We have a great slice of Scientology Sea Org life to share with you today, courtesy of Aaron Smith-Levin. We’ve been featuring Aaron in stories for some time, and in his videos he’s been telling you about what it was like to grow up in the church.
By 12 years old, Aaron had joined staff at the Philadelphia org, and then, in 2002 at 22 years old, he joined the Sea Org, Scientology’s hardcore inner circle. He left the SO four years later, but he remained in the church until very recently. He was only “declared” a “suppressive person” last year, though he had been communicating with former members, like Mike Rinder, for a few years.
Anyway, we’re learning that Aaron is a very meticulous and organized person. He let us know that he still has a copy of every report he filed as a Sea Org member, something that is pretty rare for people who leave the organization.
In order to give us a taste of what life is like in the Sea Org, he sent us a “knowledge report” that he submitted in 2004. We’ve explained here repeatedly that Scientology is a snitching culture, and that members are not only accustomed to being interrogated about their private lives, they are expected to turn in others for their transgressions. They do so in the form of knowledge reports.
At the time Aaron submitted this report, he was working at a facility known as the American Saint Hill Organization in Los Angeles. ASHO is one of the entities that make up the “Big Blue” complex just off Sunset Boulevard, which is known to Scientologists as PAC Base, for Pacific Area Command. ASHO is named after Saint Hill Manor, L. Ron Hubbard’s home in England. In 2004, ASHO was still delivering the Saint Hill Special Briefing Course and Power Processing, important courses for Scientologists about halfway up the “Bridge to Total Freedom.” ASHO was busy enough then to justify two separate shifts — Day, and Foundation, which operated in the evenings. Aaron worked as the Technical Secretary of ASHO Day.
As Technical Secretary, he was the head of Division Four, the division that was in charge of “delivery” — assuring that auditing and training was delivered properly to ASHO’s customers, public members of Scientology. (Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986, dictated the complex organizational hierarchy of all Scientology organizations, and his “org chart” is followed like it was a sacrament.) Aaron was one of eight division heads who in turn made up something called the Advisory Council. Each week, on Thursday evening, the Advisory Council was charged with putting together a document known as Financial Planning, which was submitted to the organization’s commanding officer — in this case, Captain Jon Lundeen. That document would show their plans for the upcoming week, and what they planned to do to increase ASHO’s statistics over that time.
In this case, however, Lundeen rejected the Financial Planning document, and Aaron was livid about it. After what ensued, he wrote up a Knowledge Report to turn in his own boss. Smith-Levin submitted the report to the ASHO Day Master at Arms, expecting that Lundeen would be pulled into Scientology’s “Ethics” process and be disciplined. But Aaron also copied it to many other people at PAC Base.
We asked him why he did that.
“That’s the best way to be a tattle-tale in Scientology. If you send a report to ethics, it gets buried. But what you do is copy it to a lot of people so it goes everywhere. It’s a way of saying ‘fuck you’,” he says, laughing about it today.
The report opens with Aaron talking about learning that the Financial Planning document had been rejected, and how he and the other division heads on the Advisory Council were reacting to it.
Captain ASHOD – Jon Lundeen
Today (Friday) at about 3:25PM I was in my office. FP [the Financial Planning document] had just been returned to me with a reject from the Captain. I had read the reject from the Captain over several times to fully get it. After reading it over and over I still did not feel like I had fully gotten it.
The Treas[ury] Sec[retary] came into my office and seemed to already know I had the FP back. I called the Dissem[ination] Sec[retary] into my office as a good portion on the reject related to a lack of Div[ision] 2 and Div[ision] 6 handlings in the Income Planning. The Dissem Sec came and read the reject. He did not fully agree with it and / or fully understand it.
As the other division heads were reacting to the “reject,” Aaron tried to capture how each of them felt that the captain was acting unreasonably.
But we told Aaron we were more interested in the concept that every week they had to come up with a new plan and describe in detail how they would increase the amount of business ASHO was doing. What went into such a report? Aaron laughed, acknowledging that it was mostly about citing buzzwords in the Hubbard lexicon.
“It was going through the motions, every week. We were saying the same things in different ways, and being clever about it,” he says.
I was angry at the reject. It was very HE&Ry [Human Emotions & Reaction], did not communicate clearly and was delivered with a lot of “chop” and “blame” and make-wrong.
While the Dissem Sec, Treas Sec and I were still in my office the HAS [HCO Area Secretary, head of Division 1] called my office phone. She said that the Captain didn’t want us to do FP now, but to finish it later. I got angry at this. The FP reject consisted of accusations of being off-policy and negligent and was make-wrong on other fronts. To then be told not to finish FP and to put it off…I couldn’t think with it.
I told the HAS that I was going to finish FP and that she should could come and read the reject. I told her that policy says it should already be done on Thursday night or early Friday morning and that it was already very late and needed to be finished. I told the HAS that I was not only going to follow policy when someone else felt that I should.
We remarked at how Scientology has another language, and the acronyms can make you dizzy.
“In the Scientology world, that was a very well written report,” he says with a laugh.
We asked Aaron what he meant by saying that his boss was being “HE&Ry” and had delivered a lot of “chop.”
“It just means he was being an asshole,” Aaron says. His captain was blaming people rather than offering constructive suggestions.
As I was talking to the HAS the Captain came into my office. I told the Captain that the HAS was on the phone and I told the HAS that the Captain had come into my office and to come up and join us.
The Captain said that he wanted FP finished later, and not right now. I told him it was supposed to be done now. He said that he needed production occurring now and FP could be finished after dinner. He said that if I didn’t go extend the STC [Student Completion] line-up that there would be no delivery and there would be no income and the org would crash. He said he was ordering me to get the fuck out of the office and to produce.
