Aaravindha Himadra and the Mysterious Orcas Island Death of Carla Jean Shaffer

At 1:30 pm on January 5th, 2006, Carla Jean Shaffer’s body was found dead, floating in a small pond near the Orcas Island airport in Eastsound, Washington. She was 52 years old. Three weeks before, on December 14th, Carla suffered 30–40 stab wounds, a broken rib, a punctured liver, a damaged breastbone and had received a blunt force strike to her face, smashing in several teeth. Thirteen years later there is still no definitive conclusion about how she died. Officially ruled an accidental drowning, and self-inflicted stabbing, many people, including Carla’s family and friends, have never accepted this version of events. For the first time ever, the story of this unsolved mystery is being told.


[Be Scofield is the most prominent writer in the world exposing cults and abusive gurus. In 2018 alone, her articles received almost 1 million views. Stories about her work have appeared on The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Playboy, CNN, CBC, New Zealand Herald, Die Zeit and more.] 

Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented by United Talent Agency / FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

1/24/19

When I showed up on the doorstep of county prosecutor Randall Gaylord’s home the morning after Thanksgiving he answered the door wearing a red and white striped apron and was holding a spatula in one hand. “Randy? Hi. Um, hello, sorry to bother you,” I said. “I’m writing a story about a woman who died on Orcas Island about ten years ago. I believe you oversaw her case.”

I thought his home would be highly secured given that he was the prosecutor and coroner. Or that he’d be suspicious of a stranger on his doorstep. But this was Orcas Island–a tiny community where crime is almost non-existent–so he invited me in without hesitation. 

I wanted to know how and why Carla Jean Shaffer, a beautiful dance instructor, mother and artist, had died 13 years ago under suspicious circumstances. “Drowning is a death of exclusion” he told me as we sat at his dining room table. “When a body is found in water and the death cannot be explained in any other way it’s essentially presumed a drowning.” He said there was no foul play, no other individuals suspected and there were no drugs or poison in her system. But there also wasn’t enough supporting evidence for him to rule it a suicide. Thus, the coroner’s report reads “Accidental Drowning.”

How would Carla, who was known to be an excellent swimmer, accidentally drown in a small pond only a few hundred yards from her home? That’s the question I posed to officer Herb Crowe. He was one of the responding deputies on the scene. “We couldn’t figure out exactly if she fell in the pond and drowned or wanted to commit suicide. I think it was more of an accidental thing.” I asked if he meant that she went swimming. “No. I think she walked close to the shoreline and she fell in. And I don’t know if she was in some type of altered mental state or something when that occurred.”

During an interview with Randall, his deputy prosecutor and a detective several weeks later at the Friday Harbor courthouse, I pressed them about Carla “falling in” to the pond and drowning. Randall said she couldn’t have just fallen in as the pond was even with the shoreline at the time. “If she had been suffocated and then put into the pond would you have been able to tell in an autopsy?” Randall said no, most likely not. He admitted he had no idea what events led to her death. It was a mystery.


“Legend has it that just off the shore from Eastsound, beyond a tiny island in the bay, there is an energy vortex that provides an unseen source of peace and well-being to those who are ready to accept it.” This area is the “place to start for mysterious feelings and vibes” reads a post on a site for a local vacation rental. It’s one of the many things that makes Orcas Island a deeply magical, powerful and even haunting place. 

When I arrived at the Outlook Inn on Saturday, October 27th, I had no idea the hotel sat directly in front of this vortex. I couldn’t see it because it was a dark and rainy night. But I could feel it.

The Outlook Inn on Orcas Island

Last year, on the exact same day, October 27th, I had arrived in Sedona, Arizona–another town known for it’s powerful vortexes and energy. I had rushed there on short notice because my astrologer looked at my “solar return.” It’s the forecast for the upcoming year. The entire year prediction changes based on where you are physically on your birthday. I had mentioned I wanted to head west, possibly to Sedona in a month or so. He put Sedona into his program and said “Go. Get there by your birthday. It will have a huge impact on your year ahead.”

I did make it to Sedona and within a few days of being there, I was surrounded by information and energy about Bentinho Massaro. I would end up spending a month infiltrating his group and writing about it. The story went viral, getting 200,000 views in a few weeks and 18 days after I published, the cult leader fled Sedona and went into hiding.

This year my astrologer and I did the same thing. “Stay near or to the west of Eugene, Oregon” he said. He sent an image of a map with lines, one of which extended from north to south directly through Seattle on a slight diagonal. After traveling for several months I had managed to make it to Portland around October 25th and thought I may just stay there. But on the morning of the 27th–one day before my birthday–I started feeling this pull north. At first I thought it was just a scenic trip and that I’d return. But as I drove I felt a magnetic pull north. “Maybe the Olympic mountains” I texted him. “They look epic.” He was a huge yes. But as I drove through Olympia I had this pull to keep going. And then almost out of nowhere I felt this urge to go to Orcas Island.

And so the night before my birthday I somehow ended up on Orcas Island. I awoke on October 28th in front of a vortex. It could have been in Portland, in the front seat of my car, where I had awoken the day before. It could have been Olympia or Seattle. But it wasn’t. It was Orcas Island. It was a mystery. 

Indian Island vortex in front of the Outlook Inn

A few days after I arrived I Google searched “meditation Orcas Island” and discovered a group called Sambodha (formerly “The Children of the Light” and “Ma ‘Pushan”) run by a spiritual teacher named Aaravindha Himadra formerly known as Surya (real name Janis Briedis). He and his wife Ashayrah Himadra (real name Jill Peterson Briedis) have lived on the island and run the group for decades. Aaravindha’s book “Immortal Self,” published by Sounds True, captures his journey through the Himalayas where he lived with “Amartya Masters” whom he claims he has a personal spiritual relationship with. His book claims to reveal a “legendary and secluded spiritual tradition” that is a “beacon of hope for spiritual seekers.” According to a former Sambodha member, Aaravindha blends together a variety of different spiritual teachings and many of his followers believe he is enlightened. Members in his Facebook group refer to him as a “Master.”

I took one look at Aaravindha’s photo and my cult radar immediately went off. I decided to dig around and sure enough there was an article from a former member who had spoken with other former members who had left. 

“What I discovered is that all of them said that Aaravindha has two faces. The one he presents to the public is all about love, kindness and humility, and the other one behind the scenes is paranoid, narcissistic and shaming. Many of them said that he lies and manipulates, and this is something I also saw sometimes, like things didn’t quite add up and yet nobody ever called him out on it…Some of the things I heard were shocking and what I would call emotionally abusive.

I finally left because I could see that things were getting weird with the organization and Aaravindha was getting always more paranoid, accusing people of things that were ridiculous, telling people what they should think politically, and also kicking out some members for reasons that I couldn’t understand. In at least one instance I know of, he told other members to unfriend the kicked out person on Facebook and basically shun them.”

Several weeks later I spoke with a former member who lives on the island. She also said Sambodha was cult-like. “He had a way of manipulating people because he could see what your issues were and he would use them against people.” She said he began making the group “the only way” and said she “watched him get corrupted.” She said, “Maybe aspects of his own self” had become corrupted by dark forces.

Clip of Aaravindha Himadra discussing his book

A cult is a group defined by a charismatic leader who is the source of power and authority for the members. There is a process of indoctrination and often there is some form of abuse from the leader. An in-group jargon is used as well.

By the accounts of her friends, family and a current Sambodha member, Carla Shaffer had joined Sambodha several years before she died. One friend said she had “become enamored” with the group and that she “attended meetings regularly.” Partners Stacy Ramillah and Dave Lutz were Carla’s neighbors in her Opal Commons community and they were part of the group as well. Dave Lutz told me that Carla had been in Sambodha for at least three years before her death and had several personal healing sessions with Aaravindha. Carla had gotten very close to Aaravindha and his wife Ashayrah in the time she was involved with them.

According to her ex-husband, Jim Shaffer-Bauck, Carla had cut off contact with many of her usual friends after joining the group. This is common for people who join high-demand cult type groups. One friend noted how she had changed towards the end of her life. “There is virtually no resemblance to the Carla I spoke with about a month ago and have known for over 20+ years. She mostly warned of dark, evil forces and encouraged prayers and for everyone to stay in the light.” And, like many group members, Carla also adopted a new identity and name. It was Nahmine Attar.

As I investigated Sambodha I asked locals if they had heard of the group. Most people had not. Despite being a small population, the island is expansive and Aaravindha lived near Deer Harbor, deep in the woods, about 20 minutes from town. He also spent a lot of his time in Europe teaching to his large following there.

I learned that there were several active members on the island, probably around 10-15 in total. A few even worked at the local food co-op. They didn’t have a center but would meet at Aaravindha’s home or rent various properties on the island to host Sambodha events. Around 30 people showed up to Aaravindha’s Karunya Marga Seminar in Deer Harbor in April 2018.

The Karunya Marga Seminar in Deer Harbor, April, 2018

Prior to her death Carla may have been trying to leave the group. Jim’s research notes from the time indicate Carla told a friend about another side of Sambodha. His notes read, “Carla had told her she had discovered that there was a dark side to the Sambodha group and that she wanted out.” Jim also described a time when Carla dramatically confronted Aaravindha during lunch at a restaurant called Chimayo. Jim was eating in the back, facing Aaravindha’s table. “Carla walked in very briskly, pulled a chair up to their table, spoke vigorously directly to Janis (Aaravindha), then got up and left. Janis never responded. She saw me as she left; she appeared to be quite angry.” Another long-term resident of Orcas who was present also remembered the confrontation. And Carla’s ex-boyfriend had said that around the time of the stabbing she told him that she was afraid. Another friend of hers I spoke with also told me Carla was afraid at the time.

“Carla had told her she had discovered that there was a dark side to the Sambodha group and that she wanted out.”

So, there I was, one year to the date from my Sedona experience investigating another cult. I figured it’d be similar to Bentinho–grandiose claims, verbal abuse and cult indoctrination. Same story with a different spin. Nothing I hadn’t seen before. But once again the mystery proved much deeper than I ever imagined.

On December 14th, 2005 at around 9:00 am Carla Shaffer was found naked on the front lawn of a home near the Orcas Center. The homeowner told police at the time Carla was disoriented, covered in blood and walking quickly towards him. When she called his name he was surprised, as he could not recognize her at first. He proceeded to take her inside and call 911.

Carla had driven there in the middle of the night completely naked in the freezing cold with an iced windshield. She was “looking for light” she later told the police and went to the Orcas Center to watch the sunrise. One person reported that she almost drove him off the road as she was in the wrong lane, another said he saw her driving with her head out of the window.

A first responder on the scene reported to the police that Carla was afraid and hesitant to speak about what happened. She said Carla told her “They are trying to control my mind” several times and expressed concern “they could get” her if she went to the hospital in Bellingham. The man who discovered her told police that Carla said she was afraid “he” may get her. His wife told police that Carla asked her if she knew anything about mind control and told her “they’re controlling my mind.” She said a “shudder went through” Carla’s body upon saying this. Carla also told her “don’t let anyone in.”

Prior to driving to the Orcas Center Carla experienced a traumatic incident in her home. According to official documents she suffered 30-40 stab wounds, her jaw was smashed in and one or two teeth were forced out of place, a rib was broken, her lung was damaged or collapsed, she had a black eye, her liver was slightly punctured and her breastbone was significantly damaged. There were also two, finely made identical slits on her eyelids. She had also apparently been unconscious for some period of time.

What actually happened to her remained a mystery to those investigating the case because she told them she was attacked by a male spirit that was non-human. She had been sleeping naked in her sleeping cabin behind her home and when she went inside to use the bathroom she said someone grabbed her. The detective who interviewed her in the hospital wrote down what she told him happened in his police report.

“Carla said ‘someone grabbed me as I ran into the house…I didn’t see its face.’ I asked where she had been grabbed and forced to the ground and was told, ‘I didn’t see their face or physically feel his hands…I do not believe it was a physical person.’ Carla told me she believed that it was a ‘struggle between Light and Dark…light being good and dark being evil.’ Carla added ‘I believe it was a male spirit or force as it was not a physical person…I could feel the force only. I could feel the repeated blows but I could not feel his hands.’ The voice sounded male but it was distorted, like something from a science fiction movie, it was a spirit voice.”

Carla told me that after the wounds were made to her eyes she could no longer see (blood) but she was ‘listening to the voices from the Light that was helping me.’ Carla added that the Light kept telling her to look at the light.

Carla said she didn’t know how long the attack went on but was on the floor kneeling when she was stabbed. Carla said she was also hit in the face with a one-gallon jar of red beans.”

He also described the treating surgeon’s perspective on her injuries.

“I had also talked to Dr. Fox, Carla’s surgeon and she said she found no defensive wounds on Carla. Dr. Fox said that usually shows that there was no attacker on an assault like this one, but she had problems with the number of times she was stabbed and the locations (eyes done slow no injury to the eye). Dr. Fox said one of the wounds was made hard enough to break a rib and force an injury to the lung. I was told that an injury like that one would take some strength to do.”

The surgeon was reportedly quoted by a witness as saying “If I had to swear in a court of law that those injuries were self-inflicted I couldn’t do so.”

A doctor who visited Carla in the hospital noticed the fine slits on her eyelids and reportedly remarked that he had seen them before and they were ritual markings. These carefully made cuts are what the detective described above as “eyes done slow no injury to the eye.”

Because Carla wouldn’t name her attacker(s) and because there were no defensive wounds on her, the incident was ruled self-inflicted.

Some have suggested that she refused to name them out of fear of retribution. A close friend who visited Carla in the hospital said that Carla told her the story “just needs to be this way for now.” When a long-term friend asked what really happened Carla replied: “I will call you, we will talk.” The friend told police Carla “said it’s very complicated but huge.” And Carla was very adamant about not stabbing herself. “I did not do this to myself” she said while in the hospital.

Carla would end up spending around two weeks in the hospital in Bellingham, the last few days of which were spent in the psych unit to evaluate her mental health.

She was released at the end of December into the care of Markus Naugle and Laura Wheelock. According to current Sambodha teacher Dave Lutz, they were both involved with Sambodha. Aaravindha describes Markus and Laura as “close friends.” Carla stayed with them until January 3rd, when it appears she became suspicious of them and demanded to immediately go home.

While at home she was being watched over by two friends Deborah Martyn and Clay Philbrick. Deborah was her neighbor in Opal Commons and Clay was Deborah’s partner. They would be the last reported people to see her alive.

The night she arrived home–only days after leaving the hospital and a few weeks since the stabbing incident–she went missing. That evening Deborah and Clay called the police to report that they couldn’t find her. When the officer arrived he found her in her sleeping cabin. The police report reads: “Clay Philbrick claimed that he, Martyn and Deputy Taylor all attempted to waken Shaffer but that she was ‘just absolutely stiff and unresponsive, like stone.’ Philbrick and Martyn asked Deputy Taylor to just leave her alone and let her sleep. Deputy Taylor agreed inasmuch as Shaffer was clearly breathing and did not appear to be in distress.” Carla was known to be a “very light” sleeper I was told. Why didn’t she wake up when three people tried?

The next evening Deborah said she checked on Carla at 11:00 pm and she was home. At 1:15 am she checked again and she said she was gone. Deborah and Clay said they believed it was too late at night to call the police and that they wouldn’t do a search. Yet, they had called the police the night before with no issue.

For some reason that evening, Aaravindha was called for advice on what to do. He said in an interview with me that Laura Wheelock called him, which meant that Deborah and Clay must have called Markus and Laura and told them Carla was gone. Deborah had called the police when she went missing the previous evening. But the night before Carla was found dead Deborah and Clay did not call the police, instead, Aaravindha was called.

At around 9:00 am the next morning Deborah Martyn called the police to report Carla missing. A search crew was formed. At 1:30pm on January 5th, 2006 Carla Jean Shaffer’s body was found face down, floating 12 feet from the shore in a pond a few hundred yards from her home. How she got there is unknown.

The pond near the Orcas Island airport where Carla’s body was found

“Carla Shaffer was murdered!” A voice rang out from a car parked down a few spots from me. I looked up and I saw a young woman’s eyes focused intently on me. My body began pulsing with chills.  She had overheard me asking a man in the parking lot if he knew where a pond was around there. “A woman died in a pond about ten years ago. Her name was Carla Shaffer.” He had no idea.  

“How do you know Carla Shaffer?” the woman asked. I replied: “I’m a journalist investigating her death.” As she got out of her car and started walking up to my car my body became overwhelmed with vibrations. Deep, full body chills. I’ve never experienced anything so powerful. I got out of my car to continue the conversation. 

“None of her family or friends believe she committed suicide or stabbed herself. I’ve been trying to raise awareness about this for years. There was a woman who was cleaning up the blood the morning of the attack. She was into a bunch of weird occult stuff. A guy did a bunch of research on the case years ago. She was murdered in some type of satanic ritual.”

At that point my body was vibrating so strongly that I could barely compose myself.

“We’ve been waiting for someone to come” she said. “I’m one of the most prominent writers in the world exposing cults” I replied. We both stared at each other in disbelief.

The way I happened to run into this woman is a mystery. After I first googled “meditation Orcas Island” I began asking locals if they knew anything about the group. A guy mentioned that there was a death associated with the cult. He said something like she had mental illness and committed suicide as did several island residents. At a bonfire a few days later a guy told me that there were some people who believed she was killed by the group. I was stunned.

As I gathered more info and spoke to more locals I got a fuller picture of what was happening. One person at a shop in town who knew Carla told me the backstory. And then a guy told me where he thought the pond was where she was found. I figured I’d go check it out.

He told me it was near an area called Bonnie Brae. I found the community and drove through but didn’t see any pond. I turned right out of the development and drove for awhile only to return once again to Bonnie Brae. Still no pond. I saw an old woman and asked her but she had no idea. “Go to the Opal community office right there at the end of the road. They’ll know.”

When I pulled in I saw the guy in the parking lot. I rolled down my window and asked him about the pond and Carla. The woman who overheard me was just about to close her door and drive away. Had I arrived seconds later our encounter never would have occurred. I never would have gotten the next crucial steps of the story.

I thought back to last year in Sedona when I had had a similar experience. After I figured out the cult ambitions of Bentinho Massaro and that I was there to expose him I laid down on my bed and chills pulsed through my body. That experience lasted a few minutes.

This time it was different. The sensations were much stronger and lasted hours after randomly running into this woman. As I returned back to the Golden Tree hostel where I was staying at the time I recounted the uncanny encounter I had just had to my landlord. As I did I became overwhelmed once again with these pulsing, chill-like sensations. It was eerie. It made no logical sense. It was a mystery.

Aaravindha Himadra teaching at Deer Harbor on Orcas Island in 2018

When the two detectives first arrived on the scene at Carla’s home where the stabbing incident had taken place they were “very surprised” to find her neighbor Deborah Martyn cleaning up the blood. They had not immediately been able to secure the crime scene because Carla was found near the Orcas Center, not at her home. The police told Deborah to stop what she was doing and quickly leave the house. She was taken to the police station and ordered to recall everything she had seen, what she had moved and where things were.

Deborah told the police that another neighbor, Molly Roberts, had called her and said the cat had made a mess and asked her to clean it up. Molly also told the police the same story. She saw Carla’s gate and doors open and went in to investigate. The scene in her home was a far cry from a cat’s mess. There were four bloody knives on the floor, broken glass, a 7-inch hole in the window, blood on the floor, blood spatters on the walls and appliances, a blood-soaked rug near the front door, blood smears on the handrails and doorknob and a broken jar of lentils on the floor. Molly insisted during an interview with me that it was not obvious a crime had been committed based on what she witnessed. She said there wasn’t a lot of blood on the floor.

In her written police statement Deborah described what she had done at the scene: “washed floor, walls, picked up tea towels, put knives in bowl to soak, rearranged dishes. Took mostly full garbage bag that I added the broken glass to out to the garbage can and removed top garbage bag and put the white plastic one under it to lower risk of others getting cut.” She said she was using a “wash tub and green cloth and yellow rubber gloves, broom, dust pan, orange cleaner. I dumped water with blood, water, lentils, glass…etc. out back of the porch near fern.”

Thus, by her own account, Deborah walked into what was a messy crime scene and soaked multiple bloody knives, washed the walls and floors, cleaned up the glass and put the trash bag with all of the evidence underneath the other trash bag in the can. Because of her actions, a proper forensic investigation of the scene could not be completed.

There were other strange or suspicious actions of people at the time as well.

One neighbor said in the weeks following Carla’s death people were seen in Carla’s bedroom dressed in black robes performing ceremonies in the middle of the night. Another neighbor also told police: “In the next two weeks her house lights were on most nights between midnight and 2:00 am, sometimes 3:00 am.” Carla’s friend said that Sambodha member Stacy Ramillah admitted to being in Carla’s home performing rituals at the time. After the locks were changed by a neighbor there were no longer any sightings of group members in the home.

A woman who entered Carla’s house after her death said “she felt an energy that made her nauseous.”

Locals who know about Sambodha, and particularly those who lived near them, said they knew of their “strange occult practices.” One person said “For years people on the island would talk about them doing ritual sacrifices in their group and say there was a demonic aspect.” One person I spoke with also mentioned ceremonies in black robes and nude rituals. Other locals I spoke with said they also heard about these things.

Perhaps Carla had gotten deep enough into Sambodha’s “inner circle” to discover these occult practices and rituals. Perhaps this is what she was referring to when she told a friend she had discovered a “dark side” to the group and had wanted out.

Aaravindha Himadra and his book “Immortal Self” on Sounds True

Aaravindha Himadra and Clay Philbrick gave peculiar accounts about Carla’s death.

Jim Shaffer-Bauck had a note in his research that said Aaravindha had said “he had contacted Carla outside her body before she was found. He had tried contacting her in her body but it gave him headaches.”

Current Sambodha teacher Dave Lutz said after Carla had died Aaravindha used his psychic abilities to describe to him Carla’s final moments. “Aaravindha said she was determined to take her life, that she failed the first time and she just walked into the water and let the water take her away.” Another person said Aaravindha told them the same thing and described how the cold water took over Carla’s body.

Clay Philbrick, who was one of the last people to see Carla alive, told police that the morning of the search he consulted with two psychics (one of whom is believed to be Aaravindha). Before Carla’s body was found in the pond Clay said that the psychic told him she was in a cold body of water east of her home. And Clay told police that his own vision powers allowed him to see that Carla was near water but that he was afraid of using these powers because he may attract alien beings. Thus, the last reported person to see Carla alive told police he knew the correct location of the body before it was found. And this was all only hours after Aaravindha had been notified that Carla was missing.

He also gave police a rather incredible account of what happened to Carla when she was stabbed. The “Rife” machine he references was an electronic energy device Carla was using to heal herself and others. The detective who interviewed him wrote what Clay had said.

“He claimed that he has visions and learned from an unearthly being that the RIF machine had ‘caused a disturbance in the time/space continuum and five beings slipped through.’ He said that two angels stood between the beings and Carla’s neighbor’s home and prevented the beings from harming the neighbor. He went on to claim that five beings had ‘slipped through’ but had no intention of staying. They were only here to retrieve one of their fellow beings who had come through before and had wanted to stay. That being was allegedly the one who stabbed Shaffer.”

Deborah also told one of Carla’s friends that Carla was not attacked by a human but rather a spirit entity.

Clay was staying in Carla’s home as a caregiver the last two nights before she was found dead. The detective wrote what he told him happened two nights before she was found “He claimed that ‘the vibes’ in the house were so strong and negative that he awoke in a panic and ran out of the house. He said that he went to Martyn’s house, awoke Martyn, and explained about the negative vibes. He said a short while later they went to Shaffer’s sleeping cabin and discovered that she had been missing.” It was then that they called the police.

The next night Clay claimed that he and Deborah “stroked her until she fell asleep.” Once again Clay said he was unable to sleep in Carla’s house due to the “bad vibes.” Deborah stayed up and checked on Carla several times throughout the night. At some point she told Clay that Carla had disappeared again. They searched for her and decided to not call the police because they didn’t believe a search could be conducted at night. They waited until around 9:00 am and called the police to report her missing.

Jim Shaffer-Bauck was in Deborah Martyn’s home on January 5th, just hours before Carla was found. Several Sambodha members had gathered there. He said Clay began speaking about a “disturbance” he heard in the home the night she went missing. Jim said Clay quickly changed the subject as if he recognized he shouldn’t be talking about it. “It was like he started to tell what he had seen and then stopped himself.”

When one of Carla’s friends asked Deborah Martyn if she really believed Carla stabbed herself 30-40 times Deborah replied “Carla just knew it was her time.”

Carla Shaffer and Jim Shaffer-Bauck

Several friends of Carla’s suspected the involvement of Aaravindha and Sambodha in her death. They gave statements to police describing Sambodha as cult-like and highlighting unusual behavior by members. In mid-March someone actually put posters up in town with a photo of Aaravindha that read “Wanted For the Torture and Murder of Carla Shaffer.”

Several people, including Sambodha members, were on scene at Carla’s home and the surrounding area at the time she was found. One person who was there saw Markus Naugle and Laura Wheelock, Deborah Martyn, Clay Philbrick, Stacy Ramillah and Dave Lutz.

Jim had heard Carla may have been found and started to walk down the road to the pond. He was intercepted by Markus Naugle. Markus walked Jim up to Seaview Street, where Jim got into a Jeep that was stopped there. Soon the car was surrounded by a group of people including Aaravindha and Ashayrah. Jim said, “they were right there keeping control of things.” They all gathered around the Jeep and prevented him from going down to the pond he said.

In Jim’s notes from his research into the case, he writes that on one occasion in the weeks after Carla died Markus came by with a “hard sell” that her death was suicide. He listed things like the fact that she hadn’t paid the full water bill as evidence of her being suicidal. Markus had also contacted people shortly after Carla’s death rationalizing what happened using spiritual lingo.

On another occasion, Jim said Markus made a strange comment. After describing to him that Carla’s liver was punctured Jim said Markus replied “They were so delicate, her internal organs, I’m surprised they weren’t all punctured.”

Jim noted in his research journal that Herlwyn Lutz (father of Sambodha member Dave Lutz) tried to convince him the Rife machine made Carla lose it. “He was convincing me the Rife machine was responsible for Carla attacking herself. He approached me yesterday to clarify that point because people were thinking that Janis [Aaravindha] was involved…Plan to inform him that no one is buying that theory.” Jim’s notes also reflect that Aaravindha was saying the Rife machine made Carla go crazy and attack herself.

Several people wrote in their police statements that Deborah Martyn tried to steal Carla’s $4,500 Rife machine after her death and only returned it upon threat of having the police involved. She was also going through Carla’s things, opening her packages and frequently accessing the home without permission from the family. This only stopped once a neighbor changed the locks.

Sambodha member Stacy Ramillah reportedly contacted a woman who was investigating Carla’s death to try and convince her that Aaravindha was not involved.

Of interest to note is that Markus and Laura moved to Guatemala for ten years soon after Carla died. According to Aaravindha they left “very shortly” after Carla’s death, perhaps within a month or two. They returned in 2016. And the basis of Aaravindha’s book on Sounds True–his trek through the Himalayas–also occurred the summer after Carla’s death. A friend of Carla’s said she was told Aaravindha also left soon after Carla’s death, first going to Germany before the Himalayas.

Several Sambodha members were trying to control the post-death narrative, saying that Carla was crazy and they actively tried to shift attention away from Aaravindha as some of Carla’s friends had begun to suspect him and the group. Even the former member who I spoke with who told me about the cult like ways of the group said “Aaravindha definitely didn’t kill Carla.” I was surprised as I hadn’t even asked her about that. But she said that she knew there were people who thought that he had.

One resident and Orcas business owner spoke of the fear that many people lived in after Carla’s death. “It was a really, really scary time. We were all locking our doors and on edge. Everyone was afraid.” Many Orcas Island residents never lock their doors given the generally peaceful and crime-free environment. On several occasions this person asked me if I was from Sambodha, fearing that I may have been sent from the group. Their fear of talking about this was still very much alive.

Some people who were pushing for more investigation into Carla’s death at the time experienced strange encounters with group members.

An Orcas Island business owner and friend of Carla’s said that after Carla’s death Aaravindha and his wife showed up every day for a month in front of her business. “They would show up everywhere. It was really creepy.” Aaravindha and Ashayrah could also both be seen doing a ritual/symbolic movement with their arms repeatedly after Carla’s death she said. She demonstrated the arm movements. The arms stay at the side and the forearms raise up and down and then the forearms cross over each other. She also said Stacy Ramillah had tried to leave Sambodha but didn’t make it out. During her process of trying to leave she could be seen doing the same arm movements frequently.

One person investigating Carla’s death claims she was followed on four separate days by a dark green SUV. On one occasion she said the car aggressively came at her while visiting Carla’s grave site. On another day the same car followed her the entire 23-mile trip to the ferry and back. On one occasion the car followed closely behind her with no lights. This person claims that after these incidents she awoke to someone shining a flashlight in her window at 3:00 am for 30 seconds. And her son reported that he was followed and surrounded by cult members.

A friend of Carla’s who was investigating her death at the time said there was a guy at the memorial bonfire on January 6th who didn’t even know her but who was sobbing crying. When he returned home, the housemate of this person reportedly had asked him if he went and he said yes. They then said “You didn’t even know Carla” to which this man reportedly said, “At least I didn’t fuck her like the other guys did.” This friend speculated that his housemate was present to a sexual assault or a ritual in which she was sexually violated. One of Carla’s close friends told me that the man who made this concerning statement quit his excellent job at the post office and left Orcas Island very soon after Carla’s death.

If Carla was sexually assaulted and wanting to not expose the perpetrators it would explain why she refused a rape kit test. Her treating doctor reportedly said, “When I got to that area and asked for the rape kit Carla sat straight up and said ‘oh no you don’t!'”

The town of Orcas Island

Carla’s mental state at the time of the stabbing incident and her death are important to examine given what was being said about her. Again, Sambodha members were pushing a narrative that she had lost it mentally and that the Rife machine had contributed to her going crazy and stabbing herself. Deborah Martyn claimed, “Carla just knew it was her time.” The predominant narrative amongst locals was that Carla had a mental breakdown and committed suicide.

