Joe Van Staden - Birth of the Sea Org, Pt. 2

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Joe Van Staden - Birth of the Sea Org, Pt. 2
Name Joe Van Staden
Period At Sea
Location Mediterranean
Year 1968

Editors Note: The following account was posted on Aida Thomas' Blog[1] and at another Internet site[2] previously and is being re-posted here so it can take it's rightful place as an important contribution to the history of Scientology. The wiki editing has added many references, links, headings and some spelling corrections to make it more readable and provide context for the time, people and places described. This is an early example of what I am calling a "3-D" view of the history...made possible by the Semantic Wiki. More pictures and other articles and pages linking into this article, will enhance the readers grasp of the topic. Contributors are needed. The insight this article provides is unique and valuable and so is now part of the LRH biography in the "Anthology" category. - Dl88008

Mission into Time[edit | edit source]

At some point Apollo wound up in Valencia Spain. Alongside was the Athena[3]. We were preparing for Mission into Time. For this venture I was transferred to the Athena as captain with orders to ready the boat and crew. I was given carte blanche to pick my crew from all aboard the Apollo and Athena. There were a few exceptions; Mary Sue[4] and a few others held key org posts and couldn’t be spared to go off “treasure hunting”. I think at this time my Wife Jill was CO of the AO in Alicante Spain. .


For my work done in getting the Athena[3] and crew ready for the Mission into Time I became the first SO member to be put in a condition of power. I guess my head would have swollen a size or two had I not known the politics behind such awards.

setting off[edit | edit source]

And this brings me to one of the most profound magical moments in my SO career; the night we sailed out of Valencia on the good ship Athena. After we had left port and the initial excitement of the crew started subsiding and all had had a good meal, most began to seek out their bunks. Eventually, around midnight, everyone apart from the crew on watch was asleep, including LRH. Inside the wheelhouse (bridge) there was only the helmsman (wish I could remember who he was) and the quartermaster (I remember her well). Up top on the flying bridge was a lookout (can’t remember who he was either). Down below in the engine room was the engineer on watch. Apart from the occasional thump of a wave against the bow and the swoosh of spray against the bridge superstructure all was quite. Once in awhile the lookout would report something.

There was a stiff breeze, but to me it felt more like the caress of some mischievous sea nymph. There were sizable waves but all they did was gently rock the Athena like a mother would her child. Wind and sea played along beautifully. As I stood outside on the bridge wing peering out into the darkness feeling the occasional salty spray on my face, I thought to myself; it doesn’t get any better than this. And so Mission into Time began.

forbidden exploration[edit | edit source]

Mission into Time definitely had its moments, much of which was not covered in the book. For instance I don’t think it is mentioned that the terrain LRH wanted us to check out was surrounded by barbed wire and out of bounds to the public. The area was also guarded by armed Italian guards. What to do? Solution; get some hot SO chick (NF) and an Italian speaking SO member (NP), arm them with a couple of cartons of cigarettes and turn them loose on the guards. It didn’t take “Laura Croft” and “James Bond” long to lure the guards into the guard hut and distract them while a couple of us jumped the fence and carried out our mission.

A week or so before completion of Mission into Time I was sent on mission to St Hill to sort out some org business. Hanna took over from me as captain. By the time I had finished this particular St Hill mission the Athena had sailed for Marseilles. There I rejoined her and was again appointed captain. Within days of resuming captaincy the proverbial shit hit the fan.

But first;

The balance is disturbed[edit | edit source]

By this time most ethics conditions had been formulated and were being implemented. But, it would be awhile yet before the mindless application of these conditions would become a dominant characteristic of many SO members. Consolidation at its worst.

Scientology (the SO in particular), being the kind of organization it was, attracted to it some strange characters with all kinds of flaws and qualities.

