Brainwashing in Scientology's Rehabilitation Force (RPF) - Part 1
by Dr. Stephen A. Kent
As an international institution requiring total compliance from its confined participants, Scientology's Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) is unique among contemporary ideological organizations operating in the Western world. While other organizations (such as The Family/The Children of God) have operated analogous programs (see Kent and Hall, 1997), the RPF has existed for over 20 years. Established in January, 1974, the RPF is a program of hard physical labour, forced confessions, and intense ideological study. Scientology insists that the program is designed to correct staff members' problems in order to allow them to remain in its elite Sea Org(anization)1 and operate effectively in it. Critics insist that its purpose is to break the will of inmates in a manner that minimizes people's abilities to operate outside of the ideological constraints of the organization. They also argue that it provides Scientology with a labour force that receives almost no salaries. In any case, newspapers have reported on the program since at least 1984, with stories appearing in American, British, Danish, and German media. No academic accounts about it exist, however, even though its operation has direct bearing on an issue that many social scientists consider closed--the extent to which so-called new religions utilize "brainwashing" techniques on their members.
This study argues that brainwashing--"the systematic, scientific[,] and coercive elimination of the individuality of the mind of another" (Scheflin and Opton 1978: 40) -- is a social scientifically appropriate concept for analyzing Scientology's imposition of reindoctrination programs within the confinement conditions experienced by inmates in the RPF and its more severe extension, the RPF's RPF. It constructs this argument using primary documents that Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, either wrote or disseminated, as well as legal documents, interview transcripts, and media accounts. These documents and other items help identify Scientology's historical and organizational contexts out of which the RPF emerged, and they provide extended glimpses into actual RPF operations in several locations during particular periods. Of special interest to scholars is the study's use of Scientology publications from the mid-1950s and late 1960s that specifically discuss brainwashing techniques. Not only, therefore, is brainwashing an appropriate social scientific term to use when describing the RPF, but also it is a term that coincides with Scientology's own descriptions about forcing attitude change within confined environments.
The "Brainwashing Debate" within the Social Sciences
The "brainwashing debate" in the social sciences took place mostly in the 1980s and early 1990s, when several professional organizations, professors, and scholars reacted against American courts accepting arguments that so-called new religions "coerced" members into conversion. Much of the sociological attack targeted psychologist Margaret Singer, Ph.D., who used a coercive persuasion/brainwashing model to explain to courts how litigants joined and behaved in the groups they now were suing or defending against.
The social scientific attacks concluded that the brainwashing term was valid only if the group in question used incarceration and physical maltreatment against members (see Anthony, 1990: 304) in situations of uninformed consent (Young and Griffith, 1992: 93).2 This threefold requirement was a minimalist one, since a brainwashing program also would have to include an intense indoctrination program coupled with personal confessions of past "sins." Since neither the term's supporters or detractors provided concrete evidence that even these minimalist activities uniformly occurred in most groups' conversion activities, sociologists and others concluded that "brainwashing" was not an appropriate term for describing how and why people join new or controversial religions.
Of these requirements for using the brainwashing term, the single most important one was "extreme physical coercion" (Anthony and Robbins, 1992: 20, 25n.11). If such a condition existed, then it would allow both researchers and the courts to isolate brainwashing from other forms of coercive persuasion. As Robbins and Anthony concluded, "[without] physical force as a boundary, there is no natural or objective cutting point as to when coercive persuasion is potent enough to overcome free will" as the brainwashing model implies (Anthony and Robbins, 1992: 21).
