I got these questions from a Reddit user on the subject of Scientology church staff, the Sea Organization, as well as how Scientologists view Chairman of the Board RTC, David Miscavige as well as L. Ron Hubbard. Please note that the opinions here are my own as an individual Scientologist.
How do you/others feel about the higher organizations of Scientology and its members (i.e. Sea Org)? Much of media focuses on the experience of Sea Org and staff members, but is any of that really relevant to the regular parishioner?
Sea Organization members do what are, frankly, the hardest and most important jobs in our religion. These are things like:
The meticulous work involved in ensuring that the scripture of our religion is 100% verified as being authentic, and matches the intentions, writings and direction of the Founder of the religion. This includes, also, the work of getting these selfsame materials translated into 16-20 languages, and verifying that nothing is lost or mangled in the translation.
Design and construction of central Churches of Scientology, as well as its religious retreats and Advanced Organizations.
The administration and delivery of advanced courses in Scientology, such as those delivered at the Flag Service Organization.
Administration and management of Churches of Scientology around the world – which includes ensuring that Scientology is being properly delivered, that church policies are being followed, and that any outnesses found are put right.
It’s not trivial work, and as such, regular parishioners hold Sea Org members in quite high regard. The Sea Organization has high standards of ethics for all of its members, and as a religious order, not everyone qualifies to be a part of it. Further than that, Sea Org members have devoted their lives to the forwarding of the church’s mission in society. They’re not in it for the money, and definitely not for the fame. Most Sea Org members don’t have positions where what they do is even immediately visible to the average parishioner.
But we’re certainly glad that they’re there doing it, or else much of the experience of being a Scientologist that we take for granted – our materials, the people in the church that were trained to deliver & oversee counseling services, the work that’s done to defend our right to practice our religion and make it so we’re not all required to only take government-mandated pills whenever we seek spiritual betterment, these are things we’re happy to have Sea Org members for.
I’d absolutely recommend watching the video above, which detailed the work that was done in restoring and in many cases recovering from total loss the very fundamentals of the Scientology religion. The work that was done to bring this project to fruition was done by hundreds of Sea Org members, and was led by Mr. David Miscavige. The work involved included meticulous and factually unprecedented audio restoration work, piecing together notes and nearly readable dictation discs to bring to all Scientologists the books and materials Mr. Hubbard originally intended.
I wrote separately in an article I penned while studying these books & lectures, how important this task is to not only my generation, but to subsequent generations of Scientologists who will hope to study Scientology as it was intended, and not get a later interpretation or what was later termed by a committee to be an acceptable “version” of what was written. The entire religion of Scientology rests on the bedrock of knowing we’re doing what was originally written and intended.
Do Sea Org members command a different level or respect, like perhaps a priest or a nun might in other religions? Or are they viewed as just regular people who happen to be working in contract for the Church of Scientology?
Yes, they do command a high level of respect among normal Scientologists. There really isn’t a parallel in the corporate world to what it’s like being around some of these senior folks in the Sea Org. The level of personal ethics, of focus, and of profound and genuine care for not only their areas of responsibility, but for people in general is not something you see every day.
That being said, the life that’s led by Sea Org members is not remotely representative of the life lead by an individual Scientologist – any more than the life of a Buddhist monk is representative of the hundreds of millions of Buddhists around the world.
Do many have family/close friends in the Sea Org?
I don’t know about “many”. I certainly do, though. My mom and my sister are in the Sea Org at the Flag Service Organization in Clearwater.
My sister and her husband, both members of the Sea Org, out on a walk with us in Clearwater.
My mom, sister and her husband.
My sister and I last Christmas, up at a riverside cabin near Mount Hood.
My sister and I have always been very close, and we remain so to this day. She’s been in the Sea Org since she was about 19, and very much loves her job. We generally get together 1-2 times year, even though we’re across coasts, either my family going to Florida, or my mom or sister coming out west to see us.