I spoke with several of Carla’s friends and family members and none of them said she had any history of mental illness. Yes, she was very sensitive to chemicals and scents but there was no mental illness. There were several accounts from friends in the police reports as well saying she had no mental illness, with several saying she was in good spirits around the time of the tragic events.

A statement by one of Carla’s close friends to the police reads “Life was only improving for her. She was physically feeling great and looking forward to earning income healing others with her Rife machine.” Another friend’s notes from the time pointed out Carla was organizing a movement against more cell towers on Orcas Island, she was planning on teaching an arts & crafts class and was writing songs with a Baha’i friend with performances in mind. “She had many good friends and two loving daughters” it reads. Their notes conclude by saying “None of her old friends observed any suicidal tendencies or indications of suicidal behavior. No one I know has come up with any reason for her to take her own life.”

Markus Naugle and Laura Wheelock told police Carla was “clear and lucid as she always had been” and that she was “happy” and appeared to be in “good spirits.” Carla had stayed with them a few days before she was found dead.

Deborah Martyn told the detective that she “did not detect actual depression in Shaffer’s behavior” after the attack. She also said she had “several positive and happy conversations with her about her future plans.” Yet publicly some of these people were saying she knew it was her time or that she had lost it mentally.

Current Sambodha teacher Dave Lutz told me that he never noticed Carla show any signs of mental illness or express interest in killing herself.

There are also at least two accounts of Carla’s state before the stabbing incident. One friend saw her just hours before and said she was in good spirits. Another said there was a gathering or party at her home that night and that she appeared fine.

And the coroner’s report noted that there was not enough evidence to conclude she committed suicide.

Carla was also a long time Baha’i member and they have strong beliefs against suicide. It is strongly condemned and forbidden.

During a nearly 3-hour interview, Aaravindha told me that he and his wife were out of the country at the time of Carla’s stabbing incident on December 14th, 2005. They sent me a photo of a portion of a passport that showed a stamp indicating entering Europe on November 14th and returning to the US on December 27th. I have no idea who’s passport it is however as there is no name visible in the portion they sent. And they only sent an image of one passport, not both. Without seeing both of their passports in person I have no way of verifying the truth of their claims. But a detective (or anyone) on the island could easily inspect them. He said they were both at home the night Carla disappeared and then went to help search for Carla the next morning.

I asked Aaravindha and his wife about numerous critical statements and remarks that cast suspicion on him from Carla’s friends, family, Orcas residents and former Sambodha members. All of the claims were lies and rumors he said. He described them as “disgruntled people” controlled by dark forces. He said you can’t teach meditation or yoga these days without being accused of being a cult leader. He told me that I needed to meet him in person before I could say anything about him.

The interview with Aaravindha was very different in tone than were the other interviews I conducted. Whereas Sambodha teacher Dave Lutz calmly and casually responded to my questions, Aaravindha appeared nervous, would stutter at times, would at times repeat the question before answering, would go off on tangents not related to the questions and became increasingly aggressive and defensive. I also noticed a change in pitch of his and his wife’s voice on certain key questions. This did not occur on “baseline” questions I knew they were answering truthfully.

There were several stark inconsistencies in Aaravindha’s interview. He lied about his relationship with Carla Shaffer, Markus Naugle and Laura Wheelock and their connections to Sambodha in addition to lying about having made certain statements to people.

Aaravindha Lies About Carla’s Involvement in Sambodha

In the interview, Aaravindha repeatedly said Carla was not involved in Sambodha at all, in any form. He did so defensively and aggressively. “I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to you, but I’m about ready to hang up. Carla was not in our group. She didn’t attend any meetings. She didn’t come to do anything with us. She didn’t even learn the meditation techniques.” He said they only knew Carla as a friend who they saw occasionally on the island. He said that they have a lot of friends like Carla who are not connected to Sambodha.

I spoke and texted with long term Sambodha member and current Sambodha teacher Dave Lutz. He said Carla was in fact in the group. “Carla was in Sambodha for at least three years,” he told me. I asked him, “So, you were there with Carla, physically present in Sambodha meetings?” He replied “yes.” He said during the sessions, “Aaravindha would teach us different meditation techniques and he would use his psychic abilities to help people with blockages and personal issues they had in their lives.” He said this took place in Aaravindha’s home. Dave and Carla would meditate together both in their homes and in Sambodha meetings.

Dave also said that Aaravindha had done several private, one-on-one spiritual healing and counseling sessions with Carla. This was common in the group he said. Aaravindha offered free sessions to members. Dave said Carla considered Aaravindha “an excellent, highly evolved teacher.”

Aaravindha likes to say “disgruntled” people have lied about him but he cannot say that about a current senior Sambodha teacher. Dave was calm, respectful and forthcoming. He had nothing to hide and no reason to lie about Aaravindha’s actual relationship with Carla and Markus.

One of Carla’s close friends described a time when Carla was so excited because she was headed out to a birthday celebration for herself that Sambodha members were putting on at Aaravindha’s home.

As stated earlier, a friend had said Carla had become enamored with Sambodha and had been attending meetings regularly. Another friend spoke of not being able to recognize who Carla had become after getting involved in Sambodha. And Carla told a friend she had discovered a “dark side” to Sambodha and had wanted out.

All of this evidence from multiple people, including a current Sambodha teacher pointing to Carla’s involvement in Sambodha and yet Aaravindha says “She didn’t attend any meetings. She didn’t come to do anything with us.”

What is Aaravindha trying to cover up by lying about Carla’s involvement in Sambodha? Why is he lying about his relationship to a woman who died under mysterious circumstances? A woman he had counseled and offered spiritual support to?

Aaravindha Lies About Having Told People He Knew How Carla Died

I asked Aaravindha to explain why someone told me he told them that he had used his psychic powers describe Carla’s last moments of life. He had described to this person how Carla walked down to the water, felt the water take over her body and go into the water. Aaravindha said “I didn’t say that to anyone. I didn’t say that to anyone. I don’t know what Carla was feeling when she went down to the water…That person right there is a bold face liar.”

But I spoke about the same claim with Dave Lutz after I spoke to Aaravindha. Dave said, “He told me the same thing.” He said that Aaravindha’s abilities allowed him to know what happened to Carla in her last moments. He said, “Aaravindha has a unique ability, similar to psychic ability but much clearer. It’s called Saumedhika.” He went on, “Aaravindha said she was determined to take her life, that she failed the first time and she just walked into the water and let the water take her away.”

Aaravindha claimed to know Carla had committed suicide and that she walked into the pond whereas no one else actually knows what happened in her final moments. Even the coroner, Randall Gaylord, said there was not enough evidence to conclude suicide and her death was ruled an “accidental drowning.” Thus, we have Aaravindha pushing a narrative that is convenient for him that she committed suicide. And despite two people claiming he told them what Carla’s last moments were like he is now lying and saying he never said it.

Aaravindha Lies About Markus Being In Sambodha and Their Relationship

Aaravindha said several times that Markus was never part of Sambodha in any way shape or form. Yet when I asked Dave Lutz about the relationship between Aaravindha and Markus and Laura he replied: “They had been occasional members of the Sambodha community, meditating with us, attending gatherings and seminars.”

When I asked Aaravindha if he had a phone number for Markus he said he did not. “I don’t know. I haven’t had any contact with Markus for a long time. I know he’s back on the island but I don’t have his phone number or anything.”

When I called Markus’ workplace I left a first and last name with the person who took the message for him. I had never given a last name to Aaravindha and his wife. Yet, only one hour after I left the message for Markus I received the email from Aaravindha and Asheylah with the image of the passport. But this email used the first and last name I had left for Markus. This is unequivocal proof that Markus and Aaravindha were immediately in contact after Markus received the message from me.

If Markus was Carla’s friend why wouldn’t he speak to me and answer questions to help clarify what happened? Why did he immediately contact Aaravindha but not me after I left a message for him? Why did Aaravindha lie to me and say he’s not been in contact with Markus?

Early in the interview, Aaravindha described Markus and Laura as “close friends” but later he said, “we never got to know them that well.” He was shifting his story to suit his own agenda.

Aaravindha Lies About Carla Committing Suicide and Being in Constant Pain & Nausea

Aaravindha aggressively and defensively pushed the narrative that Carla was in a deep state of constant suffering and pain and couldn’t deal with life anymore.

“She just slipped into that pond because she was tired of fighting with a disease that stole everything from her. She was in constant nausea, constant pain, she was having psychotic episodes with a septic liver. Do you have any idea how horrible that is? She just got fed up, she just couldn’t do it anymore. She wanted out. She started to lose it. It happens to people all the time. All over this country, right now a number of people have committed suicide because they couldn’t take it anymore in this world.”

There is no truth to his claims. Carla was not in a constant state of pain or nausea, nor was she having psychotic episodes. As the segment above about Carla’s mental health indicates she was doing well. She had dealt with symptoms of Hepatitis C like fatigue, but things were much improved. One friend had said “Life was only improving for her. She was physically feeling great…” Carla had been doing activism work, was planning arts and crafts classes and was looking forward to making money by healing others with her Rife machine. Markus and Laura told police she was “clear and lucid as she always had been” and was happy. No friends or family detected any depression, mental illness or interest in suicide.

Why was Aaravindha pushing so confidently and aggressively that Carla committed suicide when it is not known what happened? And when her death was ruled an accident? Why is he so heavily invested in a certain narrative?


The last time I met with coroner and prosecutor Randall Gaylord was the late afternoon of Friday, November 30th. We met at the Friday Harbor Courthouse. That was when he provided me with a copy of the police report for Carla’s case. It was about 8 inches thick. This was my first criminal investigation and so he helped orient me to what I was receiving. Overall, I found him and his staff to be helpful and forthcoming. He always promptly responded to my inquiries and requests.

Orcas Island Prosecutor and Coroner Randall Gaylord

What is noticeably missing from the police reports, however, is any sign that the authorities–either detectives or Randall–investigated Aaravindha Himadra or Sambodha. He nor his wife were ever interviewed. Had the authorities actually interrogated them and other Sambodha members thoroughly, checked phone records, alibis, and compared the stories to each other they would have discovered inconsistencies as I did. When people being questioned lie, it raises even more suspicion and should lead to even further digging and interrogation.

There were several specific statements given to police and Randall explicitly warning them about Carla’s involvement in the group and these were ignored. Some of them named specific people and concerning behaviors. When one of Carla’s friends asked the detective to investigate her death further she says he told her “I’ve already put 150 hours into this case and I need to wrap it up.”

Carla’s ex-husband wrote an impassioned letter to Randall pleading him to further investigate her death. He wrote: “My observations, and the circumstances of the initial attack have led me to conclude that Carla was murdered…I think we are dealing with sophisticated, experienced psychopaths, which implies that similar incidents have been executed in the past…”

There was a long police statement written by a friend of Carla’s that detailed numerous suspicious activities on the part of Sambodha members and raised many questions for authorities. And there were some other accounts given to authorities by Carla’s friends as well.

In his coroner’s report Randall himself acknowledges that he was made aware of the group and their activities but effectively ignored it. “After her death, other strange events were reported to me, concerning neighbors and others trespassing into Carla’s residence, a description that Carla and her friends are members of a cult referred to as “Children of the Light’ and that she used an energy machine called a ‘Rife’ machine…These events confirm bizarre behaviors but they are not specific for the purposes of determining that anyone else was involved in this death…”

Those raising concerns didn’t have specific proof of foul play but they provided evidence and clues that Randall and the police should have followed up on. It was a huge oversight on their part. Randall learned that a woman who died under mysterious circumstances and her friends were part of a cult called “Children of the Light” and he did not even investigate them at all. How is this possible? Had they understood cult dynamics and dug deeper they could have realized the full extent of how indoctrinated Carla and other members were.

Randall learned that a woman who died under mysterious circumstances and her friends were part of a cult called “Children of the Light” and he did not even investigate them at all. How is this possible?

There were some parts of the police report I was only allowed to view and not permanently keep. These included things like photos of Carla’s body and photos of her post-stabbing injuries.

When viewing the photos I was visibly struck by the socks Carla was wearing at the time she was found. They both had holes in the heels but one of them was quite torn up on the bottom and the side while the other hole was more of a neat circle. The one sock was raggedy and had a large piece missing. I just remember feeling that something was not right when looking at it. It seemed obvious to me that this would raise concern but it had not. There was no way the damage had come from walking in them. The socks were thicker than usual too. It would have taken many days walking on pavement to create that kind of damage and even then it seems unlikely that the sides could have been torn up like that. One friend said Carla never wore socks with holes in them.

The implication of the torn up socks is that she was dragged from her residence to the pond.

It’s also interesting to note that the detective who visited Carla in the hospital noted that he looked at her ankles and saw that they were free from marks. Yet, the autopsy report reveals several cuts and abrasions on her ankles and legs. This means that at least some of them could have happened the night she disappeared. Were these cuts and abrasions on her legs, ankles and feet also evidence of her being dragged?


Carla Jean Shaffer was a member of a cult when she died. Her search for healing and spiritual growth led her into the path of Aaravindha Himadra, who by the accounts of former members, is a controlling, abusive, narcissistic cult leader. Carla reportedly grew close to him and was “enamored” with the group, attending meetings regularly. She was undoubtedly indoctrinated and brainwashed into their teachings. She even cut off contact with her usual friends and adopted a new identity with the name Nahmine Attar. One friend barely recognized the person who Carla had become. And then, when she discovered a dark side to the group, Carla confronted Aaravindha. She was then found dead, floating in a pond near her home.

It’s very common for someone to get deeply involved in a cult or religious group without their friends and family knowing. The person will often hide the full extent of what is transpiring or it will appear like an innocent spiritual exploration. In reality what happens in these groups is a deep process of mind control. It takes someone having gone through it to understand the depth and severity of how much someone’s mind can be changed and influenced. What Carla went through is much more than anyone can probably imagine. And it is most often very difficult to break away from a cult.

When this poor woman was brutally attacked in her home and left bloody and unconscious she was under heavy mind control. She said so herself on the lawn that morning. “They’re trying to control my mind” she said repeatedly. “Do you know anything about mind control?” To the police and others, this was evidence of mental illness. Yet, had they only bothered to dig a little deeper they would have seen that it was real. It reflected the fact that she was under the control of a charismatic and dangerous cult leader–a man whom they never even bothered to interview or investigate.

Too afraid to name her cult attackers, Carla either created a story that she was attacked by spirits or the story was planted in her mind by Aaravindha or fellow cult members. Both Clay Philbrick and Deborah Martyn also believed Carla was attacked by spirits.

The police then concluded that Carla was deranged and mentally ill and had somehow stabbed and cut herself 30-40 times, broken her own rib, punctured her liver, smashed her own face, gave herself a black eye and shoved in her teeth, damaged her breastbone, sliced two, identical, fine cuts into her eyelids and then knocked herself unconscious. All this by a woman with no history of mental illness. A woman who was reportedly seen just hours before by two different people and was said to be in good spirits. A woman who emphatically said she did not attack herself and did not try to commit suicide. A woman who was calm and lucid while in the hospital.

“It was clear they were trying to kill her” Jim told me. “The only thing that saved her was her fear of sharp knives. Every knife in her home was incredibly dull. That’s why we think four knives were used. They were looking for a sharp one and couldn’t find it.” This would also explain why many of the “stabbing” wounds were more like cuts and not that deep. Had the knives been sharp they could have penetrated her deeper.

And then, according to police, a few weeks later Carla left her home in the middle of the night, fell into a shallow pond and drowned. Perhaps it was intentional, they don’t know. All this by a woman with no history of mental illness. A woman who had given no sign she wanted to kill herself. A woman who was an excellent swimmer.

And of course, walking into a shallow pond is a very strange way to kill yourself. A paramedic on the island said what we all know, the body would instinctively physically reflex and contract to save itself. It’s like trying to kill yourself by holding your breath. It makes no sense that she would either intentionally or accidentally just die in a shallow pond a few hundred yards from her home. 

The focus of the investigation was on Carla when it should have been on Aaravindha and his Sambodha cult. As a result, we are left with unanswered questions.

Was Aaravindha actually out of the country as he claims? Where was he the night she disappeared? Where were other Sambodha members? Why has Aaravindha lied about his relationship with Carla and Markus? Why did Markus flee the country for ten years soon after Carla’s death? Why did Clay run out of Carla’s home in a panic two nights before she disappeared? What were the “bad vibes” that caused him to leave Carla’s the night she disappeared? How did Clay know the location of Carla’s body before it was found? Why were Sambodha members trying to convince others that Carla lost it mentally and committed suicide? Why were the lights on in Carla’s bedroom from 12:00 am – 2:00 am for several weeks after she died? Why did Aaravindha and his wife stand in front of the business of a woman who was calling for more investigation for thirty days in a row? Why didn’t Markus agree to answer questions about Carla if he had nothing to hide?

The Golden Tree Hostel where I stayed for a month

“There’s a demonic presence on this island,” a young woman sitting at the Lower Tavern bar said to me. “I can feel it,” she said. “I know. I feel something too” I replied. I was telling her about my work writing about cults and my story investigating Sambodha. I told her the island had a deep, dark and creepy vibe to it. “I have to leave soon,” I said. “I don’t feel safe here anymore.”

By the time I had this conversation I had spent a month on the island interviewing people, researching and investigating the story. I had travelled all over the beautiful landscape in deep awe of where I was.

Given what my research revealed about Sambodha members following people and showing up in unexpected places I became increasingly concerned about my safety. Jim had told me he that he suspected Sambodha knew something was up. He had a few tense interactions with members. And I was stared down hard by a current Sambodha staff member and potentially followed. The last night I stayed there I even had a police officer do a patrol around the hostel premises throughout the night.

Before I left I visited Carla’s grave at the Woodlawn cemetery. I told her I’d get justice for her. 

The final mystery was randomly running into one of Carla’s family members on the streets of Seattle soon after I left the Islands. They normally didn’t take lunch at that hour. And my decision to go to Pike Place Market and then randomly walk around the city was last minute. As I was crossing the street they passed right by me. I almost missed them. We ended up walking and talking for a while. It was an unexpected meeting in the midst of a very large and bustling city. Perhaps it was the same mystery that brought us together that brought me to Orcas Island in the first place. 

As I was driving south Spotify randomly played a song by Florence and the Machine called “Shake it Out.” I was struck by the lyrics and immediately thought of Carla who was a dancer.

“And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa”

Whoa to you Carla Jean Shaffer. Whoa to your beauty, your grace and your dance.


If you have any information relevant to this case please email me at shaktihunter123 @ gmail.com.

Several phone messages were left and an email was sent to Deborah Martyn seeking comment from her and Clay Philbrick and I had not heard back at the time of this publication. Markus Naugle did not respond to the message left for him at his work. Stacy Romillah did not respond to my interview request.

The Gucci Guru: Inside Teal Swan’s Posh Cult

Teal Swan, an emerging cult leader, claims she is a multi-dimensional Arcturian alien working with 11 other aliens in an “intergalactic Green Peace” type organization. She says she has x-ray vision and hearing, that she can inject herself into people’s brainstems to revive them and can hear tectonic plates moving. She has a massive following, many of whom, called “Tealers,” tattoo themselves with her symbol. Teal claims suicide is a “reset button” and that “death is delicious.” At least two of her followers have already committed suicide. Teal also claims to have suffered 13-years of abuse in a child-murdering Mormon Satanic Cult where she was routinely tortured, sewn into a corpse for 12 hours and made to torture other children.

Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented byUnited Talent Agency / FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

ORIGINAL ARTICLE VIEWS: 110,000

3/8/18

Gucci — “meaning cool or flashy.”

“I knew that I wanted to be famous and be on people’s television screens and be on stage. At a cellular level, I knew that I was destined to be a star performer.”

Teal Swan was made to be a star. She’s the sexy, sultry, spiritual, New Age sensation taking the world by storm. From Prague to LA she has captivated audiences with her musings. This sage is a fox and she knows it. Robes or modesty don’t apply. Mrs. Swan is empowered by stilettos and skin tight skirts. She says her feminism is found in glitter and gowns. Fast cars, fancy jewels and fabulous hotels are a must. Her mantra is makeup. Her mode is digital. World salvation is in her handbag. Fame is in her blood. Be warned though, dear seeker. Looks can be deceiving. Teal is masterfully using her sexuality and sensual appeal in service of her cult ambitions. She is powerful, seductive and dangerous. The Gucci Guru has arrived. The OS just got a makeover. Cult 2.0 is evolving.

Teal is a part of the ever changing face of modern spirituality. She is hot and bothered for all the right reasons — positive world change and personal transformation. What spiritual America lacked according to her was a glamorous starlet willing to sacrifice everything for the cause. Teal auditioned and got the part. Her character uses the allure of desirability to create a global spiritual movement. And now the reviews have just come in — she’s given the performance of a lifetime. The audience loved it. She’s an incredible actress. She’s so believable, vulnerable and real they report. And the Oscar goes to…Teal Swan for How to Steal a Mind. It’s the heist of a millennium. Audrey Hepburn, eat your heart out.

Teal Swan (top), Audrey Hepburn (bottom) in “How to Steal a Million” (1966)

“To me, there is nothing that compares to the authoritative feel of walking down a hallway in the perfect pair of stiletto high heels.”

“I love clothes. My closet is full of the most sensual fabrics in the most vibrant and rich of colors. They are part of the public image that I portray when I fly around the world to put on my performances.”


While other spiritual teachers may consider Teal’s focus on branding and performance to be superficial, she wholeheartedly embraces it. It’s actually a central part of her mission here on earth, “Before I even came down, there was an entire panel of Arcturian beings — 6th dimensional beings — who even chose the way I would look in this life.” We live in an attention based economy. They knew. Teal’s exceptional beauty and brilliant spiritual mind were literally a match made in extraterrestrial heaven.

Ever since she was young, Teal dreamt of being famous. And now that she has built a massive global following her dream seems to be materializing. HerYoutube channel has 434,000 subscribers and over 53 million views in total. That’s almost double the views of international best selling author and Oprah favorite Eckhart Tolle. She has 162,000 Facebook page likes, a Facebook group called “Teal Tribe” of 25,000 and over 60,000 followers on Instagram. Teal also has a monthly premium membership site that undoubtedly has thousands of subscribers. Her talks and workshops around the world regularly attract hundreds of people. She’s appeared on stage with Gabrielle Bernstein, been interviewed along side new age favorite JP Sears and has spoken at Kripalu Yoga Center. Her latest two books are onHay House publishing and she’s spoken at several of their “You Can Do It” conferences to packed audiences.

“I did not come to earth with a specific message. I came here as a course turner. I am the game changer.”

Teal claims her esoteric wisdom comes from having a direct connection to Source and extra sensory abilities that she was born with. A former member says, however, that Teal “had an extensive in home library of popular self-help, metaphysical, and pop psychology books in her house.” It’s hard to identify all of her sources but some include Byron Katie’s “The Work,” “Quantum Touch,” “What Color is Your Aura?,” “The Wisdom of the Enneagram,” Suzanne White’s “Chinese Astrology,” Abraham Hicks and the Law of Attraction, “The Law of One” by Ra and books by author Michael Brown — who’s work she plagiarized for her book “The Completion Process.” A former friend says, “She Googles everything, none of her material is new material.”

“How do I have all this information? It’s because I’m extra sensory. I’m not limited to this dimension or time-space reality.”

As with Bentinho Massaro, the specifics of the teachings don’t matter, they are merely a tool to reach a goal. Teal admits this when talking about her larger business vision, “My goal is not to become what I already am, which is a spiritual guide, that is just a means to achieving my actual goals.

Teal Swan’s Quest For Global Domination

Teal’s long term global aspirations are vast. She states, “My intention is to build a company that is so large and so unstoppable that nothing can come up against it…[It will] implement many world changesThe investments can be used to lobby, or to buy countries. And then we can start doing these new societies.

“I will do whatever it takes to continue on with this world vision of mine. When I set out with this plan in mind, I knew that I would be risking death.”

More:

“Until it [becomes] one of the wealthiest companies in the world. But not just a company, it would become like its own entity. An unstoppable monolith…”

“We are merely in phase one of the plan to institute positive world change. This company I have founded will grow to the point where it will rival the corporations that currently exist. It will eventually effect change on a governmental level.”

“Teal Eye, LLC. Our Mission: To Catalyze The Rise Of Consciousness In Man.”

“People who commit suicide — what you’ll see is that they’ve fulfilled their purpose because they are understanding — you know the higher self. Their source stream is understanding the concept of love. But they only unite with that love they have created when they commit suicide.”

A Commune in the Jungle

As part of her plan, Teal recently began leasing to own a center in Atenas, Costa Rica where she lives part of the time with 20 other people in an intentional community. She holds workshops and seminars in this new center where people come from all around the world to study with her. She claims that without this tribe of intentional community support she would have “offed” herself years ago. She says that she can no longer live in the U.S. given the hostility and backlash she faces from “haters.” She also claims to have gotten numerous death threats over the years.

A secret Facebook group called “Creating the life we want together in Costa Rica” described the venture as such:

“A group of like minded, heart connected beings who hold a strong intention of manifesting the New Earth in Costa Rica through intentional community and a heart based lifestyle. Divine creator, pioneers, healers, midwives. Authenticity and emotion are highly honored. Creating a physical safe space to relate to the world from.”

“Teal has studied various cult leaders down to a tee.” — Former member

We have added 7 members to our family. They are people from all over the world. Besides a common vision for positive world change, the web that weaves us together is the burning desire for a community to depend on and a group of people to call home.”

“Each person that I train to awaken is like a soldier for collective awakening…It feels like they are members of my army.”

Teal Swan at her center in Costa Rica

“I love nothing more than connecting with people in the audience through their eyes. It makes me feel like I do have a family among the people of the world. And by becoming well known, I’ve enabled them to finally find me.”

Cult 2.0

We’ve seen this movie before. The most recent version was Bentinho Massaro. Teal is the sequel that should have never been made. She exhibits all of the signs of the next influential cult leader. She’s charismatic, divinely appointed, has special powers, is persecuted, describes death as “delicious,” makes suicide easier, is grandiose and brilliant, creates a clear in group/out group, doesn’t tolerate criticism, is self-obsessed and has a martyr complex, encourages followers to tattoo themselves with her symbol, wants to create a global empire, is mentally unstable and has now isolated members in a foreign country. One former member even said she tried to get her members to hate their parents — another classic sign of cult behavior. Another one who used to live with her states, “Teal did not allow free thinking, questioning, or dissent of any sort when it came to her own little land of make-believe.”

“I’ve never met a crazier, more unstable person in my entire life. I just find her to be mentally ill, in my opinion she’s just very manipulative, pathologically manipulative.” — Former friend

A former friend describes how great of an actress Teal is:

“I was able to see what Teal was doing from very early on. It didn’t take long to notice how every piece of her life is carefully calculated. Her friendships, her interactions, her reasoning behind everything she does, her voice and every movement. It is designed to draw you in, to captivate you. She makes you believe that she is inside your head. She makes you believe that she sees the truth. The truth is, she likes the control and the power over other people.”

“In my childhood…[in] the cult that I was a part of, they put me in charge of mentally programming children. So I was the one that would bring them in, hook them up to electrodes, and torture them.”

Another former member, “She only ever seemed to exhibit a sustained fondness for sadistically, mentally, and emotionally picking people apart; being in front of a camera/audience; writing or talking incessantly about herself…”

As evidence of the mind games and manipulation Teal uses, she tried on several occasions to plant alien abduction stories into people’s minds:

“She convinced him that he was brutally sodomized and had spikes driven through his body by gray aliens. Teal walked him through an alleged abduction describing what had happened to him and his sister to the point he was SCREAMING BLOODY MURDER upstairs. He threw something and almost broke her sliding glass closet door. I was so scared when I heard him that I thought I was going to have to call 911. He seemed to me to be having a psychotic break.”

“Teal told me her cat, Cosmos, was actually a holographic soul projection from the planet Sirius, and he had been sending me telepathic images of my pancreas, to tell me that my blood sugar was off.”

More about Teal’s mental state:

“Being around Teal was like being in a never-ending drama-trauma cycle. Her emotions were always rapidly shifting. For instance: one minute she was giddy, doing cartwheels in the park; then, 15 minutes later, on the drive home, she became despondent, after claiming to have seen, on the side of the road, the ghost of a person who was ‘traumatically’ killed in a car accident. She acted depressed, claiming to have gone out of body, to help the ghost cross over.”

“And as soon as you question her, the mind games begin, and if that doesn’t work you are out. You cannot question Teal. She sees you and knows you better than you know yourself. Even if all you want is the truth, even if you would never judge her no matter the truth. The only problem is, the lies are becoming much worse and more manipulative.” — Former friend and member

This is new age narcissism and it’s dangerous — particularly when someone rises to the level of Teal and has the power to actually carry out her vision. She’s made a series of irresponsible, troubling and even racist remarks over the years. Undoubtedly, some of her followers are vulnerable and impressionable. People are at risk. Here is a list of 50 cult leader warning signs.

“I got lost in this horrendous neighborhood in New Jersey. I was really interested in watching these women. Most of them were African American women, a lot of them were really overweight. I wanted to tap into what they were feeling like…Some of them were actually feeling so hopeless that they were wanting rape.” (video below)

Grandiosity

“I’m not limited to this dimension or time space reality”

“I am an expert in this field. I was born an extra sensory. How is it that I have the information that I have at 26, 29, 30 and now 33. How do I have all this information? It’s because I’m extra sensory. I’m not limited to this dimension or time space reality.”

“I am a revolutionary”

“The reality is, I’m a revolutionary in this field. Look at what happens to revolutionaries. What do you think happened with Martin Luther King? What do you think happened with Christ? What do you think happened with Gandhi? What’s happening with them is what’s happening with me.”

“If I stand up on stage someday and someone puts a bullet through my head, I have more attention.”

