Review of IJCAM’s Scientology and NXIVM Comparison: The Eternal Commitment: Scientology’s Billion-Year Contract

By Paul Serran

The parallels between Scientology and NXIVM have, of late, been the object of some scholarly studies in the International Journal of Coercion, Abuse, and Manipulation. In my last article, I reviewed professor Stephen Kent’s “Comparative Reflections on Scientology And NXIVM”.

Another interesting and informative study from the Journal focuses more on the Church’ of Scientology is The Eternal Commitment: Scientology’s Billion-Year Contract” by Phil Lord, from Montreal’s McGill University, in Canada. In fact NXIVM is not mentioned at all.

Lord has a legal background, but has a keen interest in religion, and especially in new religious movements.  Founded some 70 years ago, he points out, Scientology stands out, even among new religious movements, as a very recent religion.

“Scientology has […] garnered a great deal of attention in recent years, and its behaviour has been covered (and decried) in national outlets reaching millions of people, such as CNN and A&E.”

Often quoted in the media, the ‘billion-year contract’, Lord writes, is signed only by Scientology’s most dedicated, full-time members: the Sea Organization.

The naval theme of the Org comes from Ron L. Hubbard’s decision to live in his fleet of boats as ‘Commodore’.

The ‘Commodore’ in one of the boats of his fleet.

“Hubbard’s experience in the Navy [during the Second World War], along with the fact that vessels in international waters are not subject to any domestic laws, explain Hubbard’s decision to move to his vessel.”

+++

Scientology describes the billion-year contract, in its website, as follows: “The first Sea Organization members formulated a one-billion-year pledge to symbolize their eternal commitment to the religion and it is still signed by all members today. It is a symbolic document which, similar to vows of dedication in other faiths and orders, serves to signify an individual’s eternal commitment to the goals, purposes and principles of the Scientology religion.”

The author reminds us that the Sea Organization “is not a legal entity. Scientology describes the Organization as a religious order constituted of the most dedicated Scientologists. […] Sea Organization members work long hours, and all of their expenses, including housing, are paid by the Church.”

The ‘public Scientologists’ lead a fairly normal life and “may be considered in good standing even if they do not dedicate hours per day or week to the study of Scientology, [but] Sea Organization members are expected to study Scientology scripture for several hours every day.”

A contract with the duration of a billion years may be hard to enforce. 

The ‘contract’ is deeply related to the training programs Hubbard instituted. Phil Lord quotes a study by Stephen Kent that states that 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.”

Also according to Kent, like Raniere in NXIVM, Scientology used ethics as a compliance tool. “Hubbard’s ‘ethics’ system, would “address ‘counter-intention’: Lateness, poor work performance, negative attitude, etc., were ‘out-ethics’ actions that warranted [assignment of] the offender to a lower ethics condition, which involved penalties on a gradient scale of severity.”

Discipline was taken seriously at the Sea Org/ image HBO ‘Going Clear’

“This staff member was to physically wear down people,” Kent describes, “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.”

When reflecting about the Billion-Year Contract, Lord ventures the opinion that that it “is both much more and much less than it appears.”

“[T]he word contract carries with it a legal meaning, which is likely misused”, Lord’s paper goes on to quote the legal precedent: “To create a contract there must be a common intention of the parties to enter into legal obligations, mutually communicated expressly or impliedly.”

“Contracts also strengthen a relationship, giving it an official and binding nature.” Phil Lord writes. “They give us certainty and alleviate our fear. We know that a failure to uphold the relationship would be a breach of the contract—and carry some consequences. The contract is simultaneously a recognition of our fear, the fear that others will take advantage of our trust and deceive us, and an aid to alleviate this fear.”

The so called ‘billion-year contract’ is, therefore, about the relationship that unites Scientologists to their religion. A relationship marked by extreme loyalty, and of great importance to the religion. A relationship for the ages, as we see.

The billion-year contract “is a reciprocal commitment wherein the members commit themselves to the organization, while the organization recognizes the members’ importance to its flourishment.”

Hubbard wanted the loyalty of his devout followers for a billion years.

The contract symbolizes and strengthens a commitment: one of a religious nature, uniting a religious organization to an unpaid clergy member.

“Although members of other religions would most likely see their relationship to their religion as eternal […]” Lord points out, “Scientology chooses to reinforce, recognize, and officialize this commitment by using what it calls a contract.”

However, there is this real-life fact, as the author remind us: “An employment contract that provides for no remuneration is invalid. A contract with such a long term is, similarly, invalid.li But to say that the billion-year contract is invalid within the mainstream legal system is somewhat beside the point.”

