In 1967 L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, took to the high seas to avoid the legal consequences of his activities. He bought a number of redundant vessels and recruited an ‘elite’ group of Scientologists to crew them for him – the ‘Sea Org’ (short for ‘Sea Organisation’).
The Sea Org has an official publication – “Highwinds: Magazine of the Sea Organisation”. After the break there are links to 12 issues of “Highwinds” which you can download.
Hubbard took up residence in the flagship, served by Sea Org personnel. This had originally been the “Royal Scotsman”, an Royal Navy infantry landing ship. It had been converted to a passenger ferry after the Second World War and then sold to the Church of Scientology. After another refit, it was renamed the “Apollo.”
After Hubbard abandoned ship, returned to the US and went into hiding, Scientology’s fleet of ships contracted from its peak of four to just one – the “Freewinds”, an ageing cruise ship where the most secret upper levels of Scientology training are still presented.
Despite an apparent lack of appropriate employment, the Sea Org endures. However, they are now an almost exclusively land-based organisation which the Church of Scientology claims is a religious order (although they still wear elaborate faux-Naval dress uniforms). Under US law, the Sea Org’s ‘religious’ status releases the Church from many legal obligations (e.g. employment law) and critics observe that Sea Org members work long hours under pseudo-military discipline for minimal wages – and are discarded without compensation when found to be ‘unfit for duty’.
Members of the Sea Org are encouraged to see themselves differently – as an uncompromising military force engaged in a mission to save mankind over multiple lifetimes. Their motto is “Revenimus” – “We come back” because they believe that they have served the Sea Org in previous lives and will do so again in future incarnations.
“Highwinds”: Magazine of the Sea Organisation – Download issues as .pdf files
Publication dates range from 1980 – 1998. Hubbard was at sea from 1967 – 1975 (except for for a period from 1972-73 when he lived in hiding in Queens NY). He died in 1986.
At the time when some of the later issues were published, Hubbard was in poor mental and physical health, living in hiding and dependent on others for information about the situation in Scientology and the outside world.
After Hubbard’s death in 1986 new management, under David Miscavige, took over Scientology. The “Highwinds” became more professionally produced. However, throughout this run it continued to push the official Church of Scientology view of the tradition and mission of the Sea Org – especially to potential recruits.
Selected Highlights from “Highwinds”
There follows my quick survey of items in these magazines which interest me. If you spot something in interesting I have missed, please mention it in the comments section a the bottom of the page, or contact me via the feedback page.
This issue presents the Sea Org as the guardians of ‘Standard Tech’ – that is, of orthodox Scientology doctrine and practice.
Hubbard frequently emphasised that Scientology always worked… when properly applied. Of course, this provides an excuse for each and every failure – that the application of Scientology has been sabotaged by infiltrators (so-called “suppressive persons”).
In practice, the Sea Org use this doctrine to harrass financially under-performing orgs. They are sent on ‘missions’ to improve an Org’s performance and they have the power to formally declare any Scientologist of whom they disapprove to be a ‘suppressive person’.
This is likely to intimidate the remaining staff into greater efforts – if a Scientologist is ‘declared’ in this way they are automatically expelled from the organisation. Friends and loved ones who are Scientologists are then required to “disconnect” from them – that is, to shun them.
However, some things never change. Even back in 1980 Scientology orgs were so short of ‘qualified’ staff that they were trying to ‘recover’ disaffected members with a sort of amnesty, implicitly promising that Scientology’s past heavy-handed disciplinary actions would conveniently be found to have been in error (see above left).
The cover of this issue features a detailed picture of L Ron Hubbard (at top centre) apparently shooting and directing a film served by a ‘crew’ of Sea Org assistants.
Directly below Hubbard is a young David Miscavige – the man who manoeuvred himself into a position of influence within Hubbard’s inner circle and seized absolute power over Scientology after Hubbard died.
At the bottom left, someone can be seen holding a bottle and a red-stained sponge. Hubbard’s films about Scientology were allegedly melodramatic, with emphatic heroes and villains. Many encounters were gory, and required lashings of fake blood. It seems to be her job to apply this.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to illustrate Hubbard’s taste for cinematic blood and gore. The Church of Scientology has withdrawn all of the films he made during this period.
The cover image illustrates the theme of the issue, which is the work done at”Golden Era Studios” producing ‘training films’ and promotional material for Scientology.
Also of interest to Scientology-watchers in this issue is an official description of Sea Org insignia (image left). Make your own copy and you can spot the rank of any Sea Org member (providing they take the trouble to follow their own conventions).
