In 1966 L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, began to buy a number of Ships. Not long after, he took to sea as “Commodore” of his own private navy, which he dubbed “The Sea Org”.
His motivations for this are obscure. Possibly he:
- Had decided to take to the high seas to escape real (and imagined) legal scrutiny
- Needed to compensate for his humiliating career in the US Navy
- Was looking for a weakly-administered nation where Scientology could establish a base free from official ‘interference’ (a sort of Scientology Vatican)
- Enjoyed the idea of being absolute ruler of a ship, and the opportunity for the untrammelled exercise of power that this afforded.
Whatever his reason(s), the “Sea Org” was born soon after – uniformed Scientologists whose job was to man these ships while Hubbard sailed from port to port. Of course, “The Commodore” controlled every aspect of these voyages, and of the lives of his crew.
They were expected to follow the instructions of Hubbard’s sailing manual – a document which was constantly amended and expanded by “Flag Orders”. When Hubbard returned to land, “Ships Org Book” stood at five volumes, which are available for download above.
The role of the ‘Org Book‘ first became public knowledge in April 1967, when the British Newspaper “The Daily Mirror” reported on a voyage undertaken under contract by a Captain John Jones. His job was to deliver one the new vessels (The Avon River a well-used steam trawler) to Las Palmas, where Hubbard was waiting to supervise its refit.
In “Bare Faced Messiah” Russell Miller summarises the good Captain’s story as follows,
“My crew were sixteen men and four women Scientologists who wouldn’t know a trawler from a tramcar” [He] was informed that he would be expected to run the ship according to the rules of The Org Book, a sailing manual written by the founder of the church of Scientology and therefore considered by scientologists to be infallible gospel. “I was instructed not to use any electrical equipment, apart from lights, radio and direction finder. We had radar and other advanced equipment, which I was not allowed to use. I was told it was all in The Org Book, which was to be followed without question”.
Following the advice in this esteemed manual, the Avon River bumped the dock in Hull as she was getting under way and had barely left the Humber estuary before the Scientologist navigator, using the navigational system advocated by Hubbard, confessed that he was lost. “I stuck to my watch and sextant,” said Captain Jones, “so at least I knew where we were.
Considering that The Org Book was the only information the unqualified crew had to sail a ship on an unforgiving sea under Hubbard’s eccentric command it was remarkable that they survived.
The Sea Org (who still sport Naval uniforms and a para-military organisational style) now function as a land-based ‘religious order’ with a questionable human rights record. They administer and support Scientology. All executives of the Church of Scientology are members of the ‘Sea Org’ to this day.