The Church of Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force
A Study by Juha Pentikäinen (Chair of the Department of the Study of Religions, University of Helsinki, Finland), Jurgen F.K. Redhardt, and Michael York (Bath Spa University College)
Although the Church of Scientology has been the focus of a number of studies by scholars of new religions, they have paid little attention to the Church’s core religious body: The Sea Organisation. Most members of the public today have heard of Scientology, but few are aware of the Sea Organisation (SO), and the Church itself does not publicise the "Sea Org", as it is called, except to its own members. As a consequence, such accounts as exist have appeared mostly in the media and rely for much of their content on statements by former members of the Church .
Indeed, few such reports have dealt with the Sea Organisation as a whole, and some have focused on one its sub-groups, the Rehabilitation Project Force, referred to within the Sea Organisation by its initials RPF. The Church describes the RPF as a programme of redemption for members of the SO who have committed severe violations of its codes. The RPF performs a specialised function within the SO, one that, according to the Church, is consistent with that employed by other religious communities to assist erring members of their core religious group to make amends for wrongdoing and return to the good graces of the religious order from whose tenets they had strayed.
To determine what the Rehabilitation Project Force consists of and its relationship to the religious mission of the Church of Scientology as a whole, and to establish the truth or otherwise of the public commentary on the Rehabilitation Project Force, between November 2000 and November 2001 we visited and toured the two European centres of the Church of Scientology where the Rehabilitation Project Force programme exists: Copenhagen, Denmark and East Grinstead, Sussex, England. The interviewers were fully aware of the allegations being made to the Church’s disfavour  and are familiar with the dynamics of acculturation. Our aim was to inspect the programme first-hand, examine the facilities, speak to the participants, and from our experience compile a report of our observations and conclusions. After the visits, we met in East Grinstead to compare our findings and establish a consensus. What follows is the result.
We met and interviewed a total of 24 people, covering a spectrum of those involved with the programme. Among that number were 14 Sea Organisation members currently on the programme (including 2 who began but left before completion and 3 who completed whilst we were engaged in our work), 7 who had completed prior to the point we started our interviews and three staff of the Church of Scientology, in Denmark and England, who, though not themselves participants, are responsible for supervisory functions. As the interviews were spread over a period of one year, we interviewed 4 individuals a second time, after a gap of months, to ascertain what progress they had made since their previous interviews.
All those interviewed were helpful. Our questions were answered readily and fully. Although each gave permission for his or her full name to be used in this study, in view of the personal nature of some of the information given to us, and mindful of the privacy concerns of RPF members and their families, we have chosen to refer to those actually participating in the programme by first names only. Full names have been used for Sea Organisation staff holding supervisory functions but not themselves doing the programme.
Descriptions of the interviews we conducted are included. We have made liberal use of quotations as we consider that interviewee statements provide the best rendering of how the programme is viewed from the perspective of those taking part. The accounts of the interviews, and the quotations they contain, have been prepared from notes taken at the time.
No second-hand information was relied on for this study other than some 95 short accounts or attestations to the value of the programme from RPF participants in other countries (mainly USA). Those accounts were consistent with the results of the personal interviews we conducted in Denmark and England.
The study does not examine, other than where necessary for contextual purposes or to interpret the RPF programme, the religious theology, structure and practices of Scientology. This subject has been covered in detail by Juha Pentikäinen, Bryan Wilson and numerous other scholars in various works . The reader who wishes more information on the topic is referred to the relevant texts.
The Sea Organisation
The first Church of Scientology was founded in 1954. However, it was not until 1966 that, according to Church literature, "Mr. Hubbard, having retired 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 group that accompanied Hubbard on this expedition was initially known as the Sea Project but reconstituted itself as the Sea Organisation in August 1967. The SO is described as a "religious order for the Scientology religion and is composed of the most dedicated Scientologists in the world – individuals who have dedicated their lives to the service of their religion. The Sea Organisation is a fraternal religious order and is not incorporated or otherwise organised as a legal entity. Members of the Sea Org therefore are wholly responsible to the church of Scientology for which they work and are subject, as are all other staff of that church, to the orders and directions of its board of directors." 
Thus, as this source further explains, the Sea Organisation grew out of the desire of Hubbard, as founder of the religion, to have a "distraction-free environment" to continue with his research into human spiritual experience and develop the theological structures that Scientologists characterise as the advanced religious levels of Scientology.
It is also further explained that, "Having so dedicated their lives, Sea Org members work long hours and live communally with housing, meals, uniforms, medical and dental care provided by their Church employers. A portion of each day is dedicated to training and auditing but they otherwise devote themselves to whatever their assigned tasks may be in the furtherance of the objectives of Scientology… Members of the Sea Org are committed to achieving the goal of a cleared planet through the standard ministry of the religious technology of Scientology. It is a challenge met with unfailing determination and dedication. 
In a 1996 study by Juha Pentikäinen, a number of pertinent remarks were made about the Sea Organisation, some of which are relevant to the current study:
"The Sea Organisation (or Sea Org) is a special order which was founded in 1967 when Mr. Hubbard decided to retire from his office as the Executive Director of the Church to concentrate on his literary work on board ship. Those who then were first to follow him became the nuclear group of the newly established religion. As time went on this group became a mythical model to be observed and respected as the core of the most devout members of the Church. All members of the Sea Organisation work full-time for the religion by serving on staff of the higher level Churches. Evidence of their dedication is the contract of employment in the Sea Organization ‘for the next billion years.’"
"This kind of religious order in many respects reminds one of the circles of disciples who gathered around such founders of world religions as Jesus or Mohammed or the monastic order of the monks around Prince Gautama when he became Buddha. It is a very specific manifestation of religious mythology and symbolism. As such it is one of the criteria upon which we base our conclusion that Scientology is a new religion."
"The Scientologists most dedicated to their religion – members of the Sea Organization – live a communal lifestyle, take care of each other’s daily and economic needs such as food, lodging and medical needs, wear distinctive uniforms, live by their particular customs, and devote almost all of their working hours to the service of their religion. The Church of Scientology with all its functions is clearly a ‘way of life’ for people serving in a religious order."
Whether demanded by a monastic order or by a modern manifestation of religious mythology such as the Sea Organisation, such a commitment is not something that everyone is prepared to give. Crucial to understanding the RPF programme, therefore, is its function within the context of the Sea Organisation, comprised only of the core membership of Scientologists.
The Sea Organisation’s principal bases are in the United States (Los Angeles, Clearwater, New York), Australia (Sydney), South Africa (Johannesburg), Canada (Toronto), Denmark (Copenhagen), Great Britain (East Grinstead), Mexico (Mexico City) and on the vessel, Freewinds, based in the Caribbean. However, the RPF programme is only carried out in Los Angeles, Clearwater, Copenhagen, East Grinstead and Sydney.
The Rehabilitation Project Force
The Rehabilitation Project Force is a programme done by a very small number of members of the Church of Scientology. Neither staff members who work in local churches of Scientology around the world nor the Church’s regular parishioners would qualify to undertake this programme. Only those who belong to the "Sea Organisation" may do the RPF, and then only for specific reasons.
The purpose of the programme is to provide a "second chance" to those who have failed to fulfil their ecclesiastical responsibilities as members of the Sea Organisation. In laymen’s terms, they could be said to be experiencing "burn-out", or to have severely violated the ethical tenets of the Sea Organisation.
One aim of this study was to determine whether the programme violates the fundamental rights of members of the Sea Organisation. Mindful of a number of negative accusations based on accounts from ten or more years ago by a handful of former members who had no first-hand contact with those currently on the programme, we approached the subject with an open mind. As the primary interview material shows we carefully sought to detect conditions that would approximate these allegations.
The Rehabilitation Project Force came into being on the 7th of January 1974. It was formed aboard ship, after Hubbard discovered that either due to negligence, incompetence or for other reasons, some staff seemed consistently unable to carry out their duties fully and responsibly. During our visits, it was explained that the programme was created to offer those staff the opportunity to address and resolve the source of their problem if they wished to remain members of the Sea Org.
Transgressions that might render a Sea Organisation member eligible for the programme would be of the following nature:
1. serious violation of the Church’s ethical standards (such as adultery or theft of magnitude or of long duration) or
2. consistently committed serious mistakes or detrimental actions in violation of their staff member responsibilities and of the trust placed in them, despite previous efforts by ministerial staff of the Sea Organisation to help them to overcome these shortcomings.
The theoretical basis of the RPF programme is that staff members who commit transgressions of this character may have a chance to redeem themselves by addressing the source of their ethical problem, resolving it to their satisfaction and that of the Sea Organisation, and thereby attain spiritual betterment and improved competence and ability.
In the written issue, known as a "Flag Order" , that established the RPF, Hubbard wrote: "Like industry or any organization or ship before that date, when a crew member stole or embezzled or refused to work he was simply fired and offloaded. Scientology crew members objected to this. They demanded that provisions be made to rehabilitate the person. They had the idea that a person should be given a choice of being off-loaded or rehabilitated…In the RPF the person receives counselling and does work on a team basis. The largest percent of persons assigned to an RPF graduate successfully and rejoin the crew. The majority of these give rave success stories. No other management organization undertakes such a function. They just fire people." 
We understand L. Ron Hubbard employed this term (the RPF) in the context typical of his naval vocabulary and is manifest in various aspects of the Sea Organisation (uniforms and other maritime symbols). While we recognize the different connotations the word ‘rehabilitation’ may have in today’s vernacular idiom, the term is now understood in the Scientological sense as explained by a recent graduate  as "coming back to good standing, coming back to yourself."
The practise of isolating wayward or fallen brothers from the faithful body of believers is familiar to students of religions. Christianity gives us some classical examples. The Augsburg Confession of 1530 proclaimed the right of the Lutheran Church to excommunicate any member who rejected a fundamental Lutheran doctrine. Paragraph 664-665 of the Jesuits’ General Examen and its Declarations states that "one who is seen to be a cause of division among those who live together, estranging them either among themselves or from their head, ought with great diligence to be separated from that community, as a pestilence which can infect it seriously if a remedy is not quickly applied. To separate can mean either to expel the person from the Society completely or to transfer him to another place, if this seems sufficient and more expedient for the divine service and the common good, in the judgement of him who has charge of the matter."  And in the New Testament, Paul tells the Corinthians "not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolator, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you’." 
The Programme Framework
Two central elements of the RPF programme that deserve definition are the study of the works of L. Ron Hubbard that make up the scriptural materials of Scientology and the process of counselling, unique to Scientology, known as "auditing". Auditing forms the primary religious practice of Scientology. It may manifest in several variants, but the most typical consists in an interchange between an "auditor" and the person being counselled. The book What Is Scientology? , published by the Church, describes auditing as "processes – exact sets of questions asked or directions given by an auditor to help a person locate areas of spiritual distress, find out things about himself and improve his condition."
The RPF programme incorporates auditing and study as part of a regimen that is clearly demanding. It consists of five hours of study and/or auditing a day and eight hours of work, with a minimum of seven hours sleep. The remaining four hours are taken up with eating, personal cleanliness, travel etc. The five hours of study/auditing and the seven hours sleep are mandatory.
"Members of the RPF may not be put on a work schedule which does not allow for 5 hours of study and co-auditing and 7 hours actual sleep time to be sessionable and studentable. Anyone in or outside the RPF issuing orders which cut across the RPF programme by blocking or reducing enhancement may be called before a Committee of Evidence"
[NB. The reference to "co-auditing" refers to Scientology spiritual counselling done with another "twin" and is an integral part of the programme. Being "sessionable and studentable" refers to the requirement that in order to study or receive counselling, one must be adequately rested and nourished. "Enhancement" is the period of study or spiritual counselling. A "Committee of Evidence" is a fact-finding body composed of impartial persons properly convened by a convening authority which hears evidence from persons it calls before it, arrives at a finding and makes a full report and recommendation to its convening authority for his or her action. It is appointed and empowered to impartially investigate and recommend upon Scientology matters of a fairly severe ethical nature. ]
The work programme consists of physical labour that is done as part of a team. It can cover almost anything. It is determined based on what will benefit the Church facility where the RPF works. In Copenhagen, the work consisted mostly of carpentry and renovating rooms at the living quarters. In England, RPF members were busy maintaining the extensive grounds and cleared storm damage (such as fallen trees) at the time we were there. Such work also includes regular cleaning of common areas.
The study of Scientology principles and the auditing is tailored for each individual so as to address and resolve the causes of the person’s lapse from standards. The programme consists of training as a Scientology counsellor, or auditor, and then, with a "twin" (another RPF member with whom the person works throughout the programme) engaging in Scientology auditing. One audits his twin and then receives auditing from his twin in a rotation system known as "turn-about." This procedure is continued until the programme has been completed.
Although only a minority of Sea Organisation members do the RPF programme, all new SO recruits are required to complete a programme with some similarities to the RPF before they may be considered bona fide members of the Sea Organisation. This programme, called the Estates Project Force (EPF), is however considerably less rigorous and much shorter. It consists in a daily schedule of five hours study and eight hours physical work, with the five hours devoted to study of the history, purpose, duties, and regulations of the Sea Organisation. No auditing is given as part of this programme. The purpose of the physical labour is to accustom an individual to hard work, as Sea Organisation members are expected to work hard, sometimes for long hours. The aim of the Estates Project Force is to familiarise new recruits with the purpose of the Sea Organisation, and to instil awareness of their duties and responsibilities. The programme also provides them with a period for reflection before undertaking the considerable commitment that full membership of the Sea Organisation entails. Such a screening requirement is consistent with, and actually less severe than, practices by some older religions. The Jesuits, for example, demand that novices engage in physical work such as "working in the kitchen, cleaning the house, and all the rest of these services" as part of an initial test for humility. "One should take on more promptly those [tasks] in which greater repugnance is found, if one has been ordered to do them," states the General Examen and its Declarations. 
The EPF programme lasts only a few weeks. Although such is not its purpose, through being introduced to the organisation this way, Sea Organisation members also gain an insight into the type of programme represented by the RPF.
Entrance to the Programme
There are two ways an individual may embark on the RPF programme. A person may either request admission, or he may be assigned to the programme for severe violation of the theological and ethical tenets held sacred by the Church .
Under usual circumstances, an individual is assigned to the programme after an internal judicial procedure called a Committee of Evidence. Short of expulsion from the Church, a Committee of Evidence is the most serious of the Church of Scientology’s disciplinary measures, at which a board of peers examines the actions of the interested party. A person summonsed as an interested party before a Committee of Evidence has the right to see and challenge any evidence, as well as to present evidence on his or her own behalf. The Committee then issues recommendations that, subject to approval from senior ecclesiastical management, might include assignation to the RPF.
If the person disagrees with the Committee’s recommendations, he may appeal. If his appeal is refused, then in the case of an assignment to the RPF, he must either leave the Sea Organisation or undertake the RPF programme. The choice rests finally with him/her. If the person decides to leave, s/he rejoins the congregational body of the Church. He/she may not return to Church staff, unless, at some future date, he is willing to do the RPF programme first. A comparison exists here to a monk who chooses not to continue life in a monastery but opts to become an ordinary parishioner.
