False Prophets Part II




False prophets and messiahs, teachers and gurus





How To Spot A Cult – 2012


Cults are making a comeback, according to some of the experts who study them. The two-part documentary is an inside look at these cults and consists of ex-believers’ stories, and investigates what the similarities they say exist between groups including the Exclusive Brethren, Scientology, Centrepoint, Gloriavale, Avatar and the International Church of Christ.





The Self-help Industry Helps Itself to Billions of Dollars


By Lindsay Myers | May 23, 2014





Confessions of a Failed Self-Help Guru


I traveled around the country telling strangers how to balance their workloads and better their lives—until I learned the hard way that the people offering to solve your problems are often the ones who need help the most.”


Story by Michelle Goodman, posted on narratively.com Mar 7, 2016




301 Amazing Stories and How Not to be Fooled © 1993

By Kathryn Lindskoog


Nearly everyone is deceived at one time or another. “Fakes, Frauds & Other Malarkey” is a good-natured yet passionate analysis of deception–from its innocent roots in imaginative play to the poison fruit of the cruelest scams. It offers hilarious and heartbreaking glimpses into the schemes of hoaxers in the fields of art, literature, science, medicine, exploration, education, finance and religion. This book offers special insights into the nature of spiritual fraud in history and in modern America.







Cults (Documentary) 2017



What are some of the worst cases of academic fraud?


Bill Fryer, Translator (2009-present)

In 1968, a man named Carlos Castaneda pulled off a remarkable ethnological hoax. While enrolled in the anthropology program at the University of California in Los Angeles, he submitted as his masters thesis an account of his apprenticeship under an old Yaqui Indian named don Juan Matus, who allegedly lived in the Sonoran desert north of Mexico . . .





Psychology Today
March 1, 1998


Crimes of the Soul by Jill Neimark


Discusses the ties that bind gurus and their followers. Story of Luna Tarlo, author of ‘Mother of God’ and mother of American guru Andrew Cohen; Human tendency to search for transcendence; Reason why Tarlo stopped following her son; Reason why people turn to spiritual teachers or leaders; Characteristics of gurus; Different views on gurus.


Far too often, they have been linked to a monstrous abuse of power — financial, physical, sexual, and above all, emotional and psychological.


One of the deeper ironies of a life committed to a spiritual teacher is that, though you may flee ten thousand attachments, you end up surrendering your entire existence to a single man or woman. In the most extreme cases, that surrender leads to absolute powerlessness and death. “There isn’t any power more absolute than the power of a `spiritually enlightened’ human being over his disciples,” points out Joel Kramer, co-author with his wife, Diana Alstad, of The Guru Papers. “That is as absolute as you can get on a psychological level.” To Kramer and Alstad, gurus preach freedom but wear the mask of authoritarian power. “Gurus are actually a metaphor,” says Kramer, “for any human being or system that establishes itself as fundamentally unchallengeable, presuming to know what’s best for others. And that kind of authoritarianism is everywhere in our society.”



From The Myth of the Totally Enlightened Guru


By John Horgan


In the mid-1970s, I spent a year living in Philadelphia, and while there I took classes in Kundalini yoga. The classes convened at a house, or ashram, inhabited by male and female Kundalini devotees, all of them Americans. They all wore the traditional white linen clothing and turbans of Sikhs. The lanky, bearded head of the house taught the weekly classes, which consisted of tendon-and spine-twisting postures, stomach crunches, repetition of the mantra “sat nam,” and dizzying breathing exercises, including a form of hyperventilation called “breath of fire.”


This form of yoga was introduced to the U.S. by an Indian adept named Yogi Bhajan, who was said by my Kundalini teacher to be completely enlightened. When Yogi Bhajan came to Philadelphia and gave a talk at the university I was attending, I went to see him. Swathed in white robes, he was a bearish, bearded, jolly man, Santa Claus as swami. I cannot recall what Yogi Bhajan said, but I remember being entranced. He exuded an intelligence and self-assurance that seemed superhuman. He had a mischievous smile that hinted, “I know.” Before the talk, I had been tense and exhausted from studying for final exams. Listening to Yogi Bhajan speak, I became strangely elated, and a headache that had nagged me all day vanished. At the time, I attributed my lift in mood to being in the presence of a fully enlightened being.


I mention this episode only to show that for at least one evening decades ago I believed in the myth of the totally enlightened guru. By total enlightenment, I mean not the flashes of insight that occur during drug trips or meditation, which last scarcely longer than an orgasm. Nor do I mean the down-graded quasi-enlightenment that Ken Wilber and others speak of, which confers a certain degree of detachment from the vicissitudes of existence but leaves our needy, neurotic selves otherwise unchanged. No, I mean full-blown enlightenment, the kind that Buddha supposedly achieved. Supreme wisdom and grace and serenity, total self-transcendence, liberation from mundane reality and morality. Not just a glimpse of heaven but permanent habitation of it. This is the enlightenment that gurus such as Yogi Bhajan supposedly attained and that they promised to devotees.


The totally enlightened guru is in a sense another mystical technology. Through devotion to the guru – which Hindus call guru yoga – we too may vault beyond this vale of tears to the promised land of nirvana.


Over the past twenty years, the myth of the totally enlightened guru has taken a beating, as one avatar after another has been accused of depraved and even criminal behavior. Given the scandalous behavior of so many self-proclaimed enlightened masters, one can understand why Huston Smith insists that no mere mortal can achieve total enlightenment, and why Ken Wilber contends that all gurus — ”no exceptions, none” – have feet of clay. But the myth of the totally enlightened being has proven to be extraordinarily persistent. Susan Blackmore and James Austin, as hard-nosed and skeptical as they are, believe in total enlightenment, and I still feel the myth’s allure myself now and then.


In the summer of 1996, I was perusing a newsstand in Grand Central Station when I noticed a glossy magazine titled What Is Enlightenment? The subtitle read: “Dedicated to the discovery of what enlightenment is and what it really means.” According to its masthead, the magazine was published twice a year by Moksha, an organization founded by a spiritual teacher named Andrew Cohen. This particular issue, headlined “Is the Guru Dead?”, addressed the growing tendency of spiritual seekers and teachers to reject the notion of the totally enlightened guru. The magazine explored this topic in an article by George Feuerstein on crazy wisdom, as well as in interviews with a Benedictine monk, a Russian Orthodox patriarch, a rabbi, and other spiritual teachers.


The issue also featured a vigorous defense of the myth of the totally enlightened guru by Andrew Cohen, the magazine’s publisher. Just because some gurus fail us, Cohen said, we should not conclude that all gurus are flawed—or that absolute enlightenment is an unachievable ideal. “If such a goal is unattainable,” Cohen wrote, that would mean “there really is no way out of the human predicament.” Reading between the lines, it was obvious that Cohen believed himself to be totally enlightened.



Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment © 2005 – 2017


By Geoffrey D. Falk





The wicked are wicked no doubt, and they go astray,
and they fall, and they come by their desserts. But
who can tell the mischief that the very virtuous do? 



                            ~ William Makepeace Thacheray



ONE WOULD LIKE TO BELIEVE that our world’s recognized saints and sages have the best interests of everyone at heart in their thoughts and actions.


One would also like to believe that the same “divinely loving” and enlightened figures would never distort truth to suit their own purposes, and would never use their power to take advantage (sexually or otherwise) of their followers. They would, that is, be free of the deep psychological quirks, prejudices, hypocrisy and violence which affect mere mortals.


One would further hope that the best of our world’s sages would be able to distinguish between valid mystical perceptions and mere hallucinations, and that the miracles and healings which they have claimed to have effected have all actually occurred.


Sadly, none of those hopes stand up to even the most basic rational scrutiny.


Thus, it has come to be that you are holding in your hands an extremely evil book.


It is so, simply because it attempts to expose, to a wider audience, the worst of the alleged abuses which various “god-men” have reportedly visited upon their followers, and on the world at large, over the past century or more.




No one involved in contemporary spirituality can afford to ignore this book. It exposes the darker side of modern spiritual movements, those embarrassing—sometime vicious or criminal—reports which the leaders of these movements prefer to hide. With wit and humility, and without abandoning the verities of religion, Falk has provided a corrective critique of groups that peddle enlightenment and transcendence. A must!


— Len Oakes, author of Prophetic Charisma



Ramakrishna was a homoerotic pedophile.


His chief disciple, Vivekananda, visited brothels in India.


Krishnamurti carried on an affair for over twenty years with the wife of a good friend. Chögyam Trungpa drank himself into an early grave. One of Adi Da’s nine “wives” was a former Playboy centerfold. Bhagwan Rajneesh sniffed laughing gas to get high. Andrew Cohen, guru and publisher of What Is Enlightenment? magazine, by his own reported admission sometimes feels “like a god.”


These are typical of the “wizened sages” to whom otherwise-sensible people give their devotion and unquestioning obedience, surrendering their independence, willpower, and life’s savings in the hope of realizing for themselves the same “enlightenment” as they ascribe to the “perfect, God-realized” master.




Is it for being emotionally vulnerable and “brainwashed,” as the “anti-cultists” assert? Or for being “willingly psychologically seduced,” as the apologists unsympathetically counter, confident that they themselves are “too smart” to ever fall into the same trap? Or have devotees simply walked, with naïvely open hearts and thirsty souls, into inherent dynamics of power and obedience which have showed themselves in classic psychological studies from Milgram to Zimbardo, and to which each one of us is susceptible every day of our lives?


Like the proud “Rude Boy” Cohen allegedly said, with a laugh, in response to the nervous breakdown of one of his devoted followers: “It could happen to any one of you.”


Don’t let it happen to you. Don’t get suckered in. Be prepared. Be informed. Find out what reportedly goes on behind the scenes in even the best of our world’s spiritual communities.



Rick Ross forum.culteducation.com
Large Group Awareness Training, “Human Potential”


Outrageous Betrayal
Posted by:
looking for help
Date: February 26, 2006 05:28AM


I just received this book by Steven Pressman that profiles “The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile.” After reading only the Prologue and first two chapters and skimming the rest I cannot believe ANYONE would follow the teachings of such a person!!!!! I am now even MORE outraged!!!!


How do the LEKKIES explain the background of their founder?


If you are even thinking about getting involved with the Forum you MUST read this book and if you have loved ones involved it is also a must read. I am hoping this book will offer insight and help in getting my loved one out.


Question: Was there a lawsuit over this book?



Outrageous Betrayal


The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile


By Steven Pressman



Suppressed CBS News 60 Minutes on Landmark cult leader


Werner Erhard


Mar 3, 1991




cbs news 60 mins episode


cbs news 60 mins transcript



The Blog


Inside The Landmark Forum


By Karin Badt, Contributor


“You’re lying. You don’t love your daughter. Go kill yourself. No, that’s not good enough. Get cancer. Make it last for 29 years so you suffer and die.” This scene begins the 2004 French Channel Three report on the Landmark Education Forum in Paris.


. . . Sophie was a gifted speaker, who kept our attention and enthusiasm during each twelve hour day, making her speeches seem original, with personal anecdotes; only later, searching the web, do I find the same speeches cited by other landmark leaders: the “nothingness” argument, the “Citizen Kane”. It is a script.


It was particularly shocking how quickly every participant adopted the vocabulary, kit and caboodle. Nobody seemed to find it troubling that the Landmark vision was delivered as if it were absolute truth, sui generis.





VICE investigate how enigmatic, cult-like leaders build and maintain their followings.



128. brucelevyMay 7, 2016


Does this sound like the lifestyle of someone else we know?





83. Golden Veil March 24, 2018


Whether it be the teacher of an esoteric school, a rabbi or Christian minister, etc. all these “leaders” seem to want others to buy into their dream – and pay for it. If the form and timing just happens to be right, it appears that almost anyone can get bamboozled into joining a cult.


Holy Smoke (1/12) movie clip – Indian Guru Baba



32. brucelevyJuly 28, 2016


mikerindersblog.org/mind-control-made-easy/? subscribe = success#blog subscription-2



From Social Control in Scientology by Bob Penny


The Defeat of Street Smarts


Claiming to be a religion is but one means of sheltering a commercial enterprise from accountability. Ambiguity of product is another.


The legal profession struggles to keep up with questions of accountability that arise when buyer and seller disagree about the nature and effect of esoteric services. That problem becomes all the more difficult when the product is inherently ambiguous, as is the case with the subjective and possibly manipulated mental state of an individual. This ambiguity is a legal weak point which Hubbard recognized, exploited, and further obscured by mixing it with religion.


By charging money for obscure expert services which are part of a religion and which have as their product an ambiguous subjective condition, Hubbard created a sales and recruitment machine virtually immune from legal accountability.


Certainty vs. Truth


Sound objective research is not relevant to the true believer. In place of evidence and scientific validity, things are said to work (in Scientology) by using social pressures to persuade people that they did work, i.e., by gradually interfering with the individual’s ability to evaluate information.


The coercion which accomplishes this defeat of “street smarts” may not be obvious. It would be a pretty ineffective group that had to control its members through blatant coercion. It is much more efficient to create a milieu in which the members indoctrinate and control themselves, and convince each other that it was all their own free choice and decision. As a cohesive group, they will enforce such ideas as a condition of friendship and belonging.


We encounter a friendly and enthusiastic group which espouses goals and values that are easy to agree with. Home at last!


At first, it seems that all we are being asked to agree with is better communication, getting people off drugs, motherhood, and apple pie.


What these groups really sell is membership. Sure, they want your money and your time, and they will take all there is of both. But what they want above all is for you to be one of them, to belong, to agree with them, to reassure them by the sacrifice of your own life and values that their own lives and decisions have not been futile misguided errors.


“Street smarts” is swept away by the person’s urgent reliance on the constant reinforcement required to maintain “certainty” in those collective self-deceptions about being an elite in unique possession of the only right answers. It may be decades before one begins to realize, or to fight desperately against realizing, that life has gone by to no constructive effect.


There were some tricks going on that our ordinary schoolyard and street education failed to teach us about.





The Hollywood Reporter
Aug 14, 2019


Leah Remini is calling it a day on Scientology and the Aftermath. The final episode, set to air Monday, Aug. 26, will focus on testimonials alleging that Scientology policies have hindered members from reporting instances of sexual assault and physical violence . . .





50. Bares RepostingFebruary 25, 2018 (excerpt)


This was posted about a year ago on here and has been updated and rebroadcasted:


CBS: 48 Hours
The Family: A Cult Revealed (44 minutes)
Air Date: 04/29/17 [re-aired: 02/24/2018]


Part 1: Allegations of stolen children, drugs, abuse and a leader who claimed to be the second coming of Christ — “48 Hours” follows the trail of a cult that began in Australia and led the FBI to New York. “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant investigates.




To some, Anne Hamilton-Byrne was a yoga teacher with a penchant for plastic surgery. To others, she was the evil leader of The Family — an apocalyptic cult with about 500 followers and more than 28 children. Some were the children of cult members, others were newborns that came from unwed mothers tricked into thinking their babies were going to good homes; a few were out and out stolen, investigators say.


Now, some of those children are speaking out about Hamilton-Byrne’s attempt to build a perfect race through a collection of children — some of whom were forced to have their hair bleached blonde, were home-schooled on an isolated property, and were injected with LSD as part of an initiation ritual.


Several additional segments on the topic are in the right side panel on the page:


– The Family: A Cult Revealed [Part 2] – The Family cult: A true believer’s story
– Former detective on investigating an apocalyptic Australian cult
– Bill Hamilton-Byrne, the man behind Anne
– Behind closed doors of an elusive cult
– Could you be lured into a cult?
– Grown children of The Family share mixed emotions about cult leaders



Dec 12, 2018


This is Be Scofield, the journalist exposing cults and abuse in the tantra world on Medium.com.

I’ve just released a new story about a sex cult in Europe called “The New Tantra.” It was censored by Medium.com two days ago causing outrage amongst many. So, I launched my own platform to host my work from now on. Please read and share to help this go viral.

The Mad Hatter: Inside Alex Vartman’s “The New Tantra”



Exposing Cults & Spiritual Abuse


Be Scofield


Spiritual Bypassing Guru, Robert Augustus Masters, was an abusive cult leader


Author and spiritual teacher Robert Augustus Masters, also known as RAMOS ran two abusive cults for a period of 17 years. He is accused of systemic physical and emotional abuse. Former members claim he has never confronted his own shadow nor has shown empathy or compassion for his victims or remorse for his actions— something that contradicts his so called expertise on “the shadow.” Masters’ history raises important questions about what accountability means for spiritual teachers who have abused in their past.




On October 1st, 2018 Sounds True published a new book by “spiritual bypassing” guru Robert Augustus Masters. It’s called Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark and features a forward by author Lissa Rankin. Known by many for his popular book Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us, Masters is often cited as an expert on the ways people use spirituality to avoid their own shadow and taking responsibility for their actions.


Masters is a self-admitted former abusive cult leader. Between 1977 and 1994 he ran two cults in Canada, one of which was called Xanthyros. He wrote a short blog post around 2014 about his past called “A Needed Shattering” in which he admits that he got “off track” and was an arrogant, “spiritual asshole” who ran a cult and harmed people. After a 9-month psychotic break from a drug induced experience, he claims that all of his former abusive ways “no longer fit” him. Mentally unstable and in need of constant care, his members fled him in 1994. He now claims his former experience as a cult leader makes him particularly well suited to teach about spiritual bypassing, cults, abuse and aggression.


The accusations against Masters include claims of many years of physical and emotional abuse, manipulation, mind control, intimidation, financial manipulation, relationship tampering and more. Former members claim he also broke up numerous couples and demanded some members give their kids up for adoption. A former insider describes him as “an abusive, cruel, egocentric, power hungry paranoid child” who “coerced us into abusing our families outside the community as well as those inside — spouses, children, and friends.” The actions by Masters caused extensive trauma and harm to former members, including babies and children they claim. Former members state that he has settled three lawsuits out of court in regards to his past abuse. . .



Dec 22, 2018
HuffPost Her Stories  


Dear reader,


A celebrity spiritual “healer” with a global following was arrested in Brazil this week after hundreds of women filed reports accusing him of sexual abuse.


HuffPost Brazil’s Andréa Martinelli says the country has been in shock since the first accuser spoke up on TV earlier this month, triggering an avalanche of similar complaints. João Teixeira de Faria, known as John of God, “was a medium of prestige here in Brazil,” Andréa said. His devoted followers believed he had the power to heal through “spiritual surgeries” and felt betrayed and even defensive when women began accusing him of abusing them under the guise of treatment. Some people even protested in front of his spiritual retreat in solidarity with him, Andréa added.


What’s remarkable about this story, though, is how seriously the investigation is being taken and how quickly Faria was arrested — despite his reputation as a beloved and powerful figure. In a matter of days, more than 500 women filed complaints against Faria, leading authorities to arrest him Dec. 16 and charge him Dec. 20 with “sexual violation through fraud,” according to The Associated Press.


HuffPost Brazil decided to make this the focus of its coverage. “We have chosen, first of all, to emphasize the importance of women’s denunciations [against Faria],” Andréa said. “We know that specifically in Brazil, cases of sexual violence are under-reported for a number of reasons — among them not only shame and fear, but also the fact that powerful men are involved.”


“The swift investigation into Faria highlights how important it is for survivors to report their abusers and the collective power of women’s voices.”


“I think this is the main nuance that this case brings: The voice of women strengthens the denunciations [against Faria] and provides a basis for a solid investigation against a man who, according to them, committed a series of violent acts in moments of fragility as they searched for connection with the divine.”


Until next time,




For more on John of God, readers of Portuguese can follow HuffPost Brazil’s @anabeatrizrr1 and @deamartinelli. All subscribers should stay tuned for more on the case as the investigation continues.



51. Bares RepostingFebruary 25, 2018


“How to identify a cult: Six tips from an expert.
The groups are secretive, exploitive and closed
to outsiders – and they’re still with us.”


‘So what constitutes a cult? Eichel listed several factors:


“Beware of any kind of pressure. That’s probably the single most important advice I can give anyone. Any kind of pressure to make a quick decision about becoming involved in any intensive kind of activity or organization.”


“Be wary of any leader who proclaims him or herself as having special powers or special insight. And, of course, divinity.”


“The group is closed, so in other words, although there may be outside followers, there’s usually an inner circle that follows the leader without question, and that maintains a tremendous amount of secrecy.”


“The group uses deceptive means, typically, to recruit new members, and then once recruited will subject its members to an organized program of thought reform, or what most people refer to as brainwashing.”


“Typically cults also exploit their members. . .mostly financially. Within the group, they’ll exploit members financially, psychologically, emotionally and, all too often, sexually.”


“A very important aspect of a cult is the idea that if you leave the cult, horrible things will happen to you. This is important, and it’s important to realize. That people outside of a cult are potential members, so they’re not looked upon as negatively as people inside the cult who then leave the cult.’”



85. ton2u March 25, 2018


The documentary Wild Wild Country about the Rajneesh cult is worth a look-see… but the feeling here is, even though it’s almost 6 hours worth of viewing, much is left out of the narrative…. curiosity piqued, I did a little additional research….


“…Rajneesh became an anti-theist, took an interest in hypnosis…


Sannyasins who had ‘graduated’ from months of meditation and therapy could apply to work in the ashram, in an environment that was consciously modeled on the community the Russian mystic Gurdjieff led in France in the 1930s. Key features incorporated from Gurdjieff were hard, unpaid work, and supervisors chosen for their abrasive personality, both designed to provoke opportunities for self-observation and transcendence.”





86. Golden VeilMarch 27, 2018 (excerpt)


85. ton2u wrote: “Key features incorporated from Gurdjieff were hard, unpaid work…” Whoa! Thanks for sharing your research!


I’ve only watched the first part of the second of the 6 episodes of Wild, Wild Country, but I was struck by the rapid building program facilitated by the red garment wearing followers at Rajneeshpuram. I think it was said in the documentary that the building program included shifts of people working around the clock.


When I first met the Fellowship, I remember one long time student I met telling me about working on the Farm or Renaissance building octave. It’s been about 33 years since our conversation but I still remember the look on his face when he was speaking about the work he did. He had a really hard look on his face of deep regret as he spoke about the long hours and implied physical suffering; he was injured.


That whole thing about the coarser becoming finer via friction, what a bunch of opportunistic phony baloney. It’s a religious belief in the Fellowship that suffering + refined physical culture bring about psychological evolution.


And this, also from Ton2u’s research “… supervisors chosen for their abrasive personality…”, well I think we all remember that…



The New Republic


Outside the Limits of Human Imagination



March 27, 2018


What the new documentary “Wild, Wild Country” doesn’t capture about the magnetism and evil of the Rajneesh cult




Tom Leonard – Sex, drugs and the Rolls Royce guru




BHAGWAN: The God That Failed by Hugh Milne © 1986


“Why did this man and his teachings have such an enormous impact on me, and later upon thousands of other Westerners? I think we can find at least part of the answer in the sexual and social climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s.”






The extremist therapy ashram created at Poona (Pune) by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931-1990) is one of the most controversial episodes in Indian guru history. The extension in Oregon during the 1980s involved a commune that became notorious for aggressive behaviour on the part of an elite. The chief ministrant of the commune was Ma Anand Sheela, whose devotion to the guru was accompanied by an agenda which got out of control. After Rajneesh was deported and returned to India, he changed his name to Osho. This article favours critical coverage.


kevinrdshepherd.info/bhagwan shree rajneesh



94. – 96. Wouldnt You Like To Know March 29, 2018


In ancient Greece, pretty much every female deity had a following that was a cult (just like the male deity followings). One of the most significant of these was the Cult of Demeter that gave rise to The Eleusinian Mysteries, which was a fertility cult of considerable influence in that society,



95. Perhaps the most significant of cults in ancient Greece was the Delphic Oracle. The Delphic Oracle was actually women who served Apollo by providing him voice and were called Pythia (priestesses). This influence lasted for centuries and was central to religious/spiritual and all life of those times.


Recommended reading:


The Delphic Oracle: Its Responses and Operations with a Catalogue of Responses


University of California Press, 1978
by Joseph E. Fontenrose


 Here is a good summary of the topic, which includes an image depicting the Pythia giving divination:



96. For those who would like a video on the topic of The Delphic Oracle:




Cynthia S. Kisser Waco, Jonestown and All That Madness


Steve Allen The Jesus Cults


Michael Shermer The Unlikeliest Cult in History


David Silverman – The Cult of Falun Gong


Andrew Cooper-Sansone Meeting Our “Enemies” Where They Are


Richard DawkinsEnemies of Reason & Slaves to Superstition



Noam ChomskyThe Crimes of U.S. Presidents




Randall Clifford Is The Root of Evil the Psychopathic Mind?



The New Yorker




How not to negotiate with believers.


By Malcolm Gladwell | March 24, 2014


When Clive Doyle was a teen-ager, in the nineteen-fifties, he and his mother met an itinerant preacher outside their church, in Melbourne, Australia. He was a big, gruff Scotsman named Daniel Smith. The Doyles were devout Seventh-Day Adventists. But Smith was the follower of a self-proclaimed prophet named Victor Houteff, who became an Adventist just after the First World War and parted ways with the Church a decade later. The Doyles listened to Smith’s account of the Houteff teachings until the small hours of the morning and were impressed. “We were taught that if someone comes with a message based on the Bible, instead of trying to fight it, instead of trying to put it down or trying to prove it wrong, we should study the Bible to perceive whether the message is true,” Doyle writes in his autobiography. “Study to see if it’s so.”




From Talking To Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know, by Malcolm Gladwell © 2019


Chapter 4: The Holy Fool (pp. 98-101)


In Russian folklore there is an archetype called yurodivy, or the “Holy Fool.” The Holy Fool is a social misfit – eccentric, off-putting, sometimes even crazy – who nonetheless has access to the truth. Nonetheless is actually the wrong word. The Holy Fool is a truth-teller because he is an outcast. Those who are not part of existing social hierarchies are free to blurt out inconvenient truths or question things the rest of us take for granted. In one Russian fable, a Holy Fool looks at a famous icon of the Virgin Mary and declares it the work of the devil. It’s an outrageous, heretical claim. But then someone throws a stone at the image and the facade cracks, revealing the face of Satan.


