Source Tantra Continues Working with TJ Bartel Despite Sex Abuse Allegations

Multiple women have accused Source School of Tantra Yoga teacher TJ Bartel of sexual misconduct. The allegations include rape, sexual assault, violation of boundaries, forceable kissing and manipulation. Women also report that he allows clients to perform oral sex on him and have sexual intercourse during yoni massage sessions. Source Tantra founder Charles Muir and Vice President Leah Alchin Piper are accused of enabling and covering up the abuse. Charles Muir teaches that you cannot get STI’s and do not need to wear gloves in sessions if your vibration is high enough. Also, many Source teachers have sex with their students and clients, although they publicly teach this is not ok.


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.]


UPDATE: Charles Muir has read the article. He said TJ has made mistakes and learned from them and that there have been no complaints about the sessions he has overseen. Muir expressed no concern or empathy for the victims and said they may be angry for being removed from the school due to their own “transgressions.”

SEE PART 2: Calls Emerge for Source Tantra to Close Amidst Sex Abuse Scandal


10/18/18

In light of multiple sexual abuse allegations against senior teacher TJ Bartel, the Source School of Tantra Yoga (SSTY) has publicly stated they terminated their relationship with him. In April, 2018 founder Charles Muir stated online that he was fully aware of the situation and that TJ had been removed. Muir’s executive assistant — providing me a statement via an email thread that included Muir — said “TJ is not teaching at our seminars this year. He has not worked at the School since January 2018 in Thailand.” Source’s claim is contradicted however, by several people who saw Bartel teaching at the recent level III teacher training in September / October. They said he was there, on stage, giving sessions and promoting his new book, course and clothing line. Several people confirm an email was sent to students that said TJ would be the tantric healer or “Daka” during the training. When I asked Muir and his assistant about the discrepancy I did not receive a response.

According to TJ’s bio, his relationship with Source Tantra extends back to 2004. He is Charles Muir’s most long-term senior student and close friend a former student says. Some refer to TJ as a “Daka to the stars” given his celebrity / Hollywood clientele. Bartel taught at many of their trainings over the years, serving to bolster the school’s reputation as the pioneer in the modern Tantra education movement. Founded by Muir in 1978, Source Tantra has played a central role in popularizing ecstatic and sexual awareness practices and healing techniques. Some in the tantric community refer to Muir as the “grandfather of the modern tantra movement.”

Victims and their supporters allege that Muir and vice-president Leah Alchin Piper (Muir’s student turned lover, now separated) have downplayed and minimized the allegations over the last several months. They claim that Source Tantra is complicit with enabling Bartel’s abuse. A former student says that TJ is central to their trainings and revenue stream. Muir even told one person that her efforts to raise awareness would bring her bad karma as he “invoked the law of sevenfold effect.” He also told her that her “friends” should take lie detector tests because the victims were lying.

When Source Tantra student Palki Mawar told Charles Muir and Leah Alchin Piper of her sexual assault by TJ she says they acknowledged it was wrong but failed to act at the time. She says he told her that TJ “is still learning” and was shocked when Muir made TJ the lead teacher at a Boston workshop despite the acknowledged assault. Mawar claims Alchin put the onus on her and suggested she needed to forgive TJ. When she said she wasn’t feeling forgiveness Alchin told her “we’ll have to see if level II tantra teacher training is right for you then.” TJ was still scheduled to teach in that training. Later, during a meeting in which TJ was present with Mawar, she says that all Muir did was merely remind TJ that he was not using intake forms during sessions. There was no reprimand or action taken.

If you have a story of abuse by TJ Bartel, Charles Muir or Source Tantra please contact me at [email protected]

Critics point out that Muir and Source Tantra have evaded and avoided taking real action against perpetrators. In response to an incident of sexual assault by a different Source Tantra teacher, Muir publicly sided with the man and posted in his defense on Facebook. After calling out a Source Tantra Daka for abuse, Heather Rhea Dawn says she was punished by Charles by being removed from the Source Tantra Facebook group and a Meetup group. When Caroline Carrington tried to raise awareness about an abusive Source teacher, vice-president Leah Alchin Piper told her to “stay in your own lane” she says. She said Alchin told her that her efforts were “creating more discord” and removed her from the approved list of Certified Tantra Educators listed on the Source Tantra website, even though this is offered to all graduates of the teacher training program.

Accusations of Abuse

“The practitioners should be in service to the needs of the student or client and get their own needs meet elsewhere.” — Caroline Carrington

The eight women who share their stories of sexual abuse by TJ below echo a similar pattern of misconduct which took place during yoni massages. His sessions cost up to $900 per session. The victims claim the sessions were oriented around TJ’s pleasure, not their healing. TJ rarely if ever used an intake form or asked about the women’s needs or desires for the session they say. The sexual misconduct accusations include rape, sexual assault, violation of boundaries, manipulation, forceable kissing and sexual engagement during sessions. Several women claim that TJ positioned his genitals in their face for most of the session. Some women report that TJ was naked during the session — a violation of Source Tantra’s policy as they require men to keep underwear on. Two say that TJ told them he allows women to give him oral sex or to stroke him during sessions and others say TJ has sexual intercourse. And just like his mentor Charles Muir, TJ believed he was immune to STIs.


Palki Mawar went to TJ for a yoni massage in 2017 at his home in Topanga Canyon. She told me he raped her during the session.

“I looked up and noticed him standing on his knees with his penis hard against my yoni without underwear. He poured very warm coconut oil on his chest that dripped over my yoni and he said that ‘these are advanced techniques.’ He slid his penis in me with a condom on. I had no idea this was going to happen nor did I consent to it. It lasted about five minutes and he came inside of me.”

Palki described the trauma it left her with.

“It messed me up completely. All of my childhood trauma was magnified by it. It was a realization of being raped on the level of my soul. Somehow it was more painful than the pain of childhood sexual abuse. Simply because this man posed as a yoni worshipper, and a healer and protector of women.”

Later, Mawar emailed TJ looking for answers as to why he penetrated her during the session. She said he emailed her and said that he felt there was something more between them in the moment. She recalled what he wrote:

“I felt like it meant more. I felt a sense of familiarity and you had a deep poise. It felt like a blessing for both of us. You looked like a Dakini from a poster of mine. You seem like a woman who doesn’t hesitate to grab what she wants.”

She told me all of these feelings were “in his own imagination.”


Kara McNealy (not her real name) had a yoni massage session with TJ where he was completely naked and used his penis on her body she claims. She also claims TJ penetrated her without consent.

“He told me that he found me attractive, that I was “his type” and proceeded to work without underwear on, using his lingam [penis] on my body and genitals. During this session he said ‘I can’t help myself.’

She said he told her that he only chose to not wear underwear during a session for “people he felt drawn to” like he did with her. In a later session she says TJ sexually violated her.

“In one exchange, I was receiving from TJ, and he penetrated me without consent, without a condom. I was shocked and surprised.”

And when she tried to confront TJ about what happened he was not available. “The insult to injury for me was that I attempted several times to handle it as an adult with TJ afterwards, I called, I texted, letting him know that I needed to speak with him about the integrity breach. He said, ‘I know’ but never made himself available for this even with my several attempts.”


Erin Grace (not her real name) had a yoni massage with TJ in which she claims he exposed himself to her naked and “rammed himself” into her from behind, without physically penetrating her.

“I was still on the bed and moving in ecstasy with waves of orgasms when he returned in his short robe and he laid the opposite way to me with no shorts on and exposing his balls and cock to me and began stroking my legs so I stroked his legs and said I want to keep feeling this orgasmic. I thought to myself he is letting me touch him and is this allowed? He went back into the bathroom and I followed. He then bent me over and from behind rammed himself into me. Even though he didn’t physically put his cock inside me I could energetically feel him inside of me. My energy rose and he pushed my face into the mirror over the sink as he rode me into a higher state. All I wanted was to feel more and more and I also didn’t understand if this was part of the session as it felt very different. He lead me into the bedroom and I said I don’t feel grounded, I feel like I am flying and my whole body is shaking and vibrating and I feel electric and uncontrollable. He tries to hold my feet to ground me and said our session is over. I feel confused and high as I start to dress. I said how much do I owe you he said his price and I could barely get the money out as he headed me to the door and said goodbye.

I wasn’t in my body fully and I felt fear and confusion rise as to what had just happened. I felt shame and cried as I tried to find my own hotel room as to how I would explain this to my fiancé. Our session was over 4 hours and was only supposed to be 2. I wondered was this my fault for flirting for touching him for feeling so much pleasure and for wanting more of it.”


In July 2015 Irina Lapshina received a yoni massage from TJ in which she claims he penetrated her with his penis while it was still in his boxers.

“During a yoni massage he put his penis in me pretty far even though it was still in his boxers. He would just enter me and leave it there and pulse it. He did this without my consent. He kept it there for a few minutes at a time for about three different times during the session. I was really confused. He told me he was doing it for my healing. I’m kind of ashamed to admit it now but I saw him as a glorified teacher and that’s why I didn’t say anything. During the session his penis was often in front of my face and he encouraged me to touch it and play with it. He also kissed me all over and said I could kiss him back anywhere I wanted. I got a sense it really was up to me how far I wanted to take it, and I didn’t want to take it far. I wanted to heal, not to have sex with my Daka.

I literally cried for two days non-stop after the session. I realized that I was forking over money to this guy and he was not providing any valuable service to me at all.”

She said he told her that he couldn’t get sexually transmitted diseases:

“He also told me he’s immune to STD’s despite having slept with ‘thousands of women in his life.’ He’s quite proud of his ability to ward off diseases with a strong aura and good intentions. He doesn’t believe he can get an STD, or any physical illness for that matter. Later I found out he had been treated for STD’s, and not too long ago was hospitalized for exhaustion.”

During a session she said that he never did an intake and for twenty minutes before the session he talked about himself and his business plans and showed her around the house. “He was not interested with anything about me, nothing that pertained about the session. I wanted to scream ‘I am the paying client! Why am I here to listen to your business plans?’” she told me.


Tantra educator Heather Rhea Dawn went to TJ for a yoni massage in 2015. Like many other women she reports that TJ pressed his erect penis against her vulva, kept his groin close to her face and was open to sexual interaction after sessions.

“He was grinding on me with his underwear on. He was grinding his lingam against my vulva. He kept putting his groin really close to my face. I wasn’t sure if he had wanted a blow job. His groin was always close to my face except when he was grinding on me. When we cuddled at the end he put his hand right close to his lingam, I think one or two of my fingers were touching his lingam. I was feeling like he wanted me to touch him. I finally was like ‘I’m not doing this.’ Then he just fell asleep curled up next to me for the next two hours.”

“I felt the session was all about him in the way that he was determined to make my body do what he wanted it to do, as he was focused on grinding, me having amrita (squirting) — as he is known for that — and me stroking him afterward. I left feeling drained from the session and shocked.”

When TJ woke up she asked him about his unorthodox techniques. He told her “oh you’re a Dakini I figured you could handle it.” When she asked him about why he made her hand touch his penis he said “Some women want to give me a blow job afterward or stroke me as a way of giving back to me.” She looked at him and said “you let them give you a blow job?” He said “yeah.”


Kelly Bentham (not her real name) says that TJ performed oral sex on her without her consent during a yoni massage and gave her genital herpes.

“He didn’t ask my permission and I never asked for him to do it. He licked my pussy. He had a sore on his lip and gave me HSV1 (Herpes). I would find out years later that multiple students accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior.”

Genital herpes is something she has to live with everyday of her life and it impacts her relationships greatly she told me.


In 2017 Heather Gold (not her real name) experienced significant trauma after what she describes as a sexual assault by TJ. She went to him for a yoni massage and was told it would be hands only, but he tried to make out with her several times, pressed his erect penis against her vagina and laid his whole body on top of her she says. She also thought it was strange that he showed up to the session in only his boxers.

“As the session went on, he began using his body as well as his hands, laying on top of me. Several times he tried to kiss me on the mouth. I felt vulnerable and completely froze. I was embarrassed to stop the session as it had been set up as an experience where you’re supposed to ‘let go.’ If I stopped I felt like I would be failing. Also each transgression happened incremental, I kept letting it slide. In my head I kept justifying each progressive action and thought my body language, by turning my head away, expressed I did not want to engage in a reciprocal sexual way. At one point he tried to force my mouth open with coconut oil. Then he pressed his erect penis up against my vagina. Sadly I let the session continue, being somewhere else in my head. Though it wasn’t particularly enjoyable and actually hurt, I was brought to orgasm. I wish I had stopped because I feel like this set the trauma deeper.”

Afterwards she slipped into a depression for around 6 months and began experiencing “many strange feelings” which she later learned were “trauma reactions.” The experience left her with long term trauma that she hasn’t been able to get rid of. It’s still negatively effecting her relationships she says.

“It severely fucked me up…I’m still having abnormal sexual reactions, or non reactions, and it’s nearly a year later. I feel like I have had a healthy sex life stolen from me. Because of the nature of experiencing this trauma in association with having an orgasm I have lost interest in sex. It lodged a reflexive fight or flight response in me because it happened during an orgasm.”


Caroline Carrington describes an incident with TJ in the shower after a yoni massage that left her seriously confused.

“He said I could have a shower in his bathroom. I went into the shower and then he said, ‘Would you like me to get in the shower and wash your hair?’ He ended up washing my hair and washing my body all over. I walked out of that session so confused. For a week, I was like ‘are we dating? Is he into me?’ It all happened directly after 3 hours of g-spot activation. He doesn’t even have an understanding of a container. I spent a week confused and spoke to some of the Source Tantra staff about it.”

She told him the next week, “This really messed with my head. You didn’t technically violate my boundaries but it made me feel really weird and I wanted to let you know.”

Four years later she ran into TJ at a festival and she says that he told her a bold face lie about showering with clients. “He said to me, ‘oh, by the way, after my session with you, Judith Davis, [another Source Tantra Staff member], told me I was completely out of line and I changed my policy and never do that with people anymore.” Carrington told me that “many people I’ve spoken to on the phone who’s had sessions with him since my experience said he’s gotten into the shower with them.”

Source Tantra’s Controversial Practices

“Charles Muir teaches that you cannot get STI’s and do not need to wear gloves in sessions if your vibration is high enough.” — Tanja Diamond

The discrepancy between the public claims and private actions of Source Tantra aren’t limited to their relationship with TJ Bartel. Publicly, Source presents itself as a school that stresses boundaries and consent. “The official party line is no kissing, no oral, no sex” during client sessions Tanja Diamond told me. What happens behind closed doors is a different story.

Source Tantra students and tantric educators told me that many of the teachers in the school have sex with their students and clients during sessions. Publicly, Source would not officially teach this or condone it they said but it is expected and rampant. Those who do not are “looked down upon” says former Source Tantra student Irina Lapshina. “They’re no fun. They don’t get it. You definitely won’t belong” she says. One former student got the nickname “baby Jesus” because she was too prude and “different than the rest.”