Assignment to the RPF cannot occur arbitrarily. Even where a Sea Organisation member requests to be so assigned, he must receive authorisation to do the programme.
During the course of our interviews, the most frequent transgressions RPF members cited as the cause of their assignment to the RPF programme, or in some cases, of their request to do the programme, were adultery or sexual misconduct, theft, major violations of Church policy, serious instances of lying and misrepresentation, and severe dereliction of duty.
Once the person has made the decision to do the RPF programme, s/he is first given an explanation of what it consists of. At this point, s/he signs a waiver to the effect that s/he is undertaking the programme by his or her own choice and for spiritually beneficial purposes. This waiver is called "Acknowledgement of RPF Assignment and Election to Proceed." Att. 1
The next step is for the nascent RPF member to read the Flag Orders that describe and define the programme itself. These materials constitute the authoritative references that set forth in considerable detail the daily schedule, the nature of the physical work, the study and auditing regimen, the conditions imposed (such as limited socializing) as well as the rights and restrictions by which RPF members are bound. Once this step is completed, the person, if still choosing to undertake the programme, signs an "Application for Participation in the RPF and General Release". Att. 2
The reading of these issues might several days. The person is by now adhering to the schedule of the RPF and working and studying along with other RPF members. This period of study may be considered an introductory phase that offers the new arrival an understanding of the commitment he has made and makes him aware of the conditions he may expect for the duration of the programme. After completing this educational step, the person is considered a full member of the RPF and is ready to embark on the main body of the programme.
There can be no doubt that an evolution of this nature to a sustained commitment requires dedication and a personal will to continue. The benefits, from the point of view of a dedicated member of the Sea Organisation, are high. It is equally clear that the programme requires a single-mindedness and adhesion to a purpose that some people may not possess.
Whatever the individual choice in the end, the terms and conditions of the RPF are laid out with considerable clarity at the start of the programme, It is up to the individual to chose whether or not to proceed and the decision is his/her own to make.
Once begun with the programme, the individual has taken a significant step in his life and undertaken a major commitment that will occupy his full attention for the next year or so. Nearly all RPF members’ lives are divided between physical work for eight hours a day and study or co-auditing for five hours a day. The only exceptions are those trained and proficient in the technical skills required not only to administer but also to supervise auditing, a task that requires a precise and confident command of Scientology principles. Because they are held responsible for supervising the auditing delivered by each pair of twins on the RPF, the work schedule of these RPF members consists of only half the daily time allocated to other RPF members. During the other half they are engaged in verifying that the auditing of their fellow RPF members is being conducted satisfactorily and is producing the desired result. Therefore they conduct their own co-auditing at a different period of the day.
We examined the working conditions of RPF members in both Great Britain and Denmark. Those on the programme were moving around freely and without supervision beyond that which is routine on a construction or labour site. There were no guards, nor any physical constraints to prevent any one of them from simply "dropping tools" and walking away. In Denmark, the main work we observed took place in the "Nordland Hotel" – a Church of Scientology-owned building in the middle of Copenhagen – where many staff live and eat. In addition, Church parishioners visiting Copenhagen to take part in Scientology counselling and training services pay to reside at the Nordland Hotel and may remain there days or weeks depending on the duration of their services at the Church. The main church building is only five minutes away on foot and is situated just off the central square in Copenhagen.
The RPF’s main work in Copenhagen was to renovate the living areas of both Church staff and parishioners. We observed a number of rooms that had been renovated to very high standards. While we were present, RPF members were working on the corridor, relaying the floor and painting the walls.
In England, we observed members of the RPF clearing damage made by recent storms. A large stage set they had completed the previous month was still available for viewing.
We found no evidence that any RPF members entertained complaints about the work they were doing. It appeared to us that they were enjoying it.
The areas where the RPF studied were also visited. In Copenhagen, the study and auditing areas were situated in the basement of the Nordland Hotel. Two rooms had been assigned for this purpose. The rooms were not aesthetic and the access corridor contained large pipes for heating or other purposes. However, the rooms were clean, dry, and had adequate lighting and air circulation. The RPF members studying in these locations appeared satisfied that the facilities were adequate for the purpose. The materials they needed for their studies were available in adequate quantities, including paper, pens, and dictionaries.
In England, both dormitories doubled as auditing areas. A separate room had been set aside for study. Although it was not ideal to conduct auditing in the sleeping area (no auditing, of course, occurred during actual sleeping periods), this usage appeared to be simply utilization of available space. The classroom was again well stocked with the materials necessary for study.
We also viewed the areas where RPF members slept. The living spaces were located in the same building as, and immediately adjacent to, those of non-RPF Sea Organisation members. Indeed, in Denmark, RPF members and other SO members slept on the same floor. In England, the RPF’s living quarters were situated in a separate wing of the building, but with ready access to other staff quarters.
RPF members slept in dormitories of between five and ten, with male and female areas separate. All dormitories were dry and warm, with sufficient airflow and lighting. The sleeping conditions did not differ significantly from those of other members of the Sea Organisation, although of course a married Sea Organisation couple live together as man and wife in a private room.
There is no doubt that the lifestyle differs from that of most people in today’s world. When viewed in comparison with the religious orders of other faith traditions, however, it may be considered routine.
[NB: The living quarters in England also boasted a medium-sized swimming pool, a large gymnasium, a billiard table, a canteen and several areas for lounging and socialising. All were well maintained. Although RPF members were not permitted to use these facilities, with the exception of the canteen, we mention them to indicate the standard of living in the immediate vicinity of their living quarters.]
This is the most difficult aspect of the programme to explain and requires some reference to some basic features of Scientology theology and practice.
One of the tenets of Scientology is that individuals who have committed "destructive", "unethical" acts, roughly equivalent to what, in Christian parlance, might be termed sin, become spiritually estranged from those persons who are the recipients of the harmful act. When a person performs acts of a harmful character as part of a continuing cycle, his/her ability to function as an ethical human being gradually contracts. If the sinful acts are perpetrated against a group to which s/he has given allegiance, a sense of disassociation may become such that s/he chooses to leave the group permanently. Scientology confessional theology identifies the cause of these destructive actions as being rooted in the individual’s past spiritual existence, and the auditing administered as part of the RPF programme is designed to locate and dispose of what are termed "destructive or evil intentions". In this context, by "evil" is meant "the opposite of good, and is anything which is destructive more than it is constructive along any of the various dynamics use (‘areas of life’ or ‘urge toward survival’ ). A thing which does more destruction than construction is evil from the viewpoint of the individual, the future, group, species, life, or mest (matter, energy, space or time) that it destroys." 
The first step of the RPF programme addresses recent and current ethical lapses that must be dealt with before further advancement can be made. The second phase is directed towards raising the individual’s plane of spiritual existence, and specifically, towards the resolution of "destructive or evil intentions" buried in the person’s past but still affecting his conduct in the present. It is described as an extensive training and auditing programme that, according to the Church of Scientology, will enable the individual to locate, identify and resolve the cause of the behaviour that brought him to the RPF in the first place. Upon completion of the programme, he will be able to resume his responsibilities within the Church, this time fulfilling them satisfactorily, with no repetition of the ethically dysfunctional behaviour that had disabled him prior to the RPF.
It is not, of course, our purpose to evaluate the theological aspects of the programme. However, the individuals we interviewed who had completed or were approaching completion of the programme conveyed a strong impression of being bright, happy confident people. Their testimonies reinforced this impression. All the RPF members we interviewed expressed confidence that the programme they were doing, or about to do, would significantly improve their lives.
There is a hierarchy within the RPF. The most senior member, with responsibility for its smooth operation, called the "Bosun" is nominated within the group. S/He is assisted by a "Master at Arms" whose duty is to ensure that RPF members abide by the ethical standards required of them. There are also two sections, one to oversee the work projects and the other to monitor each RPF member’s progress through the educational and counselling steps that form the backbone of the programme.
Senior to all of these is the "RPF In Charge." This position is not held by a member of the RPF but by a staff from the Sea Organisation. It is he or she who carries the final responsibility for taking care of the RPF and making sure its members complete the programme.
Senior ecclesiastical staff trained in auditing, both in the country in which the RPF is located and at the Church of Scientology’s international headquarters in Los Angeles, perform an advisory function to ensure that the programme is conducted correctly.
It should be emphasised, however, that RPF members regard themselves as a self-contained unit and told us that they did not feel controlled or "led" by a remote "supervising authority". Indeed, while Church authorities monitor the programme, the RPF’s own members administer it. The show is theirs to run and to make successful or not, a bootstraps approach that derives from the RPF motto, "The RPF is what we make it. The RPF is where we make it." 
The programme is clearly perceived as a means of exerting discipline on the group. All groups have ways of imposing discipline. An obvious comparison is a Christian monastic order. Monasteries have codes and procedures for enforcing breaches of discipline, the Vatican has regulations concerning their priesthood and monastic discipline. Members of contemplative orders, both in the West and the Far East, enter monasteries where rules and silence are enforced so rigidly that telephone communication and even letters to and from relatives are prohibited or restricted to a few feast days. As a member of the Franciscan Order in the late 1950s, the American scholar Frank Flinn was allowed no phone communication with his relatives for the entire year of his novitiate. He was not allowed to attend his grandfather’s funeral. He was permitted to receive only one letter a month, and even that correspondence was subject to prior inspection by the master of novices . The Sea Organisation imposes no such restrictions of comparable severity and even the discipline mandated within the RPF programme is relatively mild by comparison.
We were referred (by one of the RPF members) to a policy written by Hubbard entitled "The Historical Precedence of Ethics". Hubbard cites early codes of regulation and right conduct of Buddhists (from about 2500 years ago) and a summary taken from the 1965 Buddhist Annual. This article explains that, "rules of conduct are intended for the rehabilitation of an erring monk rather than to punish him"; the creation of a Chapter of Monks (a Buddhist internal disciplinary board) and various actions identified as "misbehaviour" or ethical misconduct along with penalties and amends. Evidently Hubbard was aware of the long-established religious practice of using discipline to govern right and wrong conduct and has developed and adapted this tradition for the Church of Scientology. 
The primary function of the RPF, however, is a redemptive one. The discipline is therefore not conceived as an enforced system of penalties but operates within the context of the RPF’s redemptive function to ‘smooth the road’. Participants are made fully aware of and agree to the conditions of the programme before they are permitted to embark on it. There are no control systems that prevent a person from leaving. As we saw, anyone is able to leave at a moment’s notice. In Copenhagen especially, where the programme is located in the city centre, it is ludicrous to suggest that anyone could be restrained with no resulting complaints to the police or other fallout. In Britain, the RPF programme exists at the Church’s centre in the Sussex countryside, but it would still be easy for an RPF member to disappear into the trees and walk one or two kilometres to the nearest town.
The disciplinary rules to regulate the activities of the group members may be summarized as follows:
1. A tight daily schedule is followed unless there are valid reasons for change.
2. Limited interaction with the other centre members (though communication is open and free through letters, when other members wish to talk with the person or on special occasions).
3. No sexual relationships for the duration of the programme.
4. No free time except for special occasions (of course, personal hygiene and short breaks are permitted).
There is also an internal disciplinary practice that RPF members themselves deploy against other members who break the rules. Hubbard made a comparison to monastic life when he said, "Having a system of penance, or making up for a wrong that was done, has long been a hallmark of religions. While we do not believe in any form of flagellation (priests flogging themselves or others with whips) or similar infliction of pain or duress, members of the RPF have found the simple use of running laps around their work site, or doing push-ups or sit-ups, to be an easy and effective means of maintaining discipline. This is their discipline of rocks and shoals  …Rocks and shoals were not intended to be, nor have they been used as, punishment over the years. Even though they require physical exertion they were never meant to cause pain or duress and in fact they don’t…" The penance for lateness, poor hygiene, and lying are laid out. The offender would have to run between 1/4th and 1/8th of a mile. Push-ups may be required for lesser offences. The penalty is run on a circular route, presumably so it is not doubled by the return distance). 
A further disciplinary practice known as the "RPF’s RPF" is essentially a last portal of opportunity for RPF members who, in cases of extreme unethical behaviour or demonstrated disdain for the RPF, have disqualified themselves from the programme. Its length may vary between 2 days and 2 or 3 weeks. There is a different ratio within the RPF’s RPF between physical work and study/auditing. Participants do an additional two and a half hours physical work and correspondingly a lesser period of study. This shift in the ratio has been seen to have positive therapeutic value. The purpose of this RPF’s RPF is to bring about an awareness by the person to realize that he or she must take responsibility for being on the programme. This would involve the participant and his or her twin who, during this period, are segregated from the rest of the participants. The rationale for involving both partners is to make the non-offending twin aware of his or her own failure of responsibility for the failures of the other twin and to ensure that the offending twin has supportive companionship. During the investigation this special procedure occurred at both centres with positive results. Once again, any participant is free to opt out of this sub-programme.
The dietary requirements and conditions of interaction with non-members etc. are carefully defined, and here again, the RPF programme has many resemblances to the systems of other religious traditions. As far as other world religions are concerned, specific similarities may be found in another ascetic religion – Buddhism. One RPF member made such a comparison  and Mr. Hubbard placed importance and value on Buddhist tradition by citing and reprinting a Buddhist text on ethical standards and the rehabilitation of a monk years before the RPF programme was initiated.
Certain Buddhist and Christian monastic orders require an erring member to complete a regimen of exercise and training, as defined by the order, before re-admittance as a full member. These processes may include in depth reading and study of the principles of the religion, physical work and training, meditation and other spiritual exercises, and possibly also a period of hermetic contemplation.
From the interviews, it was apparent that the participants had much greater opportunity to concentrate on their spiritual counselling in the RPF than in their previous careers in the Church of Scientology. In seclusion, as it were, they were able to withdraw from the hustle and bustle of every day life and focus on achieving redemptive goals. This concept, of course, is a traditional one. Within Christianity there are hermits called anchorites who withdraw from society to devote themselves to prayer and penance. Many Christian saints lived this way, including St. Anthony, who lived in solitude in the deserts of Egypt and Syria, before emerging to preach. St. Benedict, founder of monasticism in the west, began as a hermit and founded the Benedictine Order of monks living in the community. Hindus expect their most dedicated members to take on the discipline of a "sannyasa", who renounces family and wealth and spends the rest of his days meditating in secluded areas to attain spiritual release from earthly entanglements. Women too have adopted the secluded life, the best known English anchoress being Mother Julian of Norwich, who lived in the 14th century.
In both centres, we were informed of people who had voluntarily left the RPF programme. No case was reported that their departure had caused any significant dispute within the group. There were cases where people had returned to the programme. Two of those interviewed subsequently left voluntarily.
Indeed, while a study by Professor Stephen Kent  refers to the testimony of former members who claim knowledge of the programme (mostly during the mid 1980s, ten to fifteen years earlier than his study was written) and complain of degrading conditions and forcible confinement, we were unable to find any member of the RPF who remotely felt this way. On the contrary, every participant was told that he could leave the programme whenever he or she felt necessary, and these members attested that they were happy doing it.