Every culture has its version of the Holy Fool. In Hans Christian Andersen’s famous children’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the king walks down the street in what he has been told is a magical outfit. No one says a word except a small boy, who cries out, “Look at the king! He’s not wearing anything at all!” The little boy is a Holy Fool. The tailors who sold the king his clothes told him they would be invisible to anyone unfit for their job. The adults said nothing, for fear of being labeled incompetent. The little boy didn’t care. The closest we have to Holy Fools in modern life are whistleblowers. They are willing to sacrifice loyalty to their institution – and, in many cases, the support of their peers – in the service of exposing fraud and deceit.


What sets the Holy Fool apart is a different sense of the possibility of deception. In real life, Tim Levine reminds us, lies are rare. And those lies that are told are told by a very small subset of people. That’s why it doesn’t matter so much that we are terrible at detecting lies in real life. Under the circumstances, in fact, defaulting to truth makes logical sense. If the person behind the counter at the coffee shop says your total with tax is $6.74, you can do the math yourself to double-check their calculations, holding up the line and wasting thirty seconds of your time. Or you can simply assume the salesperson is telling you the truth, because on balance most people do tell the truth.


That’s what Scott Carmichael did. He was faced with two alternatives. Reg Brown said that Ana Montes was behaving suspiciously. Ana Montes, by contrast, had a perfectly innocent explanation for her actions. On one hand was the exceedingly rare possibility that one of the most respected figures at the DIA was a spy. On the other hand was the far more likely scenario that Brown was just being paranoid. Carmichael went with the odds: that’s what we do when we default to truth. Nat Simons went with the odds as well. Madoff could have been the mastermind of the greatest financial fraud in history, but what were the chances of that?


The Holy Fool is someone who doesn’t think this way. The statistics say that the liar and the con man are rare. But to the Holy Fool, they are everywhere.


We need Holy Fools in our society, from time to time. They perform a valuable role. That’s why we romanticize them. Harry Markopolos was the hero of the Madoff saga. Whistleblowers have movies made about them. But the second, crucial part of Levi’s argument is that we can’t all be Holy Fools. That would be a disaster.


Levine argues that over the course of evolution, human beings never developed sophisticated and accurate skills to detect deception as it was happening because there is no advantage to spending your time scrutinizing the words and behaviors of those around you. The advantage to human beings lies in assuming that strangers are truthful. As he puts it, the trade-off between truth-default and the risk of deception is


a great deal for us. What we get in exchange for being vulnerable to an occasional lie is efficient communication and social coordination. The benefits are huge and the costs are trivial in comparison. Sure, we get deceived once in a while. That is just the cost of doing business.


That sounds callous, because it’s easy to see all the damage done by people like Ana Montes and Bernie Madoff. Because we trust implicitly, spies go undetected, criminals roam free, and lives are damaged. But Levine’s point is that the price of giving up on that strategy is much higher. If everyone on Wall Street behaved like Harry Markopolos, there would be no fraud on Wall Street – but the air would be so thick with suspicion and paranoia that there would be no Wall Street.*




*  But wait. Don’t we want counterintelligence officers to be Holy Fools? Isn’t this just the profession where having someone who suspects everyone makes sense? Not at all. One of Scott Carmichael’s notorious predecessors was James Angleton, who ran the counterintelligence operations of the CIA during the last decades of the Cold War. Angleton became convinced there was a Soviet mole high inside the agency. He launched an investigation that eventually covered 120 CIA officials. He couldn’t find the spy. In frustration, Angleton ordered many in the Soviet division to pack their bags. Hundreds of people – Russian specialists with enormous knowledge and experience of America’s chief adversary – were shipped elsewhere. Morale plummeted. Case officers stopped recruiting new agents.



P. 69

*  Levine’s theories are laid out in his book, Duped: Truth-Default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2019). If you want to understand how deception works, there is no better place to start.






A scrupulous account that overturns many commonplace notions about how we can best detect lies and falsehoods


From the advent of fake news to climate-science denial and Bernie Madoff’s appeal to investors, people can be astonishingly gullible. Some people appear authentic and sincere even when the facts discredit them, and many people fall victim to conspiracy theories and economic scams that should be dismissed as obviously ludicrous. This happens because of a near-universal human tendency to operate within a mindset that can be characterized as a “truth-default.” We uncritically accept most of the messages we receive as “honest.” We all are perceptually blind to deception. We are hardwired to be duped. The question is, can anything be done to militate against our vulnerability to deception without further eroding the trust in people and social institutions that we so desperately need in civil society?





I call my theory Truth Default Theory (TDT for short). It offers an alternative view of deception and deception detection.


The basic idea of TDT is that when we communicate with other people, we not only tend to believe them, but the thought that maybe we shouldn’t does not even come to mind. This is a good thing for two reasons. First, and most important, the truth-default is needed for communication to function. Second, most people are mostly honest most of the time. But, the truth-default makes us vulnerable to deception. Fortunately, there are “triggers” that can break us out of our default-to-honest mindset and enable lie detection. TDT covers how this works and why.





History Channel – Mind Control: America’s Secret War


Richard Rhodes: “Arsenals of Folly” | Talks at Google 2007


Richard RhodesEnergy: A Human History (Science Salon #25) 2018


Phil Zuckerman – What It Means To Be Moral (Science Salon #82) 2019





Politics & Society | June 24, 2019


Are We Living in 1984? George Packer Revisits Orwell’s Dystopian Novel for The Atlantic.


1984 – George Orwell’s seminal work – has enjoyed a cultural resurgence in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.



Bertrand Russell on Immortality,

Why Religion Exists, and What “The Good Life” Really Means


“In human affairs, we can see that there are forces making for happiness, and forces making for misery. We do not know which will prevail, but to act wisely we must be aware of both.”









Letter From Birmingham City Jail
by Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 16, 1963



Stanford | The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute


The Encyclopedia, based on the extensive historical research originally conducted for The Papers, has over 280 articles on civil rights movement figures, events, and organizations. It also offers a detailed day-to-day chronology of King’s life, drawn from the volumes.




The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
Published on Nov 20, 2015


FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY a non-fiction film commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” No longer will the Letter from Birmingham Jail be in the SHADOW of the “I Have a Dream” speech. The film stars community leaders of Columbus, Ohio and educators and leaders of The Ohio State University. The Letter from Birmingham Jail is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racial discrimination, arguing that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws. After an early setback, it enjoyed widespread publication and became a key text for the American civil rights movement of the early 1960s.










 I Am Not Your NegroDocumentary – 2017


Director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished, Remember This House. It is a journey into black history that connects the Civil Rights movement to #BlackLivesMatter. It questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond.



Sam Harris on the dangers of gurus and cults


Fleur Brown – I Grew up in a Cult


Dawn Smith Why I Left an Evangelical Cult


Jenée Letter To My Mum, and The Cult That Tore Our Family Apart


Jonathan Parks-RamageA journey into Reality L.A., Hollywood’s hippest evangelical church


Buckley, Kerouac, Sanders and Yablonsky discuss Hippies


An Annotated Bibliography of TIMOTHY LEARY
By Michael Horowitz, Karen Walls and Billy Smith


Timothy Leary – Confessions of a Hope Fiend


Colette Dowling – Confessions of an American Guru, Ram Dass-Richard Alpert


Vikram Gandhi – The True Story of a False Prophet



Book review:


Jan 27, 2019


INFLUENCE: The Psychology of Persuasion 


In 1984 Dr. Robert Cialdini published this ground-breaking book, which has been in print ever since (and revised four times). What makes it so relevant today is that many of the lessons he gives (having first extracted them from such unlikely places as con-men investigators of the bunco squad, door-to-door encyclopaedia salesmen, and pollsters) are still only known to professionals in the influence game – for example, marketeers – and not the people who should really know, namely, the public at large.


Is it using you, or are you using it? Never have these words been better applied than in the field of influence, or as Cialdini shows, covert influence. Often people are influenced without being aware of the fact. This is less about things such as subliminal advertising, than the result of careful manipulation using six key triggers uncovered in ‘influence situations’. These six, or combinations of them, in the right setting can operate upon you unconsciously. In one experiment, voters were asked to put a large and unsightly billboard up in their garden advertising a political cause. Not surprisingly most people said no. But, in a similar sample, when people had already agreed the week before to putting up a poster in the window, more of them said yes. But most interestingly, almost the same percentage agreed even if they had simply signed a petition a few weeks before – an act that many could not even remember doing. So, we can do things that later cause us to be influenced and yet we have no awareness of the process.


This particular influence trigger is termed by Cialdini commitment and consistency. We act to remove cognitive dissonance – contradiction between beliefs – in our lives. If someone uses this to advance their own agenda, as in the billboard case, we may not notice. The influence avalanche starts with small nudges that refine and expose us as a certain kind of person. For example, if someone considers themselves a good chef, they will be acting consistently if they then buy a top chef’s knife. False questionnaires are just such a consistency trap. You answer the questions, but the answers are worth far less to the company (often the questionnaires are thrown away) than the new perception they have engineered in you – which is one of ‘caring’ about that company – and, of course, favouring their products . . .






Jan 30, 2009


Interview With Rory MacLean: ‘Magic Bus’ on the Hippie Trail


Travel Interviews: Frank Bures asks him about the classic journey from Istanbul’s pudding shop to Kathmandu


No one knows exactly how many people in the 1960s and ‘70s set out on the hippie trail from Istanbul through Iran, Pakistan and India, and on to Kathmandu. Some think as many as 2 million seekers traveled the route in search of some kind of enlightenment. Regardless, beginning in 1962, when Allen Ginsberg landed in India, and ending in 1979, when the Iranian revolution shut down a big swath of it, the hippie trail was dotted with young Western travelers. They were, as Rory MacLean puts it, “the first movement of people in history traveling to be colonized rather than to colonize.” In other words, they were traveling to have their minds blown and their lives transformed. A few years ago, MacLean set out on the trail to see what had become of it and to explore the history of a movement that forever altered the travel world. The result is his fantastic account, Magic Bus, just released in the U.S. I asked him via email about the Beatles, Middle Earth and how to find a trail of one’s own . . .



Customer Review:

David T. Cooper

Wonderful read

5 September 2006


Many books have been written about the sixties, but Rory Maclean’s “Magic Bus” is the first to my knowledge which describes the journey many thousands of us made in those tumultuous years, overland from Istanbul to Kathmandu. The author retraces the route, describing with accuracy and humour the old haunts that many of us knew so well. From the Pudding Shop in the shadow of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the Amir Kabir in Tehran, the cafes on Chicken Street in Kabul, the magnificent statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, tragically destroyed by the Taliban, to the dope filled dives of Freak Street in Kathmandu. For me the book brought the memories flooding back as I am sure it would for others familiar with the “hippy trail”.  But the book is not just for those who made that journey in the sixties and seventies, it’s a fascinating travelogue in its own right, a piece of our cultural and social history, and a wonderful description of an era and a journey which will never be repeated in quite the same way. A five star read.



Beatniks and Boomers, Hippies, Yippies and Yuppies, et al.



   What is a “Beatnik”?


Beatnik was a media stereotype prevalent throughout the 1950s to mid-1960s that displayed the more superficial aspects of the Beat Generation literary movement of the 1950s. Elements of the beatnik trope included pseudo-intellectualism, drug use, and a cartoonish depiction of real-life people along with the spiritual quest of Jack Kerouac‘s autobiographical fiction.


In 1948, Kerouac introduced the phrase “Beat Generation”, generalizing from his social circle to characterize the underground, anti-conformist youth gathering in New York at that time. The name came up in conversation with John Clellon Holmes, who published an early Beat Generation novel titled Go (1952), along with the manifesto This Is the Beat Generation in The New York Times Magazine. In 1954, Nolan Miller published his third novel Why I Am So Beat (Putnam), detailing the weekend parties of four students.


The adjective “beat” was introduced to the group by Herbert Huncke, though Kerouac expanded the meaning of the term. “Beat” came from underworld slang—the world of hustlers, drug addicts and petty thieves, where Allen Ginsberg and Kerouac sought inspiration. “Beat” was slang for “beaten down” or downtrodden, but to Kerouac and Ginsberg, it also had a spiritual connotation as in “beatitude.” Other adjectives discussed by Holmes and Kerouac were “found” and “furtive.” Kerouac felt he had identified (and was the embodiment of) a new trend analogous to the influential Lost Generation.





   What is a “baby boomer”?


Baby boomer is a descriptive term for a person who was born between 1946 and 1964. The baby boomer generation makes up a substantial portion of the world’s population, especially in developed nations: it represents nearly 20% of the American public. As the largest generational group in U.S. history (until the millennial generation slightly surpassed them), baby boomers have had, and continue to have a significant impact on the economy. As a result, they are often the focus of marketing campaigns and business plans.





   What’s a “Hippie”?


1. (especially in the 1960s) a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.


synonyms: flower child, Bohemian, beatnik, long-hair, free spirit, nonconformist, dropout 


“yesterday’s hippies are today’s ad execs”





    “Hippies” redirects here. For the British comedy series, see Hippies (TV series). For the garage rock album, see Hippies (album). Not to be confused with Yippie or Yuppie.





   . . . “Yippie”?


A member of the Youth International Party. This party began as an antiwar movement during the Vietnam era, but then developed a sort of libertarian socialist outlook, becoming focused during the 1970s and into the early 1980s on legalization of marijuana and other drugs and protesting against capitalism and corporations.


Term created by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin in the mid-1960s to refer to “members” of the Youth International Party (YIP!). The YIP! was dedicated to merging New Left activism and the hippie counterculture to create a revolution that would be both personal and political–as well as fun. Yippies tended to gather in large cities, particularly in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where Rubin and Hoffman both lived during the 1960s. Yippies rejected all -isms, including socialism and anarchism, in favor of the motto of “Do your own thing”–i.e., don’t conform to a specific system of belief but rather be an individual. At the same time, collective action was at the root of Yippie activism, and Yippies participated in “be-ins” (normally associated with hippies) and other collective gatherings. And although the YIP! did not promote any one -ism (and, despite Hoffman and Rubin’s involvement, was a self-proclaimed “leaderless” movement), the “party” was extremely leftist, advocating social justice for all and arguing that all property–including housing, clothing, and food–should be FREE. The Yippies’ most famous actions include the attack on the New York Stock Exchange (when Yippies threw money to the floor and watched as those below fought for it) and their involvement at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, at which they nominated a pig for president. Much of the Yippies’ activism consisted of guerrilla street theater and symbolic acts (such as that at the NYSE) to make a point; Yippies understood the power of the media and sought press to disseminate their revolutionary messages with a pointed disinterest in the accuracy of the stories told about them. Since the term is rooted in a particular historical moment, calling anyone a “Yippie” today would probably be inaccurate.


Abbie Hoffman’s Revolution for the Hell of It! is an excellent source for more information on the Yippies.





   . . . “Yuppie”?


Yuppie” (short for “young urban professional” or “young, upwardly-mobile professional“) is a term coined in the early 1980s for a young professional person working in a city.


History (excerpt)


Joseph Epstein was credited for coining the term in 1982, although this is contested. The first printed appearance of the word was in a May 1980 Chicago magazine article by Dan Rottenberg. The term gained currency in the United States in 1983 when syndicated newspaper columnist Bob Greene published a story about a business networking group founded in 1982 by the former radical leader Jerry Rubin, formerly of the Youth International Party (whose members were called “yippies“); Greene said he had heard people at the networking group (which met at Studio 54 to soft classical music) joke that Rubin had “gone from being a yippie to being a yuppie”. The headline of Greene’s story was “From Yippie to Yuppie”. East Bay Express humorist Alice Kahn claimed to have coined the word in a 1983 column. This claim is disputed.The proliferation of the word was affected by the publication of The Yuppie Handbook in January 1983 (a tongue-in-cheek take on The Official Preppy Handbook, followed by Senator Gary Hart‘s 1984 candidacy as a “yuppie candidate” for President of the United States.The term was then used to describe a political demographic group of socially liberal but fiscally conservative voters favoring his candidacy. Newsweek magazine declared 1984 “The Year of the Yuppie”, characterizing the salary range, occupations, and politics of “yuppies” as “demographically hazy”. The alternative acronym yumpie, for young upwardly mobile professional, was also current in the 1980s but failed to catch on.


In a 1985 issue of The Wall Street Journal, Theressa Kersten at SRI International described a “yuppie backlash” by people who fit the demographic profile yet express resentment of the label: “You’re talking about a class of people who put off having families so they can make payments on the SAABs … To be a Yuppie is to be a loathsome undesirable creature”. Leo Shapiro, a market researcher in Chicago, responded, “Stereotyping always winds up being derogatory. It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to advertise to farmers, Hispanics or Yuppies, no one likes to be neatly lumped into some group.”










Generation X: America’s Neglected ‘Middle Child‘ – Pew Research Center – June 5, 2014


Activism in the Social Media Age – July 11, 2018



Golden States of Mind:

A Geography of California Consciousness

By Jonathan Taylor and Erik Davis


We sketch out some of the main strands of religious innovation that weave together into what we call “California consciousness”: the often heterodox blend of spiritualities with movements elsewhere but uniquely and influentially concentrated in California.





“If you wanted to create a sort of archetype of the ultimate early ’70s Southern California spiritual cult, you could do no better than The Source Family.


~ Erik Davis

Writer, Social Historian


2012 Documentary
A commune of people takes up residence in a Hollywood mansion before fleeing to Hawaii.



“Fly East. Fly West. But don’t fly

into the cuckoo’s nest.”



— Epilogue, Take Me For A Ride: Coming Of Age In A Destructive Cult by Mark E. Laxer © 1993


A lyrical account of a young man’s mystical quest, Take Me For A Ride takes the reader in and out of the grip of a brilliant, sensitive, seemingly benign cult leader gone mad.


Take Me For A Ride is the story of Mark, who, at the age of seventeen, longs to see for himself what lies beneath the “surface” world of reason. Mark’s spiritual path takes an unexpected turn when his meditation teacher, Frederick Lenz, learns to use fear, sleep deprivation, and LSD as tools of persuasion.


Lenz, dubbed by Newsweek as the Yuppie Guru, holds a Ph.D. in English. He calls himself Rama. He claims to be the last incarnation of a destructive Hindu deity. He extracts from devotees roughly ten million dollars a year.


After leaving Rama’s inner circle, Mark faces head winds and haunting memories as he bicycles across America. More than a vehicle for exercising and exorcising subtle ghosts of the past, the bike trip serves as the frame through which this combined adventure story, self-help book, and expose is narrated.


Take Me For A Ride is the only book that has been published about Rama, who, in his tape “Spiritual Teachers & The Enlightenment Process” (1983), has this to say about false spiritual leaders:


“Oh, and they have vast followings. But they lack integrity. They lack humility and purity. They have forgotten. They no longer care…They make rules such as, ‘Well, no one in the community is allowed to speak to someone who has been asked to leave, or associate with them, because they’ve been taken over by evil forces…’ I mean they make up the most wonderful rationalizations. And people believe them. It’s astounding the damage that these idiots do…”




See: manybooks.net/titles/laxermaretext94tride10.html




67. Mind Out of RhymeSeptember 3, 2016


Watch CNN’s Holy Hell documentary. We are all cult fools wandering around loose and stupid looking to become exploited.



68. Bares Reposting September 3, 2016







70. Tim CampionSeptember 3, 2016


Mind Out of Rhyme and Bares Reposting,


It’s an excellent film. The Fellowship of Friends and Buddhafield cults, led by all-consuming narcissists, have followed very similar arcs. And both now appear near their end.



71. Mind Out of RhymeSeptember 3, 2016


When you watch the CNN documentary Holy Hell, you might find yourself perplexed by the spectacle of apparent orgasmic “mystical” reactions some of the cult members experience in the ritual called “the knowing”. What is happening is that a natural opioid in the brain called Beta-Endorphin is being released under the pressure of the participants’ tremendous emotional anticipation. This chemical alteration of the brain is an involuntary evolutionary development originally employed by the organism to cope with life and death situations in the wild in pre-civilized conditions. When attacked by predators or other life threatening situations the brain releases beta-endorphins (25% more powerful than morphine) which blocks virtually all negative or pain registering neuron receptors and produces instead a euphoric feeling of ultimate elation. The condition can even stimulate hallucinations. Naturally the process differs from individual to individual.


This biological phenomenon of normally involuntary radically altered brain chemistry is at the root of all the mythology surrounding the legend of “higher consciousness” and “enlightenment”.





75. Fee fi do fumSeptember 4, 2016


Mind Out of Rhyme and Bares Reposting and Tim Campion


Thanks for mentioning the CNN documentary Holy Hell. There were several similarities to the FF, including the leader’s persuading heterosexual men to have sex with him. Then there was the carrying of his large chair/throne, which was like REB’s having one of the young men carry his cushion around for him. REB can’t carry his own cushion? But of course, it’s all presented as the disciple/student/member being of service to the leader. So twisted. Other similarities were: how members were insular and cut off ties to their families and felt fine lying to them; drained their resources; were supposed to be celibate when the leader was anything but; extreme secrecy and misinformation; members having to take on a new name; obsession with appearance (like the FF’s obsession with “alchemy”). One Buddhafield member said that it began with the Knowing, and then it became entirely about the leader. His preoccupation with his body and appearance of his face, including using false eyelashes and make-up is like the photo of REB and Sasha. One good point that was made at the end was that these cult abuses don’t happen in a vacuum. Cult leaders prey on vulnerable individuals who are simply seekers, but have certain weaknesses that get exploited.



76. Tim CampionSeptember 5, 2016


This review by Owen Gleiberman speaks about what may be obvious to viewers, yet members (and even ex-members) fail to recognize. (Italics added.)


By the time the film reaches its most disturbing revelation, it hardly comes as a shock, yet when we see clips of Michel in his secret former identity as a stud in gay porn films, it is shocking, because we register how totally false his guru persona is.


It isn’t clear that Allen [the director-filmmaker, and former member] entirely gets this. Holy Hell has a flaw, and it’s that the movie buys into the idea that the Buddhafield was a mixture of the good and the bad. The dark side of Michel is presented as the flipside of his role as wise teacher and guide. But most of the former cult members don’t seem to realise that Michel was a con artist even when he wasn’t exploiting or abusing anyone. His ‘teachings’ never lifted anyone to a higher place; they were just the early stages of brainwashing. By the time Holy Hell reaches its ominous final scene, the scariest thing about it is that Allen has made a movie about how he fell into a cult and then liberated himself from it, but at the end he still seems the tiniest bit under its spell.


Pretty perceptive for a “life person.” The question of whether Robert Burton was a con artist from the beginning has often been debated on this blog. We don’t have the porn video, but we have testimonies that suggest he was a budding con artist before the Fellowship’s creation.



77. ton2uSeptember 5, 2016


Tim, thanks for the review – he writes:


“Holy Hell has a flaw, and it’s that the movie buys into the idea that the Buddhafield was a mixture of the good and the bad…. By the time Holy Hell reaches its ominous final scene, the scariest thing about it is that Allen has made a movie about how he fell into a cult and then liberated himself from it, but at the end he still seems the tiniest bit under its spell.”


One poor soul who’s interviewed in the movie at the end is choking back tears in trying to talk about “the mixture of the good and the bad.” His difficulty in getting out the words revealed an inner conflict… there was an obvious contradiction between his words and the truth of his bodily / emotional expression.


Recent comments here by Amanda @ 64 and Insider @ 65 are an example of the “good / bad” rationalization referred to in the review:


64 “…I’m so very sorry that Robert Burton has completely separated himself from his original goals of producing a school for enlightenment.”


65 “…Amanda, I agree with your comment about the original goals RB seemed to have had in the first decade or so of the FF, and how something got seriously deviated. Was it when the FF got too big?”


This seems to me an attempt to rationalize away what Burton’s “FOF project” is about – any way you care to “slice it” – past, present, future – it’s all too obvious that it’s about HIM – and all that implies… period.


In a conversation many years ago with an ex-member who I count as a true friend, he quipped about the FOF: “I don’t suppose we’ll ever live it down.” That statement speaks to being at least “the tiniest bit under its spell.”


So as not to pick on Amanda or Insider too much, speaking personally, re: my experience with the FOF “project” I feel that I am and likely always will be “the tiniest bit under its spell.” That I continue to read here and occasionally post is an outer manifestation of the fact.



79. Golden VeilSeptember 6, 2016 (excerpt)


About the Holy Hell film:


I agree with what many have said above. What struck me particularly were the similarities between cult leader Robert Burton and the cult leader Jaime/Michel/Andreas/Reyji. What an “act” these two came up with! Both are charismatic leaders with tendencies to divinify and glorify themselves, cross-dress, denigrate women who they see as competition for their young male sexual partners (see the “Femme Fatale” video in Holy Hell), have power trips over their sexual conquests (both manipulate followers to have sex with them), both groups have apologists that call the sexual abuse “consensual sex”.


Robert and “Reyji” both like ballet, have their followers build them a giant theater, have members wait on them hand and foot, have created an atmosphere of being in a “special club.” Members hide their membership from friends and family (who wouldn’t understand), and the shunning of former members is espoused by both leaders.


