Astra Woodcraft Interview

Part Two

"Joining the Sea Org"

Video Interview - January 20, 2001


Transcript of Part Two

Astra: I knew in the back of my mind that I was making a mistake. But I just kind of, you know, like, I was just kind of pushed along into it.

Stacy: But, I mean, generally speaking…

Astra: They told me the only reason I was not joining was my reactive mind, which was controlling me and telling me not to do it. Because your reactive mind stops you from doing good things and this was a good thing. And I couldn't confront and take the responsibility to do it because of my reactive mind. So, I should be bigger than my reactive mind and go and do it. So, so then I was, like, "Oh, yeah. I don't want my reactive mind to control me so I better do it."

Zoe: They use virtually any tactic from yelling to…they'll show you, like, newspaper clippings of horrible things that have happened in the news and say, like, "We try to stop this and ever since we've been working on this area," you know, "the crime has gone down and we've helped all these families." And you think, "Oh God. You know, I'd be such a horrible person if I didn't go in here and help them out." And then say, "I would just be irresponsible in not doing my duty towards all of mankind." (laughs)

Lawrence: That's exactly what…and they also show you that L. Ron Hubbard wrote saying, and it was written in 1970, and it said, "In 30 years, the planet won't support human life." And then they told us the only reason it still is supporting human life, 'cause this is in, I don't know, '93, so we had seven years to go. But the only reason it's made any improvement is because of Scientology and if we don't keep going, the planet isn't even going to be able to support life. So, you have half of me going, like, "I can't let my reactive mind control me," and half of me going, "I have to help mankind." And then part of my was going, "Oh, wow! I'm going to get paid money and don't have to wear a uniform. It's going to be so fun. And these guys are going to…I'm going to work with them. They said I get to work with them." So, the next day, I started. And I started what's called the Estates Project Force, which is boot camp. And my schedule was something like get up at 6:30, breakfast at 7:00, 7:30 we had, like, a muster…like a staff meeting thing then we had to, you know, drill and do military marching and stuff. And then you had to run around and empty trashcans until 8:00. And then I had to study Scientology material, five hours straight…just, like, what your attitude should be like, about ethics, about things like that.

Stacy: Mm-hmm.

Astra: Then the rest of the day was work. You'd have half an hour for dinner. The rest of the day was work. And I had to clean pots and pans, mop floors, clean out a broken, clogged toilet.

Stacy: What about school?

Astra: No school.

Stacy: What you mean?

Astra: No school. (laughs)

Stacy: You're 14 years old!

Astra: Yeah but you don't. They don't send…they sent me to school afterwards, not very much anyway but I'll get into that. But no school while you're on the Estates Project Force, just the five hours of Scientology study. Some people are on for months. I was on for two weeks because I was able to study the courses quickly. But for those two weeks, the rest of the time I was working and then we'd do drilling, more drilling, more marching.

Stacy: Drilling of…

Astra: Like, they would have, like, the Code of the Sea Org Member and we'd have to repeat it and learn it. So we knew it verbatim. We'd have to march. We'd have to salute. Things like that. So that went on for two weeks. I finished. I went to start working at Bridge Publications. The day I started working there, they told me, "You're being temporarily transferred." (interviewer laughs) I was, like, "No, I'm not." And they're, like, "You have to. You have no choice because you haven't enough staff status. You have to complete some courses before you have any rights as a staff member." Which, even when you complete the courses, they can still transfer you.

Stacy: Of course, the people that are telling you this aren't the same people that recruited you.

Astra: No. No. They said, "It's just temporary. It's two months. You'll be right back." So I agreed to it. I said, "Okay. I can take it for two months." Then I had to wear a uniform. And I went to work as the International Justice Chief's Administrator. I was, like, their secretary. See, International Justice Chief is the one who is responsible for declaring people Suppressive Persons, which means, you know, no one in Scientology can speak to them anymore if they've done something wrong. Doing Committees of Evidence, which is Scientology's way of, like, it's, like the court system in Scientology, etc. So, I was in charge of writing letters and putting all the stuff together and things like that. And I did that for a couple months. And then while I was working there, they said, "You're being permanently transferred to the International Training Organization." Now, I knew…see, each organization is separate but it's all part of the Sea Organization, so it's all one. But each one is separate and they have to make their own money and support their own staff. So, I knew this organization, particularly, they weren't making any money. The staff were eating refried beans and rice every day. That's the thing in the Sea Org…if you're in trouble, you're not, like, making money, you eat refried beans and rice every day and water. And that's all you get.

