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The RPF - Rehabilitation Project Force


A Contemporary Ordered Religious Community:
The Sea Organization [1]

by J. Gordon Melton

A paper presented at The 2001 CESNUR Conference in London

Note from the webmaster: This is an excellent and factual study conducted on the RPF by one of the more prominent religious scholars in the United States. I have put in bold what is relevant to the issues of physical restrain and informed consent. For more information about the Sea Organization, see the full article.

[SNIP Sea Organization part]




As most religions have created ordered intentional communities, so those intentional communities have created systems whereby those who break the rules may make recompense and be integrated back into the life of the community. The most famous system operating in the West is possibly that created by St. Benedict for the Benedictine order. The section on rule breaking begins:

If a brother is found to be obstinate, or disobedient, or proud, or murmuring, or habitually transgressing the Holy Rule in any point and contemptuous of the order of his seniors, the latter shall admonish him secretly a first and second time, as Our Lord commands. If he fails to amend, let him be given a public rebuke in front of the whole community. But if even then he does not reform, let him be placed under excommunication, provided that he understands the seriousness of that penalty; if he is perverse, however, let him undergo corporal punishment. [50]

Among the Trappists, anyone seen breaking the rules would be reported to the "Chapter of faults, which would in turn announce these actions at the next meal after which the superior of the order would pronounce a suitable punishment. For example, ". . . a monk might be ordered to lie in the doorway of the refractory while the other monks stepped over him on their way to a meal." [51]

Within the Roman Catholic Church, there are a set of general laws which all orders follow. Each order then adopts an additional rules peculiar to its special purpose and mission. Canon law operating within the Roman Catholic Church notes that a monk or nun under perpetual vows may be dismissed from their order for what are termed "grave external reasons." It is the duty of the person's immediate superiors to admonish them in hopes of correcting the situation, and may in that endeavor impose various punishments. If the person proves incorrigible, s/he is informed that s/he risks being terminated as a member and is asked for a defense of the questioned behavior. If the situation remains serious, it is presented to the proper authority, the local bishop or superior of the order, who passes it to the Congregation of Religious in Rome. It is ultimately the decision of the Pope formally to order the dismissal. [52]

In the Eastern world, one soon runs into the Patimokkha section of the Vinaya-pitaka, which lays out the rules for Buddhist monks. [53] Among the important admonitions for the monk or nun are to refrain from sexual activity, avoid secular work, and not attempt to create a schism in the sangha (monastic community). There is also a prescribed code of etiquette, which anyone who has been present at a Buddhist gathering that included monks and nuns has witnessed. The Vinaya also prescribed rules for disciplining rule breakers. There are a set of rules that if transgressed leads to the immediate expulsion of the member from the group. Lesser rules may be handled through the imposition of punishments after a confession or other determination of guilt. [54] In The Korean Chogye tradition (the majority tradition in Korean Buddhism), there are four deeds that will lead to immediate dismissal from the monastic community, sexual relations with a woman, stealing, killing, and telling lies, especially making a false claim about one's state of enlightenment. Sea Org's system differs from that of both the Roman Catholic and Buddhist systems in that it offers a means for those judged guilty of expulsion offenses to redeem themselves and be reintegrated into the community. [55]

The RPF, the Sea Org's program for those who have committed serious violations of ethical policy, was created in January 1974 while the center of the Sea Org was still aboard the ships. The program grew out of the recognition that some people either could not or did not wish to adapt to life aboard the ships. Originally such persons were put off the ship, the equivalent of being dismissed from the Sea Org. Then in 1968, Hubbard created what was termed the "Mud Box Brigade." Those on board the ship who were found slacking off their duties or misbehaving (which is some cases on board the ship could place the lives of the crew and passengers in danger) were assigned to clean the "mud boxes," the place where mud collected from the anchors, and the bilge, the rather foul water that collects in the bottom of any ocean-going vessel. While the average person looking as such a structure might see it as punishment, Hubbard understood it in terms of making retribution to the people who had been harmed by the nonperformance or incorrect performance of one's assigned tasks. This rather stop-gap measure, however, was replaced in 1974 with RPF, a more systematic structure for handling misbehavior that was more fully integrated into the Hubbard's understanding of ethics. The RPF also served additional purposes beyond those served by the Mud Box Brigade.