The Kent study also alleged that members had to make "forced confessions of past sins". When we asked participants about this allegation, they explained that their auditing is based on a partnership system with someone else in the RPF. Confession of one’s past misdeeds is part of the programme but is never forced. It could only benefit the person if they were willing. None was ever required to engage in public discussion of their, or another’s, past deeds, and the information, in alignment with the normal standards of Scientology spiritual counselling, was confidential and could never be accessed by anyone other than the auditor and the technical staff assisting him or her.
One of the most significant restrictions concerns the interaction with the rest of the Sea Organization, many of whose members are personal friends of RPF participants. The restrictions were felt by some RPF participants as difficult and even painful at times. However, they made clear that they had known about and agreed to them in advance. Far stricter stipulations are required of Carthusian and Cistercian nuns who are obliged to keep silent except when speech is indispensable. 
Many RPF members emphasised that the restrictions benefited them. Participants often told us that the absence of social contacts gave them the chance to concentrate on completing their RPF programme. This was especially true in England, where we were told that the lack of opportunity to engage in socialising outside the programme acted as an incentive to complete as quickly as possible.
It became clear in our fieldwork that while discipline was tight, deviations are usually permitted when necessary. Visiting family or attending events of importance were not forbidden if an RPF participant had indicated a wish to participate. Such requests had been approved and in several cases short or long leaves from the programme had occurred. One member spent two weeks in Chile to attend the golden wedding anniversary of his parents. Another member left the programme for more than two years to care for his mother afflicted with cancer.
The programme is therefore seen as, and is directly comparable to, a "retreat" in the monastic sense, where withdrawal from the everyday hustle and bustle of life is a requisite in order to resolve inner conflict.
Those doing the programme considered that the benefits accruing from successful participation outweigh the disadvantages. The reality of these benefits was confirmed by those who had completed. Many described the considerable spiritual change and reversal of previously low ethical standards they had experienced in their lives.
The authors of this study are aware of the possible criticisms and alleged potential shortcomings of this investigation. However, the study has persisted for a year or longer, and in all cases we have been satisfied with the cooperation we received with our project. We have been able to conduct follow-up interviews, and we have all individually collaborated our independent findings through interviews and direct observations.
The Rehabilitation Project Force should be considered a programme available only to a very small group of people. It may concern only the most dedicated of Scientologists, members of the Sea Organisation, who have given their lives to their religion. We have found that it is an intensive programme of study, spiritual counselling and physical work that can take anywhere between one and a few years.
Its purpose is to give those members who have committed serious wrongful acts or have engaged in severely unethical conduct a "second chance" to remain in the Sea Organisation. Anyone embarking on the programme is informed of the conditions, rules, regulations, restrictions and potential benefits before starting, and the person signs an attestation that participation in the programme is of his or her free will.
Because we were aware of criticisms of the programme, specifically by Professor Stephen A. Kent, we examined his main claims and included them into our fieldwork questions. Based on our first-hand observations and interviews, we are unable to concur with his evaluations. Specifically we found no evidence of physical constraints or coercive means to get or keep people on the programme. Anyone may leave the RPF at any time, and some have done so without completing the programme (and others have returned to it after a while). Some of the people we interviewed had indeed left the programme during the year of our investigation, and, in two cases, people we had interviewed had returned to the programme to complete it satisfactorily. Anyone who exits the programme or chooses not to do it in the first place may remain a parishioner of the Church of Scientology, even though s/he leaves the Sea Organisation. No conditions are attached to departure beyond the usual procedure for any departure from a Church of Scientology staff.
Our empirical findings are that there is no evidence that any fundamental rights are violated. Basic needs are taken care of. The individual agrees to any restrictions and may reject them at any time. We surmise that part of the difficulty that the Church encounters in connection with the RPF stems from a vocabulary that Mr. Hubbard employed that is now incommensurate with today’s usage.
As our interviews indicate, the programme is physically and spiritually challenging and has to be done intensively. Those doing the RPF have agreed to the conditions as they find the programme a necessary means to resolve serious difficulties in their lives. Those who have done the RPF attest that they have achieved or are achieving their goals and have resolved the problems that led them to the RPF in the first place. We are aware of the many criticisms and allegations that have been made against the programme and the evidence that we have uncovered in no way supports these.
One discovery that the researchers made during this investigation was that progress within the RPF programme and development towards the state of Clear and spiritual advancement beyond Clear as taught and sponsored by the Church are not contradictory, but one can continue and advance in both processes simultaneously.
There are two Sea Organisation centres and RPF programmes in Europe – one in Denmark and one in UK. Our study is based on interviews and observations in both of these. Some proposals were expressed in comments by graduates of the programme itself. 
Some differences were found between the two centres. The Copenhagen group is more socially cohesive and more expressive of working as a team. People in Copenhagen seemed to enjoy their teamwork and the practical exercises under the guidance of a skilled carpenter. They enjoyed the results displayed in their handicraft and were proud of their achievements. In the United Kingdom, we found people working as a team, mostly outdoors. Auditing and counselling took place in a classroom circumstance and sleeping quarters doubled as an auditing area (when not used as sleeping quarters). In Copenhagen the study quarters were separate from the sleeping quarters. There was little difference between the sleeping conditions of RPF members and those of other Sea Org members. RPF discipline functioned according to the same codes in both locations.
10 people have graduated and 2 are on the verge of completion in the UK, and in Copenhagen there are 3 graduates and 2 close to graduation. Of the ten UK graduates, two were rescinded and the persons returned to complete the programme. In addition, at the Saint Hill Centre, ten people left the programme without completion either through self-decision or through invitation. This has indicated to the researchers the flexibility and open policy of the RPF.
We found that in England the programme was more concentrated on people wanting to complete the programme rapidly. This emphasis has not been so apparent in Copenhagen, where team members seemed to enjoy their practical work and camaraderie. We surmise the possibility that the lower graduation rate in England during our period of study was due to this imbalance that we did not find in the Copenhagen centre. We note also that Copenhagen has implemented structural changes that have since encouraged more completion and graduation.
The size of the programme needs some consideration. Both European programmes appeared to be quite small compared to those on the American continent where there are about 100 practitioners. The programme at the Saint Hill centre that initially had 33 members now only has 16. On the other hand, the centre in Copenhagen had 29 at time of writing. During our follow-up study in Copenhagen we learned that the person holding the position of RPF In Charge had changed since our previous visit. The proposal uniting these two centres came forward in the interviews with the current directors of both RPFs.
Particular problems during our follow-up period seem to concern the choice of a suitable partner for progressing through the programme. This resulted in an increased delay for some participants of the programme. A completion period of between one year and one year and a half was recommended as ideal by the director and the participants. The programme director feels that even more ideally people ought to be able to complete in a six-month period.
In our field work we were surprised how little coordination and discussion took place between the RPF coordinators and within the Church about the workings of the programme. It might be good to have more facilitators, especially technical personnel including a graduate of the programme itself, to coordinate the programme. It became clear that those who were in charge of the project had met only occasionally, for example, when trying to find suitable "twins" in order to improve the auditing partnerships.
The ordinary Church members know seemingly little about the history and philosophy behind the project which may cause some misunderstandings and problems inside the centres. There is need for more openness and public relations to dispel misconceptions within the Church and outside it.
A total of 28 interviews were done. Attached are accounts of each based upon notes taken up at the time. In writing the text, information from the interviews was drawn upon extensively and the text checked for inconsistencies. None interviewed were hesitant or reluctant to speak. They answered questions openly and honestly and, apart from the odd occasions of personal embarrassment, were forthright in responding. The interviews verified what we saw and were consistent with the written materials available.
That all interviewees agreed to have their names published gave us a significant measure of confidence in the process. However, as mentioned at the beginning of this paper, we elected to use first names only, of those who were or had been on the programme.
The most striking aspect of the interviews is that everyone on the RPF was there to change some aspect of their life that had caused them and others serious problems, either in marriage or at work. They spoke in varying degrees of what they described as the spiritual and ethical benefits they had received. Those who had completed or were well advanced on the programme said that they had resolved or were well on the way to resolving the cause of the difficulties that had brought them to the RPF in the first place.
Interviews of RPF Members and Graduates
Franz – interviewed November 2000
Franz Stoeckl was born in 1953 in Munich and had a Catholic background. He entered the Church in 1975 and in 1980 decided to join the Sea Organisation. For the last 20 years he has spent most of the time in Copenhagen. He is married. He started the RPF in July 1998 and completed it in December 1999.
He told us "I was not doing well as an individual, was not getting along well with my wife and was not doing well at work either. I received a Committee of Evidence and the recommendation was for me to do the RPF programme." He was asked if he had to do the programme and he explained, "It was not enforced. I was given the option of redeeming myself or else I would have to leave the Sea Organisation – though I would still have remained a Scientologist. I chose to do the programme because, amongst other things, I would not have handled the cause my problems either if I had left."
Asked what he gained from the programme, he told us "I had many benefits. An individual knows that when he or she is not doing well it has something to do with oneself. In many religions there is technology comparable to confession and Mr. Hubbard found precise methods that get to the roots of why one is compelled to do certain things, sometimes without really intending to do them, but which nevertheless happen. Having done this programme and also helping someone else through it my attention came off myself and went onto helping the other person. Now I am very glad to have been trained on delivering Scientology counselling and it has given me a new life. All my dreams are now coming real. I am doing well personally, with my wife and in my work."
Franz did the programme in Los Angeles as a comparable "twin" was available there. His wife remained in Copenhagen and they did not visit during this period. He said that, "We were both aware that we would not see each other a great deal at the outset of the programme and I felt it necessary to get through quickly."
Asked to explain the programme in more detail he said, "It is not the purpose of the programme to advance through the levels of Scientology counselling and training as most parishioners would be doing. But it might be necessary to do that before being able to go ahead and do the core of the programme. This would mean that some people have a lot more to do than other people on the RPF – it would be an entirely individual issue"
He added that, "The type of auditing that is given on the RPF is a requirement for all executives in Scientology at one point or another, so it is not something specific only to the RPF."
"When an individual has done something very harmful, he withdraws, as it were, from the areas where he did the bad actions and so he loses or reduces control over his actions. The RPF programme addresses these problems. It enables the person to take back control of his life in those areas where he had been unable to function properly."
He said that "In Los Angeles there were around 150 people doing it and I slept in a dormitory with 5 other people. The programme consisted of 5 hours study or counselling and the remaining 8 hours were split, for me, into 5 hours of supervision of others’ study and counselling and 3 hours of physical work. We lived in the same building as other Sea Organisation members but in an area assigned to us. We were on a different schedule to the rest of the staff – going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. There was contact with others but this was limited. We shared the same dining room and had the same food, but the RPF group ate alone."
He was asked how he would define Rehabilitation Project Force and he said, "I see myself as a spiritual being who has lived for more than one lifetime. I have accumulated many experiences over time and sometimes these things can be triggered off and cause me to act badly. . Handling these points is part of the programme. It helps the individual regain true creative power and self-respect."
Asked what the word "force" meant in this context he explained, "There are various ‘work forces’ that do specific jobs and this is what is meant here. This meaning has nothing to do with mental or physical force and, anyway, it would be impossible to force someone to do this programme as it is only possible to really do it if the person honestly wants to participate."
There is a standard procedure for graduation. "All the ‘evidence’ covering the different steps of the programme I and my twin had done was compiled and sent to qualified people who were able to adjudicate it. We had one small rejection that took about one week to correct and then we were finished. On completion, we had a special meeting and we both gave a speech telling the other people on the RPF about our benefits during the programme and how we had changed for the better. This was a very exciting and touching ceremony. It shows how powerful the auditing technology is. After completion I returned to Denmark and rejoined my wife."
We talked about the conditions he experienced. "I never felt physically or mentally maltreated and did the programme though I could have left at any point. There were restrictions but these are there to assist in getting through the programme quickly." He was also asked if he felt degraded during the time he was on the programme. He replied that, "I was actually very proud to be doing it and did not come across any time where I felt I was in a degrading position. When you graduate the programme you are also looked upon as a reliable person who has achieved a lot by doing it."
He told us that "During my stay in Los Angeles I had all food and living expenses covered and a small allocation for personal needs. There were no free days but I could have take time off for something important if this were needed. What I did was to study and give and receive auditing intensively and so was able to finish the programme in a relatively short time because of this."
With regards to allegations that confessions were forced he said, "Nothing could be further from the truth. The confessional part is similar to the Catholic Church practice. It is a more sophisticated way of doing it as it handles the reasons a person’s problems occurred in the first place. I now feel kind of reborn – looking to the future – it is mine to create. Each religion has its own concept where spiritual freedom can be reached if one rids oneself of past misdeeds."
We asked him if everyone knows why the people on the RPF programme are doing it. "Not really – though often it is known. You have to distinguish between this and the counselling done as part of the programme. The content of that is never made public."
He was asked if many people left the programme in Los Angeles and if so, under what conditions. He replied, "A handful did, but not many. None left with any hostility. The attitude of the others was that if a person wanted to leave he could."
Talking more about the auditing aspect of the RPF, he said, "Everyone has an auditing programme designed for what he needs. I was very happy to work on this with my twin, who is from the United States and remained there after I left. We still write to each other."
Did he feel able to keep his identity and develop as a human being? "Very much so, the programme improved my personality. I did it because I chose to. It is strange that some people put a negative interpretation on the programme. In my view, anyone who does this cannot conceive of what it means to seek redemption for past sins. I know a lot of people who have graduated and a few who were not able to complete it. The difference between them is that the latter are still having problems in life. Those who completed are doing very well."
He summed up the benefits as follows: "I regained my personal integrity and respect of self, as well as respect for others. I think they can see this and know they can trust me now. Everything that I had done wrong was handled and is no longer an issue. No-one would even think of mentioning it any more."
Nepheli – interviewed November 2000
Nepheli is a Greek citizen and was born in 1964. Her father is French and her mother Italian Greek. She said that she would go to both Catholic and Orthodox churches as a child. When she was 19 years old, she discovered Scientology and wanted to find out more about it. She was studying medicine at the time but in 1986 decided she wanted to work for the Scientology mission in Athens. In 1989 she joined the Sea Organisation. She has been married but was divorced prior to going onto the RPF. Her husband is Danish and a practising Scientologist.
She started the RPF programme in November 1996. She had held a senior position in one of the church’s organisations in Japan for 6 years and was responsible for publishing church literature. She said, "I released and marketed books without caring whether translations were done properly. It wasted a lot of money and squandered a lot of hard work by others. After thinking it over, I felt that I should do the programme and requested to do it. My boss agreed and so I started."
During the interview she was asked what the word "Force" meant in "Rehabilitation Project Force" as there had been allegations about forcible confinement. She laughed, and said, "I am here because I want to be on this programme. Do I look ‘confined’? The word ‘force’ means a body of people working together."