Disciples & Teachings

“I have people that live with me every day and if they were responsible for writing down my teachings they’d completely mess it up. Completely. The way that their consciousness is structured is not high enough right now to grasp those concepts.”

“This is a cult, and it will only get more and more dangerous.” — Former member

The Arcturian Diva

Teal claims that a panel of 6th dimensional beings chose the way she would look in this life so as to have mass appeal and to be more affective when carrying out her planetary mission.

“I am non-physical energy that is projected forth into an Arcturian body, an extraterrestrial body. Before I even came down there was an entire panel of Arcturian beings, 6th dimensional beings, who even chose the way I would look in this life. There will not be a person on the planet, regardless of what country you go to that does not perceive some level of attractiveness. Thus, they’ll pay attention. It’s sort of funny to feel like I’m a giant science project.”

She claims to be an alien:

Most people are the higher self and their human perspective; two points of perspective. I’m three — human, extraterrestrial, and nonphysical.

“One of the first things Teal told me was that she was an alien.” — Former friend

In this video clip Teal claims there are about 2,000 Arcturians on the planet, 11 of which she knows and is working closely with in an organization that is like an “intergalactic Green Peace.”

Teal also claims that the real rulers of the planet are a hostile alien race.

In this video Teal says she loves to astral travel to “Lyra,” a constellation of multiple different planets. “The minute you touch down you can bring with you your thoughts from this life” she claims.

The term “Arcturian” comes from author Edgar Cayce. He claimed they were one of the most advanced civilizations in this galaxy.

Teal Swan’s Superpowers

Teal Swan shared this fan artwork on social media. CP means “Completion Process’ which is her method.

As a central claim to her authority Teal says that she is a multi-dimensional being who has special powers.

“Force myself in through the brain stem”

Teal claims to “spend most of my nights consciously out of body working as a kind of universal tool for consciousness.” She has travelled to Iraq, the Ukraine and Africa among other places. One time she “was inquiring with a convention of beings about relationships and dependency. I could not believe what I found out.” Another night she spent on the edge between the eleventh and twelfth dimensions, “it was almost like sitting on the edge of a comforting black hole.”

In a blog post she describes how she astral travelled to Africa one night and saved the life of a young girl in labor in the hospital:

“Then, I did what I so often do to help people stay physically alive… I assume the frequency of their energy field and force myself in through their brain stem, so as to activate the part of their brain which is in charge of breathing (and other autonomic functions like the heart beat). This allows them a channel back into their body.”

She waited for the girls’ “consciousness stream” to be activated and then watched her breathe on her own. She then witnessed “her bleeding slow to the point where I could be sure she would wake back up to the physical dimension.”

X-Ray Vision and Hearing

In this video Teal explains how acute her sensory perception is:

“Based on where my bed is positioned in the room I can actually catch radio channels. That’s how bad my extra-sensory stuff is. I had a bed at my last place where if I rolled two centimeters to the left or right I was actually listening to play by plays of a football game that was going on on a radio channel.

In her blog post “How I See the World” she explains her supernormal powers:

“When I meet a person, I am able to see their bones, organs, nerves, veinsetc.”

I do not see negative space (what many people call air). Instead, everything looks like energy with no spaces in between. Every energy field bleeds into every other energy field creating one huge existence of inter-being.”

I can hear tectonic plates moving… Full moons are very, very loud to me. I hate the sound of cotton balls (a sound I gather many people can’t hear).”

“I can hear thought forms. Imagine trying to have a romantic relationship with someone, when you can visually see their thoughts…[Thoughts] have become a configuration, shape or visual appearance and may manifest in a non-static way.”

“Imagine trying to make a phone call and having entities in the area tap into the signal or electric current.”

“I can see the future. I have prophetic visions and dreams.”

A Reincarnated Master, Sai Baba

Teal claims to be the reincarnation of Indian guru Sai Baba. In this clip she describes how spiritual teachers decide when to come to earth and how she made her decision.

“Often spiritual teachers are a grouping of consciousness. So, when one consciousness continues to a next life then sometimes only a portion of those soulstreams will continue and these ones will not, they’ll go into other incarnations. That’s what I decided to do. That’s why I did not participate in Satya Sai Baba. There was a major rift that happened.”

Sex appeal

Teal is undoubtedly using her sexuality and sensual appeal in service of her cult ambitions. One former member who used to live with her explains, “Teal’s sexual allure is all part of the strange hold she uses to control and manipulate the people in her sphere…Everyone in that group either had a previous or current sexual relationship with Teal, or they admitted to wanting one with her.”

A member who used to live with her:

“She is obsessed with sex. It’s grotesque. With all the constant talk of sex in the house I was sick to my stomach often hearing these things…Teal has an overtly sexual nature. I quickly learned that nobody in her presence for long is exempt from hearing her gloating tales meant to illustrate her sexual prowess. She even made a couple of passes at me just to test the waters. These passes consisted of several vulgar and aggressively blunt sexual remarks addressed to me at different times. They seemed like tests for her to gauge how I would respond.”

I asked someone with knowledge of Teal’s background if she engages sexually with her followers and they said yes, “She definitely sleeps with her followers and it’s public knowledge. She married two, dated at least one. They find her on YouTube, become enthralled and then involve themselves in workshops and so on.”

God

There are numerous extravagant terms that Teal has used to refer to herself:

“Spiritual Authority”, “Revolutionary”, “Leader of the New Age”, “Guru”, “Oracle”, “Seer”, “Spiritual Catalyst”, “Therapist”, “Internationally Recognized Spiritual Leader”, “Spiritual Guide”, “Social Media Star”, “YouTube Sensation”, “Star Performer”, “New Thought Leader”, “Game Changer”, “Savant”, “God.”

“I am a master at mental chess. I play mind games with people.”

Troubling Statements

Teal has made numerous irresponsible statements, unsupported health claims and offensive remarks over the years. Her followers look up to her and trust her, many believing that she is a more highly evolved and thus wiser being. What she says matters. It goes without saying that people should seek a qualified professional for mental and physical conditions. Teal has no formal training or licensure in any sort of mental health field. She was fined in the state of Utah for practicing therapy without a license.

“The Suicide Catalyst”

“What suicide is, is pushing the reset button. It’s not a good or bad decision in and of itself. It’s not something that source either condones or condemns. You cannot say that suicide is wrong without also saying that death is wrong…There is nothing wrong with suicide.”

In April of 2015 a long term member of Teal’s group, who went by the name I.T. committed suicide. He posted in the Teal Tribe Facebook group before doing so. He said, “I actually think I might suicide today. I’ve attempted it enough times for it to be comfortable. And if it doesn’t happen today: Probably soon.” A few days after he died an admin posted about him saying he was a “valued member of this group and was part of the Teal Tribe family for some time.”

A few years ago one of Teal’s clients committed suicide. A former member describes Teals surprising reaction:

“In 2013, our friend Leslie committed suicide. I met her earlier that year and didn’t know her well, but she would reach out when she was sad. It struck me as odd when Teal, her husband and I were sitting there talking about it that her reaction was to say (in paraphrase) ‘I am not upset because she’s dead, I am upset about the fact that I lost a client and it could hurt my credibility.’ It blew me away. And I just sat there.”

Teal claimed that this client was beyond hope, “There’s nothing that any healer could ever do for that type of vibration which is totally fine. From source energy there’s nothing wrong with death from that perspective. So, she chose to commit suicide.” There were of course several things Teal could have done to try and intervene. She then went on to claim the client reincarnated into a similar family situation just two days later while the audience laughed.

In this exchange, a participant on stage tells Teal that her sister killed herself on New Years Eve. Teal awkwardly responds by saying “Just in time for my video,” referring to a video that she had made on suicide at the time.

“You’ve been thinking about it, but not really consciously. This time, what I’m going to encourage you to do is to consciously imagine committing suicide.”

“We have to decide whether we are going to commit to life or not. Let me remind that death is not wrong, so make this decision based on the truth of what you want instead of what you think is right to want.”

When describing the potential risks of her Completion Process method she states, “The number one risk I would say with this process is self-injury and potentially suicide.”

Teal seemingly endorses suicide here by suggesting it alines with the higher self and love:

“People who commit suicide — what you’ll see is that they’ve fulfilled their purpose because they are understanding — you know the higher self. Their source stream is understanding the concept of love. But they only unite with that love they have created when they commit suicide.”

One former member describes how Teal tried to manipulate her, “Teal immediately jumped to trying to convince me that I was suicidal (despite the fact that I wasn’t and had never been suicidal before). I explained this, to her, and she went so far as to tell me that I was ‘passively suicidal’ instead, and informed me that I was ‘uncommitted to life.’”

All of these comments are made in the context of an audience that contains people who are struggling or suicidal. Teal admits this herself, “I receive several suicidal e mails a day (about ten a day in fact).”

Society & Politics

Racism

In this video she describes feeling the energy of a poor neighborhood in New Jersey, “I got lost in this horrendous neighborhood in New Jersey. I was really interested in watching these women. Most of them were African American women, a lot of them were really overweight. I wanted to tap into what they were feeling like…Some of them were actually feeling so hopeless that they were wanting rape.”

In a video where she is describing how she was made to look beautiful for people on every continent by the Arcturians she contrasts herself with a woman from Africa claiming “A really beautiful woman down in Africa may come up to the U.S. and be considered pretty ugly.”

In a blog post she uses offensive and prejudice language about the people of Costa Rica, “People who live in a primitive state, more like animals in their behavior than people…Or the sexual aggression of so many of the men here…Or the fact that most people here are so relaxed that they operate on a time system all their own and do not seem to bothered by meeting standards of any kind.”

When Teal posted a picture of custom made booty shorts with the word “Paramahamsa” on them some people cried foul. The term is a Hindu word for revered masters in the tradition. It literally means the enlightened one or “Supreme Swan.”

Hitler

In this clip Teal claims that Hitler was the greatest contributor to world peace, “If you are on the highest vibrational level looking at this planet the person who added to peace more than anyone else on this planet is Hitler. Because no one was thinking about world peace until he came along.”

Questioner: “Isn’t there something wrong with Hitler? Intrinsically, wasn’t the guy a sort of bad apple?”

Teal Swan: “On a universal perspective, hell no. He was exactly what everyone had asked for.”

It’s OK to Kill Someone

Question: “So you’re saying that killing someone is ok? How can that be when it’s a destruction of the human body without divine intervention?”

Teal: “It’s not right for you. I can tell because of the way that made you feel. When I say it’s ok to kill somebody, because it’s not right for you it will not feel good to you.”

Death is “Delicious”

There are two known suicides in Teal’s community, Leslie and I.T., both mentioned above. Given this and Teal’s cult ambitions these statements by her are concerning:

Death is such a liberation that you would give it to yourself.”

“You could live in a human body indefinitely, but would you choose to if you knew the deliciousness of the new perspective?”

“Very first thing is that we have to decide whether we are more committed to death or more committed to life. If we are more apathetic we are passively committing suicide.”

“So when you die it’s like lining up with the best food you’ve ever eaten, and the lover who you’ve always wanted, and I mean I could list this whole thing — everything you’ve ever wanted from your life, you line up with.”

We shouldn’t just assume that living is always right, and there’s no point really honestly in like being on this planet specially from the universal perspective. There’s no point in really being on this planet if we’re going to be dragging ourselves to be here all the time.”

Let me remind you that death is not wrong so make this decision based on the truth of what you want instead of what you think is right to want.”

Death feels wonderful no matter who you are, no matter what you have done in your physical life.”

Projected Martyrdom

The blessing of people like myself who were born incapable of coping with the current world is that we have only one decision to make… Willingly die to leave the world or willingly alter the world.”

“If I stand up on stage someday and someone puts a bullet through my head I have more attention.”

What blew my mind when I went out to look at my thousands upon thousands of these life path potentials for my future, I was a match to the very gruesome public murder in every single one of them. . . Jesus opted for public execution, for example. Would we even know who he was today, if it wasn’t for that death. Who knows? . . . If I had a guarantee 100% that what I am doing in the world and the change I am trying to make — would it only work if I got killed, would I still do it? And would I stick to that life path and the answer is ‘yes’.”

Victim Blaming

“The victim is every much responsible for what they experience as the perpetrator is because we are the ones putting ourselves by virtue of our thoughts which make us a match to a perpetrator.”

Teal claims that her artwork can heal people

Health

Teals videos and writings are filled with irresponsible claims about physical and mental health.

Autoimmune Disease

“I’ll explain autoimmune disease. Below all autoimmune disease is that he persons strategy to safe in their childhood is to turn against themselves. This is self hate to the extreme.”

The Cause of All Mental Illness

“Mental Illness is always the result of you thinking thoughts which vibrate at a frequency that is very low. So you’re focusing on things that do not feel emotionally good to you. That is the cause of every single mental illness. It has nothing to do with the brain.”

The Cause of Obesity

In her blog post “The Cause of Obesity” Teal explains how people become overweight:

“When someone develops an excess of body weight, most especially in the form of fat, it is always done to cope with a fear. When it comes to obesity, that fear is the fear of humiliation and shame. At the heart of every single case of obesity is this particular fear. It is not a fear of something unknown; rather it is a fear of something known.”

According to WebMD, “Obesity is a complex disease for which no single cause or cure exists.” They go on to list a variety of contributing factors including lifestyle, genetics, diet, exercise, trauma and medical conditions or medication usage.

Purify Blood With Light

In speaking about potential things her company may invest in she describes a new machine. She says, “I’ve watched blood being filtered out of the body completely through a high frequency light that structurizes (sic) the liquid in the blood. It completely purifies the blood and then it’s fed back into the body.”

Branding 2.0

Teal takes “branding” to the next level. She encourages her followers to literally brand themselves by tattooing the Seal of Alchemy on their bodies. It’s the symbol that has come to represent Teal and her tribe. These devotees call themselves “Teal Tribers,” “Tealers” or the “Teal Army.”

“When you are a teacher or a leader, or a politician or an artist, the brand you are marketing is YOU. This means that your most valuable asset is your image.” — Teal

“And there I stood, a teacher of alchemy on the world stage, with the seal of alchemy etched into my left arm. I have arrived at court finally.”

The Mormon Satanic Cult

Teal claims she was sewed into a corpse as part of the abuse she faced in the cult she was in while young, “He’d take me into the mortician’s office late at night, and when I was about, I’d say, eight years old, he ended up sewing me into a body, and leaving me there for about twelve hours.” Some people actually asked two different morticians and they both said there is no way for an 8-year old girl to be sewed into a body. It’s just not physically possible.

Her entire story is so outlandish and incredible that just on face value it’s hard to believe. It appears she is just listing every horrible thing that could ever happen in a satanic cult.

“For the thirteen years that followed, I was systematically and progressively separated from my family, I was tortured physically and sexually in rituals, forced to participate in sacrifices, raped, forced to eat and drink out of dog bowls, forced to undergo 3 abortions (all fathered by my principal abuser himself who was in his sixties at the time). He performed them himself with veterinary equipment, which is why I had such a hard time conceiving my son. I was photographed for sadomasochistic pornography, sold for money to men for sex out of outdoor gas station bathrooms and motel rooms, kept in basements, kept in a plank covered hole in the ground in my abuser’s back yard, exposed to electro-shock programming, forced to undergo isolation torture, left overnight tied up in lava caves in southern Idaho. I was forced to participate in bestiality and necrophilia, drugged by my abuser with Ketamine, Dormator, Xylazine, opiates, peyote and speed (all of which he had unlimited access to due to being a vet). I was chased through the Idaho and Utah wilderness by my abuser who loved to “play” tracking games in which he would hunt me, and if I won, I got a reward, if I lost, I was either raped, or he would “count coup” by making cut marks on my rib cage. I was used as a lure to other children that ended up being hurt or on occasion killed by the cult group. And the list could go on. But this experience is still something that seriously affects my life today. On one hand it is obvious that I would not be doing the job I am doing today around the world if it wasn’t for this experience. On the other hand, a life that is spent in a constant state of recovery from the past is a difficult life.”

Those who have investigated this story thoroughly have found no supporting evidence for any of her claims. Supposedly, 7 children were murdered, kids were tortured and Teal went through all of this for 13 years. This would have occurred from around 1990–2003. It’s not that long ago. It shouldn’t be hard to corroborate the story.

Apparently this character is based on a real person who Teal briefly knew. He’s actually a veterinarian who’s been married for 35 years and has no criminal track record. Her family had him around briefly to help with some behavioral problems that she was having.

One former friend says Teal is a serial liar:

“She is dedicated to running this facade that was her supposed childhood abuse between two cults by a man called “Doc”. I have seen the lies form right before my very eyes. I have seen the story change again and again. I have seen details edited out because she found out it wasn’t possible, I have seen both her and Blake back out of interviews that might be too difficult or in which they might feel cornered.

I have seen Teal lie about her extra-sensory abilities, claims that she cured people from cancer, claims that she travels out of body to prevent certain situations.”

Another:

“She’s a fabulist and a confabulator, and I would call her a mythomaniac. She makes up stories.”

Her story of suffering is central to her entire story as a teacher. Without her claims of special powers and great suffering in this cult what would any of her authority rest on?

The End

“I don’t care I don’t care whether I die. . . . I can tell you.”

Bentinho Massaro was stopped right as he was about to buy land in Sedona and carry out his vision of building a city. 18 days after I published “Tech Bro Guru: Inside the Sedona Cult of Bentinho Massaro” he fled Sedona. He shut down his operations, left his two homes and his followers and went into hiding. He didn’t even tell his staff where he went. In the end he was unable to carry out his master vision.

Teal has is now trying to permanently relocate to a new center in Atenas, Costa Rica where she lives some of the time with her “family” and intentional community. She, like Bentinho has carried out the first phase of building up her cult but now has found a new location. And furthermore, it is in a foreign country where members are much more isolated.

“Today, when I look at the life that I lead, it is not so different from the one that I dreamed up for myself back then. I stand up on stage. I sing to audiences in my own way.”

Any observer of this story must seriously ask, “where is all of this heading?” Teal claims omnipotence and superpowers, has grandiose visions of world domination, makes alarming statements about suicide and is clearly self-obsessed and unstable. All the warning signs are present. The writing is on the wall. As one former friend of hers said, “The lies are becoming much worse and more manipulative.” Again, be warned as looks can be deceiving. As Audrey Hepburn says, “The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair.”

Tech Bro Guru: Inside the Sedona Cult of Bentinho Massaro

Sedona, AZ has been infiltrated by a polyamorous tech bro cult leader with a massive following. His devotees are everywhere. They believe he can control the weather with his mind. He talks about aliens & government conspiracies, sleeps with and verbally abuses students and believes he is an awakened God not responsible for his actions. He loves expensive scotch and has a sweet spot for cigars, but not Cubans. I spent one month embedded in his group under the alias “Shakti Hunter.” This is my report. #WelcomeToSedona


UPDATE: On December 9th, one of Bentinho’s long time, very devoted students, Brent Wilkins, committed suicide by jumping off a cliff near the Midgley Bridge in Sedona, AZ. See full coverage. On December 18thBentinho Massaro fled Sedona and went into hiding.

UPDATE II: See part 2 of this article: Tech Bro Guru: Behind the Scenes.


Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented byUnited Talent AgencyFULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

[Each of these articles takes over 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]

ORIGINAL ARTICLE VIEWS: 300,000

12/1/17

“I really feel like he is setting people up for a mass suicide. He talked about ‘The Harvest.’ I always had a weird feeling.” — Former core staff member

Bentinho Massaro is crushing the startup game. He’s the visionary behind an innovative company that has captured the hearts and minds of its users like no other. He’s truly one of a kind. What makes him stand out? It’s not his identity or looks. He’s a typical twenty something founder; white, handsome, charismatic and tech savvy. It’s also not because he built a successful company from nothing. That’s common these days. What makes him particularly unique is that he brilliantly used startup principles to create a legitimately dangerous, real life, 21st century cult. In SedonaIn 2017. Tech bro Guru has arrived. The OS has been upgraded. Cult 2.0 is upon us.

Bentinho’s first talk on his Youtube channel, “Understanding Life is Impossible” dates back to 2010. He was young, perhaps late teens. While many of his millennial peers were seeking investment capital for their new apps or interning at Facebook, he had an even cooler idea. Whether he was cognizant or not at the time, he used elements of growth hacker marketing to begin building a new age empire. He was testing out his “product” aka spiritual ideas for no cost on the platform that defined a generation. It worked. Build, test, measure, convert. He soon began teaching to small groups which further validated his ideas and then grew from there.

Since his first Youtube video, Bentinho has built a massive following. He can attract over 500 people to his in person retreats. His Facebook page has over 300,000 likes. Instagram is over 20,000 followers. There are two, well-run Facebook groups, one with 19,000 members. His Youtube videos have over two million views in total. He runs four exceptionally well designed websites — a free online academy, a monthly video based membership site, his core siteand the Trinfinity Corp. master plan. At its peak Bentinho’s Trinfinity academy was bringing in $60,000 per month from member subscriptions alone. With a $14,000 a month rent for his office in Boulder that level of income was definitely needed. And he gives talks in Sedona that attract over a hundred people each week in which he collects cash donations. He utilizes state of the art technology to record and broadcast them live on Crowdcast and then repurpose them on his platforms. He frequently utilizes Facebook Live and his team uses WhatsApp to communicate via several different groups. One of the WhatsApp groups Bentinho named “Boner in Dona” and it uses an image of a phallic looking Red Sedona rock as its icon.

It’s evident that what has “worked” has little to do the specifics of his spiritual ideas. Bentinho mainly teaches a mashup of Advaita Vedanta and the Law of Attraction. Other influences include Osho, Bashar, “The Law of One” channeled by Ra, Nisargadatta Maharaj and some yogic texts as well. He peddles in unrealistic promises such as “find complete happiness in two steps,” or “realize the absolute in two weeks.” But the ideas could be interchanged without compromising the results. It’s the medium, the format, the method and the technique that “works.” The goal of a cult leader is the same regardless of the jargon: confuse, disassociate and control. It is about “being led away from yourself.” At a recent meeting Bentinho told his followers to not focus on the content, rather focus on what he is transmitting. And that “what” which is being transmitted is much more illusive and deceptive than his students could ever imagine.

Bentinho’s long game for his business is truly audacious. His master plan for Trinfinity Corporation is right out of a sci-fi movie. He’s building a global, cosmic empire in a four phase sequence that ends with a “Trinfinity City.” He wants to create an “enlightened society by 2035.” Earlier phases include apps, film, TV & record studios, virtual reality machines, an astral projection inducer, a tech lab, a publishing platform and yes, a system to foster open contact with aliens.

The Sedona Creative Life Center where Bentinho holds his weekly talks.

It’s clear that Bentinho has achieved many of the goals of a new startup: successful branding, passive income, social media reach, great design and platform creation. Bentinho has mastered the game. No, hebecame the game and upgraded it. Cosmic domination. He wants your soul. And his followers are the pawns of his delusional, tragic vision of an enlightened society.

In this clip Bentinho clearly lays out his plan for his new “heaven on earth” utopia, “My vision is to buy a large piece of land and start a new city with all of you…As with everything I will succeed.”

Bentinho has the power, the money and the tech savviness to actually do it. He has slowly and carefully implemented a brilliant strategy to prop himself up as an infallible Guru. However, as of late, his methods are becoming more drastic and his teachings more dire. This isn’t just some pie in the sky far out Sedona hippie experiment. It’s Steve Jobs meets Jim Jones. Time to wake the fuck up.

A screenshot from Bentinho Massaro’s website showing a large crowd of his followers.

Branding is Everything

Bentinho’s “brand” brought him as far as being featured with a select group of spiritual teachers for the Sounds True audio program “Waking Up.” Alongside other luminaries such as Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti and Jack Kornfield he discussed his views on the meanings of spiritual awakening with Sounds True founder Tami Simon. His following and his platform strategically positioned him for such a role.

However, Massaro’s brand has become increasingly tarnished. A series of attacks he made on other teachers coincided with him being disinvited from speaking at the Science and Non-Duality Conference in 2012. As his teachings and tactics become more drastic and the word spreads about his cult techniques his brand will be more and more damaged. There can be real consequences from industry insiders. Leaders like Tami Simon have taken action in the past against other figures. In 2011 she dropped spiritual teacher Marc Gafni from his book contract and publicly spoke out against his unethical actions and abuse of power.

The “How to Start a Cult” Playbook

Bentinho can show us all how to start and run a cult.

1. Claim divinity and special God like powers

According to an ex-member who wrote an article called “The Cult Promise of Bentinho Massaro” he claims he “is not human and incarnates on numerous planets to upgrade their civilizations, is able to direct rain, wind and lightening, is a god/God, is Buddha, is awakened and has never met anyone with as much integrity as himself.” He himself publicly said so:

One of Bentinho’s devotee’s believes he can control the weather and move objects with his mind:

“I’ve watched him control the weather a lot of times. We’ll be at a party and I’ll be like ‘Bentinho these clouds are not good, it looks like rain. Within ten minutes they’re gone. He does it all the time. I’ve watched him move objects on tables. I’ve seen him multiple times change weather or move clouds.”

Another core team member claims that Bentinho changing the weather is “no big deal.”

Here Bentinho claims he can “teleport, levitate and bilocate.”

Someone asked him in a Facebook comment: “I’ve often wondered if you are the re-embodiment of Christ. I see so many similarities and a mirroring if you will of his life here on earth with yours.” His response was disturbing, “He was a fabulous and brave and powerful messenger, but still considered himself the son, rather than having become God.” Bentinho is a God, you see. He said Jesus was only on the “4th density” out of 8. Massaro claims to be on the “8th density” according to one of his students. 8th is the highest level. Others say he is 6th density. Regardless, he claims to be higher than Jesus!

Massaro claims that his teachings are the best “offered on all of planet earth.”

The grandiosity continues, “I always thought I was supposed to be one of the most efficient and versatile spiritual teachers on the planet. Now that that’s the case it expands my vision even more.”

One program that Bentinho appeared on described him as “a young enlightened master who shines with joy, love and a strong sense of freedom.”

One core staff member claims that the highest, most awakened masters of all time are at “7th density” and Bentinho is at 8th. It’s common to hear his students claim that he is so evolved “there is nobody in there.” All of the students and core staff members I spoke with believe that Bentinho is highly awakened. One of them claims that Bentinho is a “Team Leader for the Starseeds. They also said that the most awakened, highly evolved masters of all time were at 7th density whereas Bentinho is at 8th. Buddha and Jesus came in at 6th density and perhaps evolved to 7th according to her. Again, Bentinho resides in the 8th density she claims, which is the highest. Elsewhere another core team member couldn’t answer the question “Is Bentinho human?”

Bentinho will call out the “spiritual bullshit” of other teachers. He “crucifies” Eckhart Tolle and all of the random teachings in Sedona, referring to them as “unicorn spirituality.” This is cult 101 — attack and denounce other teachings as false to prop up yours as enlightened.

Members believe Bentinho is the “chosen one” sent here on a mission:

“He arrived on planet earth as a massively evolved team leading starseed to do a very quick evaluation of what’s going on the spiritual level, move through it lightning speed. That’s his design. The reason he was sent at this time with that mission is because the starseeds that have gotten here to assist earth can get lost really easily. He helps them get on track so that they can fulfill their blueprint. Because we are a team, everybody’s blueprints are needed for this mission right now.”

2. Normalize verbal abuse as part of the spiritual path and then claim impunity as a Guru

Bentinho states that he is not responsible for his actions because of the spiritual level he has attained. He repeatedly draws upon the idea, “No, it’s not me, it you!”

When I asked a former member why they left she told me, because, in part, “Verbal abuse and verbal degrading of members in public and private. Directing the group to shut down and shut out critics from the group.”

This video demonstrates that Massaro has clearly normalized verbal abuse as part of the spiritual “path.” A female student says she is upset because “I just asked a simple question and he said ‘fuck you.’” He goes on to repeatedly yell at her “fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, FUCK YOU.”

In the video with Bentinho above is Anurag Gupta, a former high level Landing Forum executive. He’s teaching a retreat with Bentinho in Hawaii in January.

Anurag Gupta teaches with Bentinho Massaro

And in the video below Bentinho angrily tells the same woman: “If you weren’t so high up in your own ass about this fucking concept of respect you would actually see how much love there is behind me saying what I say.”

Bentinho posted this disturbing excerpt on his Instagram account recently:

Along with this image he included an in depth explanation to support his “anything goes” philosophy:

“Being friends with an awake being is nearly impossible, because: A) his first priority is your purification and elevation into truth; not kindness, niceness, agreeability or even apparent equality, and B) he is not like an ordinary person and thus cannot be successfully compared with normal standards or related to as just another person (which the finite mind does not like).”

And here is evidence of him justifying his own verbal abuse:

More:

Most recently, decades of sexual and physical abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche, author of “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” came to the forefront in a major way. A previous article I’ve written, “Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen & The Culture of Evolutionary Enlightenment” illustrates the real life consequences this Guru devotion can lead to. Noted Buddhist scholar Stephen Bachelor recently wrote about the dangers of this path in his recent article “Why I Quit Guru Yoga.” Ironically, Bentinho apparently loved the online series that was produced about Andrew Cohen’s abusive cult. He gathered weekly with his staff to watch it.

“Thinking about something is the surest way to miss out on the beauty of that actual something.” 
― Bentinho Massaro

3. Have sex with your students

Several inside sources, including former core staff members told me that while in Boulder, Massaro was having sex with one of his devotees. She was dating another group member and Massaro was married at the time. As a result he announced to his close followers that he and his wife were separating and that the student was part of his “new direction.”

A former core staff member also told me that on another occasion he slept with one of his students while leading a retreat in which his monogamous girlfriend was teaching the yoga sessions. She had no idea at first but discovered what he had done during the retreat which made things extremely awkward I’m told.