Scientology, the article clarifies, “has its own legal system, which operates independently of the mainstream legal system.[…] One’s commitment under the billion-year contract is never extinguished.”

But what if a member of the Sea Org reneges the contract? Lord states that “[t]he potential consequences include the imposition of a freeloader bill, under which former members of the Sea Organization are retroactively billed for the free services they received while they were in service.”

But in the world of Scientology, of much greater impact to the member than pecuniary consequences is excommunication.

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Taking a closer look at this billion-year commitment, we can think of it as far more than simply a contract. “The billion-year contract can be thought of as an implicit yet significant affirmation of the legitimacy and independence of the legal system that exists within the Scientology religion.”

Phil Lord makes his legal investigation in search of an understanding of the religious dimension of this shady and secretive organization. “Studying religions helps us understand religious individuals whose religion is an intimate and central part of their lives. As we understand these individuals and what drives them better, we also begin to also better understand the human experience.”

By looking at Scientology and its structures, we can learn to deal and understand the many ‘cults’ and new ‘religions’ and their alleged methods of coercion, manipulation and abuse. That is necessary to navigate this brave new world filled with organizations promising to improve our lives, but delivering an eternity of self-harm.

***

Here are some attractive recruitment and promotional images for Sea Org.

 


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Paul Serran

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  • How is it any different than a Catholic monastery with insane conduct rules and discipline, etc? People probably shouldn’t join religions, but, if they do, I don’t understand how it’s not their own fault. The stalking and harassment of critics are not acceptable, of course, but internally people have a right to join any organization they please. In fact, I would consider SeaOrg more of a legitimate organization than the US military.

    • It’s completely constitutional.

      Did you ever stop to think that the mask is not like a seatbelt doesn’t protect you it protects other people from you.

      I could give a rats ass if you don’t wear a seatbelt and you die — I do care if you wear a mask and you kill somebody.

      Why should you be able to put other peoples lives at risk?

      The seatbelt doesn’t put anyone’s life at risk why don’t you protest that!!

  • Paul-

    As always I enjoyed this article. You and Claviger are my 2 fav contributors. And Joe O’Hara a close third.

    We may not see eye to eye on conspiracies, but I just wanted to say you are one helluva of a writer.

    • I don’t even remember what your first two articles were about but remember the fact that I thought “this guy is a fucking good writer.”

      I was impressed Frank found you.

      • NIce Guy, it really means a lot to me. You are most kind, and it really does not matter if we agree on everything. Being the reasonagle person you are, we can always have constructive conversations.

  • Good read!

    There are a number of glaring similar between Scientology and NXIVM.

    One of the most effective tools in keeping people disciplined (i.e., controlled) which is done in the Navy, Scientology, and Nxivm is keeping people incredibly busy.

    Mark Vicente spoke about how busy he was kept. Endless work assignments. The navy is not some insidious organization, but keeping men regimented keeps them under control. After all, an idle mind is the devils playground.

    Below is an article that shows directly how Scientology used the navy’s regimented program to control a young woman and I use her as slave labor:

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4102600/Cruise-partied-Scientology-ship-girl-cleaned-sewage.html

    I’m not anti-military. I support the military but facts are facts. All militaries throughout the world must keep their forces disciplined.

    • The Navy is an insidious organization, it exists to make people ignorant and obedient, it’s funded by theft and it exists to implement murderous imperialism. The vast majority of all government activities are violent crime and fraud.

  • Mr. l. Ron Hubbard – is the greatest man who ever lived. Woke up and see it. Fools a billion years a long time ? Billion years is short. Christian hell is eternity that is more than eternity.

  • Completely intellectually understand and believe that, “anyone can be vulnerable to a cult”.

    But simply cannot fathom being around so many people all the time. By choice!? It’s draining just to think about it. Never being alone. No personal, private space.

    Or even thoughts. In most of these groups.

    That’s enough to break a solitude loving individual, right there. That constant suffocating presence of others. And the burden of the group.

    And without privacy you can’t have romance or any deep relationship with an individual.

    Flipping it around: Is this what people are actually drawn to? Being with other people all the time? Life time vows and commitments to never part ways?

    Does that provide some manner of comfort or security for them?

    Do they sacrifice autonomy just to “belong” to a group? Is that the drive? Tribalism?

    And all of these rules and the structure? Is that a false sense of having some control over the unpredictable world?

