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PART THREE: THE DYNAMICS OF CONVERSION
N.B. When this thesis was written University of Bristol M.A. Theses were limited to a mere 10,000 words.
The following thesis was written under the supervision of F.B. Welbourn.
To an outsider the beliefs of the freaks seem unbelievable and bizarre. This raises the questions: from where do they get their ideas and why do they believe them? These questions are difficult to answer.
Should a freak be asked why he believes a certain thing he will usually answer by asking why shouldn't he believe it? He will then go on to say where he got the idea from and imply that because his source of information is a trustworthy one then he has every right to accept the belief. In the case of a visitor his 60urce of information is usually a settler. When the settler is asked about it he will usually appeal to a "spiritual" who, when questioned, often cites some "trusted" authority as the source of the belief. This authority is usually a book or someone who has written a book .
This chain of belief seems simple but is complicated by a number of factors. The most obvious is that the freak may simply say that he has had an experience which resulted in his acceptance of the belief. The appeal to direct experience can occur at any stage in the procedure. If it does not occur an appeal to the final authority could be made at any stage. These appeals shorten the chain considerably. But, they do not alter its fundamental nature because even when an appeal is made to a direct experience, upon examination this experience can be seen to depend for its interpretation upon the general pattern of freak beliefs 
The origins of the general pattern of freak beliefs are to be found in a number of writings. Freaks acknowledge this although they are not always aware of all the sources of their own beliefs. The majority of freaks admit to getting their ideas from the underground press and from what will be called secondary theory sources. A few are aware of the existence of primary theory sources but none seem to realize the extent to which the secondary sources depend upon these primary sources 
In addition, to these primary and secondary theory, or synthesizing, sources there are an infinite number of story sources which provide the raw material for the theorizing sources. These stories consist of religious epics, legends, fairy and folk tales, history and accounts of experiences which cannot be regarded as "normal."
Both primary and secondary theorizing sources draw directly upon these stories for inspiration. This means that in the secondary source the same story may be interpreted with the aid of a theory which was originally constructed from that story. This leads to circular reasoning because the stories are then cited to prove the truth of the theories which in turn grew out of the stories themselves. Thus the theories used to interpret the stories are actually based on the stories they are said to explain.
The primary sources present various theories which are taken up and developed in the secondary sources. These secondary sources then often merge theories from different primary sources to create new theories. Generally speaking the primary sources were all written before 1950 and the secondary sources since .
Primary sources include the works of Annie Bessant, H.P. Blavasky, F.Bligh Bond, J. Churchwarden, Dion Fortune, C.J. Jung, Kit Maltwood, W. Reich, I. Velikovsky and A. Watkins. Secondary sources are a legion but the principal ones are books by John Michell and Lopsang Rampa . The "Mystical Scene Magazine.Gandalf's Garden" played a very important role in popularizing the ideas presented in all these sources during 1968-1969. They have also been popularized in other "underground" papers. Almost any good story provides material which can be used by these theorizing sources to elaborate their ideas.
The underground press has given wide coverage to mythological histories and interpretations using these theories. The most popular stories concern King Arthur and other tales from Celtic mythology 
The formation of the freak world-view is the result of a complex inter-relationship between all of these sources and the existential experience of the freaks. Although there is an ultimate dependence upon -written sources there is a rich oral tradition among the freaks which contains the material found in the written sources. The effect of all this is that any strange experiences which a freak has are interpreted in the light of the understanding of reality which he has gained from the theories contained in these sources. In the course of transmission personal experiences become sources of oral tradition and in effect are assimilated into the story sources.
The existence of stories about the experiences of other freaks allows a freak to accept his or her own experience and understand it in terms of the experiences of others. In this way a process of reinterpretation builds up which depends upon the experiences of freaks and the understanding placed upon them by the secondary theorizing sources. Thus the secondary theorizing sources offer the freaks a way of understanding their own experiences while the experiences become evidence for the truth of the theories .
The question now arises why this tradition of received interpretation comes to be accepted at all? Once it has been accepted it clearly becomes self-authenticating. But why should freaks consider these theories in the first place?
