Aled Thomas

Free Zone Scientology


1938:  L. Ron Hubbard constructed the Excalibur manuscript, documenting his near-death experience and claim of esoteric knowledge concerning the human goal of survival.

1948: The Original Thesis, Hubbard’s early writings on Dianetics (his theory of the human mind), was circulated amongst friends and the science-fiction community.

1950:  Hubbard’s theories were publicly outlined in Astounding Science Fiction magazine and published as a bestseller: Dianetics: Kev Tshawb Fawb Txog Niaj Hnub Nyoog ntawm Kev Puas Hlwb.

1954:  Hubbard opened the first Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, California.

1965 (February 7):  Hubbard published his Keeping Scientology Working (KSW) policy, outlining an orthodoxy of Church management and practice, effectively forbidding the practice of Scientology outside the institutional hierarchy of the Church of Scientology.

1965 (February 14):  Hubbard released the Safeguarding Technology bulletin, condemning the practice of squirreling (practising Scientology outside the Church of Scientology).

1982:  Captain Bill Robertson left the Church of Scientology, resulting in the first major Scientologist schism.

1984:  Robertson founds Ron’s Org, the first major ‘Free Zone’ Scientologist group.

1986 (January 24):  L. Ron Hubbard died.

1987: David Miscavige succeeded Hubbard as the leader of the Church of Scientology, becoming the Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center.

2008:  Channel 4 (U.K.) aired The Beginner’s Guide to L. Ron Hubbard documentary, with a specific focus on Ron’s Org and Scientology outside the Church.

2011:  Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun’s encounters with the “Squirrel Busters” (a group of Scientologists accusing him of squirrelling) went viral, drawing media attention towards the notion of Free Zone Scientology.

2015:  Marty Rathbun was featured in Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie.


Zoo ib yam li cov Lub Koom Txoos ntawm Scientology (CoS), Free Zone Scientology’s history can be traced back to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology and developer of the ”tech,” the spiritual technology that constitutes Scientology praxis. [Image at right] Unlike the CoS, which was established and led by L. Ron Hubbard for the remainder of his life, the Free Zone (also known as “Independent Scientology”) is characterised by its schismatic nature. L. Ron Hubbard founded and managed the CoS, not the Free Zone. “Free Zone Scientology,” a particularly broad umbrella category referring to a wide range of groups and individuals, is the result of disaffiliated members of the CoS choosing to practise Scientology outside its institutional and hierarchical structures.

While the Free Zone/Independent Scientology may seem to be a relatively recent development in Scientology’s history, examples of Scientologist schisms can be traced back to its early years, perhaps most notably “Dianology” (later known as “Eductivism”), founded by Jack Horner in the 1960s, a prominent early member of the CoS (Cusack 2016:488-89; Melton n.d.). These early schisms sparked several attempts by Hubbard to maintain control of the tech and withhold its use outside the parameters of the CoS, which (as we will see below) have become the most dominant factor in the divisions between the CoS and Free Zone. Despite various examples of schismatics in the early years of Scientology, scholar of religion James R. Lewis notes that there are two major schisms of Scientologists leaving the CoS: (i) a schism led by Captain Bill Robertson in the 1980s and (ii) more recent defections in the early twenty-first century, often in protest against David Miscavige’s leadership of the CoS (2016:468).

It is with the early 1980s schism that we see the emergence of the ‘Free Zone’ as it is currently understood. This schism is closely tied with L. Ron Hubbard’s withdrawal from public life, during which managerial duties of the CoS were handled by the newly founded Church of Scientology International in 1981 (Rigal-Cellard 2009:326; Thomas 2021:28). Hubbard’s absence in public life raised concerns amongst some Scientologists regarding the ways in which the CoS was run, including its handling of the tech, which was largely regarded as a precise series of practices that are to remain unaltered from Hubbard’s original vision. Indeed, concerns regarding Hubbard’s whereabouts led to a range of theories regarding his control of the CoS.