The new Rehabilitation Project Force program was designed with multi-goals, though the basic one was providing a situation in which individuals who had been negligent in their posts could be isolated from the group (thus preventing further immediate harm). They were also assigned a period each day to work on themselves using Scientology tech, considered a necessary step to their being reintegrated into the larger group. As Hubbard described it in an early Flag Order, "The RPF is in actual fact a system of recruiting by taking people off the lines who are blocking things and then not letting them back on lines until they are a valuable operating staff member." [56] The RPF was also designed as a work force in which the members spent five hours a day working upon their own inner condition using the resources available in Scientology technology, and the rest of the day engaged in physical labor of the kind that involved coordinated work with others as a team. While learning to work with others, one could make restitution for the harm done through contributions to the physical facilities in which the Sea Org and the church are housed. As each project is completed, RPF members feel rewarded, usually, with the sense of accomplishment.

Assignment to the RPF can begin in one of several ways. Often it starts with a realization by an individual that his/her behavior is out of line with expectations. With a number of people I interviewed, their realization came during or shortly after their ending an illicit extramarital affair. In some cases, the affair began to affect their work, but in others the fact that their performance at work was judged superior allowed them to keep the affair unknown to their colleagues. In most cases, however, problems with performance at their assigned work over a period of time were noticed and reported. Following an investigation, the individual was offered the option of pursuing the RPF program or leaving the Sea Org. In one case, the person I interviewed had misappropriated a considerable amount of church money for personal use.

Once a person is informed of the basics of the RPF option, understand what is involved, and chooses it, s/he signs a document noting his/her agreement to join the program. The new RPFer then generally moves quickly to one of the RPF centers that are located in the Sea Org complexes in Los Angeles, Clearwater, London, or Copenhagen. The largest number are in the LA RPF. (In 2000, when this study was done, more than half of the approximately 350 currently participating in the program were in LA. Slightly less were in the Clearwater RPF, and by comparison, the RPF at Copenhagen had less than 20.) Choice of location is determined by several factors including space available and the presence of another person at approximately the same level on The Bridge with which one can be paired. A person, for example, who is working on his/her OT levels would not be paired with a pre-Clear.

When the person arrives, s/he is assigned to space in a dorm-like room with others and given some orientation. That orientation includes the reading of the thirty Flag Orders pertaining to RPF. Once fully aware of the conditions under which s/he will be operating [57] s/he again chooses to proceed, and then begins a refresher course in ethics. [58] In addition, some technical training is included, especially if the new person is unfamiliar with the basics of auditing. [59] The person is also assigned to a team with whom s/he will be working. In Copenhagen the number of options is extremely limited, while in Los Angeles and Clearwater, a variety of work assignments are available. [60]

Finally, the individual is assigned to a partner with whom s/he will work during the stay in the RPF. This partner is extremely important as one's progress in the program is tied to the partner's progress. During what will be a year or more together, the pair audit each other and are responsible for each other's success. They will finish the program together and one criteria for graduation is the demonstration that the RPFer can help another, specifically their partner. The importance of the partner is underscored in those occasional cases in which a person drops out of the program. The person who remains will be assigned another new partner whose success now becomes his/her responsibility.

The RPF is located within the Sea Org facilities, but members dine and sleep in separate quarters. (In Los Angeles, for example, the RPF space–dorm, dining hall and kitchen, and woodwork shop–are in the main AO building. In Copenhagen they are in the basement (study space) and top floor (dorm rooms) of one of the Sea Org buildings currently undergoing renovation. In Clearwater they are located in two separate buildings in the Sea Org residence complex. [In Clearwater, the buildings housing the RPF are on the edge of the complex and immediately outside the front door of the two buildings is a gate that opens from the inside. Any person could simply walk out of the buildings and out of the gate into the city of Clearwater. [61] Contrary to images of a concentration camp-like atmosphere, there are no locks on the doors of the RPF facilities, and at almost anytime, a participant in the program could, if they decided, simply walk away. [62] In the case of the Los Angeles, Clearwater, or Copenhagen facilities, such a person could loose themselves in the city in a matter of minutes. [63]

The RPF program is rigorous by any standards. It includes eight hours of physical work six days a week that begins each day immediately after the morning muster and breakfast. Most people on the RPF come with little or no skill in the tasks required to renovate and maintain buildings (painting, plumbing, carpentry, furniture making, grounds upkeep, etc.). Thus they will be taught a trade along with being involved in numerous tasks that require little training. In Los Angeles, a number of people have been taught woodwork and the professional appearance of the walls and furniture in the Church's Hollywood facilities is ample evidence of the skills they have acquired. In fact, the overall appearance of the various Scientology buildings along Hollywood Blvd. and L. Ron Hubbard Way (off Sunset Ave.) can be credited to the RPF.