Apparently, the dress uniform cap badge, chin strap, buttons, overcoat shoulder boards; the shoulder loops and collar bars worn on the dress shirt, and the sleeve stripe and lanyard worn on the dress jacket all have significance.
They mark a range of ‘ranks’. Although the lowly “Swamper” is unknown to more conventional Navies, other ranks (e.g. Lt Commander, Commander and Captain) form part of a more familiar chain of command.
It should be noted that the only Captain in the Sea Org is David Miscavige (who appears in the picture above).
It is his superior ‘rank’ that is deemed to place him in supreme authority over the Church of Scientology. L Ron Hubbard will always be ‘The Commodore’, and nobody in Scientology would dare assume an equal rank – however, as long as Hubbard is dead, and there are no more Commodores, being Captain is just as good.
The cover picture features a ceremonial dirk, awarded
[…] to very upstat Sea Org Missionaires, the Dirk was especially created for the Sea Org by Fabrica Garrido of Toledo Spain. Shown with sheath and belt.
If readers wondered why someone on a spiritual mission to save the planet would need a traditional, razor-sharp, Scottish weapon of war, this question was neither asked not answered.
The theme of this issue (which includes multiple articles on the subject all attributed to Hubbard) seems to be Scientology ‘ethics’ – that is the doctrines of practices that are used to discipline Scientologists. Since Scientology ‘ethics’ includes such practices as ‘disconnection’ (which requires members to shun anyone – including family and friends – who are declared to be ‘suppressive’ by the church) they are clearly not ethical in the conventional sense of the word.
This issue covers the maiden voyage of the “Freewinds“. Previously the MS Bohème, this is where most secret levels of Scientology training are presented.
The Bohème was originally designed as a ferry for cars and passengers. However, when it was already half-complete, the customer cancelled its contract with the shipyard. After considerable redesign work, the vessel was re-purposed and sold as a cruise ship.
In 1986 she was acquired by the the Church of Scientology and entered their service in 1988. After twenty years of operation with Scientology, the Freewinds was sealed in 2008 after it was found to be heavily contaminated with blue asbestos – the most dangerous type.
Critics allege that Sea Org members who worked on renovations between 1995- 98 (and subsequent passengers) were exposed to this lethal substance.
In 2015, the “Freewinds” is still in service with the Church of Scientology
Issue ten is entitled ‘ethics and expansion’. It elaborates on the message we have already seen in issue two (above).
Much space is consumed by graphs supposedly showing how a Sea ‘mission’ to Scientology Orgs in Zurich and Munich in Germany et. al. improved the staff’s performance in a variety of ways.
In actual fact, Sea Org missions are generally dreaded by the staff of Scientology orgs, because of their high-handed attitude and often abusive behaviour.
This is illustrated with fine unconscious comedy by the image to the right, which is taken directly from the “Highwinds”. The book is “Ethics” by (who else but) L Ron Hubbard.
Starting on page 13 is L Ron Hubbards unconvincing version of his expulsion from Rhodesia. He blames this on attracting the attention of enemies after his supposedly successful efforts to improve the Rhodesian economy.
[…] an outfit in Britain considered all this sufficiently important to send one of their reporters down to tell their minister of information what a terribly bad fellow I was. He instantly, without checking his facts at all, turned around and gave the Prime Minister a story about what a terribly bad fellow I was who turned around and gave the cabinet the same story and they refused to extend my visa.
All a misunderstanding, then.
Hubbard claimed to have been in Rhodesia to secure a base for Scientology in Southern Africa which, unlike the US, would be secure from Nuclear war &/or “civil takeover”.
He also claimed that Scientology was solving the “[…] ethics problem in England” which had caused him to be excluded from Rhodesia. This was apparently due to “[..] two or three blokes who have suddenly decided to spend a fortune trying to cave in Scientology” (pg 13). Presumably these were the same people who prevented Hubbard from returning to Saint Hill Manor in 1966, when the British government declined to admit him into the country as an “undesirable alien”.
Hubbard, whom Scientology presents as the most capable of men seems to have very easily frustrated in his plans.
Once again, this issue bangs on about ‘standard tech’ and shows a Sea Org member meticulously checking every word in their literature against the original Hubbard texts.
This resulted in ideologically pure “Class VII Materials”. Although these materials were confined to “Advanced Orgs”, and not available to the public, it is possible that they provided the inspiration for the “Golden Age of Tech” – a project to ‘restore’ Hubbard’s writings.