The answer seems to be that these ideas are presented to the freaks by people who are prepared to be friendly towards them and who take their attitude to life seriously. This acceptance of ideas from friends underlies the whole freak movement. Freaks believe because other freaks believe and they get their beliefs from whoever is willing to talk to them .
A person usually becomes a freak gradually. Often the process begins by innocently growing one's hair long. But this act of independence is frequently objected to by parents and/or schoolteachers. The initial step towards becoming a freak need not be the growing of long hair. But it often is, and whatever the initial act, the results which follow from it quickly assume a recognizable pattern.
The first objection leads to other objections and criticisms, often in connection with choice of friends, and these create a distance between the potential freak and the objectors. As the objections increase so does the self-consciousness of the embryo freak. He or she now begins to associate with other "objectionable" people with whom she or he shares common problems, and they also begin to wear freaky clothes. This last act puts a stamp upon him or her as a freak in the eyes of "normal" society which the new freak soon learns to call "straight society" because of the "oppressive" outlook of it's members. The freak now recognizes that they are "different" and that straight society regards them as being different 
Because they are readily recognized as a "hippie" the freak finds that they are labeled wherever they go. Shopkeepers begin to object to their presence. People stare at them in the street and newspapers write stories about folk like them giving them a reputation for being unreliable.
The police regard them with suspicion and suspect them of trading in drugs which in their eyes make them potential criminals. It now becomes difficult to get a job while parents and the social security are reluctant to give them any money. This shortage of funds reduces their ability to buy clothes and they tend to buy second-hand ones. All their clothes now become definitely odd and their difficulties in getting a job are increased. At some point the person who is becoming a freak leaves school or college and drops out. Usually this begins by going to London where they come into contact with the wider freak world or "scene" as it is known among freaks .
When the person concerned first finds that people are discriminating against them they also find companionship in established freak circles. Through these he or she is introduced to the underground press and to freak ideas.
In this situation they learn to understand society's apparent rejection of them in terms of the freak beliefs about the corrupt nature of modern society and its immanent collapse. They are also introduced to a whole series of supporting beliefs which are a given part of freak life.
These beliefs, which have been outlined in Section Two, are supposed to be believed by all freaks. They are held quite uncritically and are never discussed in the sense of being questioned.
But all freaks expect other freaks to know something about them and to believe them. At the same time these beliefs are rejected by straight society, the society which has rejected the freak. For this reason such ideas become eminently acceptable to the freaks because they offer a theoretical justification for their "rejection of straight society". Thus what began as the rejection of the freak by society becomes in the freak's mind the rejection of society by freaks .
The use of acid and other drugs by freaks is similarly associated with the rejection of both the drugs and the freaks by straight society. Once a freak finds himself or herself outside normal society she or he finds that they are expected to take drugs both by the society which has rejected them and by members of the new society which they are entering as a freak. The drug experience makes them aware of life in a new way and through it they become receptive to new ideas of a "religious" nature. This adds a new mystical dimension to life which seems to confirm the ideas which are being presented to them .
In all of these ways the freak finds that the gap between those people who will accept them and those who reject them increases. this creates a predisposition to accept the views of people who are friendly towards them, and to reject the materialistic and basically rational outlook of their critics. What is normally regarded as a "rational attitude "is rejected by freaks because they see people claiming to be "rational" acting in very "irrational" ways towards them. This rejection of normal rationality creates an affinity between freaks and other people who criticize "rationality." Therefore, when these people are friendly to freaks are inclined to accept the things which they tell them. In this way freaks are led to accept occult and other offbeat ideas .
Once occult beliefs have been partially accepted an elaborate system of defensive and confirmatory beliefs exists to support them. These beliefs concern the neurotic and repressive nature of "straight society" which it is alleged "persecutes" freaks and all who do not accept its warped standards. Thus all true seekers after reality are persecuted. these would include great religious leaders like Christ and the Buddha as well as "open minded" folk like Bligh Bond and Wilhelm Reich. Freaks claim that these people are attacked by members of straight society because their "discoveries" unmask the unreality of straight society.