Lapshina and educator Caroline Carrington told me that Source Tantra Vice-President Leah Alchin Piper has told them both that she has sex with clients during sessions. One client became her husband after she had sex with him during a several day long VIP tantric healing session. Carrington told me it was strange to see selfies of Leah and her then student (now husband) on social media clearly looking like lovers during the time of the VIP Tantra immersion. Years before, Alchin dated Muir after being his student.

Carrington also told me that she knows of a senior Source Tantra lead Dakini who has had sex with a client. “We taught workshops together for a while so I know she had sex with a brand new Tantra student in a private session because she told me right after it happened.” Caroline stopped teaching with her a few years ago as she no longer wanted to be connected to the Source Tantra staff and their abuse and lack of integrity.

Heather Rhea Dawn said “Most of the teachers at Source Tantra end up dating or having sex with their students coming to them for private sessions, a complete abuse of the power dynamic between teacher and student.” Carrington told me senior Source teachers “Charles, Leah, Lisa and Judith” would “all end up having sex with students either in session or those who have recently graduated.” Some Source Tantra teachers like Mare Simone have openly admitted that sexual intercourse between teachers and students or clients during healing sessions is beneficial. There are even some Source Tantra teachers who refer to their clients as lovers while they have sex with them.

Tantra teacher Tanja Diamond has been collecting testimonies of abuse within the tantra community for years. She told me she has listened to men describe being raped by Source Tantra female teachers during what was supposed to be a lingam massage. The women would straddle the men and start having sex without their consent she said.

Charles Muir

“If you are a healer, your mouth, vagina and penis stay out of the picture.” — Heather Rhea Dawn

While Charles Muir “officially” teaches that there is “no kissing, no oral, no sex” during sessions he doesn’t follow this says Irina Lapshina. She described a lingam massage session that she and another woman were required to give Muir for their training. Muir forcibly made out with them, was highly sexual with his touch and touched their bodies including their vaginas Lapshina claims. She describes Muir as a very engaged, active “taker” and says the session, which she believed would be a typical lingam massage, became an “orgy.”

“We thought we were gonna be givers, but it turned out he was an active participant, and a VERY active taker. He basically directed the session.”

“What ensued wasn’t like anything we were prepared for. Charles forcibly kissed us both many times, long and deep. He basically shoved his tongue down our throats, over and over. We both obliged, although were taken aback, because in classroom he has always taught that kissing is not a part of a tantric session. The session escalated quickly and basically became a two-hour, threesome orgy, with us as stunned participants. Charles was the supposed receiver, yet his hands were all over us, and in us, and we basically soaked his bed ejaculating. There was deep kissing, and much grinding. Now, mind you, this was a session. With students. During training. As a part of homework.

When we left his house, soaking wet and bewildered, we looked at one another and asked ‘would we ever be able to share this with our fellow students, as, we’re sure, everyone would be asking? No, absolutely not, we cannot share this. This goes against everything that’s taught in class about how a session should be conducted.’ After that incident I cut ties with Source School.”

Charles Muir

When Caroline Carrington received a yoni massage from Muir she says he violated her repeated requests to not touch her throat. She told him she was held at knifepoint and had serious trauma and somatic memory there. Not even her child or lovers are allowed to touch her throat she told him. She said that Charles’ response was “Oh, I’m absolutely going to touch your throat.” She said this to him three or four times but he said “no, we’re gonna do this.” In the end she relented. “In an hour Charles jumped on the four biggest traumas of my life. I was screaming throughout most of the session.” She said she lost her voice on and off for a whole year after the session. She contacted Charles and Leah and couldn’t get support. “I’m losing my voice every single week, what should I do?” And there was no support there she said.

Tanja Diamond participated in an early Source Tantra training and describes several incidents of behavior that shocked her as a student. When a couple started having sex in the middle of the training circle at the end of a segment Charles did nothing. When Tanja witnessed multiple transgressions during triads such as men going down on women unwanted during what was supposed to be a yoni massage Muir dismissed the concerns. Others were having sex in training sessions, sometimes without consent of the receiver. When she brought it up she said “Charles would just bypass my question and tell me to chill out. I wasn’t understanding how the Goddess works.” Others have witnessed Charles making out with and passionately groping another teacher while students were practicing techniques in class.

Allegations of sexual misconduct have also trailed Muir over the years. He has acknowledged that he is aware of them. Muir posted publicly that he is “actively seeking more information” about allegations against other Source teachers and those “who have made claims against me. I welcome hearing from them, for I have never raped anyone.”

The Future of Tantra

“Women go to daka’s for healing, not to have more trauma put in them.” — Heather Rhea Dawn

Tantric and spiritual movements are going through a moment of collective transformation. Abusive and predatorial gurus are being exposed at unprecedented levels. Just two months ago, Agama yoga — one of the largest tantra training centers in the world — was exposed for widespread sexual abuse by it’s founder Swami Vivekananda Saraswati and several of its main teachers. It shut down as a result. The #metoo movement has arrived on the meditation cushion, yoga mat and in the tantra world.

The “hook-up” centric, sex-focused, patriarchal, heteronormative and even sleezy movement that Charles Muir built by merging the swinger lifestyle with tantra is being challenged by a new, younger generation of tantric practitioners. They are diverse, consent focused, differently bodied, queer/trans, gender non-conforming, tech-savvy and trauma-sensitive. No longer can men get away with abusing women without recourse. No longer can broken leaders cloak greed and sexual assault in spiritual lingo without being exposed. No longer will violence against women’s bodies go unchecked. No longer can organizations protect predatorial men without risking their existence.

Charles Muir is now in his early 70s. His generational mindset produced and enabled TJ Bartel. Source Tantra failed to take decisive action against his abuse. Muir endangered the safety of women by protecting Bartel. Muir’s own failure to honor women’s boundaries and consent has inflicted trauma and harm. Publicly teaching “no kissing, no oral, no sex” during sessions while privately encouraging and doing this, threatens the transparency and honesty that is so desperately needed in tantric and spiritual leadership. None of these abuses have been a secret either — they’ve been enabled by an inner circle that fears retribution and loss of social status in the tantra world.

The good news is that the old paradigm is burning down. An inclusive, queer, caring, consensual and transparent future is on the horizon.

Ashevillage: Where Dreams Go to Die

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.]

2/12/18

“It is not the talking about people who abuse power that fractures communities. It is the abuse of power that fractures communities and the people in them.” — Eva Blake

Ashevillage was my dream. It’s an all women run eco-urban permaculture community near downtown Asheville, NC. I spent two months there in the spring of 2016, first as an AirBnB guest and then as a staff member. I couldn’t believe it was real. As a trans person it was incredible to be in community with other women in such a powerful way.

The founder, Janell Kapoor, had what people wanted — meaningful work, community, housing, land, connections and a vision. She attracted smart, talented people from all over the country. Natural builders, environmentalists, gardeners, digital strategists and healers showed up eager and idealistic, ready to create the change this world needs so badly.

Janell Kapoor

A former staff member describes Janell as “a master organizer and master visionary. She really is amazing at what she does. She organizes and motivates people into a vision as a common vision to get on board and put their energy into things.” For many years she’s been working tirelessly as a natural builder, environmentalist and change maker for the betterment of the planet.

She had built a name for herself in the natural building community after her work in Thailand teaching cob and adobe building techniques to displaced villagers. Janell continued doing natural building work in service with her non-profit Kleiwerks, teaching and building on the west coast and Asheville. She formed Ashevillage around 2007 and began hosting workshops, trainings and programs there.

Living and working together at Ashevillage was beautiful. In one room someone might be teaching about soil and worms. In another room folks would be planning a social change based online telesummit. We shared meals, taught each other skills, went for hikes in the 60 acre forest behind the property, went dancing, had deep conversations and sat by the fire late into the night.

The description on the website is nothing short of magical:

“Ashevillage Sanctuary is a women-led, community-oriented, 1.3 acre residential permaculture oasis a few blocks from downtown Asheville, NC & bordering 60 acres of woodland trails. Our purpose is to help anchor the wild & divine feminine on the planet in this time. Our values center around creating the world we want to live in by putting our beliefs into practice in our own backyard, working with regenerative systems & living skills, exploring the feminine/masculine spectrum & all manners of authentic & sensual living. Interests revolve around social, ecological & restorative justice; healing & ceremonial arts; human evolution in relationship with Gaia; authentic relating, intimacy, eros; permaculture, resilient living, food as medicine & more. Our site includes 4 connected properties + an integrated living systems landscape + beautiful edible, medicinal & pollinator gardens.”

In theory, Ashevillage was the perfect environment for our dreams to be nurtured. In reality, it was the nightmare of a deeply wounded healer that left countless people traumatized, broken and lost. It was a place where our dreams went to die.

At this time of great accountability, transparency and transformation on our planet we must address what has happened at Ashevillage and imagine a new way forward.

Uncomfortable Truths

By all accounts Ashevillage was a very unhealthy and toxic work environment run by a controlling, manipulative and abusive leader. Over the last ten years dozens of people — mostly young women and queer men — have been burnt, betrayed and exploited by Janell. People showed up excited and hopeful and left dissatisfied, broken or traumatized. Ashevillage was pretty much the exact opposite of what it claimed to be.

One former staff member told me at first she had an “amazing vision of being there — cultivating myself as a farmer, speaker for earth, connecting other people to plants and place.” Things went south quickly after arriving. She told me she “was taken advantage of. My gifts were seen but exploited and not valued.” She described Janell as “a manipulative, cunning and deceitful person.” I asked her to list her main problems with working there:

  • Working outrageously hard, not getting paid or credited for work.
  • Being critiqued all the time.
  • Nothing is ever good enough. Very manipulative air about her. Working for her was a very imbalanced dynamic.
  • Never felt worthy as a human being. She never treated me as a human being. Treated others as sub human. She knocks people down. Very discouraging leader. Very painful to live under her rule.
  • Wanted power, control and money. She was greedy about money and people’s resources. Wanted it all to benefit her organization at the lowest denominator.

I witnessed and heard about people breaking down in tears from the way Janell treated them. “It felt abusive,” one former staff member told me. People were often pushed to their max, overloaded with tasks and jobs, not appreciated, critiqued frequently and exploited beyond measure.

“She had a way of breaking people down and making them second guess themselves.”

There are numerous, highly skilled and talented people that have come to Ashevillage only to leave upset in explosive, tear-filled or traumatic exits. One former staffer told me, “two separate people, separate times, similar capacity — enlisted to be able to really help the organization grow — both left disillusioned, having a very traumatic crying fit. They were just dumbfounded, asking ‘how did this happen?’”

“Janell was only friends with people at Ashevillage in so much as she could take advantage of them,” one former staff member told me. It was “I like you because of what you can do for me” they said. If someone was too strong willed she would say “that person is gonna have to go.” She had a history of “hiring really empathetic people who would support her. She was very manipulative. She knew it was a skill she had.”

Crafting an idealistic vision that young, talented people would dedicate themselves to was one of her strengths. One person who knows her well told me that she’s a “master manipulator. She is great about drawing people to a good cause and then using a lot of idealism and ultimately a lot of good intentions and naivety — she’s predatory in that way.” And then the same pattern emerges over and over again. She will exploit, take advantage of and use them for whatever she can. She “would always sell people on these benefits — you’re gonna get experience doing this and doing that…etc. Things would get sidelined though or shifted or demoted….That’s how you get people’s buy in and support, by promising certain things.”

“She is truly one of the most narcissistic, sociopathic people I’ve ever encountered, all dressed up in a new age loving kindness facade. She’s VERY appealing upon first impression; gorgeous, sensual, impressive, visionary… but upon closer inspection, she is terrifying and incomprehensible.”

Janell would often degrade staff members while they were in important situations. I remember hearing about how a staff member was once sitting in an important meeting and Janell came in and told her to go pick up garbage in the garden in front of them. Another time she asked someone to go weed flowers in the driveway during an important conversation.

One former staff member told me Janell would intentionally push people’s boundaries and create awkward situations merely to watch people “squirm.” She apparently liked watching people become uncomfortable and used that weakness and vulnerability as way to break them down and get in their heads.

“Perfectly normal things that I did there I cannot do. Sitting in circle and sharing gives me PTSD. It was such a ritual there that now I can’t shake this.”

Numerous people described her behavior as narcissistic to me. And she exhibits all of the characteristics of textbook Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

“She has bad blood with everyone”

From not honoring larger financial agreements, breaking promises or manipulating them to not paying for handiwork and just being insensitive and uncaring there are numerous examples of how Janell has burned people.

A former staff member told me about how she screwed over a contractor and then was very difficult with him even during mediation. She only trashed the person behind their back they said. “She completely burnt him. He did all this work. Main project manager, land development coordinator and she wasn’t even gonna pay him.” Other times she’d change contracts and then just not fulfill them. Betrayal around money was a huge complaint that repeatedly came up.

It was common for paying interns in the programs to leave early, “On several different occasions, interns have come spent money to do a program — then they’d not get the fulfillment, quit before the program was over and leave saying ‘I just got taken advantage of’ ‘I didn’t learn what I was supposed to.” One staff member told me that an entire batch of interns even all bailed in the middle of night.

“At some point all the interns turned against her and one night they all packed up and left and never came back.”

One person broke off their friendship with Janell in part because of the way she was treating another member who was old and dying of HIV. He remembers how one person told her “Janell back the fuck up. Wake up. This is supposed to be one of your best friends and you are hounding him when you should be helping him.” He said she wanted him to “be her legal consultant, business consultant, negotiator…Anywhere she’d find a willing participant or free labor she just ran with it.”

Lots of smaller insensitive and careless behaviors added up over the years. Disrespectfully over extending the use of someone’s tools, damaging a friends car and not acknowledging it and building a gray water catch basin that stepped into a neighbors yard when they explicitly agreed that wouldn’t happen. I remember hearing a story about how Janell told a staff member that she was deeply insulted and offended at her grammatical mistakes in what they both knew was a draft. Janell even hit her 70-year old neighbors vehicle and wasn’t going to say anything. The elderly woman who was on limited income had to chase her down so Janell would pay her.

“My God I heard so many stories when I was there about ways that she had disrespected people’s labor and investment of creativity, sometimes destroying projects in front of the students who had just created it as a demonstration of her whimsical misapplied power.”

Janell’s inability to run the organization in a healthy, mature way led to numerous staff members being frustrated and upset. One former staff member explained:

“She was a poor leader. She didn’t show up for work most days until 12 and then would spend half the day complaining about she was tired and didn’t sleep. She was victimizing herself to get sympathy.

She was involved in every detail micromanaging every thing. She never trusted us. She’d tell you that you did everything wrong. She always meddled. I could never just do my thing even when I had my own plan.”

More:

“I always found it interesting that she’d sleep till noon, wake up and make personal calls for a few hours, lounging in bed, then get up and passive-aggressively point out her disappointment that others hadn’t done everything she wanted, exactly the way she wanted.”