Members of both groups are told to recruit a targeted segment of the population: people with “magnetic centers” in the Fellowship of Friends and “open” people in Buddhafield; siblings recruit siblings, members discredit or ignore negative criticism, both groups have survived long term by the sense of community its members feel towards one another – a dynamic that is apart from the group leader, an open letter to members initiate mass exoduses from both groups; the list of similarities goes on…



Published on Apr 28, 2016


HOLY HELL: Documentary Goes Inside Los Angeles Buddhafield Cult


“Holy Hell,” a documentary directed by Will Allen, tells of the filmmaker’s time with the Buddhafield, a Los Angeles–based “spiritual group” he joined in the 1980s. Director Will Allen shares clips from the documentary as well as the trailer, and recalls his personal relationship with Michel, the name used at the time by the group’s leader. Allen also discusses what life was like inside the cult, why he started filming and how it all came crashing down in this episode of BYOD hosted by Ondi Timoner.




Life Inside This Cult Was Beautiful, Until It Wasn’t
By Matthew Jacobs




80. Oscar September 6, 2016


“The question of whether Robert Burton was a con artist from the beginning has often been debated on this blog.”


I always find it interesting that some people never buy into the scam from the beginning. We, the former members, can debate and argue about it all we want, but for many people who never joined or had any inclination to join, there’s no debate. To them, it’s now a cult, and always has been a cult, beginning on January 1, 1970 (or whenever it actually came into existence). To them, it was just obvious. We sometimes don’t want to admit that they were smarter and wiser than us when it came to recognizing the scam. Their egos weren’t stroked by the promise of being someone special or being part of something special.


Many of us would like to believe there was a time when something “real” was happening there — it’s a comforting thought. Makes us feel smarter, less naive, and better than all of these suckers today. But we — yes, all of us, “we” — were hypnotized just like today’s followers are hypnotized.


It’s always possible things have gotten worse, weirder, stranger, more imbalanced, and more criminal/corrupt. But there were never “the good ole days.” It’s always been pretty, weird, strange, imbalanced, and criminal/corrupt.



83. WhaleRiderSeptember 7, 2016


I am grateful to have relinquished my superstitious beliefs from the FOF.


One of those beliefs was that “c-influence” was designing the “friction” I experienced in my life specifically in order to awaken me.


Armed with that belief, anything that “happened” to me, good or bad, was for a reason, intentionally caused by the invisible hands of angels, and all for my benefit, as long as I paid my mandatory donations each month.


If indeed intentional and not arbitrary, I took that to mean that the bad stuff was supposed to remind me how asleep I was, and the good stuff was a reward for all my efforts at self-remembering.


I mean, c-influence certainly wasn’t sadistic, right? They were just doing their job looking out for me…implying that the same friction experienced outside the cult would somehow put the average person asleep because of all the negative emotion that can happen as a result.


Though, it didn’t really seem to matter how much self remembering I was doing, it was never enough, or how much negative emotion I didn’t express…shit happened anyway, which of course lead me to doubt myself that maybe I wasn’t self-remembering correctly or maybe I need to somehow give more…pay more…in turn destabilizing my psyche, and making me more dependent upon group membership for validation and identity.


How could I trust myself? I had joined because of an identity crisis. When we were all together in a group activity, a dinner, concert, reading, or meeting, I felt my attention was amplified in a way that was difficult to achieve by myself and that felt good, really good, compared to witnessing my parent’s divorce.


Consequently, I spent less and less time alone and more time surrounded by other cult followers…and became entrapped…and in a way addicted to the pleasurable intensity, which fed the exhaustive, hyper-vigilant state dubbed “self-remembering”.


I imagine that a narcissist finds it especially difficult to achieve that level of amplified attention by themselves without an audience…hence the mutually reinforcing glue that welds a guru to his followers and vice versa (or neurotic patient and their therapist).


Every so often, however, an old follower gets to play guru to a new follower, and the cycle of abuse and reality distortion repeats.


That is what is going on behind all the drama in OH, the snake chasing its tail, just rolling along, going in circles.


I think that burton used “c-influence” to give himself carte blanche and chalk up his moral failures as others of his dubious ilk do that “the gods work in mysterious ways”, thus abdicating responsibility for his actions. He has passed that delusion system onto his followers, who will pass it onto others, unless there is an ongoing, healthy, public counter-narrative…which I sorely lacked when I first joined.


Now when shit happens, I’ve learned not to take it personally…nor pass it onto others.


The remaining FOF group is an abuser of human rights; that’s when a church is not a church and should have their status revoked…and be disbanded. Period.



84. Bares RepostingSeptember 7, 2016 




Barbara Bruno Lancaster, Former Cult Member


In 1972, I joined a study group. In 1984, I woke up to find that I had willingly given away my life for 12 years – under an illusion that I was making myself a better person and the world a better place to live in. This wasn’t a dream, I was in a cult.


That sounds pretty drastic. How could anyone let themselves get hooked into such a situation? I was then 27 (hardly a child). Now I must take responsibility for not having taken responsibility. I was a thinker, an artist, a reader who envied the people in history who were lucky enough to live in times where there were opportunities to become part of a movement that made a contribution to humanity. I wanted to understand “what makes us tick,” but found no answers in modern psychology. Perhaps there was an elusive ancient knowledge that I might discover today. I feared a wasted life, and doubted my ability to live self-directedly.


In 1972, I wished to study a psychology called The 4th Way, which is based on the early 20th century writings of George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky. This philosophy proposes an esoteric system of achieving a permanent higher level of consciousness and stresses the need to find a “real” 4th Way school led by a consciously-developed teacher. After finding a bookmark from a group (I will call it the “SOS” [FoF]), I attended a series of prospective student meetings and came into contact with people who certainly acted esoteric. They were speaking knowledgeably on a subject of great interest to me. I was asked to try a few of the school exercises in behavior modification, and felt awkward and stupid around the students. I couldn’t believe that they wanted me to join! I made the first in a series of monthly donations, and then was directed to a silent, seemingly ineffectual man in the corner, whom they referred to as “The Teacher”.


Within a few weeks, I had moved from my home in Hawaii and was living with other students in a house in Carmel, California. For six months I had little contact with anyone outside of the group. The Teacher and his inner circle of leaders took over the house to work on a book and hold meetings. My activities centered on a constant exposure to his words and to carrying out the directions of his leaders. There were mental exercises to be followed in all waking hours, i.e., words that we were to eliminate from our speech; not using contractions; not crossing our legs and physically moving in a manner that indicated intentionality (we looked like robots). When one could begin to adjust to an exercise, it would be changed. I now spoke only in the special “work language” of the school. For five years I followed a word exercise that forbade the use of the word “I”. One was to refer to themselves only in the 3rd person. (Try ordering a meal without using “I”.) We were used to hearing each other speak, but our special language added to the discomfort of outside communication.


The aim was a heightened state of awareness in which one could regard oneself objectively as a machine-like being. Man existed in a state of walking sleep and needed constant shocks in order to awaken to his real potential. My words, reactions, physical appearance, and basic character were always open for discussion by the others. My behavior and attitudes were constantly observed and classified as indications of a “good” student or a “bad” student. This was always done as suggestions for my own good. I was not supposed to express negativity.


This environment was not all unpleasant. There was a strong feeling of community, a sense of purpose, of spiritual fulfillment, and a new state of awareness of the world that was exhilarating. There were times when I felt that I was losing control of my mind. This was taken care of by taking me for a walk where another student would softly remind me that this was simply a stage in my development, and that confusion itself was really a high state. There was a kindness and humility among the lower ranks of students that made me feel accepted. I was approaching all of this as a one-year experiment in self-knowledge.


Three months after joining this “study group”, a special meeting was called and it was announced that a woman who had left the school had committed suicide. This was seen as an example of what happens when students do not value the knowledge they have been exposed to. The school had become a lifetime endeavor! (Only for those who were strong enough to succeed.)


We were now told that there were invisible higher level beings, called “C Influence” that were around us constantly and would provide shocks to remind us of their presence. When something pleasant, or unpleasant, occurred it was said to be C Influence, providing shocks to awaken me from my lowly state. C Influence spoke directly through the Teacher, and to question this was considered a manifestation of a low level of being. We had been chosen to become the enlightened people who would found a new civilization after a soon-to-come nuclear holocaust. Please remember, this was said in an insulated environment. I began to think that I was constantly being watched and that even my thoughts were subject to judgement by these “higher forces.” Lifton refers to this as the “psychology of the pawn.”


When my savings ran out, I began working again in ordinary life and found that there was a profound distance between myself and my co-workers who were not part of the school. I was quiet and just did my work. My “real” life was elsewhere, and I was thoroughly committed to it.


Although the school control never succeeded in becoming absolute, my ability to measure reality and to maintain personal autonomy were greatly diminished. In George Orwell’s 1984, he saw this regulating restraint as being accomplished by means of the 2-way telescreen. But a mechanical device is not necessary when one is sufficiently surrounded by “human” apparatus.


The world became divided into black & white. Ideas, feelings, and actions consistent with school policy were praised. Inconsistencies were explained as a waste of my precious time and an incorrect valuation of the opportunities that had been extended to me. Policy was changed over the years, but an unwavering demand was placed upon me to strive permanently for a perfection which did not exist. I became guilty and depressed. I was no longer working for something – I was fighting against myself. Guilt always followed a self-observation, and my repressed negativity could be expressed through complaints about my attitudes. I wanted to “confess” my awareness of a personal failing before someone else could point it out. The more I admitted to weakness, the easier it was to judge others.


I was the enemy! I began to think that I just wasn’t capable of knowing myself. Other people’s opinion of me was “real.” The school became a living being and I was just a cell in it. The group was more important than me.


I became a “master of justification.” Former cult members all say that they had doubts throughout their involvement. My misgivings became a closely guarded secret, unbearable to admit, even to myself. I developed subtle ways of rebelling, but outwardly I towed the party line. This core of doubt looked for an open door, and I lived in fear of finding it. It was Catch-22. [in FoF speak: Catch-44.]


I sided with the liberal-wing of the school, who felt that they could bring about a more humanizing element, and perhaps ensure their own survival. Yet, too often, I took no action against injustice, deceit, and outright bullying by the Teacher’s appointed leaders, whose power he supported. I watched children being given away when the Teacher decided they were unnecessary distractions. Relationships and marriages were broken at his suggestion. The rich were courted and fleeced. The 10% of gross salary for monthly donations rose with an ever-rising list of required special donations. It was almost impossible (both financially, and as proof of commitment) to live outside of a communal situation. Within a “teaching house” there was little or no room for deviation or personal expression. We were an intellectual and cultural group, but the form this took was always at the whim of the Teacher’s taste. He wanted us to become an 18th century culture (imagine a woman’s place in such a society), and a large part of funds went to his antique purchases (the finest works went to his home).


Eventually the group had centers in most major cities in the U.S., Europe, and Mexico. The Teacher got the school a State Charter as a Church. He established a winery on the school property in Northern California as a non-profit corporation. We were expected to spend weekends and vacations working at the headquarters. Those with especially high levels of “valuation for the work” lived and worked there full-time. There was no housing provided. People lived crowded together in houses outside the grounds, or in trailers, or slept under a table and kept their belongings in their car trunk. But on Saturday night, they wore tuxedos and gowns to the concert hall, where prestigious musicians would play to an audience who would overwhelm them with applause at the appropriate moments.


In the “SOS” [FoF] an attitude of them-versus-us prevailed. The outside world was dead. Apparently, people who knew too much about the secret activities of the Teacher had been given direct tasks not to tell the others. You were asked to leave if you broke a task. If you left the school you were ostracized.


I was happily married to another student, whom I trusted with some of my doubts. We had a little mixed-breed dog who was very precious to us. I came close to a nervous breakdown in 1980 when the Teacher declared that we could only have pedigreed animals. I began to realize how much control the Teacher had over anything I cared about. I saw only two choices: become quietly insane (as others had), or commit suicide. I could not imagine having the strength to leave the school. My husband Ronald suffered greatly in his fear that I was losing my commitment. He began defending me to people who were offering him advice about changing my behavior. We became part of a developing underground of discontent where small confidences were shared. In time, an ethical member of the Board of Directors [Samuel Sanders] discovered criminal actions and called for public censure of the Teacher. This information was strong enough to penetrate through to what was left of my self-respect, and I could not offer a single justification. Even then, I thought that things could now change for the better. A meeting was called, by a representative of the Teacher, to discuss the situation. I brought up my concerns: Students were not free to seek help from mental professionals; many were becoming alcoholics, and we were, generally, living in a state of fear. I was told that these problems were my imagination and the fear was only within me. I snapped!


I left the group – after 12 years. l felt helpless. I had no friends and was deeply in debt. I couldn’t explain the lost years. To the outside world a cult experience itself indicates a flawed mentality. I grieved for those left behind, imprisoned by their learned ability to accept the unacceptable. Ronald, myself, and a few others felt marooned on a strange shore, cringing, clinging, and finally, setting out to discover our new world.


Within a few months, we became part of a former cult members group at the Cult Clinic in Los Angeles. The Clinic was a flame burning in my dark night. I will always be grateful for their understanding. What has been most helpful is hearing that ex-members share the same experience even though the form of each group is different. What cults believe is not important (it may be truth or nonsense). The key indication of danger lies in an insulated organization that lacks a system of checks and balances.


l choose to believe that the positive things I retain from my experience are a credit to the sincere relationships I once shared, to my abiding faith in the goodness of God and nature, and to my own intelligence and self-respect.


However, I did not gain this from the “SOS,” [FoF] but rather, in spite of it.


Most ex-cult members do not speak out. Many never realize they were in a cult. They just leave one day, and eventually look for something else to replace it. My activities in cult awareness – reading, writing, lecturing, and creating publications – are looked upon as extreme by some of the people who left the school with me.


The most common reaction to my story is: “Well, that could never happen to me!” I’ve met with a lot of former members and they are not stupid. Most are highly intelligent. The newer groups are especially appealing to the well-educated. Recruitment is directed to the best, the brightest, and the most idealistic of persons. Every cult member is a recruiter whose sincerity is infectious. Please note: Because cult members can only associate with people inside the group, they will see outsiders purely as potential recruits or losers. I did not feel I “recruited” my mother and my life-long friend when they joined the “SOS” [FoF] at my encouragement – I wanted to “help” them down the one true path.


Mind control exists – it produces an inability to act from one‘s own integrity. Brainwashing is spiritual rape. Remember: No one ever thinks they are joining a cult.



How do people get caught up in cults without realizing it is actually a cult?


Nathan Zamprogno, works at New South Wales Department of Education and Communities

Answered May 7, 2017


A mistake people make is to think that all victims of cults are dumb. Many, even most, are not.


And no cult is dumb enough to advertise itself by saying “Join us, and we’ll rob you blind, wean you off the affection of your family, and steal your dignity.”


Cults portray themselves as doing good (within their definition of good), and people who join cults feel (at least at first) that they’re getting something for their money.


An intelligent person, but at a point of emotional vulnerability, is the prey of choice. Recent relationship breakdown? Death in the family caused you to contemplate the broader meaning of your life? Feeling isolated and friendless? A cult is waiting to be your friend, and tell you you’re special, and have an awesome destiny.


You and I marvel at the susceptibility of people to join groups that have been reported widely in the media as fraudsters, nutcases, or both.


But cults are masters of a handful of psychological tricks — tricks drawn from the same handbook that are used to subtly manipulate you to buy more at the store, gamble more at the casino, and upsize your car/house/wardrobe when you don’t need and can’t afford to.


These tricks include


1. Making you feel special or accepted


2. Promising you that there is a way to get ahead by conferring “special knowledge” that will be imparted when enough money has changed hands, or levels acquired, or loyalty demonstrated


3. Confirming your existing biases, including many common to all humans such as “I deserve better” or “I have an important destiny” or “my friends/family/job have held me back” or “I am smarter than average”


4. Keeping fulfillment just out of reach by continually placing new goals on the horizon, just like any good addictive iOS or Android game


5. Isolating you from sources of critical thinking, and (this last one is particularly crucial)


6. Convincing you to invert your normal critical thinking processes and stating that “opposition” (from concerned family, critical media or elsewhere) is actually proof that you’re finally on the right track, and that those that oppose you are in fact the ones who are variously misinformed, jealous, stupid, or visionless.


7. Equally, that self doubt, poor finances, and unwillingness to further commit is your own subconscious (or the devil) trying to sabotage your own progress and self-actualisation. For example, a lack of answer to prayer or inability to access the higher consciousness that the paid-for level promised is not the fault of the cult or the leader, but instead is your fault.



Now to answer your question, it has to be said that people being drawn into this web are entirely ignorant of exactly these factors, because the cult is skilled at redirecting your attention with reasonable sounding explanations. The most successful cults around the world (and I include Scientology, the Mormon church, Landmark Worldwide/EST, and all Televangelists ministries everywhere) have grown fat and rich on their adeptness at doing this on an industrial scale.


I lost my wife to a cult, and sat for a time on the national committee of an anti-cult advice and advocacy network (CIFS, in Australia). If you are being drawn into a cult, or have lost a loved one to a cult, seek help and never give up.





34. Out of TimeSeptember 29, 2016


Try this one on: There was a dinner with the teacher [Robert Earl Burton] under the stars, near the statue of David. He proclaimed that the entire universe/galaxy was dead. Only he and the school were alive. At that moment, all the electricity at his table blacked out – ONLY at his table. He and the diners at his table were completely in the dark. He took this as a sign he was correct. I took it as a sign to get the hell out of there…



38. Wondering Who’s WatchingSeptember 30, 2016


Atlantic Documentaries
How Well-Meaning, Intelligent People End Up in a Cult
The Atlantic Sep 26, 2016


EnlightenNext was an organization, founded by self-styled guru Andrew Cohen, that aimed to facilitate spiritual awakening. Cohen’s most devoted students meditated for hours—at times, months—on end, were often celibate, and lived together. However, what started as an idealistic venture quickly turned into a complicated, often-sinister world that revolved around Cohen. The story of EnlightenNext’s rise and fall begs a deeper question: How do otherwise well-intentioned and rational people end up in a cult? In this documentary, The Atlantic talks to former members, as well as Cohen himself, about their stories in order to uncover the life span of a new religious movement that, after 27 years, collapsed nearly overnight.


Authors: Jaclyn Skurie, Nicolas Pollock





39. Mind Out of RhymeSeptember 30, 2016





40. WhaleRider September 30, 2016


“He proclaimed that the entire universe/galaxy was dead. Only he and the school were alive.”


Wow, that’s quite a statement.


Then suddenly the lights go out, but only at burton’s table…(thank you Universe). Hmmm, what could that possibly mean?


IMO, burton’s grandiose claim speaks to his profound lack of empathy for others.


What he is saying is that only the people around him are “alive” because only they are the ones willing to reflect back to him and affirm his narcissistic delusion that he is someone special.


Everyone else or in other words, anyone who doesn’t agree with him might as well be dead, and to burton’s warped ego, they are.


In this manner, he absolves himself from all scrutiny. He can say and do anything he wants.


Here’s how that plays out, IMO.


Let’s say I tell a big fat lie to inflate my ego, creating a sense of awe in the room.


People might think, WTF, is this guy crazy? Since my over-inflated ego might feel a little uncomfortable knowing that others might sense in their gut that I am lying, then I would just wait for an outward “sign” to validate I am right.


So in the stunned silence something “magical” happens to “buffer” the uncomfortable feelings. It might be right then, or it might be later.


Any event can be utilized really…the lights dimming, a shooting star, a certain number appears, a baby cries, a car alarm goes off, a follower’s relative dies…then my ego will interpreted that as a “sign”, that either I am right or those who disagree are wrong. How could one argue with that?


This is known as “ideas of reference” or “delusions of reference” which “describe the phenomenon of an individual’s experiencing innocuous events or mere coincidences and believing they have strong personal significance. It is the notion that everything one perceives relates to one’s own destiny”. ~Wikipedia


A person with such an elevated narcissistic inventory sees the world in black and white. Their relationship with others will oscillate between idealization and devaluation. “You are either with us or against us”. There is no middle ground. All “signs” lead to the same conclusion.


So the unfortunate follower in burton’s orbit really has no choice but to passively “try it on”, because if they do not, if they express any modicum of doubt or dissent…they are asked to leave the cult and face certain “death”.


This is the inhumane tactic the cult leader uses to cull the nonbelievers from his midst, isolating his followers from family and friends, and thus reinforcing complete dependence and blind allegiance…all leveraged by the fear of abandonment.


Remember, burton chose not to spend his entire life in a totalitarian cult, but left his guru in a surprisingly short amount of time, as did Ouspensky, yet burton expects the opposite from his followers.


IMHO, cults are a systemic violation of Human Rights.



41. Arthur BrooksSeptember 30, 2016


Burton and Trump are the same both brightest lights in two thousand years.



42. ton2uSeptember 30, 2016


Arthur, both are malignant narcissists.


WhaleRider: “IMHO, cults are a systemic violation of Human Rights.”


I don’t disagree – problem is that people can’t be protected from themselves in making their own poor choices and bad decisions – like joining a cult.


Re: “ideas of reference” – it’s much more serious than occasional flights of “magical thinking” and the situation is obviously serious, dire, ultimately destructive and in some cases even life threatening (e.g. Brian S.), for those who get tangled up in burton’s delusional “system.”


(When I left the FOF burton’s words to my then-wife were “he doesn’t understand the system.” Not true, I had the unfortunate experience of “intimate” insight into his “system” and suddenly understood all too clearly… in fact that insight and my understanding of “the system” was the sole reason I left – in spite of connections to family and friends which would have no doubt otherwise kept me in the FOF “fold”).


I think burton is truly, “clinically” insane:


“Schizophrenia is classified as a psychotic disorder, which means the inability to tell the difference between what is real or imagined.”


I believe he is in fact psychotic, he’s a psychopath who suffers from a form of schizophrenia…. decades ago he should’ve been institutionalized or medicated to protect unsuspecting souls from his “systematic” infliction of the effects of this type of mental illness…. Institutionalization and / or proper medications might have saved a lot of folks from violations of their “human rights.”


But burton didn’t and does not possess the emotional intelligence which might have motivated him to seek professional help for his illness… He really believed his “special” delusions – unfortunately he’s been able to con others into believing too. Insanity does not imply stupidity, there are some very clever psychopaths who are able to find a way to function by preying upon the unwary – those like burton who live a parasitic existence at the expense of others.


A question can be posed here based somewhat on the Atlantic article above, but rather than “how” – it might be asked “WHY” do seemingly well-meaning, and (seemingly) intelligent people join cults? And a following question is, why do they stay – like “Insider” – even when the horror of the situation is obvious (?).


It may be that they (we) are / were not as intelligent or as “well-meaning” as we might like to imagine.


Think about it – we joined a cult… now how “intelligent” is that? We were fooled, which implies we were fools… Some may yet be fools – for example some folks may fool themselves, put a positive spin by rationalizing joining a cult. This way of thinking is encapsulated in the title of the Atlantic article above – it implies that after all we are / were “intelligent” and “well-meaning” – right?


(Thanks John for the G.D. Ship of Fools – that about sums up the FOF “ark”).


Maybe at its core the motivation to “wake up” – to “acquire powers,” or some notion of “enlightenment” – or whatever else drew one to the FOF, is founded on selfishness and narcissism – “qualities” which are embodied, reflected and exponentially magnified by the illness of “the teacher.”


Maybe the “why” of joining a cult had to do with the need of an authority figure to serve as a guide, or the lure of becoming part of a ready-made community – a surrogate extended family…. These are not motivations based on intelligence, nor do they have much to do with “meaning well” – the FOF wasn’t exactly out there feeding the poor – the idea of altruism doesn’t exist for the FOF.


I would characterize the “why” of joining a cult as naivete’ at “best” – or maybe compensation for something that was missed during a developmental phase prior to falling into the cult trap.


If I’m going to be “brutally honest” with myself and avoid the sugar-coatings, rationalizations, and denials, I would say joining a cult has nothing to do with well-meaning intelligence – it’s more in the category of “woundedness” – as jomo alluded to at the end of the previous page here:


“The wound that helped us get hooked into the scam is at the center of our experience. But we can come to understand that wound, and reframe, and re-reframe, how we understand it, with each reframing taking in more. We cannot unlive the life we’ve had, but we can put our experiences through the sieve of our sustained scrutiny and extract what’s there to be extracted. It’s more than the ‘get on with it’ crowd imagine!”



As a skeptic I am often asked about my position on one of the most extraordinary claims ever made: immortality. “I’m for it, of course,” is my wiseacre reply.

. . . I’m skeptical whenever people argue that the Big Thing is going to happen in their lifetime. Evangelicals never claim that the Second Coming is going to happen in the next generation (or that they will be “left behind” while others are saved). Likewise, secular doomsayers typically predict the demise of civilization within their allotted time (but that they will be part of the small surviving enclave). Prognosticators of both religious and secular utopias always include themselves as members of the chosen few, and paradise is always within reach.
    Hope springs eternal.


Update: I highly recommend the documentary film Transcendent Man, about Ray Kurzweil and his efforts to achieve immortality: transcendentman.com


Michael Shermer,
SKEPTIC: Viewing The World With A Rational Eye © 2016
Chapter 43 – pp. 153 & 155



116. Insider October 6, 2018


An apocalypse update:


Only 2 weeks to go before yet another “fall of California.” The big day is Sunday, Oct 21, early in the morning. Burton is predicting that the ocean will rise 800-900 feet, to about the level of nearby Loma Rica. Everything above that level will survive.


150 FF members from distant centers (especially Russia, Mexico and The Netherlands) will be visiting Apollo at that time, joining the 500+ already living in Oregon House.


Burton is taking full financial advantage of the fear he himself has created by having 4 meetings per week (but soon to be 6 or 7), plus another 8 “teaching” events. If nothing else, the flock will be thoroughly fleeced by the time they return home on Oct 22.



11. WhaleRiderOctober 14, 2018




Only One Week Left Until Cult’s Major Buffering of Another Failed Prediction


Obscure Northern California group making plans for apocalypse of reason.