These range from speculation that Hubbard had been forced out of the CoS to conspiracies that he had died in the 1970s and been replaced by a doppelganger (Thomas 2021). As these disputes regarding the institutional nature and policies of the CoS continued, it was under the leadership of Captain Bill Robertson (affectionately referred to as “Captain Bill” or “CBR”) [Image at right] that many Scientologists left the CoS to practise outside its hierarchical authority, and through whom the term “Free Zone” entered Scientologist discourse.

Captain Bill Robertson was a high-ranking member of the CoS. Indeed, the only member (other than Hubbard’s wife, Mary-Sue) awarded the status of ‘Captain’ by Hubbard in the Scientology Sea Organization (Sea Org), the ecclesiastical order of advanced Scientologists (organized and presented in a naval structure) (Thomas 2021: 27; Westbrook 2019: 140). Robertson was a charismatic figure in his own right, whose close friendship with Hubbard became quite alluring for the Scientologists feeling increasingly disenfranchised by the CoS. Moreover, Robertson claimed that he met confidentially with Hubbard in the 1970s, during which he was told to begin practising Scientology outside the CoS should he fail to receive frequent contact from Hubbard (Gregg and Thomas 2019: 354; Hellesøy 2016: 450). Concerned by what he perceived as Hubbard’s absence from the CoS, and his lack of success in communicating with him, Robertson became convinced that the institution had been infiltrated by American government agents with the intention of seizing control of Hubbard’s tech and its potentials (Ron’s Org Committee n.d.).

Free Zone discourses suggest that it was during this period that Robertson also claimed to have been in communication with the Galactic Grand Council (an organization of extra-terrestrials), which addressed him through an “Official Decree” claiming that the planet Teegeeack (Earth) was now free from interplanetary interference, and therefore a ‘Free Zone’ (Galactic Patrol n.d.). Urging Scientologists to protect their copies of Hubbard’s texts from government bodies, Robertson left the CoS in 1982 with the intention of continuing his practices as a Scientologist outside the Church. He founded Ron’s Org in 1984, [Image at right] a network that aims to practice and disseminate Scientology according to its vision of Hubbard’s “true tech” (known as “Standard Tech”). Ron’s Org continues to exist as the the largest Free Zone Scientologist organization, with centres found across Europe (notably Switzerland) and within Moscow (Hellesøy 2016:452). It is with the work of Captain Bill Robertson that the term “Free Zone” entered Scientologist nomenclature, yet it is important to note that Robertson’s “Free Zone” is one specific vision of Scientology, and the term is now commonly used to encompass the entirety of Scientologist groups/individuals existing outside the CoS. Moreover, the term has recently been rejected or disputed by Scientologists who have left the CoS in more recent years, particularly the early twenty-first century, in favour of terms such as “Independent Scientology” or “Indie Scientology” (Lewis 2016; Thomas 2021).

The more recent Independent Scientologists (‘Indies’) are marked by their departure from the CoS during the leadership of David Miscavige, who has led the CoS since the death of L. Ron Hubbard in 1986. Holding the role of Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center, which maintains copyright control of Hubbard’s tech, Miscavige is an administrative leader responsible for “the standard and pure application of L. Ron Hubbard’s religious technologies” (Religious Technology Center n.d.) across CoS Orgs worldwide. Various CoS initiatives under Miscavige’s leadership, however, have drawn criticism from Independent Scientologists, particularly those who accuse the CoS of altering Hubbard’s texts and practices following his death. Many in the “Indie scene” lay claim to an authentic practice of Standard Tech (as we will see below), drawing a distance between themselves and the CoS and indeed some of the Free Zone groups of the 1980s (Thomas 2021).

