At one point, Angus convinced me to spend a significant part of the money we’d saved up to pay off Cassie’s freeloader debt, so she could proceed into the Sea Org and get her Products and Mission School done. I don’t believe that Angus cared whether my freeloader debt ever got paid. I reluctantly agreed and Cassie got things wrapped up so she could start her training.
As Cassie got more training, I noticed something disturbing. Her attitude toward me became more distant and “superior”. I didn’t mention it at the time, but I certainly noticed it. I don’t know if that’s part of the preliminary training of Sea Org members, but if so, it should be tempered with a course in the value of humility.
Ethics Conditions Formulas
As I mentioned, we did our ethics conditions formulas under the supervision of Angus. Problem was, he blocked me from completing my conditions formulas. I remember one formula I turned in to him, which he returned to me with this comment: “This is utter crap!”
Understand, I’d been on staff for a number of years before and done quite a few formulas. And I’m not stupid. I’d say my ability to execute conditions formulas was equal to most people’s, at least. But Angus’ response to a conditions formula was, “This is utter crap!” No other explanation. No attempt to clear up whatever I was supposed to have misunderstood. No help. No ARC. This was the greatest Ethics Officer on multiple continents? Really?
Cassie got plenty of help from Angus. I found out later that after Cassie and I divorced, Angus took the opportunity to date her for a while. Hmm.
At WISE, I was working in Treasury. I’d been Treasury Sec in my old org. Before that, I was the Director of Records, Assets and Material (Dir RAM). Before that, I was the Audits Project Force Officer. All this means that at my former org, I’d done a lot of audits for my former org.
Audits are supposed to be done for every month and year for every org. Basically, in an audit, you categorize every piece of income, every disbursement of funds, put the summary numbers on a huge piece of accounting paper, and total all the numbers in every way you can to ensure everything matches up and is accounted for. After this is done, the audit is sent to the local Assistant Guardian for Finance (AGF). She checks all the figures with the raw records and makes sure everything matches up and the job is done right. Then it goes up to the Guardian’s Office U. S. to serve as backup for the corporate tax returns and such. I probably did hundreds of audits and never had one come back for anything major. Occasionally one would come back, asking me to re-categorize some income or disbursement which was kind of a toss-up transaction. I’d make the change and away it would go up the lines again.
So against this background, I noticed that WISE had never had any audits done of its books. I volunteered to do these for prior years, since I was working in Treasury anyway. I wrote up a CSW to the Mission 1st to allow me to do this. I had to TR-3 this request a number of times with the Mission 1st.
Finally, the answer came through. According to the Mission 1st, he had gotten a telex from the Guardian’s Office that all my audits at my old org had to be redone. So the answer to me doing the audits at WISE was, “No”. Of course, this didn’t make any sense to me at all. So I asked to see the telex. The Mission 1st refused to let me see it. This told me he was lying about it.
If there was some other reason he didn’t want me to do the audits, he could have told me and we could have discussed it. Instead, it appeared that he had to fabricate a telex from the Guardian’s Office.
How do I know my audits didn’t have to be redone? I have since gotten back in comm with my old AGF and put the question to her. Her answer: No, your audits were all fine. (Believe me, if my audits had had to be redone, she would have hung for it just like me.)
I did write a very long knowledge report (KR) about conditions at WISE to the Commodore’s Messenger Org (CMO) Clearwater. Shortly thereafter, they sent three people into WISE to closely question the garrison missionaires (one of the CMO personnel was Debbie Cook). But as far as I could tell, nothing changed.
Once Cassie was done with her preliminary training they fired her off on mission to LA Org. So here I was in Clearwater, alone, working for WISE for nothing, with a couple of hostile garrison missionaires as my seniors, no job skills, and no future prospects. I applied to several places close enough for me to bike to, and ended up doing phone room work. I was dreadful at it and got paid a pittance before they got rid of me.
Finally, I contacted a friend of mine from my old org, who was now living in LA. I asked if there was any way he could send me a plane ticket, and I’d pay him back after I’d been in LA a while. Fortunately, he agreed, and I left for LA.
I stayed with him and his girlfriend for a while, and ultimately went to work for him when he started a new company.
I finally came to realize two things. First my marriage to Cassie was over. Second, the Sea Org wasn’t for me. I went over to LA Org and came to see Cassie. I broke the news about our marriage to her. She wasn’t surprised. She was a little griefy, but that was nothing compared to the revenge she visited upon me later. She ultimately ended up working at Golden Era Studios (Gold). Last I heard, she was still nattering about me, decades later, after her third or fourth marriage (none of them to Angus).
Imagine coming into a situation where you were part of a high purpose team, in fact the top such team in the world (Flag). You expect these people to be the creme de la creme of all Scientology. You expect them to be truthful, honest, compassionate, fair and well-trained. You expect their cases to be in top shape. You expect their quarters to be ship shape and their food to be delicious, plentiful and of top quality. You expect them to be happy, competent and productive.
Instead, you find what I detailed above.
I worked with better teams and people when I worked at Xerox. And those folks weren’t clearing the planet. They were just selling copiers.
Were there good people and good times at Flag/WISE in the early 80s? Of course. A bunch of us used to pile into a car on Friday or Saturday nights and invade the nearby Denny’s. We brought the whole place up at least two major tone levels and had the best time making ourselves and the staff at Denny’s laugh. On liberties (our bi-weekly days off) a bunch of us would go to the beach and enjoy ourselves immensely.
I’ll never forget the good times I had at WISE.
But ultimately, the overall desperate degradation of life in the Sea Org convinced me that, of all the games I could play, this was not one I wanted to be part of, regardless of the worthwhile purpose. I reasoned there had to be some other way to serve the purpose of clearing the planet.
None of this would be particularly helpful without suggestions for handling. I’m not an evaluator and this isn’t a formal evaluation. It’s just a set of suggestions from an external observer.
- Ron originally set up a Sea Org populated by trained auditors. Perhaps a return to that original recipe would be a good idea.
- The Sea Org is almost exclusively focused on the activities and conditions of the orgs it manages. Perhaps it should spend more of its human capital on taking care of its own members. “A well-fed and berthed, happy and productive crew with handled cases and worthwhile training in progress on every member” might be a reasonable sub-product.
- If the Sea Org’s mission is to get in ethics on this planet and this sector, perhaps it should spend a significant portion of its time training its members on ethics, the Code of Honor and Personal Integrity. Ethics can be used as a bludgeon or a salve. The Sea Org should know the difference and use it accordingly.
- Internally, the Sea Org should be acutely aware of members who are bullies and abusers. While these people can get products, they have no business in an organization of the Sea Org’s power. If unhandled, they will poison the group and ruin its repute. They should be handled or ejected if found.