The general public’s knowledge of Scientology is mostly limited to surface-level shady tales involving Tom Cruise, dark stories of David Miscavige’s leadership, and zany shenanigans from the times of L. Ron Hubbard. But that leaves out the forced transition period that took place in the wake of Hubbard’s death, leading to a coup worthy of Game of Thrones.
Scientology founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard died in 1981, but not before picking a successor. The ensuing power vacuum didn’t come from Hubbard’s accidentally forgetting his own mortality.
In what can only be described as an event of astronomical convenience, the man that the church still describes as an eternal being had plans laid out for an untimely death.
Hubbard had chosen David Mayo to replace him. But other higher-ups in the church, including Miscavige, were not supportive of the plan. A run-of-the-mill villain would have simply plotted a classic assassination, but this is Scientology, meaning the casual observer need never fear the disappointment of normal outcomes. David Miscavige enacted a coup intent on taking not Mayo’s life or power, but his sanity.
Scientology’s coup d’foi
In a sworn affidavit, Mayo described being kidnapped by Miscavige and sent to the Rehabilitation Project, a place that anyone with even passing knowledge of Scientology will guess is but a fancy name for a nightmarish prison. The guessers would be right—but let’s add desert prison to that. Mayo described what the church had put him through:
During that six-month period of captivity, I was forced to run around a tree in the desert in temperatures of up to 110 degrees for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. For 3 months I was under tremendous coercion and duress. I was refused medical and dental treatment — after escaping captivity I lost six teeth and required thousands of dollars of dental work to save the rest of my teeth. I was not permitted to make or receive phone calls and all letters I wrote were read by Scientology security guards.
Though they let Mayo escape the “Rehabilitation Project” with his sanity arguably intact, the church forced Mayo to leave and declared him a suppressive person, a term used to brand enemies of the church. The coup was successful enough to give Miscavige the keys to a kingdom he’d still be reigning more than 40 years later, but also created an interesting wave of resistance that the church has been successfully muting ever since.
The dawn of Free Zone Scientology
If “Free Zone Scientology” sounds like an open-source alternative to an expensive subscription-based computer app, that’s because it’s not far from the truth.
We hear many tales of people leaving Scientology to go back to a normal life, but that’s not true of everyone. Many merely escape the machine but remain believers—of their own volition.
Why even remain a Scientologist when no one is forcing you to stay?
A lot of people currently in Scientology, much like people in other religions and cults, never knew life outside of that system because they were born inside the church. Miscavige’s new cruel reign threw people off his particular brand of Scientology, but not from Scientology’s supposedly uncorrupted teachings. The coup caused up to ten thousand members to leave the church and create various different independent branches, branches that try to stay close to the core tenets of the church and want nothing to do with the torture-friendly and money-hungry monstrosity Miscavige had created.
Scientology’s core appeal is something Free Zoners call “the technology”
The Technology, or “Study Tech” as the church calls it, is a set of techniques to achieve universal success. Picture a version of a strategy book such as The Art Of War by Sun Tzu, or Machiavelli’s The Prince, but mixed with Jordan Peterson-esque ramblings and even more pseudoscientific practices. Through them, one gets to get better grades at school, be better at their job and even be healthier, both physically and mentally. In essence, users of The Technology get to control their bodies and destinies through the power of their minds.
Applied Scholastics Study Technology is a concept developed by L. Ron Hubbard for Scientology, but also to sneak Scientology methods under another name in society, e.g. in organizations known as Delphian School, Delphian Academy, A to B School, and others. It is based on three concepts:
Lack of mass
When there is no object to illustrate a concept. Students overcome the problem by relating ideas to real life by making “clay demos”.
Those steps in a learning process that students don’t understand. Students conquer difficult material by studying it incrementally.
The most important element. Students cannot learn what they do not understand, so they use dictionaries to look up unfamiliar words in a process called “word clearing.” Fatigue, worry, and frustration are among the “manifestations” symptomatic of students who have come up against those barriers and struggled to learn their lessons.
Free Zone Scientologists believe that The Technology actually works in helping people achieve better results in what they call “all walks of life”, but more careful scrutiny will likely lead to the discovery that, if true, that’s not because L Ron Hubbard discovered the secret formula for success, but rather because adhering to any sort of system will generally hold better results than going to school without a study plan—all the extra pseudoscientific content probably does no more than adding some neat sci-fi flavor to the whole process.
The rest of the Free Zone process is entirely different
Various groups of Free Zone Scientologists exist. The many branches spawned from the belief that the people who rose to power after Hubbard’s death were corrupting his teachings for profit. The different groups’ interpretations on Scientology’s teachings may vary, but they get along and there’s no history of conflict between them.
Free Zoners arrange get-togethers, but they don’t go on the hunt for members, something we can confirm since most Free Zoners are ex-members of the old church, rarely people who are new to the scene. They also don’t make money off of their practice, as they make all of their data available for all members for free, not locked behind increasingly ridiculous paywalls.
And, perhaps most important of all, Free Zoners don’t coerce anyone into staying.
Free Zone Scientology is, by all means, a less damaging way of practicing Scientology, and one that virtually no one knows about.
What we can learn from it
This isn’t a defense of any form of Scientology practice, let alone of Hubbard and his original teachings. Even many free zoners claim that he did lay the groundwork for the Church of Scientology to become what it is today. Hubbard did after all famously claim that creating a religion was the best possible way to make serious money. This is but a rare occasion to study and document the process of total corruption in the face of human greed that any religious movement can go through, and wonder how many times that may have happened throughout history.
What exactly happened when Jesus died? Did his resurrection go according to what he wanted, or according to what the person who took over wanted?
If we had any sort of media back then, would we have been able to pinpoint the exact time when the catholic church went from an institution meant to help the poor, to yet another massive for-profit enterprise? Better yet, imagine witnessing the birth of modern antisemitism so we could debunk it before conspiracy theorists got the jump on it. What an Oscar-worthy twist it would be, learning that Jewish people began to operate banks not because they’re evil, but because their Christian lords were prohibited from handling money directly—though not from owning and controlling it—and thus forced Jewish people to do the work and take the blame for everything bad that happens under capitalism.
Imagine confronting Kanye West after his infamous remarks. Imagine the expression on his face after revealing he’s but the mouthpiece of the criminal he believes he’s battling.
Who am I kidding—he would probably just storm off stage. But the people in attendance would have something new, something better, to talk about.
The Free Zone isn’t free from problems, or pain
The Free Zoners have naturally experienced a lot of pushback and censorship from the main church. If there’s one thing that the church does well, it’s mitigating the voices of those who speak against it, so it’s not surprising that they’ve been working hard on muting people who give away for free all the wild materials that the church hides behind a million-dollar paywall. The church still harasses and threatens many Free Zoners. Luckily, most Free Zoners just laugh it off —they are well-acquainted with the playbook. The really sad part here is that many Free Zoners remain separated from family members still inside the church.
That’s why few people have ever heard of Free Zone Scientology. Free Zoners are fine with that. Their Scientology isn’t about conquest and money, but more about not losing a part of their past that they enjoy keeping alive.