Gorgon House, CA-Seasoned followers of Robert E Burton have already been stocking up on fresh supplies of excuses, rationalizations, and jokes about the impending doom of yet another of his failed predictions in order to lavish upon the newly recruited, unsuspecting neophyte followers who are currently descending from all over the globe to Apollo for next weekend’s “Bufferfest 2018”, a celebration marking the end of critical thought.


Long term, self-serving followers who over the years have been able to stomach Burton’s bizarre and delusional ideas of reference and magical thinking about hydrogen warfare, stock market crash, and most of California sliding into the sea are well-versed and prepared to gaslight newer members into exempting their leader from any responsibility with such tried and true thought reform aphorisms as: “Aren’t you glad so many millions of innocent men, women and children didn’t have to die in order to feed our teacher’s palatial ego?”…”Higher Forces are showing us how to be compassionate and caring of others less fortunate than us!”…”If you leave now, then you will miss out on the next failed prediction!”….and the all time favorite, “Maybe the gods are trying to tell us something!”


Insider sources who wish to remain anonymous have indicated that Burton and his inner jerk circle have secretly been stashing cash, caviar, and KY Jelly in the cult’s winter palace in Mexico to make a quick exit should the whole criminal enterprise go belly up when enough followers wise up to his charade and finally listen to their own inner gurus.



12. Ames GilbertOctober 14, 2018


So here we are, headed towards the date of another prediction of catastrophe by the God–Emperor of Oregon House.


I’ve been re-reading Leon Festinger’s book, When Prophecy Fails, co-written with Riecken and Schachte, and sub-titled, A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World.


In 1954, the author and his students studied a UFO cult, starting a few months before the prediction of their version of ‘end times’ was due to occur, during those times, and then afterwards. This included actually joining the cult to make first-hand observations. These studies led to the publication of papers and eventually this book, and popularized the idea of ‘cognitive dissonance’, the ability to hold two or more contradictory thoughts in one’s mind without them clashing or causing discomfort. The group’s leader claimed she had been given special knowledge that the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954. True believers, however, would be rescued beforehand and taken up by a flying saucer…


From Wikipedia:


“In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a belief of a person clashes with new evidence perceived by that person. When confronted with facts that contradict personal beliefs, ideals, and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction in order to reduce their discomfort.


In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (1957), Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency in order to mentally function in the real world. A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and so is motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance, by making changes to justify the stressful behavior, either by adding new parts to the cognition causing the psychological dissonance, or by actively avoiding social situations and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance.”


Sounds familiar? We all do it to some degree, but some group leaders and their followers do it wholesale.



From The Manipulated Mind: Brainwashing, Conditioning, and Indoctrination, by Denise Winn © 1983, 2000


Ever since American prisoners of war in Korea suddenly switched sides to the Communist cause, the concept of brainwashing has continued to fascinate and confuse.


Is it really possible to force any thinking person to act in a way completely alien to his character? What makes so-called brainwashing so different from the equally insidious effects of indoctrination and conditioning, or even advertising and education?


Research findings from psychology show that brainwashing is not a special subversive technique; it is the clever manipulation of unrealized influences that operate in all our lives.


This book, by breaking down so-called brainwashing to its individual elements, shows how social conditioning, need for approval, emotional dependency and much else that we are unaware of, prevent us from being as self-directed as we think; and, conversely, which human traits make us the least susceptible to subtle influence.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Denise Winn is a British journalist specialising in psychology and medicine. She is a former editor of the UK edition of Psychology Today and has written for national newspapers and magazines in Britain for over 20 years. She is author of 11 other books on psychological and medical topics and is currently also editor of The Therapist.


Cambridge, MA



PREFACE (excerpt)

The Manipulated Mind was written in the very early 1980s. The world is a changed place since then, and yet the findings presented in this book appear to apply just as much today as they did when it was written. Of course, there would have been additions if the book had been written now. There would be more research findings from psychology to enforce the ideas expressed here about influencing feelings, behaviour and attitudes. Questioning of assumptions (see chapter 3) is a large part of what cognitive behavioural therapy is all about – a therapy which really blossomed in the 1990s and which challenges clients to look for evidence of unhelpful beliefs they hold about themselves. The current focus on fostering good parenting skills is a means of challenging old assumptions about childrearing.
    Since the book was written, more cults have arisen and more have hit the headlines for disastrous reasons: Jonestown and Waco are two such disasters that leap to mind. . .


Denise Winn
 May 1999  





Cognitive dissonance (pp. 119-20)


Why should actions so often shape our attitudes, rather than vice versa? Much may be explained by Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory, whereby people tend to search for justifications to reduce the tension created by holding two inconsistent attitudes or performing an act inconsistent with an attitude. On the simplest level, if a woman is choosing an evening dress and is undecided between a long blue one and a knee-length black one, whichever she eventually chooses, she will have to justify her choice to herself. She decides on the black one and tells herself that the blue one would have been impractical anyway. If she had chosen the blue one, she would probably convince herself that the black one wasn’t dressy enough. She needs to reduce the tension caused by the fact that she liked both but could only have one. Therefore one had to be more right than the other.


    That is cognitive dissonance at its most basic – and reasonable. But behaviour based on the need to reduce dissonance can be far more subtle to detect and alarming in its outcome.


    Festinger proved the point when he studied the effects of cognitive dissonance on the beliefs of a small religious cult. The leader, Mrs Keech, claimed that she received messages from beings on another planet and that she had been informed that an earthquake and flood would signal the end of the world one day in December. But those who had been committed to Mrs Keech would be saved by a spaceship the night before. On the appointed night, the followers waited anxiously for the spaceship and of course it didn’t come. Festinger was there because he was interested to see how the devoted followers would cope with the tension that would result from having believed and committed themselves to belief and then being proved wrong. The group was highly upset when midnight came and went with no sight of a spaceship. But then Mrs Keech claimed to have received a message saying that the devotion of her and her followers had been sufficient to avert the impending disaster. The followers were then able to esteem Mrs Keech again and continue their belief in her. Moreover, whereas before they had eschewed publicity, they now actively sought it, in an effort to win more people over to their cause.


    If Mrs Keech’s followers had not heard the message, they would have had to see themselves as fools for believing her. They would have been of less worth as individuals. Therefore, whatever the belief, they would have seized on any way to continue to hold it that would satisfy their need for consistent behaviour on their own part and for respecting themselves. In the same way, many devotees of spiritual healers who have been exposed as fakes continue to offer their faith and ‘stick by’ the maligned hero, not because of any magnitude of spirit themselves but because of the insupportable psychological consequences of accepting they had been duped.



Food For Your Brain


The End of the World Cult


In this Channel 4 film British journalist Alex Hannaford sets out on a journey to visit The Lord Our Righteousness Church, also known as Strong City. Strong City is a community located near Clayton, Union County, New Mexico. When filmed back in 2007 the group consisted of about 50 members and it’s leader was Wayne Bent or rather Michael Travesser to those in the “church”.


Bent, was once a pastor for The Seventh-day Adventist Church but in 1987 he decided to leave his denomination with those he considered to be like-minded. However in June 2000, Bent claims that he had an experience in his living room where by he met God himself and was told “You are the Messiah.”


The End of the World Cult covers Bent’s Judgment Day announcement, which is meant to take place on October 31, 2007. This particular date was chosen due the calculation of a Biblical prophecy number which was 490 and then adding it to the year 1517, which was when the Protestant Reformation began, which yields the year 2007. The day itself October 31, was chosen as it is the day that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses.



20. ton2u February 7, 2018




when prophecy fails:


slate.com/articles/health and science/science/2011/05/prophecy fail.html





Robert Burton warns followers: California is about to fall



19. Ames Gilbert October 16, 2018


There must be quite a bit of turmoil going on beneath the tranquil waters over there at Intergalactic Headquarters. When I say ‘tranquil’, I mean medicated (Thorazine, Valium, Xanax, etc.) or else enthralled/infatuated.


In 2016 there were 1565 members, so let’s take a stab at the numbers, which have been in a very slow decline for a number of years. How about a nice round 1500 right now? The newsletter I refer to above claims that a mere 150 visitors have arrived to partake in the circus. If the 2015 population has remained constant, there are approximately 600 members of the Fellowship of Friends who live in and around Oregon House. The inference is that there are about 750 followers, that is, half the membership who did not obey orders and roll up to celebrate the end of times under the guidance of Burton and Dorian Mattei and the rest of the management. Why not? And what will happen to them? What is their spiritual status now that they have defied orders? Will they join the rest of us in the circle of the damned—imminent food for the moon?


Also: where is the Absolute? Is ‘he’ hob-knobbing with Burton as they go over the plans for the drowning of tens of millions of Californians and the following extinction of the rest of mankind? What about the ‘45 angels’? Is their job over now that the Absolute has taken a personal interest? Did they not do a good enough job? Have they been fired for not delivering clearer messages about the future than arranging mailbox numbers, ‘T’ shirts, and license plates in front of Burton? What about their 100% record of constant humiliations of Burton? Are they going to be punished? And what if the Absolute ‘himself’ gets it wrong on October 21st? Is ‘he’ going to resign and let Burton take over?


Enquiring minds want to know.


“If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been “taken”. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”


Carl Sagan
(from his book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark)



From Chapter 7 – The Demon-Haunted World – pp. 130-31


In the early 1960s, I argued that the UFO stories were crafted chiefly to satisfy religious longings. At a time when science has complicated uncritical adherence to the old-time religions, an alternative is proffered to the God hypothesis: Dressed in scientific jargon, their immense powers “explained” by superficially scientific terminology, the gods and demons of old come down from heaven to haunt us, to offer prophetic visions, and to tantalize us with visions of a more hopeful future: a space-age mystery religion aborning.


The folklorist Thomas E. Bullard wrote in 1989 that


abduction reports sound like rewrites of older supernatural encounter traditions with aliens serving the functional roles of divine beings.


He concludes:


Science may have evicted ghosts and witches from our beliefs, but it just as quickly filled the vacancy with aliens having the same functions. Only the extraterrestrial outer trappings are new. All the fear and the psychological dramas for dealing with it seem simply to have found their way home again, where it is business as usual in the legend realm where things go bump in the night.


Is it possible that people in all times and places occasionally experience vivid, realistic hallucinations, often with sexual content, about abduction by strange, telepathic, aerial creatures who ooze through walls – with the details filled in by the prevailing cultural idioms, sucked out of the Zeitgeist? Others, who have not personally had the experience, find it stirring and in a way familiar. They pass the story on. Soon it takes on a life of its own, inspires others trying to understand their own visions and hallucinations, and enters the realm of folklore, myth, and legend. The connection between the content of spontaneous temporal lobe hallucinations and the alien abduction paradigm is consistent with such a hypothesis.


Perhaps when everyone knows that gods come down to Earth, we hallucinate gods; when all of us are familiar with demons, it’s incubi and succubi; when fairies are widely accepted, we see fairies; in an age of spiritualism, we encounter spirits; and when the old myths fade and we begin thinking that extraterrestrial beings are plausible, then that’s where our hypnogogic imagery tends.


Snatches of song or foreign languages, images, events that we witnessed, stories that we overheard in childhood can be accurately recalled decades later without any conscious memory of how they got into our heads. “[I]n violent fevers, men, all ignorance, have talked in ancient tongues,” says Herman Melville in Moby-Dick; “and . . . when the mystery is probed, it turns out always that in their wholly forgotten childhood those ancient tongues had been really spoken in their hearing.” In our everyday life, we effortlessly and unconsciously incorporate cultural norms and make them our own.


A similar inhaling of motifs is present in schizophrenic “command hallucinations.” Here people feel they are being told what to do by an imposing or mythic figure. They are ordered to assassinate a political leader or a folk hero, or defeat the British invaders, or harm themselves, because it is the wish of God, or Jesus, or the Devil, or demons or angels, or – lately – aliens. The schizophrenic is transfixed by a clear and powerful command from a voice that no one else can hear, and that the subject must somehow identify. Who would issue such a command? Who could speak inside our heads? The culture in which we’ve been raised offers up an answer.


Think of the power of repetitive imagery in advertising, especially to suggestible viewers and readers. It can make us believe almost anything — even that smoking cigarettes is cool. In our time putative aliens are the subject of innumerable science fiction stories, novels, TV dramas, and films. UFOs are a regular feature of the weekly tabloids devoted to falsification and mystification. One of the highest-grossing motion pictures of all time is about aliens very like those described by abductees. Alien abduction accounts were comparatively rare until 1975, when a credulous television dramatization of the Hill case was aired; another leap into public prominence occurred after 1987, when Strieber’s purported first-hand account with a haunting cover painting of a large-eyed “alien” became a best-seller. In contrast, we hear very little lately about incubi, elves, and fairies. Where have they all gone?



20.  brucelevyOctober 17, 2018


Are we under water yet?



21. Tim Campion October 17, 2018


Jeez, Bruce. You always were impatient. Just over four days to go.



From Chapter 10 – The Dragon in My Garage – pp. 173-77


Magic requires tacit cooperation of the audience with the magician – an abandonment of skepticism, or what is sometimes described as the willing suspension of disbelief. It immediately follows that to penetrate the magic, to expose the trick, we must cease collaborating.


    How can further progress be made in this emotionally laden, controversial, and vexing subject? Patients might excercise caution about therapists quick to deduce or confirm alien abductions. Those treating abductees might explain to their patients that hallucinations are normal, and that childhood sexual abuse is disconcertingly common. They might bear in mind that no client can be wholly uncontaminated by the aliens in popular culture. They might take scrupulous care not to subtly lead the witness. They might teach their clients skepticism. They might recharge their own dwindling reserves of the same commodity.


    Purported alien abductions trouble many people and in more ways than one. The subject is a window into the internal lives of our fellows. If many falsely report being abducted, this is cause for worry. But much more worrisome is that so many therapists accept these reports at face value – with inadequate attention given to the suggestibility of clients and to unconscious cuing by their interlocutors.


    I’m surprised that there are psychiatrists and others with at least some scientific training, who know the imperfections of the human mind, but who dismiss the idea that these accounts might be some species of hallucination, or some kind of screen memory. I’m even more surprised by claims that the alien abduction story represents true magic, that it is a challenge to our grip on reality, or that it constitutes support for a mystical view of the world. Or, as the matter is put by John Mack, “There are phenomena important enough to warrant serious research, and the metaphysics of the dominant Western scientific paradigm may be inadequate fully to support this research.” In an interview with Time magazine, he goes on to say:


I don’t know why there’s such a zeal to find a conventional physical explanation. I don’t know why people have such trouble simply accepting the fact that something unusual is going on here . . . We’ve lost all that ability to know a world beyond the physical.*


    But we know that hallucinations arise from sensory deprivation, drugs, illness and high fever, a lack of REM sleep, changes in brain chemistry, and so on.  And even if, with Mack, we took the cases at face value, their remarkable aspects (slithering through walls and so on) are more readily attributable to something well within the realm of “the physical” – advanced alien technology – than to witchcraft.


  * And then, in a sentence that reminds us how close the alien abduction paradigm is to messianic and chiliastic religion, Mack concludes, “I am a bridge between those two worlds.”


    A friend of mine claims that the only interesting question in the alien abduction paradigm is “Who’s conning who?” Is the client deceiving the therapist, or vice versa? I disagree. For one thing, there are many other interesting questions about claims of alien abduction. For another, those two alternatives aren’t mutually exclusive:


    Something about the alien abduction cases tugged at my memory for years. Finally, I remembered. It was a 1954 book I had read in college, The Fifty-Minute Hour. The author, a psychoanalyst named Robert Lindner, had been called by the Los Alamos National Laboratory to treat a brilliant young nuclear physicist whose delusional system was beginning to interfere with his secret government research. The physicist (given the pseudonym Kirk Allen) had, it turned out, another life besides making nuclear weapons: In the far future, he confided, he piloted (or will pilot – the tenses get a little addled) interstellar spacecraft. He enjoyed rousing, swashbuckling adventures on planets of other stars. He was “lord” of many worlds. Perhaps they called him Captain Kirk. Not only could he “remember” this other life, he could also enter into it whenever he chose. By thinking in the right way, by wishing, he could transport himself across the light-years and the centuries.


In some way I could not comprehend, by merely desiring it to be so, I had crossed the immensities of space, broken out of time, and merged with – literally became – that distant and future self. . . Don’t ask me to explain. I can’t, although God knows I’ve tried.


    Lindner found him intelligent, sensitive, pleasant, polite, and perfectly able to deal with everyday human affairs. But – in reflecting on the excitement of his life among the stars – Allen had found himself a little bored with his life on Earth, even if it did involve building weapons of mass destruction. When admonished by his laboratory supervisors for distraction and dreaminess, he apologized; he would try, he assured them, to spend more time on this planet. That’s when they contacted Lindner.


    Allen had written 12,000 pages on his experiences in the future, and dozens of technical treatises on the geography, politics, architecture, astronomy, geology, life-forms, genealogy, and ecology of the planets of other stars. A flavor of the material is given by these monograph titles: “The Unique Brain Development of the Chrystopeds of Srom Norba X,” “Fire Worship and Sacrifice on Srom Sodrat II,” “The History of Intergalactic Scientific Institute,” and “The Application of Unified Field Theory and the Mechanics of the Stardrive to Space Travel.” (That last is the one I’d like to see; after all, Allen was said to have been a first-rate physicist.) Fascinated, Lindner pored over the material.


    Allen was not in the least shy about presenting his writings to Lindner or discussing them in detail. Unflappable and intellectually formidable, he seemed not to be yielding an inch to Lindner’s psychiatric ministrations. When everything else failed, the psychiatrist attempted something different:


I tried . . . to avoid giving in any way the impression that I was entering the lists with him to prove that he was psychotic, that this was to be a tug of war over the question of his sanity. Instead, because it was obvious that both his temperament and training were scientific, I set myself to capitalize on the one quality he had demonstrated throughout his life . . . the quality that urged him toward a scientific career: his curiosity. . . This meant . . . that at least for the time being I “accepted” the validity of his experiences. . . In a sudden flash of inspiration it came to me that in order to separate Kirk from his madness it was necessary for me to enter his fantasy and, from that position, to pry him loose from the psychosis.


    Lindner highlighted certain apparent contradictions in the documents and asked Allen to resolve them. This required the physicist to re-enter the future to find the answers. Dutifully, Allen would arrive at the next session with a clarifying document written in his neat hand. Lindner found himself eagerly awaiting each interview, so he could be once more captivated by the vision of abundant life and intelligence in the Galaxy. Between them, they were able to resolve many problems of consistency.


    Then a strange thing happened: “The materials of Kirk’s psychosis and the Achilles heel of my personality met and meshed like the gears of a clock.” The psychoanalyst became a co-conspirator in his patient’s delusion. He began to reject psychological explanations of Allen’s story. How sure are we that it couldn’t really be true? He found himself defending the notion that another life, that of a spacefarer in the far future, could be entered into by a simple effort of the will.


At a startlingly rapid rate . . . larger and larger areas of my mind were being taken over by the fantasy. . . With Kirk’s puzzled assistance I was taking part in cosmic adventures, sharing the exhilaration of the sweeping extravaganza he had plotted.


    But eventually, an even stranger thing happened: Concerned for the well-being of his therapist, and mustering admirable reserves of integrity and courage, Kirk Allen confessed: He had made the whole thing up. It had roots in his lonely childhood and his unsuccessful relationships with women. He had shaded, and then forgotten, the boundary between reality and imagination. Filling in plausible details and weaving a rich tapestry about other worlds was challenging and exhilarating. He was sorry he had led Lindner down this primrose path.


    “Why,” the psychiatrist asked, why did you pretend? Why did you keep on telling me. . . ?”


    “Because I felt I had to,” the physicist replied. “Because I felt you wanted me to.”


    “Kirk and I reversed roles,” Lindner explained,


and, in one of those startling denouements that make my work the unpredictable, wonderful and rewarding pursuit it is, the folly we shared collapsed. . . I employed the rationalization of clinical altruism for personal ends and thus fell into a trap that awaits all unwary therapists of the mind. . . Until Kirk Allen came into my life, I had never doubted my own stability. The aberrations of mind, so I had always thought, were for others. . . I am shamed by this smugness. But now, as I listen from my chair behind the couch, I know better. I know that my chair and the couch are separated only by a thin line. I know that it is, after all, but a happier combination of accidents that determines, finally, who shall lie on the couch, and who shall sit behind it.


    I’m not sure from this account that Kirk Allen was truly delusional. Maybe he was just suffering from some character disorder which delighted in inventing charades at the expense of others. I don’t know to what extent Lindner may have embellished or invented part of the story. While he wrote of “sharing” and of “entering” Allen’s fantasy, there is nothing to suggest that the psychiatrist imagined he himself voyaged to the far future and partook of interstellar high adventure. Likewise, John Mack and the other alien abduction therapists do not suggest that they have been abducted, only their patients.


    What if the physicist hadn’t confessed? Might Lindner have convinced himself, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it really was possible to slip into a more romantic era? Would he have said he started out as a skeptic, but was convinced by the sheer weight of the evidence? Might he have advertised himself as an expert who assists space travelers from the future who are stranded in the twentieth century? Would the existence of such a psychiatric specialty encourage others to take fantasies or delusions of this sort seriously? After a few similar cases, would Lindner have impatiently resisted all arguments of the “Be reasonable, Bob” variety, and deduced he was penetrating some new level of reality?


    His scientific training helped to save Kirk Allen from his madness. There was a moment when therapist and patient had exchanged roles. I like to think of it as the patient saving the therapist. Perhaps John Mack was not so lucky.




CARL SAGAN served as the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo spacecraft expeditions to the planets for which he received the NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and (twice) for Distinguished Public Service.

     His Emmy and Peabody Award-winning television series, Cosmos, became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. The accompanying book, also called Cosmos, is one of the bestselling science books ever published in the English language.

     Dr. Sagan died on December 20, 1996




Carl Sagan on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson | 1977 & 1978



26. Golden VeilFebruary 9, 2018


The Fine Art of Baloney Detection by Carl Sagan


Useful for anyone with an intellectual bent, whose life is steered at all by Robert Burton and his crew – rather than be self-determined.





From The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow © 2010



               Skoll the wolf who shall scare the Moon

               Till he flies to the Wood-of-Woe:

               Hati the wolf, Hridvitnir’s kin,

               Who shall pursue the sun.


                     – “GRIMNISMAL,” The Elder Edda



In Viking mythology, Skoll and Hati chase the sun and the moon. When the wolves catch either one, there is an eclipse. When this happens, the people on earth rush to rescue the sun or moon by making as much noise as they can in hopes of scaring off the wolves. There are similar myths in other cultures. But after a time people must have noticed that the sun and moon soon emerged from the eclipse regardless of whether they ran around screaming and banging on things. After a time they must also have noticed that the eclipses didn’t just happen at random: They occurred in regular patterns that repeated themselves. These patterns were most obvious for eclipses of the moon and enabled the ancient Babylonians to predict lunar eclipses fairly accurately even though they didn’t realize that they were caused by the earth blocking the light of the sun. Eclipses of the sun were more difficult to predict because they are visible only in a corridor on the earth about 30 miles wide. Still, once grasped, the patterns made it clear the eclipses were not dependent on the arbitrary whims of supernatural beings, but rather governed by laws.


    Despite some early success predicting the motion of celestial bodies, most events in nature appeared to our ancestors to be impossible to predict. Volcanoes, earthquakes, storms, pestilences, and ingrown toenails all seemed to occur without obvious cause or pattern. In ancient times it was natural to ascribe the violent acts of nature to a pantheon of mischievous or malevolent deities. Calamities were often taken as a sign that we had somehow offended the gods. For example, in about 5600 BC the Mount Mazama volcano in Oregon erupted, raining rock and burning ash for years, and leading to the many years of rainfall that eventually filled the volcanic crater today called Crater Lake. The Klamath Indians of Oregon have a legend that faithfully matches every geologic detail of the event but adds a bit of drama by portraying a human as the cause of the catastrophe. The human capacity for guilt is such that people can always find ways to blame themselves. As the legend goes Llao, the chief of the Below World, falls in love with the beautiful human daughter of a Klamath chief. She spurns him, and in revenge Llao tries to destroy the Klamath with fire. Luckily, according to the legend, Skell, the chief of the Above World, pities the humans and does battle with his underworld counterpart. Eventually Llao, injured, falls back inside Mount Mazama, leaving a huge hole, the crater that eventually filled with water.


    Ignorance of nature’s ways led people in ancient times to invent gods to lord it over every aspect of human life. There were gods of love and war; of the sun, earth, and sky; of the oceans and rivers; of rain and thunderstorms; even of earthquakes and volcanoes. When the gods were pleased, mankind was treated to good weather, peace, and freedom from natural disaster and disease. When they were displeased, there came drought, war, pestilence and epidemics. Since the connection of cause and effect in nature was invisible to their eyes, these gods appeared inscrutable, and people at their mercy.  (pp. 15-17)



    The Chinese tell of a time during the Hsia dynasty (ca. 2205 – ca. 1782 BC) when our cosmic environment suddenly changed. Ten suns appeared in the sky. The people on earth suffered greatly from the heat, so the emperor ordered a famous archer to shoot down the extra suns. The archer was rewarded with a pill that had the power to make him immortal, but his wife stole it. For that offense she was banished to the moon.  (p. 149)



. . . Our universe and its laws appear to have a design that both is tailor-made to support us and, if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration. That is not easily explained, and raises the natural question of why it is that way.
    Many people would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God. The idea that the universe was designed to accommodate mankind appears in theologies and mythologies dating from thousands of years ago right up to the present. In the Mayan Popol Vuh mythohistorical narratives the gods proclaim, “We shall receive neither glory nor honor from all that we have created and formed until human beings exist, endowed with sentience.” A typical Egyptian text dated 2000 BC states, “Men, the cattle of God, have been well provided for. He [the sun god] made the sky and earth for their benefit.” In China the Taoist philosopher Lieh Yu-K’ou (c. 400 BC) expressed the idea through a character in a tale who says, “Heaven makes the five kinds of grain to grow, and brings forth the finny and the feathered tribes, especially for our benefit.”