In this way people whose views are found to be suspect by normal standards of judgement are readily accepted by the freaks. At the same time any criticism of these beliefs by straights is taken as a proof of the truth of their beliefs. Criticism of freak beliefs and their way of life strengthens their resolve to continue in their rejection of normal society .
Evidence supporting the view that this complex inter-reaction does in fact exist car. be found by considering the effect which a prolonged stay in Glastonbury has upon many freaks. Many people comment on the fact that the freaks who stay for any length of time in Glastonbury change. The freaks explain this in terms of the effect which Glastonbury has upon people implying some kind of "spiritual" influence. But these changes which occur can be understood in another way 
The Spirituals, in their desire to disassociate themselves from the "undesirable elements" among the freaks, make a distinction between the "real" pilgrims and the hangers on. This distinction, although never expressed as such, becomes a distinction between the settlers and the visitors. There are also many townspeople who make a similar distinction and in doing so state their sympathy for the Settlers. The effect of this distinction is that the settlers find themselves much more welcome in the town than the visitors.
This simple explanation for this is that because they remain for a period of time in the town the Settlers become known to the locals and strike up acquaintances with them. As a result some locals try to help the
The effect of this semi-acceptance by the locals causes the Settlers to change their own attitudes. When they get into trouble, as they have over parking their caravans on the public highway, they begin to blame the Visitors for their problems. This rift between the settlers and visitors is increased when friendly townspeople pass onto the settlers their own prejudices about the "hippies" whom they are careful to point out are the Visitors .
A process of assimilation is at work in which the Settlers are slowly being absorbed by the local community. As they find that they are becoming accepted they in turn begin to make themselves acceptable. They find work locally and through their work increase their contact with the locals. At first their acceptance of people who are not freaks extends only to the Spirituals. but as they become more known and get to know more people their tolerance of straights is increased. During this process they begin to express the view that just as not all straights are "straight", so also not all freaks are true "freaks". With the passage of time this realization develops into the understanding that not all freaks are "really spiritual" and eventually into the decision that some are just not nice. Equally they begin to realize that some quite unspiritual people are "beautiful" .
In this whole development there is clearly a crisis of identity. An old identity as a "freak" is being exchanged for a new identity as a Glastonian. Sometimes this change of identity occurs in a relatively short time but usually it extends over a number of years. Generalizing from the Glastonbury situation it seems that places like Glastonbury serve the function of enabling freaks to readjust to the society that they have attempted to reject .
This observation throws some light on the nature of the youthful counter-culture as a whole. Although claiming to reject "straight society" it is clear that the freaks are as much the rejected as the rejecters. It is also clear that the majority never really succeed in getting free from the restraints which society imposes upon them. What they do is to live for a while on the fringe of society before they are eventually reabsorbed into a role which society finds socially acceptable and designates for them. This means that the people who say that the freaks are simply going through a stage in "growing-up" are right. Yet the nature of this stage must be carefully understood.
The time which they spend as freaks seems to correspond to what in unitary societies are periods of initiation similar to what van Gennep calls the rites of passage. The difference between these instances is that in a unitary society the rites of passage are recognized by the society as being socially necessary, while in our society most people regard the act of becoming a freak socially unnecessary .
In many unitary societies the transition from childhood to adulthood is clearly marked by a recognized ritual process. Our own society has similar rituals but because its pluralistic nature they apply only to certain members of society. Thus apprenticeships and university courses can be seen to function as initiation rituals. The majority of freaks come from those sections of society where there is no recognized process of transition from the world of the child to that of the adult. During their late teens they enter a period of life in which they are no longer recognized by society as children yet despite this they are not credited with being fully adult. Lacking the transitional role of apprentice or student freaks create for themselves their own role in their identity as a freak. They feel the liminal nature of their existence and reflects it in their own self-identity which is shown in their desire to be known as freaks. They are freaks because they are without a recognized role in society. Therefore, in recognizing their position as freaks they create their own role .