During the pioneering phase of the SO it was these unique personalities each with their peculiar characteristics who served as midwife and nurse to the SO. But as the child grew change became necessary – more consolidation was required.

pioneers and considators[edit | edit source]

In terms of pioneer and consolidator it is never a case of either or; in any enterprise there is always a bit of both. The real issue is one of balance. Creating a winning culture depends on the correct ratio between independent innovative and creative personnel (pioneer types) and those who keep proper records and maintain the infrastructure of an organization (consolidators).

It is my opinion that SO orientation began to tilt in favor of consolidation not long after Mission into Time and the shift really accelerated after the Corfu incident. From then on forward emphasis on total commitment to The Cause grew rapidly and individual innovation and creativity wasn’t merely discouraged it became a real no-no.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it were found that a growing imbalance in the Tech Admin ratio coincided with the rise of the consolidator (administrator).

Back to the story - Marseille[edit | edit source]

Marseille France

While in Marseilles LRH had moved ashore into a villa. Problem was he was never cleared through immigration or customs. As it happens, where the Athena was docked it was possible to go outside the harbor parameter without going through a check point. The point is, on arrival in Marseilles, whoever's responsibility it was to see that all was legal for LRH to go ashore didn’t do so. Now the authorities wanted to lock the old man up for illegally entering France. It took days of delicate negotiation with French authorities to get the situation handled – delicate from our side and typically indelicate and expressive from the side of the French. It was a feather in the cap of our negotiating team to keep LRH completely out of the fracas. I must add I doubt if we would have pulled it off without the help of the local French rep from the company doing work on our engines.

Commodore Staff[edit | edit source]

During this particular stay in Marseilles some interesting organizational developments took place. Up until then the flagship captain and other ship captains were answerable to the commodore. At that point the Athena was the flagship. What LRH was now working on was the refinement of the commodore’s staff org. Vital to its establishment was to impose and affirm seniority of the CS’s over the ship captains. I don’t know the details of what LRH told his CS’s up in the villa, but I had a pretty good idea. I had been in that position myself when briefed by him to assert the SO’s authority during the first SO mission to St Hill.

sea trials[edit | edit source]

For instance, this is how early efforts to establish the authority of the CS’s manifested. After the completion of work done on the Athena’s engine it was time for sea trials. LRH would be represented by CS 4, now in charge of all SO ships. As CS 4 walked onto the bridge I detected that he wasn’t very comfortable, in fact he was seriously uptight. Out at sea I gave the helmsman the course to steer. And then it happened. CS 4 stepped up and said we should set a different course. For a moment I thought he was just trying to be helpful; then I realized he was dead serious and in the process of asserting his seniority. What followed lasted probably only 10 seconds. The verbal abuse I hurled at CS4 in that short time would have made any sailor proud. I can’t recall him saying another word after that.

I was never censured for this outburst by the powers that be up at the villa, but I knew it was noted. Then there was the time when 2 CS’s reported to LRH that the crew was unfriendly to them – they weren’t shown the respect due to them. That was when I got a phone call from the commodore ordering me to com-ev the entire crew, which I refused.

During the following weeks several attempts were made to “legally” get me out the way to make way for LRH’s intended consolidation. I was com-ev'd a couple of times on the most transparent trumped up charges, none of which could be made to stick. (Diana Hubbard was chairperson on one of those com-ev's that didn’t get the desired result). Now you may ask; since when was false evidence an obstacle to finding the accused guilty? Suffice it to say that prevailing circumstances were in my favor.

how to get rid of Captain Joe[edit | edit source]

Exactly when this next incident took place is unclear. But, in a face to face conversation with LRH, he pointed out that he needed to introduce the next step in organizational development – not in those words exactly, but the message was clear. In order for him to do so certain changes had to be made. For instance, captain Joe’s authority had to be curtailed. And since the methods employed up to then had failed to do so – what do I suggest? My suggestion was that I go to the AO in Alicante and join my wife, the CO, whom I hadn’t seen in months. Also since I haven’t been active in Tech for sometime it would be nice to get behind an e-meter for a change. This was ok’d by LRH.