Massaro currently has three girlfriends and identifies as polyamorous. One of his current girlfriends was a student on one of his retreats. When speaking about Bentinho’s third, most recent girlfriend, who is only 21, his longer term partner bizarrely described him as “being in service to her.” Given the power he yields over his followers, his repeated claims that he is not responsible for his actions and the previous sexual relationships with students, I fear “poly” is being used as a cover for him to have free reign over students.

In this video, Bentinho appears to rationalize his sleeping with a student and having an affair on his wife.

4. Use disorienting methods to keep your devotees confused, distracted and in trance like states

Bentinho is currently pushing “dry fasting” on his followers. It means they cannot eat any food or drink any water, they can only have grape juice. He also recommends public participants of his “Sedona Experiment” follow this dry fasting method during the retreat. Several of his members including his girlfriends have done it. Some for 10 days, others for 21 and some for 108 days. One person told me she was in a “special place” during the middle of her 108 day fast when she discovered Bentinho’s teachings.

How safe is it to not drink water or eat food for 10–108 days? According to Dr. Douglas Graham it is not.

“Last night, I sat listening to a woman telling me about her dry fast experience. Three days in to the fast, she had to be hospitalized by her friends. The doctors made it clear that they were not certain she would pull through, and that only time would tell, but fortunately she lived to tell the tale. Too many others have not been so lucky. Dry fasting is extremely dangerous, and sadly, many more deaths will occur as a result of this unscientific and illogical craze.”

Others who have tried it complain about hair and teeth falling out and then this just being described as a symptom of “detox” by the leaders in the group.

Here is one commentator who tried it:

“This system ruined my mental health (severe anxiety/depression). I now have heart palpitations when I lie down and pretty much have them all day. I Also got really skinny then gained more weight than I have ever had. The fast also triggered severe binge eating. The group is very cultish if you ask me. I was having extreme difficulty and was told to just keep going and pushing and fast some more. I eventually joined their video calls and expressed how the system negatively impacted my health. My testimonial was ridiculed and I have been subsequently blocked from both of the Facebook groups. I wish I never did this.”

One of his staff members said she was on day 26 of no food or water and will be going for 108 days. Apparently this technique works on the level of “plasma.”

Bentinho has also used and encouraged for his members polyphasic sleeping. It means you only sleep in small batches at a time as opposed to 6–9 hours. It’s an excellent way to keep someone in a trance state.

5. Attack the family and encourage separation

In this clip Bentinho angrily tells his members:

“Fuck your relationships. They mean nothing. Let them go, let them go. Don’t give a fuck about your family. Don’t give a fuck about your children. Don’t give a fuck about your parents. Don’t give a fuck about your partner.”

Elsewhere he has stated: “If your family thinks you’re nuts when you express the truth of your being, it’s not your family and you should/could be excited to find a new family. If they don’t wish to be open to any of this whatsoever, they won’t have a real place in the world 10 years from now anyway.”

6. Convince your devotees to lose themselves, abandon critical thinking and reframe everything as positive

Central to Bentinho’s teaching is an attack on the present moment, claiming it is based in the past. Instead we need to live in the “future present” which is our imagination or a constant state of positivity as the video clearly demonstrates. If you think about it, this teaching perfectly sets him up to verbally abuse his students while they are instructed to immediately turn it into a positive.

Another central premise of Bentinho’s teaching is dissociating from and attacking the self. Everything you think you are must disappear. It is a wholesale attack on the mind, the self and anything “real.” We shouldn’t focus on the “what” of our experience, rather just “that” we experience. Definitions, descriptions or trying to “understand” our lives is impossible. He states, “Thinking about something is the surest way to miss out on the beauty of that actual something.”

He takes this to it’s logical conclusion by attacking the very foundation of how we navigate and understand our world.

“Witness yourself and see where you have these allegiances to logic, to reason, to linear description and simply start destroying these. No compassion. Just eradicate them. Completely destroy them. Roast those seeds.”

Here is one devotee revealing the lengths to which she’ll go to implement his teachings:

“I realized that I was just too attached to this belief about my physical body being real. I couldn’t get it to fade and dissolve deeper. So to release my attachment to it, (this sounds a little intense but was necessary) I started visualizing a chainsaw cutting off my limbs slowly. Then I visualized it sawing my body in half from the head down. I saw it clearly in my mind and began tuning into the fact that no matter what happened to the body, I still existed. The chainsaw was me and all of it was simply just presence energy that I was moving around in different ways with my thoughts believing that it was something real. I imagined my body and my”self” completely destroyed. I deeply tuned into the truth of me being the Awareness of all that is…”

7. Make dying easier

Bentinho tries to normalize dying:

“You will all die, so how important can this be really? We want to become a group consciousness, an enlightened civilization, do we not? This is gonna take everything you have. It’s about giving up everything you have for the sake of the vision, to become the vision.”

In this clip, he plants the seed that “you should be excited about your death.”

8. Claim your teachings are so advanced, others cannot understand them

In a Facebook post, Buddhist Geeks founder Vincent Horn called one of Bentinho Massaro’s video’s “infantile spiritual narcissism” and challenged him to a public “dharma battle” in Asheville or Boulder. Horn stated:

“The views I’ve seen you share on Facebook and in your public teaching videos are, in my estimation, naive and immature. More than that they are harmful. I think that you’re a soon-to-be-fallen guru and I’d like to help make the fall quicker — not for your sake — but for the sake of all those people on the fence about you, and all those who are yet to become disillusioned with your nonsense.”

Bentinho’s response was that of a classic authoritarian guru. He claimed that Horn must study his work in depth before he could even begin to grasp his teachings and be worthy of a debate. He replied, “If you first go through my entire academy, I might consider something closer to what you suggest, but unlikely even then…If you could see even 10% of what goes on in my consciousness in a single day, study my every academy lesson and practice its suggested homework with an open mind…you’d have a different opinion altogether.”

9. Promise salvation to your followers

Ex-member Gaby Petris describes his promise of salvation:

“Massaro says his teaching will lead to ‘the cessation of suffering and endless bliss’ and ‘heaven on earth.’ He has announced he is here to ‘transform this entire planet’, ‘nothing else will do’ and ‘nothing else will make his life worth living.’ He says he does not want children because he already has 7 billion.

He predicts planet earth is at the crossroads of splitting into two planes of existence. High vibration 4th dimensional beings who embody love (as do his students) will ascend to a less physical realm featuring telepathic group consciousness. Low vibration 3rd dimensional beings who embody negativity are ‘on a ship going down.”

10. Encourage your members to follow you wherever you live

Massaro tells his followers to move and follow him. Several of the members I spoke with had done just that. Many people relocated their entire families and lives to Sedona just to be with him. Some even had moved twice, first moving to Boulder, where he was for a few years and then to Sedona.

11. Promote government conspiracies & talk about aliens

Massaro promotes the discredited Hillary Clinton Pizza Gate conspiracy:

And here Bentinho claims that the Nazi’s won the war:

Bentinho on aliens and ET consciousness:

“We have bases on the moon, a bunch of slave colonies on Mars that have been mining the asteroid belt, we have been colonizing galaxies of our solar system, we haven’t needed fossil fuels for the last 80 years because we have anti-gravitic mechanisms…The Nazi’s won the war. The US government gave up their control, their governance so we would not be exposed to free energy devices. If free energy gets released, and we’re [Trinfinity corp] working on it, it changes everything. We’ve had free energy for 80 fucking years.”

“Don’t be surprised that the aliens we’ll meet — and we will meet them — look like the things you see in the movies. Don’t be like ‘oh this story of this guy is nonsense because I’ve seen that in the movies. He just got it from the movies.’ Well, did he get it from the movies or did the movies get it from them?”

“The vision statement of Trinfinity is: to have an enlightened civilization by 2035 that’s ready for interstellar absorption. It means that we reach a level of maturity to where we as a collective are able to be contacted openly without us freaking out anymore, without it needing to be kept secret anymore, we have become are own government.”

“Many of you are directly connected to ET consciousnesses.”

“We’re going to be absorbed initially into different confederations or alliances of civilizations that are 4th density or higher. We will be taught a lot. There will be a new type of education.”

This is a short clip from his “ET contact meditation” where he is talking about meeting aliens who are our “brothers.”

More:

12. “Guru gaze” at your followers for lengthy periods of time

13. Take 12 disciples into the desert on retreat as “guinea pigs” to test your methods

“Cult leaders do not have schools of persuasion to attend. They become masters of the folk art of human manipulation through testing and observing what works. They modify their approaches and techniques and use centuries-old manipulative devices to lead people to change.” — Margaret Singer, Cults in Our Midst

One of his main devotees told me how Bentinho took a close group of his inner circle into the desert for 14 days to give them “teachings on the absolute.” She said it was an intense period of meditation and teachings and that he was experimenting on the group. The most cult like elements certainly begin with the closest, most inner core of followers and then expand outward from there.

She said, “He wanted to experiment with a group of 12 people as guinea pigs to be able to synthesize the best way to teach it which is what he does so well…It felt like Jesus and the disciples because we were the first ones receiving these teachings. It was an extraordinary experience. ”

14. Create an enlightened city

After Bentinho dissolved his Trinfinity team in Boulder, he went on a “dark retreat” in Thailand where he sat in complete darkness. It was supposed to be two weeks but after just 5 days he was shown a vision for creating the enlightened society he had been talking about for so long.

“When I came out of darkness, I looked up properties in this area that’s been calling me, and I found a property that would suit our needs, had almost all the elements that were in my vision, looked incredibly similar, and sits at the exact location I was shown…It’ll be the center of everything to come. An anchor for the New Earth vibrations to stream into our atmosphere and into the earth, for we will act as a receiving antenna as well as a grounding beacon.”

What started as a small “build as you grow business” has now moved into the investor phase. This is a screenshot of the investor plan from his attempt to raise capital for his new earth vision.

No dangerous cult began by asking members to sign over their homes or make significant financial investments. They start with seemingly benign things like “spiritual” teachings, community events and gatherings. Slowly, as the cult leader begins to gain power and influence they begin taking more drastic measures to take full control over their members.

This excerpt from one person’s experience illustrates the sort of idealization and fantasizing that is going on in his group. It is propping him to a God like reality which any cult is built upon.

“…when suddenly Bentinho and [his girlfriend] arrived. An air of unreality descended upon the evening, like two elvish beings warped spacetime into a plane of heightened awareness…That night Bentinho’s new partner came on stage for the first time, and it was pure regality to see them sitting there together. Everybody seemed to feel the utter beauty of humanity connected, like an ancient people before their King and Queen…[They] were simply representations of Union on this physical plane, exemplifying the Feminine and Masculine.”

Bentinho talks about consuming his sheep, “the more you become a lion or lioness and absorb and digest the sheep around you and spit them out…consumption is love.”

Bentinho’s Mental State

In 2012 Bentinho posted on FB that he has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. In one of his talks he describes how he tortured a kitten when younger by repeatedly slamming it into a bush of thorns for twenty minutes. He didn’t know at the time but it was dark “entities” that were making him do it. When I told a cult expert friend who was following my work on this story that Bentinho had openly admitted to torturing a kitten he was not surprised. He said: “Of course he did. He probably bullied and tortured other children as well. Admissions from people like this are never complete.” The torturing of animals when young is a very high predictor of psychopathy later in life.

Bentinho meets most all the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One must meet at least 5 of the below items to qualify as a narcissist:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
  • Believes he is “special” and can only be understood by similarly special, high status people
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a sense of entitlement
  • Is interpersonally exploitative
  • Lacks empathy
  • Is envious of others or believes others are envious of him/her
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

From the articleNarcissist or Sociopath? Similarities, Differences and Signs: 7 reasons why it’s often so tough to spot them, and how you can.

There are many out there who are fully aware of what Bentinho is up to and not buying into it. They have been raising the alarm bell for quite some time:

“Dear God, something always seemed a bit off about Bentinho to me, but I never delved deeply enough into his stuff to realize how insane and dangerous he clearly is…I think it should be quite obvious to any mental health professional that this guy is suffering from classic bipolar I disorder, complete with outright psychosis. I’m staying far, far away.”

“I met Bentinho when I had a radio program and he was a guest. When I saw him backstage, firsthand, I was appalled. I had invited him to speak at a gathering and had to uninvite him. Several of his devotees came forward to me with their being abused psychologically by him. He is an easy one to spot. There are many more who are wolves in sheep’s clothing that have made inroads in our trust that are unwarranted.”

“He was meant to die a few years back. He told all of his followers that he would be leaving the planet…He’s such a ding dong and the people who believe this shit are even more ding dongs!”

In several of his videos there is a manic like energy coming through. Even in his very first posting in 2010 you can identify it. He’s often excited and giddy. Something is off. This video captures what I see more subtly in many of his other videos:

CLIP STARTS AT 1:24

One of his main devotees told me they will sometimes have to “drag him back to the car” because he’ll be so deeply entranced. She translates it has him being in constant state of “the absolute.”

And another clip of him zoning out. This time while on stage. He does this for 9 minutes.

And another:

One of the quintessential characteristics of a narcissist is a reframing of anything they do as just someone else’s issue. It’s “No, it’s not me, it you!” This is Bentinho all day long. It’s his entire “spiritual” schtick. One insider told me how he would just constantly deny, reflect or avoid taking any responsibility for his actions. He said it was classic spiritual bypassing. When I asked one of his girlfriends what Bentinho is like, she said, “He’s like a mirror to myself.” When I asked her what it was like being in a relationship with him she told me “it’s like being constantly shredded.”

Bentinho Massaro claims the people of the world are his children

The Emerging Portrait

After speaking with numerous former insiders about Bentinho, a common perspective emerged. Several thought he was narcissist, but also brilliant and charismatic. One person told me that without any thought, he left a girlfriend in an instant for another woman. Another told me of Bentinho’s lack of care or interest for a retreat participant who had been suffering from serious cold exposure at one of his luxury retreats.

I’m told Bentinho was an only child who was pampered endlessly by his eclectic and offbeat mother. She apparently constantly told him that he was the most perfect, brilliant, amazing child ever. One former member told me that he thinks Bentinho is recreating this childhood reality through the adoration, praise and support from his cult followers. At one point Bentinho even told his mother that she was no longer his mother as both of his parents are students of his now. Interestingly, Andrew Cohen’s mother, Luna Tarlo, started off as his student as well but eventually broke away and wrote a tell all book called “Mother of God.”

Bentinho is a high school drop out who left for India at 16 with the help of his well off parents. He drinks whisky, loves expensive scotch, smokes cigars and loves to throw parties. Bentinho drives a $55,000 Ford Mustang, rents two homes in Sedona and was a hardcore gamer who won a sizable gaming competition when he was younger. It was that expensive Mustang and the $3 million dollar home that he was renting in Boulder that led some former staff members to become incensed at the little to nothing pay he was offering them.

Startup or Cult? Or Both?

“All the best apps, companies, and products have broken the way we live life, transformed how we communicate, and changed our day-to-day. Good products evolve us.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

A simple google search of “startups and cults” reveals numerous articles exploring the similarities between the two. One claims that the best startups are “slightly less extreme kinds of cults” and that cults are “fanatically wrong about something important” whereas the best startups are “fanatically right about something those outside it have missed.”

Undoubtedly, Bentinho has accomplished what Gary Vee defines as the best qualities of a startup. He’s broken the way his followers live life. People have claimed that he’s transformed their “day-to-day” for the better. I’ve heard stories of people being healed from following his teachings, others claim their lives have been improved drastically. He’s also brilliantly combined the startup game with the Guru game, seamlessly intertwining them together.

Bentinho is not alone as being someone who brilliantly combined tech and cult. Spiritual teacher Teal Swan has made serious advancements in this department. A recent article “Spiritual Guru or Dangerous Cult Leader?”explores the ins and outs of her rise to fame. She has 400,000 subscribers on Youtube, almost 60,000 followers on Instagram, 150,000 likes on Facebook, 15,000 Twitter followers and runs a very active discussion forum on her site. She also has a monthly premium membership section on her site as well as an online store with her books and workshops. Her design is also on point. It’s clean, professional and well thought out. She too has created passive income and an attractive brand experience. And she’s only just beginning.

We are witnessing the birth of a new era — Cult 2.0. Teachers like Bentinho Massaro and Teal Swan offer a glimpse of what is to come. There will be a new rise of cult leaders who brilliantly use technology to grow their enterprises. Can you imagine if Jim Jones had Instagram or Facebook live? And what happens when virtual reality comes into play, something that Bentinho himself said is part of his company’s evolution?

The End Game

“To me death is not a fearful thing. It’s living that’s cursed.” — Jim Jones

“I really feel like he is setting people up for a mass suicide. He talked about ‘The harvest.’ I always had a weird feeling.” — Former core staff member

Several Bentinho people, both former and current members have acknowledged a shift in his teachings over the last year. Some former members and staff are concerned and fearing the worst.

More recently Bentinho has been stepping into the role of awakened Guru and his teachings have become darker and more focused on “The Void” and “The Absolute.” He is normalizing dying. Bentinho claims to not be responsible for his actions. He thinks he can sleep with and psychologically abuse students with impunity. He’s begun “experimenting” on a core group of “guinea pig” students. He’s pushing his members to stop eating and drinking water for extended periods of time. Bentinho has successfully led his members away from themselves by attacking the core of their identities and diminishing their use of reason or logic. Everything, including Bentinho’s shouting, verbal abuse or strange actions are now expected to be interpreted as positive. He talks about the grand vision of building an enlightened city, finding land and taking his people there.

Wacky spiritual ideas, government conspiracies, alien contact or desert meditations are not that surprising for Sedona. There’s something much more disturbing going on in Bentinho’s group, however. The evidence is clear and incontrovertible. Bentinho Massaro has built the quintessential 21st century cult.

How a Cult Infiltrated the California Institute of Integral Studies

In 2011 the California Institute of Integral Studies concluded a several month long investigation into Cultural Anthropology professors Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro. Both were fired citing a “cult-like environment,” “exploitation,” and a “siege mentality” among other reasons. In 2007 I was one of four students who walked out of the program reporting serious dysfunction. This is the never been told story of how it unfolded.

Written by Be Scofield, M.Div
FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

[Each of these articles takes up to 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]

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1/3/2017

“In its function, the power to punish is not essentially different from that of curing or educating.” — Michel Foucault

Ten years ago, in April of 2007, I walked out of the Cultural Anthropology graduate program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). To this day, I’ve never stepped foot back in the building. I’m not sure I ever will again.

I was one of four students who left, mid-semester, and blew the whistle on a personality cult surrounding professor Angana Chatterji and her husband professor Richard Shapiro. We reported in great detail serious psychological abuse, manipulation, exploitation and dysfunction. We warned them that a cult was in their midst.

The school hired an ombudsperson who did a minor investigation at the time, but nothing came of it. CIIS, a major center in the history of the human potential movement, mostly ignored our heartfelt warnings. They offered to refund our spring semester tuition if we agreed not to sue them. The four of us signed the document. The refund was a small token considering what had transpired.

That was 2007.

Almost four years later, in December 2011, both professors were fired by the school with a great sense of urgency. The Faculty Hearing Board who recommended their termination issued a dire warning, “There is substantial risk to further damage to students and CIIS unless immediate action is undertaken.”

The Making of a Cult

Like so many others who entered the Cultural Anthropology program I was a passionate and dedicated social activist who wished to combine theory with practice. The program seemed like a dream come true. With a deep interest in spirituality, the school at large was very appealing as well. And attending an institution where “San Francisco is your campus” as CIIS advertised was thrilling.

None of us could have ever imagined what we were about to walk into. Whatever notions we had about what it meant to be a scholar-activist were about to be twisted beyond all measure. Years of trauma, mountains of loss and lots of unwanted financial debt would be accumulated as a result.

“Dr. Angana Chatterji is the most powerful being I have ever met…Her capacity borderlines on Mastery. Her power is deeply complex…She uses concentrated rage with Mastery…I am becoming a Master — like her I conjure divinity…These beings [Angana and Richard Shapiro] resonate on degrees of consciousness barely comprehensible to others…She [Angana] is the one whom we fear, to whom we gravitate… and in her presence we share divine expression, visions of practice, healing, and transformation. She conjures Kali and she is a destroyer.” — Former Anthropology student

A Radical New Self

Apparently being part of a social change movement meant accepting a cult-like environment because the indoctrination began on day one. Professor Angana Chatterji stormed into class and started screaming and yelling at us. She screamed at students for anything from showing up thirty seconds late to class to asking questions and shutting off a cell phone before class. It was just a tactic; the reason didn’t matter. It effectively shocked us into subservience and fear.

From that class onward, there was not a week that went by where I did not witness a student break down in tears in her classes. Sometimes it was from yelling, targeting, or abuse. Other times it was from students confessing, purging and revealing themselves in response to a radical new way of being — something that the pedagogy required in the most unhealthy ways. The workload was also demanding and often pushed students beyond their means. I witnessed many deaths and rebirths while in that program, including my own.

Terms from very important postcolonialist, anti-racist, socialist and feminist discourses were used as jargon to control, abuse and manipulate a group of idealistic and passionate change-makers who really cared. You’ll remember that Jim Jones, also from San Francisco, used a similarly revolutionary approach when building his people’s temple. Both were abusive, totalizing, controlling, all-consuming, and emancipatory. Both were rooted in passionate expressions of social justice and an inherently dysfunctional framework.

From the beginning, we were taught that the Cultural Anthropology program was part of “the revolution” and that we were now part of it. Angana repeatedly talked about the program being under attack — both from internal (CIIS) and external enemies. She frequently spoke of her brilliance, accomplishments, and all the books she had read. We were often told since the age of two, people had been trying to kill her. Long, often incoherent “lectures” would consist of rambling about her personal life, paranoia about the program being destroyed, yelling at students, and distorting ideas of theorists like Foucault. She was powerful, important and in danger we believed.

Former CIIS professors Angana Chatterji & Richard Shapiro

We showed up willing and able to do whatever it took for the cause. Angana exploited us beyond recognition. She effectively used jargon and the discourse to force us to restructure, brutally interrogate and dismantle our sense of self in the most pathological way possible. It’s a classic cult grooming technique; itjust so happened that the languaging in this cult used social justice concepts.

It was a brilliant trap. If we objected to the genuine abuse and dysfunction that was going on we were the enemy of the revolution. Even the most radical women of color in the program who protested abuse were too racist according to Angana. Despite being fully committed to an anti-racist and feminist pedagogy the students were still targets. We walked around on eggshells. We didn’t want to be the one that compromised the program by saying or doing the wrong thing.

A climate of fear pervaded the program. Students policed each other, turning in anyone who betrayed the core doctrine or said anything even mildly critical about the professors. Dissent was not tolerated. The most loyal were rewarded with social status and unethical academic reward by the professors. The most disloyal would be subject to public interventions in class, yelling and shame from fellow students.

Angana and Richard got away with it because there was no avenue for students to report our concerns. Angana had graduated from the very same program years earlier while her husband was the chair of the department. After she graduated, Richard made her a core faculty member. This pushed Mutombo M’Panya, a professor who Angana had studied under, to the sidelines. Any concerns we had with Angana we were instructed to go to Richard and vice versa. Obviously, that was useless. And unlike every other department at CIIS, there were no course evaluations in the Cultural Anthropology program. We were trapped.

Walking Out

The four of us who left mid-semester in 2007 didn’t all walk out at exactly the same time. Two women initially left at first, one a woman of color from Africa with a Master’s degree from Stanford. It was a short time later when I caught Angana lying to our class about why they had left that everything began to unravel for me and I left. A fourth student left shortly after I did.

And while four of us walked out during the 2007 Spring semester it was actually five of us who left the program in total. Earlier on in the year a woman of color left mid-semester after Angana screamed at her relentlessly in class for saying she was struggling with the complexity of Gayatri Spivak’s writing. She merely pondered whether or not this was a barrier for folks trying to apply her ideas to action. Just a week after that incident she left the program.

Those of us who left were publicly attacked and smeared by the professors and their devoted students. Richard Shapiro told one class that we left because of “emotional problems.” A student group email claimed that I hated social justice and associated me with people who had wanted to kill Angana, despite knowing I had a long history of social activism. Angana lied to us in class telling us the first two women who walked out, “were needing time away from the program and did not wish to be contacted.” Later, the professors and students circulated the lie that these two students had hired lawyers.

On one occasion after I left, Angana read a personal email of mine word for word without any permission to the entire class. She also spoke about information from another one of my emails without any permission.

I just knew Angana had lied to us in class so I reached out to the two students and told them what she had said. I was right. They had never said what she claimed.

At that point everything began to unravel for me. The night I discovered Angana had been lying to us I stayed up all night moaning and screaming in pain in my abdomen. It was the same place I had felt pain when she yelled at me one day in class. I took myself to the Emergency Room but was dismissed with stress being the cause of my suffering. After the long, tumultuous night of distress, I began to feel as if I had taken my power back for the first time. It was liberating.

It was against great pressure and loss that we stepped out mid-semester. Money, our education, our future, our reputation and our friends were all on the line. This stress is why it was so difficult for students to speak up in this program.

Photo of a class at the California Institute of Integral Studies

Years of Abuse

Those of us who left gave detailed, in-depth accounts of what was happening in the program. CIIS was fully warned.

One of the women who initially left included a long list of complaints in her document to the school. They read in part:

  • Fear, intimidation, shame and guilt as organizing principles in Dr. Chatteji’s classes
  • Psychological abuse and manipulation of students by Dr. Chatterji, affecting students mental and physical health to the point of needing to seek medical and psychological care
  • Suppression of dissent/critique through retaliation, intimidation, shame, and guilt
  • Invasive monitoring and ‘strategic coaching’ of students by Dr. Chatterji
  • Thought police: students functioning as informants to instructor
  • Failure to provide an intellectual space that allows for independent thought or disagreement
  • Coercion to disclose personal information about oneself through manipulative pedagogy of what is required as a student in the program
  • Targeting, hazing, and manipulation of individual students throughout Dr. Chatterji’s lectures
  • Forced disclosures of personal information through intimidation
  • Manipulative use of favoritism and financial help by Dr. Chatterji

Many of these points would be echoed almost word for word in the later Hearing Board report published four years later.

Richard Shapiro and Angana Chatterji

I remember the ombudsperson telling me how utterly perplexed she was with the students feeling that any criticism would bring down the program. She was trying to make sense as to why they believed the program was at risk of being destroyed. I told her they were brainwashed and that Angana had built a cult.

After I left, a woman of color wrote to me her concerns while she was still in the program:

“I am finding this program to be a huge assault to my self-esteem…I find it hard to believe anyone could meet Angana’s standards for showing up, and I am a bit tired of hearing lectures about “not showing up properly”…I feel as though I am constantly teetering on the edge of sanity, and I too am concerned for my overall physical and psychological well-being… As a result of not addressing these concerns sooner, we are all more in debt, and the consequences of our choice to stay or leave has increasingly become more weighted.”

The same student who wrote the bullet point list above also wrote:

“I have witnessed Dr. Chatterji ‘outing’ personal information about students in class. The organizing principles within some of the classes are guilt, shame, intimidation, and fear. ‘Self reflexivity’ and ‘interrogation’ are mandated in invasive and judgmental ways, that border on character annihilation, and it appears for some, self annihilation. Students are hazed and intimidated in Dr. Chatterji’s classes. Some students act as informants to faculty, and ‘interventions’ are ‘staged’ in the classroom based on the information given that are meant to silence dissent or critique, via shame and guilt. I will leave this Institute with a deepened awareness of the reproductions of dominance through the very discourses that profess to dismantle it.”

From another one of the students who left, “This is not the department of “parrotology”; neither is it the department of “Anganology.” So why are you talking like a parrot and why are you talking on Angana Chatterji’s behalf?”

I once wrote an email with some mild concerns about the program to the other students in my cohort. For my “sin” I was turned in to Angana. My punishment was to be berated by Angana in class for thirty minutes. Knowing what was about to transpire, Angana forced the only non-anthropology student to leave the classroom saying “we have some business to take care of.” I had a terrible anxiety attack as she lambasted me in front of 20 of my peers. This is when I felt the horrible pain in my abdomen. I remember I was sitting near the window and I wanted to jump out to escape. I was extremely emotionally disturbed by this experience as I viewed Angana in high regard. I internalized the whole thing and believed I was a terrible person. I spent most of the next week, which was Spring break, in my room in tears believing I needed to purge the sickness that was inside of me.

Fellow students absolutely railed into me for writing that email. I literally wrote that I had some concerns about papers never being turned back on time, how our group work could be more effective and how I was frustrated with the Angana using lecture time to not lecture. That’s it. Everything I said was proven true later, but at the time I was a heretic.

In response to the student emails to me I profusely apologized like the good cult member I was. I searched deep inside myself to purge the violence inside:

“Thank you for everyone calling me out. I deeply apologize. I wrote this in a bad state of mind and should have given serious reflection and thought to what I was experiencing…But of course everything I said says everything about me and very little about Angana or this program. The email is offensive and filled with violence. I deeply regret this. I am struggling with it and I apologize for making this public and violent and associating others in the process.”

Violence? It’s unbelievable looking back at this as the email was so ridiculously benign. You can read the email here. But I was so torn up and confused. I was brainwashed. I didn’t understand what was happening.

It’s ironic because the student who wrote the most hateful attack against me was the first one to leave just a few weeks later! She then became subject to the same scapegoating that she had just subjected me to.

I wrote to Angana after this incident. I tore myself up in the email. It is painful to read. I ended with:

“I am convinced that this idea of choosing your parents is not true, because if it were I would have chosen you and Richard. I have taken too much of your time. I am sorry that I have acted the way that I did. I am sorry that I carry these violences with me. You are both very kind. Thank you so much. I promise I will not write anymore. I cannot often see what I am saying. If there are any problematics in this email please let me know.”

A staged public intervention, numerous hateful emails, several confessions and apologies on my part for a benign email trying to start a dialogue about concerns I had about the program.

For so many of us, Angana was our mother — the mother we never had. Students regularly shared their deepest struggles with her. Waiting to see her in her office, you could hear the tears. They would walk out a sobbing mess. I opened up to her in her office one day and told her I was trans. She was one of the few people at that point I had shared that with. One person told me that Angana even spoke about something personal they had shared in private during a class, publicly outing something very sensitive. The revealing of personal information led to an even greater power imbalance, making it that much more difficult for students to speak out against the professors.