Another former resident shares their account from around January-April of 2017:

“The interns have to pay a $500 deposit and she won’t give it back to them if they don’t fulfill their time contract. But they can’t take it and have to leave because she is crazy and she keeps their money. There is no permaculture is happening what soever. Mostly just women’s yoni massage and airbnb guests. It’s such a farce and illusion…

He was doing natural building work for her. She was telling him to complete an insane amount of work by a timeframe that was not available and wouldn’t listen to him when he’d explain how he needed to do things differently for the sake of quality.

She’d also use toxic paint over naturally designed buildings and call it organic and eco.

And every time she came into the guest house she had a complaint and was critical to everyone. They call her a dictator.

Her interns weren’t allowed to have anyone over either. And when guests came to the guesthouse the interns and the ones who were paying 750 were not allowed to use the house to shower!!! Everyone would have to sleep outside and still work 40 + hours a week in the winter time.”

Another person that has known her for over 10 years:

“She is truly one of the most narcissistic, sociopathic people I’ve ever encountered, all dressed up in a new age loving kindness facade. She’s VERY appealing upon first impression; gorgeous, sensual, impressive, visionary… but upon closer inspection, she is terrifying and incomprehensible…She has fucked over everyone I know who has been involved with her. There are some very specific examples of abuse of power, as well as law breaking that might have shut her down — I just don’t have the energy to put toward anything to do with her. Ashevillage being shut down would be a blessing — because it’s so impressive and appealing for young change makers, who she attacks and manipulates for her own benefit. It’s tragic really.”

One of the natural builders who used to travel to Ashevillage to teach there, Mark Lakeman:

“She’s not changed. What I saw last time was worse than ever and truly monstrous.

Several nights when I was at Ashevillage people asked me to come with them to meet others and hear their stories, up past 3am at times. They told me so many horror stories. It was really like a group of survivors needing to compare notes, everyone said that they felt like they were going crazy and they needed to verify with each other because they felt like they almost had to question their sanity. What everyone was going through was unbelievable to them, and the people who were either on staff at the time or who were previous staff all talked about how frightened they were of even speaking with each other. Janelle had done an amazing job of scaring them all into submission

I can also say how disrespected ALL the leaders and teachers feel, whom I know, that have worked with her. How she interrupts us during our lessons, even mid sentence, going utterly tangential, off topic, hijacking the focus while time us running out.

She has me come to teach, then doesn’t even tell me I have a building project until I get there. Treated my assist person like total lesser being, didn’t care how un prepared I was, hogged the time I needed to get ready or work with people. Everyone around me was clearly upset and I could see they were terribly disrespected.”

And she never would apologize for anything I’m told. She would never say anything like “I’m sorry and didn’t mean to treat you that way” a former staff member told me. They continued, “I never saw the humanness in her. How can you be so devoid of basic humanness?”

“I would say I was just heart broken in a sense. I had hopes that I would be safely rooted in a community of sacred sisterhood. I ultimately felt exploited in the last place on earth that I thought I could be.”

Despite never apologizing, she would, when forced to, admit that she had stuff to work on but then never did.

“Happens over and over again — have these morning meetings and it will fall apart. Had a handful of interns all really upset with what they were getting from it. One or two dropped out — she’ll come to this place when cornered and she’ll admit ‘yes, this is my blindspot.’ ‘I’m really working on this on myself,’ but then it doesn’t change anything. Super strong and entrenched pattern of utter narcissism. She is incapable of fully seeing and changing.”

Janell’s inability to accept other expert opinions also led to frustrated relationships, conflicts and poor results on projects. She thought she was good at everything and would often discount the life experience of wise people who were there to help.

One story captures how unsafe it was for some people to work at Ashevillage:

There was a young man who volunteered before it was officially Ashevillage who was struggling with demons that had haunted him his whole life. One of his tasks was to clean up the basement in one of the houses. There, he encountered an overwhelming infestation of black mold. He informed Janell who told him she’d reimburse him for a particulate mask (about $20), but he had to bike out to Tunnel Rd. to get one. The mask was really inadequate for the amount of mold in that basement, and he really should have just quit, but he sallied forth.

Needless to say, he ended up sick and had to cease work. He then requested the money he was owed (they’d actually negotiated for him to receive actual pay), which including the mask, was about $90. He left voice messages, sent texts, emailed… and was mostly ignored or put off. Eventually, after he had a breakdown and ended up at Copestone, someone in the community had to confront Janell and demand payment. Her response was to ask who he was talking about — she literally didn’t remember — though she ultimately did pay up.

Ashevillage also hosted numerous workshops with leaders in the natural wellness, healing and building communities. I’ve heard that several of them, some rather well known, have decided to no longer teach at Ashevillage. It’s another unfortunate loss to our community.

“Everything about Ashevillage is illegal”

Several people have raised issues of the legality of Ashevillage:

“Ashevillage operates illegally. It is a business operating in residential zone and bending the homestay laws for AirBnBs in Asheville. She now skirts around that by not paying people. None of the buildings in the back are permitted, none are built to code, and when the city came to inspect, she had an army of people (men being paid $10/hour and women being paid about $2/hour, who were under nourished) filling in a stream in the back with garbage, which was created by siphoning city water.

Several of the buildings are not to code, were put up without permits, and there are mountains of garbage buried in the backyard. That place in not an oasis. It’s a hell hole.”

More:

“Everything about Ashevillage is illegal and, as a result, a disrespect to the neighbors. The business is run on private property that is not zoned for the work that’s happening there and as a result, it’s noisy from constant construction and groups of people passing through (not to mention taking up a good portions of the neighborhood parking spaces). The tiny home dwellings went up without permits, and were labelled ‘storage sheds.’ The electric wiring and plumbing that extends the four properties were installed by uncertified work traders: dangerous. Rain catchment and pond systems were (illegally) installed, and over the years, they were not maintained and now breed mosquitoes and pose serious storm water run-off risks for the neighboring homes. Property lines are ignored, there are structures and systems on the neighbor’s property. To shut it down…that’s all that really needs to be said.”

Janell was renting out rooms nightly at Ashevillage on Airbnb which was against code as you need a permit and have to live in the dwelling. Since the rooms being rented were in the guest house where no one lives permanently it is in violation of code. Rooms are still being rented as of today, but I’m not sure about which ones or for how long exactly.

Ashevillage has also morphed beyond it’s original eco-urban permaculture origins greatly:

“What started as a visionary center for permaculture and natural building is now a place where rooms are rented by the hour for sex work. Not saying there is anything wrong with sex work — my intention in mentioning it is merely to call a spade a spade.”

Janell was also known for throwing sex parties at Ashevillage. One former member describes the situation:

“We all shared one house, and only after moving there learned that sex parties took place in that house. There were times we were requested to not be at the house…I definitely felt shamed for not wanting to converse openly about my sexual preferences and experiences etc with anyone who asked.”

Physical Violence & Abuse

Former lover Terry Wayne Kirkland describes physical abuse from Janell:

“I had to defend myself from her. I tore my left shoulder trying to get her out of my bedroom at 51 Linden Ave. She had destroyed my altar and was throwing my Jade plants at me…I threatened calling police….but settled for pushing her into the hallway and locking the door. Waited her out..she finally left my house. On the way home from the third session (from passenger seat) she came undone and clawed the side of my face like she was running her nails down a chalk board…almost taking my left eye out…still have the scars….I had pulled into mission hospital parking lot so I could be visible by the public.”

“Capitalistic Narcissism”

People would over extend themselves for Janell’s vision. Many people worked their hearts out for the greater good. Yet, all of these efforts were going into a privately owned set of properties that were having their value increased. And Janell did everything for herself. One person who used to be close to her shared their thoughts on the nature of her organization:

“Disappointing to see the manipulations — using the guise of new age service in the name of capitalistic narcissism — old service to self, money, demeaning people. It’s a known pattern of abuse for those of us that have been around for awhile in communities like this. It’s unfortunate when you have these visionary leaders that are thriving on an old control system rather than introducing what Ashevillage could be. It’d be wonderful if it were a true non-profit, a true collective so people could come in and take that out into the world. I don’t see that happening.”

Another person speaks to the reality about the financial situation:

“It’s like she’s building an empire — not sure how that corresponds with cooperation, just economics, equitability, social justice. She uses this facade of being kind of destitute. In a lot of ways she does use people’s good intentions and pulls strings to her advantage. She will nickel and dime the poorest, most desperate of people. To know her background and the worth of her family — her parents own millions and millions of dollars of property. They bought the houses. All the property is in their name. It’s like poor old Janell barely getting by with this little old non-profit but her back is covered and then some — this destitute poverty level stuff, barely getting by is all theatre.”

Another echoes the sentiment:

“It’s a non-profit, I don’t have money, it’s for the community, see all the good things I do.’ That’s how she sells it. If everyone knew there that this is all owned by her family, she has no intention of giving back. Offer some free workshops, do some community service. In order to participate in an Ashevillage workshop you’re gonna pay $300 or more. I never saw a spirit of giving back or generosity. It’s only what can you give me to honor me and my vision? A few people that would collaborate with her said she would always want the credit. She was very clear that this was her program and that she wanted the glory and recognition for it. Everyone would always feel burned. She didn’t recognize or acknowledge them.”

Another:

“I learned that things aren’t always as they seem, that capitalism weaves its divisive and hierarchical ways into even the most beautiful visions for a new earth.”

More:

“I think the real story is about fraud, and I would like to add that Ashevillage was promoted as a non-profit, which in my opinion, it was not. That was money laundering for her and her family which owned everything. Anytime the board of directors questioned her, they were forced out. She even had a city supervisor friend on her board that help skate around zoning laws for the illegal pond and campsites she had. It was laughable that her website had pics of my backyard and gardens as part of Ashevillage Institute. I consulted and helped her acquire the land parcel behind my house, that I had first right of refusal to by the previous owner. She bullied and stalked the buyer into finally capitulating and it falling out of escrow and she acquired it. It is endless.”

In referring to the natural building she teaches one person said “She learned it free and then charged an exorbitant amount and they are just indigenous methods of building.”

Janell would often tell people she’d pay them and never would:

“One of my own interns here in Portland tells me stories of how he was commissioned to build the amphitheater, that teaching space behind one of the buildings and told that he would be paid for his work. Yet once he was done with that back-breaking project, she maintained that he had said he had volunteered to do the project. This is a beautiful man who gives lots of time and energy to support other people, but he had been clear with her that this was a job. She totally took advantage of him and days and days of his life energy and ended up with a free Amphitheater and didn’t pay him.”

And one woman was invited into Janell’s “gifting circle” which was a harmful scheme that left many women devastated:

“What I do know is that Janell started a few of the scams in town a few years back (women circles… women would need to give $1500-$5000 for a space in these circles in hopes to walk out with $20,000-$40,000 or more. ) This is an unsustainable pyramid scheme….this is just another form of her abuse of this community. I watched many women/ friends “gift” her money never to see it again. Many borrowed or took out credit Card loans to pay for this scam. I almost got wrapped up in it myself but once hearing her involvement I jumped ship. The community was torn apart… completely devastating for a woman to do this to others in such a small community.”

There was even an article in the Asheville Mountain Express about them.

And someone else posted on Facebook at the time: “I’ve watched SO MANY women in Asheville get burned by gifting circles… Relationships ruined, money lost, respect destroyed.”

And for someone running a non-profit who claims to have no money she certainly doesn’t act like it:

“She loves to eat the most expensive food, she treats herself lavishly, she goes out for expensive restaurant food and drinks all the time…”

One former staff member told me “She conned Greenlife into giving her food — people are paying to be interns, part of that is the meals are included. She used the free food and recapitulated into food for lunches. Interns are paying for local, organic, healthy lunches and they’re getting sushi rolls that we’ve taken apart and mixed in with other stuff.”

Long Term Damage

Some of the former staff members sought out therapy to deal with the trauma of working under Janell. A while ago I remember that one person told me she was in therapy for 6 months while there and that almost all of her time spent in sessions was used talking about Janell and Ashevillage. She spent thousands of dollars. Another spent a year in therapy in which a significant portion was dedicated to Janell.

“Several nights when I was at Ashevillage people asked me to come with them to meet others and hear their stories, up past 3am at times. She’s not changed. What I saw last time was worse than ever and truly monstrous.”

When I was there many of our evenings out were spent venting, processing and decompressing from the toxic environment. Others were surprised they still had friends given how much they complained about Janell and Ashevillage to them.

I asked one former staff member if their time at Ashevillage had any longer term impact on them. She said she had PTSD. “Perfectly normal things that I did there that I cannot do. Sitting in circle and sharing gives me PTSD. It was such a ritual there that now I can’t shake this.”

Another person told me she used things shared in vulnerable space against them and that it took a long time to recover:

“You share something in an intimate, vulnerable space and then use that as a weapon against me. It was scary that someone could have the lack of conscience or integrity to do that. Things I shared about my family she used to beat me up. Took me a couple years just to get through the emotional brutality of it.”

What’s perhaps most concerning is that Janell seems to be unaware of how harmful her actions have been. As one former staff member said, “she doesn’t know she’s so manipulative, there’s no culpability if you can’t see or admit it.”

It’s impossible to know the full extent of the loss, trauma and heartbreak caused by Janell’s abuse at Ashevillage. How can you measure the lost potential of dreams?

A Wounded Healer

When those of us who are deeply wounded are in positions of power it is extremely important to do our work and to be held accountable when we abuse that power. I say we because I am well aware of how prevalent the shadow is in our lives, including my own. Janell is no different. She has a shadow. She is a wounded healer doing what she can to enact a vision of change. It’s messy because she has power, influence and sway over many young, idealistic and impressionable people wanting to make change. When deep shadow wounds are not addressed by those of us in power it can lead to more trauma and more pain.

I firmly believe that we cannot move forward as a culture unless we can identify and name the harmful, abusive patterns that are detrimental to our transformative efforts. Furthermore, we must seek accountability and prevent others from being harmed if possible.

“This is about undermining the systems that cause deep trauma and harm to our bodies, our relationships, our survival, our communities.”

Power and authority must justify itself, particularly when there is a documented history of abuse. When you create a situation where someone no longer can sit in a circle and share because of severe PTSD from being in your organization you don’t deserve to hold that power any longer. When you have a 10-year track record of abusing, exploiting and mistreating passionate change makers you lose your status as a respected authority figure in that field. Until you do the work of transformation and are willingly involved in a process of accountability, that power should and will be challenged.

I know speaking truth to power in this manner is seen by some as “negative,” or “not spiritual,” but are we supposed to sit by the sidelines as new interns show up? Are we supposed to just ignore serious abuse and dysfunction in the name of light and love? If we can’t deal with the systemic dysfunction in our own communities how can we expect to deal with it in the world?

This quote from Eva Blake is extremely poignant.