Stacy: They didn't give you anything else?

Zoe: It's called the rice and beans thing…you got rice and beans…

Astra So, they were on that meal every day and the staff were getting paid $15.00 a week, I think it was. They were on, like, half pay or quarter pay.

Stacy: This is at the International Training Org?

Astra: Yeah. So, I said, "There's no way I'm going to work there. I've done nothing wrong and all of a sudden I'm going to be paid nothing and have to eat beans and rice." So they said, "You have no staff status. You have no choice." My mom, it's funny actually because I thought I was going to be able to work with my mom or close to her.

Stacy: And where was she working?

Astra: Well, she was working in that building that I got transferred to. But, as soon as I joined, she got sent away on what they call a mission to go and handle an organization in Mexico. So, she was down there the whole time. So, I tried to call her to get her to help me but I could never get through to her. And she wouldn't have been able to help me anyway 'cause it's, you know, out of her jurisdiction. So, I refusing and refusing and they said, "You have no choice." And I was going to get into big trouble so I had to agree and go along with it.

Stacy: And what would big trouble have meant?

Astra: It would have meant lower conditions, which…

Stacy: What does that mean?

Astra: You get, like, penalized. You have to do amends, do work on your own time to make up for what you've done. You have to get everyone's permission to come back into the group. You have to, you know, do, like, soul searching and find out, like, what you've done wrong and what kind of person you really should be. And it's horrible. It's, like, you get this, like, label put on you. Like you're a bad person until you handle this. And people know and you can get other penalties. You can't get any time off. Your meal breaks get shortened. You can have some of your pay taken away, things like that. Like, all of your privileges, what little you have are gone. So, no one likes that.

Stacy: Yeah.

Astra: So…

Stacy: I can imagine.

Astra: So, I agreed and I had no choice and I became the receptionist. And I was the receptionist for about six months. And during this time, I started having a relationship with a man there named Jason Merrill and he was seven years older than me. But you're not allowed to do anything. They have a policy. You're not allowed to do anything other than kiss before you get married. If you do anything else, you're in really, really big trouble. Like, going on the Rehabilitation Project Force, which is hard labor for several years. So, you can't do anything. So, you're pushed imMediately to get married as soon as you start any kind of relationship, you're told, "You better get married before you get in trouble. You have to get married. You have to get married." So…
Zoe: Didn't someone, like, see you in the hallway kissing him and they said, "Get married!"

Astra: Yeah. "You better get married!"

Zoe: Yeah. So…

Astra: "You better get married now!"

Stacy: Why is it like that do you think?

Astra: They have the idea-they have polices on it-that the whole area of, like, relationships and sex is very messed up, is very aberrated, they call it. And that people aren't responsible enough to deal with it. And they don't want to look bad as a church. Having people having sex. I mean, I can understand. I was 14, I shouldn't have been doing anything anyway. So, if they had a rule that the minors can't do that or something, that's a great rule. You know, the minors should not be going around having sex. But it was for everybody. And it also was, like, nothing more than kissing so you weren't allowed to experiment. You weren't allowed to grow up. You weren't allowed to do anything. If you wanted to, like, do anything, you had to get married first. So, that's all so ridiculous. The policy states that L. Ron Hubbard supposedly wrote states that it's for public relations reasons that no one can do anything until they get married . So, a month after I turned 15, I was off to Vegas and got married. 'Cause I had no choice.

Stacy: At 15?

