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.