One crucial aspect of brainwashing in litigation has been an effort to specify when courts should allow individuals to use the concept as an excuse for deviant or illegal behaviour. Researcher Dick Anthony (often working with associate Tom Robbins) developed much of the theory in this area, and served as a consulting expert for lawyers defending the Unification Church, Scientology, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Transcendental Meditation, and the Community Chapel against brainwashing allegations from disgruntled former members (Anthony and Robbins, 1992: 6n.1). Anthony and Robbins concluded that some attempts to utilize "cultic brainwashing" to justify exemptions from (American constitutional) protections of religions presuppose that brainwashing is a form of "hard determinism" which assumes that people are confined in ideological systems whose doctrines they must adopt (Anthony and Robbins, 1992: 23). Human behavior explanations that postulate hard determinism, Anthony and Robbins claim, "do not have general, or even substantial acceptance in the relevant scientific communities" (presumably sociology and psychology), and they are "no longer taken seriously in the academic world" (Anthony and Robbins, 1992: 25). Consequently, in future attempts to assess "the resemblance of the theologies of religious groups to totalitarian ideologies," Anthony and Robbins hope that researchers will focus upon "the free marketplace of ideas rather than upon increased governmental regulation of religious ideas or on the outcome of trials..." (Anthony and Robbins, 1992: 26). In other words, these respected social scientists believe that research into whether religious groups brainwash has concluded that they do not -- at least not in a hard deterministic way, and this conclusion eliminates any need for discussion about governmental or legal intervention against groups on supposedly now-disproven grounds that they brainwash their members into robots who commit deviant or criminal acts. As sociologist Benjamin Zablocki critically concluded, his colleagues had "blacklisted" the brainwashing concept, and in so doing had ignored its utility for explaining the "exit costs" that people feel who attempt to depart high-demand ideological organizations (Zablocki, 1997; 1998).
RPF Accounts in the Courts and the Media
Remarkably, however, throughout much of this debate, the popular press, some court documents, and at least one court appellate decision described the forced confinement, maltreatment, and uninformed consent that Sea Org members experienced in Scientology's RPF program and facilities. These descriptions were of a brainwashing program used to retain members rather than to obtain them, and perhaps for this reason social scientists neglected to address these accounts.
The first public statement about the RPF seems to have appeared in a January 25, 1980 affidavit by former member Tonya Burden of Las Vegas, Nevada, who described it as "a Scientology 'concentration camp'" (Burden, 1980: 8) and from which she escaped after having been in the program for around three months (Burden, 1980: 9-10). Former member Gerry Armstrong supported Burden's general description of RPF conditions in a June, 1982 affidavit, stating that he "personally observed people [including Tonya Burden] in the RPF sleeping on floors, in storage rooms, in the boiler room, and in other sub-human conditions..." (Armstrong, 1982: 3).
Armstrong and two other former members, Laurel Sullivan and William Franks, spoke harshly about the RPF in a 1984 article in the Florida newspaper, the Clearwater Sun. Franks called it "'a horrible thing'" (quoted in Shelor, 1984: 1B), and Sullivan spoke about how "'rough'" the program was, having "to work in 120-degree heat [in the California desert] with a severe case of colitis'" (quoted in Shelor, 1984: 2B). In that same year, Great Britain's The Sunday Times Magazine carried RPF descriptions from three more former members--Bent Corydon, Jay Hurwitz, and David Mayo:
Hurwitz said that for the first five days he and others were kept locked up under guard. 'We were brought our food and we slept on the floor. We had to use the same toilet facilities in the presence of one another' (Barnes, 1984: 38).
Hurwitz was at the RPF near Gilman Hots Springs, California in the summer of 1982, along with eighteen other senior Scientology staffers (Barnes, 1984: 38-39).
Also in 1984, a British court stated in a written decision that, two years earlier, a woman in Scientology's English headquarters in East Grinstead was "required to do at least 12 hours physical work a day (shifting bricks, emptying bins, etc.)" which "aggravated a chronic back condition" (Royal Courts of Justice, 1984: 27). This same story reappeared in the excellent study written by Englishman Jon Atack in 1990 (Atack, 1990: 341), and then in a newspaper article in 1994 (Bracchi, 1994).
Back in the United States, former Scientologist Howard (Homer) Schomer responded in deposition to a query about his time in the RPF on the ship, Apollo, by indicating:
[w]ell, we lived separated from the rest of the crew on the ship. We could not talk to them unless they originated something to use, first. We slept in the lower hold of the ship most of the time on mattresses that were supposed to have been thrown out, but somebody hadn't carried out their [sic] job per se, luckily they wanted -- because otherwise, we would have been sleeping on the floor. We ate after the rest of the crew ate, and ate what was left over. Many times we'd have to maybe fry eggs or something because there wasn't enough food left over, make rice. We only were allowed to sleep a maximum of seven hours a night. We were -- We had to have five hours of study time because we had to become proficient auditors [i.e., Scientology's version of counsellors and therapists] so we could audit ourselves out of the supposed morass we had gotten ourself [sic] into and the rest of the time we worked on the decks scrubbing the decks and painting the ship and washing the ship and cleaning out toilet bowls and, you know, you name it we did it (Schomer, 1985: 21).