CIIS Faculty room

As I look back on the emails I sent to Angana ten years ago, I am saddened and horrified. I sent long confessions, details about my struggle with gender dysphoria and intimate things about my life.

“I am trapped in this body. I am trapped in this hotel. I am trapped in the Tenderloin. I am trapped in this program. One professor assigns 200 pages a week — writing on every chapter as well. I open the book and start crying…alone…had a few friends here at this hotel but they moved out…I do want to stay in the program; I want to stay in this city. I don’t know; maybe it has just been a very hard transition for me.

If it was just isolation I could deal with it, but I am isolated from myself. I can deal with the gunshots, the sirens, the screams, the cigarette smoke on my floor, the mice, the rain on my face at night. But I can’t deal with this feminine spirit that seeks reconciliation. I can’t deal with not being able to speak. I am running out of tears. She screams through me. Maybe for one day she will speak.

It’s late; I’m tired…my words are too violent.”

Elsewhere I told her “I wish to do nothing that would jeopordize this opportunity or my relationships with my professors”.

One of Angana’s close assistants once told me how Angana coerced her into giving her a very special ring that had been passed down from her grandmother. She repeatedly resisted but Angana persisted and she eventually gave in. She said something like when Angana was upset with her she would wear the ring in class. When Angana was not upset she wouldn’t wear it.

The ring example is just one of many that illustrate how manipulative and controlling Angana was. What I’ve reported is only a fraction of what actually occurred in the program. Undoubtedly, there are countless more stories of abuse and exploitation at the hands of Angana and Richard. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

I Never Gave Up

I refused to give up after leaving the program and kept pushing the issue behind the scenes. I was angry and concerned. I wrote a lengthy in-depth document called “Reason and Revolution in the Anthropology Department” that detailed the extent of dysfunction occurring. I had someone send it to the CIIS student listserv. It included emails and important statements from the students who left. I was publicly attacked by the anthropology students and the professors but kept pushing back. A final 60-page version of my report was sent out somewhat later called “When Silence is Necessary.” I also repeatedly emailed administrators, professors and staff.

From the title page of the 60 page document I released in 2007

After my concerted efforts I was told things were changing. Pushing the issue and going public apparently had an impact. It held Angana and Richard accountable to a larger audience and brought the issues outside of the single minded mentality of the anthropology program.

I received numerous emails from students not in the anthropology program in response to my efforts to expose them. It was clear they could see what was transpiring:

“I am very glad you sent this to all the faculty and administration. I really hope they find a way to fire that psycho Chatterji and her husband Shapiro. They are a disgrace to CIIS and it is a crime that our tuition supports such vile behavior. And again thanks for taking all that heat and never giving up! Blessings to you! You were a godsend to CIIS!”

“Your ability to think about your experience, make meaning of it, and educate others about the dangers of groupthink is a testament to your resiliency. Best of luck in all of your future endeavors. Any academic institution would be luck to have you.”

“I am so glad you fought this through all the way. As I think I mentioned before I almost did not come to CIIS because my first contact with it was Angana Chatterji and I thought she was insane. I really hope they get rid of her. It is an embarrassment that she is employed by CIIS. I want my PhD to be from a reputable school. Best of luck to you and again thank you for fighting this through and informing everyone you can.”

My persistent efforts weren’t enough to end their reign, however. That didn’t happen for several years but the foundation had been planted.

An Investigation Ensues

Former Dean of Faculty Judie Wexler (current CIIS President) & former Dean of Students Shirley Strong

The investigation that began four years after we left was initiated when the entire 2011 PhD Cultural Anthropology cohort refused to return. It was also spurred on after Angana and Richard orchestrated a plan to fire fellow anthropology professor Matthew Bronson. They convinced their students, most of whom didn’t really know Matthew, to sign a petition to get him fired. These sorts of group emails with mass signatures were common in the department. It’s how uniformity was ensured and one of the ways dissent was squashed. Combined with the previous history of complaints, Dean of Faculty Judie Wexler and Dean of Students Shirley Strong began a full investigation.

While I wasn’t directly involved in 2011 there were many students involved in the process of accountability. One student explains, “In the fall of 2011 I and many others were doing an immense amount of organizing work, every day and week, to support two dozen student whistleblowers, have healing story circles, secret meetings in bars, get people access to trauma counseling, putting out fires that the Inner Circle folks were lighting with their framing of the hearing process as a violation of academic freedom, meetings with the administration, etc. It took so much work from so many people to make the hearing process move forward.”

In order to ensure fairness, both the two professors, Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro and the CIIS admin had the right to nominate and veto faculty to the three-member Hearing Board that would decide their fate. During the summer of 2011 the board heard testimony from students and CIIS staff, including Angana and Richard and they evaluated letters, files and numerous documents.

Hearing Board members (left to right): Brant Cortright, Tanya Wilkinson & Jim Ryan

Some of Angana and Richard’s closest followers, assistants and longtime PhD students (7 years+) flipped on them and told their stories, revealing everything. For the first time students who had previously been too terrified to come forward, finally spoke their truth. There were approximately 19 written statements presented against Angana and Richard in addition to the five witnesses that spoke against them. The two professors also got to have five students of their choosing testify on their behalf during the hearings.Angana and Richard and the school administration were allowed to question and cross-examine each witness.

“She conjures Kali, and she is a destroyer”

Angana and Richard were suspended during the investigation. Their closest students were not happy about that.

During the investigation one student could be found in the hallway of CIIS crying while fasting. He stated, “I weep compassion and vulnerability — the compensatory emotional fields needed to heal and transform our school.” He warned that if the Anthropology program’s “core disappears [Angana & Richard]… be forewarned: The ecology of place, of CIIS, and of the Earth is in jeopardy.”

One student went on a 13-day hunger strike in October to try and get Angana and Richard reinstated during their suspension. She stated, “I fast because it is the only way I know how to physically express the starvation I feel every day that passes, wasted in the wind, void of the education I was promised. I fast in hope that it brings me peace amongst the chaos that has become my life…That our lives have been destroyed — forever altering them, robbing them their bounty of education?! How dare you dangle something so precious as that in front of my face, letting me get just a taste, and then greedily snatch it back!”

Tires were slashed in the CIIS parking lot. People were harassed and threatened. One student even had their entire computer erased by Angana’s most devoted student.

The same student who fasted in the hallway also wrote the very cultish statement that deserves repeating:

“Dr. Angana Chatterji is the most powerful being I have ever met…Her capacity borderlines on Mastery. Her power is deeply complex…She uses concentrated rage with Mastery…I am becoming a Master — like her I conjure divinity…These beings [Angana and Richard Shapiro] resonate on degrees of consciousness barely comprehensible to others…She [Angana] is the one whom we fear, to whom we gravitate… and in her presence we share divine expression, visions of practice, healing, and transformation. She conjures Kali and she is a destroyer.”

Another Angana devotee professed her love:

“Yes, she can be opinionated and if you don’t know Anganaese (the nickname I gave her language), it can be overwhelming. But, she helped ME to open my mind and my heart to the world around me…This has allowed me to maintain a descriptive relationship to Self, within a framework of unorganized, non-directional selfs (sounds familiar?)…if you felt intimidated by Angana, that was lesson 101…I AM LESSON 202…CALL ME….”

This talk of “unorganized, non-directional selfs” was typical of the jargon used to dismantle our internal stability and make us question ourselves.

Fired from CIIS

Angana and Richard were fired when the investigation was completed. Their firing confirmed everything the four of us whistleblowers reported several years earlier.

As in accordance with the Faculty procedures the Hearing Board produced two reports detailing the findings against Angana and Richard.

“The Hearing Board was shocked at the climate of fear and intimidation within the program fostered by Dr. Chatterji. The abuse of power, the stifling of students’ growth and professional development, the controlling behavior towards students in their personal lives and the CIIS Student Association and in supposedly confidential student surveys, the “siege mentality” in which enemies were seen to be constantly threatening the two leaders of the program who then needed to be protected at all costs, the traumatization of students and the ensuing loss of confidence and self-esteem, the strong negative impact on their academic and professional careers, the exploitation of students for faculty interests, the promotion of a cult-like atmosphere that banishes dissent and dissenters…”

The Hearing Board also found a “knowing or reckless violation of established students rights to confidentiality, to non-discrimination, non-harassment and non-retaliation,” the violation of “the professional ethics of the Institute,” “Dishonesty, including misapplication of funds,” and “Persistent failure to perform position-related assignments or other neglect of academic duties.” The board recommended they “be relieved of all duties and dismissed from the Institute” as “there is substantial risk to further damage to students and CIIS unless immediate action is undertaken.”

Image from the final CIIS report on the investigation.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FINAL CIIS REPORTS (PDF)

On December, 5th 2011 president Joseph Subbiondo emailed faculty and staff with the findings of the Hearing Board:

Dear Faculty and Staff,

In keeping with the requirements of the Faculty Handbook, the Faculty Hearing Board sent me its recommendations that Professor Angana Chatterji and Professor Richard Shapiro be terminated from CIIS for cause (for copies of the recommendations and the reports of the Faculty Hearing Board, please see the attached). After reviewing the Reports, the transcripts of the hearing, and the supporting evidence for the hearing, I have sustained the recommendations. I transmitted the Faculty Hearing Board’s recommendations and reports as well as my sustaining recommendations to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees has decided to sustain the recommendations of the Faculty Hearing Board and of the President for the termination of the faculty members.

Former CIIS President Joseph Subbiondo

While we are grateful that the hearing process has concluded, I am mindful that other steps remain to support our Social and Cultural Anthropology program (SCA) and to enable it to fulfill its full potential. We will continue to provide an Anthropology program that is committed to social justice, social advocacy, and postcolonial Anthropology. Professors Mutombo Mpyana, Andrej Grubacic, Hodari Toure, and Fouzieyha Towghi will teach in Spring semester 2012, along with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Eddie Yuen.

A priority throughout this difficult fall semester has been attempting to work with Anthropology students on an individual basis to address their academic concerns and ensure their academic progress. This will remain a key component of our efforts to support the department.

I especially wish to thank the members of the Faculty Hearing Board and of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council who appointed them for their extraordinary commitment to due process.

Sincerely, Joe

Joseph L. Subbiondo

President

The Aftermath

One high-level official at CIIS with whom I had been in contact, emailed, “I can’t believe it! This is amazing. After four years…it’s all over! At least the biggest part of it…Interested in returning to a new program with excellent faculty? You might be able to negotiate a free completion of your MA.”

The new program and directors are great I just had no interest. I was too traumatized by the whole experience and the way CIIS had handled it.

The impact of this situation on students’ lives is hard to grasp. Many of us were extremely traumatized and deeply wounded. We lost months or years of work that was abruptly ended or wouldn’t transfer to other schools. I personally lost $20,000 between tuition and living expenses. Angana’s main student, who eventually flipped on her, developed cancer in the midst of the collapse of the program. For years I had PTSD and probably still have it today. I cannot imagine the cumulative personal, financial, and emotional impact this had on students.

It’s ironic because the Cultural Anthropology program was the most critical at CIIS of religion and spirituality. In practice, however, it most embodied the stereotypical religious structure. It was dogmatic, controlling, salvific, authoritarian and abusive.

Art Exhibition at the California Institute of Integral Studies

That a personality cult of this nature could exist for so long and do so much damage in an academic institution should teach us all something. Cults don’t only exist in far off places where the members wear strange garb and chant in tongues. The cultish mechanisms of control, manipulation and authoritarianism can seep into our most modern, “conscious” structures, institutions and practices.

Other than the Hearing Board reports sent to faculty and staff there has been no public acknowledgment by CIIS of this situation that I’m aware of. Now that the story is public, perhaps there can be transparency on CIIS’ part of what happened.

Studying this graduate school cult is important in preventing similar instances in the future. What happened in the Cultural Anthropology program at the California Institute of Integral Studies must never be forgotten. No group or leader, regardless of how secular or how supported they are by a trusted institution, is immune from reproducing a cult like environment. We should always remain suspicious of power.

I’ll end with a particularly relevant quote from Noam Chomsky, “Any social arrangement that inhibits or constrains that free creative capacity is fundamentally illegitimate unless they can justify themselves. Any structure of authority, domination, hierarchy whether it’s in a patriarchal family or in international affairs should be subject to challenge. It’s not self justifying.”

Tantra Teacher Andrew Barnes Accused of Rape and Sexual Abuse

Several women have accused “tantra” teacher Andrew Barnes of rape, sexual assault and abuse. Most of the abuse victims report receiving multiple sessions free of charge. His long time teacher Shantam Nityama was recently outed for sexual abuse and running a cult. Barnes was a head teacher at ISTA (International School of Temple Arts) for some time. They parted ways over his stance on animal rights and ISTA eating animal heart during their trainings. Barnes apparently “would get furious” if anyone hurt an animal.


Andrew Barnes did not respond to my request for an interview. 

Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented byUnited Talent Agency / FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

12/17/18

Larissa Gray met Andrew Barnes at the European ISTA conference where he was teaching in 2010. She was with a tantric massage therapist friend who saw Andrew and remarked about how amazing he was. This gave her trust in him she said. While in another teachers workshop he started to perform energetic orgasm on her. And he offered her free session in his room at lunchtime. 

Larissa did end up going to his room for a treatment. She started to really open up to him. At that time she didn’t know anything about protecting her boundaries or boundary work. She claims that he then raped her during the session. 

“I was telling him all my fears about men and my past. I had been celibate for years in my healing process. He started doing the energetic work on me and the next thing I know he was penetrating me. He never asked consent. There was no verbal conversation. He just did it. I just froze. It lasted about five minutes and he did not use a condom. He then ran out of the room to go present about student/teacher sexual boundaries at the ISTA conference.”

She was conflicted about how to handle it. “I was in a difficult position. Everyone was looking up to this guy. I was a newbie to this world. I didn’t want to be pushed away out of the group.”

“This was a teacher, I thought I was safe. He took my light and destroyed it and he’s not having it anymore. I want it back!”

Larissa Gray is one of several women who are now speaking out about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Andrew Barnes. 

RELATED: The Divine Madman: Inside Shantam Nityama’s “Tantric Sex Cult”


A self-described “internationally acclaimed tantric teacher,” Barnes is the latest in a string of “tantric” healers to be accused of sexual abuse. His long time teacher Shantam Nityama was recently accused of sexual abuse and running a sex cult in an in depth expose.

Barne’s bio states that he has taught in 46 countries. He has offered his “Tantric Body Dearmouring” and full body orgasm workshops around the world. His business is called Awakening Within Foundation. It’s a non-governmental organization that allows him to operate tax free a source said. He was also a head teacher with the “International School of Temple Arts” (ISTA) for some time.

Andrew Barnes Interview in an Estonian magazine

A similar pattern emerges out of the women’s stories who were interviewed. Three women allege Barnes raped them, two allege sexual assault and one claims he groomed her into having sex with him during sessions. One woman said she knows there have been several other women who have also been victimized by Barnes. Some of the women received multiple “tantric” sessions from Barnes and most all of them were free. Some women were groomed over the course of several sessions to slowly break down their boundaries. All of the women report a desire to heal, open or learn more about tantra. And they were trusting of Barnes. They believed that he had their best interest in mind.


Andrea Williams (not her real name) described a sensual healing session where Andrew Barnes raped her. Like other women, Andrea had several sessions with Andrew and he progressively groomed her.

Andrea first met Andrew at an annual retreat and had attended some of his workshops and been to some of his cuddle parties that he hosted outside of the event. It was after one of the retreats that Andrew offered her a 3-session package at a “very reduced price” she said. She took him up on the offer saying that she trusted him to know where to take her. It was during the third session that she said he raped her. 

“I was in total orgasmic state. I hear this voice and he said “you need to ground. You need to come back into your body.” I couldn’t even talk, because I was so out of my body in an orgasmic state. I could hear him, what sounded like in the distance, saying ‘I don’t do this very often but sometimes it’s helpful to have the penis in the vagina.’ Next thing I knew was his penis was in my vagina. I didn’t have time to say yes, or no, let alone give consent. He put his penis inside of me for a few minutes. I never gave him consent. I was still off in orgasmic land. He then pulled out and left me to get dressed. No discussion about what happened, or how I felt after the session. I left felt very confused as to what had happened and only many years later realised the actual extent of what had happened and how he had totally manipulated me.

There are so many ways he could have grounded me back into my body. He could have got me down regulating my breath which grounds you, he could have put his hand on my belly to ground me. He most certainly didn’t need to put his penis in me without consent to do this. It was all to stroke his ego.”


Sophia Nielsen (not her real name) was a short time lover with Andrew. Although most sexual experiences happened with consent she explained that she once was met by a very different Andrew. “He was aggressive, his eyes looked different. He held me down and forcefully had sex with me against my will. I froze and was in shock.” The experience was non-consensual but she was too overwhelmed to know how to act she said. “He was my lover and I couldn’t believe he would actually do this.”


Andrew demonstrated a pattern of grooming with Victoria Holloway (not her real name) over the course of several sessions. She was young, only 20 at the time, and was very impressionable she said. She stayed with him for a month on the recommendation of a friend whom she told she needed a place. She had no idea who he was or what he taught. Barnes eventually asked her if she wanted a “discovery session.” In subsequent sessions she claimed he sexually assaulted her by performing oral sex on her without consent. They also did a “self-pleasuring ritual” together in his healing room during a “session.” Later they became sexual and lovers. Like the other women, all of her sessions were free.

“Andrew framed it as ‘I want to do a session with you’ and I said ok. It was a talking session. He just hit the nail on the head with my stuff, my trauma, my relationship to my dad and so on. He touched on my ultimate fears, fear of abandonment, betrayal, rejection. He literally blew my mind that he knew and how well he read me. It opened me a lot and made me hugely trust, I thought he was God.

The second session came a few days later. He was giving me a massage and doing some energy work. He may have asked if he could touch my yoni, I don’t remember. He did though. He then went down on me and I was very surprised as I did not know that was part of an ‘energy session’. He never asked my consent. I froze in my body completely. He then made me orgasm.

The next session he proposed that we do a self-pleasuring session together. We were both naked in his healing room masturbating. I don’t think he even had a reason, maybe a ‘ritual’. The whole thing lasted about 30 minutes and he ejaculated.”

“Is any of this tantra? I don’t think so” she said.

Victoria said Andrew would often be masturbating to porn in his room in the open with the door open.

Several months later he was in her town and came to her place to do a healing session with her. She said she was very “open and orgasmic.” She continues. “He was really going for it and I asked him if he would penetrate me and he did. He used a condom and ejaculated inside of me.”

Later, he paid for her to go to another country to attend his de-armouring workshop. She didn’t know what to expect. She describes what happened:

“He asked if I’d be the demo for the session. He was inside of me and fucking pounding me with his fingers. I’ve never felt so much pain. There was much pain and so much emotion. Very, very intense and very orgasmic. He was trying to make me ejaculate although I had no idea about this at the time. He did not make me ejaculate.”

While together at this time they were sleeping together frequently and had become lovers.

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

Andrew Barnes teaching at the Evolution festival

Faith Wright, a tantra teacher and former organizer for Andrew said she stopped hosting him for events after she received numerous complaints from women about him violating them sexually and crossing their boundaries during sessions. Wright said witnessing a disturbing incident in a training where he violated a woman without her consent also led to her stop working with him. “The woman was in a state of shock” she said.

She also witnessed highly controlling behavior towards his young girlfriend who was around 22 at the time. Andrew was in his late 40s. “The way I observed him treating her I just wanted to put her on a plane back home and get her away from him. I tried to insert myself to spend time with her and he was incredibly controlling of me spending time with her alone.”

Wright said she no longer promotes or recommends male tantra teachers because “every single one of them has complaints.” She said “my focus is healing, not further traumatization.”


Cathy Neff (not her real name) received around five sessions from Andrew — all free of charge as well. She believed the sessions would entail energy work and massage. She said he never told her he would do yoni massage. At the beginning of the session he told her “take all your clothes off and lay on the table.”

“He seemed like he was trying the energy work that he does. Light touching here and there. He never asked but he just started rubbing my yoni and gave me a yoni massage. I felt kind of frozen. I didn’t really expect that. I was really surprised and I was freaking out. My first reaction was I’m going against my relationship.”

She said that he said it was ok because it was how sexual therapists “all around the world” work. “He told me to be mindful of who I talk to about the sessions as others wouldn’t understand.”

In subsequent sessions Andrew had sex with her. 

“One time he suggested sex in the session and I was like ‘no way.’ He never pressured me or forced me but he did suggest it again the next time. I really wanted to heal and be open and I thought if I do this extreme thing and massively cross my regular boundaries it will really open me. I thought maybe it is some kind of healing transmission that just opens a woman so much. It sounds so fucked up and crazy but I trusted that he had my best interest at heart and I thought if it’s for healing I can just do it and then I’ll be open.”

She said she had sex with him during two sessions and that there was “no healing transmission” and it “really wasn’t anything special.” She said it did not help her heal or open. “It was just a guy getting off.”

“I did end up feeling like I had gone against my relationship in the worst way possible and felt so much guilt and shame. Andrew recommended not to tell my partner, and this caused so much inner turmoil and conflict within my heart. I just wanted to heal and open but all of this was not helpful or necessary and in the end felt very damaging.”


Naomi Evans said that her experience receiving vaginal dearmouring work from Barnes was very violent and has left her with problems urinating years after.  She was in “complete shut down mode” and the session was a “catastrophe” she said. Namoi said Andrew “forcefully hammers” and that it “very easily creates physical damage.” The pressure was a “9 out of 10” she said.

Naomi described how Andrew would participate in an exercise where men and women yelled at each other to release aggression. She said he would yell at a female student for 15-minutes and then be yelled at by the student. She said he would say “I need to have this possibility to participate because I have so much rage against women.” She said “many women felt very unsafe that he participated in his role as a teacher. He should have held space. Instead he would be very, very angry towards women.”

She said she witnessed Andrew being aggressive and yelling in a variety of situations. 

At the beginning of workshops she said Andrew would tell the students “I am a grown up man. Everyone here is grown up. If I want to have sex with someone I can because everyone is grown up.” He would then say “agree?” and ask for people to raise their hands if they did. Naomi said she felt this was inappropriate given his role as an authority and teacher in the space. “He is very charismatic and very good with words” she said.


One of the women said something particularly poignant for our times. “Being a tantra teacher allows someone to get sex, fame and money without having much to offer.” It’s painfully true. Perhaps this is the heart of the matter. These men like Andrew Barnes were never in it for the tantra or the healing. They were in it for themselves. For the sex, the money, the power and the status. Tantra was their ruse to get their rocks off. But now the whole world is watching. #TimesUp #MeToo

The Yoga Barn Guru: Inside Uma Inder’s Bali Cult

Ex-followers claim Yoga teacher Uma Inder used the world famous Yoga Barn studio in Ubud, Bali to operate a cult from 2008 until she was fired in 2016. She groomed potential members there, promising them “enlightenment.” They claim she verbally and physically assaulted members and slept with students. She frequently compared herself to Jesus and said she was God, Kali and Death. Uma told devotees they will feel “raped” by working with her and that they’d actually become Uma while making love. Full transparency and confession were required of members. Group sessions would include chanting in tongues, yelling and harshly criticizing other members. A “sex energy” ritual ended up with everyone naked in the pool moaning while holding Uma over their heads. Yoga Barn founder Meghan Pappenheim then showed hostility towards cult survivors who reported abuse, calling it a “witch hunt” against Uma.


Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented byUnited Talent Agency / FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

[Each of these articles takes up to 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]

5/9/18

“Do you know who Kali is?” That’s what longtime Yoga Barn teacher Uma Inder said to her student Kelly Ness (not her real name) right before she assaulted her in front of 13 members of her group. Kelly describes the incident in depth:

“Her eyes were so big and black and they were like bulging and her mouth was big…I was sitting against the wall and she launches for my neck and pushes me up against the wall…She was holding onto my black and gray tights and pulling on them. I was trying to kick her off…And then somehow I got up and we got entangled again…She takes my hair and does a 360 with my hair and it’s being pulled…And at this point, I’m crying…I just remember feeling so fucking scared and so fucking confused as to what I did to deserve this because it was punishment…And then she said ‘I want you to spit on me.’ I was like ‘What? No.’ She then started saying really sweet things. Who was that and who is this right now? What the fuck is this? This is fucked up. She was so loving. And then she told me again to spit on her. I tried, but said I didn’t want to. Then she told me to do it again. And I got some spit but it went on her shirt or something. I couldn’t do that. I tried for a long time just standing there, just crying so much.”

Uma actually had Kelly’s account recorded by followers to document how powerful the force of Kali was moving through her. This audio clip is an edited version of her account. You can hear her crying and trembling while recounting what happened:

“The powerful will worship at my feet. The powerless will rise above me to preach and conspire against me.” — Uma

The Yoga Barn Guru

According to former members, during her time at Yoga Barn from 2008–2016 Uma Inder (ERYT-500) built a cult following using Ayurvedic consultations, Kundalini classes and segments of the Bali Spirit festival which were taught at the Yoga Barn. She used retreat centers and hotels in Bali to hold events and trainings as well. She has also taught at the Byron Yoga Festival in Australia in 2017, the No Mind Festival in Sweden and the Bhinneka Yoga Festival in Indonesia among other places.

“I am a convergence point. All aspects of Shiva. I exist back and here and in the future all at the same time…I’m in all places at all times.” — Uma Inder

Uma used Ayurvedic consultations at the Yoga Barn to identify potential new cult members, former devotees claim. The sessions often had little to do with Ayurveda and would, at times, last as long as 6 hours, they said. She would use “psychological hooks” against those who opened themselves up and made themselves vulnerable in this supposed medical healing context according to former members. It was in these sessions and elsewhere she’d make grandiose promises of enlightenment, saying things such as “you can have it all.” It’s estimated that at least 100 people came through her cult during her time at the Yoga Barn.

Some were in awe at first sight:

“When I first met Uma, I was mesmerized. We walked through the thick red curtains to a beautiful Indian woman with sparkling dark eyes, the whites whiter than white. She pranamed me, and I felt honored and special. She told me I was one of the best trained yogis in the world. I felt seen, appreciated, and special.”

While some members lived in Bali, others would travel to Bali several times a year to study with her. Some would go to Bali for several months out of the year or just a few weeks during a retreat. But members report it was easy for others to get sucked in regardless of how long they stayed. Uma then used an online forum to keep control over members.

“She used yogic practices, Sanskrit terms, and Ayurvedic routines to underpin her authority.”

Uma claims to have spent more than 7 years in the Balinese jungle with her own teacher Sri Shunyata. Since then she claims to “have mastery of Tantra, Kundalini, and Ayurveda.” Yet, a former member describes Uma’s path of spiritual training as abusive:

“By her own account her ‘process’ towards ‘enlightenment’ with her ‘guru’ involved her being the subject of Satanic rituals while high on LSD, demands for unprotected sex with her while he was also having unprotected sex with prostitutes, and being beaten with 2×4’s until she stopped flinching.”

Cult Dynamics

“Cult members who did not give Uma worship and gratitude were punished and ostracized as ‘ungrateful’ and ‘leeches.’”

Former members describe many cult dynamics at play in Uma’s group. Devotees believed Uma was a divine and enlightened being. “Absolute surrender” to Uma was required and imposed on group members. Being part of the cult also required “full transparency.” Members shared everything about themselves with Uma and others. These confessions would be used to control and blackmail members. They would “spend virtually all their free time in service to Uma, on her internet forum, or in group processing sessions.” Some gave tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of free labor to her over the years. Jargon was used such as “FalseID” which meant “aspects of members personalities” which “Uma deemed fake and targeted for destruction.” Uma would often attack other spiritual teachers, and members who contemplated studying with them were accused of “muddying the current.” She would often attribute negative experiences or members’ physical injuries to “divine punishment” for not following her dictates. And Uma’s bodyguard and lover, via the forum and emails, threatened to kill people in the group and threatened to “disintegrate the human form” and “chop off the head”of one woman.

Former members claim Uma controlled many aspects of their lives:

“Cult members are guided, often coercively, on what to eat, what to wear, who to talk to, what to talk about, who to have sex with, what movies to watch (if any), financial payments to Uma, and free labor for Uma. All this coercion is at Uma’s whim, with no basis in any lineage. Cult members gradually become totally dependent on Uma.”

Uma tried to cut off members from outside influence:

“Use of Facebook was shamed and for certain members Uma prohibited it. Cult members were encouraged to spend time largely with each other. Outside connections were labeled by Uma as ‘leaks in the shared container’ of practice. Over time cult members became more and more isolated within the cult.”

Claims of Divinity

A former member describes the terms Uma used to refer to herself as:

“Uma claims that she is God. She regularly self-compares to Jesus and has referred to herself in the first person as Shiva, Death, Kali, Kundalini Maa, Maa, Source, the Absolute, the Revealer, Love, Truth, Nature, “The Way”, and “the process” of enlightenment itself.She has also claimed to have cured herself of HIV, transmuted LSD, and received initiation directly from Shiva.”

She claims she is a “convergence point:”

“I am a convergence point. All aspects of Shiva. I exist back and here and in the future all at the same time…I’m in all places at all times.”

Her repeated claims of divine authority instilled that belief in her followers:

“We had a mission more special than anyone. Uma was, to most of us, the second coming of Christ.Several of us frequently made these comparisons of Uma to Christ, and she encouraged them “seeing,” “revealing the Revealer.” I was particularly good at this. I had great visions of the future. It was one of the ways Uma was “working through me.”

Members believed she was “The Path:”

“Uma would say “I am the Path. I am the Way.” Uma was the path and the way to enlightenment, to God, and being with her was the Holy Grail for the spiritual seeker who could see. Those who didn’t believe or think Uma was God, they just couldn’t see, and we pitied them from our benignly superior stance. They were too programmed, too asleep. We were the awake ones.”