This aspect of the RPF is designed to provide a change in the usual pattern of the participant's life (which has most likely been a desk job) and involve them more immediately with what in Scientology is termed the MEST universe. It is reminiscent of the work ("chop wood, carry water") that is often integrated into the longer Zen Buddhist retreats. [64] Work remains an integral part of the daily life of Zen monks and nuns, and visitors to a Zen monastery for retreats or short stays will be scheduled to participate in the workday that might include cooking, chopping wood, heating water, working in the fields, and cleaning. [65] Participants learn one or more skills, and RPF graduates with whom I have talked enjoyed pointing out particular things in buildings on which they had worked. By working intimately with a small cadre of fellow participants, they learned the value of teamwork.

A participant spends five hours each day with his/her individual partner engaged in study or auditing. Many with whom I talked had been in the Sea Org many years but, although they had received auditing, they had never learned to audit anyone else. They reported that as a result of learning to council their partner they had gained a heightened level of sensitivity to the needs of others in general and how their lives affected everyone around them.

The dominant program used by the RPF currently (others are mentioned in the Flag Orders) is called the False Purpose Rundown. [66] It is Scientology's understanding that overts and withholds are indicative of hidden evil (i.e., counter survival) purposes, solutions to problems adopted in a moment of confusion. The auditing process includes a lengthy inventory, using the immediate overts that led to the person being assigned to the RPF, of one's life, a confrontation with and clearing-up of counter-survival purposes. The goal is to see life objectively and assume responsibility for one's present condition as the result of one's own decisions. The False Purpose Rundown is repeated until the person is considered free of evil intentions on each of the eight Dynamics. The Rundown is a lengthy process, hence the year or more required to complete it. [67]

The RPF is designed to isolate the individual and provide a time and space for total concentration on self-change. The hardest hit by the program are married couples, as they have little contact while one of them is in the program. They are encouraged to write regularly, but have only infrequent face-to-face contact. Informants in LA noted that they occasionally grabbed a few words with spouses in the brief time between the lunch and afternoon activities. The program does make allowances for family needs, and a number of participants noted that they had taken a week or more breaks in the midst of their program to attend to different particular family obligations.

As might be expected, the problems that landed one in the RPF on occasion continue to manifest in the life of a participant during their stay on the program. In that case, there is a program, the RPF's RPF, to which people may be assigned for short periods of time. In this case, the offense is seen as against the RPF itself, and thus the person assigned to the RPF's RPF is isolated from other participants in the program. During this time, the partner still has the task of helping the person assigned to the RPF. The person on the RPF's RPF is also assigned specific tasks to benefit the RPF (the group that is considered harmed, in this case), and their manual work assignment might include such tasks as improving the RPF facilities. They may return to the RPF program only by vote of the other participants in the RPF. While in the program, their communication is further restricted and must go through the RPF ethics officer.

The RPF organization is difficult to describe, as it is essentially run by the participants. There is an overseer (the RPF-I/C) who is not a participant whose job is to see that the program runs smoothly. The RPF-I/C, for example, handles the money that pays for the program. Each organization of the church that assigns a person to the RPF also pays for his/her stay and each month contributes a stipend to cover food, housing, and personal needs. It is also the RPF-IC's job to liaison with those in charge of the church's facilities and to decide on the particular deployment of RPF participants by prioritizing tasks to be completed.

However, the day-to-day running of the program is left in the hands of the participants. One of the participants who is further along on the program is designated the bosun and s/he will have several deputies to handle various practical and technical matters, including ethics. For example, one or more people with accomplished auditing skills oversee and check the auditing as it proceeds. [68]

RPF participants are organized into work teams, and such teams proceed to their assigned tasks (and partners proceed to their auditing) without immediate and constant outside supervision. The atmosphere is much more one of an adult education class in which participants are there to get what they can out of the program than that of disgruntled individuals just putting in the time. Their success will be manifest in the finished product of their labor and in their self-reported realizations about their life acquired in auditing. [69] Testimonies of new insights and understandings concerning their life may be posted for others in the RPF to read, though they have no circulation in the Sea Org or among general church members.

Because of the relative differences in the speed that individuals work through the False Purposes Rundown, different people's stay in the program varies. One year appears to be the minimum. I interviewed one person who had been in for approximately three years.