Unlike Ron’s Org, which acts as a more structured organization, “Independent Scientology” is a largely loose series of networks of Scientologist auditors (those who conduct “auditing,” the core practice of Scientology) and Scientologists notably enabled by the Internet to connect with one another and disseminate confidential Scientologist texts. As scholar of religion Carole Cusack (2016:503) notes, Hubbard could not have anticipated the advent of the Internet, and the ways in which it allows his teachings to be easily transferred outside the institutional and financial regulations of the CoS. Indeed, Free Zone/Independent Scientologist networks have used the Internet to disseminate Hubbard’s texts free of charge, regardless of breaches of the CoS’s copyright and potential litigation (Schorey 2016).

While we can identify two clear offshoots from the CoS which make up the “Free Zone” (broadly conceived), the largely unregulated nature of many Scientologies found outside the CoS result in diverse, contested, and innovated practices, largely developed by Scientologists unrestricted by organisational structures. Accordingly, Free Zone Scientology can be understood as a “fluid social environment” (Thomas 2021:5) wherein Scientologists can adapt and develop aspects L. Ron Hubbard’s tech to their preferred methods, often in contrast to his attempts to establish an orthodoxy of practice and belief within the CoS (Westbrook 2019:124).


In a similar fashion to the CoS, the core of Free Zone Scientologist practice is the “auditing” process (often referred to as “the tech”); ‘a hybrid of secular-scientific and religious methods, aiming to improve the current existence of the self by addressing engrams [traces of anxieties and neuroses] from the current life and all previous lives’ (Thomas 2021:46), based on Hubbard’s theory of Dianetics: his theory of the human mind. Publicly introduced in his bestseller, Dianetics: Kev Tshawb Fawb Txog Niaj Hnub Nyoog ntawm Kev Puas Hlwb (Hubbard [1950], 2007), Dianetic theory and auditing found popularity with an American market, prompting Hubbard to become a popular speaker on the subject. Simultaneously, he established the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation to manage a series of Dianetic groups, through which practitioners could receive auditing sessions (Melton 2000:9).

A typical auditing session takes place between a Preclear (the patient being audited) and a trained auditor, who guides the Preclear through a series of question-and-answer exercises usually based on previous experiences. The aim is to remove the Preclear’s engrams from the “engrams bank,” a part of the brain Hubbard named “the reactive mind” (Harley and Kieffer 2009:185), allowing them to overcome mental trauma. Once all traces of engrams have been removed, the patient is believed to achieve the state of Clear, defined by Hubbard as “the optimum individual” ([1950], 2007:494). “Going Clear” is believed to empower the individual, allowing them to approach the challenges of everyday life in a more successful fashion. This core approach to auditing remains the same, both within the CoS and Free Zone, to this day. However, the subsequent religious inflection Hubbard would attribute to the auditing process has added further nuances and procedures to the practice.

Initially, Hubbard positioned Dianetics as a purely scientific endeavour, stating that “Dianetics is a science: as such, it has no opinion about religion, for sciences are based on natural laws, not on opinions” (Hubbard, cited in Urban 2011:57). As Dianetics continued its surge in popularity, Hubbard noted an increasing number of Preclears claiming to recall memories of past lives during their auditing sessions, examples of which are contained in his volume, Have You Lived Before This Life? ([1960], 1989). Whilst exploring these testimonies he introduced the concept of “theta beings” (or thetans), the spiritual self, positioned within Scientology as the “true self” in control of the human body, and trapped within the physical universe (Hubbard [1956], 2007; Thomas 2021:56). From this point onwards, Hubbard considered auditing to be a process that treats both the human mind and the spirit, marking the establishment of “Scientology.” The practice of auditing accordingly made the transition from Dianetic auditing (the treatment of the mind) to Scientology auditing (the treatment of the thetan) (Gregg and Thomas 2019:352). Scientology auditing is also distinguished by Hubbard’s “Bridge to Total Freedom” (the “Bridge”), a series of hierarchical levels a Scientologist will traverse during their spiritual development. Following achievement of the state of Clear, as per Dianetic auditing, a Scientologist is expected to continue their “journey” up the Bridge through a further series of levels, known as the “Operating Thetan” levels (The Church of Scientology International 1998:99). These levels are intended to allow the Clear to become spiritually independent, allowing the thetan to gain full control of the mind, body, and physical universe. Attitudes towards the Operating Thetan levels in the Free Zone are varied, however, with more organised Free Zone groups (such as Ron’s Org) making use of the OT levels, while independent auditors often focus on the state of Clear and place an emphasis on this-worldly results of auditing (Thomas 2021:86-88). It is worth noting here that most Scientologists (within the CoS, at least) are Preclears, with Westbrook (2019:35) estimating that around ninety percent are yet to “go Clear,” thus residing at the lower half of the Bridge.