“We were ‘the few.’ The elite. The winners. Of the entire planet.”

Group Sessions

“She kills the souls inside of living bodies. The 18 months I spent with her I look back on as largely being dead, of having my soul and mind consumed by a monster…who lied to me and deceived me in order to achieve her aim of controlling me.”

Group sessions with Uma at the Yoga Barn and other spaces in Bali would often consist of speaking in tongues, confessions and explorations of consciousness and divinity. They served to keep members under her spell.

Speaking in Tongues

Uma would growl, chant, speak in tongues and yell at members during these sessions which would often last 6 or more hours:

“When I come into your dreams it’s evil, evil. Your mouth will widen open, you’ll be vomiting, pouring out what could be seen as evil, evil, evil. What are you letting inside you, what are you letting inside you? Do you even know? Do you know? Do you know? You’ve got to fucking know!”

“Energetic Sex”

Uma had a “track record of dry humping female students” in group sessions members claim. A former member describes a session:

“Several people were lying down inside a circle of others. Uma was pinning women down and pulling hair, and making very aggressive moaning and growling sounds — definitely trying to prove she was top dog.”

One woman describes her experience:

“Uma grabs my hair
and then suddenly I’m on the ground on my back and Uma is on top of me
and it is nearly instant that we are having sex
I am being penetrated by her
We have our clothes on we are grinding sweating
undulating
writhing
it’s just a current of energy
I can feel Uma penetrating me”

This session ended with everyone naked in the pool, moaning while holding Uma over their head. The following morning the hotel next to the villa complained about the disturbance.

Uma Inder was profiled in the 2010 Nov/Dec issue of Spirituality & Health Magazine

“I need to come to Uma. Crying, offering up, offering up. I give up, I lose. I am defeated. Down at Uma’s feet in my mind.”

The practices and methods became more extreme as time went on:

“Over time as the practices become more extreme and as cult members become more psychologically unstable, cult members become increasingly unable to relate to their family, friends, or anyone outside the cult.”

Abuse

Former members describe Uma as an intense, abusive and voracious teacher who would call students “fucking pussies,” “bitch-cunts,” “whores,” “donkeys” and “contaminated vessels” in front of other group members. Another explains, “If we missed words, misremembered, or misquoted, we got to face her wrath and our own self-loathing born of the failure of not being worthy to be Uma’s scribe, let alone her student.”

The intensity of the abuse led to psychological breaks:

“In the cult several members have had psychotic breaks due to the abuse and psychological stress inflicted while in the group. At least one was institutionalized after leaving the cult. Uma has taken credit for another cult member suffering a miscarriage, in our view because of the stress inflicted by the abuse she promulgated. Contemplations of suicide are common among cult members, and we worry it is only a matter of time before that takes place.”

“I did not even know that I was already under the massive hypnotic state. I did not even know that my brain had been wired with new programs, and I was a part of her ‘cult’ group. How did it happen?’”

A former member describes Uma’s abuse:

“Many times my state of vulnerability was forced by “attack” from Uma through sarcasm, shaming, guilt tripping, judging, hatred, and for me the most powerful force and most painful was emotional rejection. (Push — pull tactic). In these open states of vulnerability I would be under constant attack by Uma or other “group” members live publicly or through a private forum. I felt unsafe, confused, unsupported in a state of fear and in need to survive.”

Uma also directed group members to abuse, tear down and insult each other they claim.

Uma Inder leading Tantric meditation at the Bali Spirit Festival (left). Teaching at the Bhinneka Yoga Festival (right).

Physical Abuse

Former members explain:

“Uma at least twice physically assaulted students on her private SATYA retreat immersion, kicking one girl for failing to address her and tackling and clawing another to the floor. Uma has spat at students and watched as students assaulted one another in retreat immersion settings, encouraging this violent and abusive behavior among cult members.”

One former member says “she hit me with a rolled up placemat and yelled in my face.” Another claims, “Uma has kicked me in my arm and leg, punched me in my stomach and has slapped me in the face.”

Sex with Students

Former members describe how Uma slept with and sexually assaulted students:

“Inder has had sex with several of her followers, at least one of whom has contracted a sexually transmitted infection from her. The follower believed that flare ups of the STI is the result of ‘impure thoughts’ — namely thinking about any woman other than Inder.”

Newly to the group, Uma asked this woman about having sex with her boyfriend:

“She asked about our relationship, and our boundaries. She said, at one point, “so, sex with me, for example, is off limits.” Yes, it was, I said. Though if we were all to have sex, that might be possible, I said. She was so powerful, I thought she could teach us something.”

“Uma systematically broke apart couples, calling relationships outside the cult ‘based on FalseID,’ or other forms of untruth.”

One former member claims sex was shunned, “Sex was discouraged in Uma’s group, except in rare intense occasions…Masturbation was ridiculed, as Uma never did it herself and always found a beloved physical partner to do the job.”

Uma Inder, “D.A.S., E-RYT 500, Yoga & Ayurvedic Practitioner”

Full Transparency

One of the requirements of being in the cult was “full transparency.” Members had to share anything and everything about themselves in the name of self-transformation. This was not true for Uma. One former member describes:

“We spent hours and hours and hours together — sometimes as many as 14 hours in a day, spilling our hearts out, sharing our deepest secrets and all the thoughts we wished we weren’t thinking — revealing our inner demons and ‘offering them up’ to Uma. She was our mirror to Absolute Truth. And, as she and others would say, if she wasn’t your mirror to Absolute Truth, ‘it won’t work.’ So we did our best to stay in the stream of constant gratitude, no matter what was happening, ‘offering up’ our shit and being grateful for what came in return, no matter how painful. And frequently, it was soul-tearing, mind-exploding pain.

Another:

“Every thought must be divulged, especially problematic thoughts, andpunishment follows failure to do so. Private conversations are called sidelining and are punished. Cult members are encouraged to report on each other.”

More:

“In Uma’s circle, holding private thoughts or emotions was highly discouraged, and seen as ‘a drain on the source,’ as ‘there is no private world of feelings.’ All emotions and experiences were shared among the group, and as such, group property.”

“You Will Feel Raped”

Uma told her followers that working with her as their teacher that they would feel like they were being raped:

“You will feel raped. [She] saw and felt my arm raping her right through her anus, all the way up full on. RAPE! you will feel raped..What’s wrong with rape? You have a problem with rape?”

“My being was attacked, interrogated, forced by energetic penetrations into my feminine depths, after being neglected, abandoned, shamed, controlled.”

“Loss of Your Individuality”

Uma also claims that to study with her means to lose your individuality completely:

“At that point there won’t be separation between you and me. You will be making love and you will be making love as me. Physically, you will feel me, making love. You will feel your face as my face. You hands, your gestures, your way of moving, your way of sounding, your way of talking, whether it is Swedish or English. The tone, it’ll be me. You’ll have me all over you, all the way inside of you. It’s a loss of your individuality. Everything that your forefathers have worked so hard to provide for you.”

“You are serving me
Quietly serving and watchful
It is becoming your pleasure
To serve me
The only reason to be here
Is to be ‘with’ me
Serving me
To serve your dying into Us
Speak of this dying as you fall through
As you fail
As you break
As you exalt the truth through it all”

— Uma Inder

The Forum

The online Google message board forum is “what tied things together internationally.” This digital platform allowed Uma to have active cult members in the “US, UK, Canada, Scandanavia, Russia, Mexico, Japan and elsewhere.”

Participation in the online forum was required of members regardless of where they were. The online chats consisted of in-fighting, sharing compromising information, discussing consciousness, in-depth descriptions of sex and Uma’s controlling dictates. All of this was used to control and even blackmail devotees. As one describes, “Members often spend the entire day verbally abusing others, confessing, and in group processing.”

One former member reflects about the time in the forums and spent in discussion groups in Bali:

“The sheer amount of time we stayed involved in them created isolation from other people. The environment was deliberately creating extreme psychological pressure (“break down”), and there have been sporadic instances of physical violence as well, as well as explicit and implicit threats of violence.”

The message board was how Uma kept her controlling influence over members:

“The forum was a place for us to pour our deepest thoughts and feelings out, and to receive Uma’s ever-poetic reflection on where we are “in False ID,” so that we can liberate the true self. Ultimately, the goal was dying, while alive. Dying into God.”

Lasting Damage

Former members describe themselves as having been deeply traumatized by Uma:

“I don’t even know how to begin describing the fear, anxiety, hurt that I suffered at Uma’s hands. Part of me died that year. I lost a year and a half of my life to that woman. She ate it, as she ate my soul. It was a temporary death, and descent to a low circle of hell…I don’t know how long we will be dealing with our individual and shared pains acquired from Uma, but I know it will be years…She would talk about dying into enlightenment, but it was all based on so many lies and falsities.”

Another former member:

“I am actually experiencing post traumatic stress disorder in my body. And realized that I am a survivor of intense abuse which took place more deeply in last year in my connection with Uma, inside Uma’s group…Horrifying process through which I experienced deep abuse of my vulnerability. The affect is disturbance, difficulties in my brain functioning after close contact with Uma’s “Mysterious” spiritual powers.”

Another describes their deepening states of emotional trauma:

“I descended into deeper states of emotional turmoil, fear, panic, and anxiety. I again reached profound emotional lows and had no idea how to bring myself out of them. I found myself crawling on the floor, barely able to think.”

Yoga Barn Founder Meghan Pappenheim Referred to Complaints as a “Witch Hunt” against Uma

Given the recent climate of sexual assault and abuse in yoga communities, and the ongoing discussion about how practitioners and studio owners should address it, I wanted to get some clarity on how the Yoga Barn handled Uma’s situation.

I approached Yoga Barn founder Meghan Pappenheim via a message on Facebook trying to understand what transpired surrounding Uma’s departure from the Yoga Barn.

To my surprise, in our Facebook chats and emails Meghan downplayed the concerns and wouldn’t answer straightforward questions. She told me “there was NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE to support the allegations,” yet she had read numerous in depth accounts of abuse and manipulation by Uma. She evaded many of my questions and sent me contact info for a few people who had more positive experiences with Uma, suggesting I didn’t know the whole story. I wondered if a male teacher had been accused of sexual assault or abuse by multiple women if she’d have sent me contact info of those who had a positive experience with him to get a more full perspective. And I wondered how that’d be seen.

In her communication with me, Pappenheim referred to the cult survivors as “those fuckers” and victim blamed them several times:

“They wove the web they were in as well. As it is said ‘it takes two to tango ‘ and, in this case, more than two. Darkness attracts darkness, hence they were attracted to Uma and vice versa.”

Via email she confirmed that she had indeed previously referred to the cult survivor’s process as a “witch hunt” against Uma.

Former cult members had wanted more support and engagement from Pappenheim but she felt like these efforts — which included requests for a public acknowledgement and apology and potential financial support for therapy and the trauma they endured — were too much. Pappenheim described what they were doing as “extortion” and denied the role that Yoga Barn played in Uma building her cult. This was despite having read multiple accounts which detailed how Uma used Ayurvedic sessions and classes at the Yoga Barn to recruit members and having read in-depth stories of abuse, manipulation and lying.

Survivors of the cult have asked Yoga Barn for support:

“Yoga Barn markets itself as a center for healing. We went to Yoga Barn looking for that, and we instead experienced extraordinary abuse and exploitation. Yoga Barn made a lot of money off of Uma and her cult.”

Former members believe that Meghan and the Yoga Barn “should have known something was off, and investigated” sooner. They highlight several things such as:

  • Uma being fired from the School of Sacred Arts in 2012 which operated out of the Yoga Barn
  • The strange behavior of cult members in the cafe and in Uma’s classes,
  • Numerous lengthy “Ayurvedic” consultations that lasted as much as 5 hours rather than the allotted 90 minutes and
  • Nearly 50 Ayurvedic consultations bought from Yoga Barn from overseas with the explicit understanding that this was in order to buy Uma some vacation from Yoga Barn.
  • Uma’s partner Mateo’s strange and cult devotional behavior which included chauffeuring her everywhere, paying for all her meals, bringing her all her food and drink, taking care of her email interactions with Yoga Barn, and prostrating himself fully face down on the floor to her in Yoga Barn classes.
  • Complaints from Yoga Barn students in the cafe who witnessed growls, yelling, and other strange noises, pain, tears or public processing of highly personal emotional matters.

In 2012, the School of Sacred Arts, which operated out of the Yoga Barn, publicly acknowledged that they had discontinued their relationship with Uma. A public denouncement such as this is one of the requests that cult survivors had of Pappenheim and Yoga Barn.

The School of Sacred Arts posted on Facebook in 2012 that they no longer worked with Uma

One Yoga Barn team member apparently even acted on a complaint and called for a meeting with Uma and her students. The meeting never manifested however. And, former students claim that a manager was exploring a space removed from the Yoga Barn main practice area for Uma to work out of because of her controversial and disturbing methods.

When F.A.C.T. was going to publish their expose on Uma Inder, they alleged via a screenshot of the schedule, that Pappenheim had put Uma on the Bali Spirit Festival which she runs after she had been let go from the Yoga Barn. Pappenheim’s lawyer then sent aggressive letters to cult survivors and F.A.C.T. threatening to sue them for defamation. Pappenheim claimed that it was a clerical error and it was not intentional and F.A.C.T. removed it. It is of interest to point out that Pappenheim threatened to sue cult survivors for suggesting that Yoga Barn was still employing Uma and simultaneously she secretly allowed Uma’s work visa to continue as described below.

As of yet, Yoga Barn has not publicly acknowledged what has transpired with Uma nor met the request for financial support for survivors who are dealing with extensive medical bills to recover from years of trauma inflicted by the Yoga Barn teacher. Some survivors have had to go without necessary medical support. Pappenheim reiterated to me that Yoga Barn wasn’t responsible for damages.

Meghan’s Response

The Yoga Barn’s 35-mat studio overlooks rice fields

Meghan told me she “did everything” she could once she “knew what was up.” She reiterated that she was the owner of the Yoga Barn, not a day-to-day manger. She simply wasn’t aware of what was happening on the ground, she claims. Meghan told me, “As soon as I received the information, I took a compassionate course of action. I responded to the person/people who sent me the information and I offered to do all I could to support them in their process.” Yet, as already stated, the Yoga Barn never met some of their most basic requests such as acknowledging that Uma had been let go.

Yoga Barn management was first informed on February 14th, 2016 of the allegations via an email labeled “URGENT.” It contained five in-depth, nuanced and detailed accounts of abuse, manipulation, and control from cult survivors of Uma’s group. Former members were deeply concerned for the well being of other students and hoped Yoga Barn would acted quickly. Pappenheim claims to not have read the accounts until around March 1st, but the co-founder and manager had seen them on February 14th. It wasn’t until around March 17th, over a month later, that Uma stopped teaching at the Yoga Barn.

When I asked if Uma was fired from the Yoga Barn she told me that she was not, explicitly to prevent her from losing her work visa and being deported. Instead, she was allowed to resign.

Meghan sent Uma a formal “Cessation of Cooperation” letter on May 24th, 2016, yet she was technically “let go” and stopped working there in mid-March. The letter also stated that her work visa would be officially ended. Wondering why Pappenheim would have waited that long — because it seemed like an effort to aid Uma — I asked her to explain the timing. She told me it wasn’t relevant and refused to answer specifically when her work visa was cancelled.

When I asked her if the Yoga Barn continued to sell Uma’s Aranya Ayurvedic products after she had been let go she told me: “the products were discontinued a few months after Uma was fired/let go.” She said they were sold in the Bali Shop “which has a contract with Yoga Barn,” seemingly distancing herself from it, but Pappenheim actually owns both and the Bali Shop is inside the Yoga Barn. I then sent her two photos. One was of a receipt of a purchase of Uma’s products at the Yoga Barn and a photo of Uma’s products still on the shelf — both one year after Uma was let go. She then told me that the images were doctored and photoshopped:

“If someone sent you photos then they are doctored — its super easy for someone to walk into YB, put something on the shelf and photo it. It’s also really simple to photoshop or simply make up a story to support an agenda. You have been equally deceived.”

Was she telling me someone brought a suitcase of jars into the shop to frame her?

On May 9th a staff member of the Yoga Bali Shop said Uma’s Aranya line of products were in stock and sold there until about 6 months ago. Thus, they were still sold for over 1.5 years after Uma was let go, not just a few months as Pappenheim claims.

What began as a simple journalistic inquiry into Uma’s firing from the Yoga Barn turned out to reveal that she was never in fact technically fired, that Uma was allowed to keep her work visa for at least two months (or longer) after “resigning” and Meghan lied about the fact that Yoga Barn was still selling Uma’s products a year after she was fired and claimed the photos were doctored. And she victim-blamed the cult survivors in our conversations. I wondered again if this was a male teacher accused of sexual assault by multiple women and if Pappenheim’s offered similar support to him, how that’d play out.

Uma Still Teaching

Uma Inder is still teaching yoga retreats and workshops worldwide. She has an upcoming training in Norway in June, and is teaching once again at the No Mind Festival in July in Sweden. And former members tell me she still has several active devotees in her cult.

A Complex Tale

This story is about an abusive yoga teacher who propped herself up as an infallible Guru. But it’s also a story about how yoga studios should handle allegations of abuse. How do they respond to victims’ stories? What sort of responsibility do they have to name the abuse and work to protect future students? How do they create a safe space for students who’ve experienced trauma? Should teachers like Uma remain certified by the Yoga Alliance? What processes are needed to heal and repair the damage.

Agama Yoga Founder Flees Amidst Sexual Assault Accusations

Swami Vivekananda Saraswati has fled Agama Yoga following sexual assault accusations. See news coverage below.

See www.agamjustice.com for all updates and more info.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (July 28th, 2018)

Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, the founder of Agama Yoga has indefinitely fled the center in Ko Phangan, Thailand several sources confirm. He is believed to be headed to Europe, presumably Romania where he is from. His abrupt departure comes just four days after the publication of an expose that chronicled numerous accusations of sexual assault against him and several senior Agama teachers. The story has gone viral, gathering over 25,000 views since its publication on Tuesday. A public statement posted on Facebook by Agama says that Swami has “taken the decision to step back from all his administrative and teaching responsibilities” while they investigate.

Agama yoga teacher Ram Avnur, accused of sexual misconduct in the article, fled Ko Phangan yesterday sources confirm. It is believed Muktananda, also accused of sexual misconduct, is leaving the island.

(ARTICLE: Women Accuse Swami Vivekananda of Sexual Assault)

The accusations have rocked the island of Ko Phangan, where hundreds of people flock for Agama yoga and tantra programs each year. “It’s like a bomb exploded” on the island wrote one student. Another wrote that everything is in “chaos” at the center. Several witnesses report that it is a “ghost town” with little activity and very few people attending classes. Additionally, some key Agama staff have quit since the publication of the article. One teacher who quit states that several yoga teachers left when they realized Maha and the leadership were not interested in changing:

“Several teachers have resigned. They saw that the school has no real intentions to change and keep up the denial and secrecy. I’m of course one of the teachers who said we can’t stand behind a system that doesn’t stand behind it’s teachers and students who got hurt. We started to see all the manipulation.”

The current director of Agama, Ananda Maha, held a community meeting on Friday night to address the controversy. An attendee reports that the meeting was “a big cover up. No acknowledgements. There was no compassion for the victims.” She said it was clear “there will be no investigation into what these 31 women from the 31 written statements have experienced. Not by an internal committee, nor by an external source.” In regards to the numerous women who have come forth with sexual abuse stories, Maha said “It had all been their own perception, because of the wounds they were already carrying” the attendee claims. A source previously stated that Maha, who is Swami’s former lover, has turned a “blind eye to every abuse” that has occurred over the years.

Swami leaves his unfinished home on Ko Phangan, which he had just invested a significant amount of money into a source told me.

A Ko Phangan resident has started a Facebook group called “Boycott Agama”where people can stay updated on the story.

Yoga Alliance, the governing body for Agama’s yoga training certifications, has received several formal complaints and has begun their own investigation.

This is a developing story. Information will be updated when possible.


Thai language version of the articlehttps://bit.ly/2Ao2TGz

(NOTE: Use shortlink when sharing to avoid long character strings in URL).

PRESS COVERAGE:

Thailand

Ko Phangan News: Agama Yoga Founder Swami Vivekananda accused of sexual assault

The Thaiger: Agama Yoga founder Swami Vivekananda accused of sexual assault

Thai Visa News:Agama Yoga Founder Swami Vivekananda accused of sexual assault

Estonia

Eesti Ekspress: Students blame Tantra Guru for Abusive Practices & Rape

Ohtuleht: Students Blame Tantra Guru for Rape

Delfi: The world-famous guru is accused of sexual harassment

BLOG POSTS / STORY MENTIONS:

Medium: Tantric Couple Shares Their Painful Experiences With Agama Yoga

Anjali Love: The Dark Side of the Tantra World

Medium: EDITED: Agama Yoga is probably an abusive cult

Southeast Asian Backpacker: Interview: Swami Vivekananda Saraswati

Spiritual Bypassing Guru Robert Augustus Masters Was an Abusive Cult Leader

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


Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented byUnited Talent Agency FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

[Each of these articles takes many hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]

My request for an interview with Robert Augustus Masters had not been granted at the time of this publication.

10/2/18

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

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

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

In 1995, just one year after the mental breakdown and cult break up, he began practicing therapy again without having sought treatment for his abusive past former members claim. In 1999 he received a PhD in psychology from the online school Saybrook.

Accusations of Abuse

“In public RAM is hiding his past as a cult leader.”

The specifics of the allegations come from former members who have posted about their experiences with Masters online. They are collected on a Spiritual Wiki page. They claim Robert Augustus Masters (RAM):

  • “Threw his wife Gail down the stairs.”
  • “Forcibly and repeatedly banged his front man Philip’s head on the floor while sitting over him.”
  • “Banged the head of an intimate against the wall which resulted in prolonged headaches.”
  • “In the middle of a group, he farted in Kobally’s face.”
  • “Forced a child at age 10 to wear a diaper for three weeks in front of his peers, and the adults.”
  • “Spit in more than a dozen people’s faces, both men and women.”
  • “Groomed a teenager, preparing her to be sexually initiated by him.”
  • “Separated, physically and emotionally, each of the 20–30 (married) couples that joined the Xanthyros community as well as children from their parents.”
  • “Constantly encouraged psychological mobbing and physical bullying.”
  • “Put each infant in the middle of a Xanthyros group circle and was only satisfied if the baby crawled towards him.”
  • “Expected sooner than later that each joining member would give over their life savings to him. Many did, given the very forceful group pressure.”
  • “Set up his inner circle to commit crimes on his behalf.”
  • “Encouraged members of Xanthyros to cheat by filing for welfare, which resulted in a simultaneous raid on three of the community houses by the Welfare Agency of the province.”
  • “The three mothers of RAM’s five children claim that he abandoned his financial obligations toward his children.”
  • “Four out of his five now adult biological children are estranged from RAM. His four step children hate him.”

A former member:

“RAM succeeded in disempowering all the members of Xanthyros, by applying the standard mind control tricks as in intimidation, seduction, pushing boundaries, zero tolerance for criticism by way of threat of aggression, isolation from family and friends, creating growing financial and emotional dependency, resulting in genuine confusion as to what was right and what wasn’t — after years of these tactics. As a way to manipulate the group dynamic in his direction, RAM constantly encouraged psychological mobbing and physical bullying.”

Comment from Goodreads book review:

“Please be informed that Robert Masters was once the leader of a Cult named Xanthyros where he used brain washing techniques and damaged the lives of many of its members. This cult ended in 1994 when Robert had a drug induced near death experience that left him in need of constant care, at which point the members disbanded. Please, do not trust this man with your emotional and psychological well-being. Truly, he should not be able to practice any form of psychology with the atrocities he committed in his past.”

From Amazon in 2016 about his current methods:

“Having been to group work with Robert recently, I have witnessed first hand his cultish group think and indoctrination and left 5 days in. I would advise all considering his content to research Robert. He is not what his writing makes him seem.”

Evading Personal Responsibility

“Robert abused many, many others, young and old, on his journey to the pinnacle of Guru.”

Former members claim that Robert Augustus Masters (RAM) has never owned up to his behavior, nor shown any true remorse for his actions. Instead, like he has done several times before, he merely rebranded himself and propped himself up again they say. He left Victoria, BC in the 80s because of his increasingly poor reputation amongst his community of Osho Sannyasins, fled Vancouver in the 90s after Xanthyros fell apart and then relocated to Ashland, Oregon to escape once again. This passage details the end of his Xanthyros cult in Vancouver:

“In need of continued full daycare after his 5MEO [drug] hell trip started, RAM had lost control. One of his students accepted the task to nurse him. Teenagers who he had abused for years stood up to his face. To his close inner circle, desperate RAM expressed he was thinking of obtaining a gun. The prospect of a mentally deranged man shooting (himself or others) was the ‘last straw’ for devoted intimates to jump off the ship without captain. First gradually, then increasingly 30–40 disheveled cult members moved out of the Vancouver housing complex to embark on the long road of their recovery. The remainder of 30–40 Xanthyros cult members left the peripheral houses located in BC and USA to which RAM had demoted them for having spoken up to him. No one had asked RAM for permission to leave and no one waited for him to declare the nightmare was over.”

As early as 2006 he rebranded himself once again with the help of Ken Wilber and the Integral scene as a relationship and shadow expert. Integral Life currently sells a course about the shadow with Masters and Wilber. Former cult leader Andrew Cohen and discredited predatorial teacher Marc Gafni were also in the Integral scene at a similar time. Since then, Masters has appeared on numerous spiritual and self help programs and currently offers intimate, in-person trainings.

Former insider Phillip Clement explains the lack of remorse, “His sense of regret for separating families, putting children into isolation, humiliating people and provoking mobbing, spitting in people’s faces, banging heads against walls, is essentially nil.” He also says that Masters has “unfinished business” in regards to taking responsibility for his actions which “he has chosen over and over NOT to do.” Former “right-hand woman” and assistant Kobally:

“Robert has done none of this reparation or healingDo not be fooled. He only talks the talk, and very well, but he does not nor has he ever walked the walk. He has no capacity for love or empathy.”

“There is virtually no one from that period who feels Robert has made good on his past transgressions with them” states Clement. He continues:

“He has yet to directly apologize:

— to the three mothers of his children for his abusive treatment, (none of whom want ANYTHING to do with him to this day);

— to community members who were coerced to give their children up for adoption;

— to the dozens of children (now adults) who were separated from their parents, and experienced terror, confusion and daily emotional abuse for years under his “leadership”;

— to the dozens of genuine seekers who joined his community, and left years later with horrendous long lasting wounds from his ego maniacal self centered pathological abuses.”

He continues by saying that Masters uses “spiritual gobbledygook” to “avoid, deny, and reject any opportunity to authentically do right by those he abused.” He apparently told former abuse victims — two children who were abused and were then older — who confronted him, “Stop complaining and turn the past shit into compost.” He has allegedly blocked, deleted and suppressed comments and commenters online as well who try to speak about his past. He deleted his Facebook page as a result of the negative comments. And he apparently had Rick Archer take down his video interview on Buddha at the Gas Pump because of the negative comment thread which was later reinstated without comments.

“If you want the treasure you have to face the dragon.” — Robert Augustus Masters

From Robert Augustus Masters’ interview with Buddha at the Gas Pump

Strategic Transparency

“Instead of trying to get beyond our personal history, we need to learn to relate to it with as much clarity and compassion as possible, so that it serves rather than obstructs our healing and awakening.” — Robert Augustus Masters

Masters’ short blog post about his cult past can be seen as a form of “strategic transparency.” He shared just enough about his past to make it appear he has changed while simultaneously avoiding real accountability. In the least, accountability would include describing the specifics of the abuses, naming the harm caused, reaching out to those he abused, expressing genuine remorse and detailing the steps he has taken to get therapy or treatment for himself. Aside from reaching out to a few former members in a very limited way, Masters has not taken any of these steps they claim. Apparently only about 20% of victims have been reached out to by Masters. And you’d think his past would play a central role in his current teaching if he had truly done the work to overcome and integrate it. Instead, former members describe a pattern of evasion, suppression and denial when they confront him about his past abuses. It seems clear that he is refusing to confront his own shadow.

One reason for his selective sharing is because Masters may be unable to show genuine remorse, compassion and empathy for his victims. Former members believe this to be the case. They think he simply cannot accept personal responsibility for his actions because of a deeper pathology and instead will manipulate, deflect and deny as much as possible. He weaves a convincing tale.

This comment on one of his Amazon books highlights the concern of him manipulating current followers with his new image:

“Robert Masters is VERY clever with words and can fool most people into not noticing that what he is really saying in all his books is how evolved and all knowing and more spiritual he is than everybody else. It’s about creating an image of Him in YOU: he is not writing about you. He has changed cities three times and countries once in order to not take responsibility for the people he abused, and the lives he ruined. Read up on psychopaths, read up on Robert’s dark past and refusal to take responsibility for his past criminal behavior. He is particularly attractive to “teachers” who themselves long to conquer their hidden insecurities and feign wisdom and superiority the way he does.”

Serious Allegations

Masters should be our utmost model for “bringing the shadow out of the dark” in his own life.

Running a cult for 17 years while physically and emotionally abusing people extends far beyond the realm of making “mistakes” or “being human.” This is profoundly pathological, narcissistic and abusive behavior. It’s not a difficult or demanding boss. It’s not a moody friend. It’s extremely serious, long-term, systemic physical and psychological abuse and manipulation. Approximately 30 couples were broken up. Children were separated from their parents and deeply traumatized. Over 100 people were impacted.

It’s remarkable that Masters can abuse and traumatize people for almost 20 years, skip town, write a short blog post, and then rebrand himself as an expert on the shadow without having demonstrated any real accountability. And on top of that he got a book contract with a major publisher like Sounds True. He also has appeared on founder Tami Simon’s podcast several times. What sort of standards do they have? Giving him a platform and increasing his credibility — whether it’s Sounds True or Buddha at the Gas Pump — is problematic given his seeming inability to atone for his past abuse. Sounds True dropped Marc Gafni and Bentinho Massaro from their brand in the past so they seem to be somewhat aware of these kinds of issues.