Following completion of their program, graduates generally return to the post (or a similar post) that they held when they went into the program. The particular church organization from which they came has at this point invested in their participation and expects a return on that investment. Graduates to whom I talked indicated that they received a cordial welcome back to their post. While most of the people with whom I have talked about their previous RPF experience hold anonymous staff positions, several people have gone on to hold high positions and a few are now well-known in the church internationally. People whom I have met who lead different church organizations report that staff members who have completed the program become their most productive workers.

[Snip Sea Org Conclusion]


This paper has grown out of more than three decades of observation of the Church of Scientology that began in 1964 in Chicago. Since 1985, when I moved to California, I have had many opportunities to visit Sea Org facilities in Hollywood, California, talk informally with Sea Org members, and gather literature on the Church and the Sea Org, all of which has been deposited in the American Religion Collection at the at the Davidson Library at the University of California–Santa Barbara. That collection now houses the large collection of material published by and about the Church of Scientology accumulated during the last three decades. This particular paper has grown directly out of the book originally published in the series edited by Massimo Introvigne of the Center for the Study of New Religions in Turin, Italy, and originally published in Italian in 1998. An English version was recently published as The Church of Scientology (Salt Lake City: Signature books, 2000). This study also included structured interviews with members of the Sea Org and more than a dozen participants in the Rehabilitation Projects Force in Copenhagen, Los Angeles, and Clearwater, Florida, during the Summer and Fall of 2000. I was assisted in this study by two small grants from the J. M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies located at Baylor University, and the Society for the Study of Metaphysical Religion. [back]

The preparation of this part of my paper consumed a considerable portion of my total research time. I reviewed the existing literature concerning the RPF, including the set of 30 documents on the RPF written by Hubbard as Flag Orders between 1974 and 1985, as well as visits to the Sea Org and RPF facilities in Los Angeles, Clearwater, and Copenhagen in the summer and fall of 2000. During these visits structured interviews were conducted with more than a dozen present participants of the RPF program and eight former members of the RPF who are still members of the Sea Org. In addition, of course, I reviewed a number of critical accounts of their experience written by former Sea Org members.

I also made reference to the highly critical paper by Stephen Kent, "Brainwashing in Scientology's Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF)," based upon his survey of the reports of the hostile former Sea Org members. A revised version of the Kent paper entitled "Scientology–Is It a Religion?" was published in the online Marburg Journal of Religion 4,1 (July 1999). This paper, originally delivered at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in 1998, may be found on the Internet at http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb03/religionswissenschaft/journal/mjr/mjr_past.html. Kent's article was completed apart from any first hand inspection of the RPF and references only a limited collection of relevant Church documents. He primarily relied on the reports of ex-Scientologists. In my research, I found that he had neglected important aspects of the program, mixed accounts from the RPF's formative years with more recent accounts, and confused incidents not a part of RPF with incidents that occurred within it. He also adopted the "concentration camp" image of the RPF that had been generated with the anti-Scientology literature for use against the Church in court. I have found no evidence to substantiate the use of such an extreme image either from the ex-member literature or from my examination of the sites at which the RPF is and was housed.

Kent has also found little response from his fellow social scientists for his attempt to use the RPF to revive the discarded theories of "brainwashing" as applied to new religious groups. A more detailed critique of Kent's departures from standard sociological methodology can be found in Canadian sociologist Lorne L. Dawson's, "Raising Lazarus: A Methodological Critique of Stephen Kent's Revival of the Brainwashing Model," in Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins, eds., Misunderstanding Cults (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001, forthcoming). [back]

"On the Excommunication for Faults," in St. Benedict's Rules for Monasteries, trans. by Leonard Doyle (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press 1948): 43. On the operation of the system of rules in another setting see Dom André Louf, The Cistercian Alternative (New York: Gill and Macmillan, 1985). [back]

Ivor Shapiro, "Finding Words," Saturday Night (May 1989): 48. [back]

Bernard van Acken, A Handbook for Sisters (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1931.); Adam C. Ellis, Religious Men and Women in Church Law (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1958.). [back]

The Vinaya-pitaka is part of the Pali Canon and is used as the monastic rule for Theravada Monks. Mahayana monastic communities have their own sets of monastic rule derived from this earlier one. For example, Pai-Chang Huai-hai (749-814 C.E.), established a set of monastic rules for Ch'an (Zen) monks in China called the Ch'ing-Kuei or Pure Rules. A Korean revision appeared later as Kyech'osim hagin-mun or Admonitions to Beginning Students. See Simon Young-suck Moon, Korean and American Monastic Practices (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996). [back]