    In Western culture the Old Testament contains the idea of providential design in its story of creation, but the traditional Christian viewpoint was also greatly influenced by Aristotle, who believed “in an intelligent natural world that functions according to some deliberate design.” The medieval Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas employed Aristotle’s ideas about the order in nature to argue for the existence of God. In the eighteenth century another Christian theologian went so far as to say that rabbits have white tails in order that it be easy for us to shoot them. A more modern illustration of the Christian view was given a few years ago when Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, wrote, “Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse [many universes] hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human nature by proclaiming that the immanent design in nature is real.” In cosmology the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design to which the cardinal was referring is the fine-tuning of physical law we described above.


The turning point in the scientific rejection of a human-centered universe was the Copernican model of the solar system, in which the earth no longer held a central position. Ironically, Copernicus’s own worldview was anthropomorphic, even to the extent that he comforts us by pointing out that, despite his helio-centric model, the earth is almost at the universe’s center: “Although [the earth] is not at the center of the world, nevertheless the distance [to the center] is as nothing in particular when compared to that of the fixed stars.” With the invention of the telescope, observations in the seventeenth century, such as the fact that ours is not the only planet orbited by a moon, lent weight to the principle that we hold no privileged position in the universe. In the ensuing centuries the more we discovered about the universe, the more it seemed ours was probably just a garden-variety planet. But the discovery relatively recently of the extreme fine-tuning of so many of the laws of nature could lead at least some of us back to the old idea that this grand design is the work of some grand designer. In the United States, because the Constitution prohibits the teaching of religion in schools, that type of idea is called intelligent design, with the unstated but implied understanding that the designer is God. 


That is not the answer of modern science.  (pp. 162-64)



Feb 18, 2011


Richard Feynman on Scientific Method




Aaron Scher
May 19, 2008


Feynman: Take the world from another point of view

Part 1/4



skeptic.com/reading room


The Inevitability of Intelligent Life?


By Nathan H. Lents


Thus far, 2018 has been a terrific year for popular science books and two stand out in particular for confronting head-on some of the biggest and most difficult questions scientists confront. In his new masterpiece, The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution, biophysicist Charles S. Cockell wades with admirable fortitude into the waters of how the laws of physics and mathematics place constraints—and find solutions—to the great challenges of survival.



Apr 15, 2008


Michael Shermer: Why people believe weird things


Why do people see the Virgin Mary on cheese sandwiches or hear demonic lyrics in “Stairway to Heaven”? Using video, images and music, professional skeptic Michael Shermer explores these and other phenomena, including UFOs and alien sightings. He offers cognitive context: In the absence of sound science, incomplete information can combine with the power of suggestion (helping us hear those Satanic lyrics in Led Zeppelin). In fact, he says, humans tend to convince ourselves to believe: We overvalue the “hits” that support our beliefs, and discount the more numerous “misses.”



You Are Not So Smart.com


A Celebration of Self Delusion

January 29, 2020


YANSS 171 – How partisan identities affect our ability to reason, rationalize, and recall


Jay Van Bavel studies “from neurons to social networks…how collective concerns – group identities, moral values, and politcal beliefs – shape the mind and brain,” and in this episode we travel to his office at NYU to sit down and ask him a zillion questions. . .




David McRaney | April 20, 2020 | Podcasts


In this episode we sit down with the director and producers of the documentary film, Behind the Curve, an exploration of motivated reasoning and conspiratorial thinking told through the lives of people who have formed a community around the belief that the Earth is flat.


Also in this episode, we spend time with political scientist Joseph E. Uscinski who researches conspiracy theories and the people who believe in them.



Skeptic Magazine



The Great Cardif Giant




Understanding Flat Earthers


By Daniel Loxton



Mar 27, 2008


Secrets of The Psychics

Part 1/6



The Atlantic 

Sept 2018


The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain


By Ben Yagoda



Science and Nonduality | Jan 29, 2017


Spiritual seeking, Addiction and the Search for Truth


Interview with doctor and speaker Gabor Maté



National Geographic

August 16, 2017


  Yudhijit Bhattacharjee: What Science Tells Us About Good and Evil



A General Theory of Love © 2000


By Drs. Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lannon


















Oct 16, 2013


Daniel Amen: The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans



The neocortex controls language and consciousness, among other things . . .




If the neocortex is injured through accident, surgery or head trauma, patients may lose any number of cognitive abilities including speech, space recognition, eyesight, motor control, the ability to recognize social cues and more.





Insight SBS
Jun 3, 2014


What Makes a Psychopath?


Jim Fallon is a US-based neuroscientist. In a weird coincidence at work several years ago, Jim says he accidentally discovered that his own brain scans showed identical activity to that of a psychopath. This week, Jim faces questions from world experts to discuss his self-diagnosis and to broadly discuss empathy (or lack of it).



Real Stories
Apr 14, 2017


The Dangerous Few  (Psychopath Documentary)


Could the most effective method of crime prevention be a brain scan? This suggestion, the result of recent ground-breaking research, is investigated in the two films that comprise A Mind To Crime. The Dangerous Few examines the surprising claim from the USA that it is possible to identify children as young as four years old as potential criminals.


Sept 27, 2017


In The Shadow of Feeling



POCKET WORTHYStories to fuel your mind.

July 26, 2018


Andrew Curry: Yes,You Can Catch Insanity


A controversial disease revives the debate about the immune system and mental illness.



Religion and schizophrenia  Wikipedia


List of people claimed to be Jesus


The Three Christs of Ypsilanti (1964) is a book-length psychiatric case study by Milton Rokeach, concerning his experiment on a group of three patients with paranoid schizophrenia at Ypsilanti State Hospital[1] in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The book details the interactions of the three patients, Clyde Benson, Joseph Cassel, and Leon Gabor, who each believed himself to be Jesus Christ.



Dissociative disorders Medscape


Dunning-Kruger effect/impostor syndromeRationalWiki


15 Common Defense Mechanisms PsychCentral



Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)


Psychotherapy Networker


Editor’s Note
By Rich Simon
July/August 2016 (excerpt)


If post hoc diagnosis is any indicator, many of history’s most illustrious figures had some version of what we now call obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), including Thomas Jefferson, Ludwig van Beethoven, Charles Darwin, Marcel Proust, Sir Winston Churchill, and Albert Einstein. Apple cofounder Steve Jobs even got down on his hands and knees to search for specks of dust on the floor during the rollout of the first Mac computer.


Certainly, in our time, many habits of mind associated with workplace success—single-minded dedication, concentration, persistence, intensity—might appear to have a certain OCD-ish quality. But anybody who’s truly experienced the real OCD, or known someone who suffers from it, realizes just how nightmarish the actual condition can be. It turns people into prisoners of their own minds, locked into an ever-shrinking cell of unwanted mental preoccupations and the frantic desire to escape them—which has the paradoxical impact of strengthening them, thus reinforcing the whole miserable cycle.



Treating Children with OCD
The Essential Component
By Lynn Lyons


Learning to Manage the OCD Bully
A Story of One Woman’s Journey for Help
By Diane Cole



Rachel Bernstein – Narcissists and Cult Leaders: Are You Being Controlled by One?



Energetics Institute


Narcissism as Prophecy


By Richard Boyd





The topic of Narcissism is gaining wide circulation in society. Examples of narcissistic excess in our societal leaders, sports stars and society figures is increasing if the number of media reports is anything to go by. Any number of authors, commentators and books are now observing, recording and documenting the destructive advent of narcissistic lifestyles and narcissism in men and women today.


Narcissism essentially involves the affected person creating a false self which is rooted in superficial, materialistic images, and which has a distorted and unearned sense of entitlement and grandiosity. Life is all about the Narcissist, and while they learn to “feign” or act emotions, they are essentially cut off from their own authentic feelings, and so are unable or unwilling to moderate their selfish behaviours. . . They seek to dominate and control others as a primary way of navigating life.


The narcissistic trend in society is certainly not a healthy one and if it continues as the evolutionary path of man then I am pessimistic for the state of our future. Whilst history has always had its share of narcissistic leaders and individuals, never before have we confronted this emotional plague on such a scale within a global reach society. Narcissism appears to now be jumping natural cultural “firewalls” where the old societal values once precluded narcissistic traits becoming normalised and established en masse as healthy or an esteemed value of some sort within itself.


Some writers such as Wilhelm Reich (1976) and Christopher Lasch (1984) see such forces as Fascism and Nazism as being at least one historical root of a culture of rigid perfectionistic superiority that partly defines the Narcissistic view of life. Other writers such as Andrew Harvey (2009) and Scott Peck (1984) see the advent of the New Age spiritual movement as being a Narcissistic philosophy masked in self-absorbed spiritualism.


Mankind has always historically dabbled in prophecy. Every culture has had its prophets and its tools of prophecy, whether they were based on the reading of the entrails of slaughtered animals, seers who read astrological charts and astronomical signs from the heavens, fortune tellers who read lines in hands, tea leaves, and significant birth numbers, etc.


Some of these prophets relied on divine or supernatural forces by which they channelled the future. Nostradamus for instance used a tripod which held a container in which was filled with some liquid. He gazed intently until images appeared and he wrote down cryptic quatrains or verses of 4 sentences to describe the event he had seen. Still others such as Buddhist Tulkus were channellers who allowed spirits to enter their bodies and warn of events or make prophecy.


The biblical times were full of prophets, spiritualists, and all sorts of diviners and seekers of hidden knowledge and future events . . .



The Prophecies of Joseph Smith, by James Walker – May 2010


“One false prophesy equals a false prophet.”



When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:22



Q&A With Former Mormon Bishop, Lee B. Baker – July 2012


“You’re speaking to a man and a woman who, three years ago, came out of … truly, a cult. We do not have rational answers for a lot of what we did.” 



I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.  — Joseph Smith, Jr.





A Story of Violent Faith


By Jon Krakauer



Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities by Len Oakes, NY 1997



Introduction (excerpt)


When a superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce – as in the endless permutations and combinations of human faculty they are bound to coalesce often enough – in the same individual, we have the best possible condition for the kind of effective genius that gets into the biographical dictionaries. Such men do not remain mere critics and understanders with their intellect. Their ideas possess them, they inflict them, for better or for worse, upon their companions or their age.


 –William James,

                         Varieties of Religious Experience



All cultures have their heroes, and no hero is more mysterious, or more extraordinary, than God’s messenger—the prophet. Whether called messiahs or saviors, gurus or avatars, such figures continue to fascinate us, whether for their truths or their absurdities, for the adulation of their followers or the hatred of their enemies. Hardly a week goes by without some bizarre or sensational item appearing in the media about a wild-eyed preacher or an exotic cult coming into conflict with the authorities; the public appetite for such stories is endless.
    It is strange, therefore, that we know so little about such figures. While there are biographies of individual leaders, there are few studies of revolutionary religious leaders as a group or as a personality type. Prophets appear suddenly, as if from nowhere, and take the world by surprise; we seem unable to pigeonhole them, to ignore them, or even to describe them other than in superficial ways.

This seems especially peculiar given that Western culture—nominally Christian and still rooted in Christian values—has as its central myth the story of Jesus of Nazareth. One might think that the comparative study of revolutionary religious leaders would be a priority for scholars wishing to shed light on the person of Jesus, or for anyone trying to understand the psychology of religion. But such studies are seldom undertaken, and rarely from a psychological perspective. Perhaps it is time to look more closely at these figures and what they are trying to tell us . . .



The Psychology of Prophetic Charisma: New Approaches to Understanding Joseph Smith and the Development of Charismatic Leadership


Lawrence Foster


THE ISSUE OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP—whether in religious, political, or other types of groups—has been the focus of widespread popular and scholarly attention. The word “charismatic” derives from the name of the Greek goddess Charis and suggests that the person perceived as charismatic possesses very special, quasi-divine “gifts” or qualities. In the early twentieth century, German social theorist Max Weber provided a particularly insightful assessment of some of the larger issues associated with such leadership, an assessment which continues to influence scholarly thought. In popular parlance, however, the word “charismatic” suggests that someone has, for whatever reasons, been able to attract a substantial personal following.1


Despite the interest that the phenomenon of charisma has generated over the years, surprisingly few serious efforts have been made to reconstruct and analyze systematically the psycholgical dynamics and social interactions of charismatic individuals. Psycholgical analyses of specific charismatic individuals are legion, of course (witness the fascination with Hitler),but few studies have convincingly combined qualitative and quantitative assessments of significant numbers of individuals at a particular time and place.


One notable exception to the generally impressionistic studies of particular charismatic individuals is the path-breaking study, Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities by psychologist Len Oakes. The book uses both qualitative and quantitative measures to analyze the psychological characteristics of the leaders of twenty contemporary New Zealand religious/communal groups and their followers. Oakes conducted in-depth interviews with the leaders of these groups and with two or three key associates from their top leadership cadre. These interviews lasted many hours–or days, in some cases. In addition, both leaders and followers in the groups completed a standard psychological inventory known as the Adjective Checklist, which provided a quantitative sense of how they compared psycholgically with a standard population.3


Len Oakes has special strengths which allow him to combine participant-observer involvement with and detachment from his subject. For eleven years from 1980 until 1991, while doing the orginal research and writing for this study for his Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Oakes was both a member of and the historian for an extraordinary New Zealand communal experiment, the Centrepoint Community, which might be characterized as a cross between the Esalen Institute, the Rajneeshees, and the Oneida Community.The leader of the Centrepoint community, Bert Potter, was viewed by many group members—in a kind of New Age sense—as “God.” When I visited the group in 1986, members told me openly in the presence of Potter himself that if Potter were gone, the group would disband. Eventually, after Potter was arrested one time too many for illegal drug possession in 1990 (and then later for engaging in sexual relations with underage girls), the community did largely disband. During this troubled time, Oakes, like many other thoughtful members of the group, felt profoundly let down by Potter, and he left.5


Based on his intensive research, personal experience, and wide reading on similar groups, Oakes has developed in Prophetic Charisma a typology of the psychology of charismatic leaders and the stages in their vocation for leadership. Much as Erik Erikson posited a set of developmental stages through which normal individuals may pass during their lives,6 Oakes suggests a set of interrelated sequential stages through which prophetic leaders may progress, laying out the complexities and ambiguities of each stage.7


This article will review some key points in Oakes’s analysis of the dynamics of prophetic leadership, then briefly evaluate the extent to which the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.’s charisma and sense of mission may be illuminated by, or bear on the validity of, Oakes’s theoretical framework. . .





Sacred Groves

Dec 2, 2016


Lifting the Veil of Polygamy


A revised and updated version of the 2007 documentary



Published on July 14, 2011


FLDS: Inside the Secret Sect


Interview with Arnold Richter – Part 1 of 3



Atheists of Utah

Apr 23, 2014


Personal story by Chris Jeffs, former member of the FLDS


This video was created as part of Atheists of Utah’s Freedom from Religion Project, which is a series of individual stories from people leaving religion as part of their journey to a better life.



July 7, 2015


PROPHET’S PREY – Sizzle reel


True Crime | D Amy Berg | USA


“A skin-crawling chronicle of one of America’s biggest criminals and the community that allowed him to flourish.” – The Playlist



Nov 10, 2017


Polygamist Cult Founder’s Daughter, Rachel Jeffs, Gives Her First TV Interview | Megyn Kelly TODAY



100. ton2u May 2, 2019


If you watch the full documentary you’ll recognize the mentalities at play throughout the narrative – the process of programming, indoctrination, brainwashing, the role of belief… etc.


People being people, seem to need something / someone to believe in. One might argue that without the fallacies involved in faith – the need to believe – the world would be a better place… maybe less ‘human’ but maybe more humane.


Prophet’s Prey | Official Trailer | SHOWTIME Documentary



Judy Fuwell
May 8, 2016


If this is Heaven, Then Give Me Hell


One woman’s story of bravery and determination to keep her family together after leaving the FLDS religion, the only way of life she had ever known.



  In God’s Name


Religious cult leader, previously charged with sexual abuse, is again leading the flock. Part 1 of 2.





In the past 20 years, a disturbing number of Southern Baptists with formal church roles have engaged in sexual misconduct, a new investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reveals. They were pastors. Deacons. Youth pastors. They left behind more than 700 victims. Read and hear the stories of those victims, and learn the depths of the crimes and misconduct of the church leaders they trusted.



Oakland Tribune

Sunday, June 17, 2012


By Tracey Kaplan






As an adult: “I’ve always wanted the opportunity to bring the truth into the light,” says Lynch, now 44.



Frontline PBS Independent Film


In recent decades, more than 10,000 children were reportedly sexually abused by Catholic priests in the United States. In Hand of God, filmmaker Joe Cultrera explores just one of those cases, that of his own brother Paul.


Paul Cultrera was molested in the 1960s by Father Joseph Birmingham, who allegedly abused nearly 100 other children. “Hand of God” tells the story of faith betrayed, and how Paul and the rest of the Cultrera family fought back against a scandal that continues to afflict scores of churches across the country.



The Atlantic

A Secret Database of Child Abuse


By Douglas Quenqua | Mar 22, 2019


In recent decades, much of the world’s attention to allegations of abuse has focused on the Catholic Church and other religious groups. Less notice has been paid to the abuse among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian sect with more than 8.5 million members. Yet all this time, Watchtower has refused to comply with multiple court orders to release the information contained in its database and has paid millions of dollars over the years to keep it secret, even from the survivors whose stories are contained within.



BBC 2013 Documentary


How To Get To Heaven With The Hutterites



6 Lesser-Known Cults

That Will Give You More Nightmares

Than American Horror Story


By Beth Elderkin – Nov 11, 2017





26. Golden Veil May 6, 2019


What could these charismatic amoral people with savior complexes and a penchant for apocalyptic predictions – who attract cult followers all share? I think their particular beliefs and abilities could be an expression of brain malfunction or brain damage. And a brain function issue would mean that rather than pulling an overtly criminal con job on their followers, leaders like David Koresh, Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, Bagwhan Shree Rajneesh and Robert Burton are mentally ill. Mentally ill in a way that manifests peculiarly in a cult leader role. As some here have expressed, Robert Burton may be delusional but sincere.


Here, a new article written by a former cult member of the long-time Lyman Family. Still in existence and self-sustaining through their Los Angeles-based construction business, the cult has already been written about extensively. But Guinevere Turner reveals its dark underbelly like no one has before. She is also an actress and filmmaker with a new film opening Friday, “Charlie Says,” about the Manson girls who were convicted of murder. See that trailer.





L.A. Times | NOVEMBER 4, 1996


Trouble Taints A Cerebral Sanctuary





A Yuba Sutter girl exploring the strange and macabre history of the area and beyond…


Posted by Anna Hill on January 7, 2019


California Cults – Yuba County’s “Fellowship of Friends”


Oregon House


When we think of cults, we think of Jonestown, Waco, drinking cyanide-laced kool-aid, or waiting for the Hale-Bopp comet.


What we don’t think of, is the fact that these types of organizations happening in a place not far from us. They’re living amongst us, in our own county . . .



71. Cult Survivor February 3, 2019


A Story of Domination and Sexual Abuse


I joined the FOF in February of 1988, when I was 25 years old. In November of 1988 I moved to Apollo (Renaissance at that time) and started working at the winery. I was working 8-10 hours per day, 5-6 days per week, for a salary of $350 per month without a working visa (that’s right, $350 per month — it’s not a typo). After a week or so I was approached by a lady — she told me that I was invited to a “Symposium with the Teacher” that evening. I had no idea what a Symposium was so I asked her and she replied “Oh, it’s an informal dinner just for men. Casual dressing.”


After a long day of work at the winery I went home, took a shower and headed to the Goethe Academy (now Galleria Apollo) for my first encounter with my Teacher. When I entered the Academy, Robert came straight to me, kissed me on the lips and said “I was waiting for you dear, I got a fortune cookie recently saying ‘A tall man will enter your life’” (I’m 6’ 2?). He asked me to sit next to him on a sofa in the salon and held my left hand while I was served a strong gin and tonic. After 15 minutes or so we proceeded to the Goethe Room where the Symposium for Robert and another 12 young men was going to happen. I was already a bit tipsy because of the gin and tonic on an empty stomach and the long day of work at the winery, but my state was quite high (no pun intended) because I was meeting my Teacher for the first time and he told me that he was waiting for me (I have a vanity feature). I was asked to sit opposite to Robert — later I discovered that that was an important place — while 2 young men, one a permanent lover and the other a new one, sat on each side of him. During the dinner Robert kept looking at me and spoke several times to me directly and, after 2 glasses of white wine, a glass of red wine, a glass of dessert wine and finally a glass of cognac (don’t forget the gin and tonic at the beginning) my state was quite high (pun intended).


At the end of the dinner I went to the kitchen to have a coffee before going home (I remember walking with difficulty) and was approached by one of Robert’s assistants that told me that Robert wanted to talk to me privately. The assistant said “Follow me” and started walking towards Robert’s bedroom. I followed him without really knowing what I was doing and when I entered the room I saw that Robert was already in bed. He said “Come here, dear. Sit on the bed” and I did as he asked. He placed his hand on my chest and started doing circles with his fingers while saying things like “C Influence sent you to me, remember the fortune cookie”, “Why don’t you remove your clothes and get in the bed”, “Don’t be afraid, it’s just your instinctive center and feminine dominance”, etc. Suddenly he placed his hand on my penis over my pants and started massaging it, trying to excite me and get an erection but after 2 or 3 minutes he realized that I was too drunk and that nothing was going to happen in that department, so he said “It’s okay dear, we have plenty of time” and got up, opened the door, and asked one of his assistants to take me home. I remember that I was silent all the way to my place — I felt a mix of shame and embarrassment. I know it seems absurd, but I was not ashamed because a man 20 years older that was supposed to be my “Teacher” tried to seduce me and have sex with me (I’m heterosexual) but because I couldn’t perform my duty with my Teacher — I felt that it was an honor to have been chosen to be his lover and it was my fault that I couldn’t rise to the occasion. I went to sleep feeling guilty and woke up in the morning with the thought “when he calls me again I’m going to do what he asks”. And then… something happened.


Two days later a tall guy moved to Apollo and soon after became Robert’s lover. I was friends with him because we are from the same country; one day he told me that Robert had told him that he was waiting for him because he got a fortune cookie saying that a tall guy was going to enter his life… At that moment my feature of vanity said “No! I am the tall guy of the fortune cookie!” and my friend just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Whatever”. I felt humiliated and offended and made the decision to leave Renaissance immediately, but after a couple of days vanity and the queens succeeded and I changed my mind (unfortunately). I hoped that Robert would invite me again to a Symposium or a “Wine Cellar Dinner” (those were dinners for 25-30 young men that Robert started to host after he stopped hosting Symposiums — I guess he realized that 25-30 men is better than 12 for hunting purposes) but he never did.


After two years I heard a knock on my window in the middle of the night: It was my friend that had “escaped” from the Galleria — he had been living there all that time — because “he couldn’t do that anymore”, he told me. He asked if he could stay with me and I said that it was fine. We talked until the morning (he was in a very disturbed state) and he told me several stories about Robert’s manipulation tactics and deviant sexual habits that I will refrain to mention here because they are second hand and I want to stick to what I experienced myself. In the morning I received a call from Wayne M. asking me if Anthony (not his real name) was at my place (Wayne M. knew we were friends) and when I confirmed that he was there they sent a car to pick him up. After a few days he was sent back to his country because of “psychological problems”. I tried to contact him but his family refused to let me talk to him — I was told that he was undergoing psychiatric treatment and that he was not allowed to talk to anybody, especially from the FOF. After a few months another young man moved to Apollo and became Robert’s lover; at a reception at the Galleria Robert told me “Anthony was payment for him” and kissed his new lover on the forehead.


My aim telling my story was to show the power that a cult leader has over his followers regarding sexual favors (Charles Manson, Jim Jones and Osho, for example, were also extremely manipulative and promiscuous). Fortunately, I was “saved” by some Divine Providence and didn’t become Robert’s sexual slave. I believe that several people that wrote here in this blog about Robert’s sexual abuses have a story similar to mine — the ones that didn’t have the luck to escape and succumbed to Robert’s powers are probably too fucked up to write about their experiences.



72. John HarmerFebruary 3, 2019


Thank you for sharing your story with us here Cult Survivor. The fact that you don’t embellish or try to make yourself look good gives it power and authority. Glad to know you escaped relatively unscathed, though others were sucked in far deeper to Burton’s lair of lustful lies.



3. Cult SurvivorFebruary 18, 2019


I just found this review of the FOF on Yelp:


    Charles S., San Francisco, CA, 4/14/2018


I was a member of this organization 36 years ago for six years. I’ve been aware of its “esoteric” (hidden or hiding) activities ever since I left. That the leader of this organization is an individual you don’t want your male children around is a given. That you don’t want your boyfriend or husband to be around him also is a given. If you’re a good-looking heterosexual male, and you don’t want to be “converted,” stay away. If you’re an average-looking homosexual male, there’s nothing here for you except what, below, I say you’ll find: enslavement / conformity. The “Teacher” has a prohibition against homosexuality (except whereas his own homosexual needs are concerned). Whoever you are, do your due diligence and research the hell out of this organization and its leader on the Internet and in old and recent newspapers before you do any serious decision-making in trying to join and taking your orders from a sociopathic homosexual man who refers to himself as a goddess.