Even taking into account that this RPF experience took place on a ship in 1974, it still is remarkably consistent with accounts of RPF experiences from later in the history of Scientology and from various parts of the world.
Another former member, Don Larson, told Forbes magazine in 1986 that:
he alone brought nearly 300 recalcitrant Scientologists to 'Rehabilitation Project Forces' at Scientology centers around the world over a period of fourteen months, until his departure in late 1983... In these sadistic detention programs, staff members would be coerced into performing hard labor, eating leftovers out of buckets and sleeping on floors. Some were reportedly kept against their will (Behar, 1986: 318).
The year after the Forbes article, British biographer Russell Miller (1987) published his account of Hubbard's life, which contained nearly a dozen references to the RPF. A summary of Vicki Aznaran's account of her time in the notorious Happy Valley RPF program in California appeared in a December 22, 1988 edition of the St. Petersburg Times, and Oklahoma newspaper editor, Bob Lobsinger, reprinted the story in the July 6, 1989 edition of The Newkirk Herald Journal (Koff, 1989(. Although Aznaran "herself had dispatched dozens of others to the RPF on her way up the Scientology ladder, ... this time was different, she said. A uterine infection gave her a fever, and the guards wouldn't let her see a doctor" (Koff, 1989: 6).
A 1989 California appellate court decision indicated that, "continuously for three weeks," former Scientologist Larry Wollersheim had been "'baited and badgered'" to enter the RPF, which the judge mentioned as "evidence [that] Wollersheim accepted some of his auditing [i.e., religious counselling] under threat of physical coercion" (California Court of Appeal, 1989: 9274).3 The accounts of Franks, Sullivan, and former Sea Org staff member Hana Whitfield appeared again in a series on the organization that the Los Angeles Times published in 1990 (Welkos and Sappell, 1990). The article indicated that "[t]he RPF provides the church with a pool of labor to perform building maintenance, pull weeds, haul garbage, clean toilets or do anything else church executives deem necessary for redemption" (Welkos and Sappell, 1990: ). In the same year as the Los Angeles Times series, Jon Atack's thorough study of his former group contained significant RPF information (Atack, 1990: 206, 341, 358, etc.; see also Atack, n.d.: 9-10).
Germans read about the RPF in a December, 1994 articles when former American members, (Robert) Vaughn Young and Stacy Young, spoke about it in an interview published in Focus magazine (Gruber and Kintzinger [Interviewers], 1994: 79), and then Robert Vaughn Young referred to the RPF as a "prison camp" (Straflager) and a "Gulag" in an article that he wrote for Der Spiegel in September, 1995 (Young, 1995: 107; see Kent, 1999a: 158-159). The following year, the RPF received attention in a Scientology study produced by former member Bent Corydon (1996). Next, in the Summer of 1997, Germans once again learned about the "modern concentration camp" ("modernes Konzentrationslager") as former Danish Scientologist Susanne Elleby described the RPF that she endured in Copenhagen (Kintzinger [Interviewer], 1997: 52).
That same year, Mannheim journalist and author Peter Reichelt provided German audiences with extensive information about RPF operations in California, including the fact that top Scientology leadership apparently had sent one of Hubbard's sons (Arthur) to the RPF and then retrieved him after he escaped (Reichelt, 1997: 284-285, see 273-285; A Tabayoyon, 1994: 21 para. #104). In early 1999, Reichelt and his partner, Ina Brockmann, produced a documentary for German television that showed Scientologists blocking their way as the two researchers attempted to drive to the RPF facility in Happy Valley (near San Jacinto), California (Brockmann and Reichelt, 1999) -- a scene that North Americans saw two months earlier on ABC News's televisions program 20/20 (ABC, 1998). Six days before the 20/20 program, the American television network, Arts and Entertainment (A&E), ran a two-hour Investigative Reports program on Scientology that contained several dramatic RPF accounts. Not surprisingly, the German parliament's commissioned study on "sects and psychological groups" footnoted information about the RPF in a section discussing social control and manipulation (Enquete Kommission, 1998a: 77 n. 135; 1998b: 150 n. 135).