What would it require for a former abusive cult leader like Masters to be accepted as a legitimate teacher again? There should be thorough evidence that he had sought serious treatment, accepted full responsibility, was not in denial, has integrated his shadow and was no longer a danger to potential students. Aside from the 4-paragraph blog post with generalizations about his past I’ve seen no evidence of this. There is no public display of genuine remorse and no in depth explanation of his behaviors and actions. It falls short of what you’d expect from a supposed expert in the shadow. And it is a far cry given the extraordinary nature of the abuse that occurred. A former member points out that Masters is still a potential threat to spiritual seekers:

“RAM — still dangerous — is a predatory man of the mind whose psychopathy is alive and unhealed. Lacking empathy, remorse, or compassion, this ‘relationship expert’ is unable to relate with people outside of promoting himself, and of being a therapist, an expert, a master.”

Unfortunately, there are many brilliant exponents of spiritual, self-help and transformative teachings who are woefully unable to apply their teachings to themselves. Masters is wrapping himself in the protective cloak of intellectual expertise to compensate for the very thing he is unable to actually achieve: true shadow integration.

I’ll end with a quote from Masters, which is particularly fitting for his own situation:

“Real shadow work does not leave us intact; it is not some neat and tidy process but rather an inherently messy one, as vital and unpredictably alive as birth. The ass it kicks is the one upon which you are sitting; the pain it brings up is the pain we’ve been fleeing most of our life; the psychoemotional breakdowns it catalyzes are the precursors to hugely relevant breakthroughs; the doors it opens are doors that have shown up year after year in our dreams, awaiting our entry. Real shadow work not only breaks us down but also breaks us open, turning frozen yesterday into fluid now.”

My request for an interview with Robert Augustus Masters had not been granted at the time of this publication.

Women Accuse Agama Yoga Founder Swami Vivekananda Saraswati of Sexual Assault

The founder of the Thailand based yoga and tantra school Agama, Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault. He claims to be the “brilliant exponent of a unique and modern trend of thinking in Yoga” who “has reached high states of spiritual realization.” Agama is one of the world’s largest yoga training centers. Swami’s teacher is the infamous Romanian yoga guru Gregorian Bivolaru. He was sentenced to six years in prison for having sex with an underage girl. Swami warns those who dare to speak against him that they are under “demonic influence” and face “infernal consequences for many lives to come.” Several of his most senior teachers have also been accused of rape or sexual assault. Former staff have stated Swami says he is paying off the Thai authorities. This article draws from interviews of several former students and staff, most of which chose to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal and retaliation.


UPDATE – 7/28/18: Just 4 days after the publication of this article Swami has fled Ko Phangan indefinitely. Sources believe he is headed to Europe, probably Romania where he is from. Read full press release.

UPDATE: 9/4/18: Thai police and military raided Agama Yoga today after charges were filed against Swami.

UPDATE: This article has led to the closure of Agama Yoga and widespread international coverage including front page stories on The Guardian, CNN, the CBC, Die Zeit and the New Zealand Herald. There are now over 50 articles in 25 counties. SEE PRESS.


Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented by United Talent Agency / FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

[Each of these articles takes over 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]

7/24/18

It was a typical night on the island for Jessica Rose (not her real name). She had just finished hanging out with some girlfriends and was headed home. She had been drinking wine. On the way she noticed that her spiritual teacher and employer, Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, had his light on. She hadn’t seen him in ages. She popped in to say hi like she had previously done on several occasions. Swami was glad to see her. He immediately made a comment about her being drunk. She sat down on the couch and there was small talk between them for several minutes. She doesn’t remember specifically what happened for a short period of time. She described to me what occurred then, “The next thing I remember I’m sitting on the edge of the couch and he’s putting his dick inside of me and I didn’t want that. And then he put his fingers inside of me and I said I didn’t want that. I told him that this is not what I wanted and that he needs to stop immediately.” She then left and cut off all contact with Swami (real name Narcis Tarcau).

Jessica said Swami should have known better. He was both her spiritual teacher and employer. In addition to the fact that she was drunk, “He knew that I wasn’t into him for sure,” she said. “He knew that I was in a closed relationship and not open to other guys. I had clearly told him in the past I’m not attracted to you sexually and I just want a teacher/student relationship.” She said she didn’t want to go to the police because she had been in Thailand illegally.

Jessica’s account, which occurred in June of this year is the latest in a string of accusations that have followed Agama Yoga founder Swami Vivekananda Saraswati for years. He founded the center in 2003 and since then it has become one of the largest schools of tantra yoga in the world with thousands of students having passed through. A Yoga Alliance registered school, Agama offers 200hr and 500hr yoga teacher training certifications, tantra instructor training, yoga therapist certification and more. Several women, many of which are former senior staff, have recently come forward with their stories of sexual abuse by Swami and other senior Agama teachers.

A Pattern of Abuse

When Agama student Kelly Anne (not her real name) met with Swami for her first spiritual consultation she says he sexually assaulted her. She told me that she sought advice from him on anxiety and other issues. His advice was three men a day she said. When she tried to leave he threw himself on her, “Then I got up to go away and he started kissing full on tongue. It was very aggressive. And then he started groping my bum. I was literally dizzy.” This was her very first consultation with Swami.

Kelly Anne did eventually end up being sexual with Swami at one point. However, on one occasion she messaged him before she arrived for a meeting and said, “I don’t want to have sex. I don’t know what I want to talk about.” She made it clear what her intentions were, expecting he would listen. Yet, when she arrived Swami immediately threw himself on her:

“When he opened the front door he instantly stuck his tongue in my mouth and started kissing me. I closed my mouth and started moving my head away. He then proceeded to feel my ass and tried to get his hands inside my shorts to finger me. I pushed his arm away, in a downward movement, with my fist clenched. To this day I don’t know why I didn’t slap him and walk out of the house.

Instead we sat on the sofa and he continued to try and get in my shorts. I remember moving positions several times, to try to get his hands away from that area. In the end, he succeeded and I was lying on the sofa, he had his fingers inside of me. It wasn’t like he was trying to pleasure me, he just had his fingers inside me and continued to chat to me about general things.”

Kelly Anne describes another incident, “I had come over for a yoni massage. Instantly after I got there he was trying to fuck me. Then he went down on me and started to stick it in.” A yoni massage is a sacred healing massage that involves therapeutically touching a woman’s genitals. She said she felt sexually violated.

Stephanie Houser (not her real name) went to Thailand to work through issues related to having been raped twice several years before. She believed Agama would be a “safe and welcoming environment” to work through her pain and trauma. Like so many of the other women, Swami told her she “had a lot of sexual energy but that it is blocked” and that she would need “a few normal men to satisfy it.” She says he essentially told her “I could come to him and make love with him and he could help move those blockages for me.” It rattled her:

“I felt sick. I wanted to say how inappropriate that was, how I felt he was taking advantage of me and using this opportunity to manipulate my “weaknesses” and traumas into something that would bring him pleasure. I didn’t feel he actually cared about helping me figure out what was best for me, but instead thinking he knew what was best, which was to have me allow him to ‘fix me’ with his ‘lingam.’”

When she tried to leave he began telling her how beautiful, powerful and sexy she was and he kept pressuring her:

“And then he hugged me goodbye, and wouldn’t let go. He started caressing my back, kissing my head, despite the multiple times earlier that I told him I was not interested in being his lover or being ‘healed’ or ‘unblocked’ by him. I had already clearly said no. He didn’t listen, or if he did, he didn’t care what I wanted or didn’t want.

He then backed me against the door, with his hand against it so that I could not leave (I froze even more, as Swami is a very large man, and I was now feeling afraid he would force himself on me).

He leaned in (me still frozen and in total disbelief of the violation and power being so inappropriately used) and kissed me, sticking his tongue in my mouth.

I felt disgusted and completely violated. He penetrated me when I said no, not with his ‘lingam,’ but with his force and tongue. He then started to try and lift my skirt and touch my inner thigh, and that’s when I snapped out of it.

I told him no, I was not interested, ducked under his arms, and said I’d like to leave now.”

She said the encounter left her feeling “gross, violated, unclean, and like a disposable item.” It “tainted” her “trust in Tantra teachers,” and she questioned what Tantra even was after that. She wondered how “a true teacher of Tantra could use sexuality in such a manipulative way.”

Another student recounts an almost identical experience to Kelly Anne’s. She also had communicated to Swami her intentions for coming over and that she really needed his advice about emotions she was experiencing. She describes what happened:

“The door opens just a small amount and he pushed me against the door and his fingers were inside of me. It took me minutes to push his body away. His hand was still in me. I was afraid that if I fully rejected him that he would fully overpower me and push me, hurt me, or slap me. That’s been my experience with other men.”

And another:

“The first time I ever went with him, was also during a meeting that was meant to be to talk about the issues I was having at the school at the time. He was not interested at all in talking about anything with me. Instead he did a music meditation with me to feel all my chakras. After that he sat me on the sofa and stuck his finger inside me and because I was aroused he took me into his bedroom to have sex.”

More:

“We met at his office and I explained to him that my decision about not seeing him for sexual appointments anymore was final and that I do not want to be having sex with him anymore. He looked at me and said that I should stop pretending, that I know I wanted it, then he grabbed me by my waist and he sat me in his lap. He started kissing me and he pulled my knickers to the side and entered me. No man has got the right to violate any woman’s spoken boundaries to such an extent.”

One former senior staff member and teacher who had slept with Swami previously claims that he anally raped her. She says that she never even wanted to sleep with him to begin with but after years of him breaking her down she finally conceded. She describes what happened:

“I was in bed with him, and he just turned me over and shoved it in. It hurt like hell and didn’t ask if I wanted it but he kept going. It was only after I’d left the school and looked back at that incident that I actually realized it was rape. It was absolutely not consensual. It was violent and painful.”

Another staff member, who had also slept with Swami previously, shares an almost identical story of being anally raped by Swami:

“He grabbed me and threw me on the bed. He didn’t say anything. There was no talking. He pulled my pants down and he shoved his dick up my ass. He was shoving it violently. No lubrication. He kept shoving it and shoving it. I said “this is hurting me, this is hurting me.”

One woman says she “got all her courage up” one day to visit Swami in seek of support. “I told him everything; that I had issues approaching a man, that I felt sexually vulnerable & confused and that I need advice on how to heal and live healthy sexuality & relationship,” she said. She was “shocked how ‘blunt’ and not sensitive he was talking” to her. And like other women he told her she had a “big sacral chakra” and that she should be with a lot of men. When she tried to leave she says “he pulled me toward him and kissed me very abruptly” which left her “very shocked.” He told her he could help her heal if she went back. In hindsight she is really embarrassed that she did go back. “All I wanted was to live a healthy sexuality, and I thought he could help me heal.” She said that she expected to work together with him and that he’d “explain things to me or him to be very sensitive, but he only slept with me. I had to say that ‘I am his’ all the time and I felt so empty.” Other women also report that Swami would ask “are you mine?” and make them answer yes when they were orgasming. She says he then told her to get in touch with her desires and to “send him naughty text messages” which she did. “It all felt so wrong, but I thought I was only dealing with my blockages and the resistance was to be broken and behind it was happiness and freedom” she said.

A woman who went to see Swami for advice because her father was about to pass away says his first question was inquiring about how many lovers she had. He began teasing her for being too “picky” with men she said. Swami told her to have lots of lovers and claimed to have read the impurities in her chakras. It all appeared strange to her as it was completely unrelated to why she went to see him. On the way out she says “he grabbed my bum, reminding me about sex.” She felt “disturbed and unsatisfied” after the meeting and soon left the school.

A former student says she “did not get any support” from Swami and her “concerns and my questions were always ignored.” She said he was someone who “did not care nor show any respect towards” her. She describes how every time she went to him for guidance he only wanted sex. He wasn’t willing to address her “sexual questions or concerns” and she found it “very damaging” she says. Her attempts to discuss her feelings with him fell flat as she claims he just “dismissed” and “talked over” her.

Another former student told me she found the overall environment at Agama exploitive and that the Swami “often asked me to have sex with him.” He told her “it would benefit me to experience his Tantra master energy and that I had this power that needed to be matched by someone experienced like him.”

After telling Swami about a crush she had on a teacher he advised Jessica Rose to “go for it” despite knowing that teacher was in a monogamous relationship. “You can have anything you want” he told her. His direction was to masturbate while thinking about the person she had a crush on and audio record it. He told her to scream his name while she was orgasming. Swami wanted the audio recording himself so he could “analyze it” she told me. She was hesitant about doing it and told him it sounded like dark sex magic. But he convinced her and she went along. After sending Swami the recording she immediately felt like she shouldn’t have done it.

One woman who tested positive for chlamydia after having sex with Swami says that he told her she “psychologically created” the STI. He tested positive as well but told her she needed to ask permission to tell anyone else. Women were not warned by him she said, despite that fact that he did not use condoms during sex. I’m told that numerous women got Chlamydia at Agama.

According to the staff and students who have come forward it was common for Swami to often grab women’s buttocks, touch them without consent and tell them they were beautiful, and send flirty text messages. After having only met Swami twice, a new staff member expressed how weird it was when her boss and director of the center sent her text messages such as “5 cervical orgasms in a row will blow your Virgo reservations to the moon,” and “I will love to see you have some massive surprises that will shatter your rational character.” He would often tell staff and students, “I’m open to it,” referring to sex. Women report that despite clearly stating that this type of behavior crossed their boundary and made them uncomfortable he would continue it. Sometimes Swami would try for years to sleep with a student or staff member. One woman says he regularly put her down and “constantly chipped away at my confidence and undermined me” in order to have sex with her.

Senior Agama Teachers

There are complaints of sexual assault and rape about other Agama teachers as well. Swami’s most senior students are Somananda (Moses Maimom) and Muktananda Mistry (Khushru Mistry). Serkan Temel is an advanced teacher who opened Agama Linz in Austria. They’ve all been accused of sexual misconduct.

One woman who went to a yoni massage with an Agama teacher says he pulled out his penis and told her she could touch it while telling her they could take things further. A former staff member describes one of her experiences with Agama staff, “I had one senior teacher come over to my house and penetrate me without my consent when I was in an altered state and really vulnerable. I came to my senses and threw him off me half way through.”

Somananda

Somananda is one of Swami Vivekananda Saraswati’s most senior Agama teachers. He’s been studying with him since 1999. He claims to have reached self-realization. Several former Agama employees and students explained to me that Somananda was pushed off the island by Swami after being accused of rape as a way to hush the situation. Sophie Bekkering, the woman who experienced the alleged rape, describes what happened. It occurred during a yoni massage, she says:

“I had my eyes closed the whole time trying to go inward and focus on my sensations in an attempt to drop in. However all of a sudden I felt something inside my yoni that felt very different then a finger. As I open my eyes and I see Somananda (completely undressed all of a sudden) who was now penetrating me. I was completely in shock and felt absolutely frozen. He did not use a condom and did not say a word, or gave me any warning or any other signs that would make me see this coming in any way.”

When Bekkering reported the incident to Swami he said “that he didn’t believe it happened this way” she said. “He implied that I was ‘asking for it’ and said that I needed to have lots of sex because I had a lot of confusion in my Svadhisthana.”

Somananda currently runs one of the largest tantra massage schools in the world which is publicly affiliated with Agama.

Serkan Temel

Serkan Temel is a senior teacher who runs the Agama Yoga School in Linz Austria. An Agama teacher and former co-worker describes an incident in Linz where Serkan forced her into having sex:

“I told him a couple times I did not want him to be sexual. I had told him for weeks that I did not want to be sexual with him…I would tell him cuddling is ok, but I do not want to have sex. He said okay and stopped. Then a few moments later he would start again, trying to get his hand in my pants, pulling his pants down. After asking him to stop and pulling his hand away several times, I push his whole body away physically. I told him ‘Serkan, I really do not want to, can you please just stop it.’ I tried with logic. He replied with the argument that we are a tantric school. I got angry to the extent that I got louder and tried to push him away more strong. But at that point he had already wrapped his arms strongly around me. He didn’t respond to my clear and repeating no’s.”

She felt helpless and out of options with a larger man on top of her, overpowering her. She contemplated physically hurting him to get away but quickly thought of both the immediate and longer term consequences of that at the school. Despite her repeated attempts to both physically push him away and say no numerous times she finally relented.

“I turned around to my side (so I wouldn’t have to face him) and let him have sex with me. I was frozen and didn’t make a sound. I didn’t move and didn’t make any moans. I didn’t even dare to breath. I just wanted it to be over. I tried to disconnect as much as possible from my body. When he was finished I felt disgusted. I laid frozen there. He fell asleep. As soon as I could move again and I knew he was asleep I got out of bed and left. I quietly gathered my stuff, packed it downstairs and ran home 20 minutes at 1am. I took 3 showers. I felt sick. I cried. I didn’t quite understand what happened. I didn’t understand for months.

When I saw him the next day, he hugged me and whispered in my ear ‘that was so hot last night when you really didn’t want to have sex and I just took you despite it.’ I was shocked, I was speechless. I felt deeply disgusted by him and myself.”

Ram Avnur

She also described an incident while working in Linz where she was approached by Serkan and Ram Avnur, another advanced teacher, in a “very predatory like way.” She says she was “completely overwhelmed by the situation” and that she “got really scared.” She told them “no, I’m working right now”and but they continued to pursue her. She describes what happened:

“I couldn’t get out of the situation (at least I was convinced so), so it was either Serkan or Ram. I felt more comfortable with Ram, less endangered. It sounds weird but Serkan kept touching me, so I literally just buried my face in Ram to get away from Serkan. Serkan started rubbing himself against me, playing with himself and masturbating against me so I tried to get away from him by getting closer to Ram.”

Serkan then took a selfie while she was performing oral sex on Ram in the background:

“Serkan said ‘this is such a cool Agama teachers meeting. We should take a picture and send it to Mukta.’ I thought he was joking. When I looked he was taking a selfie with me and Ram in the background. I was really shocked. I didn’t realize what was going on. And then, without anything he sent it to Mukta. I was so shocked. I immediately stopped. I realized what the fuck, what am I doing here, I don’t like any of these actions, this is so against any of my boundaries, I feel so uncomfortable, I don’t feel safe at all. I feel really endangered right now.”

A former Agama staff member recalls when Ram Avnur made sexually offensive comments to her. She said that during a group conversation, “he started being vulgar in a sexual way, and he announced to me, and in front of the other people, that he would like to get a glass bottle and shove it up my yoni.” On another occasion Ram told Swami in front of her that “she is a dirty little slut.” She says “Swami just nodded at him” and they left.

Muktananda Mistry

Muktananda Mistry is one of the most senior Agama teachers. He has been studying with Swami for over 16 years. He has been a principle defender of Swami when allegations surface, claiming that he has witnessed cruel rumors being spread about him over the years. He has told Agama students they should look within first and take care of their own issues before accusing Swami.

One student says she felt Muktananda took advantage of her in a vulnerable moment after she collapsed in yoga class. She says he suggested she come talk about it with him at his house and he then began being sexual with her. She said she only wanted to talk about what had happened in class but ended up having sex with him. She felt like he took advantage of her altered state.

When Jessica Rose, the woman allegedly assaulted by Swami while she was inebriated, spoke with Muktananda about her concerns of having been violated by Swami he twisted and manipulated her account she says. He told her, “The demons always come and test you. The demons take over. They were puppeting you to test you with Swami. He could have sent you home or act in that moment.” She told me Muktananda “was suggesting that Swami put his penis in me to get the demons out.” He also told her “The more you tell other people, the more you will attract bad things.” Muktananda told her “I’m your friend.” He said “all these people are just blind and only seeing the surface level, they’re not seeing the causal level of what happened with Swami.”

An insider also told me, “it is known by a select few in the community that Muktananda has been accused of rape and was detained in prison in India.”

One Agama staff member says that Muktananda sent her several unsolicited “dick pics” over the years of being there. And other women spoke about additional predatory type behavior against them by Muktananda and Ram as well.

On one occasion Muktananda referred to the Agama yoga teachers as “our bitches” while laughing and claiming he and Agama can get them to “do whatever they want them to do because they are so desperate to get some teaching experience.” A former staff member told me this was in regards to her wondering how they’d fill the extra teaching slots needed after a scandal erupted and many staff members had left. She said this lack of gratitude and willingness to manipulate Agama teachers was “sickening” to her.

Muktananda has also stated “I disagree with the #MeToo movement” claiming that women were “playing too much the victim.”

Swami’s Guru: Gregorian Bivolaru

Swami’s spiritual teacher is the infamous Romanian yoga guru Gregorian Bivolaru, founder of MISA (Movement for Spiritual Integration in Absolute). It is perhaps the largest tantric yoga school in the world. In 2003, he was sentenced to six years in prison for having sex with an underage girl. He has been accused of “coercing or seducing hundreds of vulnerable women into producing hard-core porn videos,” some of which were allegedly underage. An article in the DailyMail claims that he “promised tantric illumination in exchange for sex with virgin girls as young as 15” and reveals that former members claim he was carrying out an Indian myth that said if you have sex with 1,000 virgins you will achieve enlightenment. Former members claim his yoga students would send him photos of girls that he would have sex with that had their birthdate on the back of the picture. Agnes Arabela Marques, who had sex with Bivolaru when she was 15, and was in a relationship with him at the time said, “In his apartment, there were constantly girls that were there to have sex with him” and that they’d rotate out every week. An article in the Huffington post includes statements from former members who say teenage girls are recruited into the group and “are slowly drawn into a series of deepening and more compromising personal commitments, frequently backed up by written contracts that the members are led to believe have the force of law.”

MISA yoga class in Romania (left) MISA yoga camp (right). The center claims to have “yoga classes in over 250 localities in Romania and 16 other countries.”

A Culture of Abuse and Denial at Agama

Members of the community testify to a culture at Agama of rampant sexual misconduct, abuse and boundary violations. When incidents are reported to senior staff women have been victim blamed. Or at best, small, incremental changes are made which have little to no real impact on the abuses occurring a source says. Swami and other senior teachers and staff will dismiss complaints as being “ego based” or “drama.” People who speak out have been referred to as impure or not advanced. Others have been told bad karma will come to them. There is no official, company process to receive, document and deal with complaints from what I understand.

One former staff member testifies to the exploitative environment she found herself in at Agama. She says she had her “tits and ass grabbed without consent hundreds of times, included being pinned down and assaulted regularly in public, often by senior teachers.” She says “there’s continual incidents of sexual assault and rape by senior teachers” at Agama.

Some women were told they need to be better “tantric women” when they expressed their boundaries or refused sexual advances.

When Jessica Rose reported the incident of being sexually violated by Swami to the general manager, she victim blamed her, “There was no part of her that thought it was wrong” she told me. She said “it was you who broke your tapas [of drinking]. You offered yourself to him. It is very easy to put the blame on others.” Jessica told me that the general manager was “saying this was my fault.”

Ananda Maha (Dr. Mihaiela Pentiuc), the director of the yoga therapy teacher training program and a trained doctor, has “turned a blind eye to every abuse, often even sending women to him saying ‘he’s the best at what he does’” an insider said. Maha has a 20+ year relationship with Swami which began as sexual and is now platonic.

Justine Baruch, another senior teacher, runs the Agama Tantra Initiationtraining program and has taught there for 15 years. The same inside source as above says she “has also turned a blind eye, even blaming the women for having issues. Many women have gone to her only to receive no empathy and the hardline — its your projections onto swami — you have to deal with it. I was told yesterday she also has a pile of testimonials of which nothing was ever done with.”

Ananda Maha (left) Justine Baruch (right)

Other women who report to senior teachers about Swami’s behavior have been told that he “was doing this for the benefit of a woman to use their full potential” a former staff member said.

Swami has threatened students who speak up to him or others in the community about the abuse they are experiencing. One former member says she’s heard him say he can get people’s legs broken if he wanted. He tells them they are under the influence of “demonic influences,” and speaking out equates to “terrible spiritual crimes” that will incur “infernal consequences for many lives to come.” He also has accused women of creating a relationship with him that is based on “egocentric neurosis.” All of these actions will be “dearly paid karmically” he has told them. Anyone who continues will be subject to “further demonic influence.”

There are many negative reviews about Agama on TripAdvisor which warn potential students about Swami and the exploitative culture that surrounds him. You can read a few of them here: Sexual Manipulation of the Shakti’sBeware of Fake Gurus and The Dark Underbelly of Agama. One former staff member told me that when she asked other Agama staff about the reviews they made excuses by downplaying them or dismissing them as coming from crazy or loose canon women. Yet the negative reviews all echo the claims made by those I’ve spoken with.

It’s also important to note that many have studied and trained at Agama over the years have deeply benefited from the trainings, yoga classes and community created by the school on Ko Pha-ngan.

Deeply Entrenched Patriarchy

From the numerous accounts I’ve received about the school, it is steeped in a deeply patriarchal view of women and sexuality. One former staff member, Ryan (not his real name), who worked and taught there for six years, told me that Swami has stated “Women are fundamentally inferior on the spiritual path” and that “men are fundamentally superior — which is why there are so many more saints, enlightened beings etc who are men throughout history.” He also said Swami claims men achieve awakening through samadhi (meditative consciousness) whereas women achieve it through sex. At Agama they teach men to not use condoms because it “disrupts the flow of energy” he said. Ryan also told me that women could get almost unlimited time with Swami and men could get almost none. Men are encouraged to use “pickup artist” tricks from The Game and other things such as “negging.” When Ryan asked Swami about the Agama rule against teachers sleeping with level I students he replied “you’re a man, she’s a woman, nothing else matters.” Ryan said the “rule” is almost universally ignored. He said he knew Swami was sleeping with at least four women in the teacher training that he coordinated.

There also have been men at Agama who have spoken out against abuse over the years. They have defended victims, raised awareness and fought for what’s right. While there are deeper systemic problems, many individuals, both men and women have tried to do the right thing. The problem is that no real change has been implemented.

A Counselor Speaks Out

Susan Kirk (not her real name) is a counselor who has had many former Agama students referred to her. Over the years she heard numerous accounts of trauma, sexual assault and abuse:

“I have been approached by women in or formerly in the community who are suffering or who have suffered assault, harassment, violation, trauma & retraumatization. I have done sessions working through violations ranging from rape, non-consensual touch, coercement, psychological manipulation and boundary violations. Victims are usually too afraid to report incidents for fear of retribution from the school or community. They worry that the Thai Police are part of the circle and won’t take their report seriously or that their safety will be threatened. Silencing or ‘shushing things up’ I’ve seen happen a few times — the most serious one when Somananda had non-consensual sex with a woman while doing yoni massage. He quickly left the island. Another one was a woman who went into psychosis after having group sex with several male student/teachers. She had to be put into hospital, she was in such bad condition.

It appears the school diminishes, minimizes and silences victim experiences. I’ve had women say to me that they are told it’s their fault that and they have brought the assault or violation onto themselves in some way. It is clear people are being awarded teaching certificates and qualifications that put them in places of power which are then abused by some.”

In reference to the Thai police and government connection to Agama, one former senior staff member said that Swami told her and another staff member in a meeting that he was paying off the authorities. When someone told Swami they couldn’t just put up promotional stands all over the island he said they “shouldn’t worry about that too much as enough money is being paid and that it will cover it and added that actually he could buy himself underage Thai girls for sex and do whatever he wants with them if he wanted and he would be covered.”

A former staff member who worked closely with Swami for years says that he has been banned from India, where he operated from for many years, because there were allegations of rape.

Reform or Revolution?

In 2015 many senior Agama staff members quit. It was one of several exodus’ that have apparently occurred every few years when the staff realized the type of place they are working at. A long email thread ensued where members of the community debated about a path forward amidst the numerous allegations against Swami and issues facing the community. A few incremental changes were made that had no real lasting power I’m told. After the last exodus in 2015 it was business as usual until 2017 when another group left.

Staff have tried to act and they’ve been stopped. A former staff member ended up leaving the school after her attempts to create change fell flat. When Swami denied engaging in inappropriate behavior anymore she asked him, “So you say you are not actively approaching women anymore and not touching them without consent, so how come you did both of that with me? How was I different?” She said “Swami didn’t answer my question, he just looked down and remained silent in his seat.” This occurred after a large travel booking platform contacted her to say they would no longer refer people to Agama because they’d received numerous complaints of sexual assault.

Susan Kirk, the counsellor quoted in this article, reflects on attempts to create change at the school:

“I’ve heard there have been many attempts at internal change which come and fail. It is not taken seriously and never gets up, never succeeds. People see the good things they get out of the school so they get attached and turn a blind eye to the shadow. There are many long term enablers there. Most of the long term senior teachers are enablers. Even those who think they want change are actually attached to the school so couldn’t bear it’s downfall.”

Sex scandals are nothing new to the yoga and tantra communities. Matthew Remski chronicles some of the latest yoga scandals in his latest article which exposed sexual abuse by Ashtanga Yoga founder Pattabhi Jois. Fueled by beliefs about unconditional devotion to the guru, claims of divine authority and deeply entrenched patterns of institutional denial, abusive gurus are able to get away with misconduct for years. Many of the women genuinely believed that what Swami was doing was Tantra and it left them confused and doubting what they’d otherwise know was harmful behavior. Mix in wounded spiritual seekers looking for love and healing and it’s a recipe for disaster.

The actions of Swami, Somananda, Serkan, Ram and Muktananda have had real, lasting impacts on the lives of those who have come to Agama for healing and transformation. Students and staff that I’ve spoken with suffer from PTSD, trauma, anxiety, low self esteem, flashbacks and other conditions. One former staff member says that many women’s lives have been ruined. She said “I was left emotionally wrecked, my confidence destroyed and my physical health was ruined for a long time.” People report showing up bright eyed and excited and then lose their friends, family and life, leaving the island a complete mess.