This organization is a pseudo-spiritual group of pseudo-psychological self-development but one of the most expensive cults in the world to join. I worked three jobs to afford the fees and paid $5,000 a year back in the day. It has an alluring surface-front but a slavish, nefarious underbelly, not unlike most cults if you’re objective. This cult and its leader have hurt and destroyed countless lives. Joining the group is a risk that has the potential for scarring you for life. That being said, there are many individuals in this organization who have been members for decades and are even grandparents now. That they remain inside a homo-pedophilic operation and don’t even try to leave is a major symptom of their mental and moral enslavement to the material seductions this cult and its leader offer: wine, theater, and music, with all the pretensions of owning or having “culture.” Instead of finding truth like a true seeker and a true sense of belonging, should you join, you shall find perversion, group-think, domination, corruption, and vanity. Hypocrisy, however, runs through every level of this group like an air-borne infection.


Source: yelp.com/biz/fellowship-of-friends-oregon-house



Hypocrisy: quackery, affectation, bad faith, hollowness, lip service, bigotry, pretense of virtue or piety, empty ceremony, sanctimony… The feigning of qualities and beliefs that one does not actually possess or hold, esp. a pretense of virtue, piety or moral superiority


Hypocritical: deceptive, double-dealing, insincere, dishonest


Hypocrite: liar, pretender, fraud, deceiver, charlatan, bigot, quack, Pharisee, sham, actor, cheat, trickster, malingerer, swindler, traitor, wolf in sheep’s clothing, masquerader, fake, two-face


From Webster’s New World Dictionary & Thesaurus



66. Shard OblivionFebruary 24, 2019

#62 Thanks for the name check Cult Survivor. We can all do our little bit to warn potential victims of the realities that lurk within the FoF. Here is another little except from the phone call I made to Burton in 1989, trying to see if he had ever had any doubts about the true source of his messages from influence C – he displays a staggering lack of insight.





72. – 75. Wondering Who’s WatchingFebruary 25, 2019


Deadly Cults on Oxygen Media


Five Ways Cults Lure New Members 00:03:38:



How to Help a Loved One Who Joins a Cult 00:03:54:



More here:




76. Four Days of the Fourth StateFebruary 25, 2019


Anyone notice this:





80. Wouldn’t You Like To KnowFebruary 26, 2019


Another cult revelation:


An Open Letter to the Shambhala Community
from Long-Serving Kusung
PDF document available from Tricycle:


See also on Tricycle website:


Two Embattled Buddhist Leaders Pressured to Stop Teaching
Following separate sexual misconduct investigations,
Shambhala head Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
has stepped back from teaching
and Noah Levine’s authority has been revoked.



90. truthorconsequences44February 26, 2019




It seems that the tide is turning for tolerance of abuse by so-called spiritual leaders. The ‘Me Too’ movement is a big wave that offers opportunities to bring abusers into the light of public scrutiny. Note the current revelations and consequences for the leadership of Shambhala and the Catholic clergy. Finally, some consequences that have teeth!



100. Four Days of the Fourth StateFebruary 28, 2019





101. Golden Veil February 28, 2019


The guru who recommends castration also has sexual abuse
allegations and is the star of a movie, MSG: Messenger of God



107. Wondering Who’s WatchingMarch 8, 2019


Just another garden variety cult!
This is what Robert Earl Burton might have become had he not met with the Fourth Way.


Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo


On SundanceTV:


“Ministry of Evil chronicles the life and crimes of Tony Alamo, who, together with his wife, became a born-again, fire-and-brimstone televangelist and cult leader. The two launched The Tony and Susan Alamo Christian foundation in 1969, which soon evolved into a cult that is said to still operate today. Together, by skirting the law and enforcing a code of silence among their followers, the Alamos came to wield unimaginable power, becoming millionaires on the backs of their believers. The new docuseries explores the cultural consequences of the Alamo empire and features rare archival footage, including an exclusive videotaped deposition with Alamo himself. It also weaves together interviews with the FBI agent who took Alamo down as well as cult survivors who have never previously shared their stories.”




The Tony Alamo Story (from 2010)





94. WhaleRider March 13, 2019


The FOF cult had its own well known TV actress as a follower during my time…




To make an impression as part of my indoctrination, burton arranged for her to give me a ride in her Mercedes once when I accompanied him on a trip down in LA.



113. brucelevyMarch 15, 2019





83. Wondering Who’s WatchingMarch 22, 2019


On SundanceTV:
JONESTOWN: ‘Terror in the Jungle’





3. WhaleRiderApril 13, 2019


“With cults, like any abusive relationship, the red flags are there all along and denial is such a powerful thing. The teachers would say: ‘Your ego is so big you don’t want to change’ and I would explain I did want to change and become enlightened, not even really understanding what enlightened meant.”


“Nxivm – Why I Joined a Cult and How I Left”




After you leave the FOF, you get to stop being in denial that the FOF is indeed a cult, just like other cults.



102. Just the Facts Ma’amJune 11, 2019


Unmasking the Guru


Our new digital world has made it impossible to believe in infallible teachers. What comes next is up to us.


Interview with Bernhard Pörksen by Ursula Richard
SUMMER 2019 [Tricycle]


Changing cultural attitudes are not the only. . .reason that public revelations of institutionalized sexual abuse have been at the forefront of mainstream consciousness. Abuse is nothing new. What is new is the way it is being revealed to the public—and what the public is doing with the information.


Bernhard Pörksen is a professor of media studies at the University of Tübingen in southwest Germany, with particular research interest in the new media age. His writing regularly appears in both scholarly and popular science publications, and two of his books have been on the bestseller list in Germany. He has written or co-authored books on topics such as journalism, constructivism, and communications and systems theories, and he has received accolades for his direct and engaged appearances as a speaker, talk show guest, interview moderator, and discussion partner on radio and television as well as at conventions and public events.


In the following interview, Ursula Richard of the German magazine Buddhismus aktuell discusses with Pörksen the exposure and aftermath of scandals in Buddhist communities today and how we can understand the emerging role played by digital media.


—The Editors




Or, in print, at a newsstand near you.





Will Sanghas Learn from the Scandals in the Buddhist World?


By Wendy Joan Biddlecombe Agsar | Jan 28, 2019


Sexual assault allegations and ethical violations have exploded in Buddhist communities over the last year. Are they equipped to handle what comes next?


From comment section:


This issue is not only about sexual abuse in the sangha; it’s about a failure of compassion for those women who spoke up and spoke out early about what was going on, and weren’t believed, or worse–were shunned or accused of dividing the sangha. Hopefully, these painful revelations will lead to reforms that will make Buddhist communities safe for all, so men and women can participate on an equal footing, and the sangha can be a true refuge from suffering, rather than the cause of more suffering and turmoil. Let these unfortunate events usher in a new era of transparency, ethics and accountability to Dharma centers everywhere.


An initial thought: if people would stop worshipping other humans as gods, I think this would go a long way to avoiding the pain. Because no human is perfect. But the guru worshipping system is faulty because of this. Some lamas have warned that taking vows of absolute loyalty to the teacher is not understood by westerners. They claim that any abuse, if done by that perfect teacher, is not to be criticized. Well, I think every clear thinking person can see what a trap this is – basically elevating slavery to a spiritual status.



Just as a quick side note to the editors and the author of this article:


I find it extremely careless to promote Triratna / FWBO and especially Munisha as a good example on how to deal with abuse. Here are some objections why:


1) “Munisha, a longtime Triratna practitioner who joined the order in 2003, became the group’s safeguarding officer in 2013.” This hides the fact that Munisha has been for a long time Triratna’s “Liaison and Communications Officer” – basically the PR officer of Triratna – and has contributed to the distortion of Triratna’s and Sangharakshita’s history of abuse.


2) Munisha was even both Triratna’s “Liaison and Communications Officer” + their “Safeguarding Officer” – seeing no contradiction in holding both positions until the BCC documentary in 2016 came out.


3) As the “Safeguarding Officer” Munisha used a language to teach about safeguarding to other Buddhists at the German Buddhist Union’s member congregation in April 2018 that not only sought to normalise abuse but to deflect the audience’s attention from it. She did this basically by applying three terms: calling victims of abuse “partners” or “ex-partners” while avoiding terms like abuse, victims of abuse or sexual abuse survivors. The abusive, manipulative actions which tricked (most often) heterosexual men into a sexual service towards Sangharakshita were coined “experimentation” and the culture of abuse (a complex ideological and manipulative thought system) was deflected from by attributing the abuse to the “sexual revolution”. For details see the second part of this post here: https://buddhism-controvers…


4) People being aware of the double role or the former role of Munisha have made Triratna and Munisha alike aware that it is totally inappropriate to make the former PR person – whose main job was to defend Sangharakshita and the organisation – a Safeguarding officer. Instead a neutral person or a person not being involved in Triratna ideology should hold that office – so it was suggested. These demands have been rejected by Triratna. This rejection shows how “serious” Triratna is in really getting to the root of the problems.


I find it really unfortunate how the European Buddhist Union (EBU), the German Buddhist Union (DBU) and now also Tricycle fall prey to a very naive and uncritical attitude towards Triratna and their dealing with abuse – without for instance interviewing victims of abuse or giving them a voice too – and allowing Triratna and Munisha to become the trailblazers of how to deal with abuse in the Buddhist community.


For the EBU: their meeting on sexual abuse took place at the headquarter of Triratna, featuring Triratna / Munisha on their page: www.europeanbuddhism.org/ne…


Is there no Buddhist scholar, journalist or just some common sense Buddhists who are aware how insensitive and unreasonable it is to allow a group and their former PR person – a group that has been a forerunner in abuse – now to become the forerunner or even the guides in preventing abuse, with the former PR person of the group in the leading role? Far more as neither Munisha nor other former managers of Triratna – who still hold power within Triratna – have openly and critically reflected their own role in this?


Tenpel – see above – hits the nail on the head with his concerns about Triratna’s so-called Safeguarding official: Munisha.


One aspect of Sangharakshita’s ethical misconduct that is less widely known, concerns his wearing of the ‘Gold kesa’, signifying the Brahmacharya vow: which is indicative of celibacy.


As I pointed out, in an article on one of Tenpel’s webpages, Sangharakshita was definitely NOT celibate, on the many occasions I saw him give public addresses whilst thus adorned, during the mid-80’s.


The timeframe encompassing the late 70’s until mid-80’s, was Sr’s most sexually active period in England: often with confused and heterosexual young men – not fully aware participants.


I have seen comments attributed to Munisha that confuse the time-frame, with remarks like, ‘ …. the 1960’s were really weird’. She has also consistently neglected to address the issue, I mention above, of the wearing of the Gold kesa.


In short, Munisha is hopelessly unreliable as an historical resource; a problem that is compounded by the fact that she only became involved with Triratna – I am told – in 1991: thus having an inadequate personal perspective on historical abuse issues.


To put it bluntly, she is dependent on her seniors for “information” on events prior to this date.


The real cancer at the heart of Triratna is the teaching of: The higher evolution of consciousness. This is still part of the Triratna ‘education’ curriculum, and underpins the rigid hierarchical structure.


During the late 70’s and 80’s, the FWBO (as it then was) resembled an old fashioned English private school, of the type some of the group’s leading lights attended, complete with: closet homosexuality (a closely guarded secret at the time), ‘fagging’, favouritism regarding junior members, and widespread bullying.


All of this is a consequence of the teaching of ‘The Evolution of consciousness’; the corollary being that abuse is deeply rooted in Triratna culture and teaching. It is highly unlikely that someone with the mixed agenda, and very poor historical perspective, of Munisha can change that.


I commend Tenpel for his tireless efforts in bringing these painful issues into the public domain.



Recent personal experience suggests abusive gurus often telegraph their intentions to the Sangha. They push the boundaries of right speech and right action and effectively drive off followers who challenge their ”crazy wisdom”. Sadly, only vulnerable students chose to remain.


Turnover and attrition are early warning signs of abusive gurus and sanghas. Ignoring and dismissing turnover and attrition is myopic. It is a precursor to subsequent denial of further, greater abuse and dismissal.


Really good teachers treat each student like they are precious and irreplaceable. In my experience they model and champion right speech and right action and advocate for vulnerable students. Anything less is a red flag.



https://buddhism-controvers... More Info



I don’t know how any of those “leaders” can claim to have ever followed the Noble Eightfold Path.


Like Chogyam Trungpa…I’ve read his books, so I know that when he was teaching, he was a great teacher, …but when he was just living his life, he was an absolute horrible example. What kind of “real” Buddhist would cheat on his wife once, much less over and over and over. What kind of real Buddhist would write articles to justify drinking alcohol to excess.


These leaders can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk. I will just learn on my own, read the books, and stay safely away from any guru type teacher.



12. WhaleRiderJune 14, 2019


Nxivm: How a Sex Cult Leader Seduced and Programmed His Followers


“Six former Nxivm members have taken the stand, providing a window into how the group indoctrinated people, undermined their moral beliefs and convinced them to blindly follow Mr. Raniere’s edicts, even when that meant breaking the law or tolerating unwelcome sexual contact.


At the root of Nxivm teachings, witnesses said, was the notion that people had to learn to override their instincts…and reject social conventions that turned them into “robots.”


Dr. Janja Lalich, a sociologist at California State University, Chico, and an author of books on cults, said Nxivm shares characteristics with many of these types of groups.


“Cults often display a zealous commitment to a special and unaccountable leader, discourage dissent and control members through shame, guilt and peer pressure”, she said.


“The more that they have absorbed and internalized the belief system the harder it is to question it,” she said of cult members. “Your personal sense of self has been replaced by your cult self and when you’ve become enveloped in a sphere of influence all the aberrant behavior becomes normalized.”


Sound familiar?



34. Nancy Gilbert June 20, 2019





40. to 44. WonderingWhosWatchingNovember 5, 2019


40. Cults and Extreme Beliefs: U.N.O.I.
Aired on: Jun 12, 2018 Duration: ~43m 19s


Growing up in the United Nation of Islam (UNOI), Elijah Muhammad was forced into child labor, physical abuse and squalid living conditions. Today, he has a unique opportunity to speak to the FBI in hope of getting justice for himself and the other children abused by UNOI and its leader, Royall Jenkins’, teachings.





41. Cults and Extreme Beliefs: World Peace and Unification Sanctuary
Aired on: Jun 19, 2018 Duration: ~42m 51s


Elizabeth Vargas investigates controversial religious organizations and sects, uncovering how these groups prey upon their followers and create powerful, often destructive belief systems.





42. Cults and Extreme Beliefs: Twelve Tribes
Aired on: Jun 26, 2018 Duration: ~42m 43s


Despite their hippie persona and rustic community businesses, The Twelve Tribes have long stood accused of physically abusing children and subjugating of women. Now disconnected from her family, ex-member Samie Brosseau, works to expose the Twelve Tribes abusive practices today.





43. Cults and Extreme Beliefs: FLDS
[Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints] Aired on: Jul 03, 2018 Duration: ~42m 37s


Many believed that when Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison for child sexual assault, the problems within the FLDS community would be solved–the group would disperse and members would wake up and leave the church. However, when Jeffs was locked away, it left devoted FLDS followers like Norma Richter to face a subsequent humanitarian crisis alone, and forced to fend for themselves in a world they were once taught to fear.





44. Cults and Extreme Beliefs: The Survivors Speak Part 1
Aired on: Jul 15, 2018 Duration: ~42m 11s


Former members of different groups meet to discuss their shared experiences with Elizabeth Vargas.





Exposing Cults & Tantric Abuse
Be Scofield on March 4, 2019


Becoming God: Inside Mooji’s Portugal Cult


Former members accuse spiritual teacher Mooji of running an abusive cult at his isolated ashram three hours from Lisbon, Portugal.



CULTS | By Sarah Berman | July 9, 2018


Courts Are Rarely Kind to ‘Brainwashed’ Victims


Months ahead of the NXIVM sex-trafficking trial, we take a look at how juries react to cults.


vice.com/en us/article



The Best Books on Cults, for These Cult-Obsessed Times


By Katy Schneider – June 1, 2018


Welcome to Reading Lists, comprehensive book guides from the Strategist designed to make you an expert (or at least a fascinating dinner-party companion) in hyperspecific or newsworthy topics. This week: a selection of books (and notable articles and podcast episodes) about cults.


We’re a little cult-obsessed at the moment. Smallville actor Allison Mack was recently all over the news, arrested on sex-trafficking charges for her association with the Albany, New York, cult NXIVM. That came on the heels of Wild Wild Country, a Netflix docuseries about the Rajneeshpuram commune that formed in early 1980s Oregon, and Waco, a mini-series based on the Branch Davidian compound in 1993.


But really, we’ve always been cult-curious, and there’s a wealth of literature to prove it. We reached out to professors, researchers, cult deprogrammers, and filmmakers to find out the best book to read on a variety of notorious groups.







‘I was a Moonie Cult Leader’


Steven Hassan spent two-and-a-half years being ‘brainwashed’ by the Rev Sun Myung Moon’s controversial Unification Church. This is his story:





CRAZY FOR GOD: The Nightmare of Cult Life © 1979 by Ex-Moon Disciple, Christopher Edwards


How are young minds twisted in the name of God? What is the truth about modern-day religious cults?




This book is about the rapid near-destruction of a human being – myself. It is the story of the deceit, manipulation and terror which thousands of young Americans experience daily at the hands of modern cults. Although a different group was involved, I believe it is also a story which may help to explain the paranoia and absolute obedience which led to the recent horror of the People’s Temple murders and mass suicide.


My story began innocently enough when I was lured into a “fun” weekend in June of 1975 on a farm owned by a front group for Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church in Berkeley, California. It ended seven and a half months later on a Saturday afternoon in mid-January with a dramatic kidnapping and deprogramming engineered by my father and a team of hired professionals.


In the following pages, I describe the sinister indoctrination process by which I was transformed from an intelligent, independent human being into a completely subservient disciple of my new Messiah — terrified of questioning, dependent on my leaders for my every move, ready and willing to die or even kill to restore the world under the absolute rule of Reverend Moon. I share with you the degradation I experienced as I rose in the ranks of the Moon organization to become an “adopted” son of the two most powerful cult leaders in America. I describe my losing battle to retain my mind and will in a world of structured madness.


This has been a difficult and painful book to write. I have had to relive every nightmare connected with those seven months with the Moonies in order to re-create for you the horrors I experienced. You may be amused at first by the absurdities that Moonies mouth and actually believe, but it will soon become chillingly clear that beneath the smiley faces and baby songs lies a systematic plan for rapid subjugation for the Cause.


Everything in this story is true although it is obviously impossible to reproduce the dialogue and thoughts of characters verbatim. Some personalities and events have been compressed or conjoined for the sake of readability, but everything that I describe happened to me and is typical of a Moonie’s experience, however much the cult leaders may deny this. All the names in this book with the exception of Moon’s have been changed to protect the guilty, among whom are some of the most innocent victims of all.


As a former Moonie, I am aware of Unification Church tactics toward those who dare expose its secrets. But no risk seems too great if CRAZY FOR GOD prevents a few more families from being destroyed and a few more minds from being bent and twisted in the name of love.



An Independent Research Project


by Ilona C. Cuddy


This is dedicated to the many people who have become lost in trying to find themselves. Their painful stories have pierced my heart. I pray that freedom and honesty find them soon.





Post-Cult After Effects
Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D.


After exiting a cult, an individual may experience a period of intense and often conflicting emotions. She or he may feel relief to be out of the group, but also may feel grief over the loss of positive elements in the cult, such as friendships, a sense of belonging or the feeling of personal worth generated by the group’s stated ideals or mission. The emotional upheaval of the period is often characterized by “post-cult trauma syndrome”:


Cult Recovery 101.com



50. InsiderSeptember 1, 2019


On the off-chance that anyone has forgotten, a yearly celebration (aka “Journey Forth”) is underway right now throughout the Fellowship, and especially at the “Apollo” compound. Since there are now 12 of these celebrations each year, mostly highlighting an event in the life of Robert Burton, it might be difficult to keep track of them without a scorecard. In any event, the current remembrance is known to the Fellowsheepers as “Meeting Influence C.” The exact day is Sept 5, which supposedly is the day, in 1967, that Burton was picked up hitchhiking in Berkeley/Oakland, and taken to an introductory meeting of Alexander Francis Horn’s group.


According to the official Fellowship mythology regarding lineage going from Gurdjieff to Burton (espoused by ardent Burton follower and imaginative “researcher,” H*gh James), “conscious being” Gurdjieff produced one “conscious being,” Ouspensky, who then produced one “conscious being,” Rodney Collin, who then produced one “conscious being,” Alex Horn, who then produced one “conscious being,” Robert Earl Burton. Pretty neat and tidy.


Of the many problems and inconsistencies with this all-too-convenient myth, a big one is that Horn never met or studied with Collin in Mexico. As reported on this blog sometime in the past year (or thereabouts), Horn’s trip to Mexico, indeed during the time frame deduced by H*gh James, was with a group of fellow actors from Chicago (who later formed a troupe called the Compass Players, which evolved into Second City, which in turn influenced the creation of Saturday Night Live). They all went to Mexico, to some inexpensive beach location for a few months, to practice new acting techniques. Their going to Mexico in the early/mid 1950s, and their explosive return, was well documented by a friend/actor who remained behind in Chicago.


Alex Horn was an actor, and probably a very good one. After all, he convinced Burton that he (Horn) was a conscious teacher. He could be kind and sympathetic, abusive and cruel, almost invisible, and could switch between roles in an instant. His crimes are well-documented, from the physical beatings, the child endangerment, the forced sex. He barely escaped being arrested at least twice, when he left NY City in the 60s, and when he left SF around 1978.


So, as the Fellowsheepers celebrate Burton’s meeting of “conscious being” #80 (according to their own count, Burton himself being #81), we out here in the wilderness of “unconscious life” are no longer so easily fooled, and can clearly see how one fake guru, the money pouring in from his brainwashed followers, inspired the next one to do exactly the same.



The Gentle Souls Revolution blog October 31, 2013


Cults in Our Midst Describes “School”


I keep telling myself, I’m going to focus on other things, but for better or worse, I have become fascinated with cults. I started reading this book on a recommendation and quickly went from reading to devouring when I found that Chapter 3, The Process of Brainwashing, Psychological Coercion and Thought Reform, illustrated my “school” experience to a T.


If some are still wondering whether “school” is really a cult, or just a misguided philosophy group, authors Margaret Thaler Singer and Janja Lalich will quickly and succinctly put your wondering to rest. As disturbing as it is, I feel empowered by knowing the truth: “school” tactics are not the rituals of a wannabe esoteric mystery school, as claimed, but widely-used cult tools and tricks as modeled by Scientology, The Moonies and Jehovah’s Witnesses (to name a few of the more highly visible cults).


According to Singer and Lalich, successful thought reform “keeps the subjects unaware that they are being manipulated and controlled … and unaware that they are being moved along a path of change that will lead them to serve interests that are to their disadvantage.”


Sound familiar?


They outline a “continuum of influence and persuasion” ranging from legitimate education (i.e. real schools) to thought reform. Let’s look at the thought reform bullets and see if anything else sounds familiar:


Point 1) Structure of Influence and Persuasion: takes authoritarian & hierarchical stance; no full awareness on part of the learner:


Who among us “students” didn’t feel intimidated by “teachers” — Robert [Klein] in particular? Who didn’t lose his/her ability to challenge and question the “teachings” and “demands”? Who among us didn’t feel beholden to “school instructions” even if we didn’t understand the intention behind them; even if all the cells in our bodies were screaming NO? “Teachers” lorded over the classroom as more highly-evolved beings, who had been “doing the work longer”. We told ourselves, if we do “the work” we will someday understand what they understand. “Teachers” reinforced our perceptions telling us to “maintain a healthy skepticism with a nickel’s worth of trust.” “Teachers” also brushed skepticism aside and failed to reveal the interest rate on that nickel.


Point 2) Type of relationship: Group attempts to retain people forever:


This point really got to me; when my recruiter, Lisa, asked me if I’d like to meet other people who ponder life’s bigger questions, I distinctly remember her painting a casual picture: a bi-weekly discussion group that people wandered in and out of; a group of friends who gather informally to discuss ideas and tools for living. I’d grown to trust Lisa. What could it hurt to meet some like-minded folks, I asked myself? Over time I learned what it could hurt. “School” built up its demands a little at a time: rigid requirements for stellar bi-weekly attendance, Christmas-party planning participation, the ridiculous requirement that we schedule our personal vacations around “school’s vacations” (I must admit, most people never took this seriously) and eventually the required recruitment. Lisa had lied. I felt angry at her and I remember thinking bitterly, “I didn’t sign up for this.” But I also shoved that anger aside, justifying her manipulation, “I would never have joined ‘school’ had I known the extent of its demands. Then I would have missed out on all of its ‘help’ and my life would still be a frustrating circle of confusion and disappointment.”


One night Robert mentioned playing basketball with one of my fellow students ten years prior. “Holy shit,” my inner rebels said, briefly waking up. “A decade??? [INSERT NAME] has been attending ‘classes’ for ten years?” I should have stayed with the horror I was feeling, but I shoved that voice aside. On a separate occasion I did once say, “We’re not all going to be here forever.” Robert’s expression darkened, his displeasure apparent. I had stepped in a minefield in my audacity to question lifelong “school” tenures. He responded that some have left “school” with his “blessing”. I never saw evidence that “school” honors or blesses an individual’s choice to leave, but even if this were true, his response indicated that they had to ask for his permission. There’s no point at which someone could stand up and say, “I’ve decided to do some other things with my time” without questioning, pressure and push-back from the group. Once one is *in*, “school” offers no sanctioned *exit*. Eventually, anyone who leaves becomes a “disgruntled ex-student”, or an enemy. Persona non grata.


Point 3) Deceptiveness: is deceptive


See points 1 and 2; suffice to say that “school” provides endless examples of deceptions custom-made to retain “students”. Those readers who were *in* “school” can compile the lies told to bait them, reel them in and keep them hooked. I’m confident that their experiences will closely echo mine.  I will simply add this phrase — well worn in the hallowed halls: clever insincerity.