On this vein of thought (and again, I mean no disrespect, I only aim to understand from your perspective), what are the general feelings on David Miscavige and his leadership of the Church of Scientology? Is it accurate to compare him for Scientology as the Pope is for Catholicism (viewed as an almost infallible, singular head of the church)? LRH akin to God or Jesus or Buddha? (I apologize if that seems blasphemous or accusatory.)
It’s difficult to compare what Mr. Miscavige does to an analogue in other religions, as the job of his organization (Religious Technology Center) is not the management of the church or its day-to-day affairs, but rather to protect the Scientology religion itself by ensuring that the scripture of Scientology itself is correct, and then seeing that it is being properly used.
The distinction between “running the church” and what RTC does is extremely important to understand, and puts what Mr. Miscavige does into the proper light – especially as compared to other religious leaders such as the Pope, or the Elders of the Mormon Church, etc.
What Mr. Miscavige and RTC do, however, is not viewed as “almost infallible”. For Scientologists, what’s treated as the “word” of the church is not the words of its current leadership at all, but the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. There’s no church staff member, Sea Org Member or parishioner who is exempt from church policy, or for whom rules don’t apply. We’re all making a go at it with the common agreement of what’s written by L. Ron Hubbard in policy, technical materials about the practice of the religion, and his books and lectures.
And that being said, I don’t know that anyone compares L. Ron Hubbard to God, Jesus or the Buddha. He’s an individual, and one who worked extremely hard to ensure that Scientology remains workable for anyone who decides they want to give it a whirl, and that it works uniformly and as repeatably. I certainly don’t view him as supernatural or something that should be worshipped or bowed-to, or the like. L. Ron Hubbard has my unparalleled respect, however. It doesn’t take much more than reading a few books and listening to his research path to gain an appreciation for just how hard he worked to ensure that Scientology worked, and worked for everyone.
I hope this is not too personal, but do you have any experience with the practice of disconnection, or anyone who does?
It’s not too personal, so sure – I’ll definitely write on this. To answer your question, in 30+ years of being a Scientologist and being friends with quite literally thousands of Scientologists, I’ve only had a handful – I’d say perhaps 4 as a generous guess, get expelled from the church. Getting expelled from the church is not a light matter, and it’s not done when you just mess up once, or when you did something “a little bit bad”, or perhaps “just weren’t into Scientology anymore” or something like this. You get expelled from the church for heinous and repeated ethical breaches, and when one is unwilling to fix it, change behaviour, or make it better.
In present media, it has been promoted to be a wildly widespread thing for people to get kicked out of the church. It really isn’t. Unfortunately, when you make a concerted effort to locate everyone who’s been kicked out of the church, and then pay them to say their piece on TV, and then explicitly don’t include anyone like me who’s having a great time as a Scientologist, it seems like it’s “EVERYWHERE!!!” when really it’s not. The other piece that hasn’t gotten any airtime is former Scientologists taking a shred of responsibility for why they got kicked out. The stories are icky, and not particularly nice, but hey – that’s not what the show is about so they sort of skip that.
One thing you should know is that in church ethics & justice procedure, there is a policy that’s been there from the start, which gives an exact process for getting back in good graces with the church, no matter if you feel like being a Scientologist still or not. It essentially consists of the individual (1) knocking off entirely the terrible things they were doing that got them kicked out in the first place, and (2) making amends for what damage they caused, and (3) submitting such to the International Justice Chief (a position in the Sea Org) and asking to be part of the group again.
There are two such people that I know who, after being expelled from the church (and yes, I know what they did, and yes – it was pretty awful), went through these steps and got themselves back in good standing again and are happily back in the group as Scientologists. We never shut the door all the way, but we’re not about to let people back into the circle who are still avowedly bad and are still doing bad things.
But again, the short answer to the question is that yes I’ve experience with it, but no it has not impacted any statistically significant fraction of my family, friends or extended contacts.
Disconnection has, for the most part, been used by people I know with respect elements entirely disrelated to Scientology which occur in people’s lives that are keeping them from their goals.