Asked whether the physical work was heavy she replied, "The work is not at all heavy. I am one of the technical staff. I only do about 2 – 3 hours of physical work a day. I spend 4 or 5 hours on technical supervision and the remaining 5 hours on personal study and religious counselling." She added, "I have recently done a range of medical tests and the doctor said I was in very good health."
Nepheli was asked to talk about the programme. She explained that in Scientology there is an ethics system and justice system. Ethics is a series of actions that the individual applies to himself or herself when unethical conduct occurs, in order to remedy the "non-survival" actions. Justice occurs when the individual has not taken personal responsibility for unethical situations. "I felt that I had betrayed the trust placed in me to carry out my work in Japan. I wanted to handle that. I could have continued to be a Scientologist, but not in the Sea Org, but I wanted to do this and am really happy I made that choice." She told us she found the programme "incredible."
She read the rules of the RPF and knew the restrictions she would have to follow and signed an attestation to that effect before starting.
We discussed contact with people outside the RPF. "I visited my parents in Greece a couple of years ago," she said, "and spent almost two weeks there. I took a short leave from the programme at that time. I explained to my parents what I was doing and what the RPF was and that I just wanted to put all my efforts into it until it was completed. I write to them often. They understood and respected my choice. They also saw that I was much better off than before."
She said there have been eight graduates from the RPF in the past four years. "When a graduation occurs, we have a party. All the RPF members attend and sometimes other staff from the Sea Org."
"It is a spiritual programme and I have benefited in this way more than anything else. My respect for myself and others and my understanding as a spiritual being have greatly increased."
We asked her if she had felt ostracised during the programme. She said, "I do not feel this way – though different people do have different attitudes. In my own particular group in the Sea Org there is no change in how I am greeted when I see people I know. They often ask me how I am doing and when I will be getting back. With others that I do not know there is sometimes a questioning look on their faces, like they are wondering why I am here."
Nepheli was next asked to explain something about the auditing part of the programme. She said, "At first, one has to learn how to become an auditor and then the person is ‘twinned’ with another person who is at a similar level of auditing. They then have a programme which they both have to get the other through – at which point they can graduate." She explained that, "The only real problem I encountered was that the person I was originally twinned with had to go onto a different programme for personal reasons and so I had to change twins and am now in fact in a "trio" with two other women."
She was asked if she felt she had been forced to confess past misdeeds and said, "I do not know how someone could be forced to confess and get any benefit out of the programme. Mr. Hubbard made a breakthrough in this field and found that there are ‘false purposes’ which underlie non-survival destructive actions. These cut across different dynamics  and through auditing a person can address these issues and fully resolve them. The Auditors Code, which governs how auditing is done, forbids the abuse of anything said during counselling. Only a few members of the group ever have access to the details and this is only for technical reasons to ensure that things are progressing well. None of the information could ever be made public in the Scientology community – or anywhere else for that matter. It is the same as priest-penitent confidentiality."
On the subject of brainwashing she said that "I cannot see how what I am doing can possibly compare with forcefully getting someone to change something. If anything, Scientology procedures were ‘unbrainwashing.’ The auditor can never tell someone what they should think about something, they must not evaluate or give the other person suggestions about what he or she should think – as happens with psychology for example." Asked if she felt she had lost her identity she said, "I have never been so much myself."
She was asked about nutrition on the programme. "I have 4 meals a day. It is vital to be well fed when doing auditing. Auditing is never given to someone who is not well fed and well rested. If I need to have extra protein and vitamins they are available."
We enquired whether she received funds for personal necessities. She answered, "I have some money for other basic necessities and if I need to have additional money like when I travelled to Greece I can request this."
Nepheli was asked how many people had left the programme incomplete since she had been doing it. She said, "About 20. They felt they were unable to finish. None did so with bad feelings. Some wrote and visited us when they returned to Copenhagen. They are not Sea Organisation members any more, but are Scientologists."
Asked how she would describe her own role as leader of group she replied, "I have to work hard and help the other group members. The programme is an incredible and unique experience, as each person wants to change. I do not have the words to say how thankful I am for being able to do the RPF. This is the best thing that has happened to me, for many reasons. I have experienced the reward of seeing a person take hold of the ‘reins of his life’ and become more and more able every day. It is beyond words."
She does not take part in normal Sea Organisation rituals and gatherings while doing the programme. It requires a lot of concentration and attending meetings would be a distraction. Similarly, of a social life, she said, "I see people every day and have contact with them, but have little time to socialise for the reasons I explained."
Nepheli was asked what happens when someone has a medical problem. "The person goes to the doctor or the hospital." Asked if only Scientologists who are doctors are consulted, she said, "There are doctors who are Scientologists, but we work with any good doctor and with the health system of the district."
Did she think there were any comparisons between monastic life and the RPF? "It does follow this tradition. The RPF restores pride and honour to a person."
Nepheli – interviewed October 2001
Nepheli was re-interviewed approximately one year later
A week previously, she had submitted her application to complete the programme.
Since last seen, she had been working with her "trio-twin" to complete all the steps. She had first submitted her application to complete three months previously but this had been returned with a request to do more auditing. This had been done. She expected a response in a week or two.
The application is sent to half a dozen technically trained personnel who review what was done and determine if the RPF member has fulfilled the requirements for graduation.
She told us that her mother, a non-Scientologist, came to visit her this summer in Denmark. As she had told us in her previous interview, her parents are religious and understand the path she has taken. She plans to visit them in Greece after she graduates.
Nepheli spent five years on the programme. Her first twin was unsuitable and she had to start anew with another. She told us, "The delay could have been avoided if it had been realized when the problem came to light – but it was not. This is really the only liability of the programme. However, it is more carefully arranged now and not such a problem." She said that normal completion time now is one to one and a half years.
Asked how the programme could be improved, she said, "There is help and supervision but it would be good to have a second technically trained person involved. In 1997, changes were made that speeded up progress on the programme. This made the difference between a "5-years generation" and "1 1/2 year generation".
As to whether she felt frustrated at the time it had taken, Nepheli said, "Though it could have been shorter, the experience was priceless. I knew I could interrupt or stop the programme if I wanted to. But I wanted to go through it."
She did not find any particular aspect most difficult. "It was tougher at the beginning, especially given that I had not decided to complete fast. But when I got my final twins [N.B. she is part of a "trio- twinship"], it took us only 9 months each to complete."
We asked Nepheli what she had found most positive about the RPF. "The miracle of the effectiveness of Scientology. I am more of a Scientologist than ever before."
Being unable to socialise with other SO Members had not been a problem for her. Within the RPF, all are friends and socialise amongst themselves, she told us.
When asked if other people should be more knowledgeable about the RPF, she said, "They can always grab the materials and read them if they want to." She said that, "I was given a lot of help from my organisation and in some cases, I even gained respect."
She said she felt freer now. "In Scientology you learn and gain a lot every day."
We asked her if she found similarities between the programme and those of other religions. She said, "Prayer in a monastery or convent is important but there can be more than that. I suppose you could say that nuns who travel around the world doing things to help other people are closer to us than nuns in a convent."
Monica – interviewed November 2000
Monica is Spanish and was born in 1972. Her religious background was Catholic but this came mainly from the influence of her grandmother. In 1993 she became a member of the Church of Scientology and studied in Valencia for about a year and then joined staff. Shortly after that she joined the Sea Organisation and went to Denmark. She is married.
At the time of the interview she had been on the programme for 10 months. She explained why she was doing it. "I cheated on my husband. This was with a person who was not a member of the Sea Org. Afterwards, I felt very bad and told my husband and my seniors at work. I asked to do the RPF programme and this was accepted. While doing the RPF, I live apart from my husband in a dorm with other women on the programme. I am on very good terms with my husband and we are in touch every other day and see each other often. But my concentration is on getting through the programme."
Asked how it has affected her relationship with her husband, she told us "He is really quite something. At the time we were not getting on so well and our relationship is now much better. The purpose in Scientology is not to make anyone guilty – but to handle the problem you find yourself mixed up in. I made a big mistake. I knew at the time it was wrong and now really want to handle what made me do it. I had always known that I had a problem in abiding by a moral code that I had agreed to, and in keeping my allegiances. I did not know how to deal with this. In my marriage, it started with little things, and we moved gradually apart. In looking back, I see that I had just not been honest with him over various little things – though this alone was not the reason for what happened. It happened when he was away on a short trip. Afterwards, I decided that I wanted to do the programme. As soon as my husband returned I told him and he agreed. I did not start right away as it took some time to get approval to start, but I was impatient to begin."
"My husband has been really great and supportive. Of course, he was upset but he is glad I am taking responsibility for what I did by dealing with this through the RPF."
With regard to the programme itself, she said, "As a human being you have a lot of goodness, but when you commit actions that violate your own, and your group’s, mores, you drift apart from other people and from your group. You become less ‘reaching’, as it were, and less able as you are withholding what you did. The programme addresses these things and what caused them so that you can become yourself again – and proud."
Asked what "force" was applied (referring to the name of the programme), she laughed and said, "This means a group of people doing something together and has no sense of confinement or the use of force against you." She explained, "My schedule is 5 hours of study or auditing, 5 hours of supervision of others’ auditing programmes and 3 hours cleaning each day. The work is mostly cleaning the kitchen but before this, for the first five or six months, I was doing 8 hours physical work a day. I did carpentry and other building work. I sleep well, in a room with 6 other women, and eat 4 or 5 times a day. I get enough money for my daily needs as all basics are taken care of independently of this."
She told us that the programme brought about social and moral benefit. "I faced up to what I did and in the eyes of the rest of the group my decision to handle my faults is respected. After having done quite a bit of the programme I feel very happy. Finding out about myself on the RPF is like nothing else. You look at the things you have done, confront them, take responsibility for your actions and resolve the basis of it. This is possible because Mr. Hubbard researched and found out how to do it. He really had compassion. I appreciate it so much because I have the opportunity to really handle this problem in my life. In another group, at least one with high ethical standards, I would probably just have had to leave. Here, I know that I will never feel a need to do it again I will be welcomed back as soon as I have finished the programme."
We asked whether her confessions of sins were public. "Not at all. Some people knew what I had done that led to my doing the RPF, but it was never made public knowledge. Whatever comes up in my auditing is between me and my auditor and would never be made public, as that would be against the codes of the Church. I speak freely with my auditor about this, about anything – to sort out my past and the things I had done."
On ‘brainwashing’ she said, "I heard about it in films – and being used by spies. Before I arrived on the RPF I had all kinds of ‘mental protections’ so others would not see what I had been doing. On the programme I got rid of this and feel free and happy. I plan to graduate within 3 months and return to my work. My husband is waiting for me and I look forward to restarting my marriage, properly this time."
Monica – interviewed October 2001
Monica had submitted her request to complete the programme a week before we reinterviewed her. A previous submission had been returned with a request for further work on some of the graduation requirements.
Her first twin was Sabrina. Both decided to go through the programme fast. However, at first, they lacked technical expertise in auditing. After changes were made to the programme to help people get through it faster, they went more quickly. When Nepheli joined the team, she already had considerable expertise and together they completed the programme.
She told us, "It has now become popular to have a trio instead of twins as this works very well too."
Asked how the RPF can sometimes take long, she said, "It can occur if the twins are not well matched, or if the person does not take responsibility for the reasons he is on the programme. And sometimes people simply do not apply the technology correctly."
Monica was asked whether she had remedied the problems that brought her to the RPF "Yes. Also, my husband has forgiven me and is right now getting the room ready where we will live."
She was asked her recommendations. "The weak point of the programme", she told us, "is that there is not enough technical advice from outside the RPF. I knew nothing about the technical aspects of auditing at first and more contact with technical personnel would have make it faster." Asked if she would like to be the technical terminal, she answered, "I would love it."
She added that, "Twinships could improve. Twins need to be changed if they are not appropriate."
She did not think that people outside the RPF need more knowledge of the programme. "It depends on a person’s post. More knowledge about the programme would make it too tempting for some and that is not the purpose of the Sea Organisation."
She laughed and said, "The only thing I lost on the programme was weight. The food and living area was fine."
She told us that when she finished she would return to her former position as a translator. "But I want to become an auditor in the future."
Asked if she had progressed on the Bridge, she told us "I did receive Bridge actions on the RPF — the Purification Rundown and the Scientology Drug Rundown."
She emphasized, " You must really decide to do the programme in order to get through it." She said that none of those who had left had done so with any bitter feelings.
She described herself as "totally happy" and said her plans on completion are to celebrate. "I will go back to my org[anisation] and tell them I am done. I will see my friends, get up to date with what is happening and then go to work." She also plans to visit her parents.
Janine – interviewed December 2000
Janine was born in 1964 in the South-West of England. She started Scientology in 1980 and was on staff at the Church in Plymouth before joining the Sea Organisation in 1986. She started the RPF in July 2000.
She told us the reason for her doing the RPF project. "I had been falsely reporting about the production in my area for a long time. I was in charge of all external communications and had been reporting that things had happened when this was not so. It colours the way you behave. After this came to light, I had a Committee of Evidence (NB: an internal ecclesiastical procedure designed to get at the facts and provide the interested party to hear and answer evidences against him). The Committee recommended that I do the RPF programme. I had already decided that I wanted to do it, but had to wait for the Committee’s recommendations before I could start."
"For the previous 4 years I had been dishonest and consistently gave a false picture of what I had done. I covered up when things went wrong. I was given greater responsibility for false reasons – which included receiving financial bonuses when not deserved. One thing I can say is that having decided to do the RPF, I know that once I complete it I will be deservedly trusted."
"I can leave at any point. I have my passport and credit card and nothing would prevent me from leaving if that was what I wanted to do. When I started, I was told that if at any point I wanted to leave I would be assisted, and that it was better to do this than just sit on it. It can be a difficult decision. It is not easy, it is not a pleasure ride but I do it because at the end of the day it is worth it…"
"I am doing 5 hours a day study and counselling and the remainder is spent on physical work. We do anything from storm damage clearance to setting up the stage for a major Church event."
She said, "I have been divorced for 4 years. I have two children. One is 18 and going to school in America. The other is 15 and a part-time staff member. My former husband is a practising Scientologist. I see my daughter fairly often and explained the RPF programme to her before starting it. She lives in the same building so we see each other often."
"My intention is to graduate within a year of starting the programme, and I am on schedule. It is intense. I like the balance between work and study." She said that she and her twin had taken it on themselves to help people rapidly through their programmes. Interestingly, she commented that "I get more sleep than before the RPF, and I eat well. I have enough time for personal hygiene and enough allowance to cover what I need. There is a canteen at the living quarters and we are able to use these facilities."
Asked if there was anything that she did not like about the RPF she said, "The main thing is not mixing with other staff members in the Sea Organisation. But I understand why, and I agreed to this restriction. It motivates me to get through. If things were easier, that might not have been the case. I also have a partner and had gone over my doing the programme before I began – and that it would mean little contact between us. He wanted to continue the relationship and is willing to wait until I finish. I do see him from time to time and speak and write to him. If I was invited and chose to, I could go to important services such as a wedding."