Astra: Yeah. And also, before you get married, you have to live in a room with other people. I was in a room that was maybe 8 by 10 feet, maybe 8 by 12 feet with six people. That was where we lived. We had 3 bunk beds…

Stacy: How? (laughs)

Astra: We had 3 bunk beds here, 3 bunk beds here and a dresser in the middle. That's all that fit and then a dresser over here and that's all that fit in the room. And it didn't have a bathroom. We had to go to, like, the main shower hall and take a shower. So, that's horrible. But if you get married, you have to wait and then you get your own room. So, that's, like, a luxury, your own room. So, it's another reason to get married. So, so…a month after I turned 15, I was married. And my husband was 22. And then I got transferred to another job, which was called the Master at Arms. And that's the person who is in charge of ethics.

Stacy: That's called an Ethics Officer.

Astra: Yeah. An Ethics Officer, like, enforcing ethics on people. Like, assigning people lower conditions, making them do amends, doing inspections, finding the bad people in the organization, etcetera.

Stacy: And is this in the International Training Org still?

Astra: Mm-hmm. And also, the International Training Org trained people in Scientology's administrative technology from the lower organization so I was also responsible for all the students. When I…'cause then I got promoted to the person who was over that entire department of, like, security and ethics for the staff and the students.

Stacy: And what's that called?

Astra: That's called the Director of Inspections and Reports. So, my first (laughs), my very first job…my very first assignment when I came onto that job was…there was a man who was about 40 years old, he was a staff member…his wife had been sent to Florida. She had been gone for a year or two on training. And he hadn't seen her and he had admitted that he had masturbated or been masturbating.

Stacy: And how…where did that come up? How did…

Astra: He admitted it.

Stacy: How did that information come up?

Astra: He got in trouble for something and he admitted it or he was getting a confessional and admitted it. That's how it comes up. And so I was 15 and he came to the office and I had to handle him. So it was, like, the first day, I think or the second day I started working on this job. And I had to tell him that he couldn't masturbate. I had to have him read a policy where L. Ron Hubbard says masturbating is bad. And I had to get him to figure out how not to masturbate and…

Stacy: You're 15 years old?

Astra: Yeah. I'm 15…I was so embarrassed. I didn't even know what I was doing and I'm telling this 40 year old to not masturbate. And it's the most embarrassing thing in the world! No one's allowed to masturbate. Masturbating is a big issue. You get in big trouble. You won't get promoted. No masturbating, you know. Even if your wife's gone or you're a young kid or anything, no masturbation is allowed. It's really frowned upon. You're considered aberrated. You're considered, like, messed up if you masturbate.

Stacy: And this is in policy by Hubbard?

Astra: Yeah.

Zoe: In books too.

Astra: Yeah. He says masturbation is bad because it re-stimulates sexual pictures. I never really understood what that meant but it was really bad. Yeah, it was a really bad thing to do. So that was always a big issue and I had to handle plenty of people for that over, you know, the period of working there. But that was the first one. And then I had to handle a girl who wanted to leave, to convince her to stay. I had to handle a lot of people for a lot of things but some of the main things were staff members who wanted to leave. It was a big issue.

Stacy: How did you convince them to stay?

Astra: Just get them to realize that they were wrong. You know, have them read policies where it says, "If you leave the Sea Org, you are a degraded being." You know, and the only…these are policies L. Ron Hubbard has written. "If you leave the Sea Org, you are a degraded being. The only reason you leave is because of your own withholds and your own crimes." And you'd wear people down. You have to get them to go into confessionals and admit what they've done. Read policies saying that they're wrong. Tell them, yell at them. As soon as you say you want to leave, you're put onto hard labor. You're not allowed to leave until you got permission. It takes six months to a year. And they're just worn down over time 'cause all the staff sneer at you. You're referred to as a degraded being.

Stacy: How did you personally feel about…if they came to you and said they wanted to leave.

Astra: I wanted more than anything to say, "By all means, go. Take me with you!" (laughs)

Stacy: Why didn't you?