For a while freaks live in communities where there is a lack of a structure which is accepted by the other members of British society. In this situation they create their own structure which in relation to the structure of straight society appears to be an anti-structure. Personal relationships are put before social obligations as a living community replaces what was an oppressive organization. This situation allows high mobility and instant friendships. Wherever they go freaks find friends who welcome them and make them feel at home. But these friendships are not lasting and involve no obligations. As they grow older marriage children necessitate a reduction in their mobility and the development of a more settled life. The possessions which their new situation requires further increase their dependence upon a stable situation. Instant friendships become less important than reliable neighbors. The need for a structured existence replaces the advantages of the freak community. The number of other observations may be made about the freak lifestyle as it exhibited by those living in Glastonbury 
As has been shown their great interest in the past provides a basis for their hope in the future, which is an antidote to the basic despair which characterizes one aspect of their existence. Fears about the present are removed by beliefs about past and future. Thus an existential reliance upon living in an eternal NOW is replaced by eschatological hope created through soteriological history. This apparent change of attitude is not essentially different from the attitude which it seems to replace, because living for the moment has simply been changed for living in a past and/or future moment. In each case the real problems of the present are avoided .
This avoidance of present problems is reflected in the lack of confidence which the freaks have in modern science. For. Them science as it is practiced today has been discredited. Modern science produced the atomic bomb and is producing an ecological disaster. Because of this they no longer believe that science can solve all of mankind's problems. The once popular faith in the all embracing abilities of scientists has been replaced by doubt. But this rejection of science is not a total one. An essential faith in the omnipotence of science remains. This is a result of the idolization of science in their education and the popular press. This faith has been shaken but not destroyed. Instead of rejecting a false idea of science they substitute a faith in "ancient science" and "lost knowledge" for their lack of faith in modern science.
In this way the role of the church as the arbiter of reality has been replaced in the popular mind by science. When it is realized that scientists do not perform this function then their science is rejected as false and a new idol is found. This seeking for meaning displays a desire for certainty and authority which will remove the doubts and fears of normal existence .
Freak spirituality may be seen as the reassertion of piety in daily life. One of the failures of "science" as the arbiter of reality for the masses was that while they believed science had "proved religion to be wrong" it had not provided an outlet for their feelings of devotion. The "discovery" of a new science which incorporates a devotional aspect meets this need. Thus while it may be correct to define religion as a way of life and to say that properly understood eating dinner is a "religious act", it is necessary to recognize that prayer and meditation are acts of piety which satisfy basic human needs.
The freak phenomena demonstrate the impossibility of eradicating an important element in human make-up from the life of the people. Once one aspect of life is neglected in this way a reaction follows which elevates the neglected aspect above all other aspects of life. This can be seen in the uncritical way in which freaks accept all claims about religious experience. Until recently scientific analysis seemed to have outlawed such experiences. But among the freaks spiritual experiences have returned devoid of all critical analysis 
In conclusion it may be said that the freak movement as it is manifested in Glastonbury is an expression of the religious commitments of the freaks. Their whole lifestyle is intimately bound up with their beliefs which it serves to create and maintain. Their lifestyle is, therefore, an expression of their implicit religion. But, the question remains whether their implicit commitments are likely to become institutionalized creating an explicit expression of their beliefs? .
Institutionalization does in fact seem to be occurring. But, it is not in the form of an explicit freak religion. Instead as the freaks begin to be absorbed by normal society they form, associations with religious groups that express some elements of the freak lifestyle but which belong to established religious traditions and have a clearly defined structure. The freak belief system, as outlined in section two, exists in a pure form only while freaks continue to find their primary allegiances with other freaks. In such as situation their beliefs form an essential part of the transition period which the people who are the subject of this study are passing through. But these beliefs do not seem to strongly influence them once they acquire a role in normal society. When they drift back toward acceptance by normal society they become more critical of their own beliefs and appear to drop many of them. Yet in doing so they still retain some fringe beliefs which have acquired a semi-institutionalized form.
In time all of their distinctive beliefs may be abandoned. But, this cannot be determined within the scope of the present study. What has been shown is the complex inter-relationship between the lifestyle of the freaks, their beliefs, and the reactions of other members of society .
NOTES TO SECTION THREE