“I don’t think critiquing the behavior or words of prominent leaders of a local, global, or online community is a form of infighting unless that critique is peppered with shaming, exile, or personal attacks.

Seeking justice, restoring justice, is a path that is uncomfortable.

Comfort is not a community value of mine when it comes to evolving and addressing abuse of power. Comfort doesn’t address abuse of power. Comfort entrenches power. Comfort obfuscates the lines of power.

When leaders of an organization strive to make their community comfortable in the face of this kind of content, that leadership is myopic and self-serving, especially when the community has named boundaries, consent, and sexual intimacy and exploration as foci of the group.

Hiding the content of these kinds of revelations serves only the people with institutional or social power.

We can’t alleviate our discomfort with conflict by hiding the facts and facets of abuse of power.

This is about undermining the systems that cause deep trauma and harm to our bodies, our relationships, our survival, our communities.

Critiquing how people abuse power, busting open the myths that keep certain folks in a cycle of violence by the state or individuals, and making specific requests of bystanders is NOT infighting or “stirring shit” or silencing you or calling someone out.

It is about evolving our community standards for living in a complex society where everyone deserves dignity and respect while acknowledging the gross disparities in our social order.

It is not the talking about people who abuse power that fractures communities. It is the abuse of power that fractures communities and the people in them.

We must talk about this in order to HEAL.”

Difficult lessons

The silver lining of this situation is that several former staff members all said they had grown tremendously from having to work with such a manipulative and controlling leader. One said “The experience was a great teacher for me. I realized I was lacking in confidence. I wasn’t able to ask for what I needed.” Several folks are now acutely aware when they are being manipulated. After Ashevillage they would know how to identify this behavior immediately now. One person wrote her thoughts in depth.

“I would say I was just heart broken in a sense. I had hopes that I would be safely rooted in a community of sacred sisterhood. I though I could focus on making the world a greener, more viable place. I feel like my naivete was taken advantage of and it really changed me and made me feel more guarded in the future. Looking back, it feels like an important step for any young environmentalist in today’s world to take. I ultimately felt exploited in the last place on earth that I thought I could be, an ecovillage supposedly rooted in principles of reciprocity, permaculture, care for the earth, and care for people. I learned that things aren’t always as they seem, that capitalism weaves its divisive and hierarchical ways into even the most beautiful visions for a new earth. That is part of the paradox of being alive right now, with the desire to make the world a better place and a need to do it at whatever cost, or even for free, because you wish to see healing in the world even if it’s at your own expense. I learned how to declare my value a lot more after all that, which I consider a great gift. My deepest hurt was not having my passion nurtured while I was there. I knew that my love and care for the earth was precious, and, after my time at Ashevillage, I made a commitment to myself that I would only get involved with projects/organizations/businesses that sincerely respected that and valued my skills enough to compensate me fairly.”

Moving Forward

One former staff member said, “we need to do a community intervention, it keeps going on and on. It’s got to stop. She keeps taking advantage of people.” This article is perhaps the first step in that process. It’s what I’m willing to contribute — a clear and concise description of the abusive behavior so there is a foundation from which to work upon.

What does accountability look like at this point? How can this situation be dealt with in a transformative manner? Janell has burned so many people that it’s hard to imagine a group that will help seek accountability in any meaningful way. Even those amongst us who have the spirit to do such a thing have just moved on and have no interest in redeeming that space. One person I spoke with believes Ashevillage should just be shut down. That’s a reasonable argument. Again, why does someone who has a ten year history of abusing power and manipulating vulnerable young change makers for her own gain deserve to remain in that position of power? Whatever happens it should be victim focused and avoid the pattern of rescuing an abuser.

We live at a powerful time where old systems and structures of domination are collapsing, being exposed and undergoing the painful process of transformation. We must not overlook how those damaging systems are being reproduced in our own beloved communities. In order to create the world we want we must be willing and able to speak up against abuse and seek accountability for even those whom we love or whom are leaders in our beloved communities.

UPDATE: Janell likes to claim that this was all in the past and that she’s changed. In response to my article she stated: “I no longer run programs. Life is very different now. I think those who know me now know a very different Janell. Things seem to be more balanced, loving, present, gracious.” Not true says one person with knowledge of the current situation who just messaged me,

“Several people have bailed in the last four months because of the same things your article describes. I too have wondered how this should be handled moving forward. I too fear for other idealistic young people coming to this place only to be crushed. There’s a lot I could say about my time and experience there, but it was all more or less covered by others whom you have interviewed.”

Current situation: “This person was put into a compromised situation situation because she felt unsafe/uncomfortable at Ashevillage.”

And this person was there as early as 6 months ago:

“She exploited the hell out of every single person there, and attempted to do the same to me. Seeing the shit that Janell put those people through really made this article resonate with me in so many ways. Thank you for speaking out about this. I had no clue so many people had had similar experiences there and it’s nice to know that I wasn’t just being unreasonable in my judgements.”

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

Numerous former students and staff are speaking out about sexual, verbal and physical abuse by The New Tantra founder Alex Vartman. They describe a sex cult environment that has left people severely traumatized. Thousands of people have taken The New Tantra courses in over 10 countries since it began in 2010.

NOTE: This article was censored from Medium.com under suspicious circumstances. Medium.com Bans Journalist Be Scofield After Sex-Cult Expose


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.


WARNING: This article contains graphic depictions of sexual acts and sexual abuse.


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

12/11/18

Stephanie Holder (not her real name) was in a group exercise during a New Tantra workshop when she was told founder Alex Vartman wanted to see her. She walked back to a smoke filled room where eight of his staff and assistants circled him “like a rock star” she said. They stared at her intensely. Alex then told his team to get the Non-disclosure Act (NDA) and said to Stephanie, “You are not dressed up in a sexy way, are you? You’re a little bit choppy.” She described what happened next. “He looks at me and says ‘now, I’m going to have sex with you.’ I completely froze. I was like ‘what the fuck?’ The assistants start peeling my clothes off so I’m naked. Then he starts having sex with me.” The assistants stood by, watching. She began feeling an electric current pulsing through her. At that point she says she wasn’t in control of her body anymore. Alex even captured the incident on audio so he wouldn’t miss any brilliant insights uttered while whispering in her ear during sex.

Everyone in the room knew what was going to happen Stephanie said. The guy who brought her back — someone whom she thought could be trusted — was acting awkward and strange. He knew. The staff knew. She was being taken to the Mad Hatter.


Hotlips, Diesel, Mermaid, Helter Skelter, Cheshire Cat, Bulldog — all names given to members of The New Tantra (TNT). The story goes that founder Alex Vartman aka the Mad Hatter and his co-founder would be so high that they could never remember students names so they made up cartoon names in the back room. “This guy looks like Shrek.” It soon became a tradition.

Since making up those first names in 2010 thousands of students have passed through The New Tantra — making it the biggest “tantra” school in Europe. They’ve traveled from all over the world to attend workshops in the Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Bali, Egypt, Denmark, New Zealand, Ibiza and Portugal. Courses regularly have around 40 students and have peaked at 80. People pay as much as $700 per level. There are 9 levels in total.

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

An ex-TNT senior staff member guesstimates that Vartman has made a cool million dollars from The New Tantra — all tax free as it is set up in an off-shore company in New Zealand. None of that made its way to the assistants either as none were compensated and they all had to cover housing and travel costs to the workshops. And several staff members do sex work and have to pay royalties on what they earn. Vartman structures trainings so that local organizers in the host country take in the money and tax burden. He is then paid as an independent contractor and funnels the money abroad.

In TNT students are encouraged to explore their sexual fantasies, push through limitations and become “unconditioned” sexual beings. If you got lost and stumbled into a workshop you might see a group orgy, people blindfolded performing sexual acts on each other, break out groups exploring a shared interest such as fisting, anal sex or bondage or Alex Vartman himself getting penetrated during a class by female students with a strap-on.

“Alex told us that doing these sexual exercises could free us from childhood trauma and deliver life-changing transformation, both in our sex lives and in day-to-day existence” said former student Mark Quinn (not his real name).

The sex-positive amongst us would see no problem with consensual exploration of edgy sexual practices. However, there is much more to TNT than meets the eye.

Part 1: Inside Alex Vartman

“A tall, sinuous, enigmatic figure, he kept his sunglasses on throughout the course. He looked, and acted like a powerful teacher — and his background was impressive.”

“It’s a sex cult” says Jason Marshall (not his real name), one of Vartman’s former long time assistants. “It was often like being in an asylum, especially during the sex orgies. Many couldn’t think and looked like zombies. Everyone was high, there was sex everywhere, people were in trance like states.” He said people were “out of their heads.”

Jason is one of several ex-group members who are now speaking publicly about their harrowing time in TNT. They claim Vartman uses verbal, physical and sexual abuse, psychological manipulation, drugs and energetic practices to break people down and control them.

Several former members report being depressed, broken down and deeply traumatized after their time in TNT. Others report ongoing sexual dysfunction and pain.

“It’s a brainwashing machine” said Sarah Bell (not her real name), a former student who completed six levels in the school. “He’s constantly bullying and psychologically breaking down people in the classes. After level 1 and 2 your identity is shifted — your view of yourself is broken apart.”

“Nobody dares” speak up against him because “he is so hard on you” said Crystal Bentham (not her real name). She said he would regularly tell members who challenged him “Shut up! You’re so fucking stupid! You’re so fucking ugly!”

“It was all about demolishing our psyches to conform to Alex’s will” Jason said.

“If people would have set boundaries or had different opinions Alex makes fun of them — he makes them seem ridiculous and casts them out of the group” Jessica Solner (not her real name) said. Boundaries equal ego which must be “thrashed.”

Because Stephanie Holder believed “it was all tantra” she went along with things that she now sees as abusive and manipulative. She had no idea what tantra actually was. “He calls it tantra and spiritual and people pay him money to fulfill his sexual fantasies.” She said Alex is “just some dirty old man, having a private orgy. None of it was tantra.”

“I was so brainwashed thinking the way they think. I was told I had all these issues and thought I was working through them. I was easy prey for him. He is a sexual predator.”

Jason explained in depth why he got involved and why it took so long to leave:

“Looking back at my time in TNT I still have trouble understanding how I could have bought into something so twisted for so long as I did. But then I also get reminded of how deviously clever it all was put together by Alex to attract us all deeper in to his web of deceit and manipulations. Considering that the core ”teaching” was that our ”egos” were never to be trusted and that only people of ”higher levels of consciousness” (i.e. ultimately Alex himself) could be expected to see through these ”egos” and be able to guide us along the path to higher consciousness, and considering that we all bought into this very foundational belief, then it’s not that strange after all that it all went the way it did and that Alex got away with so much apparent abusive behavior. It really took a major breakdown and plenty of external help for me to finally see the twisted truth of it all, and hence be able to leave this toxic environment.

Many of the teachings and practices used were taken from the old wisdom traditions (such as Tibetan, Buddhist, Vedic, Advaita and so on) and contained truths that we all resonated deeply with. Truths that Alex then would twist so they served his own perverted narcissistic desires and self serving intentions, instead of supporting authentic spiritual growth in us his followers.

All of us on the team (and most of the students) really believed in the teachings and that we were growing as spiritual practitioners on our paths to embody ever more fully our divine potential. Alex very cleverly marketed his teachings and methods as belonging to the ’Crazy Wisdom’-traditions, which are famous for using unconventional teaching methods to reach extraordinary levels of breakthroughs. Hence, we came to considered it normal that we were being treated in ways that others would certainly find abusive and destructive. After all, the name of the game in TNT was to ”Kill the Ego” in ourselves and each other.”

Former members also report that Vartman would direct students to have sex with other students, break up couples, tell people they were gay and shame monogamy. “He was mostly interested in playing with and controlling their minds” Jason said.

Former team members say they had to sexually “service” Vartman around the clock. “It was all about Alex’s ass” Marshall said. “Alex liked to get fucked by women with strap-ons or by straight men” says Allison Kemp (not her real name), a former staff member of many years. Members were required to constantly penetrate him for many hours a day. “If you enter Alex’s bedroom you will never come out from there.”

Servicing Alex

“Every staff member and assistant has been sexual with Alex either fucking him anally or being fucked by him” Allison said. He would tell them “You need to fuck me to learn to be a tantric man and to have a tantric imprint and to learn to fuck women.” He would brag to staff that he would charge as much as $10,000 for a day session with him to “tantrically imprint” a woman sexually.

A former student and staff member said that Alex convinced her husband (who was also a member) to pay him $500 to tantrically imprint her by having sex with her. “He put 17 drops of CBD oil on my tongue and so I was totally out of it. He would charge whatever he could get from someone.”

“We were fucking Alex 24 hours a day during our staff vacation in Paris” Allison said. “Whenever you want to sleep you slept one hour and then you fucked him, slept one hour and then you fucked him.” Senior assistants would wake them up saying “It’s your turn to serve now.”

In a workshop in Egypt, the eight women on staff “were constantly serving him sexually” Allison said. “We used strap ons, our hands, fingers — anything. Alex was high the entire 7-day training.”

“If a woman fucked him with a strap on for two hours he’d fuck her for ten minutes and say ‘you should be grateful, now fuck me again.’”

Former staff member Natalie Keiler (not her real name) said she “spent a three-day weekend fucking him.” She said he wouldn’t allow them to take breaks. “It was hours and hours of fucking him with a strap on.”

“Alex got so stoned that he was crawling on the floor mumbling and rambling about god knows what while teaching in the training.”

Jason Marshall said he faced extreme pressure from Alex and the group to be sexual with him.

“It was really fucked up. After initially having avoided the crazy sexual carnage around Alex for the first months on the team I was finally told by Alex’s girlfriend that I no longer had the choice to hide away. I was then brought into Alex’s bedroom where the whole team was already busy with servicing Alex sexually. I was in such a state of shock that I was shivering with fear and hardly able to speak. Alex started ridiculing me saying I was such a coward and that I needed to ”man up.” He then instructed some of the team to get me ready by undressing me and ”fluffing” (i.e. sucking) my cock to get it hard enough for his ass.

The whole experience was so humiliating and so totally against my own will. The whole scenario felt sick and twisted. Alex was my teacher and boss. There was no attraction sexually from either of us what so ever. Hence, it was pure sexual abuse to prove he could have his will in whatever case he wished.”

“He and the team were trying to convince me that I was gay. He said everyone is bisexual. He said I should get a gay partner and live a gay life.”

Natalie said Alex tried very hard to convince her husband that he was gay so that he’d have sex with him.

Allison said Alex “forced and guilt tripped people who would not want to fuck him or have group sex.”

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

Using Women as Bait

“Alex is not gay, he’s a transvestite.”

“He used the girls as bait to get the guys in” Allison said. “They were told to say ‘You can fuck us after you fuck him.’” Women in group would go to clubs and bars and use Tinder to seduce straight men off the streets. One TNT staff member “always showed a picture of Alex dressed as a woman” to the guys. She would tell the men “You have to fuck him and then you can fuck me.” Allison said Alex would often tell them “You are not allowed to come up if you don’t bring a guy with you that can fuck me.”

