L. Ron Hubbard founded the Sea Organization in 1967 to assist with advanced research operations and supervise Church organizations around the world. The Sea Organization (also known as the Sea Org) is a voluntary and fraternal order entrusted to minister the advanced services of Scientology. Its members dedicate their lives in the service of the Church of Scientology and its parishioners. In this piece from 2010, Professor Frank K. Flinn examines the history, purpose, theology, mores and practices of the Sea Org by placing it within the comparative context of other religious fraternal orders, including those in Buddhism and Christianity. His positive assessment is fruitfully informed by his own past membership in the Roman Catholic Church’s Order of Friars Minor, also known as the Franciscans. As he concludes: “As in Buddhism and Christianity, the religious order of the Sea Organization serves to exemplarily preserve and promulgate the teachings and technology discovered by L. Ron Hubbard. The goal of the Sea Organization is the spiritual survival not only of its own members and members of the Church of Scientology but also humankind and the universe itself. In that, the Sea Organization is like the religious orders of the major religions of the world.”
Frank K. Flinn, Ph.D., (d. 2015) served as professor emeritus of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he specialized in the study of new religions, Catholicism and church-state relations. His numerous publications include Interreligious Dialogue: Voice from a New Frontier (1998, edited with M. Darrol Bryant); Christology: The Center and the Periphery (1999); Religion in the Pacific Era (1999, edited with Tyler Hendricks); Encyclopedia of Catholicism (2007); and many articles on the academic study of religion, including several on the theology and practices of Scientology. Dr. Flinn graduated from Harvard Divinity School and received his Ph.D. in special religious studies from the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto School of Theology. He was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) from 1966 to 1967 and, over a career of five decades, taught at numerous colleges and universities, including Boston College, the University of Toronto (Ontario), Newton College of the Sacred Heart, and Maryville College. Dr. Flinn was a prolific lecturer and active member of the American Academy of Religion. Prior to his career in academia, he was a member of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor, popularly known as the Franciscans.