The most recent media account about the RPF was a lengthy article that appeared in the newspaper distributed in the area in which the Happy Valley facility operates. It juxtaposed accounts from former Scientologists who had been in the Happy Valley RPF facility with denials of abuse from Scientology officials (Thurston, 1999). Most interesting in this article were the comments by former member Mary Tabayoyon, who spoke about her RPF experience as being "'very degrading. There was constant yelling and constant accusations of [sic] what you were doing or feeling. There was no kind of rehabilitation for me. It was a nightmare'" (quoted in Thurston, 1999: A3). Taken together, these legal and media sources strongly suggest that the RPF is a brainwashing facility according to the requirements that Anthony (1990) and Young and Griffith (1992) specify, but no social scientists pursued an investigation.
Perhaps one reason that social scientists have not examined the brainwashing dynamics of the RPF is because its study presents some unusual methodological obstacles that they must overcome in order to obtain appropriate information. First, Scientology has made out-of-court settlements with former RPF victims, and these settlements include agreements that they will not speak critically and publicly against the organization. I know of at least five people--two Americans, two Canadians, and one New Zealander--who entered into such agreements.
Second, Scientology keeps confidential the key series of documents that define the RPF's operation. These documents appear in the Flag Order 3434 series (containing at least fifty-six separate issues), and only a small number of them have leaked out to researchers. Consequently, it remains impossible to trace the development of the RPF program through the organization's most relevant documents, which means that scholars' best information sources remain the accounts of former members.
Third, former members who went through the RPF are difficult to find and, once found, often are reluctant to speak with a researcher. The difficulty of finding former RPF inmates stems partly from the fact that the program's design is to feed repentant (and, according to some accounts that I cite, emotionally broken) Sea Org members back into the organization. Consequently, many potential informants remain in Scientology under threat of being either ex-communicated or sent back into the RPF itself for talking negatively about their time in it. Moreover, as RPF participants they spent countless hours confessing to alleged sins and crimes, and they fear that the organization would use these confessions against them if they were to talk. Indeed, the RPFers who complete their programs must write or sign a statement before they leave which praises the RPF and extols its virtues. For all of these reasons, I was able to use information only from one active Scientologist who had been an RPF inmate. Under the name, "SB," this person had posted his RPF story on the news group, alt.religion.scientology, and then he followed his initial account with answers to questions that others posted to him. With this Scientology member and other current ones, I remain concerned that any criticism or negative statements that informants might have made about their experiences like would have dire consequences for them. "SB," however, knew the risks, and his comments were for everyone to read.
For this study, therefore, I interviewed eight people who had been on RPFs in different parts of the world, plus I collected court documents, affidavits, and correspondence from fifteen more. In addition, I interviewed a person who had witnessed the RPF in operation (but had not participated in it), and collected accounts (through personal correspondence, anonymous newsgroup postings, and legal documents) from ten additional individuals who also claim to have seen inmates on the program. In addition to the information by and from these thirty-four people, I collected primary Scientology documents and publications that discuss the RPF, along with accounts of it from the popular press. Among the documents that I have collected are copies of items from the RPF file of Susanne Schernekau (now Elleby), which she took with her when she departed the program. I also have viewed video footage that Peter Reichelt shot in Clearwater, Florida in December 1997 and August, 1998, which shows RPF members at work on Scientology facilities (see Tongi, 1998).4 The picture that emerges from these sources shows variations according to (sometimes important) details, but the overall picture concerning the operation of the program remains remarkably consistent.
Ideational History of the RPF
Five (often overlapping) activities of social control seem universal in all of the RPF information that is available from non-Scientology sources. These activities are:
(1) forcible confinement,
(2) physical maltreatment (through such things as hard exercise, physically demanding chores, poor diet, limited time for hygiene, and inadequate sleeping arrangements, etc.);
(3) social maltreatment (through restrictions in verbal and written communication with others, degradation, very low pay, etc.);
(4) intensive study of ideology, and
(5) forced confessions of past alleged 'sins.'
The goal of these activities is the alignment of the RPF inmates with the ideology of Scientology as directed by its leaders. This alignment comes about after the program has eliminated people's abilities or desires to criticize policies or the leaders who oversee their implementation. Remarkably, a 1955 booklet that Hubbard himself almost certainly wrote described psychopolitical techniques of subduing people and populations to totalitarian rule, and some of the techniques foreshadow the RPF policies that subsequently he approved for use against his own elite corps.