    Truly, trying to understand. Because as unconventional as these cults may be presented in practices – they really are as constricting and stifling as the most needlessly strict and punitive societal structures.

    The hell on earth of that kind of constant contact (texts that must be answered in the middle of the night for no good reason is an example) daily checking in, mandatory social events. Spilling your guts and talking through everything. Just a non starter.

    That’s without even factoring in the order following. The lack of boundaries. And all the obligations. And one ultimate authority? Here on earth? That everyone takes so seriously and cannot question? Not. A. Chance.

    These cults always seem to be about preparing for living a life instead of actually living life.

    Why not just learn by doing as humans have for time immemorial?

    Yeah, you might make some “mistakes” but could any of those mistakes be more of a mistake than joining a cult?

    And at least they would be your own mistakes. Not the mistakes of the group. Or the leader.

  • Nice hat.

    From Wikipedia’s entry on “Commodore” L. Ron’s naval career:

    Hubbard was commissioned as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Naval Reserve on July 19, 1941… While in Melbourne awaiting transport to Manilla, Hubbard was hsent back to the United States. The U.S. naval attaché reported, “This officer is not satisfactory for independent duty assignment. He is garrulous and tries to give impressions of his importance. He also seems to think he has unusual ability in most lines. These characteristics indicate that he will require close supervision for satisfactory performance of any intelligence duty.”[64]
    After a brief stint censoring cables, Hubbard’s request for sea duty was approved and he reported to a Neponset, Massachusetts, shipyard which was converting a trawler into a gunboat to be classified as USS YP-422. On September 25, 1942, the commandant of Boston Navy Yard informed Washington that, in his view, Hubbard was “not temperamentally fitted for independent command.”[65] Days later, on October 1, Hubbard was summarily relieved of his command.[64]
    Hubbard was sent to submarine chaser training, and in 1943 was posted to Portland, Oregon, to take command of a submarine chaser, the USS PC-815, which was under construction.[66] On May 18, PC-815 sailed on her shakedown cruise, bound for San Diego. Only five hours into the voyage, Hubbard believed he had detected an enemy submarine. Hubbard spent the next 68 hours engaged in combat, until finally receiving orders to return to Astoria. Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, commander of the Northwest Sea Frontier, concluded: “An analysis of all reports convinces me that there was no submarine in the area.”[67] Fletcher suggested Hubbard had mistaken a “known magnetic deposit” for an enemy sub.[64]
    The following month, Hubbard unwittingly sailed PC-815 into Mexican territorial waters and conducted gunnery practice off the Coronado Islands, in the belief that they were uninhabited and belonged to the United States. The Mexican government complained and Hubbard was relieved of command. A report written after the incident rated Hubbard as unsuitable for independent duties and “lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership and cooperation”.[This quote needs a citation] The report recommended he be assigned “duty on a large vessel where he can be properly supervised”.[68]

    After being relieved of command of PC-815, Hubbard began reporting sick, citing a variety of ailments, including ulcers, malaria, and back pains. Hubbard was admitted to the San Diego naval hospital for observation—he would remain there for nearly three months.[64] Years later, Hubbard would privately write to himself: “Your stomach trouble you used as an excuse to keep the Navy from punishing you. You are free of the Navy.”[20]
    In 1944, Hubbard was posted to Portland where USS Algol was under construction. The ship was commissioned in July and Hubbard served as the navigation and training officer. Hubbard requested, and was granted, a transfer to the School of Military Government in Princeton. The night before his departure, the ship’s log reports that “The Navigating Officer [Hubbard] reported to the OOD [Officer On Duty] that an attempt at sabatage [sic] had been made sometime between 1530–1600. A coke bottle filled with gasoline with a cloth wick inserted had been concealed among cargo which was to be hoisted aboard and stored in No 1 hold. It was discovered before being taken on board. ONI, FBI and NSD authorities reported on the scene and investigations were started.”[69][64]
    Hubbard attended school in Princeton until January 1945, when he was assigned to Monterey, California. In April, he again reported sick and was re-admitted to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, Oakland.[64] His complaints included “headaches, rheumatism, conjunctivitis, pains in his side, stomach aches, pains in his shoulder, arthritis, hemorrhoids”.[70] An October 1945 naval board found that Hubbard was “considered physically qualified to perform duty ashore, preferably within the continental United States”.[71] He was discharged from the hospital on December 4, 1945, and transferred to inactive duty on February 17…

  • A billion years is a long time for a contract.

    There’s an old saying, “If you tilt America over all the loose nuts will roll over to California.”
    L. Ron Hubbard is a prime example of the truth of this saying.