See Jane Bunnag, Buddhist Monk, Buddhist Layman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973) for a discussion of the operation of the Vinaya in a modern setting in Thailand. See also Sukumar Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, 600 B.C.-100B.C. (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Thübner & Co., 1924) for a more detailed discussion of the system of rules and punishments actually laid down in the Vinaya. [back]

 Moon, op.cit., p. 124-25. [back]

"The Rehabilitation Project Force." Flag Order 3434RE-1, RPF Series 1 (June 10, 1974): 1. [back]

This part of the process includes a signing of documents to the effect that they understand what RPF is about and want to participate. [back]

One theme that runs through anti-Scientology writings on the Sea Org and the RPF is the lack of informed assent by the participants. This appears to be an unsubstantiated charge. At the time of joining, members of the Sea Org go through an extensive orientation process as well as a screening process by the church to determine their fitness for the organization. That orientation program is conducted by the Estates Project Force, the same structure that oversees the RPF. In like measure, entrance into the RPF program includes an explanation of options open to individuals choosing participation and at several points during the entrance process they are called upon to make a conscious decision about continuing. As with the acceptance of any process of recovering one's status in a religious community whose rules one has broken, the participant can at any time choose to leave the community as an alternative to continued participation. Those who participated in the program indicated that they choose to go through the program because they wished to remain a member of the Sea Org. [back]

Individuals may join the Sea Org from any point in their progress up the Bridge. Pre-Clears who join may be assigned jobs that have little to do with auditing, and thus while they may receive personal auditing, they never learn how to be an auditor and counsel another person. Such a person, when assigned to the RPF mush learn how to audit before actually beginning the program. [back]

A dozen or more accounts of life in the RPF are posted on the Internet, a few being posted in multiple sites. A selection of these postings came be found in the references to Kent, op.cit. In general, these accounts offer valuable research data concerning several individual's negative experience in the RPF, as far as they go. It is the case that some abuse of authority appears to have been experienced by individuals while serving in the Sea Org or participating in the RPF. The RPF includes numerous people who were assigned these for activities that were "off Tech," and that activity does not automatically stop when one enters the RPF. The church's own literature and later revisions of rules for the Sea Org and RPF indicate reactions to problems. I have, however, found no evidence of any pattern of abuse as a common element of life in the RPF.

As with accounts of present and former members who remain in Scientology, these accounts, while very useful, must be received with a critical eye. The accounts of members must be understood in light of their commitments and desires to be part of the Scientology program. Those of ex-members have a few similar problems. First, many were written as depositions for court cases and are thus quite selective in their discussion of RPF. Following a pattern also seen in accounts of former monks and nuns who have left a Roman Catholic order, they have imported later appraisals of their experience into their story. Some have incorporated the popular anti-Scientology analogy of the RPF as a prison camp, and thus, for example, they speak of their withdrawal from the program as "escaping" the RPF. As members have praise for Scientology and the auditing process, former members often include harsh opinions of Scientology belief and practice, especially the auditing process. Second, one must struggle with the significant omissions in the ex-member literature. They were not designed as complete stories of their experience in the church, but merely brief accounts of their bad experiences, usually for use in a court case. For example, almost none include any discussion of the role played by the person with whom they were paired during their stay in the RPF. That being said, if critically approached, the accounts of former members remain one valuable source of information on the operation of the Sea Org and RPF.

It should also be noted that Church authorities and other have has questioned the veracity of several of the former members. People who were present and even mentioned in the accounts of Andre Tabayoyon and Dennis Erlich have suggested that they had both distorted accounts of incidents upon which they reported and on several occasions created incidents that had never occurred. [back]

The present RPF facility has been used since the mid 1980s. Prior to that time, it was in two different locations in the Fort Harrison Hotel. It was first located in what is now the bakery and later in what is now the primary ethics office. In each case it was inside the hotel in space adjacent to the parking lot. The parking lot is completely open with no doors to lock. [back]

Locks on Sea Org facilities through which a departing RPF member might have to pass are such as to prevent someone from coming into the building but not prevent an egress from it. The fences around the present Sea Org residences in Clearwater, for example, were erected after an incident in which an outsider came into the complex and discharged a firearm. They were designed to keep possible trouble makers out, not prevent anyone from leaving. [back]

