Free Zone Scientology and Other Movement Milieus: A Preliminary Characterization

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Free Zone Scientology and Other Movement Milieus: A Preliminary Characterization

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FREE ZONE SCIENTOLOGY AND OTHER MOVEMENT MILIEUS
267Rathbun and Steve Hall that has thus far aracted supporters composed
almost entirely of people who left the Church of Scientology in recent years.
Beyond mutual support and providing information about the Church, the
focus of the association appears to be to initiate a reformation of CoS fromthe outside (Rathbun 2012).
Discussion
While the cultic milieu has been a handy analytic notion in our theoreti-
cal toolbox for more than four decades, there have been surprisingly fewaempts to modify or extend the basic idea into related milieus.
9
A coretrait of most religious subcultures that seems to have thrown subsequent
theoreticians o the trail is the
primary organization
, which generates manyof the parameters of a specic movement milieu. This characteristic con
-
stitutes a signicant departure from the cultic milieu, which coheres as asubculture largely because of more generic structural traits, such as the
seekership ethic.
However, and unlike the cultic milieu, the traits of dierent movementmilieus can vary considerably. Thus, for example, in the post-PrabhupadaHare Krishna milieu, some former ISKCON devotees did a complete end
run around ISKCON by connecting with other teachers in Prabhupada’s
spiritual lineage back in India (Rochford 2009, 269–73). This kind of strategy
is clearly not an option in most movement milieus.
Additionally, in his
Hare Krishna Transformed,
Burke Rochford drew on
Fantasia and Hirsch’s articulation of the notions of ‘free spaces’ and ‘social
movement havens’ (1995) to discuss the oppositional social spaces created
by devotees who had left or become marginal to ISKCON. This is a usefulnotion for discussing certain
porous
(discussed below) movement milieus.
It is not directly applicable to an organization like CoS, which enforces asharp boundary between commied Church members and
Freezoners
(i.e.,
there is no part of the Free Zone actually ‘within’ the Church of Scientol-ogy in the same sense in which other organizations contain ‘free spaces’).
Similarly, Eileen Barker’s contribution to David Bromley’s
The Politics of
9 Jerey Kaplan and Leléne Lööw edited an anthology built around Campbell’s classic
piece that appeared in 2002. Contributors to this collection wrote about various movements/
subcultures that could be examined in terms of being like or as being part of the cultic milieu,
with a particularly strong set of chapters on the racialist subculture. Many of the authors were
top scholars who composed brilliant pieces, but few tried to think through their respectivetopics in terms of Campbell’s notion. One notable exception was Bron Traylor’s discussion of
the cultic milieu and
bricolage
among marginalized social movements (Taylor 2002).


JAMES R. LEWIS
268
Religious Apostasy
(1998) contains an insightful analysis of marginal members
and marginal member ‘niches’. Of particular relevance for the current discus-sion is her discussion of the networks – which constitute a particular typeof movement milieu – that emerge from associations of marginal members
with peripheral members, ex-members and, in some cases, core members.Barker notes that, as these networks mature, they may even begin to publish‘Semi-underground newspapers’ and, in more recent years, create Internetforums – communication networks that, as discussed by Campbell, are es
-
sential for holding together what are otherwise decentralized, anarchistic
subcultures.Fantasia and Hirsch’s notion of free spaces within a movement and thenotion of networks at the margins of an organization are analytically useful
as ideal types, but empirical reality is messier. Such ideal types representpoints in a spectrum that contains a complex variety of dierent possibilities.Thus, for example, Rochford’s discussion of the free spaces within the Hare
Krishna movement makes it clear that the phenomenon he is discussing
is not contained within the movement proper but, rather, extends outsideorganizational boundaries entirely, and is thus quite similar to – if not actu
-
ally the same as – Barker’s idea of a marginal network.Some movement milieus derive from a set of dierent-but-related stable
primary bodies (
stable
in contrast to the ephemeral groups that character-
ize the cultic milieu) rather than from one primary body. In other words, a
movement milieu can form around a group of organizations with similarideologies and praxes that are independent from one another in the sensethat they did not derive as schisms from a single original organization.
Rather, an earlier historical-cultural connection has made them similar
enough so that they can together set the parameters for a milieu. As noted
above in my discussion of the mystery religion milieu, it is the presence of
these stable organizations – acting together as a sort of distributed primary body – that makes such subcultures more than simple subsets of the culticmilieu. The Hindu Guru milieu and the Hellenistic mystery religion milieu
are examples of this variant paern. If we were to extend the astronomicalmetaphor, these would be referred to as
binary
or
multiple systems
.
The Scientology Free Zone is instructive because of the variety of dier
-
ent secondary organizations that spun o of the original CoS, from smallinformal groups to larger, structured organizations. In this particular mi
-
lieu, secondary groups seek to establish their legitimacy by appealing tothe primary’s original teachings which, they claim, have been corrupted
by Hubbard’s organizational successors. The Avatar Course represents a

FREE ZONE SCIENTOLOGY AND OTHER MOVEMENT MILIEUS
269very dierent kind of response, one that aempts to make a new start by
repackaging the basic Scientology system and distancing itself from itsorigins in the Church of Scientology – thus removing itself from the FreeZone subculture entirely.
Even without disguising their origins, secondary organizations can
grow and recruit substantial numbers of new members who were never
participants in the original primary group. Thus, for example, Ron’s Orgcurrently has a stable base of European members, the majority of whom
were never CoS Scientologists – though the original Ron’s Org memberswere almost exclusively ex-CoS. Secondary organizations also occasionally
enjoy substantial success in terms of numbers of new participants, to the
point where they challenge and are able to grow beyond their primary. The
Art of Living Foundation, for example, has overtaken the TM organization
in terms of numbers of followers. (Tøllefsen 2011.)Whereas the original cultic milieu’s network of communications as
described by Campbell was maintained by subcultural magazines, news
-
leers, informal meetings and the like, communication networks within
contemporary movement milieus have come to be dominated by the variousmeans of communication available on the Internet. The extent of Internet
penetration varies, with some milieus maintaining the more traditional
modes of communication mentioned by Campbell alongside the Internet.
Other subcultures, such as the Satanic milieu, are, with some notable excep
-
tions, almost entirely Internet milieus.
It should also be pointed out that some milieus are more porous than
others. By porous, I mean uid boundaries so that participants cross withlile or no diculty from one group to another. Some individuals might
even participate in several groups simultaneously. Thus within what was
earlier designated as the Hindu guru milieu, one can pass comparativelyeasily from TM to, for example, the SYDA Foundation or the Sivananda Yoga
Vedanta Organization. Other milieus are less porous. The larger Scientol-ogy world is a striking admixture of porous and extreme non-porous – a
subculture that allows relatively easy passage within the Free Zone proper,
but which also erects a rigid barrier between the Church of Scientology andindependent Scientologists.
In some subcultures, members of the primary body actively participatein the milieu and interact with ex-members, participants who were never
members of the primary and members of secondary bodies. In many other
spiritual subcultures, there is lile or no participation by members of theprimary body. And in the case of the Free Zone, the CoS’s only participation

JAMES R. LEWIS
270has been as a hostile critic and a propagator of ‘black propaganda’ (Hubbard
1986 [1976], 47) against ex-members and secondary organizations



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