Scientology - changing of the guard and splinter groups - Part III
L. Ron Hubbard, the founding father of Scientology, stepped down as executive director in 1966 to focus on research and writing, but he was to occupy himself with another endeavour, Sea Org, a ship-based sea entity, established in 1977. It was the religious order of the Church that consisted of its most dedicated members.
It operated three ships, Appollo, Diana and Athena, from which he published the Operating Thetan III (OTIII) materials outlining a strategy to eliminate factors that prevent spiritual progress. He described it as a "means of erasing those mental factors that stand in the way of peace and toleration of mankind".
The circulation of the materials started on the ships, and then on land, where facing criminal indictment in France, Hubbard fled to the US, where he also faced charges in the late 1970s. He went into hiding in 1979 and only kept in touch with trusted associates. Not even his wife knew of his whereabouts, it was said.
Hubbard church offices were raided by the FBI under Operation Snow White, and 11 senior members were convicted of various crimes. And the mystery of his whereabouts intensified in February 1980 when he disappeared with two of his associates. Six years later, he died at his ranch in Creston, California. He was succeeded by David Miscavige, and the wheels of fragmentation that started while Hubbard was alive picked up speed.
FIRST MAJOR SPLIT
The first major split came in 1950, when founding member Joseph Winter detached himself from Hubbard and set up a private practice in New York. Long-standing member, Jack Horner, not happy with the Church's ethics programme, broke away in 1965. Some amount of dissent came from Captain Bill Robertson, a former Sea Org member, in the early 1980s.
Miscavige himself established the Religious Technology Centre in January 1982. It is a non-profit organisation founded to control and oversee the use of all trademarks and text of Scientology and Dianetics.
There were disagreements over the centre and on November 11, 1982 the Free Zone was established by some other leading Scientologists. Founded and registered under the laws of Germany the Free Zone Association's job was to say that the official Church of Scientology as led by Miscavige had departed from L. Ron Hubbard's original philosophy.
Now, while Scientology refers mainly to the Church led by Miscavige there are other groups of scientologists. They are known as independent Scientologists, and consist of former members of the official Church of Scientology, as well as entirely new members.