Astra: Because I would get in such big trouble. 'Cause if I just up and left, my family would never speak to me again. My mom, my grandma, my brother. So, I wasn't about to do that. If I sided with them and said, "Go ahead and leave." They wouldn't be able to leave and I'd be in big trouble, you know? I'd be in ethics. I'd, you know, I'd just be…

Stacy: You'd be doing hard labor…

Astra: It's very hard to describe but it's…you're, like, in constant fear of people finding out about what you're thinking. Of people, like, knowing that, you know, knowing that you've done something wrong and you don't want anyone…you're just in fear all the time of people finding out about you. Of people finding out the thoughts you've had. If you think about leaving then you have to withhold that forever. And if you tell them, then you're in big trouble and…

Stacy: So how did you deal with having all these thoughts that you didn't want anybody to know?

Astra: Well, I did get to the point where I wanted to…I just wanted to kill myself 'cause I just…I was so…I felt I was so trapped. I couldn't leave. I couldn't possibly leave. And I couldn't stand to stay. And I felt I had all these things I wasn't telling people that I had done that were wrong. I was such a bad person and I thought…

Stacy: Did you have any friends that you could confide in?

Astra: You can't…I couldn't…I never told my husband. We were married for 4 and a half years. And I never told him once that I was unhappy. And he never knew that I was unhappy.

Stacy: Why? What were you afraid he would do?

Astra: He would have to report it imMediately. He would have to report what I told him. Any friends…he'd have to report what I told him. You know, say, I told my dad. My dad wouldn't have reported it but then, I would have this withhold as they call it that I had done something really wrong. And then, I'd end up having to…'cause they have things called E-meters. It's like a lie detector. And you really think that these will find out what you've done wrong so you're in constant fear of them finding out. So, you can't even say, well, I can think these things and they'll tell them…you're in constant fear that they're going to find out what you're thinking.

Stacy: But you were holding these fairly high posts so you must have done a really good job of appearing to be a very good Sea Org Member.

Astra: You know, when I ended up leaving, people were very surprised because I was considered a great staff member. I produced a lot. I got awards, you know. And everyone was just shocked because I did do a very good job of…I just learned how to, like, not say anything. And I have trouble now, like, expressing my feelings, telling people how I feel. I'll get upset and I won't say anything.

Stacy: Yeah.

Astra: Because that's what I've learned to do for, like, five years or longer, really but…and now, I have to, like, force myself to say, "well, actually, you know, that upset me." Because I just…I think that's why I don't ever say I'm upset or I'm having bad feelings or anything.

Stacy: Right. What about you, Zoe?

Zoe: I was just going to say that in the Sea Org, you sort of have to police your own thoughts. Like, you think, "Oh…I can't think that! I cannot think of that thought!" But then you do but then, you're, like, "Oh no!" And you kind of, like, slap yourself around mentally. I mean…

Astra: It's really weird.

Zoe: It put me under so much stress, like…

Stacy: Trying to…

Zoe: Yeah.

Stacy: …trying not to have these thoughts.

Zoe: Yeah. You could have a relaxing day and just go to the park but all the time you're still struggling mentally to not think certain things and to, you know what I mean? Like, it just…you could never be at rest or relax about your own mind.

Astra: Like, I could never admit to myself that I actually didn't want to be there. I would say, 90 percent of the staff there, if you said to them…if they are, you know, if the management said to them, "You guys can leave right now. No strings attached. You won't get in trouble." They would go. They would just be gone.

Lawrence: I spent, like, two years in the Sea Org and I had a similar experience, you know? I just wasn't happy. But I would think to myself…I would look at my wife. I would look at other Sea Org Members and I would think, "Well, they're happy."

Zoe: Yeah.

Stacy: Yeah.

Lawrence: You know, they're on purpose.

Astra: Something's wrong.

Lawrence: I remember at least two occasions I went to Ethics and I just made a clean front of it. And I thought, "they will fix me so that I am on purpose, with the program and happy." And I would just…I confess everything, I say, "I'm not happy. There's something wrong with me. Would you give me something that would fix me and make me happy?"

Zoe: Wow!
Lawrence: And I did that on two occasions.

Zoe: To confess! I would never do that!