For many Free Zone Scientologists, auditing and the concept of Scientology are interchangeable; to “do” auditing is to “do” Scientology. The fluid nature of the Free Zone, however, presents complexities surrounding how auditing should be practised, in addition to varying interpretations of the spiritual nature of the process. Further to complications surrounding belief, individual interpretation and innovation has resulted in contested methods of practising auditing. As we will discuss below, this has resulted in boundaries between not only the CoS and Free Zone, but within the Free Zone itself.

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Debates surrounding authenticity and innovation in the practice of auditing are the dominant factor in the emergence of different types of Free Zone Scientologies (Thomas 2021:95). On the one hand, some Free Zone Scientologists attempt to preserve what they view as the correct version of Scientology, while on the other, a significant number of Freezoners (enabled by the lack of hierarchical authority) have developed highly individualised forms of auditing practices which deviate from the original works and intentions of L. Ron Hubbard. These changes are typically undertaken to make auditing a more efficient process, resulting in some Freezoners amending and customising Scientologist techniques to develop their own version of Scientology (Thomas 2021).

These innovations are best exemplified by the E-Meter, the core object used during auditing sessions. Also known as the “Electrometer” or “Hubbard Electrometer” (Hubbard 1982:6), the E-Meter is a technological device that is used in the detection and removal of engrams during auditing sessions. [Image at right] It consists of a main processing unit connected to two tin-cylinders. The cylinders (referred to as “cans” in Scientologist vernacular) are held in each hand by the individual being audited, while the auditor (who is trained in the use of the device) operates the main unit. In a similar fashion to the “Dianetic auditing” practice outlined in Dianetics: Kev Tshawb Fawb Txog Niaj Hnub Nyoog ntawm Kev Puas Hlwb, the auditor will guide the Preclear through the regular question-and-answer exercises related to experiences of trauma. In “Scientology auditing,” however, the auditor also operates the dials of the E-Meter and monitors the movement of the tone arm as it responds to the answers of the Preclear. The device, measuring the galvanic skin response of the Preclear, is believed to allow the auditor to hone in on (and remove) engrams more efficiently (Bainbridge and Stark 1980:132; Harley and Kieffer 2009:196-97).

While various iterations of the E-Meter have been released both within and by the CoS (the most recent being the Mark Ultra VIII), each “meter found within the CoS is claimed to be developed through original designs by Hubbard, including those released posthumously (Thomas 2021:134),  drawing further from the notion of Standard Tech according to Hubbard (as explored below). Free Zone Scientology, however, has a far more nuanced approach to the device. Some Freezoners, insisting on an individualised application of the tech, do not see the E-Meter as a necessary part of Scientology, while others have taken more “DIY” approaches to the device, leading to an online marketplace of customised and modified E-Meters. These meters, which boast a variety of additional features beyond the remit of what is typically considered Standard Tech, point to the ways in which auditing, and the notion of “what Scientology is,” is contested in Free Zone spaces.