She said that when she started the program, "I felt bad, as I had let the rest of the group down. Since then, I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve taken full responsibility for what I did and feel a lot better now. I am not proud of the reasons I am doing the programme but I’m regaining my integrity by doing it. I’ve worked on staff at Saint Hill for 18 years and want to continue to fulfil my aim of helping people. So the programme is a great help."
She became acquainted with Scientology aged 16 or 17. "I needed to have parental consent to do Scientology as I was a minor. My mother asked a policeman to come to our home to talk to me about it. I answered all his questions about Scientology and told him what I was going to do. He said he could see I was making my decision and doing what I wanted. It’s the same with the RPF. I know what I’m doing and want to do it. My mother, by the way, is Church of England, and is happy that I am doing the RPF programme. We write to each other."
We wanted to know if she saw comparisons between life in the RPF and in other institutions. "There is really nothing you can compare it to," she said. "On other programmes the individual is not helped to sort out what went wrong in the first place. This is the big difference with the RPF programme."
She was unconcerned about allegations that the programme is used to "control" people. "It would be very difficult to control me", she said. "Control is what you exert on yourself. No one can do this for you." She went on, "A person in the Sea Organisation is responsible for broad management of the project but does not interfere in our affairs on a day to day basis – that is our own responsibility. He is the person we would go to if we needed help"
"It’s a voluntary thing. It’s not something done to you, but something you have created. You have the choice to do it. If your contribution was not considered valuable you would not even be given that choice. If you were completely destructive, you would not qualify to do the programme at all. You’re given the choice and at any point you can terminate your contract. I’m not saying the programme is easy. It can be tough and physically dirty, and sometimes you are out in the rain and the cold, but you are never stretched beyond your physical abilities. I am a brighter and cleaner person. I am me."
Janine was also asked if more education should be given to Sea Organisation members about the aims of the RPF. She replied "There are only a few things that can injure the image of the programme, and one is people taking too long to do it. It would be good for some people to read the materials about what the RPF is for and what it does, especially people who have just joined."
Our final question was whether anyone had left incomplete since she began. "No. A couple left before I came, because they did not think they could make it through. They are Scientology parishioners now… I also know of someone who has just returned to the RPF after taking a leave some years ago. He had to go and look after his mother who had a brain cancer. He’s now returned to pick up where he left off, after being on leave from the Sea Organisation for two and half years."
Janine (36) – interviewed 18 May 2001
Janine, a spirited and fully engaging person, is from southwest England. She first became involved with Scientology in 1981 at the age of 16. Since she was under 18, she was at first a "volunteer." Later, she became part of staff and then joined the Sea Organisation in 1986. She began the RPF on 6 July 2000.
The reason for Janine’s inclusion in the programme stemmed from a "false reporting of stats." Janine had been claiming governmental benefits under false pretences. Over the choice of joining the RPF or leaving the Sea Org, Janine recapitulated: "If I had chosen not to do RPF, what would I have done then?" She surmised that she had never confronted the issue that she was not in full control of her post. In balancing the pros and cons of the RPF, Janine’s reasons for staying included her 16-year old daughter Vicki who wanted to be part of the Sea Org, her boyfriend within the Sea Org and, especially, the influence of Tatania, a charismatic and attractive South African whom I have met on previous visits to Saint Hill or to Scientology functions in London. Janine’s chief resistance to RPF was "the time it takes."
For the programme itself, the hardest thing for Janine was maintaining "communication lines." This was a reference to "dealing with Vicki and Rupert." But in understanding the programme and explaining it to me, she said that "ethics is a personal tool that is used to get technology in one’s life."
In trying to gauge how aware Janine was of the world beyond the programme and the Saint Hill centre, I asked her if she could tell me who was the president of the US. "Sure," she replied, "it’s Bush," and sensing immediately what I was driving at, she added, "and I can tell you the score of Liverpool’s UEFA win in last night’s match." Janine informed me that the RPF quarters were in possession of a radio, and, while many members were not interested in it, it was generally turned on, and those who wanted were free to listen apart from the hours devoted to studying and auditing.
According to Janine, more needs to be known about the RPF by members of the Sea Org in general. Janine felt that if this were so, "more people would do it and not leave." She explained that "a lot of people choose not to do the programme. Flag Orders should be read first; not when one begins."
Thomas – interviewed December 2000
Thomas was born in 1966 in Norway. Both his parents are Scientologists and came into the Church when he was 7 or 8 years old. His father was a van driver, who met someone who told him about Scientology and his interest developed from that point. They moved to Denmark in 1974 with his brother and sister – though not initially to join staff. The parents later became staff members and he and his brother and sister went to school in Copenhagen. In 1977, the whole family joined the Sea Organisation – though his sister left in 1990 and is now married and living in Switzerland. She remains a Scientologist. Thomas remained in Denmark until 1992 and then came to the United Kingdom to work for the Church there.
He started the RPF programme in 1997 and graduated in September 2000.
He told us "The reason for my assignment to the RPF was that I was in charge of the church’s main organisation in London and committed adultery. After doing this, I just walked off my job for about 6 days. After reflection I returned to Saint Hill. I did not really want to leave, and I knew I had left solely because of my unethical actions. I decided to return and sort things out, even if I left the Sea Org, rather than leave the Church under the above circumstances."
"When I returned I decided to do the programme. I never looked back. My wife and I divorced, but we are still in touch and work in the same building. I am about to remarry."
He was asked if he had to make any public confession of his sins "Never. What I said in my confessional auditing was kept confidential, as with everyone who has auditing."
He had the same kind of schedule as the others interviewed – 5 hours study/auditing and 8 hours physical work. He said, "It took me a relatively long time to complete because of the time needed to get through my study, and because later in the programme I had to do more auditing than first expected."
"I knew about the programme before I started it, and I never saw it as a punishment. I’ve seen people doing it since I was a child. You really get an opportunity to handle a lot of personal problems."
He said that when he started in the Sea Organisation, "I was very excited about it. So many people in society had problems and difficulties and I felt I could help in resolving these. However, at some point I started going downhill and not doing well. I was not so happy as I had been. Through the programme I felt completely rehabilitated and sorted out many things. The programme is a spiritual thing and addressed a lot more than just the last few years of my life. I came out of it feeling in better shape than ever before."
Asked if there were negative experiences, he responded, "At the beginning there were some problems, but they were my own fault. I went back and forth on whether I wanted to do the programme. Finally I decided to do it and moved ahead."
He said that, "When I returned after leaving my position in London, I expected people would be really angry with me but I found instead people wanting to help. There were no angry words or recriminations."
Thomas does not consider that he "carries a label" for having done the RPF. "I have been forgiven. When I was considering leaving the Sea Organisation, no one said I must stay – it was my own decision, and so was doing the programme."
He added, "After graduating, my welcome back into the main body of the Sea Organisation was quite overwhelming. Staff members want you to finish, and what I got was an extremely warm greeting. I went out to celebrate. I got that news that I had graduated, people were congratulating me, cheering me, hugging me and welcoming me back."
Asked about his relations with his wife at the time of committing adultery he said, "Of course there was a lot of upset, and we had marriage counselling and chaplain counselling. Although we finally decided to part there are no bad feelings between us, and the upset has been cleared up. We have good relations – we are friends. We had no children, by the way."
"I informed my parents that I was doing the RPF. They were concerned about me but glad I was going to do it to sort things out."
He did not readily find a comparison to the RPF program. "You have to want to do it or else it will not work. The discipline really comes from oneself. The schedule is tight and the restrictions exists to keep the individual focused on what he is doing."
He had this to say about the physical work: "I came out in much better physical shape than I went in. The food was good; I had adequate sleep and time for personal hygiene. The pay was not much but enough to cover our basic requirements."
"I felt no social maltreatment or humiliation. The restrictions include not communicating much with others, but there is no guard and people speak to you every day. I only had a few days off but could have had more were there good reasons for this."
"I did not feel that others were deciding or telling me to do things. I chose the programme knowing the conditions. I felt respected and never received hostile treatment."
"I know of some people who left the programme without completing it but all stayed in the Church. None were bitter."
"The most positive aspect is that I resolved the cause of my moral lapses. In a lot of other organisations, you would be fired. I’ve become ‘rehired’ with more responsibility than formerly. This, and seeing and helping other people change for the better, were, for me, amazing results. That I could do this and not have to leave the organisation because of what I did was quite wonderful and different to other groups. It turned around my life from a very bad scene to a very, very good one, and now I feel the best I have ever felt."
He was asked if he thought there was adequate understanding of the programme within the Church "I do not really know as I’ve not talked much about that aspect.. I don’t think it is discussed that much."
Asked who runs the programme, Thomas replied, "A person within the RPF is in charge. I was holding this position for the last year and half of my programme. Someone not on the programme has overall responsibility."
Fany – interviewed December 2000
Fany was born in 1974 in Paris. She was never christened and her parents always said that she would decide for herself what religion, if any, she would adopt. When she was 2, her parents divorced. Her mother remarried when Fany was 8, and both she and her stepfather came into Scientology. She did some minor courses aged 10 and 11 years. When 16, she came to Britain for holidays, found out about the Sea Organisation and decided to join.
She started the RPF in 1997 and completed in Copenhagen.
"The schedule is study for the first 5 hours of the day and physical work for 8 hours. I sleep in a room with between 8 and 10 other girls. The room has big windows and I don’t have any problem living like this. The food is the same as the other staff eat and as for the physical work, I like it and have learnt a lot just from this."
"I would have liked to have taken a shorter time to complete, but as I felt I was learning and advancing I did not experience the time as laborious. For the first year, I was with someone who did not stay, so this set me back somewhat. The person left the Sea Organisation and became a parishioner. I had to wait for my new twin to reach the point that I was already at."
"After I graduated, I returned to England and took up a position in the same church organisation as before. The church paid for all my room and board, my personal expenses and travel, including the renewal of my passport."
"I was aware of the conditions and the schedule from the start. You either go for it or you don’t. I never regretted it. I knew what it was about and what to expect."
Regarding her family relations she said, "I was not, and am not married. Now that I have completed I live in the same room as my mother and two other women."
"My post is Director of Promotion and Marketing. This was the position I held before doing the RPF."
She said, "I feel very different about things. The programme is very deep and you ‘handle’ all the nasty things within you and impulses you cannot control. This can range across all areas of life. Through auditing, it can be resolved so that there is nothing between you and life – just the basic nature of you, the spiritual being, and all the rest is gone."
She said she had experienced no negative or hostile feelings. "There were 18 people doing the RPF who really worked together and relied on each other and acted as a team."
We asked Fany about the confessional part of the programme, as we had the other RPF members and graduates. She said that, "As we were a small group, most RPF members got to know what the others had done. But there was no such thing as having to publicly confess. It came up in normal conversation. I no longer have any negative emotion or embarrassment over what I did."
She explained that, "The test of the RPF is that you can ‘make someone else better.’ This is why you are ‘twinned’ with another person and why it is so important to have a compatible twin who you can get through the programme."
She was asked if men and women had fallen in love whilst on the RPF and what happened. She said, "They would not be able to develop a relationship on the RPF. Afterwards they are free to do as they want, and, in fact, I know of a couple who were on the RPF together and who since got married."
She concluded, "I could always decide what I wanted to do. There was no forcible commitment or confinement. When I returned to my normal work after the programme I was welcomed back and had a party."
When asked if there was enough awareness about the programme by other staff, Fany replied, "There is perhaps not a lot of awareness about it. It might useful for more information to be provided to dispel any mysteries as it can be vaguely understood by some. It might be good for some people to know more about the programme so they could take advantage of it if they get into trouble."
David – interviewed December 2000
David was born in 1954 in Chile and has dual nationality. His family were Church of England and he went to church up until the age of 13. He found out about Scientology through an uncle when he was 15 and joined church staff at 17. In 1976, aged 22, he joined the Sea Organisation.
He had met L. Ron Hubbard and worked with him in California for a week when Hubbard was taking photographs for a book he was writing.
In 1996, he started the RPF programme, and when we met him had just completed. He was awaiting final confirmation that he had met all the graduation requirements.
"I asked to do the programme because I reached a point where I found myself unable to meet certain standards set for members of the Sea Organisation. I was not doing well and could not do my work as I wanted to. I could have left the Sea Org and continued with my auditing and training as a parishioner, but I decided the best approach was to do the RPF."
"Nobody said I had to do the programme. I took it up with my seniors and explained why I wanted to do it. At first they did not agree."
"I have been longer than I expected because at first there was no suitable twin. As I have reached a specific level on the Bridge , a twin at that level was needed for me to work with. I had to audit someone up to my level, and that took a year and a half. This was not a problem for me as I enjoyed doing it. But it did add time."
"My current schedule is 5 hours of my own study and auditing and then roughly half of the remaining 8 hours on physical work, and the other half on technical supervision of others’ auditing programmes."
"I am married and my wife is training at the Church in Florida. Our relationship had been strained due to my own problems and difficulties and we did not know if we were going to continue our marriage. We discussed my doing the RPF and my wife agreed I should. Since then, I have dealt with many things in my life and I am looking forward to being reunited with her. I know we will now have the marriage we want. We have two grown up children who are both in the Sea Organisation at different locations in the United States."
David described himself as a happy man. "It has been a great relief to come onto the programme and do something about what was making my life unpleasant. I have definitely had some rough spots, but if that were not the case, the programme would not be needed."
With regards to the schedule, he said, "The study and auditing is a luxury and I enjoy the work. The food is good and we are probably better off than the rest of the staff as we have our own cook for only 24 people. I sleep in a dormitory with 11 other men and I personally do not have any problem with that. I get enough allowance to cover essential needs and everything else is covered by the Church."
He said "One of the things that Scientology can do is uncover negative or forceful attempts to control a person’s thoughts, so the programme is the opposite of brainwashing, as it were."
He defined the RPF’s purpose as "to take people who are no longer in the group, at least in spirit, due to their destructive actions, and to get them through the programme so they can rejoin the group. The alternative is to leave, and everyone has the opportunity to do that if they wish."
He told us that the programme came about from Hubbard’s observation that "some people, working with others, would be destructive in their actions. He considered these people could be helped and that the methods of Scientology could be used to achieve this. It would have been damaging for the organisation as a whole to leave them where they were. So they were given the chance to do a programme designed for them, and that today is the RPF. You have to have pride and determination to do this programme."
He said that, "I have looked at past actions of mine that I considered reprehensible and have been able to eradicate what brought them about."
We asked David if he had any experienced hostility from anyone involved with the programme. "I have never seen anything like this. I know of about 10 people who have left the RPF during my time on it and the underlying reasons were that they were not up to doing the programme. They all, except one, remained in the Church."
Remarkably, he said, "I have never been in a group that has such a high ‘esprit de corps’ as the RPF. If people who say negative things about the RPF were to walk into a room of RPF members they would be laughed out of town."
He was asked if there was anything he would change, and he said, "I would have liked to do it more quickly. The program has been streamlined recently and now people should be able to complete in 9 months to a year."
