The Sea Organization: Religious Order of the Scientology Religion
The Sea Organization (commonly referred to as the Sea Org) is the religious order for the Scientology religion and is composed of the most dedicated Scientologists—individuals who have devoted their lives in voluntary service to their religion. Certain myths have been perpetuated in the media about the lifestyle of members of the Sea Organization. The purpose of this paper is to put such myths and disinformation to rest.
The core of every great world religion in history has been a group of individuals dedicated to achieving the goals of the religion. In Scientology, these individuals are part of the religious order known as the Sea Organization. While relatively few in number, its members play a crucial role in virtually every aspect of the ministry and expansion of the Scientology religion. Like their counterparts in other faiths, Sea Organization members occupy the most essential and trusted positions in the senior Churches in the Scientology ecclesiastical hierarchy.
The core of every great world religion in history has been a group of individuals dedicated to achieving the goals of the religion. In Scientology, these individuals are part of the religious order known as the Sea Organization.
The Sea Organization derives its name from its beginnings in 1967 when Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard, having resigned from his position as Executive Director International, set to sea with a handful of veteran Scientologists to continue his research into the upper levels of spiritual awareness and ability.
The first Sea Organization members formulated a 1-billion-year pledge to symbolize their commitment to the religion as immortal spiritual beings. The covenant is a symbolic document which, similar to vows of dedication in other faiths and orders, serves to signify an individual’s eternal commitment to the goals, purposes and principles of the Scientology religion. It is signed by all members today. They dedicate themselves to the goal of bringing spiritual freedom to all beings through the full application of Scientology religious services developed by Mr. Hubbard. The Sea Organization was born of a concern for the welfare of Mankind—and it is with this viewpoint that members of the Sea Organization continue to operate.
Initially, Sea Organization members lived and worked aboard a fleet of ships, headed by the flagship Apollo, which was also home to Mr. Hubbard, the Commodore of the Sea Organization. As Scientology continued to expand, the role of Sea Organization members expanded too. Today the majority of Sea Organization members are located on land, but in keeping with tradition, many still wear maritime uniforms, and all have honorary ranks and ratings.
The Sea Organization Motor Vessel Freewinds is entirely staffed by members of the Sea Organization. The ship is the home of the Flag Ship Service Organization (FSSO), a religious retreat that delivers the most advanced level of spiritual counseling in Scientology. Utilizing the training materials developed by L. Ron Hubbard in the early days of the Sea Organization, the Freewinds has the best safety and service record of any ship in the Caribbean.
Appropriate to their high level of dedication and commitment, Sea Organization members bear a responsibility unique within Scientology. They are the only Scientologists entrusted to minister the advanced levels of training and auditing and the only individuals who may hold the senior ecclesiastic positions in the Scientology hierarchy. All advanced Churches of Scientology and management-level Church organizations are staffed only by members of the Sea Organization religious order. While Sea Organization members are responsible to the directors and officers of the Church in which they serve, the eternal commitment to Scientology as a member of the Sea Organization is a fundamental requirement for service.
The hallmark of any Sea Organization member is competence and professional teamwork, no matter how diverse or challenging the duty assigned. New members undergo rigorous training to raise their ability to confront and deal with their environment.
Positions in the Sea Organization are analogous to that of members of other religious orders. Sea Organization members are at the forefront of spearheading the Church’s massive social mission, including the world’s largest nongovernmental drug education campaign, the world’s largest human rights education campaign and many more programs that touch the lives of everyone.
Sea Organization members are at the forefront of spearheading the Church’s massive social mission, including the world’s largest nongovernmental drug education campaign, the world’s largest human rights education campaign and many more programs that touch the lives of everyone.
Sea Organization members are very aware of the world around them, as their service is dedicated to helping Mankind. They do not live cloistered lives but instead are very much part of society, not apart from it. Today there are thousands of Sea Org members. They may be found in almost any area of endeavor in the religion. They are the camera operators, directors, artists, writers and designers who produce the religious dissemination and training materials for the religion internationally. They are the senior external affairs personnel for the religion who constantly interact with media and governmental officials. They are the most advanced religious personnel in Scientology, the top auditors. An auditor is defined as one who listens, from the Latin audire meaning to hear or listen. An auditor is a minister or minister-in-training of a Church of Scientology who not only ministers the most advanced spiritual technology but, at the upper levels of the hierarchy, also oversees the purity of religious training, and auditing is a unique form of personal spiritual counseling which helps people look at their own existence and improves their ability to confront what they are and where they are.
No formalized structure exists for the Sea Org. Rather, its members are subject to the established lines of seniority and authority in the Church organizations in which they serve. Commitment to the Sea Organization is entirely voluntary and is a sign of devotion to the religion and its objectives.
Having so dedicated their lives, Sea Organization members work long hours and live communally with housing, meals, uniforms, medical and dental care provided by the Churches in which they serve. A portion of each day is dedicated to training and auditing but they otherwise devote themselves to whatever their assigned task may be in the furtherance of the objectives of Scientology. Their achievements over the nearly five decades of the Sea Org’s existence are stellar and members appropriately have a vibrant esprit de corps and sense of accomplishment. Because of this, they are held in high esteem by all Scientologists who recognize the important role they play in ensuring that the Church of Scientology continues to achieve its religious mission around the world.