Beyond modified E-Meters, the advent of the Internet has been instrumental in the development of Free Zone auditing practices. In a contrast to Hubbard’s established auditing method, which was strictly developed as a face-to-face activity between an auditor and a Preclear, many Free Zone auditors offer their services online, using video conferencing platforms (such as Zoom) to conduct their sessions. These auditing sessions often avoid use of the E-Meter altogether. However, recent Free Zone practices have involved the use of digital E-Meters, often developed as apps, which read the responses of the Preclear on a computer screen (without the use of the “cans”). For many online auditors, who are often operating outside organised Free Zone groups, their practice of Scientology does not concern the more esoteric elements of Hubbard’s work (such as the OT Levels), and instead concentrate on mental health, self-development, and the goal of “going Clear” (Thomas 2021:88).

This does not mean, however, that the Free Zone consists of entirely of loose networks of independent auditors innovatively altering Hubbard’s work. There are significant discourses outside the CoS concerning Standard Tech and its preservation. A substantial portion of Scientologists outside the CoS insist on adhering to and protecting Standard Tech, as both a critique of the CoS (which it views as now practising an altered or distorted version) and maintaining a method they view as infallible. Recent CoS initiatives, such as the Golden Age of Technology, have been heavily criticised amongst Free Zone circles, with some claiming that CoS auditing has been made less efficient, more time consuming, and further from Hubbard’s original vision as a result (Thomas 2021:115-16). Notably, however, there are within the ‘Free Zone’ (encompassing all Scientologies outside the CoS) regarding Standard Tech, particularly between divisions the aforementioned Free Zone groups associated with Captain Bill Robertson and the more recent independent schisms of the twenty-first century (Lewis 2016:466). Such divisions between what constitutes Standard Tech and how auditing practices should be conducted are closely tied to interpretations of L. Ron Hubbard as the leader of Scientology, and questions surrounding the orthodoxy of his spiritual technology.


A notable feature of the Free Zone is its distinct lack of leadership. Unlike David Miscavige’s leadership of the CoS following the death of Hubbard, Free Zone Scientologies, including organised groups, do not have a distinct leader. Moreover, Independent Scientologist networks have rejected the need for a leader, thus positioning Scientology as a series of techniques and spiritual development, not as a group to which an individual belongs (Thomas 2021:29). While groups such as Ron’s Org have established relatively organised communities in contrast to the fluid independent networks, they too have restricted their management to a series of administrative staff members, rather than establish a singular leader to unite members and act as a public figure.

For many Freezoners, Scientology is a series of practices and techniques developed by L. Ron Hubbard, and their possession of his written work and methods negates the need for further leadership. Matching academic models of charismatic leadership (Barker 1992; Chryssides 2012; Weber [1948], 1991; Wessinger 2012), Hubbard continues to inspire devotion for many Scientologists across Scientology, most notably due to his development of the tech, his claims of Scientological discoveries, and his establishment of Scientology. Indeed, Hubbard is known (particularly within the CoS) as “Source”; the source of Scientology’s philosophical and spiritual teachings (Westbrook 2016:30). Scholar of religion Donald A. Westbrook notes that CoS members view Hubbard as the “Model OT [Operating Thetan],” an individual whom they attempt to emulate, and refer to with a familial regard (Westbrook 2019:22).

Perceptions of Hubbard within the Free Zone, however, are directly tied to the contested methods of conducting auditing (as documented above). While some Scientologies (including the CoS itself) lay claim to “true” Standard Tech, others reject the notion of a singular type of auditing, often distancing themselves from certain aspects of Hubbard’s work and character. In his ethnographic study of Free Zone Scientologists, Aled Thomas documents Freezoners discussing “mistakes [made] by Hubbard” (2021:125), rejecting views of Hubbard as infallible, whilst also critiquing aspects of his personal character. For these Freezoners, Hubbard is viewed as a talented yet flawed individual, who established a series of spiritual techniques that Scientologists can also continue to develop. These approaches to understanding “what Scientology is” are a direct contrast to the “standards for orthodoxy and orthopraxy” (Westbrook 2019:119) found within the CoS and its ‘Keeping Scientology Working’ policy (explored further below). Moreover, debates surrounding “authentic” and innovative forms of Scientology have also presented divisions within the Free Zone itself. Many Free Zone Scientologists, drawing a line between themselves and those who innovate the tech, lay claim to an authentic application of Scientology according to their perceived understanding of Standard Tech according to Hubbard. These Freezoners are often highly critical of deviation from Hubbard’s dictations, thus placing the application of auditing and status of Hubbard at the centre of “the debate of orthodox authenticity as against heterodox innovation” (Thomas 2021:124) within the Free Zone itself. Accordingly, while the Free Zone is often depicted as operating in unison in direct opposition to the CoS, the reality is more complex.