Point 4) Breadth of Learning: Individualized target; hidden agenda (you will be changed one step at a time to become deployable to serve leaders)


Almost every emancipated ex-“student” I’ve spoken with since leaving the ranks likens their “school” experience to this commonly told cautionary tale: a frog is placed in a pot of cool water.  A burner is turned on beneath the pot. The water heats slowly, imperceptively. When the water boils, it’s too late. The longer your tenure the more susceptible you become and more easily deployed to “serve school”, i.e. recruit more students who will pay tuition and eventually be deployed to recruit more students when deemed ready by the authorities. Eventually, “school’s” demands will supersede all of their “only life things”: marriages, children, jobs, family, personal finances, interests and passions, friends, emotional and physical health are all secondary.


Point 5) Methods: Improper and unethical techniques:


Again, see “clever insincerity”. I realized while still in “school” that “clever insincerity” isn’t simply a “teaching”, it is policy. “School” lies and omits information conveniently; it then instructs its plebs to do the same. I justified this practice believing that, even though “clever insincerity” felt wrong, I didn’t understand the process of “evolution”. “School” lulled me into seeing it as a benign and necessary practice to “protect” the secret “esoteric” ideas. It shored up the illusion of “school” as “invisible”, as though friend and family didn’t take note of our bi-weekly disappearing acts and changing personalities. “Clever insincerity” claimed these secret esoteric ideas came from an “oral tradition”, neglecting to mention the source, Russian philosopher, G. Gurdjieff and his myriad of published books, easily accessible on Amazon.com. “Clever insincerity” inferred that, without “school”, these sacred ideas would disappear forever.


Initially after leaving, I still justified “school’s” unethical techniques, believing them necessary for “school’s” survival; still believing that each “student” made a personal choice about staying or going. But let’s name “clever insincerity” rightly: lies, deception, coercion and manipulation.


If the decision you make is based on lies, it is not a personal choice. It isn’t possible to make an informed choice about continuing your study in an esoteric school when, in truth, the “school” is a mind-control cult with a hidden agenda.




April 3, 2012


Chapter 6, Part 2 Work on the Self: Psychological ideas


chasingbearpheonix says:

April 4, 2012 at 11:49 pm


Hi Gentle Souls’ Revolution,


You’ve done superb “€œwork”€ on this post! Thanks so much for summarizing the theory of psychology that “€œFourth Way”€ “schools”€ propound, and for describing the self-observation exercise. Thanks also for providing your insights into how the “€œstudents”€ are disempowered and actually become less conscious. And I appreciate your thoughtful poem. I have friends (some of whom are survivors of cults or cultic environments) that ask me to describe the dogma and other aspects of “€œschool”€. Now I can simply send them the link to your eloquent post.




I discovered a brilliant essay about the fragmentation of consciousness that occurs in cults. It was written by a former member of the New American Wing, a phony “€œFourth Way”€ “€œschool”€ in Kentucky with roots that go back to California and Alex Horn (the original “€œteacher”€ of the fake “€œFourth Way”€ “€œschool”€ that migrated east and set up shop in New York City and Boston by the early 1980’s).


The essay “€œEscape from wholeness”€ (see link below) can help us better understand the psychological fragmentation that “€œFourth Way”€ “€œstudents”€, as well as members of all kinds of cults, experience.




“€œEscape from wholeness”€ was written by a former “€œstudent”€ in the “€œNew American Wing”€ (NAW) fake Gurdjieff-Ouspensky “€œFourth Way”€ “€œschool”€ in Kentucky in the mid 1990’s. NAW and its branches were (and maybe still are) in Kentucky, Michigan, Florida and Texas (under various names).


It seems that the “€œlineage”€ of this “€œschool”€ started in California in the mid 1960’s with Alex Horn, who eventually fled to New York City with his wife Sharon Gans and others, and then started a “€œschool”€ in Manhattan and Boston.


“€œLineage”€ of NAW:


Alex Horn
Robert Burton (“€œFellowship of Friends”€)
James Randazzo (“€œThe Spiral of Friends”€)
Jim and Carolyn Kuziak (“€œNew American Wing”€)


( Note that former “€œstudents”€ have accused all these “€œteachers”€ of horrific abuse. Unfortunately, it seems that only Randazzo has been incarcerated. )




The author of the essay explains how, in his opinion, the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky concepts/exercises/terminologies were used to contract (rather than expand) the consciousnesses of the “€œstudents”€. I think his insights may be useful to members/ex-members of all kinds of cults, because it may be the case that similar “€œconsciousness contraction”€ takes place in many (if not all) cults (and cultic environments) even though they may employ different concepts/exercises/terminologies.




With a sense of self almost annihilated, it becomes more clear why people experience a kind of identity crisis in these cults. This might explain many otherwise illogical behaviors: why students could make such radical changes in their personality in such a short time; why we were so willing to make drastic changes in our lives at the slightest request of the teachers; why imitation was is rampant, in everything from diet to appearance to musical taste; and why it was so easy to bury our conscience – “because we believed that we didn’™t even possess that!




Escape from wholeness




In case anyone is interested, there are more excellent essays where that one came from by the same author. Here’s a handy link to the starting page of the site:


NAW Aware – School or Scam?


Also, I have begun to organize a list of links to sites about the “€œGanscult”€ and the spinoffs of the California version of the Alex Horn cult. One may find it at:



To Odysseus: All 5 of your points are quite astute.



The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

Wow. Thank you, CBP, for providing all of these resources! The essay is amazing. It is also important for all of us to know that these fake “€œfourth-way schools”€ exist under different names across the country. It is quite a wake-up call to see the language of “€œschool”€ in an essay written by a total stranger, in another state, and attributed to this group called “€œNew American Wing”€ after being told, and believing, “€œYou”€™ll never find these ideas anywhere else.”€


Readers, this essay is definitely worth a read!



I Will Thrive says:
April 5, 2012 at 10:55 am


Excellent read – I especially appreciate the analogy of the fingernail. It’™s led to a realization that I still carry damaging beliefs picked up in the GansKlein cult. Thank you, Chasing Bear Phoenix.



Warren Peace says:
April 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm


I would add to GSR’s quite accurate account of some of the basic so-called “€œideas”€ of so-called “€œschool”€ the idea (in the writings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) that only someone who is awake – i.e. a conscious being -€” can wake up a sleeping man or woman, and that the waker-upper has to have specific knowledge and techniques to administer the so-called “€œshocks”€ in the correct way to achieve the desired result without causing psychological damage to the sleeping person. This is related to the idea that the only real “€œschools”€ are those connected by direct lineage to the so-called “€œconscious circle of humanity,”€ a mysterious enclave of supposedly evolved human beings that exist outside of time . . . well, the whole thing is really pretty muddled, and requires a certain degree of credulousness on the part of the student. However, what Gurdjieff and Ouspensky EXPLICITLY STATE is that the only way that the “€œideas”€ of the “€œsystem”€ can be communicated properly is through a conscious teacher connected to the “€œconscious circle”€ in this way. Ideas communicated in this way are called “€œC”€ influences, and these influences are the only ones that can make unconscious beings conscious. Otherwise, the ideas get distorted (turned into “€œB”€ influences and mixed up with “€œA”€ influences on the level of “€œlife”€) and, through the supposed “€œdeflections”€ in the “€œoctave,”€ have a tendency to turn into their opposite – that is, into influences that put people further asleep.


FACT: Neither Sharon nor Robert nor any of the teachers under them have ever had more than the most glancing contact with anybody who was ever connected with any real teachers of the so-called “€œWork.”€ THEREFORE, they CANNOT be communicating C influence, THEREFORE the ideas as they “€œteach”€ them are distorted, and THEREFORE they will inevitably turn into influences that will only create more sleep, more distortion, more so-called “€œmechanicality.”€


Obviously, this fact is very inconvenient for Sharon and Robert. I’ve been out of “€œschool”€ for many years, so I’€™m not sure if they even “€œteach”€ the ideas about A, B, and C influences any more. I’ve heard that the “€œofficial school texts”€ are now abridged versions of the original Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Nicoll, and Collin books that it used to be mandatory to study, with the identifying names and dates and places removed. I wouldn’t be surprised if these abridged versions leave out inconvenient ideas such as this one. Back in the day, they simply humiliated and verbally abused anybody with the gall to ask about the lineage of “€œschool.”€ The response was usually so brutal that students quickly learned to keep their mouths shut about it. And so the bait and switch could take hold.


The very ideas of the teaching denounce the teachers as frauds. No wonder they’re trying to hide the origins of the ideas.



Odysseus says:
April 6, 2012 at 9:30 pm


Warren Peace,


Thank you for joining in here. You make a lot of great points. In particular:


“FACT: Neither Sharon nor Robert nor any of the teachers under them have ever had more than the most glancing contact with anybody who was ever connected with any real teachers of the so-called ‘Work.’ THEREFORE, they CANNOT be communicating C influence, THEREFORE the ideas as they ‘teach’ them are distorted, and THEREFORE they will inevitably turn into influences that will only create more sleep, more distortion, more so-called ‘mechanicality.'”


This is so important, and it cannot be said too many times or stressed too much. No-one currently in what we called “school” has anything remotely resembling a real connection with either Gurdjieff or Ouspensky. If we accept what we have been told about it being primarily an oral teaching, then there is no conclusion to be drawn other than that they have no freaking idea what they are talking about!


Alex Horn stole ideas he didn’t fully understand from his ex-wife, who only had a brief stint studying under John Bennett, who was himself a syncretist, merging Gurdjieff’s teachings with others. Whatever Anne (Alex’s first wife) might have absorbed in the year or two she spent studying with Bennett could not have been anything more than a cursory understanding. And, Bennet warned Anne about Alex, apparently recognizing him for the budding charlatan that he was!


So Alex stole a few ideas from his ex-wife, probably read some of the others and put together his “school” which was eventually run out of San Francisco by a newspaper shining the light on it. Along the way he passed on his mish-mash of ideas to Sharon, Robert and the gang.


I think what we have here is actually a classic example of a few ideas from the books. Stealing ideas and teaching them as if you actually know what you are talking about is crime and corruption, one of the six cosmic processes described by Rodney Collin.


Additionally we see the octave veering when it encounters denying force. If you are trying to teach an idea, there can be no greater denying force than the fact that you don’t actually understand that idea.


And Gurdjieff himself warned us against false teachers. Too bad he didn’t know the names.



The New American Wing


Secrecy, Embarrassment, and the Cult Experience


By JM – NAW Aware .



Influence and The New American Wing (excerpt)




Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, describes many of the ways in which people influence each other. At first glance, I thought the book was about marketing, and about the techniques used by sales professionals to cause people to buy their products. However, a friend of mine repeatedly praised the book as a great tool for understanding some of the dynamics within cults, and so I finally broke down and read it. I was not disappointed – the book is excellent, and it illuminated many different aspects of my own cult experience.


From 1991 to 1994, I was an active member of The New American Wing (NAW), a consciousness cult based on the ideas of G. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky.  After having been a fan of Ouspensky’s “Fourth Way” books for a couple years, I was excited when I first discovered this group, and began by attending meetings twice a week. After about a year of increasing involvement, I moved into a house with other “students”.  After another year, I moved to the NAW’s headquarters: a small farm outside Lexington, Kentucky.  My responsibilities within the group had steadily increased with time, and by this point I was spending all my available time (outside my day job) with this group.  I lived with them, paid them a great deal of money, believed in much of their dogma, and participated in various recruiting activities.  My mental and physical life was consumed with their ideas and practices. . .



In the end…


Even now, years after leaving the NAW, I still wonder whether the teachers actually understood what they were doing. With so many adoring students, it is very possible that they came to believe in their own facade of authority, and actually acted with a clean (although buried) conscience.  Judging from my own experience, I was certainly unconscious of my own role in influencing new recruits until long after I’d left.


In all likelihood, the teachers (Jim and Carolyn Kuziak) were probably not aware enough to have devised these rules intentionally.  Evidence supports the idea that they learned how to run their organization from their teacher (James Randazzo), who, in turn, learned from his teacher (Robert Burton), and so on. This makes good sense from the perspective of the theory of natural selection: the groups that survive are the ones that make the best use of persuasion techniques and produce the most true believers, regardless of whether they are aware of these techniques or not.


As Cialdini’s book demonstrates, these practices pervade society already.  We do not need to join a cult to experience them, they are already all around us.  But the first step in regaining control over these pressures is to become aware of them, and Influence provides an excellent starting point.


It is my sincerest wish that the existing and ex-members of the New American Wing begin to look at their experience from the new vantage points made possible by this book.  For them, I want to pass on this advice, once given to me by a friend – the true learning in “school” does not begin until you leave!





James Vincent Randazzo




These newspaper articles describe the arrest and imprisonment of James Vincent Randazzo, the leader of the “Spiral of Friends” (SOF). Randazzo and the SOF are significant because the leaders of the NAW and many of its longtime members were originally his students. It was there that they learned how to run a “school”. 


Curious cult leader back in Mesa County lockup

The perpetrator of one of Mesa County’s most bizarre crimes and ensuing trial is back, ensconced in the Mesa County jail to serve the final year of his lengthy sentence for sexually abusing teenagers.





19. Tim Campion August 1, 2014


From “Upper Lobby,” a blog about a Boston-area 4th Way cult:


The Day We Told Our Wives About Cesareo’s Sexual Abuse


As perpetrators learn from other perpetrators, it is important that survivors learn from other survivors.



20. brucelevyAugust 1, 2014


Thanks Tim. Your link led me to this…newyorker.com/magazine/2013/04/01/the-master-2?currentPage=all



26. WhaleRider August 2, 2014




Another great read, although it also made me feel sick to my stomach.


I was struck by the consistent theme in the cult victims’ lives: issues with their parents.


“Newton told me that Berman could sense which boys to invite into the inner circle, either because their parents were splitting up or because they were struggling in school.


Because of his lack of financial support, he needed the boys,” she wrote of Berman. “The boys needed a leader, because for some reason or another, the boys all hated their parents.”


The other original owner of the house, the bond trader, who spoke on the condition that he not be named, said that he first encountered Berman in tenth grade, when his relationship with his parents was crumbling. “I didn’t know it, but I was looking for someone like Berman, who had authority, who was a leader,” he says. “In a school that made everyone think he was special…”


I feel very fortunate to have left the FOF rape factory in time to resolve the issues with my father before he died. I hated him when I was young and my parents divorced just prior to my joining the cult. I, too, needed to feel special. I’ve learned these many years later that aligning myself with anything that makes me feel special or privileged comes at a cost to my humanity.



From Q.M.I. Presents The Blackboard Newspaper


Mystical Journey by Dr. Derick Lamar – 2005


Was this Fourth Way School I was in a cult? No one in the school thought so. But no one considered it at the time. It wasn’t until Jonestown that the question was even asked.


. . . Thane’s obsession with “young men” might have been more to do with society’s fear and mistrust of such relationships and yet it was there and remains unanswered. Despite the teaching of androgyny, the school was clearly a patriarchal organization and though sexuality was liberal, it was still shrouded in a certain amount of shame and guilt that was brought on inherently by all of the denial.


There is a reason that many professions have a rule against intimate relationships with patients, clients, students and others. This is to protect one from the power of the persona of those helping us that might be used to exploit us for less than virtuous reasons. This ultimately creates doubt, guilt, confusion, and gets in the way of what the original intention was . . .


The problem was that Thane’s unresolved issues would become the collective unconscious for the entire school. Rather than simply helping students resolve psychological and spiritual issues, they soon found themselves entangled in the trappings of a man who desperately needed to control others in order to accomplish his own survival amidst the ongoing nightmare of freeing himself from his own demons. But his own work took a back seat, and what unfolded after that was the haphazard attempt at recreating Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way School in a more metaphysical setting. The Fourth Way approach to “the three lines of work” made this seem like a plausible dream. You must “Work” on yourself, “Work” for the school, and “Work” for children yet unborn. Everyone did do “Work” related to their own constructs, but so many of us got caught in the daily trappings of “working” for the school and rather than this meaning that “The Teaching” would be made available to others, it turned into a merry go round of activity that kept the organization functioning for the sake of the organization.



40. wallisJuly 23, 2017





42. Ames Gilbert July 23, 2017


To everyone who is currently a member of the Fellowship of Friends.


Of course you have been advised to not read this blog, so I’m almost certainly wasting my time with this appeal. But maybe a psychic vibration will get through, or someone will pass it along…


You have a great opportunity RIGHT NOW to end the madness. There is some part of you that recognizes that you have been led down a dark and dismal path, no matter how gorgeous the externals, the trinkets and ornaments and endless ‘cultural’ activities, no matter the beautiful surroundings. There is something inside you that recognizes these are masks covering the corruption and emptiness. As Burton gasps for breath, the leaders he has appointed or who have clawed their way to the limelight are deciding your future. You have become very used to others making the important decisions in your life, but I beg of you now—take back your power and break free of these people and their machinations. Withdraw your support, leave the organization now, let it wither as it should have done decades ago. Do not accept the claims of the would–be ‘leaders’, why should you? They are just very ordinary people who have been given spiritual and temporal authority by Robert Burton. Without that, they have nothing, are nothing. Why should you follow their directions? They have spent decades being just ciphers, mouthpieces for Burton, and every one of them carries very heavy baggage of their own. They were chosen by Burton for their weaknesses, not their strengths. They were chosen because they were more willing than you to give up their chances for individuation. They were chosen because they are consummate ‘yes men’ and ‘yes women’, not because they have the abilities to manage the organization in the absence of Burton.


Take Dorian Mattei, for example. Do you want someone who sells favors for sex to take over your spiritual path? Or Linda Kaplan/Tussolo, do you want someone whose sole moral guidance is, “I was just following orders” to teach you anything? Do you want those like Steven Dambeck who would do anything that Burton ordered, regardless, without question or compunction or care for the consequences to guide you? Do you want any of the other slimy sycophants who did whatever was necessary to please Burton to gain ultimate power in the organization? Do you want the weak fools who comprise the Board of Directors, who were especially selected by Burton because he knew they would never take any independent action, to lead you? Do you really want any of these and other contenders for power to take charge of all the things that are important in your life?


You may have believed that Burton was connected to higher powers, and that those he has selected and groomed to take over have their approval as well. But, look back at the history. Every single person that Burton anointed as a ‘future conscious being’, with the sole exception of Girard Haven, turned out to be a dud. You want someone like Girard to be your leader? Someone who advises you to abandon the idea of verification and instead look for evidence to support received wisdom, you wish such a person to guide you? What does Burton’s sorry record on that score say about his capabilities to choose those who would follow him? Why has he surrounded himself with people that wholeheartedly supported his fantasy, and who never want to graduate from his ‘school’, don’t even consider it possible? Why do none of them ever stand up to him? When the new management take over, you will be required to give your unconditional support to people who were chosen for their colossal weaknesses, not strengths. So, don’t tolerate it. Whatever your history in the Fellowship, recognize that it is over. It’s over. The prophecies were false, the signs and numerology were fake, the whole setup is dead and rotting. Do you want to go to any more meetings where the ‘leaders’ mouth yet more platitudes, project fake meanings into ridiculous symbology and numerology, forge false connections to higher wisdom, snare you deeper into the fantasy?


So what happens if you men and women stop the nonsense, individual by individual? Well, it’s certainly a risk, no question about it. You are heading into unknown territory, especially internally. But, nothing stops you folks being a community. I understand, you have friends, family, houses, commitments. You don’t have to lose any of this. You don’t have to stop trying to be present (though you might want to question the techniques you’ve been told to use), you don’t have to cut yourself off, you don’t have to cut others off, and you can make new friends. You can carry on trying to be a decent human being. You can start to forgive yourself for your complicity in the enormous boondoggle. But not if you stay and support another generation of charlatans. Really, what on earth can Dorian Mattei offer? He has nothing but borrowed authority, pat phrases with no meaningful content, and an acquired taste for loud clothing. He wants your money, your adoration and plenty of sex, like Burton. Of course he does, he has spent twenty years or more exploiting the accident that allowed him to move from Romania and end up in the U.S. with the status of princeling. He has became accustomed to this lifestyle, all courtesy of Burton’s physical desire for him and his own ruthless cunning. But why should you let this continue? He has nothing of value to offer you, he is empty inside, he has spent his adult years conforming to Burton’s will and giving up all possibilities for individuation and graduation. The same goes to any of the contenders for power.


Do you really want those who pursued ‘consciousness at any price’, who think that the ends justifies the means, who are willing to squash their consciences so they could fit in and ascend to power, who want you to do the same, who want you to give them unquestioning obedience, your money, maybe your body, and most importantly, your power—do you want such people to control your lives? In a few weeks, whoever is the most ruthless will have consolidated their power, and you will be required to conform to that reality, to pledge loyalty to them in all areas of your life. Is that what you really, really want?


End it now. Take your future in your own hands. Step away, and end it now. For your own sweet sakes, end it now.



43. wallisJuly 23, 2017

Question this one, for instance…..


David Lynch on Consciousness, Creativity and the Brain (Transcendental Meditation)




and, as Ames encourages, make up your own mind.



44. Associated PressJuly 24, 2017


Ames, thank you for your postings.


If heir apparent was based on seniority alone, here are the most senior, if they are still members:


6 Jan A.
14 Guinevere M.
18 Linda K./T.
30 James K.
31 Sheila R.
38 Patricia S.
42 Susan S.
45 Anthony C.



46. wallisJuly 26, 2017


It is strange that most of us (in the 1980’s) joined the FOF for a noble cause – artistic and cultural, leading to the ‘mastery of higher states’. It is obvious that Burton never had this intention for any of his followers. I am sure that most of us had, within, say, the first six months of membership, noticed vague rumblings of politics, financial shenanigans and sexual impropriety, by rumor or some invited, because of obvious physical delectability, to join the ‘inner ring’ (oops, I mean circle).


It is the canker sore of the psychopath, that goes from “the path to hell is strewn with good intentions”, actually a feint of culture with all these little germs enlarging until we see now, with the psychopath severely debilitated (and near death, we hope!), passed way beyond any youthful attraction he may have had, surrounded by ‘baubles of the SS of the FOF’, who, we can be assured, will all descend on the rotten meat of the ‘school’ and tear it apart, while one remains conquering.



47. Insider – July 26, 2017


46, wallis. We must not underestimate the strength of “community” and of the countless friendships (even if most of them are pretty shallow), and also the inability of the vast majority of current members to take responsibility for the remainder of their life and their inner Work. These two factors, IMO, will enable something to continue past what we may think is possible.



48. Wouldn’t You Like To KnowJuly 26, 2017


Likely, as long as there is one follower, or a group of followers, of the Fellowship of Friends, it will continue in some form or another.



49. Ames GilbertJuly 27, 2017


Seems like Dorian Matei and Sacha Shalaponov, previously both anointed ‘future Man #5s by Robert Earl Burton, have taken over as front men for the Fellowship of Friends. Supported, presumably, by ‘older students’ such as Rowena Taylor, and the Board and Spiritual Council of the FoF.


Last Friday, Sacha ‘led’ a meeting of the faithful, and last Sunday Dorian did likewise.


The words of Sacha Shalaponov (he of the clown costumes) have not yet been relayed to your humble blogger; no doubt they also consisted mostly of similarly vague and soporific generalities. The point—kindly keep the bubble of the joint fantasy inflated with worship and money. But during a vapid monologue lasting 70 minutes, Dorian Matei took incoherence and the very essence of the insubstantial to new levels of vapidity (sample follows).


His performance was apparently highlighted with images of Burton, photos taken that same day. Maybe someone will post them, but my initial impression was that neither Dorian or Sacha grasped any of the essential principles from the correspondence course in Basic Taxidermy that they had obviously ordered and studied in haste over the preceding days. Their first publicly revealed experiment was a sad indictment of both the course ($39.95 including shipping and handling, from the College of Steer Preservation Technology, 44/45 Slaughterhouse Ave., Chicago, IL60618), their own abilities, and the facilities in the Galleria kitchen. So, Big Fail. My objective advice: practice a whole lot on smaller roadkill first.


Dorian started his monologue with the words below. Imagine them continuing in the same vein for the rest of the seventy minutes. No questions, comments or observations allowed, during or after.


Summary: Everything is fine. (Subtext: keep sending $$$$$. Don’t forget the $$$$$. If you forget your ‘teaching payments’, the only alternative is hell.)


These guys already have a history within the organization of exchanging favors for sex. My guess is that everything will be prim and proper for a little while, then some nubile young sheep will attract their attentions, and the process of grooming and seduction will continue as before, with nary a bleat of protest from the rest.


Where is Asaf Braverman when you need him? Although Asaf’s smoothly delivered words also dispense received wisdom by the bucketful, and he also mixes short pithy sayings of conveniently dead philosophers—lifted out of context— with his own to imply some non–existent connection or even sanction; which he also plentifully lards with unverifiable claims, he is a model of clarity and wisdom compared to this claptrap. Not that he is immune to the temptations of power either. How long before some pert young follower with plenty of upthrust over there in Italy attracts his attention and subtly conveys that if he seeks comfort, she is willing to exchange a favor or two for more private access to Asaf? After all, his wife is busy with their new child, and will take a while to recover her youthful grace… and in the meantime, how can a little sincere communion behind closed doors, based on their spiritual bond, possibly matter?


Enough from Ames, over to Dorian:


‘Good morning. I guess it’s now 2 weeks since this great gift came to us as a school. We are still in the furnace. I was thinking before coming here these words from Bernard of Clairvaux. He says, “The fire that is God. It is indeed a fire that devours, but it does not debase.” Beautiful image. “The fire that devours, but does not debase.” In fact, it refines and concentrates and purifies.