Hubbard's Brainwashing and Psychopolitics Manual
The booklet was entitled, Brain-Washing -- A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psychopolitics, and one version was "published as a public service by the Church of Scientology" ([Hubbard [probable author], 1955: back cover). The introduction purports to be a speech by the famous chief of the Soviet secret police, Lavrenti Beria, to "American students at the Lenin University" about how to subvert societies through the imposition of "psychopolitics" on populations through the guise of "mental healing" (Hubbard [probable author], 1955: 3). The entire text is fraudulent (Kominsky, 1970), and all indicators point directly to Hubbard as the author.5 In any case, Hubbard wrote about the "brainwashing" booklet to his followers (Hubbard, 1955a: 309-310; 1955b: 312- 313; 1956: 328), claiming that "unless the basic philosophy of the brainwasher is understood," auditors will have difficulty handling clients who had suffered the techniques (Hubbard, 1955a: 309). More probably he was trying to both discredit psychiatry and endear his organization to the American government (with the claim that Dianetics and Scientology could reverse the effects of Communist brainwashing and thus was a powerful political tool). Certainly Hubbard's desire to secure Dianetics and Scientology as a weapon against Communism would explain why he wrote the FBI about the booklet in mid-December, 1955.6 It also would explain why The Church of Scientology published the slim volume "as a public service" (back cover of Hubbard [probable author], 1955).
Obsessed with issues of controlling and subduing people and nations, the "brainwashing" manual is an extraordinary work. Most probably, key ideas that Hubbard (presumably) wrote about in the brainwashing manual became policies and procedures in the RPF nearly twenty years later. The manual's own definition of psychopolitics, for example, indicated that it was "the art and science of asserting and maintaining dominion over the thoughts and loyalties of individuals, officers, bureaux, and masses, and the effecting of the conquest of enemy nations through 'mental healing'" (Hubbard [probable author], 1955: 6). Later the text presented a strategy for subversives to use in destroying individuals' opposition to the state, and this strategy involved the destruction of any forms of individuality that might foster doubts against the imposing ideology:
[t]he tenets of rugged individualism, personal determinism, self-will, imagination, and personal creativeness are alike in the masses antipathetic to the good of the Greater State. These wilful and unaligned forces are no more than illnesses which will bring about disaffection, disunity, and at length the collapse of the group to which the individual is attached (Hubbard [probable author], 1955: 9).
Having identified individuality as a threat to "the Greater State," the solution was simple:
It is the mission of Psychopolitics first to align the obedience and goals of the group, and then maintain their alignment by the eradication of the effectiveness of the persons and personalities which might serve the group toward disaffection.... Psychopolitics makes it possible to remove that part of his personality which, by itself, is making havoc with the person's own constitution, as well as with the group with which the person is connected (Hubbard [probable author], 1955: 10).
In essence, the State had to establish its own goals as the only acceptable ones, then destroy aspects of people's personalities that might lead them to individualistic expressions that would be out of alignment with those goals. This outline for totalitarian conformity transformed into the reality of the RPF.
Hubbard's Discussions of Brainwashing in the Late 1960s
During the late 1960s, Hubbard discussed brainwashing at least four times in various talks and writings, and these discussions always were consistent with the basic techniques of personality destruction and goals-realignment discussed in the "brainwashing" manual of 1955. The book, All About Radiation, bridges the 1960s and the 1950s, since Hubbard took his comments from a 1957 "Congress on Nuclear Radiation and Health," published them that same year, then reissued the book in 1967. This publication included a section entitled "What Brainwashing Is":
Brainwashing is a very simple mechanism. One gets a person to agree that something might be a certain way and then drives him by introverting him and through self-criticism to the possibility that it is that way. Only then does a man believe that the erroneous fact was a truth. By gradient scale of hammering, pounding and torture, brainwashers are able to make people believe that that these people [i.e., the victims] saw and did things which they never did do (Hubbard, 1957: 84; also quoted in Hubbard, 1976b: 55).
As he had indicated in 1955, people could be brainwashed (he believed) by giving them an external goal or fact, then breaking them down (through stress) until they believed it.
On December 20, 1969, which was roughly two years after the reissue of All About Radiation, Hubbard discussed brainwashing again, but added a twist. Now he defined it as the "subjection of a person to systematic indoctrination or mental pressure with a view to getting him to change his views or to confess to a crime" (quoted in Hubbard, 1976b: 55). Not only, therefore, did Hubbard believe that he knew how to force people to change their minds on vital issues, but also he thought that he could force (presumably false) confessions out of people by "brainwashing" them through severe stress. Again these insights bore fruit in the RPF environment.