This is confirmed in the accounts of former members such as Lynn Froyland, Hana Whitefield, and Ann Rosenblum, all of whom simply walked away from the Clearwater RPF. The only exception to this possibility concerns the RPF at the Gilman Hot Springs center. Gilman Hot Sprints is a former resort that the Church of Scientology purchased and now uses as its major recording and video production site. Located there are a professional level recording studio, a large building for shooting movies, and a large auditorium. It is frequently used by people from the nearby community of Hemet, California, for non-Scientology community events. It is located in the countryside, and intermittently in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a RPF unit there. That unit was housed at a location several miles away. While it would not be difficult to walk away from either Gilman or the housing site, it would be a long walk to the next town. [back]

The first observation of the Zen Buddhist rule of monastic life, attributed to the honored Buddhist monk Pai-chang (720-814 CE) stated, "A day of no work is a day of no eating." Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki put it thusly, "Manual labor forms one of the most essential features of the Zen life. . . Life meant to the Chinese monks to be engaged in physical labour, to move their hands and feet, to handle tools, in order to accomplish some visible and tangible ends." D. T. Suzuki, The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk (New York: University Books, 1959) 33. [back]

See: Koji Sato, The Zen Life (New York: Weatherhill/Tankosha, 1977): 148-49. [back]

L. Ron Hubbard. "False Purpose Rundown." Auditing Rundowns. Vol. 3 (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, 1991). Over the years of Hubbard's life, he periodically introduced upgraded forms of various auditing procedures, and such new upgrades have continue to be released. As these upgrades were published, they were, as appropriate, introduced into the RPF. The method of operating the "False Purpose Rundown" are spelled out in a series of Bulletins from the Hubbard Communication Office, the False Purpose Rundown Series, 1-7" published as HCO Bulletin (June 5-11, 1984; Revised January 1990). [back]

In spite of Steven Kent's study of Scientology over the last decade, he continually makes fundamental errors in reporting on Scientology's beliefs and practices. For example, his lack of knowledge of Scientology is manifest in his discussion of the False Purpose Rundown. It is one of a set of what in Scientology are called "security checks," or "sec checks." Kent asserts that "sec checks" are not covered by the same rules of confidentiality as auditing. In fact, security checks, of which the "False Purpose Rundown" is an example, are one form of auditing, the kind used to deal with overts and withholds, and are covered by all of the confidentially rules governing auditing. Cf. Kent, op.cit. On the other hand, interviews made during investigations by a Scientology official or committee to determine the facts when a person has been accused of a crime such as stealing money from the church or dishonesty on the job (sometimes called HCO security checks) are not considered auditing. In situations where someone might confuse the two, an explicit denial that the session is to be considered auditing is made. Also, all auditing sessions begin by noting the formal situation that the individual has entered. [back]

"RPF Organization." Flag Order 3434RE-25 (January 7, 1974; Revised May 8, 1997): 1-7. [back]

Quite obviously, not everyone adapts to the RPF regimen, and some people choose to leave, which they are free to do at any point. Some who left the program, now describe it (as indeed life in the Sea Org in general) in quite hostile terms. From the perspective of an ex-member, who no longer believes in Scientology, they have reinterpreted their life from their new perspective. These accounts, bare a noticeable resemblance to similar accounts of others who have left the austerities of Roman Catholic orders. For example, Patricia Curran, who studied the rituals around food in several convents, noted that some of her informants had very different views of the behavior patterns expected of them:

They described them [particular actions they were ordered to perform] as various outdated holdovers from Europe; daily reminders of belonging to the "club" of religious life; conditioning to "perfect obedience" (the instantaneous execution of the superior's command). A great number argued that the effects the practices had on them provided the best indicator of purpose. They found them humiliating, particularly when kissing the feet of the sisters, asking prayers, or making the act of reparation. The penances were constant reminders of the self-concept that was held as an ideal: to consider oneself the least, lowest, and last in importance in the community. They regarded the penances also as a negation of all that was natural in favor of all that was spiritual, when these were considered to be in conflict. One named them the tools whereby each person's spirit was broken so that she could be remolded in the new corporate image.

Once one no longer sees the purpose in their ordered life, its rule and regulations take on the appearance of a straightjacket. Life in the group no longer is seen as service to the cause and a means to nurture spiritual existence, but an oppressive existence characterized by the following of a false religion and arbitrary rules. Cf. Curran, op.cit. [back]

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