I was thinking that we will look at our school as the time before this incident happened with Robert, and a time after this incident, marking a great  transition, in a way; and that we…it’s yet to be understood exactly what our school was given, but one feels a very, very powerful gift descended upon us. And related to the subject this morning, I feel that in order for this gift to be received and used, we must do our very best not to attach any positive or negative thought to it. It’s a little easier to avoid attaching negative attitudes toward it, such as resentment, fear, concern, because these are more obvious, and I think as a school we’ve done a great job staying away from those emotions. But it is equally important to not attach hope and happiness to it. Somehow when Hydrogen 12 and 6 come, the more pure they descend on us, the more they can change our lives. I had a birthday last week, and this desire came to make a wish, and it was before Robert came back from the hospital; and of course this tendency was to make a wish related to that. I then understood that my wish would stain this great gift, and then I had nothing to wish for.


(Shows 2 photos of Robert taken earlier that morning)

I mentioned at the beginning that we are still in the furnace, and what I mean by that is part of this gift that C Influence has given us is a very precious and rare substance which we call Hydrogen 6. A shock like this infuses Hydrogen 6 in a school.

This week, especially witnessing Sasha’s meeting Friday, which I thought was wonderful, and I understood that, in a way, the requirement of a host for our events is to be able to address the present moment, and yet it’s a very mystical present moment. It’s a present moment that our whole school experiences. It’s a present moment of the whole earth, you would say, and it’s a present moment that includes what Influence C releases to the school and to humanity in this moment. It’s a very mystical moment once more, and the requirement of a host is to bring awareness to this moment and all of its contents that is happening before our eyes. Only Higher Centers can do that. No intellectual process…we can’t imitate that. To address what is here now. And the “here” is here throughout the globe, in centers, in places where students are alone.

It’s a very mystical year (laughs), and this is the requirement of a host, somehow to bring awareness to that and thereby assimilate the gift that Influence C is releasing right this moment.

It is hard to move somewhere from this place because it’s so beautiful, what we share now.’ 



51. wallis July 27, 2017


Despite the verbosity and word-wangling, I think the ‘aim’ for the ‘school’ across the globe is a WARM FUZZY FEELING made substantial by the ‘twiddly bit of jewelry that they can remember ROBERT ‘bought’ for them’ – ah, the moments of memorabilia!



52. Insider July 27, 2017


That Warm Fuzzy Feeling is achieved most of all through the flattery that Robert dished out repeatedly for so many years, and which Dorian and Sasha have now learned to imitate.


“Students” are flattered that they are in the presence of a divine God/Goddess in human form; that they are, without fail, headed straight for Paradise; that their “Work” is proceeding wonderfully (“Keep doing what you are doing.”); that a host of angels hovers continually above them and Apollo; that they themselves, and each one of them, are “Conscious Beings.”



53. John HarmerJuly 28, 2017


The words reported above from a recent meeting are spooky and weird, e.g. “I mentioned at the beginning that we are still in the furnace, and what I mean by that is part of this gift that C Influence has given us is a very precious and rare substance which we call Hydrogen 6. A shock like this infuses Hydrogen 6 in a school.”


It makes me worry for those who are still in the school. What if when Burton dies, he claims that as he is a monumentally advanced man number whatever, he has blasted a royal passage into paradise that his followers can take advantage of, but only if they are quick, and follow him by “dropping their bodies” within a day of his death. Heaven’s Gate style.


Don’t drink the Kool Aid, just walk away.



55. InsiderJuly 28, 2017


53. John Harmer. Also, how did it happen that Hydrogens (12, 6, whatever) shifted from being produced internally via the 2 “conscious shocks,” to something dispensed by “C Influence”?


It should be clear that there is no longer even a pretext of the Fellowship being a “School.” There is ZERO real work on Being. There in NO attempt to understand and experience Conscience. There is NO self-observation occurring or encouraged.


And finally, nothing Robert Burton, Dorian Matei, or anyone else says can be verified, nor should any such attempt be made. The Fellowship of Friends is fully a RELIGION, expecting only blind belief from its member sheep.



56. Fee fi fo fumJuly 28, 2017


If REB really *were* a goddess (“a goddess trapped in a man’s body”), then he should be immortal. But he is *not* a goddess. He’s simply an old man in poor health who will expire, just like every other person. That line about being a goddess trapped in a man’s body was just a clever way to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, especially his victims’. And many were the students who enabled his sexual predilections, especially those in a position of power.


Dorian’s monologue in #49 above is a good example of a lot of words that say nothing meaningful. He throws in enough so-called work words to allow students to nod their head when they hear about Hydrogen 6 or influence C or higher centers. And he’ll tell you how to interpret the news: it’s “a gift.” And don’t question Dorian: there’s no Question and Answer session. No thinking, no examining, no opportunity to challenge or even to ask a simple factual question. Black-out on news and truth. But then, it’s always been that way with REB and the FF. So many secrets.



57. Ames GilbertJuly 28, 2017


Insider, # 52,
You said, “…and each one of them are ‘Conscious Beings’.”


Is that right? I had no idea that there had been such major ‘grade inflation’ since I left.


During my extended stay in the asylum, my impression was that: at the introductory meetings we were Man #1, 2 or 3, and that at the moment we made the commitment to be seriously ‘working on our selves’, we became provisional Man #4s. But at the same time, it was implicitly as you say—write the checks and you are assured of ‘becoming conscious’ in this lifetime or the next. Burton claimed the extraordinary ability to foresee who would became conscious, and seemed very attached to the idea that his ‘school’ would produce 7 ‘conscious beings’. And in the case of Miles and Girard, he informed them that they had actually become Man #5s (I guess they missed out on the thunder and lightning stuff). To his credit, Miles declined the honor and said, in my hearing, that nothing had changed. Not so Girard, however; he told me that there were ‘certain indications’ that he was conscious. Burton was certainly, irrefutably wrong with his choices, wasn’t he? So, why would the present inhabitants of the asylum particularly believe that a couple of gits (who happen to have met Rowena T.’s meticulously researched and Burton’s personally verified standards of sexual endowment and elastic morality) are actually angels masquerading as men?


So now everyone who writes a check is ‘conscious’? Wow! According to the Fourth Way ideas, that state is ‘crystalized’ and relatively permanent. So anyone could join, achieve that state as soon as his/her check clears, then sever relations—and they’ve got what they came for, huh?


If this whole sorry saga isn’t a prime example of the commodification of spirituality, I don’t know what is.


P.S. When JC died, it is claimed that there were earthquakes and the curtain (wall separating the main temple from the ‘Holy of Holies’) in the Temple (of Solomon) was destroyed.


One version: “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”


Since Burton has advanced from merely being “the brightest light in 2,000 years” to having the Absolute “perform an act of humility for him”, maybe we can expect something momentous akin to the oft–predicted Fall of California upon his death, huh? Something considerably more suitable to his great standing than a comemorative earthquake or two. However, California is particularly noted for its dearth of saints, so maybe deceased celebrities of Hollywood will have to be substituted instead.


Will Leonardo shed tears? I doubt it, and I certainly won’t.



58. wallisJuly 28, 2017


“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”


– George Carlin



60. Insider July 28, 2017


57. Ames Gilbert


Yes, it’s quite true. For many years, Robert’s events have been providing the weekly fix for his followers addicted to flattery. He constantly reminds them (lest they should forget) that “You are all Conscious Beings.” And people then smile, as if to prove Robert correct.


Actually, it makes perfect sense: Would The Absolute visit Apollo (not once, but twice) if there was a chance he/she would encounter a non-conscious being while strolling the grounds?



61. Ames Gilbert July 29, 2017


Insider, #60,
Thanks for the confirmation.
I’m actually shocked. I thought it must have been a misunderstanding, so I had some fun extrapolating what that might mean, expecting to be corrected in due course.


Now I’ve slept on it, I can see that I’ve had a major attitude shift. It is much more obvious to me that the large majority of folks who remain are really, really happy to be there, so I’m wasting valuable time in appeals like above and other efforts. Bruce is right to write the whole bunch off, and say they have attracted and deserve their fates.


Following this train of thought, I guess I see a division line; pre–blog and post–blog. Post–blog plus, say, a couple of years. Pre–blog it was very hard to find out much about the Fellowship of Friends, especially if you were doing due diligence and were thinking of joining. Post–blog, there really is no excuse for anyone, inside or out, to not to know what is going on, at least in broad strokes. I don’t know if the young men in Burton’s never-ending parade of fresh meat have been warned or can be warned. I’ve been told that nowadays many of them do have an idea in advance and accept becoming part of Burton’s harem as the necessary price to escape their situation (usually economic) in eastern Europe, Russia, or South American countries. In other words, they are willing prostitutes and know the deal. And any present member of the Fellowship of Friends, male or female, is an accessory and a pimp.


From now on, I’m going to concentrate on emphasizing the connections between the Fellowship of Friends and any offshoots for anyone doing due diligence. At this time, the most important offshoot, in my estimation, is Asaf Braverman’s creation, Beperiod. I assume that Asaf spent the last ten years accepting Burton’s assertions that he, Asaf, was already ‘conscious’, without much protest, right? If he accepted that assertion as fact, then he is irrevocably flawed and ditto any of his ‘teachings’.


Anyway, Insider, thanks for helping chip away at my unwarranted naiveté and idealism. And Bruce is probably slapping his forehead and saying, “Duh!” for the nth time!



62. InsiderJuly 29, 2017


61, Ames.


I can’t emphasize enough how the Fellowship of Friends finally and really is a non-profit religious organization which it, ironically, has been falsely claiming for 45 years. Maybe a Religious Cult would be a better description. And it is, very much, a Judeo-Christian-based religion: Heaven (Paradise) and Hell (the moon); “God” as a stern, but loving, fatherly figure; must believe only in this religion in order to go to Heaven; Robert Burton is the Pope-on-Earth, and only he has a direct communication with God and his angels; and of course “all good children go to heaven.”


You can’t even call the Fellowship a “2nd Way” school. It lost the privilege of being called a “School” a long time ago. (If the Fellowship ever did deserve to be called a School, it was in spite of Robert Burton, and due to genuine efforts made by thousands of members over many years.)


No longer is there even the pretense of “3 Lines of Work.” 1st Line: gone when self-observation disappeared. 2nd Line: gone when photographing stopped. 3rd Line: gone when taking responsibility for the “school” descended into only serving Robert Burton.



63. Ames Gilbert July 31, 2017


Fresh shocks! Obviously, I really am out of the loop. It has been years since I contacted anyone in the Fellowship of Friends, apart from a few ‘drop–ins’ and e–mails from those who accepted my invitation to talk things over, and this subject never came up in the brief encounters. So much for the “vast conspiracy of ex–students working to bring down the FoF”, a favorite theme of apologists and FoF spokespersons in the past! You said:


‘No longer is there even the pretense of  “3 Lines of Work.” 1st Line: gone when self-observation disappeared. 2nd Line: gone when photographing stopped. 3rd Line: gone when taking responsibility for the “school” descended into only serving Robert Burton.’


When did this happen? I think readers would appreciate knowing the history, how any last vestiges of the Fourth Way were dropped, and the reactions of the followers at the various stages.


Anyone who lands here looking for information about the Fellowship of Friends, this is critically important—if you are imagining that the FoF has anything at all to do with the Fourth Way. 
Robert Earl Burton and his organization always used the Fourth Way as a lure, and naïve and earnest people like myself who joined in the earlier decades could be forgiven for falling for that, despite the warning signs. But now all that remains are a few words and phrases borrowed from that tradition, and as I said, used to lure the unwary. And, as Insider says, this is not a 2nd Way school either. This is a relatively new religion with the sole object of worship being Robert Burton.


DON’T WALK, RUN from the Fellowship of Friends and Robert Earl Burton!


And the same applies to the organization Beperiod and the whole Ark in Time network, run by Asaf Braverman. Maybe he missed using the Fourth Way terminology, maybe he got hooked on the information in the ‘Work books’ like I and countless thousands of others and wants to return to those roots, or maybe he thinks it is the most efficient lure to bring in new followers, it really doesn’t matter. He is hopelessly compromised. Everything he knows, he learnt from Burton. A great deal of it he fabricated in conjunction with Burton. Every ounce of authority he projects is based on Burton lending him that authority within the Fellowship of Friends, and on him believing the delusion that somehow he earned that authority through his own efforts and verifications. It is just a veneer. He has learned from a master how to run a group of sheep. His methods may vary, the outward presentation may be different, but the impulse, the bed–rock NEED to collect followers is exactly the same. How could it be different? He cannot just suddenly turn round after twenty (!) years, and somehow shrug off the corruptive influences he was immersed in, and which he supported wholeheartedly, and which he used to his immense advantage. Remember, he was not just some average follower who came to his senses, he was the most important leader for years, seduced and groomed and anointed by Burton. And he didn’t ‘come to his senses’ and leave, he was ejected as part of a power play by rivals. He only separated from the Fellowship a few months ago. He did not go into retreat to digest his experiences or change in any way. I’m not saying that there wasn’t turmoil, but the fact that the ‘online school’ he founded five years ago, with the knowledge and support of those in power within the Fellowship of Friends, has not missed a beat, has not changed one iota, has continued without pause, speaks volumes IMHO. 
So, same advice:


DON’T WALK, RUN from Beperiod.com and Asaf Braverman!



65. ton2uJuly 31, 2017


Ames, thanks for continuing to shine light on some very dark areas, it’s a public service. Way back when I joined the FOF there was no internet – the abundance of cult information online these days should serve as a deterrent IF due diligence is undertaken by the prospective “student” of things “esoteric.” There are simple, straightforward and useful checklists available for any and all “seekers.”




Who is vulnerable to cult recruitment?


We all are at some time in our lives. Most of us satisfy the foregoing needs within our normal range of relationships and this gives us a certain amount of protection, as long as we stay within that framework.


Cult recruits are not any more likely to be mentally ill, less intelligent, or less well educated than the average population.


Nor are they necessarily more gullible on average. They do tend, however, to be “seekers,” constantly looking for pat answers and magical solutions for personal or societal problems. They are often driven to find answers (any answer) to the great metaphysical questions, rather than live with uncertainty. Those who have a higher tolerance for ambiguity can live with the acceptance that such things are ultimately unknowable.


How can we recognize a cult? A fair use of the cult label for a questionable organization would require the presence of most of the items on the following checklist.


Does the group:


(a) engage in deceptive recruitment practices? (recruiters typically disguise the true nature and aims of the group when seeking converts.)


(b) tend to target vulnerable individuals, as outlined above?


(c) offer unconditional affirmation and support initially, but soon make its continuance contingent on obedience?


(d) have a closed social system that makes a special effort to isolate acolytes from family, friends, etc.?


(e) use constant bombardment with pro-group and pro-leader messages and exclusion of other messages?


(f) have a rigid, authoritarian hierarchy?


(g) have a leader and ruling clique that are perceived to possess infallible insight, supernatural powers, etc.? Do they claim to have been chosen by some higher authority to rule, and thus to be excused from the normal social restrictions on one’s behavior?


(h) have an eclectic, often muddled and internally contradictory, set of teachings – usually a magic-laden philosophy that claims to have infallible answers to those “big ticket” questions of existence?


(i) have a strict behavior code that governs all aspects of how one should think, feel, and act? Are there strong penalties for deviation?


(j) instill fear of outsiders (the “bunker mentality”)? Does the group try to convince members they are powerless to act without the group’s support and that the world “out there” is uncaring and hostile?


(k) engage in major forms of exploitation (e.g., financial, occupational, or sexual – of self, spouse, or children)?


(l) demand immoral, unethical, or illegal activity on the part of its members?


Who starts a cult?
Some cult leaders are unequivocally psychopaths and con-artists, but others spring from more complex roots. The late British psychiatrist Anthony Storr published a book (Feet of Clay) that discusses common attributes in those who become cult leaders. There often appears in their backgrounds some kind of serious psychological crisis that they have surmounted by interpreting it as a special calling to some higher purpose. Even those gurus who start out believing they are on an inspired mission to improve the lives of others usually succumb to the seductions of unbridled adoration and privilege, resulting ultimately in disaster. It is as Lord Acton so wisely admonished:


“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”




Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused.


The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.


Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a cult scale or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.


The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.


Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.


Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).


The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).


The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar, the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).


The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.


The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).


The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).


The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.


Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.


The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.


The group is preoccupied with making money.


Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.


Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.


The most loyal members (the true believers) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.


Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Berkeley: Bay Tree Publishing, 2006)… checklist originally developed by Michael Langone.



39. Artemis44 July 25, 2019


A friend of mine that was also a FOF member and left 10 years ago told me that the book The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society by Arthur J. Deikman was very useful for him to understand why he joined the FOF.


This is the Amazon link:




This is from the book’s commentary on Amazon:


‘The author, a psychiatrist, argues that cult behavior is not limited to members of religious groups but is based on childhood desires for meaning and dependency that we all share. Although we live in a democracy, cult behavior manifests itself in our unwillingness to question the judgment of our leaders, our tendency to devalue outsiders and to avoid dissent. We can overcome cult behavior, he says, by recognizing that we have dependency needs that are inappropriate for mature people, by increasing anti-authoritarian education, and by encouraging personal autonomy and the free exchange of ideas.’


Has anybody read that book? Any comments?



40. Joey Virgo July 25, 2019


Sargan of Akkad reviewed Deikman’s book for 35 minutes in 2016 on YouTube. Most of the views discussed in the review have already been discussed here at the FoF discussion blog. Sargan’s review contains many excerpts from Deikman’s book and at 20:05 or so, Deikman’s description of the cult matches thoroughly with the FoF. A cult follower is not crazy, Deikman says, but he or she has a moral failing in self-reliance or in coping with dependency needs, i.e., immaturity.


Cult Behavior: An Analysis




I liked Deikman’s idea that the cult leader is as trapped as are the cult followers — to submit to a certain unchanging standard of behavior in order to sustain the fantasy world they both have created.



41. Bryan Reynolds July 25, 2019


I first found out about Arthur Deikman from a book titled The World of The Sufi which is a collection of essays about Sufism edited by Idries Shah. Dr. Diekman’s contribution was an article which outlined how modern psychiatry by focusing on mental illness does not really have answers to questions “What is the function of a healthy person?” or “What is the sense and purpose of existence?”



Sufism and Psychiatry






Human Givens Institute


Exploring the CULT in culture


Following is a revised version (including additional material) of an article by Ivan Tyrrell, first published in 1993, that explores Dr Arthur Deikman’s enlightening work on cult behavior.





45. ton2u July 26, 2019


Joey V @ 40
Thanks for the video link… I paraphrase a few salient lines from the narrative below… brings me back to my difficulty in leaving the cult… regarding what’s been referred to in the past on the blog as the “invisible fence.” Can’t really blame the folks who stay on – they believe they have no choice but to:


Leaving a cult is extremely difficult because cults prey on the emotional instability and dependency of the individual. To an outsider it might seem there is nothing forcing an individual to stay in the cult, ostensibly they have freedom of movement and self-determination, but from the perspective of the person in the cult, the cult is all consuming. Everyone closest to them reinforces cult beliefs and compliance – withholding affection, companionship and support when the individual dissents / diverts from the cult narrative. This puts an individual under tremendous duress – not only will they be unable to pursue their own ‘higher purpose’ through remaining in the group, they will lose their entire social support structure, and in many cases the individual is completely financially dependent on the cult. These pressures can be insurmountable and so people remain trapped in the cult even if they appear to be physically able to leave.



50. Artemis44July 26, 2019


40. Joey Virgo & 45. ton2u


I’m finding Dr. Deikman’s writings fascinating — I’m looking forward to reading his book The Wrong Way Home.


I found an article from him online called “Evaluating Spiritual and Utopian Groups” at https://www.deikman.com/eval.html


Here is an excerpt:


‘It is because the leader’s role is functional rather than magical that genuine spiritual teachers can be seen to obey implicit rules. Despite the general impression that great teachers indulge in any and all behavior, careful attention to traditional teaching stories and anecdotes reveals that there are certain principles that are never violated. For example, I can recall no anecdote depicting a teacher ordering one student to harm another or condoning such an action. Nor are there examples of students being encouraged to compete for the teacher’s attention. There are no examples of teachers entering into sexual relations with their students or enriching themselves with their money. All these examples have been common among current and past “spiritual” groups.


The reason why such examples are absent in authentic spiritual groups is that real teachers do not use their students to advance their own personal interests. In this matter the mystical literature is quite consistent and clear: a spiritual teacher does not have license to exploit students in any way or for any cause – the only legitimate basis for the teacher’s actions is the advancement of the student along the spiritual path. This is not to say that larger purposes may not be served at the same time; indeed, such synchronous activity is said to be the norm but it is never at the expense of the student’s development. The fact is, far from having unlimited license, a genuine spiritual teacher obeys functional requirements that far exceed the restraints most people are accustomed to impose on themselves in the name of religion or common decency. The behavior of many so-called spiritual leaders is a travesty of the authentic situation.’


IMO the term “travesty” for Burton seems very appropriate by the way.



21. ton2u July 31, 2019


It’s obvious that cult thinking and behaviors extend beyond the confines of little garden variety cults like the FOF… take a look at trump political rallies for example. Bringing “current events” from the political world into the discussion here may seem to some to be getting off track but there is a parallel with the cult behavior and a type of thinking that manifests in the wider world and in little cults like the FOF.


(Artemis, thanks again for drawing attention to Deikman’s work – it’s right on the mark. I’ll paraphrase a few lines below):


Cults are social organizations and can exist anywhere in society, cult behaviors and thinking are so pervasive, so ‘baked-in as to be instinctive, everyone can be considered to be part of various “invisible” cults – almost all people exhibit some form of cult behavior in their daily lives, conforming to group norms, dependence on leaders, devaluing those outside of their groups, avoiding media that does not confirm what they already believe… cult thinking is embedded in society but is usually not so all encompassing as to be thought of as a cult…


The structure of cults is basically authoritarian: obedience and hierarchical power tend to take precedence over truth and conscience…


…certain psychological benefits can make authoritarian groups very attractive – they provide the opportunity to feel protected and cared for…


…cult thinking is the effect of psychological forces endemic to the human mind, forces that operate in the everyday life of each of us, distorting perception, biasing thinking, inculcating a belief structure which includes: compliance with the group, dependence on a leader, devaluing the outsider, avoiding dissent… a regression to a childlike state in which one is cared for by a parental figure so that they can abdicate responsibility for their own wellbeing…


…a regressive wish for security uses the family as its model creating an authoritarian leadership structure (the parent) and a close-knit, exclusive group (the children). Since the leader-parent has many of the insecurities of the follower-child, reality must be distorted by both to maintain the child’s illusion (wish) that the parent can always provide protection, so that he or she has no weaknesses / vulnerability.


Dissent is stifled because it casts doubt on the perfection of the leader and the special status of the group. Group compliance preserves security by supporting the beliefs crucial to the fantasy of superiority, beliefs which also explain the powers and entitlement of the leader can not be challenged.… apostates are excommunicated.


Outsiders, non-believers are excluded and devalued for they do not believe what the group believes; if the group and leader are superior, the outsider is inferior….


At the time they joined the cult most were dissatisfied, distressed or at a transition in their lives. Typically the motivation was desire for a more spiritual life, finding community in which to live cooperatively, wanting to become more enlightened, to find meaning in life by serving others or simply to belong.



24. Artemis44 July 31, 2019


21. ton2u


Very good points from Dr. Deikman, thank you.


Here is an excerpt from the book The Guru Papers by Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad, another seminal work on cult behavior:


‘Behind the masks of authoritarian power is the idea that there is some greater intelligence that knows what is best for others. What this always amounts to is that someone either claims to have that intelligence, or to have a direct line into properly interpreting it. This can occur in any realm and in differing degrees. Its most extreme forms occur when moral superiority is linked to infallibility. The image of the guru represents the epitome of this construction. Often included in this is the corollary that the authority cares more about your well-being than you do, and can do so because of being selfless. Whether or not a state of ultimate selflessness or infallibility is achievable by anyone can be debated. Then too, there is the question of how anyone could be certain someone else really is in such a state. What is clear, however, is that obeying others because they claim to be morally superior, or to have an inside track to the truth, not only breeds corruption and lies, but removes people from personal responsibility.’



28. Cult SurvivorJuly 31, 2019


What about helping people from other cults besides the FOF? There is a lot of knowledge in this group.





Digesting My Extended Adolescence


July 2, 2015


This is my deepest wound: the knowledge that – in the name of deep, eternal, spiritual love of god and others – such utter psychopathic selfishness can flourish. Spiritual wounds run very deep, and my biggest fear now is that I will never be able to get close to anything for an enduring amount of time, having learned to be ever cautious of the danger of identity loss and enslavement in the pursuit of love. This is because so much of what I have known – indeed, since childhood, I can now see – has been neglect and abuse in the packaging of spiritual love and self-realization . . .


September 23, 2015


Three months ago when I published my official exit blog from my former group, I had planned to immediately launch into frequent blogging delving further into my past and discussing various facets of undue influence and recovery from high-demand groups (HDG).


What I found, though, was that writing and publishing that blog (and the excruciating months leading up to that) was only one component of the separation from my past. The timeline of my transition was quite condensed compared to many of those who exit an HDG, and I had almost emotional whiplash. While I continued to be outspoken on Facebook, I haven’t been up for more extensive blogging.


The aftermath of my exit was very predictable in some ways. Many people I know and was close with simply went silent. Some reached out with brief messages of support and then quite understandably distanced themselves from further contact. A few sent nasty messages, while still others, including people who don’t even know me, pontificated around the web as to my motives, mental state, and general heathen-ness that would lead to me making such a forceful statement . . .



December 17, 2015


I thought that these men that I referred to
As prophets of our time would never lie in verse
I can’t begin to tell you how it hurt
As time went on and some of them disguises burst…
– Brother Ali


The social dynamics and relationships of a cult are, for many, warmly close and frigidly isolating at the same time. This is because, to put it bluntly, they don’t want you. They want your conformity. They want you in a box. That box could be labeled new recruit, member, leader, or whatever. As long as it fits cleanly into the ideology and you don’t raise your head and knock the lid off your box . . .




   PART  I    II   III