False Prophets Part II




False prophets, teachers, and gurus





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.





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 . . .





The Wizardry of Freud


A review of Freud: The Making of an Illusion


By Frederick Crews



Reviewed by Margret Schaefer in Skeptic Magazine  2018



Crimes of the Soul


By Jill Neimark

Published in Psychology Today, March 1, 1998 (excerpt)


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.”


Yet if gurus are contradictory straw men dancing to our own epic tale of good and evil, freedom and punishment, selfishness and surrender, it’s because we are contradictory, too. As Eugene Taylor puts it: “The power, danger, and possibility of gurus lies in our projection. A simple human being can inspire you to spiritual ecstasy because of what you believe him to be. Or you can end up totally bamboozled.”



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-believer’s 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.





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.



The Controversial Guru Who Wants to ‘Upgrade Civilization’


Bentinho Massaro has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, supporters the spiritual guru gained through his teachings about “self-realization,” “enlightenment,” and the idea of “upgrading civilization.”





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.



According to His Highness A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness: “A woman likes a man who is very expert at rape. Rape means without consent.”


The Colin McEnroe Show – 2017
wnpr All Cults Are Not Created Equal



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 Movie Clip – Indian Guru Baba (1999)



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.”





The New Republic


Outside the Limits of Human Imagination


By Win Miccormach | 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



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 Dangerous Few Psychology Documentary 


The Gray Rock Method of Dealing With Psychopaths


In The Shadow of Feeling Psychopath Documentary



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


Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM | Feb 14, 2017


 Malcolm Gladwell On America Finally Waking Up, Crooked Politics
& What Inspired Him To Write


Aldous Huxley interviewed by Mike Wallace in 1958


iqsquared (Intelligence Squared)
Feb 12, 2018


Brave New World vs Nineteen Eighty-Four


Bertrand RussellFace to Face Interview – BBC, 1959


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)



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


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


Jenée Letter To My Mom 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 – INKtalks



“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






Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India 


Customer Review:

David T. Cooper

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



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




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.





True Story of Synanon Violence And How It Started


By Paul Morantz – 2009



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





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!”



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



Cult Witness Documentary – Real Stories – Aug 20, 2016


. . . an intelligent exploration of how cults attract and manipulate their followers, sharing the disturbing firsthand experiences of Cult Witness director Samuel Stefan and six others who have freed themselves from cults: Jill Mytton (The Exclusive Brethren), Jim Bergin and Judy Garvey (The Gentle Wind Project), Lea Saskia Laasner (The Janus Project), and Celeste Jones and Amoreena Winkler (The Children of God).



Children Of God Cult Survivor Speaks Out About Life Since Her Escape


Megyn Kelly TODAY – June 2018


“This cult was about control. And controlling somebody’s sexuality is one of the best ways to control somebody.  Sexual abuse is always about power—it’s not about lust. So, if you control someone’s sexuality, you control the most intimate part of their soul. And then, after that, you can ask them to do all kinds of things.”



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”

Thank you!

And as always there are several ways to donate to support my work here: DONATE



Be Scofield

 Be Scofield | 1070 Tunnel Road, Asheville
This email was sent to libertybelle@toknow.us | Unsubscribe | Forward this email to a friend




‘Alex Vartman (real name Sandford Perrett) used to be a top level assistant of sex and relationship guru David Deida, author of “The Way of the Superior Man.” From 1998–2002 Vartman held Satsangs around the world and gained a following by offering non-dual spiritual teachings. At the NoMind festival he apparently had hundreds of students listening to him. He even taught alongside popular spiritual teacher Gangaji for a brief time. In 2004 he taught with Ken Wilber at the Integral center and then visited a series of Ashrams in India before starting TNT in 2010.


An ex-TNT senior staff member guesstimates that Vartman has made a cool million dollars from The New Tantra — all tax free . . .’



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.



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



65. Ames GilbertFebruary 24, 2019


A few of you may have wondered, “What happened to that Epstein fellow, the billionaire that was accused of having sex with hundreds of underage children, who supposedly procured them for sex vacations in the Caribbean for his buddies, folks like Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton. You know, the one organizing what the tabloids called, ‘The Lolita Express’?


Reporters at the Miami Herald wondered why as well, and started digging again. And it turns out that he had a powerful friend, the then U.S. attorney in Miami (a political appointment)—now the present–day Secretary of labor in Trump’s cabinet, Alexander Acosta. Another political appointment by his friends in high places.


This is a sickening story about powerful men protecting each other, and the betrayal of hundreds of underage girls: miamiherald.com/news/local/article220097825.html


When you read the story, make careful note that Acosta broke federal law by not notifying the victims about this agreement before the meeting with the judge! And, under the U.S. ‘justice’ system, there is no recourse.


And why did Acosta do this enormous, gigantic favor? Why, he went to law school with Epstein’s lawyer! This formed an imperishable, sacrosanct bond, apparently. Look at Acosta’s picture: another snake in a suit, if there ever was one. Reminds me of some Fellowship lawyers I have known.


Not entirely unrelated, I remember ‘back in my day’ how the Fellowship of Friends gave regular lavish dinners and tours of the winery to the local big–wigs, such as the owner of the Appeal–Democrat newspaper. I’m sure nothing untoward happened™, but this is an illustration of how influence is gained. Favors here, favors there, and maybe an editorial decision to tone down or squash a story follows, or to not bother to look into a report of domestic violence up there in the foothills, so far away from the center of things in Marysville…


Ditto with wining and dining and charming the local supervisor(s), a bottle of wine or olive oil at Christmas, all these little things are remembered, even if subliminally, when it comes to making decisions that affect the Fellowship of Friends.



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.