The Free Zone (broadly conceived) has experienced a highly turbulent relationship with the CoS, primarily based on “combined issues of legitimacy, authority, and hostility” (Thomas 2020:125). The CoS, using its status as the singular Scientology group established by L. Ron Hubbard, lays claim to the only “true” practice of Scientology. For the CoS, any application of Hubbard’s tech outside its institution is not merely a “lesser” form of Scientology, it is simply not Scientology at all. Simultaneously, Free Zone groups have been largely critical of the CoS and have emphasised a distinction between “Scientology” and the “Church of Scientology.” Criticisms of the CoS from Free Zone Scientologists range from the costs of its practices (such as auditing), to accusations of duplicitous changes to L. Ron Hubbard’s tech.

The CoS’ condemnation of Free Zone Scientology is in fact rooted in the policies of Hubbard himself. In an attempt to maintain control of Scientology and prevent its use in emergent groups (such as the above-mentioned Dianology), Hubbard developed a ten point programme entitled “Keeping Scientology Working” (KSW) in 1965 (Hubbard 1965a). This document, framed by Westbrook as the “crown jewel of Scientology’s systematic theology” (Westbrook 2019:124), consists of ten action points to ensure that a precise and identical application of the tech is practised and disseminated across all CoS Orgs. In KSW, and a subsequent policy letter entitled “Safeguarding Technology,” Hubbard positions the tech as an infallible method. According to these policies, any deviance from Hubbard’s methods results in the tech being ineffective at best, or potentially harmful to the mental wellbeing of the Preclear at worst. Hubbard wrote:

Scientology is a workable system. It white tapes the road out of the labyrinth. If there were no white tapes marking the right tunnels, Man [sic] would just go on wandering around and around the way he has for eons, darting off on wrong roads, going in circles, ending up in the sticky dark, alone. Scientology, exactly and correctly followed, takes the person up and out of the mess (Hubbard 1965b:2, emphasis added).

In short, KSW positions “Scientology” as a series of overlapping mechanisms that create a functioning system, which, if altered in even the most minor way, would result in the collapse of its efficiency. KSW remains a dominant aspect of contemporary CoS practice and allows the Church to draw a line between itself as “true” Scientology (as codified by Hubbard himself in Scientologist canon) and any other Scientologies. By citing KSW, the CoS frames the Free Zone as “performing the ultimate sin of squirrelling [sic] – practising the technology of Hubbard outside the sanctioned remit of the Religious Technology [Center]” (Gregg and Chryssides 2017:26), a CoS organisation which oversees the application of Hubbard’s tech across its worldwide Orgs (Religious Technology Center n.d.). Indeed, Schorey notes that squirreling is understood as “an egregious crime against the Church, resulting in excommunication and shunning of members accused of perpetrating these activities” (2016:343).