Alex Vartman dressed as his transvestite alter ego “Alexis”

“Alex thought the best thing you could get was BBC (big black cock)” Jason said. “In London he made a team member have sex with as many guys as possible in search of the best guys for him. She fucked over 100 guys in a year to find the biggest, strongest men who were great at fucking. There were extra points for black men with big dicks.” He said she ended up being “a complete wreck” from being required to be so promiscuous. Stephanie Holder told me the same woman ended up “dislocating her womb” from having so much sex while in TNT. She is now a key leader in the school.

“Alex Raped Me”

During her second week on the job Allison said Vartman raped her. They had never been sexual in any form previously. “He came into my bedroom around 3 am while I was sleeping and staring penetrating me.” She woke up in shock and froze not knowing what to do. After about ten minutes he told her “I’m now going to fuck you anally” and did for several minutes. This was her boss and her guru. Vartman said she “was a chosen one” and should feel special. Allison told TNT staff what happened but said “they were supporting Alex because that’s how we were trained. We were brainwashed.”

Allison filed a report with the police when she left the group. Because Vartman did not live in the country and they could not interview him they told her there was little they could do.

Kids Exposed to “Drugs and Orgies”

“They had orgies when kids were sleeping few meters away” Stephanie Holder said. A former staff member stated that the lead organizer in Holland would regularly have orgies at his home and his three kids — as young as six years old at the time — were present. “They had to pass his bedroom to go in to the bathroom, so yes, they were exposed to drugs and orgies for many years.” In referring to the Dutch organizer, a former TNT staff member said the kids got used to “even seeing their father fucking Alex in his ass while dramatically cross-dressed as Alexis.” The children of the Denmark organizers and another leader’s child were also in the homes during drug filled orgies Allison said. 

Verbal and Physical Abuse

Former members claim Alex uses a constant state of bullying and verbal abuse to control people.

In her first week around him, former staff member Deborah Volk (not her real name) was “in total shock” as she witnessed Vartman “yell, scream and hit his staff and assistants in the head. People were running around like his servants. The first month I was constantly afraid of him because he was so abusive.”

“Alex came from behind me and touched my back and then I squirted through my pants in front of the group. In that moment I felt pretty ashamed.”

“He’s constantly bullying and psychologically breaking down people in the classes” Sarah Bell (not her real name) said. “A part of the training is that your ego should be able to handle that or it is your own shit. He would deliver the “gift” of verbally abusing people to show you your own shit and give you a reason to work on it and deal with it.”

Jason said he witnessed Alex assaulting a young female staff member. “He took his Iphone with the sharp end and threw it right at her head. He said she was stupid and ‘you could do whatever you want to her.’ She cried, she was hurting like hell.”

During a meeting in her first week on the job Allison says Alex hit her so hard that she “had pain for days” in her thigh. “As he hit me he yelled ‘you stupid fucking cow! Don’t answer questions if you don’t know the right answer! You’re too stupid to answer the question!’”

“He would tell us over the loudspeaker that he put viruses in our brains.”

Natalie Keiler (not her real name) also experienced and witnessed physical violence. “He hit me twice in the face with an open hand on two different occasions. I’ve seen him hit at least two others in the face with a flat palm really, really hard. I’ve seen him use a whip on many people as punishment if someone got an erection during group cuddling sessions.” Natalie also witnessed frequent verbal abuse. “He would call us moron and stupid all the time.”

Magazine profile on The New Tantra in Volkskrant Magazine

Diesel, one of the current head teachers, was brought into the middle of a group in a TNT class and smacked hard across the face by Alex for questioning his teachings Allison said.

Allison said she “saw Alex smack people in the head regularly.”

On one occasion Jason witnessed Vartman abusing a young 21-year old new assistant. She came “flying out, just chucked out of the room, onto the bed opposite the door.” Alex then screamed, “You stupid little fucking cunt, how can you be so fucking stupid? You come here and you’re not even dearmoured? You fucking useless little piece of fucking shit!” Jason said “she wasn’t dearmoured enough in her pussy to be pleasurable for him to fuck.”

“As he hit me he yelled ‘you stupid fucking cow! Don’t answer questions if you don’t know the right answer! You’re too stupid to answer the question!’”

Like other group members Allison internalized the abuse. She said she believed she was “a lower conscious being” because she didn’t know tantra and was new to the group. It was confusing for her because so many said he was a “very respected spiritual person,” and that she should be “lucky to be a part of this” and happy to be with a “Tantra Master.”

Under Surveillance

“Alex had control over every student” Allison said. “Anything said that was negative or critical or even if we were wanting monogamy, it would go directly to Alex through a chain of people.” People wanted to report on others to save themselves she said.

“We were constantly expected to monitor students on the Facebook TNT group The Global Family” Jason said. Facebook was used to bully, gang up on and abuse people who were out of line. “Anything that was questioning Alex had to be deleted, reported or dealt with. If someone who said something critical turned up at a workshop they’d be confronted by it.”

“We thought we were better than every other school, every other person. We were looking down on other people because they were sexually conditioned and we were sexually unconditioned.”

When members shared anything critical about TNT or Alex in the men’s and women’s groups it would find its way back to him and they would be punished. “People were eager to turn in others to save themselves” Allison said. Several former members acknowledge that thought policing was common.

Members were under “constant surveillance” Jason said.

When a student posted in the private Global Family Facebook group that she noticed some similarities between TNT and a cult, Alex got around 100 students involved in a competition to best describe where she was in her ego. All senior students had to take a quiz to reveal their inner thoughts. Alex had found a way to not directly attack her while getting students to “question themselves, defend him and attack the woman.”

Leaving is Dangerous

Deborah said Alex warned members that leaving the group would mean divine retribution. “He would tell all these stories about people that got cancer or fell off of ladders. Alex said ‘One woman was questioning me and she got in a bad, bad accident.’”

“Alex constantly warned us about the danger of being away from him over longer periods of time” Deborah said. “He told us ‘Team members that did that contracted back into their egos and got lost’, which means left the team and TNT.”

“We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement that he could sue us if you mention his name. Everyone around him and on the team signed it.”

One Meal a Day

“Alex would tell us ‘In Auschwitz there were no fat people’” said Jason. He meant that you could only be fat if you were eating too much. “All high level students were only allowed to have one meal a day in trainings. He didn’t like fat people.” Vartman also had members do water fasts where they only drank water and ate no food for up to 21 days at a time. “If you eat more than once a day he’d called it ‘shoving your face’” said Sarah Bell.

For those who didn’t get picked during exercises Bell said Vartman used it as an opportunity to bully them. “Alex would say ‘now this is a chance to contemplate why you didn’t get picked. Or he’d say ‘you’re so fat no one would want to be with you.’” She said it was accepted behavior for Alex or TNT staff to make fun of and bully fat people.

Sex With Students

The TNT code of sexual conduct (created by Alex) says that Vartman is not allowed to have sex with women until they have been a student for three years. However, as Stephanie Holder’s account in the opening vignette illustrates, he doesn’t honor this. “He also lets the women students in level 2 fuck him with strap-ons in the workshop room” Allison said. “Students get flattered that they are chosen to fuck him in front of all other people.”

According to the code of conduct Alex is allowed to have sex with male students whenever he wants. “He says men cannot be sexually manipulated” Allison said.

Alex also had sex in front of students Allison said. “He often liked to fuck his girlfriend or have group sex with other members of the team in front of the students to show us.”

Sarah said Alex would “energetically fuck” women from a distance in front of everyone. “Alex taps her back and she would go into involuntary convulsions. He’d then stand back and energetically fuck her and it looked like she was getting fucked by a ghost. Like a sorcerer. It’s dangerous stuff.”

When it comes to staff and assistants, Vartman tells the team “I don’t have sex with them, they have sex with me. They are in their masculine. The ethics don’t apply because they are fucking me.”

Part 2: Inside The New Tantra

“TNT prides itself on extremes, pushing people to, and beyond their limits, either through sexual extremes or verbally, by attacking their personalities to the point where mental dissociation occurs.”

It’s “slut night” and the men and women are dressed up in sexy women’s lingerie. Alex Vartman is wearing a headset microphone pacing around the room yelling “fuck, fuck, fuck!” The 50 students begin engaging with each. It’s not an orgy though because it’s level one. No penetrative sex is allowed but everything else goes.

If students receive a 7 or above out of 10 they can advance to the next level where full-on sex orgies do occur. The more you pushed your own comfort zone, explored your sexuality and did something you may have been uncomfortable with the better score you got. An 8–10 score was awarded with an armband that says “Advanced Sex Practitioner: The New Tantra.” Another one says “Cumming is for Pussies.” Sarah told me people collected them at each level and wore them like badges of honor. Both slogans were trademarked.

Sarah participated in an orgy on the first day of the Bali level 2 course. They were in a yoga studio type classroom with a red light on. Black faux leather type mattresses lined the floor. It began with the teacher pointing to her and another woman and telling them to go in the middle. The assistant then began squirting coconut oil on their bodies as they started kissing and being sexual. More people slowly joined in until everyone was in the middle being sexual.

On “examination night” in level 2 Sarah said Alex asked someone to share a sex fantasy and then asked for someone who’s interested in playing out the same sex fantasy. They’d go into the middle of the room in the circle and begin acting it out in front of the group. Everyone would slowly join in with their own fantasies until everyone was in the middle.

She and others said there were many aspects of the courses they found enjoyable or liberating but that the cult environment tainted the program.

How To Fuck

“Everytime you cum you are putting another nail in the coffin of your relationship.” — Alex Vartman

“In TNT they teach the men to fuck women extremely hard” Deborah Volk said. “We were taught that women are dirty little whores and sluts and should be fucked like that.” During sex Alex would at times tell women “I’m gonna rape you” and would call them “dirty, slutty whores.” She said “That’s how he spoke to women during sex and it’s how he taught men too.” “Alex taught us that women are sex objects to be fucked. Every man on the team has been taught this sexist culture.” Anyone who didn’t go along was “boring” or would be ridiculed Allison said.

Sarah Bell describes how TNT shames clitoral orgasms. “TNT teaches that clit orgasm is a shallow, surface level orgasm that drains ones sexual energy. TNT promoted higher deeper orgasms, like womb orgasm and full-body orgasms, something one could attain with consistent TNT training. This belief that “bad orgasms” had to be avoided at all costs has been very disorienting in my own sex life since TNT. “

They were also very against ejaculating. Foundational to TNT is orgasming without ejaculating. While Alex was having non-stop sex and orgasms he would rarely cum. When he did it was by accident. This was called a miss.

Violent Body Dearmouring

Stephanie said she “was screaming in agony on the floor” during the body dearmouring that is taught in level 1. It involved three people pushing very hard onto the body of the recipient. People were “covered in bruises” she said. It was only after a student suffered broken ribs that Alex allowed the intensity of the dearmouring to reduce. The body dearmouring was one of the elements of the breaking down process Jason said.

Always High

Stephanie Holder said that “Alex and the staff were always high at every event and during the orgies.” She said they “used weed and other drugs” such as poppers and drank. They would also give out viagra to the men so they could perform.” Natalie Keiler said there was “heavy substance abuse of marijuana and poppers” in the group.

Forced Participation

Former students report that when participants were tired, physically unable or simply uninterested in partaking in an exercise they’d be highly pressured or even forced to do it.

Crystal was exhausted and “in some kind of a trance” which left her unable to walk after a session. When she refused to participate, TNT staff told her “Are you this little princess that only wants to receive? You need to serve other people!” She said she could hear but not move or do anything. “And then someone asked me to fuck them with a strap on. I was in an overwhelmed state and they were ordering me. It felt like there was no other option.”

“I never received any tantric teachings in TNT.”

In another level Jennifer had been feeling ill and didn’t want to do the striptease exercise. “They literally put me on my feet in the middle of the circle and made me do it.”

A former TNT member experienced a similar thing from TNT staff. He said he was “thoroughly tired” and it was late. “We both decided to leave right before the exercise. We were stopped. The staff said ‘you shouldn’t be going.’” The course leader was not happy with us leaving.”

Crystal said the answer to any discomfort or suffering was always more TNT. “Every time I felt so horrible after each level and I contacted Ms Diesel. I told her ‘I don’t feel well. I can hardly function at home.’ She’d tell me to do the next level. Even when I was out of money she’d say I could pay in payments.”

Amsterdam, where TNT has taught many trainings.

Pushed to the Extreme

Several members said that Alex would push people’s fantasies to the extreme.

One woman said she was interested in being peed on. “She wanted to try one person just one time” Sarah Bell said. Instead Alex gathered 7 men and said “Everyone pee on her” and instructed them to do so.

When Sarah shared her experience in group of a sexual encounter with another woman the night before she says Alex demanded she reenact it in front of everyone. “He said ‘Do it again, do it right now. Show us what happened. He commands us in the circle of 40 people. This time I’m using a strap on — commanded to the floor.” She said she was thrilled about the experience the night before but not thrilled about getting in front of the group to show it off again.

Sarah Bell described the intensity of the g-spot / squirting workshop. It involved a very rough, forced pumping of the g-spot to make her ejaculate. They were paired up with new students who had never done it before. She said her partner in the workshop was “pumping away” while there was “heavy dark music in the background.” She describes it “very violent.” She said “He was sweating his ass off. No context, no feeling into it. No instruction.” She said the men were told to “Just go in there and pump away for a long time. If it doesn’t work go harder. Soon as I stood up I had a stream of blood running in between my legs.”

Crystal recalled a squirting workshop where approximately 15 men would take turns trying to make her squirt. “Men would come up and put their fingers in your vagina and bang on your g-spot to make you squirt.” She said she tried but couldn’t get into it. “There was only a part of me present — only my body was doing it. The rest of me pulled back because it was so overwhelming.”

“This workshop is clothes-off and features mind-boggling sexually explicit exercises. Here you will learn the essential advanced sex techniques that open up the world of transcendent sexuality.” — TNT Website

In a level 3 training Alex put his girlfriend in “fuck bag” also known as a BDSM “sleepsack” — a dark, tight bag that had hole for the vagina, anus and mouth. For over 20 minutes the ten people in the workshop performed vaginal, anal and oral sex on her. “They performed any sex act they liked” Allison said. No condoms were used. “She couldn’t see anything.” His girlfriend didn’t say no, but Allison explained again that “no one ever said no to Alex. It was a cult. Anyone who went against him would be punished.”

A similar looking bag to what Vartman used in the exercise

The “Candy Store” exercise in level 2 involved laying down blindfolded, naked on a mattress while receiving sex acts from group members. “First the women would go and men would go around fucking them, touching them and doing anything they wanted” Allison said. And then the roles would reverse when they switched positions.