68. Ames GilbertFebruary 24, 2019


Anyone following up on the Miami Herald story, please watch the videos. Particularly the testimony of Virginia Roberts. This is one brave woman! She talks about how she was recruited, how she was persuaded to recruit other under–age girls, how she escaped to Australia and made a fresh start, how a decade later Epstein and his lawyers demanded her silence, how the FBI contacted her, and her mission now to see this all through.


There are so many parallels with the Fellowship of Friends. The recruitment of vulnerable or desperate young men. The way young men already ‘in the know’ recruited new fresh meat. I saw this happen many times, where the already initiated invited prospective prey to a nice lunch at the Bistro as part of the ‘grooming’. The pipeline of procurers and pimps, a pipeline eventually extended all the way back to Russia, eastern Europe, south America…


And others were involved in the grooming. In my day (1978), Burton somehow persuaded Sheila Grunwaldt that it was her duty to instruct potential victims about what was expected when Burton issued a certain kind of invitation. Yes, <B that</B nice well–groomed ‘older student’ with silver hair, who had a special gravitas because she had been with him from near the beginning (follower #29, ooh!). Burton told me to ‘arrange a breakfast with Sheila’ several times, and was miffed when I repeatedly said that I’d forgotten or could not arrange a mutually convenient time. Although, as I have said previously, I had no idea what was actually going on, the refusal was because I was repelled by Sheila as a person, and her unbelievable bad breath in particular. Petty, I know, but it helped save me. It was half a dozen more years before I discovered what ‘breakfast with Sheila’ really meant…


The liberal application of money and gifts (and in the case of the FoF, prestige). The liberal application of money for lawyers when things went wrong. The pressure on witnesses (I’ve told previously about Goldman getting advice from the Scientology people and him hiring their star ‘investigator’, a member of their cult, the odious PI Ingram, to harass and threaten me and my family, and Troy Buzbee’s mother, amongst others, and the bugging of phones), the grinding away of their will and the mounting costs of their defenses (as in the case of Stella and Harold Wirk) and on and on. The same sleazy, revolting, conscienceless tactics, just on a smaller scale. Epstein was and is able to bring the unmatched power of the State to bear on his victims, Burton and Goldman could only hire the best lawyers from Sacramento.


The insatiable sex needs of Epstein only matched by the insatiable sex needs of Burton, the huge number of people involved in both cases, whether victims, enablers, or those in authority. So many people who knew, so few who acted to help the victims.


Eerie, eerie parallels, yet when one looks at it, exactly the same mechanisms are at play, and I use the word ‘mechanism’ deliberately. So much for ‘conscious beings’!



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.



103. Associated Press May 2, 2019


‘Ship of Horrors’: Leah Remini Says Scientology Cruise Ship’s Measles Quarantine Could Be Chance to Flee


Newsweek; By Jenni Fink on 5/2/19 AT 3:07 PM EDT


“The quarantining in St. Lucia of the Freewinds, a ship owned and operated by the Church of Scientology, because of a confirmed measles case, could be a ‘blessing in disguise,’ according to actor Leah Remini. . .


‘This outbreak could be a blessing in disguise because maybe some people can get off this ship of horrors,’ Remini told Newsweek. ‘Circumstances like this give an opportunity for some agencies or authorities to gain access to this ship beyond what would normally be offered.’ . . .


Freewinds, a 440-foot ship, is touted by the Church as the ‘pinnacle of a deeply spiritual journey,’ where Scientologists can reach New OT VIII, the highest level of spirituality. . .”





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



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.



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





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 (Documentary)



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




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.



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.



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.





39. BryanJune 28, 2011


Renald (36), quoting from Cali:


“After all, those folks at the sweat lodge were there voluntarily. Some have characterized them as followers of Ray’s. Nonetheless they chose to be there. He did not force them…From the soul perspective, from our perspective, there is no blame or guilt. There is only responsibility — the responsibility of each of you for yourself.”


Cali might want to keep in mind that cult leaders rely on their followers to adopt the above described attitude.


If anyone states a concern about the cult leader or about the cult, they are generally admonished to “look inside themselves” and to “stop playing the victim” and to focus on their inner worlds, while paying less attention to the external realities that could victimize them. If they see something wrong, it must be that they’re “creating their own experience.” No one is really hurting them. They are only hurting themselves. If they would just change their attitude, it would change their experience within the cult to something positive.


But when a person perceives and acknowledges the destructive and criminal behavior within a cult, this is a healthy first step toward NOT playing the victim, and toward taking responsibility for themselves.


Ironically, cult leaders want them to believe just the opposite. They want to discourage the expression of complaints or dissent. Followers often remain psychologically trapped in cults because they are afraid to criticize anything outside of themselves. Cult leaders are very good at directing people inward, and redirecting them from anything external. They discourage activity — encourage passivity. But the impulse to question authority and articulate complaints is the only way out of the mental trap (and often this occurs only after leaving the cult).


When Cali writes that “We are not being callous and hard-hearted here,” they actually are. This tendency to downplay the suffering of others and the external causes of that suffering – suggesting it was something they brought on themselves without acknowledging the actions of the perpetrators – just sounds like the typical erosion of conscience that all of us could see occurring within the FOF. It sounds more like a mechanism to avoid facing uncomfortable truths about the world, and remain blissfully ignorant about another person’s suffering and the causes of it.


— If we are sincerely concerned about another person gaining the maturity to take responsibility for themselves, and if we sincerely want to help them to avoid “playing the victim,” then turning a blind eye to the external realities — such as a sociopathic cult leader — is not going to serve them. You can turn inward and look for solutions inside, but if you don’t acknowledge the effects of the outside world, you will never be able to “look inward” quite enough.


Cults thrive on the passivity of their followers.



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.



65. ton2uJuly 31, 2017


. . .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.



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