He added that he did enjoy some free time while on the programme. "In March my parents had their Golden Wedding anniversary in Chile and my wife and I went there for over for a week. Another time my son came to the UK and I spent time with him."
Sabrina – interviewed December 2000
Sabrina is half Canadian, half Danish. She was born in 1975 and raised by her Scientologist parents, although in her youth she was not a Scientologist. Her parents had asked if she would like to do Scientology courses and counselling, but she was not interested.
She decided to become a Scientologist when she reached the age of seventeen. She had seen many things that she did not like in society (she mentioned drugs and degradation) and felt that something needed to be done about them. She started to receive auditing and said she came to understand many things about herself and her life. This experience, she told us, "made her" a Scientologist. She joined the Sea Organisation aged 18 and has spent most of her life since in Copenhagen.
She was married to another Sea Organisation member. He had relations with another woman (it is a serious ethical transgression for a married member of the Sea Organisation to have sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse). When he expressed a desire to leave the SO, she decided to divorce him. The turmoil created a lot of confusion in her life. In the end, due to a continuing poor performance on her post, she received a Committee of Evidence. At this point she asked to do the RPF programme. She was repeatedly told that she was not required to do the programme, but she insisted.
She told us, speaking of her husband, "I divorced him as he did not follow the moral codes of the Church. My life at the time became so difficult and disharmonious that I asked to do the programme. My purpose for joining the SO was to help. With my life in such bad shape, I could not see how I could help. So I decided to do the RPF".
[N.B. In Scientology, there is a term called "Overts and Witholds". An overt is "an act of omission or commission which does the least good or the most harm for the greatest number of dynamics". A withhold is "an unspoken, unannounced transgression against a moral code by which the person was bound".
The Sea Organisation is a close-knit group of members who, through their actions in Scientology, have dedicated their lives to help others. The ethical level of the members is high and when an individual within that group starts to commit "overts" and to suffer from "withholds," the person tends to withdraw their participation from the rest of the group.]
Sabrina said that the programme was very good for her. She regarded the restricted communication and the discipline as beneficial. "I was able to concentrate on completing the programme more rapidly," she said, "Besides, I correspond regularly with my mother and sister."
The most positive aspect of the programme was the auditing "It is beyond anything describable. I’m me!" she exclaimed to us. One of her greatest joys was to be able to help somebody else go through the programme. "It gave me confidence that I can help another person and give them freedom."
She mentioned that the confessional materials from her auditing are confidential and kept secure. No one is asked to disclose their most personal details to anyone but their auditor.
We asked her if she had any negative feelings about the programme. She answered simply, "No". She conceded though that given the circumstances that bring a person to the RPF, there are times when an individual has to really push through.
She was asked about the food and accommodation. She said that the food is the same as that eaten by other SO members. The accommodations could be improved, but this was not a problem for her because doing the programme "has been the most rewarding action I have ever done".
She slept for seven and a half hours a night on the RPF and did not feel any lack of privacy.
At the time of the interview, she had completed her programme and was awaiting final approval to graduate. She told us that once she graduates, she will hold a party with other RPF members before returning to the church organisation for which she previously worked. She also planned to see her mother and shortly after that, her father, who lives in Mexico.
Sabrina said that the hardest part of the programme was at the start. "I was still upset about what had happened in my life. You have to get used to the conditions. The restriction on socialising was hard at first, but after the first month, you understand why as it allows you to go through faster. There are so many wins and successes that even if you do not socialise, it does not matter. The benefits you gain on the programme are for eternity."
She is convinced she did right and would not have done so well in the Sea Organisation without the RPF.
As to possible improvements, she answered, "It would have been good to have more technical personnel. However, due to the special reasons a person does the programme, it is not possible to select people."
Asked if more Sea Organisation members should help with the programme, Sabrina replied, "I could never say ‘no’ to more expertise, but we are helped by technical people from the European Church all the time."
Sabrina was questioned whether people in the Church – both within and outside the Sea Organisation – should know more about the programme. She answered, "It depends. Some could know more and others don’t need to, considering the programme is only for Sea Org members. The realizations you have are what should be shared." She reiterated that she felt very good about finishing the programme in 19 months. "The progress I made will stay with me forever. It is a worthy goal to redeem yourself."
Anik – interviewed December 2000
Anik was born in Belgium in 1958 and raised in a Catholic family. For many years, before she knew about Scientology, she travelled a lot, particularly in Asia, looking for answers to life and how she could help people better. In 1980, she quit her job as an occupational therapist. She has been helping but felt unable to do so as well as she would have liked. In an effort to find answers to her questions about life, she studied Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
She encountered Scientology in Paris in 1989 and said she at last found answers she had been looking for. She started to work for the Church right away and joined the Sea Organisation four and a half years later.
"I had had the feeling for some time that I needed to handle something about myself but I did not know what to do. On the RPF programme, I found out what the problem was and have fully resolved it." She has finished the programme and now holds a position in the same church organisation but of greater responsibility than before.
She entered the RPF in 1995 and completed it in 2000. She did not have the correct twin at first and later had to restart with a new one Again, she did not have a problem with the discipline the programme imposes. "I spent years travelling and enjoyed plenty of ‘freedom and liberty’. At this point, it is not important to me. I knew that what I was doing on the RPF would set me up for the future."
The programme "brought a lot to my life". Of the restricted social life, she said, "This is one of the hardest aspects of the programme but of course I talk with my other friends doing the programme."
While on the programme she received permission to visit her parents and did so several times.
She found that the food and accommodation more than satisfied her needs. She received extra food when she needed it, for example when doing hard physical work.
She also told us that "I felt a lot of support and sometimes respect and admiration" coming from other Sea Organisation members.
She defines "rehabilitation" as "coming back to good standing, coming back to yourself," and "force" as "a unit established for something specific."
Anik had no recommendations to improve the programme. "It depends on the person, and whether he has decided to complete rapidly, or not. If the person has made that decision and sticks to it, it can go fast. With a good supervisor, it can go very fast."
Speaking of the discipline required, Anik said simply, "I agree with discipline and actually hate it when there is no discipline." For example, she was asked if she missed having a relationship with member of the opposite sex. She said, "I regard this as important but it is not the primary thing for me."
We asked how the different posts within the RPF are assigned. "An executive team within the RPF proposes the assignments to the Sea Organisation member who is responsible for the RPF’s progress. This person then reviews and decides on the proposals."
While she was on the RPF, six or seven persons started but did not finish. None left feeling bitter. They simply had no wish to continue and left the Sea Organisation.
Asked whether information about the programme should be more widely available, her answer was direct, "No. This programme is so good that others would then want to do it too. It is not meant to be a programme that everybody can just do." She also confirmed for us that she could have moved up the "Bridge" while on the RPF. She learned the basics of how to audit, and so going up the Bridge is now faster.
In her view, the RPF bears more resemblance to a Buddhist than Catholic monastery, which she considers has no similarity with the Church of Scientology’s programme.
Debbie (44) – interviewed 11 May 2001
Debbie is Canadian, born in Vancouver. She first became involved with Scientology in Toronto in 1976. She became part of Staff a year later and a member of the Sea Organisation in 1986. She transferred to Britain in 1993. Debra began the RPF programme in April 1996 and finished in September of 1999.
Asked why she began RPF, Debbie replied that she "needed spiritual regeneration." Pressed further, she elaborated that she "had not done enough `enhancement’." "I felt that I had hit a wall and was not going through it." Debbie’s original Sea Org task involved "spiritual reorganisation as a general concept." She had gone to her senior as a response to her general dissatisfaction over her attitude and lack of motivation. The following day she was "approached" and asked if she wanted to join the programme.
Debbie explained that whatever difficulties she initially had with RPF were "short-lived" – lasting only a few days. She only missed "a tiny bit but not much" of the non-RPF world. She quickly adjusted to the programme and was ready to get on with it.
As my first interviewee, Debbie explained the institution of "twinning." This she found created a dynamic that was both "inward and outward looking." Debbie’s twin was Patricia. Both started and finished the RPF together – the basic idea behind twinning. She learned to audit while during the course of the programme.
While on the programme, Debbie divorced her husband but claimed that her marriage had had nothing to do with the reasons why she had undergone the RPF. Prior to my interview with her.
During the various times I visited the Saint Hill centre of the Church of Scientology between 11 May and 3 November 2001, Debbie was one of the people I saw most frequently as she was one of the people who prepared lunch and served tea. Consequently, I was able to ask follow-up questions for additional clarity on subsequent occasions. Debbie was always forthcoming, and I would assess her as a pleasant and seemingly untroubled person.
Jaap (21) – interviewed 11 May 2001
Jaap is Belgian and became a Scientologist in 1990; his parents, brother and sister are also Scientologists. In December of 1993, he became part of the staff and joined the Sea Organisation. He began the RPF programme in December in December, 1995 and finished five years later in February 2001 ("three or four months ago.")
The reason for undergoing the programme was for "stealing" and "lying to myself."
Jaap explained that the RPF was not hard for him at first because it was "non-confrontational." But it became hard for him when he had to confront the reasons why he was there. This was "the most difficult part." The work, on the other hand, was not difficult.
Jaap’s first partner or `twin’ left the programme after one and half years. Jaap completed with a second partner. In explaining the open-door policy of the RPF, Jaap mentioned that six to eight people had left without completing during the five years he was with it himself. Eight to ten people had finished successfully. He informed me that the programme had twenty people at present. He also told me that he had been allowed to attend a wedding in Belgium while he was on the programme.
During the course of the programme, Jaap came to learn why he was there. "I didn’t originally have the concept of why or what I was doing." However, the entire experience was a "happy, surprising" one. It resulted "in a positive change" even though he had not known ahead what to expect.
Beverly (31) – interviewed 11 May 2001
Beverly is South African. Her parents are Church members. She came to Britain in 1989. She joined staff and the Sea Org in 1990, began the RPF in April 1997 and finished in February 2000.
The reason Beverly had been given the choice of RPF was due to an adulterous relationship of a few months duration. Beverly has been married six years.
Asked what was the most difficult aspect of the programme for her, Beverly replied, "The most difficult was the separation from others." Also, being "without free communication lines with others." She also phrased one’s position during the RPF as a "liability condition," and this as "the hardest." On the other hand, the confrontation she had to make with herself was also "very hard" but only for "the initial weeks."
Beverly explained that the "technology" of the RPF (i.e., the auditing and training) is, according to L. Ron Hubbard, what insures the quality of the programme. Beverly became the bosun or "top person" of her group. But because her adulterous partner was at Saint Hill, she did the programme in Copenhagen. She also estimated that there were about twenty people currently on the programme in Britain. During the time that she was involved with the RPF, there were between 18 and 26 people on the programme. "Maybe ten had left" during this time as well.
Ian (43) – interviewed 11 May 2001
Ian is from Scotland. He first encountered Scientology in the summer of 1979 and joined staff later that same year. After a four year absence, he "came back into Scientology" in 1984/85. He joined the Sea Org in 1988 because of ME [?] contact, but he "actively joined the Sea Organisation" in 1989. His wife is also part of the Sea Org. However, he would lose interest in projects and "would suddenly give up." "Things within me were going wrong." Finally his supervisor said she would like Ian to do the RPF, and he said "great!"
Ian was completely stumped when I asked him what is the most difficult aspect of the programme. After some reflection, he concluded that he is most unhappy if the auditing is not progressing. He felt a frustration when it is not moving fast enough.
Overall, Ian found that through the programme he is "finding self; liking myself more." Also, things were "enhanced" because of the programme. He was increasingly able to "discard the negative, disliked side of things." The upshot of all this is that he is "now more able to like other people." His "interest has become more external instead of just on myself."
Michael (31) – interviewed 11 May 2001
The reason for entering the programme stemmed from a policy violation in 1989. As a result, he was increasingly not "doing his functions in his post fully." He got into debt and was "distracted from his duties." He was also having problems with his girlfriend.
Michael found no problems or difficulties with the RPF. "It is much easier than my previous responsibilities."
Renan (31) – interviewed 11 May 2001
Renan is from Brittany. He read Dianetics in 1987. He became "more involved" in 1990. He joined staff in Paris in March 1991. In September of the same year he became part of the Sea Org in Hollywood. He began RPF in August 1998.
For Renan, it had been a "very tough three years." The most difficult was the separation and segregation – including being away from his wife of six/seven years. He was also very doubtful at first; he had not seen anyone finish. At the beginning, he could not understand that what he had done merited the programme, but for him to keep his wife and Scientology, he "needed to do it." Hence, it was "very tough at first." During his time, five people quit the programme: "they didn’t want to do it or could not commit and give the proper description."
However, the new programme was being launched, and eventually it has "changed my life – allowed me more personal ability to handle things." He added, "I can now be more useful and efficient." Ten people had graduated during his RPF involvement – "eight in the last eight months."
Upon completion of the first day of interviews, I was basically impressed with the people I had met. They were all personable and surprisingly individual – despite an essential standard reiteration concerning how wonderful the RPF programme is. However, since the project is designed to be a rehabilitation into Scientology principles and understandings, the uniformity of language I considered is only something to be expected if the programme were to be successful along the lines of its purpose. However, I also noticed that none of the people I interviewed were much cognizant of the world beyond. No one could tell me, for instance, who was the president of the United States – including Martin Bergeaud, the Saint Hill RPF director. I was also concerned that I was perhaps being presented the most successful graduates or those about to graduate. Consequently, for the second round of interviews I requested a greater diversity of candidates. I was particularly interested to interview Joan who I had learned had been on the RPF programme longer than anyone else and was still a member. I also expressed a desire to talk to someone who was just beginning the programme in order to gauge how much acculturation was occurring in candidates because of the programme. In all my requests, the Church of Scientology was completely cooperative and forthcoming, and I have never detected that anything was being withheld or hidden from me.
Joan (50) – interviewed 18 May 2001
Joan first became involved with Scientology in Cape Town where in 1972. She joined staff in 1981 and the Sea Organisation the following year. She has been at Saint Hill since 1986, is married and has a step-daughter. She began the RPF in July of 1993.
Joan’s work position put her "in charge of the external affairs for the United Kingdom." Her reason for joining the RPF was that she "messed up as an executive" Although I asked repeatedly, I could not establish how she had "messed up" or a clear reason why Joan was doing the RPF nor even exactly why she had been on the programme for as long as she has.
The most difficult aspect of the programme for her was "not being part of the big game." Also, not being with her husband was also difficult. On the other hand, the best thing about the RPF for her was its offer of "a chance of a lifetime to be spiritually turned inside out."