During the “Sacred Ceremony,” which was an orgy, some of the women ejaculated aka “squirted” in the Kava Kava. Crystal reluctantly drank some but when she refused any more a participant almost drowned her. “He grabbed my hair and drowned me in the Kava bowl. I was gasping for air, my hair was totally soaked.” She had two kidney infections after that training. One former student said that during one training a student drank the Kava Kava with ejaculate in it and got very sick with a kidney infection and almost died.

A former student described an exercise they found disturbing. “There was an exercise called the Mommy/Daddy. The point was to find someone who looked like your parent and have sex with them as if they were your parent. The goal was to transform any trauma’s into unconditional love.”

Level 4 is described as a “sacred ceremony.” Crystal said they had no idea what was going to happen. It turned into a “free flow” which meant instructions to “just fuck.” On Saturday they said “Just fuck until Sunday afternoon.” The next morning she said they ask you “how many people did you fuck?” They were graded on how sexual they had been. If they had lower engagement they would be dismissed as a spoiled little princess or a woman that creates drama.

“Demonic Feeding”

Several of the people I spoke with said they experienced a “demonic” or “demonic feeding” type energy in TNT.

Stephanie Holder said “I started seeing the teachers faces morphing into creepy creatures. I saw flashes of faces changing. It was like hallucinogenic, like drugs. It was creeping me out. The energy was so strong there.” She told me she believes “Alex calls whatever he can from astral levels — whatever dark creatures come down they attach themselves to the teachers.” She thinks the students’ “life force energy” was being “fed upon.” She fully acknowledged what she was telling may sound strange to others, but emphasized the unique space that Vartman was able to create.

Another woman said there were “absolutely demonic energies” involved. “I felt like I was possessed for quite some time after I left.” She continued. “I saw a fire demon. At one of the ceremonies, there was one man who turned into a fire demon in front of our eyes. It was like his whole body was burning with literal flames.”

Another source who participated in some of the advanced levels echoed the same thing, claiming that there was a lot of “feeding” of energy occurring. He said it felt “demonic.”

Current TNT Leadership

Alex stepped back from teaching in TNT a few years ago when a long time assistant spoke out publicly about the abuse. This prompted some to believe TNT is ok now. The former members I spoke with warn otherwise.

Allison said “Alex is still controlling everything. He has meetings with them and directs them. Those people are his puppets. They are still brainwashed. The leadership are still holding this culture Alex taught. The school is equally dangerous.”

Natalie Keiler said anyone who is in a leadership position in TNT is dangerous given how brainwashed they all are.

The current director is named Apollo (real name Thomas Hamelryck) and works as a scientist in Denmark. Several former staff members warned about him. One said “I would say he’s even more dangerous than Alex. He is extremely narcissistic. He really treats women like low level of creatures and has a really bad attitude.”

The Aftermath

Several of the people I spoke with reported a wide variety of distressing symptoms after their time in TNT. They said it took many months if not years to recover and some are still recovering now.

Stephanie said “After that weekend, I had a black eye, was covered in bruises, no idea how I got them. Like I was out of my body.”

Former member Kevin Gill said “It’s impossible to stay constantly on this high level of energy without burning out.” He said the nervous system is “constantly activated. And the adrenal glands, they’re just fully on power all the time. I have seen a lot of people burning out.”

One former member describes her post-TNT experience:

“When I left TNT in December 2016, I was in a deep depression and in a burnout. I had never experienced something like that before. In the end I totally hit rock-bottom. I found myself soul broken, I just wanted to give up on everything. I did not recognize myself anymore.”

Sarah Bell:

“Today just thinking about sex makes me shut down. My bladder and G-spot glands are chronically inflamed and it impacts my life in many ways. Sex is generally a disorienting struggle with emotional and physical pain. Even orgasm often causes a trigger response and I shut down. Before TNT I was in tune with my body like a normal person would be, and I enjoyed G-spot orgasms. Today poking my G-spot feels like poking in a wound. This has been going on for me since my first week in TNT, 4 years ago.”

A former member was deeply impacted after TNT. “I was psychotic and depressed for awhile and was then hospitalized for 17 days in a mental hospital.” She said Alex knew she was psychotic and he told her to drive 8.5 hours home and go to the hospital. She said he should have gotten an ambulance or assisted her to get the care she needed. Later she heard Alex’s voice in her head for years in the form of auditory hallucinations.

Tantra Not Trauma

In 2015 a former New Tantra member started a Facebook group called “Tantra Not Trauma” as a play on the TNT initials. The group was originally designed to be a space to speak out and get support about abuse within The New Tantra. It has since evolved into a place for people to report abuse they experience from tantra and spiritual teachers.

The group is part of the global shift occurring right now around abuse in the tantra and spiritual worlds. Alex Vartman is just the latest in a list of other abusive “tantric” leaders to be exposed. What’s become more and more clear is that these leaders are preying upon genuine seekers and abusing the word “tantra” for their own ends. With each article this becomes more clear. Unfortunately these groups have caused a lot of damage, hopefully soon they will be actually focused on tantra not trauma.

NOTE: Alex Vartman did not respond to my request for an interview.

Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen & The Culture of Evolutionary Enlightenment

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

[This article originally appeared on Integral World in 2010. It has been consistently in the top 10 most read articles on the site and founder, Frank Visser considers it a classic. Several years after the publication of this article Andrew Cohen stepped down and admitted he was a cult leader.]

Luna Tarlo spent over three years living with her guru Andrew Cohen(founder of What is Enlightenment? magazine now called EnlightenNext) in India and the United States. After she experienced extreme forms of public condemnation and humiliation she broke from him and wrote a book depicting Cohen as an “arrogant, power-hungry, dangerous figure who practices mind control over adherents.” She is, however, different than the hundreds of other disciples who followed him. Luna Tarlo is Andrew Cohen’s mother. In an interview with the Boston Globe in 1998 she stated, Cohen “requires total surrender to him. You have to obey everything he says and trust him 100 percent, and anybody who disagrees is subject to derision and verbal abuse.” In tragic fashion she ended what had previously been a healthy and loving relationship, “I know my life with him is over, and it’s very sad. I love him a lot.”

Twelve years after Tarlo’s “The Mother of God” (1997) was published, William Yenner, a follower of Cohen’s for over 13 years and insider of his Foxhollow ashram has released a scathing book which chronicles the abuse that Cohen’s mother spoke of. “American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing — former students of Andrew Cohen speak out” (2009) is an insider’s look at how this self-proclaimed “rude boy” manipulated, abused, pressured and controlled his followers.

The accounts given in “American Guru” (an excerpt from the book is below) are very disturbing. Yenner was certainly in a position to know about these abuses as he was a central player in Cohen’s operation. He explains his role, “I was a member of the “inner circle” of Cohen’s students; in fact, I lived in his personal residence for several years, was a member of the EnlightenNext Board of Directors, and was the real estate scout who located and helped arrange the purchase of the 220 acre, nearly three-million-dollar, EnlightenNext “World Headquarters” at Foxhollow, as well as the EnlightenNext Centre in London.” And like many others in the group Yenner had “donated” a very large amount of money ($80,000) to Cohen. These large sums of money were part of Cohen’s plan. Yenner writes,

“Andrew let it be understood that his good favor could also be had for a price, establishing a practice that was morally reprehensible, legally questionable and indicative of a degree of corruption that had warped his ideals and would eventually stain the fabric of his entire organization. It is a testament to the faith that so many of us had in Andrew that, despite the questionable nature of these new financial arrangements, we complied — some of us taking on enormous and ill-advised debt. Though it may be difficult for outsiders to comprehend, our desire to please our guru was so great that we were prepared to mortgage our futures in order to do so.”

Survivors of Jonestown speak similarly about how once they gave their money, assets and signed over their homes to Jim Jones and the “church” it was the final step in the loss of their identities. I don’t mean to suggest that Cohen is comparable to Jim Jones or that his followers are about to commit mass suicide. But rather I am merely highlighting the similarity in these actions to illustrate how the giving over of yourself includes money, property and belongings. And furthermore this loss of property is directly linked to the increasing loss of the ability to remain an autonomous agent within the group.

For years after his departure in 2001 Yenner remained silent. Like the others he was pressured under “extreme psychological distress and in an emotionally crushed state of mind” into giving his $80,000 and a few years after he finally broke with Cohen he wanted it back. Cohen agreed but made Yenner sign a five-year non-judicial but binding gag order to not speak about his experiences at Foxhollow or with Cohen. This enforced silence was, Yenner states, but yet another reminder to him that Cohen wasn’t ready to let him go. But the gag order expired in 2008 and now Yenner’s book is published.

Luna Tarlo and William Yenner’s books are not the only criticisms of Cohen to surface. Prior to the release of Yenner’s book some of Cohen’s former followers had set up a website, What Enlightenment?, in 2004 that chronicled his abusive and controlling methods with advice on cult recovery. Yenner’s book also contains the passages from other former Foxhollow members. In 2003 former What Is Enlightenment? editor Andre van der Braak published “Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru”. An eleven year disciple of Cohen’s, van der Braak chronicled the abuse and manipulation he witnessed and experienced as part of the Foxhollow community. He reports that one of the more mild but still disturbing elements of daily life in the community consisted of 600 daily prostrations while repeating the required mantra, “To know nothing, to have nothing, to be no one.” And Geoffry Falk in his Stripping the Guru’s: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenmentdedicates an entire chapter ‘Sometimes I feel Like God’ to Cohen. It places Cohen in context of his guru Poonjaji and provides a short history of his life.

What did Cohen do? This is an excerpt from American Guru.

“Some years ago at Foxhollow, a student named Jeff, a very good writer, was having a great deal of trouble with a writing project he had been assigned to do. He was supposed to write an introduction to a book Andrew was publishing, but he was having no success. Feeling terrible guilt about this, he wrote in a desperate letter to Andrew, “If I don’t come through, I will cut my finger off.” Andrew seemed to like this idea. When Jeff still did not succeed at his writing, Andrew called for Mikaela, [who was a] physician, to come see him…. Andrew told Mikaela to go to see Jeff, and to bring her medical kit. She was instructed to tell Jeff that Andrew was taking him up on his offer to sacrifice a finger. She should take out her scalpel, her mask, her gloves, a sponge — everything she would need for such an operation — and lay them all out. She was told to carry through the charade up to the very last minute, and then stop. When Mikaela visited Jeff, he had barely slept in about a week. He was in a desperate state…. Mikaela [later] confirmed…that she had followed Andrew’s instructions precisely. Jeff was severely and obviously shaken by the incident. He left Andrew and Foxhollow a few weeks later.”

****

“Face slapping and name-calling, while they were uncalled for and may have been damaging, were mild in comparison to other questionable manifestations of “crazy wisdom” that occurred at Foxhollow. One such incident involved a student (Mikaela) who was responsible for the marketing of Andrew’s publications and who had fallen out of favor by reminding him that something he had criticized her for doing had been his idea in the first place. He decried her as evil and ordered that the walls, floor and ceiling of her office (which had been relocated to an unfinished basement room) be painted red to signify the spilled blood of her guru. She was ordered to spend hours there contemplating the implications of her transgression, with the additional aid of a large cartoon on the wall depicting her as a vampire and the word “traitor” written in large letters next to it.

Andrew often employed red paint in this fashion to create environments designed to induce shame and guilt in students that he felt had questioned his judgment or disobeyed him. Another female student who had displeased Andrew and, after leaving the community, had returned to help out on a weekend painting project, was summoned to another basement room. There she was met by four female students who, having guided her onto a plastic sheet on the floor, each poured a bucket of paint over her head as a “message of gratitude” from Andrew. She left the property traumatized and fell ill in subsequent days (during which she was harassed by phone calls from another student who, at Cohen’s instigation, repeatedly called her a “coward”) and never again returned to Foxhollow. “Crazy wisdom” is the most charitable possible explanation for these often traumatic and disturbing incidents, many of which have already been related on the whatenlightenment.net blog. Several of these student accounts of Andrew Cohen’s “acts of outrageous integrity,” employed to dubious or damaging effect, are reproduced below.”

Read more disturbing details from American Guru.

In 2006 Cohen finally “responded” to his critics with a “Declaration of Integrity.” While you can read for yourself, his 11-page response is more of a treatise on how he is an amazingly revolutionary and groundbreaking teacher than any refutation of charges. And the website Guru Talk was established by other followers who support him to respond to those students of Cohen’s who set up WhatEnlightenment? in 2004 which contains more examples of his abusive behavior. But I must ask, if Cohen’s tactics are so revolutionary and “crazy wisdom” is needed to become enlightened, why haven’t any of his students become enlightened? And why are these tactics so necessary when neither Cohen or Wilber attribute their awakenings to these sorts of experiences?

ANDREW COHEN’S SUPPORTERS

These people have an ethical responsibility to speak out against the abuse that Cohen was responsible for.

Despite years of allegations, two books and numerous followers who have broken from him to tell their stories Andrew Cohen still has his supporters. These people, many of them well known psychologists, therapists and spiritual teachers have an ethical responsibility to speak out against the abuse that Cohen was responsible for. His longtime friends, supporters and anyone who shares a stage with him or interviews him has a duty to confront him on these abuses if they know about them. Otherwise they simply provide legitimacy for him and support the culture of denial that surrounds these kinds of personality cults.

Craig Hamilton

Craig Hamilton, now a Berkeley based “evolutionary spiritual teacher” was in a similar position to Yenner. For fifteen years he was a close disciple of Cohen’s and for eight of those he worked as senior editor of EnlightenNext magazine. Now Hamilton runs Integral Enlightenment. Hamilton here is speaking about how much he loved being in the community with Cohen, “And the inner life of everybody there was elevated to a profound level of well-being — I mean, in this environment everybody was living in a non-ordinary state of consciousness most of the time; there was a sort of enlightened Buddha-field…that permeated the place…” And from his website:

“But the most profound influence on the teachings and practices of Integral Enlightenment is without a doubt the Evolutionary Enlightenment teaching of contemporary spiritual trailblazer Andrew Cohen. IE founder Craig Hamilton spent 13 years at the heart of Cohen’s living “laboratory of evolution” now known as EnlightenNext. As part of the core leadership team guiding this international movement, and editor of its communication arm, What Is Enlightenment? magazine, Hamilton was nourished by, and played a formative role in the development of this powerful force for spiritual and cultural evolution.”

Yenner questions Hamilton for his silence on Cohen’s abuses and his continued praise of “rude boy.”