Now I won’t blame any ex SO members or those still in, to question or simply dismiss the validity of this story. Imagine LRH casually admitting to what amounts to the manipulation of ethics policy to get his way and what’s more, admitting to having failed at it. The best I can do to corroborate my story is to refer to the records. If copies of com-ev's and orders of the day of that time are still around it shouldn’t be difficult to line up the sequence of events leading up to my eventual transfer to the AO in Alicante.

flamenco dancers[edit | edit source]

My stint at Alicante was mainly uneventful. The flamenco dancing to which Fred Payer introduced me was of course amazing.

He and I and some others from the org were regular patrons at the castle up the hill where the shows took place. We were fortunate enough to become very well acquainted with the dancers and musicians in the troop. The catalyst for this was a girl from the AO for whom the lead guitarist in the flamenco troop had the hots. The result was that the troop would often join us after their show, dancers and all. What I learned first hand from these people about flamenco tradition and passion was fascinating.

Magic, coincidence, the procedure or simply the power of mind?[edit | edit source]

There was another incident at Alicante which has relevance to my views on the overall approach of Scientology to the human mind and soul. In this regard I will outline the conclusions of my journey through Scientology and a wide range of metaphysical, scientific and other teachings dealing with body, mind and soul at a later stage. So for now I am simply stating an observation with no bias as to the actual cause – magic, coincidence, the procedure or simply the power of mind.

In the course of my journey before, during and after scientology I have witnessed and experienced things which seemed, at the time, to be beyond explanation within the context of generally accepted frames of reference. This particular incident occurred during an auditing session with me as the auditor. Joan Thomas, who was the director of review at Alicante, handed me the folder of a pc in trouble. After I had gone over it and seen the pc I told Joan that this pc needed a doctor and a large doze of antibiotics. Half the pc’s face was swollen and looked like a soccer ball. One eye was completely shut and the other closed up about 70%.

The pc was in terrible agony. Joan wasn’t falling for any of my attempts to get out of taking on this pc. So EFF and I went into session. About an hour into the session during an assessment with three items left on the list I suddenly saw the TA blow down from 5 to 2. The pc gave out a loud scream, yelling out one of the remaining items. At that instant the absces in her ear burst with puss streaming out. Within seconds of the pc identifying the item the swelling began to subside and the pain was gone. By the time we arrived at the examiner EF’s face was almost back to normal. I must add, memorable as this session was, it wasn’t the only time I witnessed such dramatic phenomena as an auditor.

No doubt many auditors throughout their auditing careers have seen some strange things happen and there is certainly something to be learned from it all. As inferred earlier, I will outline my views and conclusions on such matters later.

corfu[edit | edit source]


At some point Alicante AO was closed down and Jill and I were ordered to rejoin the Apollo in Corfu Greece. Not having had a break for some time, we applied for leave, which began at Victoria Station in London. From there we traveled by train right through Europe down the boot of Italy to Brindisi. During the trip we stayed over at places like Paris and Rome to do some sightseeing. From Brindizi we crossed over to Corfu by ferry and were back on the Apollo.

A turning point[edit | edit source]

Within days of being back on board I was assigned captain. At first we had excellent relations with the locals. We were wined and dined by the local governor as well as two brothers who represented the most prominent family on the Island. In the case of the two brothers I suspect that their interest in us had more to do with the many very attractive women aboard the Apollo than anything else.


Our stay in Corfu was a lengthy one. At first we were anchored out in the bay, during which period we had to come in once or twice to dock and take on fuel and water. While LRH and his staff were busy running orgs world wide my job was pretty straight forward, hence I was always on the look out for challenges. Like the time I took up a challenge from LRH a day before we had to go into dock. Here is the thing; as I said the Apollo initially anchored out in the bay.

clearing the anchor lines[edit | edit source]

We had both, port and starboard, anchors out. So what happened is that with each incoming and outgoing tide the boat swung 360 degrees around her anchors. Imagine how entangled the two anchor chains became after awhile. The view of LRH on the day before we were to go in was that it would be impossible to untangle the anchor chains from each other without the help of a tugboat. I was to get a tug early the next morning to do the necessary.