Aaron explains that he had just wanted to follow the rules and get the Financial Planning document finished and approved — it was already well past its deadline — but Lundeen told him to skip it. The captain wanted production, and planning could wait. Aaron explains that each week, they had to come up with a list of names of students who would be completing courses that week — the STC line-up. “You’d get desperate trying to have more names on the list this week than you did last week. So you’d ask people just to say anything so you could put them on the list,” Aaron says. “He was essentially saying don’t do the planning, just run around and be busy.”
I told him that it was not production I objected to, but that I felt AC [the Advisory Council] should complete the INCOME PLANNING – which was most of what the reject was about – and then work on EXECUTING the Income Planning.
I told him I objected to begin accused of not applying policy one minute and then ordered not to apply it the next. He told me to knock off the backflash. I told him I didn’t give a shit about the backflash. He told me to go to HCO.
Aaron had now been told to go to the Hubbard Communications Office, HCO, which is another way of saying that he was being sent to Scientology “Ethics” to be punished. He says he wasn’t too worried about it. He knew he’d be assigned a lower “condition,” and then be given a set of tasks to work his way out of it. It was just a part of Sea Org life.
But if Aaron was ready to get his punishment, something else was going on in Lundeen’s mind.
“What was going on was that he knew he still had a problem with me, and he needed to get ‘altitude’ over me. In his mind, he’s thinking, ‘I need to do something so Aaron knows that disagreeing with me is not an option for the future’.”
I had gotten up from my desk to put an OEC Vol [Organization Executive Course Volume] back on the shelf at the opposite end of my office. I told him I would go to HCO. I walked from the shelf back to my desk. The Captain was between me and the door. As I turned toward the door he turned towards me with his fist clenched and pulled his arm back and said, “You fucking son of a bitch mother fucker…” and swung at my head.
I sort of ducked and his fist hit the bone at the very top of my shoulder and went past and grazed the top of my head. His arm continued around and he tried to put me in a headlock. When I pulled my head away from him I was behind him and to his right. I grabbed him from behind, holding him around his torso and pinning his arms to his sides and held on tightly so that he could not pull away and try to punch me, which he was still trying to do.
By this time, it was only two of us in the office and I knew that if I let him go he was going to try and punch me, and I was not prepared to punch him back.
Aaron laughs. “He told me to go to HCO, and I was going to HCO. What’s there to be upset about?”
But then he offers an explanation. “People don’t get enough sleep. And it is so easy to lose your temper and fly off the handle. He and I would have a lot of screaming matches. And it was always when we were on two or three hours of sleep,” he says.
He remembers Lundeen being about 50 years old at the time. Lundeen is still in the Sea Org.
As I was holding him he was kicking at my legs with his feet. I moved us closer to a wall so that I could lean against it and move one leg out of the way while supporting myself against the wall.
I was still holding the Captain in this position when other staff members opened my office door to break it up.
When they were separating us I pushed the Captain clear away from me so that he could not turn around and try to hit me. A few weeks ago when he was going after the LC [LRH Communicator] in the Exec Office he was continuing to try and hit the LC while and even after they were being separated.
Aaron points out why this is significant — in the report he was explaining that he knew what Lundeen might try because he’d seen him try it with the LRH Communicator, a staffer who works not technically for the captain but for the Continential Liaison Office (CLO) and so is considered the captain’s equal.
The Captain did come in my direction again. There were several people between us and he did not attempt to actually hit me. I went directly down to HCO with the staff MAA right after this.
This is true.
Tech Sec ASHOD
Aaron signs off with the standard Sea Org salutation, “ML,” for “much love.”
He laughs when we asked about how copying a report like this to so many people in management might backfire. “Here I am dropping a dime on my own commanding officer, you’d think it would come back to haunt me,” he says. But he had friends among those executives, and anyway, in Scientology you were expected to snitch on your boss. Just like you are expected to snitch on your own spouse. Your parents. Your kids.
It’s what you do in Scientology.
“I’d say the main thing I take away from this report today is how much internal conflict exists on a daily basis in the Sea Org,” Aaron says. “The constant internal fighting within orgs and between orgs is what made me want to leave the Sea Org. I joined the SO with good intentions of helping other Scientologists do the services they wanted to do. I was never one to get new people into Scientology or to sell things to other Scientologists. My gig was always to deliver Scientology services to Scientologists who already paid for them. It was a good gig. It got to a point where it was very hard to focus on doing that because people were constantly at each other’s throats trying blame each other for being the cause of one down-statistic or another.
“Even in writing my report, the purpose of it was not really to let management know that the Captain had assaulted me; but just to document my side of the story because I knew he’d say I assaulted him first. A junior assaulting a senior is definitely worse than a senior assaulting a junior. So even my report was motivated by need to defend against further attack. The dog-eat-dog atmosphere became increasingly prevalent in the Los Angeles Sea Org orgs during my time there (2002-2006).”
And today, he points out, with more negative press attention than ever in its history, Scientology is hurting badly, and that means that Sea Org members are constantly dealing with stats crashing.
“This is the reality. Almost no new people are getting into Scientology. When stats are down, being in an org is hell — and stats in Scientology have been down for a long time.”
Thank you, Aaron, for giving us that glimpse of what it’s like to work in the Sea Org. Here’s the document itself…
Bonus photos from our tipsters
We have an Alfreddie Johnson sighting in Florida. He’s posing with a Nation of Islam “Clear” and a “Super Power” graduate in the St. Petersburg area, we believe.
Hey, girl. Yeah, you know I’m going to college. Hubbard College of Administration. Sexy.
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield