Very recently, the basic Scientology RPF (Rehabilitation Project Force) documents have been leaked. This is great news. In the excellent report on Scientology’s RPF, the author, Stephen A. Kent, PhD, notes that it is impossible to do a complete analysis of the RPF, in part because these key documents were not available for study. The availability of these documents will help.
However, for those eagerly awaiting the “smoking gun” regarding the horribly abusive practice of Scientology’s RPF, the documents will be somewhat of a disappointment. Hubbard was very concerned about his image, so he was always careful about what he committed to writing. I know this seems odd, given what he did say publicly, but it is true. Do not expect the worst of the RPF practices to be advocated over Hubbard’s signature.
However, the documents are, nonetheless, quite revealing.
Let me first step aside from this subject for a bit, to explain a few things.
First, it is important to understand exactly what is the basic, core belief of a true Scientologist.
The true Scientologist believes that we are all trapped in this universe; that we used to be “free” and powerful but we have gone down a “dwindling spiral” of degradation, life after life, eventually, after trillions of years, becoming powerless and mired in suffering; that L. Ron Hubbard developed the only road out of this trap back to “real freedom” and power; that the Church of Scientology is the only valid source of this technology; and that we will only get this one chance to make it out.
This is such an important belief that it, essentially, defines what makes a Scientologist. It is important to understand this concept because it explains how the Church of Scientology and David Miscavige can have such power over all Scientologists.
If someone really, really believes they have been trapped and degraded for trillions of years — just the idea of that — they will become desperate to escape. If they truly believe this idea, they would do almost anything to escape. And they do believe. And they really will do almost anything.
This is the power of the Church of Scientology. They hold the threat of denying Scientologists the “road out” over their heads all the time. Kicking someone out of the church and declaring them “Suppressive” is, in Scientologists’ eyes, literally a “fate worse than death.”
It will be difficult for someone who doesn’t believe all this to understand how powerful this threat is. This is the threat to ruin the person forever. Not just this year. Not just “this lifetime” but forever. For True Believers, it is an ultimate threat.
You wonder why Scientologists put up with so much? You wonder why they voluntarily shut their eyes to all the abuses? You wonder why they give so much money, until their debt crushes them? This is why.
And so, we come back to the RPF. The RPF is several orders of magnitude worse than anything that public Scientologists have to experience, and yet the threat of the church denying someone the “road out” is so powerful that most of those ordered to the RPF do agree to go. They do so “voluntarily”. But what is never stated is that they are under this ultimate threat when they “volunteer”. In reality, the choice is, “go to the RPF or be ruined forever.” For a True Believer, the RPF is the lesser of the two evils.
But I would not call this “voluntary.” Not with that kind of threat.
So, finally, we get back to the leaked RPF documents.
I actually haven’t had the time to read over these in detail. I hope scholars will do a good job of that. The whole subject of the RPF is presented, of course, as “the benign and generous Church of Scientology is giving you hopeless wretches a last chance to redeem yourselves.” It isn’t punishment. It’s for your own good. Bla, bla, bla. But underneath those words, the bones of the prison camp are showing.
There is a document in the pack that shows how aware the church is that the RPF is a legal problem. The document “RPF Series 19 – WAIVERS FOR THE RPF” states:
Two waivers are to be signed. The first is called the ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RPF ASSIGNMENT AND ELECTION TO PROCEED. The individual will be given this form for signature upon recept of his assignment and before routing onto the RPF. This will be handled by the HCO* of his org. No one may be admitted into the RPF who has not signed this form.
After the person has arrived in the RPF and has studied the RPF FOs†, he is then given the APPLICATION FOR PARTICIPATION IN THE RPF AND GENERAL RELEASE. This document may only be signed after the person has a full understanding of what the RPF program involves and has read all of the RPF Series and attests he fully understands the series.
*HCO — Hubbard Communications Office — is a division of the organization involved with ethics.
†FOs — Flag Orders — An issue distributed only within the Sea Organization.
Note here that the person can’t even read the RPF documents unless they have signed the first legal waiver. I don’t see any copy of these waivers in the leaked documents, but I can imagine what they say. They undoubtedly say the person agrees that this is all voluntary, no coercion was used, the church isn’t responsible for anything that happens, the RPF member is totally responsible for everything, the RPF member promises not to tell anyone anything, etc., etc.
I am not a lawyer, but I’d think that such waivers have very limited legal validity. As with many of the church legal documents that Scientologists are required to sign, it is more for the intimidation of members than for any real legal clout. You simply cannot sign away your legal rights like that, and certainly not prior to a crime being committed against you. That would be outrageous, yet that’s pretty much the idea of the waivers.
From the first hand accounts of those who have been on the RPF, the actual implementation of the RPF is far worse than the documents suggest. Not to say that the documents don’t describe a horrible operation, but, it appears, the documents are the “best” it could get. The actuality is much, much worse. The physical duress is worse, the food is worse, the sleep is worse, the abuse is much worse.
The introductory issue “THE RPF SERIES FLAG ORDERS” contains these revealing paragraphs:
Never before has any organization provided a means for members who have failed the trust of the group to actually redeem themselves and terminatedly handle the cause of their destructive actions. Only the Sea Organization, using LRH’s technology, extends this opportunity to its group members through the Rehabilitation Project Force program.
The objective of the RPF program is to restore to the individual his value to the group and to himself and to free him forever from any compulsion to commit harmful acts against his dynamics.
This is quite revealing because it isn’t quite true. This isn’t the first organization to offer such an “opportunity”. This whole description of how good the RPF is, is very reminiscent of the Vietnamese and Chinese “Re-education Camps”. These were “benevolently” provided by the Communist government as an opportunity for errant citizens to redeem themselves and “handle” the reasons they “failed the group”.
Yes, the erring Communist members were “re-educated” until they saw the errors of their ways and were then “free forever” from the compulsion to individuate and harm the group.
The RPF isn’t just vaguely similar, it is strikingly similar to those “re-education camps”. They are all labor camps. They all require the prisoners to intensely study the doctrine. They all require frequent confession. They all require isolation from the rest of society. They all emphasize “the group is all, the individual is nothing.” In all of them, the prisoners are understood to have betrayed the group but the group is benevolently giving them one last chance to redeem themselves. They all have no set duration, the abuse continues for years until the powers-that-be are satisfied the camp member is sufficiently re-educated so as to not cause any more trouble.
These, by the way, are parts of standard brainwashing techniques. Physical duress, physical restraint, isolation/degradation, frequent confession, heavy indoctrination, poor nutrition, little sleep, negation of the individual, and so on, are ways to break the individual and make them susceptible and pliant.
Hubbard wrote, in his Brainwashing Manual in 1955:
Experiments on German prisoners have lately demonstrated that only after seventy days of filthy food, little sleep, and nearly untenable quarters, that the least motion toward a prisoner would bring about a state of shock beyond his endurance threshold, and would cause him to hypnotically receive anything said to him. Thus, it is possible, in an entire stockade of prisoners, to the number of thousands, to bring about a state of complete servile obedience, and without the labour of personally addressing each one, to pervert their loyalties, and implant in them adequate commands to insure their future conduct, even when released to their own people.
Among the documents, RPF Series 23R, “RPF–RIGHTS AND RESTRICTIONS”, is worthy of special attention. A thorough reading is quite eye-opening.
This issue includes the seemingly benign sentence:
The person has the option of doing the RPF and adhering to its rules, or not accepting the opportunity for redemption and terminating his membership in the Sea Organization.
Once again, it is key to understand what this means to the new RPF member. It isn’t a choice between the RPF and leaving. Leaving includes declaration as a “Suppressive Person” and all that that means. This is not a simple “goodbye and good luck” situation. The choice is, as far as the errant Sea Org member is concerned, do the RPF or have your entire future destroyed.
Further in this document, note the rights. These are, basically, the RPF member has the “right” to work and the “right” of access to the doctrine and time to study/apply it. Those things are “allowed”.
Note the restrictions. These are draconian, to put it mildly. In summary:
- No time off. No free time, no vacation, no weekends, no holidays, no evenings. Zero time off. Every single day is a full day of work, study and confession. For years and years.
- Confined to “base”, except on “authorized work cycles” when they would be under guard. That is, they are imprisoned on the Church of Scientology property.
- 1/4 pay. Since Sea Org members get a few dollars a week, this is, essentially, nothing.
- Completely isolated from everybody else.
- Cannot originate any communication to anyone outside the RPF. No letters, no phone calls, nothing. According to this document, they will be allowed to answer letters from family, but it is questionable whether that actually happens. If such a thing were allowed, it would be carefully censored to omit any mention of the RPF.
- Must wear a distinctive uniform and must run everywhere.
- May not enter staff or public areas. May not use public or staff bath or restroom facilities.
- “May not have with him in the RPF any radios, TV, taped music, musical instruments, magazines, novels, games, cameras or any entertainment or luxury items.” In practice, this last has been extended to cell phones (of course), computers and, well, everything else. One assumes that singing, laughing, smiling and such are quickly suppressed in the RPF.
Do you get a picture of how debased and degraded people on the RPF are? These people are “scum,” unfit to associate with decent people. Do you see that this was the unstated, but obvious, intention of these rules?
The leaked RPF documents are fascinating reading. However, no matter how bad you picture the RPF when reading these documents, the reality is much, much worse.
This is one of the worst crimes perpetrated by the Church of Scientology. I hope that the leak of these documents is another step closer to the eradication of this horrible operation.