Free Zone Scientologists accused of squirreling are labelled as “squirrels” by CoS members, a derogatory term coined by Hubbard (Cusack 2016:485; Thomas 2021:29). Despite the frameworks of orthodoxy presented in KSW and Hubbard’s own condemnation of squirrels, Captain Bill Robertson’s “Free Zone” emerged almost two decades later, and the presence of Independent Scientologists grew further in the digital age, particularly due to the easily accessible nature of Hubbard’s work (both private and confidential) in online spaces (see Cusack 2016; Rothstein 2009; Schorey 2016). Hubbard’s condemnation of Scientology outside the CoS has little impact on the perspectives of contemporary Free Zone Scientologists, who often perceive the CoS as having fallen into corruption following Hubbard’s death, creating a division between what they view as “two different versions of CoS – the CoS under Hubbard, and the CoS under Miscavige” (Thomas 2021:115). This shift has significantly altered the ways in which KSW is understood in Free Zone spaces. Moreover, many Free Zone Scientologists (who lay claim to an “authentic” Scientology) accuse the CoS of distorting Hubbard’s real work, and now accuse the Church itself of squirreling (Lewis 2016:477; Thomas 2021:114). These dynamics have created occasionally hostile discourses and interactions between CoS and Free Zone members. Some Freezoners claim to have been challenged by the CoS and its “fair game’ policy,” a heavy-handed strategy to counter critics, known as “Suppressive Persons” (SPs) (Hubbard [1968], 2007:171; Lewis 2012:140; Thomas 2020:124-25). For example, following the death of Bill Robertson in 1991, Ron’s Org ‘went underground’ (Hellesøy 2016:450) and held meetings in secret due to threats of litigation for copyright violations from the CoS. Despite this, Hellesøy notes that Ron’s Org has more recently flourished following “lower pressure from CoS” (2016:450). An additional aspect of “fair game” is the “disconnection” policy, which encourages CoS members to cease contact with SPs (Hubbard [1968], 2007:206; Schorey 2016:343). Free Zone communities are often highly critical of the disconnection process, despite its presence in Hubbard’s writing, and draw attention to friends and family members from whom they have not received contact since leaving the CoS.

Perhaps the most notable example of tensions between the CoS and Free Zone Scientology was the heated interaction between Mark “Marty” Rathbun [Image at right] and the “Squirrel Busters” in 2011. Rathbun, a former CoS member who was (at the time) a practising Independent Scientologist, posted footage online of his interactions with a group of alleged CoS members outside his home accusing him of squirreling. This footage, featuring the Squirrel Busters wearing “shirts emblazoned with squirrels featuring Rathbun’s face” (Thomas 2021:viii) not only went viral, but also gathered interest from the global tabloid press (Gregg and Thomas 2019:355). While Rathbun’s current relationship with the CoS is unclear (Ortega 2020), he became a well-known figure associated with Scientology, and in 2015 featured prominently in Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie ntawv pov thawj.

Contemporary issues/challenges in Free Zone Scientology are not simply limited to its relationship with the CoS, however. The fluid and hybridised forms of Scientologies found beneath the “Free Zone Scientology” umbrella have created divisions among Freezoners themselves. Broadly, as demonstrated above, there is a division between those who attempt to maintain a Standard Tech, according to the work of Hubbard, and those who have chosen to innovate Scientology practices with their own methods. Such clashes have resulted in accusations of squirreling made within the Free Zone itself, a stark contrast to its original presentation in KSW (Thomas 2021:124). Moreover, these accusations of squirreling within the “Free Zone” (broadly conceived) have resulted in further divisions between the 1980s “Free Zone” movement (associated with Bill Robertson) and more recent Independent Scientologists of the twenty-first century, who have rejected the term “Free Zone” due to its close association with Robertson, whom they view as having subverted Scientology from Standard Tech (Thomas 2021:121). Altogether, the issues and challenges faced within the Free Zone point not only to complex and esoteric Scientologist praxis, but to the complexity of the wider category of “Free Zone Scientology.”


Image #1:  L. Ron Hubbard, 1960.
Image #2: Captain Bill Robertson.
Image #3: The logo of Ron’s Org in Switzerland.
Image #4: The E-Meter.
Image #5: Mark “Marty” Rathbun

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