    Hubbard was born in Nebraska and grew up in Montana.
    After dropping out of George Washington University and “serving” in the US Navy Hubbard ended up in California where he met up with the Satan worshiping lunatic Jack Parsons.
    Parsons was a follower of the British Satanist Aleister Crowley.

    At this point in the narrative it would be instructive to note Hubbard’s World War 2 naval career.
    Wikipedia has a whole entry about Hubbard’s naval career.
    Hubbard was the Commander of a sub chaser USS-PC-815.
    Without orders Hubbard sailed his vessel into Mexican waters and started shelling the South Coronado Islands.
    The only problem for Hubbard was that during World War 2 America was not at war with Mexico.
    Hubbard was removed from command.

    Hubbard’s military career was replete with instances of pathological lying, insubordination and hypochondria.
    L. Ron Hubbard is the spiritual father of Keith Raniere.
    Hubbard survived in the Navy because his father was a long-time Naval officer.
    Military career of L. Ron Hubbard
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_career_of_L._Ron_Hubbard

    Hubbard and Parsons cooked up a scheme to buy a jointly owned boat in a business partnership.
    Hubbard ended up stealing both Parsons’ money and Parsons’ wife.
    Books about Parsons and Hubbard’s antics are “Strange Angel” and “Sex and Rockets”

    What can I say about L.Ron Hubbard?
    Hubbard was a bigamist who abandoned his first wife and children.

    What did Hubbard’s oldest son say about him?

    “Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, Jr., Hubbard’s eldest son, had been an active participant in the early days of Scientology. In 1959, he left Scientology and later took the name Ronald DeWolf.’

    “In the mid-1980s, DeWolf gave a series of sworn statements and interviews detailing his father’s history. DeWolf explained his father had been “deeply involved in the occult and black-magic.” According to DeWolf, Aleister Crowley’s death in 1947 was a pivotal event that led Hubbard to “take over the mantle of the Beast”. DeWolf claimed that “Black magic is the inner core of Scientology”, arguing that “my father did not worship Satan. He thought he was Satan.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology_and_the_occult#Ronald_DeWolf_statements

    Here is a handy chart that shows where Scientology comes from and the groups that spun off of Scientology.
    Note NXIVM is listed as a Scientology spin off.
    Hubbard’s beliefs and practices, drawn from a diverse set of sources, influenced numerous offshoots, splinter-groups, and new movements.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._Ron_Hubbard#/media/File:L._Ron_Hubbard_influences.png

    • Actually the “burnt over area” including Albany is the birthplace of cults in America. Look it up.

      To this day they have many cults there currently. Like the gun guarded Chinese horse dancing show Epoque Times producing arranged marriage weirdness cult.

      But, yah, California’s got a few too.

  • “An employment contract that provides for no remuneration is invalid.”

    This is a fancy way of saying “slave”. Not sure why the writer keeps dancing around core, clarifying words about the cult.

    The Sea Org is Scientology’s slave labor class. It’s for the workforce that maintains the cult’s infrastructure/day-to-day operations and also punishment for those that failed the cult’s leadership get disappeared to in various private locations the cult owns. The work is really whatever the leadership wants, be it building, farming, cleaning, waiting hand-and-foot on the rich/influencers of the org, etc. It’s why member celebs have such warm feelings about the cult: their experience is basically paradise because the slaves make it so.

    Technically, the slaves do get a form of payment besides religious “education”. It’s just that their “payment” is a minuscule deduction off their constantly growing debt since every class, material, food, the cult-owned places they stay, etc. is charged against them. The “freeloader bill” is not really “retroactively billed for the free services they received while they were in service.” but more of just the cult saying “you owe us all your accumulated debt right now.” They been maintaining that bill the whole time after all, easy to do when you have a slave labor class for such purposes. That and diligently recording every required confession session to “go clear” (think removing sinful thoughts) sure brings with it a whole lot of collateral (familiar?) to use against members thinking of leaving.

    He also probably should have clarified the Scientology version of ex-communication. It’s not the same as other religions. It’s not just kicking you out of it like with others. Its also forbidding any current and future member from ever associating and communicating with them. This includes friends and family. Ex-communication means, from the perspective of the cult members, that the person no longer exists. Yes, this does include sibling vs sibling, parents vs children, and so forth — and there are no exceptions (See Tom Cruise’s severed relationship with his daughter).