“Interestingly, however, in the same period during which Andrew Cohen’s reputation has been so stoutly defended by guru-talk.com’s cadre of “fallen” or “unsuccessful” students, the integral community has also seen the emergence of another of Cohen’s former disciples, Craig Hamilton, as a self-proclaimed “teacher” in his own right. As I implied in a footnote of American Guru, no one who knows Andrew Cohen is likely to believe he was pleased by Hamilton’s surreptitious departure from Foxhollow, much less by Hamilton’s own subsequent (and well-planned?) ascent to integral guruhood — but if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Cohen ought to be feeling swell. As a “successful” former student, Hamilton has outdone his fellow alumni not only in his wholesale assimilation of Cohen’s “teaching model” but in his astute — some might say opportunistic — emulation of his teacher’s tried-and-true PR strategy of using public dialogues with famous “luminaries” as a means of enhancing his own reputation. That Hamilton was able to cultivate such relationships while selflessly “serving” as his guru’s senior editor and ambassador to high-level interfaith conferences is yet another manifestation of that “something other than enlightenment” that seems to be Cohen’s less than inspiring human legacy.

At such moments, it is worth remembering that the list of spiritual leaders who have “fallen on their faces” — often with catastrophic results for their followers — is a long one indeed. In his foreword to American Guru, Stephen Batchelor suggests that things might have turned out far differently if, at the time of Andrew Cohen’s “emergence” as a teacher, those who felt they had reason to question his motivations or qualifications had spoken out more forcefully. This is all the more reason to scrutinize Hamilton’s account of his many years “working side by side” with Andrew Cohen; yet despite his acknowledged involvement in “trying to guide and work with [Cohen’s] global body of students,” Hamilton remains curiously silent on the issue of the abuses that took place under his nose (and mine) at Cohen’s Foxhollow ashram. As Daniel Shaw has observed, “It would be wonderful to see…honesty and courage demonstrated by…leaders of the New Age movement. Instead of rationalizing and minimizing the extent of [Cohen’s] abuses, instead of ignoring and dismissing the experiences of former followers, wouldn’t it be wonderful if people like Ken Wilber, Genpo Roshi, Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, Bernie Glassman, etc., could have the courage and the integrity to pay attention, to take up the cause of Cohen’s former members, and confront Cohen publicly?” As an up-and-coming “spiritual luminary” — not to mention one who was actually there! — Craig Hamilton certainly deserves to have his name added to that list. The dangers of a “free pass” based on charisma and inspiring intentions having been borne out by history, I feel it ought to be perceived as reasonable, rather than gratuitously destructive, to raise questions about anyone representing himself as a “pioneer” of a cutting-edge spiritual discipline.

While Hamilton evaluates himself rather differently than most of his fellow former students — insinuating references to his own “awakening” into his “free preview,” to a virtual audience of nearly 700 spiritual seekers, of a 9-week “teleseminar” for which he is charging each participant $285 — he shares with guru-talk.com’s contributors the same abiding nostalgia for a community very different from the one I remember (a community in which abuses such as those documented in American Guru took place over a period of two decades) as well as their retrospectively rose-colored notions about the significance of what happened there.”

Ken Wilber

It isn’t surprising that Andrew Cohen’s best friend Ken Wilbercontinues to be a supporter as well. There is probably no more of a featured figure than Wilber in Cohen’s EnlightenNext(formerly What is Enlightenment?) magazine. Wilber, the leading figure in the integral movement is another subject entirely but his support for Cohen his uncompromising. This isn’t surprising because Wilber believes in the same sort of authoritarian teaching style as Cohen (and employs it himself in many ways). Here is what Wilber has to say about Cohen:

“[Rude Boys] live as Compassion — real compassion, not idiot compassion — and real compassion uses a sword more often than a sweet. They deeply offend the ego (and the greater the offense, the bigger the ego)….

Andrew Cohen is a Rude Boy. He is not here to offer comfort; he is here to tear you into approximately a thousand pieces … so that Infinity can reassemble you….

Every deeply enlightened teacher I have known has been a Rude Boy or Nasty Girl. The original Rude Boys were, of course, the great Zen masters, who, when faced with yet another ego claiming to want Enlightenment, would get a huge stick and whack the aspirant right between the eyes…. Rude Boys are on your case in the worst way, they breathe fire, eat hot coals, will roast your ass in a screaming second and fry your ego before you knew what hit it….

I have often heard it said that Andrew is difficult, offending, edgy, and I think, “Thank God.” In fact, virtually every criticism I have ever heard of Andrew is a variation on, “He’s very rude, don’t you think?””

Ken Wilber & Andrew Cohen in Dialogue

Wilber has received attention for the abusive way he treats critics and the insular nature of his Integral project. One book written about Wilber is called “Norman Einstein: The Disintegration of Ken Wilber.” This is a link to a chapter called “Bald Narcissim.” And this is a great summary of Wilber’s ordeals from Frank Visser’s Integral World called The Wild West Wilber Report:

“In June 2006 Ken Wilber embarrassed himself in front of the world by abusing and insulting those of his critics who did not “understand” his work, and invited those who “did” to come to his integral “sanctuary…” Obviously, this alerted some cult-watchers to reflect on what on earth is currently going on in the integral scene. Here’s a listing of most of the relevant blog postings and articles, including my three personal replies to Ken Wilber. Compiled for future historians, Wilberologists — and psychiatrists!”

Terry Patten

Craig Hamilton works closely with Terry Patten another Bay Area Integral teacher who is also a senior trainer in Wilber’s Integral Institute seminars and contributor to Cohen’s EnlightenNext magazine. Patten and Wilber share another common theme: they were both students of the controversial spiritual teacher Adi Da also known as Adi Da, Da Free John and Bubba Free John (birth name Franklin Jones). The followers of Adi Da believed he was “an ‘adept,’ a person who came into this world already enlightened with eternal truth. The sect’s publications also call Jesus an “adept,” but make it clear that Jones is considered more important.” In 1974 Da claimed to be “Divine Lord in Human Form.” Da also had nine common law wives. For more see the section on Rick Ross’s cult watch site and the chapter on Adi Da from Stripping the Gurusfrom which this is taken:

“Also in 1974, during his “Garbage and the Goddess” period, Bubba apparently started his “sexual theater,” involving the switching of partners, sexual orgies, the making of pornographic movies and intensified sexual practices (Feuerstein, 1996).The Mill Valley Record (Colin, et al., 1985) further reported:

[James] Steinberg [head of the Hermitage Service Order] says the destruction [of the pornographic films] took place a few months after they were made. Steinberg also says that the church’s dildo collection was either sold or destroyed, he isn’t sure which.”

Wilber has made many statements in support of Adi Da. Wilber wrote in the intro to one of Da’s books:

[M]y opinion is that we have, in the person of Da Free John, a Spiritual Master and religious genius of the ultimate degree. I assure you I do not mean that lightly. I am not tossing out high-powered phrases to “hype” the works of Da Free John. I am simply offering to you my own considered opinion: Da Free John’s teaching is, I believe, unsurpassed by that of any other spiritual Hero, of any period, of any place, of any time, of any persuasion.

Terry Patten’s biography claims that he was “a longtime student of the late American spiritual teacher, Adi Da Samraj.” And not surprisingly Patten is also a supporter of Andrew Cohen. The “Great [Integral] Awakening Online Teleseminar” which Patten was involved in with Hamilton features Wilber and Cohen front and center.

Marc Gafni

And then there is Marc Gafni, founder of iEvolve and (he is also featured in the above Global Awakening teleseminar) another controversial spiritual teacher who is part of the Integral inner circle, supported and defended by Wilber, Cohen, Patten and Craig Hamilton, Sally Kempton and Diane Musho Hamilton among many of the other figureheads of the movement. Gafni also works closely with Wilber at the Integral Institute. Gafni fled his position as head of the Bayit Chadash in Israel after several members of his community accused him of sexual misconduct. These were only the latest in a string of sexual accusations that has plagued Gafni. He was also stripped of his ordination as a Rabbi. While he apologized for his relationships with these women at Bayit Chadash he claims they were “loving and mutual,” (a claim which they strongly dispute). But if it gives any perspective he also says that his relationship with a 13 year old girl when he was 19 and 20 was “loving and mutual.” This is the testimony of the young girl who he claims he was in a mutual and loving relationship with.

“The abuse went on through the year I was in 9th grade. The school year was almost over, I remember it was warm out. He called me on the phone one day to tell me that he would no longer be coming over. He realized that what he really needed was to get married soon, and he explained that this would give him a proper outlet for his sexuality. Its hard to describe how I felt at that moment, because it is complex. My molester finally decided to stop abusing me, to leave me alone, to move on. You would imagine I would feel great relief, but actually the full weight of the abuse I had endured in silence came crashing down on me. Here I was, left with this horrible experience, still with no one to talk to about it, and no language for it anyway. And he wasn’t retreating because I had some how managed to make him stop, but because he decided it just wasn’t worth the risk any more. He was terrified that he would do more and make me pregnant- then there would be no way to keep his secret. Until then, his abuse included exposing my body against my will, forcibly touching my breast, grabbing my hand and forcing me to touch his penis, and forced digital vaginal penetration. All were the most horrifying, degrading and painful experiences for me. All this only a year or so after my bat mitzvah…

Unfortunately, I knew Mordechai very well. He told me a lot about himself, and I knew him as a sexually compulsive, sexually violent man. After talking with counselors, lawyers, and professionals who advise and counsel sexual perpetrators, I learned that in 99% of cases, people who compulsively sexually abuse girls or women, especially those who were abused themselves as children, don’t stop. These are dangerous people. The more we are silent about them, the more they have the freedom to act out their sexual compulsions. Further first hand accounts show that Mordechai continued to molest young women after he was married. Unfortunately, marriage did not solve his problems. There is no reason for me to assume he is not still victimizing girls and women. Back when I knew him, he was a refined manipulator, “groomer”, “brain-washer”, and he used those skills in order to victimize girls and young women. I have no doubt that, years later, he has honed his skills as a predator.”

His defenders repeatedly claim that “he as done nothing illegal,” and ask us to believe that Gafni is the victim of a widespread attack up on him. All of the women (over ten) exaggerated, distorted and lied about what reallyhappened. Gafni also claims to have passed a polygraph test that proves that the relationships with the women were loving and mutual. You can read it for yourself but I would question the nature of the questions he was asked as well as the polygraph itself. You don’t have to be an Einstein to know that they are not admissible in most courts of law and are widely thought to be based on junk science. In other words they aren’t reliable or accurate. You can read more about them here. And here is a “WikiHow” on how to cheat a polygraph test. Here is a link to a Marc Gafni’s website where he responds to the controversy.

Article in Forward Magazine from one of Gafni’s victims

There are many places to read about Gafni. “Rabbi Mordechai Gafni accused of sexually exploiting women” from the Haaretz, “Rabbi Gafni accused of sexual assault” from YNet News and The Re-Invented Rabbi from the Jewish Week. This is an article from the Jewish Daily Forward, Rabbi Fired Over Sex Claims Defenders Offer Mea Culpa,

At least five female students and staff members have come forward to accuse Rabbi Mordechai Gafni of luring them into sexual relationships through intimidation, psychological manipulation and deception. Late last week, Gafni, an Orthodox-trained rabbi who has become a star of the New Age-style Jewish Renewal movement, was dismissed from his position as the head of Bayit Chadash, a center on the Sea of Galilee that he co-founded six years ago.

Gafni subsequently issued a public apology for having “hurt people I love,” and said that he would seek in-patient treatment for what he called “a sickness.”

…He was originally ordained as an Orthodox rabbi and moved to Israel more than a decade ago, after leaving posts in New York and in Boca Raton, Fla., amid rumors of sexual misconduct. He assumed an Israeli name and transitioned into the world of Jewish Renewal….

Rosenblatt said he had interviewed about 50 supporters and critics, including two prominent Orthodox leaders — Rabbi Yosef Blau, spiritual mentor at Yeshiva University, and Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Efrat — who had known Gafni since the 1980s. Blau and Riskin, who both criticized Gafni, told Rosenblatt that over the years they had spoken with a number of women who had complaints about the rabbi.

Rosenblatt interviewed several alleged victims. One was a woman named Judy, who first accused Gafni of molesting her in 1986, when she was a 16-year-old member of a youth group he directed. Shortly thereafter, Gafni left New York for a pulpit job in Florida. Another woman, Susan, who was an adviser for the group at the time, said that Gafni had threatened her when she tried to intervene on the girl’s behalf.

When asked about the allegations, Gafni told Rosenblatt that Judy was a troubled, unstable teenager who fabricated the story after he rebuffed her advances.

But he admitted to having had a sexual relationship with another girl, when she was 13 and 14 and he was 19 and 20, studying to become a rabbi.

“I was a stupid kid and we were in love,” Gafni was quoted as saying in The Jewish Week. “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.”

The woman told Rosenblatt that Gafni had “repeatedly sexually assaulted her” when he stayed at her house for the Sabbath. The rabbi also told her that she would be “shamed in the community” if she told anyone.

CONCLUSION

As Frank Visser says, “Integral confirms integral confirms integral.” I have heard people defend Marc Gafni by stating that Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber support him. But it actually is a silly game they all play because they all defend and support each other. It goes something like this. Patten, Hamilton, Gafni and Wilber support Cohen. Cohen, Wilber, Hamilton and Patten support Gafni. Cohen, Gafni, Hamilton and Patten support Wilber. Wilber and Cohen support Patten and Hamilton. Wilber and Patten support Adi Da….etc. And they all appear on each others integral programs, websites, conferences, book chapters, magazines and platforms. Among the various offerings is Integral Life Practice, Integral Naked, Integral Institute, Integral Spiritual Center, Integral Enlightenment, EnlightenNext magazine…etc. And as Yenner notes above, they seem to employ the same tactic: surrounding themselves with other luminaries, celebrities, and public faces who agree with them and provide much needed support. If all of these amazing people support Cohen he must be ok, right? Nowadays it seems all you have to do is add the word integral in front of something to boost its credibility. Add the word integral and you have a sexy and attractive product ready to be sold to eager spiritual seekers who are hungry for idealism and more purpose in life. The whole thing equates to a very large money making machine.

I want to be clear that this article is not an attack on integral theory or the nature of the teachings that many of the people here offer. I am a fan of integral theory in general — not of the Wilber sort, but the principle behind it. One can recognize that many of these teachers have said wise things while simultaneously being aware of their shortcomings.

Is it wrong to call out Cohen’s enablers? Is it wrong to expect them to break the silence on Cohen’s legacy of abuse, manipulation and cultish behaviors? In the face of the sadistic acts of Cohen isn’t it problematic when Wilber says “Cohen is here to tear you into a thousand pieces?” What about accountability? Responsibility? Ethics?

I would never appear on a program with Cohen, Wilber or Gafni let alone work with them. And if I was in a position of power as Cohen’s friends and supporters Ken Wilber, Craig Hamilton, Terry Patten, Marc Gafni, Genpo Roshi, Diane Hamilton are I would speak out against him. Do they deny the multiple, disturbing claims made by former disciples of Cohen? Or do they merely brush it aside as “Crazy Wisdom?” How can someone like Craig Hamilton continue to praise Cohen given the overwhelming evidence against him? After spending fifteen years with Cohen I suspect that Hamilton is still in Cohen’s cult trance. Can Cohen’s supporters be deemed legitimate if they are unable to call out his abusive, manipulative and sadistic behavior? There is really no excuse for the silence because it only enables Cohen further. In a post-Jonestown and present day Catholic Church scandal era we simply cannot afford their silence. I doubt any accountability will be had because this particular integral community is a family of “evolutionary thinkers,” who has discovered a revolutionary truth and will defend it to the end. They simply employ a form of group think that rationalizes, justifies and spins the truth to meet their agreed upon conclusions about each other.