The people I spoke with for this article believe that Swami must step down and even suggested the school shut down. One former senior staff member told me “he needs to be in prison.” The most likely successors, Somananda and Muktananda would be very poor choices to take over they believe given their sordid history. Other potential successors, Ananda Maha and Justine Baruch, have played a central role in maintaining the status quo in the face of widespread abuse. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who could run Agama who is not tainted by the years of abuse that has gone on. Perhaps Agama’s days are coming to a close.

My request for an interview with Swami Vivekananda Saraswati had not been granted at the time of this publication.

Medium.com Bans Journalist Be Scofield After Sex-Cult Expose

In this #MeToo era Medium’s decision harms victims of cult abuse and puts women at risk of being sexually assaulted. Write to [email protected] to voice your opinion. Medium.com is founded by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.


After the publication of an in-depth expose about Alex Vartman’s international sex cult called “The New Tantra,” the online blogging platform Medium.com has banned me and removed all of my articles from the web. The story sent shockwaves as it documented years of sexual abuse, manipulation and highly disturbing cultic activity. Some former members stated in the article that there was a strong demonic presence in the group.

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

As the most prominent journalist in the world exposing cults, gurus and sexual abuse in the tantric world the loss of my articles on Medium is a huge blow to the women who stand to suffer from their continued abuse. It has allowed numerous alleged rapists, sexual abusers and cult leaders to escape public scrutiny. 

Medium.com is founded by Twitter co-founder Evan Wiliams / IMAGE

My articles were averaging about 30,000 views a month from searches alone. That’s tens of thousands of people being made aware of dangerous cults and gurus. And when a new story was published that number could rise to 100,000+ a month. My article on Bentinho Massaro “Tech Bro Guru” got 200,000 views in a few weeks and became a model in modern cult exposing. In the last year alone my articles had almost 1 million views. Coverage of my stories have appeared in front page articles on The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The New Zealand Herald, the CBC and CNN. In total over 70 articles worldwide have been written in 35 countries based on my stories. Barcroft Media produced a short documentary and Jezebel and VICE are currently working on short documentaries based on my articles. 


On December 10th I received an email saying that my Alex Vartman expose was removed because “Medium’s Rules don’t allow posts that name specific individuals in this manner.” I was confused because every article I’ve published on Medium.com is about an individual. They’ve reviewed and approved many of them in the past because almost every article I write gets a flood of complaints from the followers of the person I’m writing about and the accused. I simply wanted to know why Medium banned my Alex Vartman article and not the others and there was no answer. They’ve approved articles of mine that are about sexually abusive gurus, rapists and cult leaders. On one occasion they even sent a lengthy email to the lawyer of one “individual” I wrote about who had threatened to sue Medium.com and myself. It read in part: 

“The claims include defamation, copyright infringement, and unauthorized processing of personal data.  As an initial matter, there is no valid claim for defamation against Medium. Medium is an open publishing platform that allows users to post what they want, just as someone can post their own work on Twitter or Facebook. Medium had no part in the creation of the post. As a platform, we do not mediate content between users. In instances such as this one, Section 5 of the 2013 UK Defamation Act shields online intermediaries, ​​like Medium, from defamation claims arising from third-party content​.​ Similarly, under U.S. law, Medium is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Where, as here, the author of the post is easily identifiable, any claim for defamation must be brought against that individual.

Your client’s view that Medium has somehow engaged in unauthorized processing of his personal data is similarly mistaken. Under Section 2, para. 13 of the UK Data Protection Act (2018), processing by online intermediaries is protected where it is undertaken for the purposes of journalism regarding matters of public interest.  Further, Art. 17, Section 3 of the GDPR allows for processing of data where it is necessary to the exercise of freedom of expression and information.”

So, not only did Medium not remove my post for being about an “individual” but they took the time to have their legal team respond in my defense.

When I first published my expose on Bentinho Massaro I got an email from Medium saying that they had read my post and determined it was in violation of of their policies because it included audio recordings I had captured undercover without the other parties permission. No problem. I removed the recordings and the article was allowed to stay. They were fully aware of this post about an “individual.”

Most recently I wrote an article about tantra teacher TJ Bartel who had been accused of raping women during healing sessions. TJ’s assistant told me they contacted Medium to protest. I also emailed Medium to ask them to not remove the post. They were fully aware of my article that contained graphic allegations of rape and sexual abuse against an “individual.” The article was allowed to remain. This was just a few months ago.

Understandably, I had a simple question for Medium: “Why have all of my previous articles been allowed to stay but not my article about Alex Vartman’s “The New Tantra?” Radio silence. I never got an answer.

Next thing I know my entire account is shut down. 

One of the reasons they cited for shutting my account down now was copyright violations of images. Hmm. That seems to be a convenient excuse. Yes, I did have a few DMCA copyright complaints about some images. But on October 25th Tobias from Medium asked “do you own the copyright to the image that is now the post?” I had edited it out to exclude the copyrighted image of the woman who filed the complaint but I still didn’t “own” the copyright to the whole image. I told him. I said, “I don’t own the copyright to the image.” He didn’t care. He didn’t ask me to change it. He allowed the post to stay. And he certainly didn’t cancel my account. I even told him I was confused as to how The Guardian and The Daily mail can use images from Facebook without owning the copyright. No response. 

Email from October 25th showing that Medium had full knowledge of me using images that I didn’t own the copyright to. They did not follow up or ask me to remove the image. Two months later they now tell me my account is suspended because of image copyright issues.

Medium also referred to the inclusion of private communications in my stories as a reason for banning me. Again, to my knowledge, that happened one time with the Bentinho Massaro story and I removed it when they said it was against their policy. If it happened another time I would have also immediately removed it upon being warned so as to prevent the article from coming down. 

They also said there have been “Multiple instances of unverified and uncorroborated claims against individuals in your posts.” Hmm. That’s a very vague. Technically that is true, but that is true of every rape account that is reported on. This is what the abusers I write about say, it’s just all unverified lies. I’m not sure how I can prove it. I’ve only written about people who have many accusers–not just one. Often the stories include 8 or more women who have come forward. That is how I avoid the “he said/she said” dynamic of one individual fabricating something. I follow Medium’s best practices of journalism. 

So, again, Medium had full knowledge of many of my articles about “individuals”–including ones about rape, sexual abuse and cults. These all had numerous “unsubstantiated” and “unverified” claims of rape, sexual assault and abuse. They allowed them to stay online. They defended an article of mine about an “individual” against a lawsuit threat. I told Medium that I did not own the copyright to an image in a post when they asked. They didn’t care. They’ve reviewed and approved my Bentinho Massaro article which had over a dozen images that were obviously not my content. 

Then, one day after I published a story about Alex Vartman’s “The New Tantra” sex cult my entire account is shut down. All of a sudden the copyright image violation that Tobias didn’t care about is the reason. All of a sudden Medium doesn’t allow stories about “individuals.” All of a sudden the reports in my journalistic stories that they had read previously were a problem because they were “unsubstantiated.” Medium can shut you down for whatever reason they want. And they can use any excuse they want to do so. 

Earlier in the day before Medium shut down my account I launched this platform, The Guru. My articles will have a permanent home here. Yet, in the sake of the public interest Medium should restore my account under the agreement I no longer post there. Tens of thousands of people are being denied crucial information about these dangerous predators. 

My question still remains to Medium and it’s founder Evan Williams: “Why had all of my previous articles been allowed to stay but not my article about Alex Vartman’s “The New Tantra?” 

The Divine Madman: Inside Shantam Nityama’s “Tantric Sex Cult”

Several women have come forward with stories of abuse by Neo-Tantra teacher Shantam Nityama who calls himself “The Divine Madman.” Women report being sexually violated by him during sessions and trainings. They describe a “sex cult” environment where Nityama’s inner circle of women recruit other women to have sex with him and pressure women during trainings to sleep with him. He teaches that AIDS and sexual diseases are an illusion so he doesn’t use a condom. Nityama has no lineage or teacher other than having spent time in Osho’s ashram. He lives in Australia in a home with ten women who service him sexually and work for free. He says several “crazy” women have lawsuits against him and he’d be arrested if he returned to U.S. says a former member.

NOTE: Shantam Nityama did not respond to my request for an interview.

[Each of these articles takes up to 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]

Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented byUnited Talent Agency / FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

11/15/18

When Ashley Morgan (not her real name) went to Shantam Nityama for a healing session she believed it’d consist primarily of energy work based on what she had read on his website. She wanted to learn about tantra and had put a lot of trust in him given his status as a teacher.

Ashley said the session started immediately when he entered the room. He didn’t explain what would happen, discuss boundaries, ask her about her background or ask consent to touch her sexually. Rather, he walked in and began with a 30-minute “orgasmic hug.” They then moved to the bed where he used a variety of energy techniques along her spine and body. After about 3 hours he told her it was time to undress.

Once she got naked and laid on the table he consulted with his OBI’s (a Voodoo divination device) and then turned to her and said “Apparently I don’t need to penetrate you.” She was struck with confusion. “I was like ‘what?’” She had no idea what OBIs were. She didn’t know why he said he didn’t need to penetrate her. He asked her if she was married or had a boyfriend. She said he made it seem like he was trying to figure out why the OBIs said no penetration. During the session she says he sexually violated her.

“He did something with his tongue in my mouth. He put his tongue under my tongue. He then began kissing me on my mouth, neck, arms and was sucking on my nipples. As he was sucking on my arm he said ‘pretend it is your clitoris.’ He never asked or warned me. Nothing was explained before the session.

And then he put his fingers inside of my vagina without saying anything. I could feel he was trying to make me ejaculate and I did within five minutes of him pulsing my g-spot. When he entered my vagina, my system went to a “freeze state.” It was a bit like being in a shock. The moment I went on the table naked, I felt his energy was much more taking from me. I could feel like it’s not for me, it’s really for him. Again, none of this was explained nor did he ask consent to do any of it.”

Ashley was offered a free second session — something she is glad she did not agree to in hindsight. She learned later that this is when Nityama would often have sex with women. She said the first session served as a testing ground to groom her, steal her energy and plant his. She said it seemed how he determined if he thought a woman would eventually have sex with him.

Ashley’s account is one from several people who have come forward with stories of abuse by Nityama. They are speaking out now to warn other women of the potential dangers of working with him.

“He told us that during the tantric initiation the teacher plants his seed of transformation in you.” — former student

Video of Shantam Nityama

Kelly Jones (not her real name) told me she knew nothing about tantra and wanted to experience deep healing when she booked a session with Nityama on the advice of her friends. He didn’t explain anything to her about the session before hand she said.

“The first session consisted of energy work while I was laying on the table naked. I felt energy moving and tingling sensations and when I started to cry he said ‘don’t worry baby, I got you.’ I thought this was strange. He then put his tongue in my ear and said ‘are you afraid?’ to which I said ‘no.’

After this session I felt very sexually aroused and I would randomly have orgasms throughout the day. I would go to the supermarket and get wet for no reason days after the session. It was unexplainable. He would just pop in my mind.”

She says Nityama told her that she needed a second session and it’d be free — something she appreciated because she didn’t have the large amount needed (sessions can cost as much as $1,000).

“One day before the session he called me and told me ‘tomorrow I’m making love to you.’ He said that this was the path of initiation in Tantra. I paused and said ‘oh, ok.’

I was really nervous during the second session. He went down on me for a few minutes and then we had sex. It lasted for 7 hours. He stayed inside of me the entire 7 hours. The sex was not enjoyable in anyway. I felt a lot of energy moving but pleasure was not one of them.”

In explaining how he kept his penis inside of her for 7 hours straight she said she did not need to eat, drink, go to the bathroom or sleep. It “was strange” she said.

She became one of his lovers after this session. “Our relationship moved super fast. I felt so special and very loved. He said I had potential, I’m beautiful and was so powerful.”


Kevin Ness (not his real name) said that in a workshop he witnessed Nityama make a woman ejaculate during a hug. “He was starting to get her really aroused and she started ejaculating and then he moved aside and laughed at her for ejaculating in front of the group. She then burst in tears in shame. There was no support for her at all.”

“I could be on this side of the world and have a woman on Skype on the other side of the world and make her [ejaculate], make her shoot out across the room.” — Nityama


Sophia Brown (not her real name) hosted Nityama for a training in her home in 2017. She said a young 21-year old woman in the training had a healing session with him where he sexually penetrated her without her consent. She told Brown about it the next morning. “Hours into the session his dick came out and he penetrated her. She was so in a freeze. She allowed it to happen because she was so scared.”


Julia Reed went to Nityama for what she thought would be only an energetic healing and he ended up asking to kiss her and then berated her for not obliging.

“He talked to me and touched me, like a massage on my back, with clothes. But then he asked me if I was ready for my first kiss? No, I wasn’t. It was then that it started. He tried to frighten and manipulate me, telling me that I was weak, childish, that he could feel better what I needed and that if I didn’t have the courage to break through my boundaries, life would present me very difficult situations until I finally learned my lessons. He talked to me for hours and afterwards I realized that it was almost hypnotizing. It asked a lot from me to resist him. After all, he was famous and highly recommended by people I trusted (Sasha Cobra).”

(Image source: Screenshot)

Coercing Women into Sex

“He’s taking my energy. He’s wanting something from me. I felt that the most when he made me ejaculate.” — former client

When Kelly Jones was part of the group and assisting Nityama she said she’d help recruit women to have sex with him. She recalled a story during a training when he told the women they could have sex with him to clear the past energy of men they had slept with.

“Nityama told us that the energy of every man that women have sex with is stuck with them for life. He said ‘If it is a crazy man you become crazy, if it is a nasty man you become nasty.’ And he then says there are two ways to deal with this: you could not have sex for 7 years or you can have sex with an IFA priest. ‘Everything is gone after having sex with an IFA priest’ he said. Nityama claimed he was an IFA priest, but I know he was only a student. I noticed women became concerned about the past men they had slept with.”

Nityama would end up sleeping with nearly every woman that came to that training she said. Many did not want to and were pressured into it by other members. Jones ended up talking some into having sex with him.

“One of the participants in the retreat came with his girlfriend and daughter. Nityama ended up having sex with the man’s daughter and girlfriend. This man was very confused. Nityama spooned his daughter in front of him. Touched her private parts in front of everyone. He cuddled on the floor, he put his hand on her chest like lovers. Her father walked in and he grabbed his plate and quickly walked out. A few days later Nityama had sex with her. I talked her into having sex with him. She told him ‘I’m not sure I want to. The OBI said no.’ He told her to check again she said.”

Jones told me she wasn’t the only one who pressured women into sleeping with Nityama. She said there was a group chat message where women would send pics of women they’d groomed to have sex with Nityama saying “this girl is ready.” His long-term partner of 15 years, Roxanna Minnona, would also pressure women she said. If they refused she would flip on them. “If you ever question Nityama she turns her back on you so fast.” She said she called her crazy and that she shouldn’t say no. One woman did not want to be sexual with Nityama but his assistant told her that she “needed a man that could lick” her and that was “strong enough for” her. When she kept refusing Jones said Nityama got harsh. He said ‘You know what you need, but you keep finding a reason to say no.’

Jones described how Nityama would groom women to have sex with him during his trainings. “He talked to each of them privately” she said. “He would talk intimately with a woman with his arm around her. And then the next night he’d take her up to his room.” She said “Every night we could hear everything. Screaming, moaning. Sometimes two women at a time.” Another woman said “During workshop breaks he’ll have sex with the women participants.” Jones said they all felt special when he approached them individually. “He hugged them and was moving the energy.” Jones said “Women had no idea this was going to happen to have sex with him. They just wanted to learn tantra. Along the way we were told ‘initiation’ was a part of it.” This was in the context of Nityama teaching them “Women are so jealous, selfish and want to take” and that “One of the ways to give back is by sharing love.”

Jones noticed that the day after the women would have sex with him she saw they had a “distorted look, one of emptiness, confusion and would often be crying in the corner.”

A former student told me Nityama tells them that “young woman should have sex with him for their first time. He told us he had sex with a 12-year old.” On another occasion a former student says a young 15–18 year young girl was brought into the group to have sex with him.

“I did a workshop in the UK on Skype. One of the women came up in front of the big screen. I was interacting with her and at a certain point I saw what was going on with her so I said ‘you just need to be made love to.’ I energetically made love to her in front of the women in the group. It was powerful because every woman in the room went into orgasm with her.” — Nityama

Inside the Trainings

“He would teach us all women are insane by default and the only thing that can save them is to have sex with him.” — former student

Several former students said Nityama’s trainings and workshops did not include very much substance. One person told me “He would just say anything would come to his mind.” There was apparently no structure, no method and no formal teachings. She said it was “Just whatever the mother wants” and “he’d tell stories.” The training started whenever he showed up in the morning and often they wouldn’t know when if at all if they’d have lunch. “Then he may just get up and take one or two of the girls to his room” she said. And “then in the afternoon we’d have plant ceremony.” Kevin Ness said Nityama “had no idea what the workshop was about” and he was “sitting there just talking about himself. Saying how could they be so stupid for asking these questions.” Ness said the main purpose of the training seemed to be Nityama recruiting people into a community to live with him. One student said that he told them “There are only 12 people on earth who really know about sex. He was one of them. That’s why we need to be grateful to have sex with him. He’d say a blow job is a token of gratitude.” Another student said they witnessed shouting and humiliation.

When there was content in his teachings former members told me it was a mash up of various things. While he claimed his teachings were unique and special his students traced them back to the Four Agreements, the science of being, the enneagram, human design and the polarity process among others.

Nityama and long term lover, now business partner, Roxanna Minnona at the Taste of Love festival in Byron Bay. (Image source: Facebook)

“Women Are Horrible”

Marielle Spronck attended a “Tantra” workshop with Shantam Nityama and was so shocked at what he was saying that she figured he was joking. But he was serious. Within the first few minutes of the training he was berating women she told me.

“He told us how horrible women were and what kinds of bad things they did. He said he was the only one in the world who knew how to live. He said he was channeling the Mother and that the only way to be safe was for us to do what he told us. He even told us we are all stupid because no one was questioning him. When I did speak up he used my astrology and enneagram info to attack me. He was trying to shut me up. Everyone that said something, he would say the most horrible things about them so people don’t dare to speak up anymore.”

Because of her previous experience with another cultish “Tantra” group she left the training that same night and posted on Facebook to warn others:

“I was shocked that a teacher that is praised by so many rules his group like a manipulative dictator. Teaching by spreading fear and freeze reactions in people, making them feel stupid and afraid to speak up, turning around information and questions so that it suits him and shows that the people in the room are stupid and ignorant and in desperate need to learn from him as they are all blind. Horrible it was.”

In the workshop where Nityama made the woman ejaculate Kevin Ness said he also witnessed him berating people when they spoke. He was dismissing and judging people when they asked questions he said.

Kelly Jones echoed their experiences. She told me Nityama would teach “All women are insane by default and the only thing that can save them is to have sex with him. Women are so selfish and self-centered, we just take and never give. I didn’t want to be one of these women.” She said that this manipulation led women into wanting to be in service to him.

“I’m full blooded Native American on the quiet side. I’m actually a Yama, Yamasaw…All of a sudden I got tongue tied on the name…Yamasee nation. I’m a chief and shaman in that nation. That’s just a whole other side to my being here and my personalities.” — Nityama (source)

“No such thing as an STD”

A former lover said that Nityama held a variety of strange, un-scientific beliefs. She said that he taught that there was no such thing as STD’s and “that if you have an infection it’s your fault because of something you do.” He doesn’t use condoms either. She said he doesn’t believe gravity exists, the earth is flat and that he “doesn’t believe in any kind of science about earth. If we want to know the truth we have to watch the Matrix he told us.” She also said that “Nityama said when a woman is raped she is actually enjoying it.”

“Nityama said when a woman is raped she is actually enjoying it.” — former student

Drug Smuggling

Jones said that Nityama asks women to smuggle drugs for him. They’d disguise weed in a variety of containers such as face cream. His followers would travel the world with weed and hash for him and the group.

“There is a woman assigned the task of rolling the joints. Weed, hash and tobacco. Students are expected to take turns smoking. If someone said maybe not now, others would pressure them “it will help you understand him better, tune in better, different vibration.”

On one occasion she said Nityama and his inner circle asked Jones to smuggle drugs internationally knowing that because of a unique circumstance she would have been searched. It was at that point that she realized they didn’t care about her she said and began the process of leaving.

One former student said that “drug use is rampant” in the group. Some used ayahuasca, San Pedro and weed/hash. She said Nityama’s drug usage has gotten worse over the years to where he is high all the time now — including during trainings.

Kelly Jones claims that Nityama sexually assaulted her by lacing her drink and making her really high.

“He said ‘Now that you’re high I have to have sex with you.’ He just pulled out his penis and shoved it inside of me. I thought it was consensual but I’m now aware it was not consensual. I never gave him my consent to put anything in my drink. No foreplay, no anything.”

Turning Lesbians Straight

Nityama says that after hugging a lesbian woman who had multiple orgasms during the hug that he had sex with her and made her straight. After that many of the “top lesbians” in the city called him with the request to have sex. He explains.

“One day the woman calls me and says ‘ever since I’ve been seeing you and meeting you and getting hugs I have become extremely confused. I’m wondering did I quit men before I ever met a man?’ She tells me ‘I want to pay you to make love to me because I want to settle this for myself once and for all.’ We made love and she came out of it totally orgasmic. She looked at me in the eyes and said “I am no lesbian.” Two days later I get a call and it’s the wife with the same request. By the time it was over 13 of the top lesbians in the city called me with the same request.”

“Sectarian Apocalyptic Cult”

“Nityama says the earth needs to be saved and he’s one of the only persons on this earth that can do this work.” — former student

Several former members describe Nityama’s group as a sex cult. There are numerous cult like dynamics in play. One former member said he uses “hypnotic languaging” to seduce people. The combination of really slow, methodical and monotonous speaking with confusing jargon that people don’t understand leaves people in a trance like state she said. It allows him to plant his ideas and makes the grooming process easier she said.

Jones said people were brainwashed into thinking he was god.

“There would be consequences if you spoke against him. He was the only god man assigned to heal women by the Mother. As a woman it’s our duty to serve him. When we had sex he’d say ‘now show me what the mother put in you to give me.’”

Jones was terrified of leaving the group. During sex he had told her “There will be no options” and “there’s no turning back.” He said “we are in this forever” and that I wouldn’t be “able to go back to my own life.” He would plant these ideas during sex with group members because it was when they were very open and vulnerable she said. “I’d bear the consequences of it all if I left.”

A former member says Nityama has women working and servicing him sexually in a home in Australia. They are not paid she said as “It is seen as a privilege to be in the ‘Buddha field’ created by Nityama.” She said he uses a “zero frequency” device called ZEB. “It makes you feel sleepy. It is a frequency that makes you more receptible to manipulation.”

“There were about ten women in the house last year being at his service for sex and having to do work and jobs as well. Some are residential, others come during the day. When he was there he would choose a woman every night to sleep with him.”

Leaving Nityama

Kelly Jones said she began to see inconsistencies between what he teaches and practices. When she questioned them he’d get upset. “There were many red flags” she said. “He would tell me a story about a girl who he lived with and called her an ungrateful bitch. He said no period sex or any interaction with the opposite gender during periods, but would engage with women during their periods. Has five kids which he doesn’t take responsibility for. He used weed and hash a lot.” She said “In private he said I was psychotic. Tearing me down and building me up.” He would also berate her in front of others she said.

When Jones changed her mind about having group sex she said he became irate.

“He told me ‘You are weak, you are timid, you are fucked up in your mind. Women like you are messed up.’ He went on about not letting fear overcome me. I was wasting his time. I was feeling really scared. I just sat on the edge of the bed for three hours. Everyone changed on me. His assistant and his boyfriend became really cold.”

Jones is one of many women who has now left Nityama’s group. It wasn’t until she finally studied Tantra with a woman teacher that she learned what she had originally approached Nityama for. The healing journey has been long for her but she has made huge improvements. With sharing her story and the stories of other women Nityama can be prevented from abusing more people in the future.

Calls Emerge for Source Tantra to Close Amidst Sex Abuse Scandal

After an expose chronicled numerous accusations of sexual assault and rape against teacher TJ Bartel, Source Tantra has defended him. No one at the school has been willing to take the allegations seriously or to condemn TJ’s actions, diminishing the trust and integrity of the organization.


This article is a followup to the article “Source Tantra Continues Working with TJ Bartel Despite Sex Abuse Allegations.”

Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented byUnited Talent Agency / FULL BIO / Author contact: [email protected]

10/21/18

After the publication of a widely shared article that exposed numerous accounts of rape and sexual assault by long time Source Tantra teacher TJ Bartel, the school’s leadership has defended him. Whereas many readers were shocked and outraged at the accounts of abuse in the article — with some not even being able to finish reading it — the school stood by their longtime employee and friend. Many in the tantra community were hoping for accountability, action and support for those impacted. Instead, founder Charles Muir and Source Tantra leadership seemed to further aggravate the situation by attacking the victims, the article and by supporting TJ. And now some have called for the school to shut down as a result.

In a statement about the article, Charles Muir seemed to blame the women victims who came forth, “Perhaps some of their anger was due to being removed from our school for their own transgressions with students.” And he also made excuses for TJ’s alleged rape and sexual assault, “TJ has made mistakes in the past two years, after suffering several seizures. He has learned from his mistakes and changed his practices.” One commenter was quick to point out “rape is not a mistake.” Muir also said, “TJ has not been an employee at our school this year.” Several people confirm that TJ recently taught at the September / October teacher training but he perhaps wasn’t technically an “employee” of the school. And finally, Muir praised TJ’s abilities, countering the claims of abuse about him, “I have supervised over 1000 sessions of TJ Bartel at my trainings. There have been no complaints and many breakthroughs.” Muir offered no compassion, empathy or concern for the victims who came forth. Nor did he express any interest in taking action about the allegations in the article.

Charles’ wife, Christy Rose Muir, who is staff at Source Tantra, also challenged the article. She said, “This article is poison” and it is “filled with fabrications.” Christy said I was “being totally dishonest.” She also said we all had no idea “what you have been drawn into” by one of the victims, who Christy Rose Muir said “winds up shitting on everyone who trusts her.” She also accused several of the victims of lying in the article. And she said to one commenter who was trying to raise awareness “You don’t care. You want blood. Admit it. It’s ok.”

Rima Bonario, who is TJ’s “accountability partner” — a supposedly objective voice to analyze TJ’s behavior — also criticized the article. She said “Women who claim false rape hurt women who are really raped.” She called the article a “smear campaign filled with falsehoods and unsubstantiated allegations.” Bonario also teaches with TJ and is co-leading an all women’s “Awakening the Goddess Within” retreat to Egypt with him where TJ will also be offering yoni massages.

Vice President Leah Alchin Piper did not respond publicly, but as stated in the previous article, several students accuse her of covering up and minimizing TJs and others abuse for years.

Alchin and TJ have been very close over the years and were former lovers. They also have worked together offering dual VIP intensives says a former student.

There has yet to emerge a voice at Source School of Tantra Yoga to take the allegations seriously or to publicly state that they will take action to address these types of behavior. No leader or school official has condemned TJs behavior yet or officially distanced themselves from him.

The Community Responds

After seeing the lackluster response from founder Charles Muir and Christy Rose Muir the community voiced their concerns.

Rodolfo Oliveira had hoped the school would have shown empathy and concern for the victims:

“Everyone seemed to hope for some kind of accountability, ownership even some sort of remorse? The behavior of the school has shown itself intensely traumatizing in the least, consistent in blaming victims and certainly this is criminal behavior. It’s time for charges to be pressed. Rape is a violent act. The men and women of source school need to be stopped. The way this woman Christy Rose Muir behaved in the commenting is intensely manipulative. It’s time for justice.”

A former Source Tantra student, Kevin Raines (not his real name), called for the school to close:

“Yes, it’s time for Source school to be shut down. People need to stop attending their workshops & trainings. People need to stop supporting Muir if he’s going to condone sexual misconduct by himself & his main male teachers.”

He went on to say that if the school really had integrity it would “be coming from a place of compassion & wanting to make things right. Healing things would be the priority.”

Tantra educator Tanja Diamond agreed that Source should close and expressed dismay at them not standing up:

“It’s appalling that Source School is not addressing the fact one of their senior teachers, TJ Bartel, has been called out as a serial rapist. In fact their staff and associates have been engaged in harassing and intimidating the victims and this has to stop. It’s a crime to allow the school to continue, it needs to be shut down before more people are hurt.”

Caroline Carrington — a former Source Tantra student and current NeoTantra educator — also chimed in on her concerns with the school.

“Source School of Tantra Yoga staff have been complicit in protecting the abusers. Victims and anyone asking too many questions have been manipulated, gaslit, threatened and told they were troublemakers. Many people have been talking privately for years to Source Tantra to ask for accountability. When our requests were repeatedly ignored, it felt imperative to speak out so the public can be informed to prevent others from being harmed.”

One commenter wrote, “It is depressing that people are so prone to protect abusers, not their victims.”

Another expressed their disgust over the situation:

“I am horrified and sickened after reading what has happened to these women who trusted these teachers, healers and school. How men in positions of power, think that they can violate women/men like this, as though their behavior is normal, acceptable and of benefit to the women/men that they are abusing surpasses my comprehension.”

These are just a handful of the widespread critical responses that have emerged since the sex abuse scandal broke.

Source Tantra Loses Credibility

In today’s heightened climate, if an organization or business does not take allegations of rape and sexual assault seriously they will lose their integrity and credibility and risk their existence. This is even more true and important for a school that is centered on sexual healing. Having clear, enforceable polices for misconduct is how a healthy foundation is established. Without this, a school like Source Tantra risks their future.

The questions Source Tantra will have to answer now are: Why would anyone feel safe at the school if they continue to work with people accused of sexual assault and rape? Why would students trust the leadership when they do not take sexual misconduct seriously? If a student is abused, how can the public be assured their complaints would be heard given the schools history of gaslighting and abusing victims and their supporters?

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