Instead I got up very early the next day, woke up the engineers and told them to start up the engines. Once we had power I started playing with the port and starboard propellers, working them to get the boat swinging counter to the twist in the anchor chains. It worked and we went in without any assistance from a tugboat.

getting fired[edit | edit source]

At various times while serving as captain of the Athena and Apollo[5] I got fired by the commodore only to be reinstated not long afterwards. I think the least time between being fired and reinstatement was one day. This happened while on Mission into Time. I had just been fired the day before, don’t ask me for what.

Cargo Boom

The next day as the Diana[3] came alongside the Athena[3] her mainstay got caught up in the Athena’s cargo boom. There was enough of a swell to put serious strain on the Diana’s mast – it could break. This was certainly the view of LRH as he screamed at the people standing round to do something. I flipped off my shoes and virtually ran up the boom. At the top I struggled a bit to undo the mainstay from the boom and eventually succeeded. As I slid down the boom and reached the bottom LRH said, well done captain – instant reinstatement.

The time I got fired in Corfu went something like this. One of the commodore’s messengers came up to me and informed me that the commodore wanted to see me. At that point I had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong, but as I approached his office and noticed some of his aides including Mary Sue[4] avoiding eye contact with me and making haste to vacate the area I knew – here it comes.

LRH throws a punch[edit | edit source]

Before I even entered his office there he was in my face screaming at me for making a dog’s breakfast of the ship. Then he took a swing at me, I ducked and felt the swoosh of air over my head as he missed the target. For a second there I thought he was going to go down as he lost his balance. Next he screamed at me telling me to go fix up my mess. I only found out what he was talking about once I got out on deck and one of the messengers informed me.

Here is the thing; the Apollo spent most of her life up north in very damp conditions. Since she entered the Mediterranean Sea, the timber deck above the commodore’s office began to dry out. As a consequence it resulted in some leaking into LRH’s office leaving visible rust streaks down the bulkheads. The short of it is I was fired as captain, once again, and put on the deck force to fix up “my mess”.

Class VIII[edit | edit source]

It was during our stay in Corfu that the Class VIII auditor’s course was launched. (see The Class VIII Registry) First batch of students to attend the course came from outer orgs. Their introduction to the SO environment was a baptism of fire as evidenced on the introductory Class VIII tapes.

overboarding[edit | edit source]


During the course over-boards became SOP. And I must admit I had a pretty callous attitude regarding this practice until a particular incident influenced my views. In other words, I saw nothing wrong in people being chucked off the aft deck until a friend of mine who couldn’t swim was over-boarded. The terror and humiliation this guy had to endure was a sad day for me.

Once the first batch of class 8 graduates went back to their respective orgs, a bunch of SO auditors were put on the course of which I was one. Now I have no doubt that for some being thrown overboard was not a pleasant experience. However, there were quite a few to whom it really was no big deal. To good swimmers and people used to diving off high places, it was no problem. But as I said, I came to realize that to people who couldn’t swim it must have been a most harrowing experience.

university of Scientology[edit | edit source]

Not too long after the class 8 course for crew Jill was assigned CO of the new “University of Scientology” which was to be established on the island.

It is a matter of record that we picked up some problems in Corfu. To whatever extent the CIA or Interpol was blamed for the ships being kicked out of Corfu there were some shenanigans by certain crew members going on ashore which probably contributed to our PR taking a dip.