Members of the Sea Organization are committed to achieving the Aims of Scientology: “A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where Man is free to rise to greater heights” through the practice and spread of the Scientology religion. It is a challenge met with unfailing determination and dedication.
From inception, the Sea Organization has been a group without peer and without compromise. There is a rich tradition of service, where Sea Organization members are on call 24 hours a day, where at an instant’s notice a Sea Organization member may be sent halfway around the world to put things right. Even the day-to-day “routine” of the Sea Organization is rigorous and demanding, as well as challenging, adventurous and rewarding. Indeed, the demands are such that a Sea Organization member’s dedication is virtually absolute. That is why the Sea Organization commands the respect that it does within the Scientology religion.
From that perspective, it becomes essential that the Sea Organization be comprised only of those individuals who share a common purpose and who operate selflessly to the benefit of the religious goals of Scientology. The Sea Org’s determination as a group is the aggregate of each individual member’s dedication.
Sea Organization Members, Family and Children
Unlike certain religious orders in which men and women take vows of celibacy, men and women in the Sea Organization may marry. But if they wish to have children, they do so outside the Sea Organization.
The Sea Organization is a relatively new religious order, founded in 1967, and until 1975 it was based on seagoing vessels with no small children on board. When the Sea Organization moved to land in 1975, it had had no experience with children, but as members bore children, the order provided facilities to accommodate them.
After 10 years of experience with children, by 1986 it had become apparent that the duties of a member of the Sea Organization were not compatible with raising children.
Hence, since 1986, the policy has been in place that Sea Organization members desiring children do so outside the Sea Organization. In this respect, the Sea Organization is not unlike other religious orders.
This does not mean that the individual is in any way no longer a member of the Church. The person would simply carry on as a Scientologist outside of a staff position as a Sea Organization member with whatever their chosen career may be. Once their children are grown or of age where they can choose to join the Sea Organization themselves, the parents are welcome to return to the Sea Org.
For Sea Organization members who had children before the policy of the religious order changed in 1986, school facilities were built to properly educate and provide for the children. For example, for several years the Church of Scientology International operated two private boarding schools for the children of Sea Organization members, in Riverside and Los Angeles Counties. The Sea Organization similarly provided schooling for the children of Sea Organization members in Florida and New York, as well as at Sea Organization facilities outside the United States. Each child who attended these schools was sent there at the specific request of his or her parents.
Today, if an individual with children wishes to join the Sea Organization, the children must qualify for the Sea Organization and wish to join on their own determinism. The minimum age of Sea Organization members is generally the minimum age in any state or country that a person is legally permitted to work. The Church of Scientology adheres to all child labor laws. No underage Sea Organization members are permitted to perform tasks or to work hours longer than permitted by law.
Minors are permitted to voluntarily join the Sea Organization, with the consent of a parent or a guardian approved by the parents. Once in the Sea Organization, if the minor’s parents are not also members of the Sea Org, the minor must then also have an assigned guardian approved by their parents.
Schooling is provided at Sea Organization installations for minor Sea Organization members who still need to complete education requirements. These are minor Sea Organization members who are otherwise of an age whereby they are permitted to work, generally from 14–18 years of age. Where local laws regulate the number of hours a minor may work, their schedules are adjusted accordingly. Each jurisdiction is different. Schooling is provided for the legally required number of hours.
Leaving the Sea Organization
Joining the Sea Organization is a lifetime commitment to the religious order. However, individuals who decide to leave the Sea Organization may do so at any time. The Church requests that individuals follow certain administrative procedures to wind up their staff affairs before actually leaving the Sea Organization, including turning over any ongoing work projects to another staff member to ensure continuity in the organization.
Members of the Sea Organization are held to the highest ethical standards. It is upon their honesty and integrity that the future of Scientology depends. As with any religious order, members may be dismissed for failing to meet these high standards through unethical behavior and conduct. This can range from violations of ecclesiastic policy to misconduct in a corporate capacity.
The mere fact of misconduct, such as poor performance of one’s duties or incompetence, would not be cause for dismissal. In such instances, individuals are provided an opportunity to improve and correct their conduct through religious programs. On the other hand, crimes of a secular nature, including misusing corporate or executive authority or wasting Church funds through neglect or incompetence, would always constitute grounds for dismissal.
A Sea Organization member who chooses to leave before the fulfillment of their covenant, or who is dismissed, always has the option of partaking in a religious program to enable them to continue to participate fully in Scientology services as a parishioner. Restoration to good standing includes a program to make good any damage the individual may have caused, which may include financial recompense to the Church.
Sea Organization members constitute the religious order of the Church of Scientology. As Sea Organization members, these individuals dedicate their lives to furthering the religious mission of Scientology and work in fulfilling their spiritual vocation through the advancement of the religion in Scientology Churches, organizations and related groups in 167 countries throughout the world.