Lawrence: And they would say, "Yes, you do these conditions." You know, "work with these lower conditions. Do extra MEST work," you know. And then they'll give me a whole bunch of references to read. "Just read through all of these and you'll be fixed." And I would work through this program and work through it. And, like, I wasn't feeling better. And then eventually, I would just fake it and say, "Okay. Yeah. I've run through those programs. I feel better now. I'm ready to continue." And then it would go back to worse than it was because then, I thought, "Well, I can't go and tear my…

Zoe: I know.

Astra: Yeah.

Lawrence: …myself through and there's no hope. What do I do now?" And you're more trapped.

Stacy: Yeah.

Lawrence: So, it's a horrible, horrible feeling.

Astra: It was similar for me because I never wanted to admit it. But so many people had admitted it to me and I had given them those programs and those handlings to do and they would be happy for a while. They would do just what he did and say, "Okay, I'm fine." And then a month later wouldn't be able to take it anymore and would come back and say, "I want to leave" again. So, I knew it was the same thing that was going to happen to me. So, I was just hoping that one day it would change. 'Cause I thought it was something wrong with me. "There must be something wrong with me if everyone else here is so happy and doing so well and this is such a great thing. And we're making the whole planet…we're saving mankind. Something must be wrong with me."

Stacy: But what's interesting is, you're acting like you're fine because you don't want anybody to think there's anything wrong with you. And you're looking around seeing everybody else acting fine. And you're believing that they really are doing fine…

Zoe: Yeah! (laughs)

Stacy: …but they're probably all doing the same.

Astra: That's why I said, if you said to the staff, "Go ahead. Leave. You won't get a freeloader bill. You won't get in trouble. You won't be looked down upon and just leave now," they'd be gone.

Zoe: I remember hearing about PC's like that all the time. It would be, like, "Oh. They're rollercoastering."

Lawrence: Mm-hmm.

Stacy: Oh, Yeah.

Zoe: Yeah. They're rollercoastering or, like, PTS…or like they're so…

Stacy: Potential Trouble Source.

Zoe: Yeah. Giving them these ideas and stuff, so. I would always hear that, like, if someone says, "I want to leave," then they change their mind. And it would go on for, like, years. And then, people say, "we need to get them just finally handled and get them to decide to stay. I mean, give me a break. They're ridiculous. They're stupid people." It was like that. That was the attitude.

Astra: Another thing that I was afraid of is they have an expression called external influences. And that's anybody you are family or friends or otherwise who aren't in the Sea Org who speak to you and in any way have an effect on you that may make you want to leave. Or even if you're not saying you want to leave…you're perfectly happy. But if they're giving you gifts, talking to you more than once in a blue moon, spending time with you if you get the day off. Then, they're an external influence.

Stacy: External to the Sea Org?

Astra: Yeah. External…

Stacy: External to Scientology?

Astra: They could be a Scientologist.

Stacy: But…external to the Sea Org?

Astra: They're very… 'cause they…it's…they have a hard time getting new staff and then they have people leaving. So, they are, like, they've got to hold on to the people they have. And that's a big thing there…external influences. They regularly do investigations to find out who has an external influence on their lives. My dad was considered an external influence especially because he had been in the Sea Org and left. He was still considered a Scientologist but he was…one of my seniors used to say, "your external influence called for you."
Stacy: You're kidding!

Astra: Meaning my father. I was told later on…a year before I left, I was told, in no uncertain terms, I cannot see him. I am not allowed to see him. Unless I am getting him to go back into the Sea Organization, I am not allowed to see him.

Stacy: (To Lawrence) Let me just clarify this. You were out of the Sea Org…

Lawrence: I was out of the Sea Org but I was…

Stacy: And you were still behaving yourself?

Lawrence: I was still an active Scientologist. I was still paying…

Astra: Still paying, but in their eyes…

Stacy: Money for services so I was…

Astra: But they have a policy that says…

Lawrence: I was part of the program still.

Astra: "Anybody who leaves the Sea Organization is a degraded being, whether or not they continue in Scientology." They could continue in Scientology; they could give a bunch of money; they could do everything. They are considered a degraded being and that's kind of a red flag over their head. So, if Astra is not doing well, red alert…external influence.

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