    • Leaving the Sea Org and breaking your billion year contract usually does result in a freeloader bill as you describe. The “punishment’ that goes with that bill is that you become ineligible to receive any scientology services, such as auditing and training to be an auditor, until the freeloader bill is paid in full.

      Excommunication is done through what is called “Declare”, as in formally declaring the ex member as a Suppressive Person, and then “Expulsion” from the Church. That’s when everyone the Church has power over is told to disconnect from you. This disconnection decree sometimes works for them, and sometimes doesn’t.

      When I was declared, I was not allowed to see my formal SP declare because they knew if I got my hands on that yellow piece of paper, listing all my “crimes” and high crimes”, I would post it on the internet. I described the place above my fireplace where I would frame it, light it, take a picture of it as a badge of honor, and prominently place it on my blog, too.

      So they had friends and family of mine come in to the org individually to be secretly shown my SP declare Each was told to disconnect from me. My Ex wife laughed in their face. My sister and brother in law told them to go to hell. Nobody in my family, and most of my friends, never disconnected from me.

      They were then told that if they remained connected to me that they themselves would be declared suppressive people, too. No one cared and they didn’t move forward with that threat because my ex wife was a big donor and they needed her money and my sister and brother in law were needed as paying customers.

      They’ve all since left Scientology and we laugh about it, and them, to this day.

      As an Ex Sea Org member, you don’t automatically get declared excommunicated unless you do what I did – get on the Internet and start exposing them with all you’ve got. Then you get declared. But they know that if you do that, they really have no power over you. They have to try any way. It’s L Ron Hubbard’s policy.

      Alanzo

      • Alanzo,

        This kind of information is much more effectively presented as you have written in the above comment.

        Without the name calling and derogatory labels and adversarial vibe that you have expressed in the past.

        I would actually read all your comments and posts if they were more in this vein.

        Thanks.

        • I watched what happened to Suneel here in the comments section on the Frank Report.

          Suneel could not have been more logical, rational, more mannerly and more polite.

          And he got completely savaged.

          “Turning the other cheek” makes you run out of cheeks real fast. I know that to survive in an environment like this, when you get punched in the face, you have to punch back just as hard, or harder. Or you’ll just give up.

          And die for another day.

          Been around a long time. I know the deal. So while it might not be pleasant, neither are the beatings you take when you try to tell the truth against tribalist assholes on the Internet.

          I understand and appreciate what you are saying. And I wish I could really write what I feel – because believe me it would be much more pleasant to read,

          But that’s not the environment we’re in. And so when I’m able to eek out a safe enough environment, to tell a little bit of my story, the human part of it, I try.

          Thanks for noticing.

          Alanzo

      • Your personal story is interesting, Alonzo, and benefits enormously from a lack of stiff binary argumentation: point/counterpoint etc. that you use to defend your more general claims. I think your position is interesting but undermined by the use of the very glib assumption patterning that you accuse others of. This could be just a question of clumsy rhetorical skills? Would really appreciate hearing more about your own struggle—it sounds intense.

        • Thank you, Habeus.

          I’ve been doing this a long time. In the last 7 or 8 years, the ‘dead agent’ (Scientology character assassination) campaigns have been outsourced from Scientology to ‘Anti-Scientology’. You’ve probably seen them here on this blog. People coming on to say that I ‘work for David Miscavige’, that I’m a “crank”, or that I’m ‘insane’.

          When in fact I’m just an old guard critic of Scientology, they ay they used to be before Mike Rinder arrived, trying to expose the criminal activity critics used to try to expose about Scientology before they were seduced by TV shows, and book promotions, and everything else Mike Rinder’s Celebrity Scientology has used to control Scientology criticism.

          Scientology criticism has been derailed to the point where a prominent Scientology critic in Clearwater told me that “Scientology can not be prosecuted”.

          Remember the last episode of the first season of Scientology and the Aftermath when Mike Rinder had set up a meeting with Leah Remini at an attorney’s office to find out what could be done legally about the Church of Scientology?

          It was the climax/cliff hanger of the Emmy award winning first season.

          Do you know what the answer to that cliff hanger was on Episode 1 or Season 2?

          • No. Please let me, us know. I’ve always had a suspicion regarding Scientology’s so-called anti-cult movement.

  • Thanks, Paul. I really appreciate your work here. I want to digest it before commenting further. Very interesting…

About Frank Parlato

Frank Parlato Investigates

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg; “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson; “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been featured prominently on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and acted as lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” He was credited in the Starz docuseries, 'Seduced,' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato has appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest, which was ironic since many credit Parlato as being one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

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