NZASR Conference 2018, NZASR Conference 2015

Font Size: 
Both Outside and Inside: ‘Ex-Members’ of New Religions and Spiritualities and the Maintenance of Community and Identity on the Internet
Carole Mary Cusack

Last modified: 2015-08-13

Abstract


This paper considers two ‘ex-member’ communities with web presences re the groups to which they once belonged, Kerista Commune (www.kerista.com) and the School of Economic Science Forums (www.ses-forums.org). The Kerista Commune site is where members post memories and honour deceased friends, in a spirit of warmth and support, with the aim of healing those who were injured by the group and of continuing friendships between those who are at peace with their history. The SES Forums site is used by ex-members who perceive themselves as ‘harmed’ by the SES (a Gurdjieff splinter group that now teaches a form of Vedanta). These people left, or were expelled for infringements of SES rules. Crucial factors that affect the mood of these online ex-member groups include Kerista being a local, Californian phenomenon that disbanded in 1991, whereas the School of Economic Science (SES) has a global reach, and still exists. Thus, Kerista ex-members tend to know each other in the ‘meat world’, and SES ex-members do not. The two online communities differ, but the common theme encountered is that when people physically ‘leave’ new religions and spiritualities, they often remain deeply engaged with the issues of what the group taught and why they left, and thus to identify as an ex-member and to find community with other ex-members is an almost infallible sign of being both inside and outside the group, paradoxically belonging without belonging.