AODK[edit | edit source]

It is also general knowledge that we were given 24 hours to get out of Greece. LRH called Jill to his office and asked her what she was going to do with “her org”, which was already fully staffed and ready to open for business. I suggested that we set up in Copenhagen. Why? I had been there at some point earlier on another ship buying mission during which time I checked out the place and liked it. So we loaded the org materials aboard the Athena and sailed out of Corfu. Our next port was Naples in Italy where the future AODK crew and materials were offloaded to find their way across Europe to Denmark. As for the Apollo, we where informed that she was about to disappear off the radar and will be out of comm. for some time. It was a case of don’t call us we will call you.

lost OT materials[edit | edit source]

The trip by train to Copenhagen was another Keystone cops episode. Imagine changing trains several times with around 30 staff members along with huge trunks filled with AO materials. A couple of places we only had a few minutes to change from one train to another. When we got to Germany, we discovered some trunks filled with OT materials and course tapes including the class 8 tapes were missing – we had left it on the train in Milan. Don’t ask. If you have been around in the SO for awhile words aren’t necessary here.

Mike Stainsforth and one other were immediately sent back to find the stuff. Imagine our relief when they caught up with us having successfully retrieved the material. The coach with our stuff still aboard was found amongst hundreds of others awaiting cleaning and possible maintenance.

Having found the perfect building for an AO on a farm outside Copenhagen we set up shop. Soon however we realized we had a problem.

finding public[edit | edit source]

Simple fact was we had no established lower level feeder orgs – we had no established field. Yet it was up to us to make things go right. With very limited set-up funds, a crew to feed, rent to pay and no established field from which to cultivate an AO public, things looked kinda grim. Keep in mind there was only one org in Europe at that time. Paris was it with not much else going on. We were supposed to get our public from SA, AUS and NZ, but that would take time.

In spite of this grim picture what follows next turned out to be another memorable period in my SO career. Knowing that the org was in the hands of some very competent people I could get out there and do my thing. Jill was without a doubt one of the best org CO’s I have ever known and I bet few equaled her since. Ask anyone who knew her.

first "Tours", raiding St. Hill[edit | edit source]

First I spent some time putting a team together. I personally hand picked and recruited the people I wanted to work with. The team consisted of about 8 really special people.

Using a list of book buyers, a couple of us regularly set out making contact and setting up groups all over Europe. And we made it fun. On occasion we would “raid” St Hill UK for European, South African and Anzac pc’s and students – people who had signed up for services there before AODK was set up. As you can imagine this didn’t go down well with the St Hill guys. Eventually every time they saw us coming all they could say was; here come the Vikings.

Of course the Guardians Office freaked at our blatant Viking behavior and later tried to clip my wings via Mary Sue[4]. They never succeeded. .

"Captain Bill" Robertson. aka "CBR"

At some point a mission arrived from Flag to replace Jill and me at AODK. It was obvious to me that after such a long absence Flag had to reaffirm an ethics presence across the planet. In the case of AODK the mission immediately realized that they couldn’t simply fire us in typical SO fashion due to our involvement in the expansion of Europe. Jill and I suggested that we write our own mission orders so as to complete what we started. This was ok’d. That’s when the two of us left for Germany and set up the Munich org from were we continued expansion to other parts of Europe. Now I know much later after Jill and I had gone back to South Africa Bill Robertson came along setting himself up as the “founder” of Scientology in Europe. Gerrrrrrrrrr.

Time to move on[edit | edit source]

I returned to the Apollo in the early 70’s without Jill, not sure exactly when. My last job on Flag was an LRH project to compile all the internships up to Class XII auditor, which I completed. At the time it wasn’t general knowledge that LRH intended to get back into the USA at some stage. When I got wind of it I began pushing to be allowed to return to SA to my family; my wife and son who was born in Munich. It wasn’t entirely true that the reason I wanted to get back to SA was to be with my family. My enthusiasm for the SO was beginning to wane. I felt increasingly uncomfortable in what I perceived to be a changing atmosphere – the organizational climate was becoming a bit too chilly for me. This on its own would probably not have been reason enough for me to distance myself from Scientology. The thing is, I was beginning to have my own ideas about thetans, spirits and the overall nature of consciousness.