Additional glimpses into Hubbard's knowledge about brainwashing comes from a March, 1969 Scientology article in the organization's Freedom newspaper. At the time of initial publication, the article entitled "Brainwashing" did not reveal its author, and only after 1992 were researchers able to verify that it came from Hubbard himself (see Church of Scientology International, 1992: 757). The article contained a long excerpt from a politically conservative writer, Robert G. Ridgway (followed at the end by Hubbard's comments), and one section of Ridgway's commentary contained a section subtitled "Nervous Breakdown." It described techniques designed to break down individuals and then build them up into the externally defined goals of the group:
'The first part in the technique of brainwashing is an artificially induced nervous breakdown, which breaks the line with the individual's past experience and casts him adrift in a sea of suggestibility. This is brought on by exhaustion, confusion, continuous physical pain, and fear and anxiety. This destroys human individuality and identity by fracturing fixed habit patterns and employing the useful fragments, cemented by suggestion, to rebuild an entirely different personality. Memory is diffused. Logic is confused, and judgement is distorted in the absence of reference and discipline. The person has lost control of his mind--it is then that suggestion is most effective. The victim is grateful to be oriented again. He appreciates any purpose or direction given to him. He feels he has been led back to sanity, [but] in reality his soul has been stolen. This was done to American fathers in Korea and their sons in Vietnam' (Ridgway, quoted in [Hubbard], 1969: ).
Similar to Hubbard's writing in the previous decade, this article identified the necessity of destroying individuality (accomplished here through inducing nervous breakdowns) and then aligning the shattered personality with officially provided purpose and direction.
Hubbard (we presume) had made a similar argument about breaking down people in the brainwashing manual of 1955. The manual stated that:
There is a curve of degradation which leads downward to a point where the endurance of an individual is almost at an end, and any sudden action toward him will place him in a state of shock. Similarly, a soldier held prisoner can be abused, denied, defamed, and degraded until the slightest motion on the part of his captors will cause him to flinch. Similarly, the slightest word on the part of his captors will cause him to obey, or vary his loyalties and beliefs. Given sufficient degradation, a prisoner can be caused to murder his fellow countrymen in the same stockade. Experiments on German prisoners have lately demonstrated that only after seventy days of filthy food, little sleep, and nearly untenable quarters, that [sic] the least motion toward the 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 (Hubbard [probable author]: 1955: 41-42).
Again, techniques involving attempted attitude changes through severe stress became reality in the RPF, which Hubbard created less than five years after publishing an article on brainwashing that contained Ridgway's comments about nervous breakdowns.
Organizational Forerunners to the RPF
During the very period when Hubbard wrote about brainwashing in the late 1960s, he also established a number of formal structures within Scientology designed to both punish perceived deviants whose job performances were deficient and train people for necessary jobs that the organization needed. Having been at sea from late 1967 (Atack, 1990: 176-177), Hubbard's punishment and training programs reflected the needs and conditions of maritime life. On January 4, 1968, for example, Hubbard created what he called the "Mud Box Brigade," which was a punishment assignment to any Sea Org member whom Hubbard determined was "a freeloader who is loafing on post and drifting with the wind" (quoted in Hubbard, 1976b: 341). The unsavory jobs involved cleaning the area where the ship's anchors dragged in mud (the mud boxes), along with "fuel lines, water lines, bilges, etc." (quoted in Hubbard, 1976b: 341). These were difficult, dirty, and somewhat dangerous assignments, but within a few years they would be taken over by inmates in the RPF's internal punishment program, the RPF's RPF.
Certainly by early 1969, Hubbard had in place two training projects--the Deck Project Force (DPF) and the Pursers Project Force (PPF), but he abolished them on March 25, 1969 (Hubbard, 1969). Apparently the DPF had trained Sea Org members on various ship duties, and the PPF presumably trained people in areas of ship finance and supply (see Hubbard, 1976b: 429). Likewise, some time before early April, 1972, Hubbard had a training program for household services called the Stewards Project Force (SPF [Hubbard, 1972a; 1976b: 501). He also had a program called the Estates Project Force (EPF), which (as we must reconstruct from a later document), did such work as painting and sweeping (Hubbard, 1977: 1). Until the advent of the RPF, the EPF also received Sea Org members for (what Scientology called) "retreading." These staff needed constant supervision, were making obvious problems, or were performing their jobs without enthusiasm (i.e., were suffering from "robotism" [Boards of Directors of the Churches of Scientology, 1977: 1]).