She explained further that another thing good about the RPF is that "you learn to help someone else through the auditing." She contextualised this last statement in the programme’s notion of "twins." Joan had had five different twins altogether – although she had first told me that she had had "three or four twins." The first quit and left the programme. In Joan’s words, her twin had "cancelled or reprieved." With her second twin, after a year it became clear that they were incompatible. Her third twin "cancelled the programme after six months." With the fourth try, her twin became `clear’ after two and a half years and they were henceforth incompatible. As I learned, to complete or graduate the RPF programme, one must accomplish this with his or her twin at the same time. Since Joan had had a relatively unsuccessful history of twin-partners, her long involvement with the programme might be explained. However, in talking to Martin and a few other Sea Org officials about Joan later, they felt that her inability to articulate why she was there in the first place probably had as much to do with the fact of her delayed graduation as any other reason. She had been twinned for a fifth time for a period of one month when I interviewed Joan, and this time it was "working well." She expected to be finished "in three months." [However, while still near completion, Joan was nonetheless with the RPF programme six months later.]
Joan admitted that "it was pretty horrible to have taken so long," but she added, "This is still a short time compared to a whole life and to future life." With all the auditing, "all the aberrations are now gone and the same problems won’t occur again. I am now set up forever." Joan felt that she was now more equipped and more able to help other staff members. In her words, "Graduates are shining and efficient people."
Joan had not been interviewed by anyone else. She also told me that in her opinion listening to the news becomes a distraction to the programme.
Derrick (43) – interviewed 18 May 2001
Coming from Dublin, Derrick "heard about Scientology in the late 80s" – probably 1987. He then read Dianetics in 1988/89. He had been "searching for a long time" but was "basically an alcoholic and on drugs." As Derrick put it, "I had given up." He had been "on a roll for ten years or more" – holding several different jobs during this period. He moved to East Grinstead and joined staff in 1989. The following year he became part of the Sea Org. He began RPF in 1993.
Derrick’s work had been as a "recruitment officer in Division 6 for the public." This for him was a "difficult, mostly executive, job" in which he was "introducing new people." Then, when in Africa on a mission, he started drinking. "I did not think there was any hope for myself," but he was given the choice and chance with the RPF. However, at first, he was not fully dedicated to the programme; he was not originally enthusiastic. By the time of my interview with him, he could see that there was "a definite end product to the programme," but without any clear awareness of that product at the start, his motivation had been less. In fact, "at first I thought I was getting worse." Consequently, he "had been on the programme but not doing it; just getting around it instead."
Like Joan, Derrick had had five different `twins’. The first, a woman, left the programme after three months. The next twin lasted a year, but "he blew," that is, "he went on a holiday and never came back." His third twin was Gabbie Teas, but "administration probably ended this the first time" – the respective timing of their posts meant that they were not available for each other. The fourth twin was Ian, but after Ian "was reprieved," Derrick was re-twinned again with Gabbie. This time the relationship ended "because of ethics with each other as a man and a woman." At the time of my interview, Derrick was twinned with Michael Miller.
Derrick explained the programme as "a retraining of the self as a spiritual being." While early on the RPF, he had a "second out-of-body experience." His first had occurred at the age of 16 when he had had a brain haemorrhage. He told me that "man is basically God; his true nature is spiritual rather than material." The programme was allowing him to realise one of the religion’s basic principles that Derrick informed me is known as "the ARC triangle of affinity, reality and communication."
[When I returned to Saint Hill on the 3rd and 4th of November, I learned that Derrick had left the programme without completion. Although there had been an act of sexual impropriety on his part, the actual reason for his departure had been the discovery that Derrick had withheld certain legal information that automatically disqualified him from the programme.]
Charmain (19) – interviewed 18 May 2001
Being Irish, Charmain was nine or ten years of age when she first became involved with Scientology through her parents in the Dublin mission. She joined the Sea Organisation in Clearwater, Florida in December of 1997. The following year she came to East Grinstead to work in "sales for FLAG." She became a management representative and worked in London during the day. In November, 1999, she was appointed head of the FLAG network at Saint Hill.
Because Charmain had "violated the rules of the second dynamic," namely, adultery, she began the RPF in July. This was in Los Angeles because the person with whom she had had the relationship had been assigned to the RPF at East Grinstead. This last began in May, but he then left the Sea Org in July. Because Charmain had no visa for the United States, she was obliged to return to Britain. With the departure of the man with whom she had become involved, she could then become part of the Saint Hill programme and was twinned with Jeanine.
Charmain explained that the most difficult thing for her with RPF was in "confronting things in myself that I needed to handle so I could do better." For her, the best thing was the training itself "and seeing the change in Jeanine." She elucidated that the "enhancement part is learning to handle someone else." She felt that anyone could do this programme, "but only if they have the right purpose why." It cannot be "just for oneself but has to be to be able to make someone else better as well." RPF involved "working with the group." This was Charmain’s idea of "right purpose or intention."
[In November 2001 I discovered that Charmain too had left the RPF without graduating. Because of preliminary sexual contact with Derrick Bryan, Charmain agreed to undergo the RPF’s RPF (see report), but then she decided that she wanted to leave altogether and went to Dublin.]
Michael (44) – interviewed 18 May 2001
Michael’s homeland is Sweden, and he first became involved with Scientology in Stockholm in 1975. He joined staff the following year and then the Sea Organisation in 1980 in Copenhagen. He came to East Grinstead in 1997 – the year in which he also divorced. He began the RPF in February, 2000.
Michael’s difficulties began with his executive post. "I couldn’t hack it. I became overwhelmed. I couldn’t do all the functions. I began cutting corners and was doing everything for myself rather than developing others who were under me." This led to a committee of evidence against him. "One has to accept the post and do it. If not, then one can always do the RPF," Michael explained. His was more "an accumulation of failure, an inefficiency" rather than a specific infraction.
With Derrick Bryan as his `twin’, Michael found that the programme "has been very worthwhile." He found that although the programme "is supposed to be very rigorous," compared to his previous life, it was not really the case. In fact, "nothing has been difficult." It was "straightforward; easy." He has not been "stuck in anything." Michael reiterated that his "life previously on post had been miserable. Something was wrong, but I could not put my finger on it." He concluded that "a bit of distance is perhaps necessary to be able to really look into spiritual training."
One of his original functions was to recruit auditors, but he had found the odds against him and produced instead a "lack of auditors." He did not know what would follow once he completed the RPF. He expected to finish sometime around the following July. He thought that he might "go back to a similar post – or be re-trained." He concluded that "probably the most difficult is the lower status in the Sea Org" as a consequence of having being assigned to the RPF. Nevertheless, Michael expressed that he now has more confidence.
He had obtained the state of `clear’ before doing the RPF. Nevertheless, as a result of the programme he expected that the "impulses and sins of this life and past lives" would be greatly reduced. He also expected to be "much less severe about things once I am back on post."
The two people that had left the programme during Michael’s time with it he felt "were not really serious or knew what hard work the Sea Org is. You must really want to be in the Sea Org in the first place." There had been six graduates from the programme in the last year.
Michael had not been previously interviewed by anyone external to Scientology.
Tina (20) – interviewed 18 May 2001
From Belgium, Tina’s parents joined the Church of Scientology when she was six. Tina herself became part of staff and the Sea Organisation in January of 1995. She was a supervisor whose duties were to train students on how to use the e-meter. She had joined the RPF only two weeks before my interview with her.
Tina had already had a few "justice actions" over her job performance. Being part of a three year marriage, "for a few hours, that was the difficult thing to decide whether to do the programme or not." However, her husband "gave the proper perspective" and enabled her to make the decision.
While on the programme, Tina was able to "complete a confessional" that had been started previously. Consequently, even though she had not yet been twinned, she felt that she was "already ahead." She needed "to do auditor training first." At the same time, she perceived the RPF as focused more on self and not the Third Dynamic as is the Sea Org. Consequently, it was "better and easier."
She expected that "it should become smoother. I mean, to get rid of ideas that things are not being done right." This feeling that things had been incorrect or not executed correctly was what constituted Tina’s original problem and what led her to the RPF.
She had not been interviewed by anyone beforehand. She expected to finish after one year.
[Subsequently, because Tina was the odd person out, she was transferred to Denmark in order to be twinned.]
Patricia (39) – interviewed 18 May 2001
Apart from the follow up interviews with Debra and Martin Bergeaud in November, Patricia (Patti) was the last person I interviewed. She is married and has a daughter of 14. She first became involved with the Church in 1982 and joined staff the following year. She next became part of the Sea Org in January 1985. She underwent RPF from 1997 to 1999 for having committed adultery.
Patti’s duties involve the marketing and promotion of Ron Hubbard’s books. She was part of the New Era staff that publishes the books. While she was on the RPF, she "actually got to know more about Scientology." This has resulted in a shift on the "actual being and doing" of her job. She found "nothing really difficult about the programme." Her initial fears related to learning English well enough for the training, but "I learned so quickly, that I actually gained from it." As it turned out, only in the beginning did the language problem "look like a big barrier."
As an RPF graduate, Patti now feels "stronger for knowing how to help both myself and others." Also, "because of problems having been handled, one can help others handle theirs as well." She expressed now feeling "100% confident." One "gains certainty" from the programme.
Patti explained the RPF as comprising a "technology that tells you why you get sick, have problems, take drugs, make bombs, etc. which allows you to do something about it." She discussed further some of the mechanics of the RPF programme, namely, that a "committee of evidence" is employed for people who are asked to join the RPF. This may be followed by an appeal process if the requested individual decides – "or the process could be launched by an external body." In Patti’s evaluation, through the programme, Scientologists "become more unique" even though "the third dynamic" (i.e., principle) of Scientology is "group togetherness."
Before my session with Patti, she had not been interviewed by anyone else.
While it remains a possibility that the people I was able to interview in order to evaluate the Rehabilitation Project Force were carefully selected and screened for me to come to a favourable conclusion, I detected no evidence that this had indeed been the case. Instead, when I expressed my concern in this direction that many of the initial people to whom I had talked had already been interviewed by others, the Church cooperated by finding people on the programme or who were already graduates who had not talked to anyone external to the Church in connection with RPF training.
While it is clear that the longer one is on the programme as well as with those who have completed it, there is a greater uniformity and concordance with the principles of the RPF and with Scientology, as this is an express purpose of the programme, it is something that is to be expected. This came across most clearly for me in comparing someone like Tina, who had been involved with RPF for only two weeks at the time I interviewed her, with graduates like Debra or Patti or with people nearing completion of the programme like Michael or Ian. There is a detectable shift in vocabulary and standardisation of concepts and language. However, in no case did this ever strike me as anything close to what one might consider as ‘mind-control.’ In all essentials, I see the RPF `indoctrination’, if one will, as little different from the acquisition of a particular terminology and familiarisation of theoretical concepts on the part of my Sociology of Religion students during the progress of their course semester.
One of the key concerns about the RPF is that it is coercive. But once again, I found little to indicate this and, in fact, the flexibility of the programme (members can leave, for example, to attend a wedding or other family matters) and the ease by which one can exit the programme in total would appear to merit against any allegations of sinister or totalitarian coercion. That the Saint Hill programme has had roughly a 50% `failure’ rate would in itself, I feel, invalidate any such accusations against the RPF that it fundamentally denies its members the same freedoms that any citizen of western democracies would expect to have.
In my personal evaluation, I suspect that part of the problem that the Church of Scientology experiences vis-à-vis a wider and more critical host environment may stem from some of the language it employs. It is clear Scientologists rely markedly if not exclusively on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. But in that words that Mr. Hubbard employed were valid and perhaps non-contentious at the time of writing, in the great ferment of western examination and re-examination of language and the emergence of concepts of `political correctness’, etc., some of Hubbard’s wording may be judged obsolete by today’s standards. For example, in today’s milieu, such a word as `rehabilitation’ carries increased and uneasy connotations. Whether the Church can modify some of the language and terminology of its Hubbard legacy is an internal and institutional question, but judging from the externals of the RPF alone, and whether I am in agreement or not with the principles of Scientology, my own findings – however limited others may choose to assess them – render considering the programme nothing less than bona fide.
Interviews of RPF Supervisory Staff
Gerd Poelzl – interviewed November 2000
Gerd Poelzl was born in 1966. His mother was Catholic and father Protestant. He went to the Catholic Church, where he was the organist and sang in the choir. He started to study economics and then languages at university and found out about Scientology in 1991. He did some courses in Scientology and then joined staff at the Church of Scientology in Vienna in 1993. In 1996, he joined the Sea Organisation and came to Copenhagen.
Mr. Poelzl has the post of RPF I/C – the overall in-charge of the RPF programme. He is not an RPF member and has never done the programme. He had been doing this function for just over one year when we interviewed him.
"I am responsible for making sure that the people on the RPF go through the whole programme smoothly and rapidly. I have to see that ethical behaviour is followed, that the regulations and administration are in place and correct Scientology technical procedures followed. The RPF themselves are responsible for their day-to-day actions. I am in touch with them every day, but I only intervene in their internal affairs if asked to, or if something is going seriously wrong. I am also responsible for ensuring that the different church units each of the RPF members come from provide funding for them – their living accommodation and food as well as their personal allowance and other needed financial items."
Asked to describe the procedure when someone new joins the programme he said, "On arriving in the RPF, the person is given an explanation of the programme and all the issues about the RPF. The person reads all these and once done and in agreement with doing the programme, signs a paper indicating his desire to take part. If he does not want to do it he would not make it through. He would leave the SO, but remain in the Church."
"My responsibilities are to ensure that each person achieves redemption and not just to ‘kick them out’, as other organisations do when they have problems with their members. This way the person always has the opportunity to reform and sort out his problems."
He was asked if this was some kind of excommunication procedure and replied, "No. In the Church of Scientology excommunication is called ‘expulsion’. It is done for very grave or serious and repeated transgressions, after all efforts to help the person change his conduct have failed. Even with expulsion, there is always a door open if the person wants to come back. For example, when he experiences genuine remorse and does amends. But the RPF is nothing like this and even if the person does not want to do the programme they still remain in the Church. RPF group members are still members of the Sea Org."
Asked if he was in touch with other RPF I/Cs in the five other locations where the RPF was done he said "I am in touch with them frequently by mail and phone. I have never met them. It’s important to have the right "twin" to get through the programme quickly and so I have to coordinate with other I/Cs to arrange this."
There is no one person in charge of all the RPF projects internationally. "This is not necessary as all have the same policies and programmes to follow. There are people responsible for the technical application and quality of auditing in all the RPFs but not someone in charge of all the different programmes."
He is in regular touch with the person responsible for Estates (the section responsible for upkeep of premises) "This person assigns work to the RPF through me. I oversee it. One part of the RPF are working at Nordland, another in a wood shop. I coordinate so the work is done, the RPF have work projects and they learn what to do. I also make sure the work is of good quality."
We asked him if they were there on their own volition. He said, "It just would not work if the person did not want to do it. The basic intention is to rehabilitate the person and you have to have their willingness for that."
Regarding social time, he said that "The RPF celebrate New Year, Christmas and other occasions, but on their own and not with the rest of the Sea Org members. They also do birthdays and graduations and sometimes other people from the Sea Org are invited."
We asked Gerd why some people had not completed the programme. "The person needs to be a good auditor and have the necessary qualifications to be in the Sea Org in the first place. When they appear not to have these, a review board meets to determine if they are eligible. Any person can leave at any point anyway."