In the end I managed to get back to SA before the Apollo went across to the States.

FOLO AF[edit | edit source]

Back in SA I joined FOLO AF, but from day one I had problems with my seniors, or rather, they had problems with me. To cut a long story short; during my stay at FOLO AF I was expelled a couple of times by Flag and reinstated a couple of times. Some effort was made by Flag to get me back to Flag. On one occasion Delwyn Sanderson, with whom I had a very close relationship way back on the Apollo, was sent to find out what was up with me and try and bring me back.

Eventually I left FOLO AF and started doing my own thing. If I had to put a time on when I finally broke with Scientology I guess it would be around 1980. Since then I have continued on a journey of exploring the nature of consciousness.

my book[edit | edit source]

Just recently I finished a book – CHANGE YOUR MIND – CHANGE YOUR WORLD, which I am now in the process of trying to get published. But that is another story.

What a waste![edit | edit source]

I have gone down the list of declared SP’s, the vast majority of whom I don’t know. But of the names I do recognize most of them were at one stage dedicated, experienced, well trained Scientologists. They all added value to the organization and most of them would probably still have been active had it not been for the seriously flawed benchmarks (policy) in accordance with which the value of a staff member is measured.

In simple terms, these people were measured not by what they gave to the organization but by the extent of their submission to “source”. The individual contribution by many was considerable; in some cases vital to the survival of the organization. Some such stories have been told but many more remain unacknowledged.

The matter of self-praise and ego aside, I did my bit to “keep the SO afloat” so to speak.

The only known video of the Apollo, LRH & crew[edit | edit source]

Filmed in 1968. See IMDB listing for this documentary. Pretty lame attempt at an "Expose" from a 2012 perspective, but historically valuable. Dl88008 11:01, 8 April 2012 (MDT)

wasted talent[edit | edit source]

In the final analysis, what I am trying to say is that the organizational mindset of Scientology is inclined to waste its most valuable resource; highly trained, experienced and creative people. Looking at most of the people I know on the list of Scientology enemies I see “what could have been” had different benchmarks been used to measure the value of people.

Was it worth it?[edit | edit source]

Do I think my time spent in Scientology was worth it? Without a doubt. Where else would I have come in contact with so many like-minded amazing people, many of whom became close friends of mine. Not to mention the interesting adventures and exotic places I experienced. As for the philosophy and technology of Scientology, for me it definitely served as a doorway to the exploration of consciousness.

I believe the real value of Scientology lies in its capability to get a shift in mindset – to get people to change their minds – to enable the individual to see things differently – to get people stepping outside conventional frames of reference. And that is one hell of an achievement in this modern era.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Joe Van Staden, 2010

an opinion[edit | edit source]

What I do not go along with is when the technology prescribes what the individual should see, as reflected in the OT levels and OT 3 in particular. In other words, the OT levels dictate the case the pc is to create. And this messes with the core of consciousness, which is creation. If a pc came up with OT 3 phenomena on his own accord that would be an entirely different matter, but to prescribe it is bypassing his fundamental creative nature.

Whether the story behind OT 3 is true or not is immaterial. Some pc’s may be inclined to run incidents of Alice in Wonderland instead, but if that’s the reality which holds the pc’s attention then that’s where to go. Anyway, that is my personal opinion.

L Ron Hubbard has come under some severe criticism over the years, some of which I know from personal experience is unfounded.

This I know for sure, he had an amazing knack for getting people to achieve beyond what they believed was possible. His expectation that people can jump higher than they thought they could somehow inspired them to do so. And no, fear was not the catalyst in the instances I have in mind.

As far as his work in terms of the mind is concerned there can be no doubt that new ground was broken. It is highly probable that once the controversy surrounding Scientology organizations die down he will be acknowledged for his contribution.

But there are “truths” beyond the “truths” of Scientology.

Joe van Staden

related articles[edit | edit source]

references[edit | edit source]

[3] [5] [4]