Cynics suggest that the “Golden Age” projects were motivated by a desire to
- Edit out Hubbard’s misogyny, racism and Scientific mistakes (e.g. taking ‘Piltdown Man Seriously in “A History of Man”)
- Require Scientologists to buy complete sets of the new texts at considerable cost.
All of Scientology training is secret. A policy regarding “verbal tech” forbids Scientologists from discussing it with each other, even when they are on the same level.
The ‘OT’ (Operating Thetan) are most secret off all. There are currently 8 levels of these teachings, and the highest is only delivered on Scientology’s cruise ship, the “Freewinds”. They promise supernatural powers which advanced Scientologists have so far failed to publicly demonstrate.
It is rumoured that Hubbard completed OT levels up to OT 15, and two further levels exist OT IX (9) and OT X (10) which will be released when all Scientology orgs reach a certain size.
Critics and ex-scientologists doubt the existence of much more than a few brief notes for any material beyond OT 8, and suspect that these levels are promised in order to retain the interest of the few ‘advanced’ Scientologists who have completed all of the existing ones.
This issue discusses the role of the Sea Org in bringing about the ideological purity that will be required before the world of Scientology can cope with OT9 and 10. By coincidence, in 2015 rumours are once more circulating about the release of OT 9 and 10.
This issue also marks the first appearance of an image of L Ron Hubbard’s successor as ‘leader’ of the Church of Scientology in “Highwinds” (right). From this point, the amount of material by Hubbard in “Highwinds” begins to decrease compared with that about David Miscavige.
David Miscavige had taken a firm grip upon the Church of Scientology by the time this issue appeared.
This is reflected in its content.
There are no articles by Hubbard in this issue of “Highwinds”and photographs of ‘captain’ Miscavige appear several times. He is always seen in full Sea Org dress uniform before an adoring crowd.
There is also a shift to coverage of Miscavige’s particular obsession – raising money for new orgs and facilities and the renovation of old ones.
“[…] artists rendition of the new flag building, to be located across the street for the Fort Harrison, which the Sea Org will build to house every facility necessary of the delivery of super power”
The Flag/’Super Power’ building turned out very differently (see right).
The only exception to the focus on real estate is an article about Scientology’s ageing cruise ship, the “Freewinds” (pg 19) and its Captain, Mike Napier (pg 22) – although that concentrates more on the new equipment fitted than on the human element.
On page 14 is an iconic image of Scientology’s ‘elite’ management in full Sea Org dress uniform, with ‘captain’ David Miscavige in the spotlight, as usual.
Many of the people who appear in this image have left Scientology, defected to become critics or are held incommunicado in various Scientology compounds. The powers that were once held by many of them have gradually been assumed by Miscavige personally.
Also of interest is an article beginning on page 21 which describes the massive effort undertaken to ‘design’ the then brand new “Quantum” e-meter.
Anyone who has looked inside one of these devices will be baffled as to why all this effort (not to mention, “toughness”) had to be expended on such a simple electronic design (a Wheatstone bridge, connected to a galvanometer).
Finally, I can’t resist mentioning the article about the Sea Org ‘technician’ on page 34 tasked with printing photographs by L Ron Hubbard for a new publication. She is credited with inventing a revolutionary new developer to process the prints. We are told that,
The results were so astounding that the finished product had far more detail than the original negatives themselves.
In other words, “Highwinds” claims that she produced information that was not there in the first place – with chemistry.
Super powers indeed.
Beginning on page 8 is Scientology’s version of the origin of the Sea Org entitled, “The OT Organisation Begins”. It’s a wonderful exercise in propaganda.
Unfortunately we then return to Miscavige-style accounts of the building, buying and renovation of real estate. At least some of the images do give a slightly more accurate idea of what Sea Org ‘officers’ are actually expected to actually do.
In this issue people are almost always depicted surrounded by impressive real estate or technical equipment. It is as if Scientologists cannot stand on their own, without symbolic props.
Starting on page 26 there is a chilling propaganda piece for the Office of Special Affairs (OSA) – The Church of Scientology’s secret police and espionage wing. It details the ‘victory’ claimed by the OSA over of The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) which it describes as, “[…] one of the most entrenched anti-religious groups of this century.” This article is not a model of objectivity or accuracy.
To the right is the cover of the last issue featured here (circa 1998). It depicts a spacecraft (which prominently displays Sea Org insignia) as it accelerates towards a passage through an orbiting artefact.
Space opera is alive and well in Scientology.