He said he was not aware of any hostility towards the programme. "Relationships can become heated, but since I have been holding this post no one on the programme in Denmark left with any hard feelings. In fact, only one person left."
He said, "There are times when people feel they cannot go through it but after some discussion this has almost always been sorted out." Asked if force or punishment played any part, he replied "No way. Anyway, it would be crazy to think anyone could be kept against their will in the middle of Copenhagen."
Mr. Poelzl told us that, "RPF members eat the same food and live in the same building as the rest of the staff, but they usually eat about half an hour before the others. They have their own living area – but it is in the same building. RPF members travel home, or anywhere else, if there is sickness in the family or other important events. They are able to have days off during the course of the programme and it happens fairly often – but only for major things."
Their funding, he said, is "a quarter of the allowance of a regular Sea Org member. Food, living quarters, medical expenses and any needed food supplements are always covered in addition."
He briefly described the procedure required for graduation. "Twins assemble evidence that they have graduated and send it to the Sea Organisation staff technically qualified to determine whether the programme was fully completed. This is then authorized, or returned with indications of additional points to be covered, and an explanation why."
Martin Bergeaud – interviewed December 2000
Mr. Bergeaud is the RPF "In Charge" for the programme in the United Kingdom. He had been holding this position for a year and a half when we saw him. He told us "My function is to be sure that the members of the RPF go through the programme and I help them in any way I can. I serve as the main person they work with outside the RPF and I also have the role of Chaplain when needed. If someone is not making it, or has some concern or worry about their husband, wife or children, I serve as a liaison point and arrange whatever may be needed."
"Getting people through requires individual members to pull themselves through and out of the situation they are in. They are the ones who have to redeem themselves and their ‘twins’, and so the length of the programme depends primarily on them. I provide them with whatever I can to make this possible – but it needs their decision and intention to get through."
"The RPF have their own organizing board . Someone is responsible for daily work, someone else for technical matters, another helps to ensure that ethical standards are upheld, and an RPF Bosun is in charge of them all. His role is to ensure that the work done is valuable and that morale is high." He confirmed that there are no barriers to RPF members seeing their families when the requirement arises. "Policies on the RPF cover emergencies, including medical and family situations. The RPF members have a schedule they have drawn up themselves for work and counselling. If they want to change the schedule then it just needs to be coordinated with me. They are free to do whatever they want but they have to assume the consequences if it is against the agreed upon rules. This is the same anywhere. People all over the world have schedules they agree on wherever they work or study. If I just decided to go to Brighton for the day, I’d be held responsible for what I did. The point is, there are agreements made for the group and if someone keeps breaking these then they would have to leave."
He turned to the subject of the kind of work the RPF does. "Last month they built an elaborate stage for a major Scientology event."
Of his colleagues in charge of other RPFs, he said, "We remain in touch through internal communication lines and phone."
He told us "I love my job, which is to help people to fully rehabilitate themselves as Sea Organisation members. I enjoy working with the Bosun. By the time a person finishes, he is trained in giving auditing, has received a great deal himself, is able to work fast and well, and can exercise self-discipline. In sum, he is able to make a valuable contribution to his group."
Martin Bergeaud (24; director of the Saint Hill RPF) – interviewed 11 May & 3 November 2001
Martin hails from Draguignan, France, and since I have lived in a nearby village, we had an area we could share in common. At the time of my first interview with him, he had been coordinating the Saint Hill programme for "two years and a few months." He was most helpful in providing me a clearer understanding of the RPF structure and goals. The entire programme received a re-formatting in 1997. There were currently 21 members in the programme – with one, Joan, who had been involved more than seven years. Martin informed me that six or seven programme members had, in the last one and a half years, achieved the status of `clear’ (a Scientology spiritual state, a focus for all Scientology adherents, that is separate from the rehabilitation efforts of RPF). As Martin explained it, in the process of becoming `clear’ one deals with "areas of self-destructive impulses, contra-survival forces and anti-social conduct."
With the reformatting of the RPF itself, the programme was "now more standardised in the UK than earlier." There are two stages to the programme. The first is RDD ("read it, drill it, do it"). Here, members are encouraged not to postpone any aspects of the process. Instead, they should be efficient and do what needed to be done at the time.
The PTS ("potential trouble source") comprises the second stage of focus. While I did not follow the various nuances of Scientological terminology, the assumption here as I understood it is that a person who is yet connected to a suppressive nature constitutes "a perpetual environmental menace." Martin informed me that the RPF is "totally self-administered." He also added that "one can be out in 24 hours if so desired." When leaving the programme, a "confessional session" is first undertaken. The importance of the RPF as Martin saw it relates to the Sea Organisation "elite" who hold "a position of trust for the rest of Scientology."
During the second interview with Martin (3 November 2001), with Juha Pentikainen and Jurgen Redhardt also participating, I learned that he had been born in Essex though his parents are French. His father has been with Scientology for 23 years. His mother is not a Scientologist. Martin joined staff in Paris at the age of 18. He has been part of the East Grinstead Sea Org for the past four years – 2_ to 3 years of which he has headed the RPF. During his administration, ten people have "graduated," and ten were "rooted out." Of the graduates, two were obliged subsequently to return to the programme. The `rooting out’ is essentially a self-made decision on the part of the programme member. Two of the people who had left the RPF (Charmaine and Derrick) were people I had interviewed in May (see above).
When asked for suggested recommendations, Martin concentrated on two. First was the need for "more technical attention, corrections, inspections," i.e., there is a need for "more technical training" within the RPF programme. Secondly, Martin felt that a "team organisation" would be preferable to direct the RPF rather than having a single person alone as is currently the case. In this connection, he argued for a merger between the Copenhagen and East Grinstead centres. The number at Saint Hill was often too small among which to find "twins." The current breakdown of members among the five RPF centres are: 200 at PAC (i.e., Los Angeles), 190 in Clearwater, Florida, 24 in Australia, 29 in Copenhagen and 16 presently at East Grinstead.
Sarah Brandl – RPF In Charge – interviewed October 2001
Sarah started on the post of RPF I/C in Copenhagen in July 2001. She comes from Hamburg. She was born into a Scientologist family in 1981 and raised as a Scientologist. There are three children in her family and all are Scientologists. One is a member of the Sea Organisation at the Church of Scientology in Clearwater.
Sarah has been a staff member of the Church since 1993. On 1st of January 1998 she decided to join the Sea Organisation.
She was selected by her senior to hold the function of RPF I/C as Gerd Poelzl, the previous incumbent, was transferred to another department. Sarah trained for her post by first reading all the policies about the RPF. She is now training to become an auditor.
Her duties are to ensure that the technology and procedures for the RPF are correctly applied and the RPF members follow the Flag Orders laid out for the programme. She also handles any needed logistics and acts as a liaison between the RPF and the rest of the Sea Organisation.
Sarah lives in the Nordland in separate quarters to the RPF. She meets with them daily and spends about seven hours each day giving them guidance and fulfilling her duties as described above.
There were 29 members on the programme at the time of our interview. They are split into groups of five, each with an in-charge. Each RPF member is part of a twinship or trio who work together to complete the auditing and study side of the programme. According to Sarah, all twins are well matched currently.
Asked for her recommendations, she said, "The programme itself does not need improvement. But once I have completed my training as an auditor, I will be of more help to the RPFers."
"The twins are chosen mostly based on the study abilities of the person. If someone is very fast and the other very slow, they will not match. This is the main criteria."
We asked who decides the twinships. "The RPF’s executives make a proposal which I approve or disapprove. Currently, Monica interviews the prospects and submits the proposal. This system of selection works, and if we see that the twinship is not working, it is changed. You can generally tell at the start whether the twinship will work or not."
"If a twinship does not work and there are no other people here to assign to one, we get in touch with the Los Angeles RPF or the one in the UK. Just last week a person went to LA who did not have a twin here, as there was a person needing a twin there."
She said that, "The current accommodations are OK, but there is a plan to move somewhere better."
Asked whether there should be more regular contact between the I/Cs of the different RPFs in the world, she answered, "I am already in touch with other RPF I/Cs. I am not so sure it would be useful to have a meeting with these people every year, but when I met with the Los Angeles RPF I/C last week it was useful."
The ideal duration of the programme is about a year and half and individuals complete more quickly since the changes made in 1997.
She was asked if people might want to leave the programme. She replied, "I am there to ensure that this does not occur, that people go through the programme fast and that they go back on their post." The discipline, she confirmed, "is designed to accomplish that."
She gave an example of how discipline can be applied in extreme cases. "If a person is not taking the RPF seriously and continues to make mistakes, goofs around and continues to alter the technology despite having been shown the proper way to do it many times, there is a further disciplinary action called ‘the RPF’s RPF’. The twins are isolated from the rest of the group so they do not create further upset, and they work more hours per day and go on study for only two and a half hours daily instead of five. This disciplinary action is not used often and lasts one to two weeks. A person realizes that he is responsible for being on the programme and that he should not miss out on it. To send twins to the RPF’s RPF is decided upon by the RPF’s executives and approved by the RPF I/C."
A member of the RPF receives between a quarter and a half of the normal allowance of an SO member. If an RPFer has to visit his family because of sickness he would receive normal allowance. But if for some reason, an RPF member in Denmark has to continue his programme in Britain, the organisation where he comes from covers his expenses.
There is also a Review Board, a service that may be used by any Sea Organisation members. For example, if it is recommended that an SO member do the RPF and he or she is unhappy about the decision, he could ask for a Review Board to decide whether the decision is correct.
Sarah is younger than anyone doing the programme. But she has been a Church staff member for 9 years, so her relative youth has not been a problem.
Glossary of terms (taken from Scientology sources)
Auditing – Scientology counselling, taken from the Latin word Audire which means "to hear and listen." Auditing is a very unique form of personal counselling which helps an individual look at his own existence and improves his ability to confront whathis is and where he is.
Bridge – also known as the Grade Chart. This is the progressive series of steps which Scientologists can take to advance within their religion.
Comm – communication; being in comm – having good communication with another(s).
Committee of Evidence – a fact-finding body composed of impartial persons properly convened by a convening authority which hears evidence from persons it calls before it, arrives at a finding and makes a full report and recommendation to its convening authority for his or her action.
Counselling – see auditing.
Course Supervisor – the person supervising and assisting students when they are studying Scientology materials.
Dorm – dormitory
Dynamics – there could be said to be eight urges (drives, impulses) in life. These are motives or motivations. We call them the eight dynamics. The first dynamic is the urge toward existence as one’s self. The second dynamic actually has two divisions a) the sexual act itself and b) the family unit, including the rearing of children. The third dynamic is the urge toward existence in groups of individuals. The fourth dynamic is the urge toward existence as mankind. The fifth dynamic is the urge toward existence of the animal kingdom. The sixth dynamic is the urge toward existence as the physical universe. The seventh dynamic is the urge toward existence as or of spirits. The eighth dynamic is the urge toward existence as infinity. This is also identified as the Supreme Being.
Ethics – consists of rationality toward the highest level of survival for the individual, the future race, the group and mankind, and the other dynamics taken collectively. Ethics are reason. The highest ethic level would be long-term survival concepts with minimal destruction, along any of the dynamics.
Flag Order – this is the equivalent to a policy letter in the Sea Org.
Hatted – each staff member is a specialist in one or more similar functions. These are his specialities, his "hat". If he is fully trained to do these he is said to be hatted.
LRH – Lafayette Ron Hubbard. The founder of Scientology.
Post – a post or terminal is an assigned area of responsibility and action which is supervised in part by an executive.
Sea Organisation (Sea Org or SO) – a fraternal organisation existing within the formalised structure of the Churches of Scientology. It consists of highly dedicated members of the Church. These members take vows of eternal service. The Sea Organisation life style of community living is traditional to religious orders.
Twin – in this context it refers to two individuals who are paired together to help each other all the way through the RPF programme.
1. A recent study now available on the website of the Center for the Study of New Religions (www.cesnur.org) J. Gordon Melton’s paper. "A Contemporary Ordered Religious Community: The Sea Organization"
2. Professor Stephen A. Kent, University of Alberta Brainwashing in Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force December 3 1997 (2nd Draft).
4. What Is Scientology page 423
5. What Is Scientology page 654
6. What Is Scientology page 324
7. Flag Orders apply only to the Sea Organisation. They lay down policy and are named for the original headquarters of the S.O., located aboard the "Flagship" Apollo.
8. Flag Order 3434RE-1 10 June 1974 (This is an internal policy explaining the purpose and reasons for the RPF.)
9. Anik, interview of September 2001
10. The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, 1970 edition
11. I Corinthians 11-13 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
12. What Is Scientology?, page 82 (paperback, 1998 edition)
13. Modern Management Technology Defined, by L. Ron Hubbard, page 91
14. Paragraphs 83-86, General Examen and its Declarations, Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, 1970 edition
15. According to Sabrina, a graduate from the Copenhagen programme, "In Scientology, there is a term called ‘Overts and Withholds’. An overt is ‘an act of omission or commission which does the least good or the most harm for the greatest number of dynamics’. A withhold is "an unspoken, unannounced transgression against a moral code by which the person was bound’"
16. "There could be said to be eight urges (drives, impulses) in life. These we call dynamics. These are motives or motivations. We call them the eight dynamics…(need to find best definition here)
17. Scientology Dictionary page 148
18. Flag Order 3434RE-3 "RPF Motto."
19. Declaration of Frank Flinn, 22 June 1985
20. HCO Policy Letter of 29 Dec 1966. Historical precedence of Ethics
21. A naval term referring to travelling a path between dangerous rocks and hidden underwater danger
22. Flag Order 3434RE-24 RPF Rocks and Shoals
24. Brainwashing in Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force, University of Alberta, December 3rd 1997
25. Will Durant, The Story of Civilisation, Vol 4, The Age of Faith, 1950 edition, page 807
26. For example Sabrina, Copenhagen RPF graduate says, "If it were possible, the main change would be within the group itself as it would have been good to have more technical personnel as part of the programme. However, due to the reasons anyone goes onto the programme in the first place, it is just not possible to select people." Also Nepheli, another Copenhagen RPF graduate states that, "There is help and supervision over the programme but it would be good to have a second person that was technically trained involved."
27. In Scientology life is divided into 8 dynamics starting with the individual him/herself, going onto the family and the group on through plant and animal life, the physical universe, the spiritual and finally on to infinity or the "God" dynamic.
28. The Bridge is a term used by Scientologists to refer to the Classification, Gradation and Awareness Chart. "Man, in his religious heritage, has long imagined a bridge across the chasm between where one is now and a higher plateau of existence. Unfortunately, many of those attempting to cross that chasm fell into the abyss. Employing this metaphor, the Classification, Gradation and Awareness Chart represents, in fact, the bridge which spans the chasm and brings one to the higher plateau. This is the vision man has cherished for at least ten thousand years, and it is now attainable by following the steps as laid out on the chart." What Is Scientology?, page 180 (hardback, English-language 1998 edition)
29. "A board which shows what functions are done, the order they are done in, and who is responsible for getting them done." What Is Scientology?, page 698 (hardback, English-language 1998 edition)