Former high-ranking Scientologist Jess Prince recounted what life was like on the Los Angeles EPF in late 1976 and early 1977. His entry into this program was part of his indoctrination and training as a Sea Org recruit. In retrospect, the major differences between it and the RPF was that the RPFers neither had to run everywhere, nor did they wear coloured arm bands to designate their progress in the program (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 7). The 'normal' schedule on the RPF involved renovation work (roofing, putting up drywalls, etc.) for up to ten hours a day (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 5), plus five hours of daily study. Daily study included reading Hubbard's Sea Org Executive Directive publications and other pertinent documents (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 10, 12), identifying the enemies of Scientology (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 11), and receiving instruction into the importance and (supposedly) lofty goals of the Sea Org itself (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 11). Each of the three meals took a half-hour a piece. In order to weed out "plants" or spies that Hubbard feared might try to infiltrate the Sea Org, EPFers underwent interrogations sessions (called sec-checks or security checks, that I discuss later [Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 7]), and the thirty-to-forty people on the program suffered physical punishments (such as sit-ups, push-ups, or running) for supposedly committing infractions (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 8-9).
By early 1972, Hubbard apparently reinstituted the DPF, and it had a function beyond mere training. In addition to new recruits, the DPF received Sea Org members who were questioning authority. In the peculiar logic and language of Scientology, these people had "interiorized." That is to say, "the person is finding counter-intention in the environment which coincides with his own (this is reasonableness), and his attention becomes directed to his own counter-intention rather than to his objective" (Hubbard, 1976b: 437, quoting a Flag Order from September 23, 1969 [emphasis in original]). Said plainly, these people were questioning aspects of Sea Org life, and were finding things in the external world to reinforce their internal doubts. Consequently, the DPF was "to rehabilitate and exteriorize their attention" by getting them to do work assignments (Hubbard, 1972a; see 1976b: 133). Again said plainly, the intent of the program was to get a person to stop looking inward and (re)learn to accept the orders that the organization and its leaders demanded.
With this goal in mind, Hubbard imposed a system of rewards and punishments called "ethics" on people within the DPF that paralleled the system under which ordinary Sea Org members operated. Overseeing DPF ethics was a person who had the title, the "Deck Project Force Master-At-Arms [DPF MAA]," and he or she was responsible for making "ethics real to DPF members by removing counter-intention and other-intention from the area, and by getting each DPF member to crank out products with an honest uptrending statistic" (Hubbard, 1976b: 133; quoting a Flag Order from February 20, 1972). In other words, the MAA was to remove any ideas that were out of alignment with Scientology's goals through the use of the reward-and-punishment "ethics" system. Lateness, poor work performance, negative attitude, etc., were "out-ethics" actions that warranted the MAA to assign the offender to a lower ethics condition, which involved penalties on a gradient scale of severity. The offender had to work off these hours-long penalties or "amends" after the normal eight-to-ten hour work day (see Boards of Directors of the Churches of Scientology, 1973). Supposedly the completion of these amends taught people about the consequences of not showing continual increases in the output of their jobs, which supposedly was due to personal intentions that allegedly were out of harmony with Scientology's demands. In the DPF MAA's ethics assignments we can hear the echo of Hubbard's ideas about brainwashing, which he first discussed in 1955 and elaborated upon in the late 1960s. This staff member was to physically wear down people when trying to get them to renounce their private doubts, with the goal of getting them to completely embrace the collective goals of the organization.
Apparently the DPF's regime of hard work in harsh conditions continued into the early 1980s, since the account of Birgitta Dagnell about her time on the DPF in Denmark bears remarkable similarities to RPF accounts. According to her own statement, she was among the eighty-two former Guardian Office members sent into the Danish DPF by the new leadership of the Office of Special Affairs in 1982. The crowded conditions, the poor food, the exhausting hours, the assignments involving "cleaning toilets, corridors[,] and hotel rooms[,] or some painting and construction work" (Dagnell, 1997: 3) were the same for RPF inmates in other parts of the world. So were the "gang-bang sec checks" (which I discuss later) and the demand the "we 'recognized' that we really [were] that bad and evil" (Dagnell, 1997: 4), which she experienced during what she thought were going to be auditing sessions.