The ultimate irony is of course that these spiritual teachers are supposedly on the forefront of instructing us on how to confront the shadow. However, I won’t take their advice until they confront the very large shadow of Andrew Cohen.

New Age Transphobia: Asheville Beltane Evolves

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.]

10/12/17

You most likely know that Asheville, NC is widely thought of as a queer haven in the South. A recent headline boldly claimed it may be the “Most LGBT-Friendly City in the U.S.” There are even 83% more gay and lesbian people who live in Asheville compared with an average American city. Living up to this reputation means filling some big rainbow striped shoes, but if anyone can do it, we can.

Despite all the love however, it’s not uncommon to hear about LGBTQ folks being harassed. In 2012 a gay couple was violently assaulted walking downtown. Some have left and headed to the West coast and elsewhere because of the backlash they’ve received. One friend who recently moved wrote to me, “Get out of the south. Asheville is not what it’s talked up to be. I don’t feel comfortable in this city being Gay, can’t imagine being in your shoes!”

Those of us who do stick around, particularly trans folks like myself, know important battles still have to be fought to make the communities that define Asheville live up to it’s glowing promise of inclusion. And it’s not just Bible thumping, Trump supporting Christians who need to be challenged.

Beltane Disappoints

This years Asheville Beltane festival was not trans inclusive, at least initially. I was at the center of a several week long painful fight that led to it becoming fully inclusive just a few days before it started. In the end, a community was left divided, friendships were ruined, a slew of hurtful and ignorant remarks were made and the event was almost canceled. It was another reminder of how anti-LGBTQ hostility doesn’t only come from the right. Oddly enough, it all happened in this Southern city of pride, at a spiritual festival organized by liberal progressives.

According to the Asheville Beltane Facebook event the festival is “a celebration of flowers, wreaths, and joy! Also fertility, fire, and passion! The wheel of the year turns now to the Goddess of Spring, the God of the Sun, and the Magician, Bridger of Worlds!” It attracts around 100 people annually and has existed in Asheville for over 10 years.

Longtime Beltane organizer Jeremy Schewe

To several of the organizers’ surprise, long time event organizers Alexandra Tait and Jeremy Schewe were staunchly opposed to including trans folks in the men’s and women’s ceremonies. And because the team of six people had not clarified and posted a policy on this beforehand it led to the whole drama playing out in public in the Facebook event. The episode became a textbook example of how to re-marginalize and oppress an already marginalized group.

As it unfolded I was subjected to wide variety of exclusionary comments like this one: “I place a higher importance on honoring magic, ritual and spiritual tradition over someone’s feelings getting hurt because they felt excluded. If someone is making this big of a deal over not being included in the only way THEY see fit — then perhaps it is because they ALREADY feel excluded to begin with and are in projection mode.” New Age transphobia?

Asheville Beltane organizer Rob Lenfesty at the festival

Organizer Rob Lenfesty commented to me that I could go to the men’s circle, “To be fair, I believe that a trans woman who was born male and has ejaculated would, by the existing rules, be fully welcome in the men’s circle and vice versa.” Unbelievable. While Rob said he personally would not choose to organize the festival that way, he repeatedly defended the other organizers choice to do so because they were doing it based on “fertility.” He said “I do not believe it actually stands against my values” in regards to the exclusion of trans folks based on Alexandra and Jeremy’s reasoning.

As opposed to joining the actual women’s or men’s ceremonies, organizer Alexandra Tait said that trans folks could “tie the ribbons, frolic and tend the Bonfire.” The mystery ceremonies were for “male bodied” and “women bodied” people only. She clearly stated that trans folks were not allowed. She advised folks who don’t want the “real” Beltane experience to “celebrate your belly buttons” instead, citing fellow organizer Trey Crispen.

Alexandra Tait

Tait even said that trans women are not women in one of her comments.

One commenter questioned my motives for wanting to attend the festival. She also asked if I did this sort of thing for every event I went to. I said, “Do you ask these type of questions of everyone who was invited to the Facebook event and thought it was interesting and wanted to attend?” Her intrusive line of questioning seemed odd and to imply some sort of ulterior motive.

Another person repeatedly attacked and harassed me in the Facebook event calling me “vicious,” “violent,” “ignorant,” “aggressive” and “angry.” She accused me of dishonoring the ceremony and wanting to “blowup and insult” it. She said I have a phobia of straight people. She said I was “spewing venom” and demanding that the ritual be erased for “my own sexual preference.”

And then after witnessing all of these horrible comments and knowing that I had clearly stated I had no interest in attending the event, organizer and chef Trey Crispen had the audacity to message me this,“I was hoping to invite you to dinner Saturday night with Jeremy and Alexandra…I strongly believe you would find a safe space in and among these people.” Wow. The level of ignorance and senselessness that would lead someone to say that is astounding given what had just transpired. I was dumbfounded. I’m also told that Trey seemed to be confused as to why they couldn’t just exclude trans folks from the event.

All of this stemmed from me posting a simple question in the Facebook event, “Is this festival trans inclusive?”

Transphobia on the Left

Hatred, awkward comments and transphobia on the left are nothing new to me. I’ve written extensively about transphobia in radical left spaces and prominent progressive organizations.

In 2013 I broke the story about serious transphobia in well known environmentalist Derrick Jensen’s group Deep Green Resistance. Their ideology stems out of a lesbian separatist movement that denies the existence of trans people. Co-founder Lierre Keith has written that trans people were invented out of the porn culture of the 70s. The popular evolutionary consciousness blog Reality Sandwich published a very disturbing article filled with hateful and ignorant statements against trans folks and defended it. Liberal writer and poet Anne Lamott tweeted transphobic statements about Caitlyn Jenner when she came out. Noted Buddhist Feminist scholar Rita Gross has displayed a serious ignorance of trans issues. There are too many to cite all of them.

The same lesbian separatist ideology that shapes Deep Green Resistance co-founders Lierre Keith and Derrick Jensen is what motivated Asheville Beltane organizer Alexandra Tait to staunchly oppose the full inclusion of trans folks in the festival. It’s called Trans Exclusive Radical Feminism (TERF). TERF’s are a small but vocal contingent of the left that find common ground with the most conservative and hateful groups who are against trans people. They draw from their same ideas and reasoning as well. Tait echoed right wing ideology with comments like this: “There has to be a safe space and container for natural born women to be with other natural born women.”

I immediately knew that Tait was a TERF when, in her early comments, she wrote “trans woman” in quotes. That’s what people do who don’t believe trans people are real. And again, she eventually came right out and said that trans women are not women.

While Alexandra Tait’s exclusionary views stemmed from TERF ideology, the other organizer against trans inclusion, Jeremy Schewe, apparently just couldn’t wrap his mind around the existence of trans people. Despite lengthy conversations with several people he was unable to grasp how being transgender is a real phenomenon. He wouldn’t budge.

This illustration by Tikva Wolf was posted in the Facebook event during the whole debacle and captures perfectly how silly it is to have to defend the existence of trans people.

Tradition or Transphobia?

Alexandra Tait couched her exclusionary TERF views in ancient tradition, ritual and fertility rites. Myself and others were quick to point out that many other Beltane festivals are trans inclusive. I asked “Does anyone believe that Alexandra really, really wants to include trans folks but cannot because of some ancient tradition or rule?” The answer is, of course not. Folks who want to include trans people in Beltane or anything else, include us. It’s simple. Those who do not, find a wide variety of excuses to exclude us.

Any Beltane festival in 2017 is also mix of a wide variety of traditions that have evolved and been shaped over hundreds of years. One person responded,

“Like others have said, we’re not sacrificing the May Queen anymore, or even requiring she be a virgin! If we insist on keeping trans women out, we’re being the same as the Bible literalists who are anti-gay marriage but still eat shellfish. Everyone who is upset about the “loss of tradition”, I am really curious to know why the Queen being cis is so much more important than her being virginal?”

From another commenter:

“All traditions are made up…Beltane was originally a gathering of farmers to bless their live stock and celebrate spring. The way we celebrate here is a patchwork quilt of different “traditions” from multiple cultures. There is very little “Ancient” about it. Since Beltane is supposed to serve the community, let the community decide how it wants Beltane to serve it.”

According to Alexandra Tait and Jeremy Schewe, trans folks could attend the festival, they just could not participate in the men’s and women’s ceremonies. Of course, by excluding trans folks from one part of the event they effectively excluded us from the entire event. Why would we feel welcome in a space that treated us like second class citizens? Why would we want to share community with people like that?

Some folks also said that trans men and women should go to the 3rd space alternative for gender non-binary folks. However, having someone who identifies as a trans man or woman go to a separate space is like asking a Jewish woman to go to a separate group than the other women. It’s inherently discriminatory.

Asheville Stands Up

At first I was fighting this fight mostly alone, and it required a lot of time and emotional labor. Despite claims that I was “angry” or “vicious,” nothing could be further from the truth. I responded respectfully and civilly to every comment in the Facebook group. I tried to educate and inform at every step. One person even said: “I thank you for taking a difficult stand, and for speaking with such clarity and non-blaming, non-judgmental, language.”

As the drama played out in the Facebook event over the course of a week, more allies stepped up and spoke out. Numerous people wrote very insightful, poignant and powerful responses to the disgusting diatribes they were witnessing.

“I am deeply saddened and disappointed to learn that this event is not trans-inclusive. I cannot continue to support this event.”

“Having been to this event and in the Men’s Circle I do not see any negative consequences of allowing people to align with their soul guided gender orientation. I believe the magic shared in these circles is only powered by the way we walk the road, not by what person is or is not privy to the mystery shared there.”

“This is a serious issue and bothers me a good bit period if it’s true that person isn’t not allowed to participate based on the gender of their identity, that’s a big problem”

“Oh my god. I am so sorry. I apologize on behalf of all of this. You did not ask to be in this role. I have tremendous respect and appreciation for you.”

“Thank’s for your persistence Be. This is not just about trans rights but a metaphor for queer rights and inclusion everywhere. I am really saddened to see how these seemingly liberal folks can’t open heir minds just a tad to include trans folks.”

“Marginalized people have to go through enough in normal life without being expected to show up as second-class citizens to an event in attempts to educate the people who should be educating themselves.”

“This post is so gross, and I’m shocked at how well it was received. It clearly uses pagan and feminist language to defend trans-exclusion. Thinking like this is what is creating transphobia.”

This comment wins the day:

“If it’s just sour-faced, self-appointed “priestesses” claiming that they know some secret of what magic does and doesn’t do when faced with our binary views of what our bodies versus our spirits say about us, why don’t *they* do some private, genital-specific rituals off on their own? Fuck this nonsense. I’d rather stay home. It all seems so self-important and uptight.”

A Rainbow Victory

A persistent voice for inclusion were organizers Taylor Johnson and Kathryn Grover. They were facing significant pressure from long time organizers Alexandra and Jeremy as well as trying to manage an event that was publicly spiraling out of control. For some organizers friendships were at stake, for others, professional relationships were also in the mix. Without this factor I’m confident all of the other organizers aside from Alexandra and Jeremy would have been fine with trans inclusion. The tight knit relationships played a significant role.

It’s important to note that this years transformation had it’s roots in a principled stand taken by former Beltane queen Liat Batshira. When she brought up the issue of trans inclusion last year she was told “those people belong at Short Mountain.” She protested that excluding trans folks would mean leaving out friends and important community members. So, she boycotted the women’s ceremonies and started the 3rd space alternative group. She stated, “I felt like if not all women were welcome in the queens tent I didn’t want to be part of it.”

When Kathryn posted a strong statement of support in the Facebook event for trans inclusion this year it was undoubtedly building on Liat’s efforts from last year. Kathryn worked diligently behind the scenes to make Beltane inclusive. She stated,

“I am intensely debating your and my shared viewpoint currently within the organizing team. I want you to know that as an organizer I am strongly advocating for women- all women- to be more than welcome in the women’s circle. I support you and agree and am working hard to change minds behind the scenes so that the Asheville Regional Beltane lives up to its name. To be clear, as an organizer, I feel strongly that a trans woman is a woman as much as I am. I want you in the queens tent.”

In the end, several organizers would lose friends permanently for taking a stand.

Taylor also fought diligently to make this event inclusive and lost friends in the process. After countless hours of tireless work with no foreseeable conclusion in sight he finally put his foot down as the lease holder of the land and said it will 100% be trans inclusive no matter what. At that point and after all the heated debate, Alexandra and Jeremey stepped out and decided to have their own separate trans-exclusionary Beltane at a later date.

With Alexandra and Jeremy out the others were free to publish a fully inclusive statement. The creation of the statement was a group effort between Kathryn, Kai and Taylor.

We believe in crafting a culture of Asheville Regional Beltane that represents the present Asheville Region. This absolutely and without question includes our trans brothers and sisters, as well as folks who are gender-queer, gender-fluid, agender, two-spirit, intersex, and any and all other identities. By including people of all identities, we are creating a new branch of the Beltane lineage.

We state here and now, that Asheville Regional Beltane will move forward with its full heart embracing the reality that ALL people belong in whatever circle(s) they identify with. Each person has the right to participate in whatever ceremony(ies) they choose, having read our policy stated below. We believe unequivocally that a person who identifies as a woman is welcome in the women’s circle, and a person who identifies as a man is welcome in the men’s circle. We state strongly that the energy of the binary magic we create is enhanced and enlivened by having all types of people present, each following the energetic calling of their highest and most potent selves.

It took several weeks of fighting and dozens and dozens of comments but in the end trans inclusion won out.

I’m told that no trans folks actually attended the event although there were several people in the third space for those who are gender non-conforming.

The 2017 Asheville Beltane Festival.

The Aftermath

This experience made my life in Asheville even more difficult. The background community I relied on is now tainted. I no longer feel comfortable in many of the spaces I used to. I stopped going to the events, workshops and gatherings I would have otherwise gone to. It added another layer of tension, awkwardness and uncertainty to my life that I didn’t need. I don’t know who is friend or foe, even amongst the folks who are supposed to be my friends. No longer can I just assume that the majority of people in my scene are supportive. For some, I’m the one who “ruined Beltane.” Ugh.

Some organizers lost friends and their relationship to community and the festival also changed. It divided us for sure. Many have lost interest in organizing or even attending the Beltane festival. The queer community on Short Mountain does a fabulously gay/queer/inclusive celebration every year. More and more people in Asheville have expressed interest in this gathering.

For me personally it’s another lost opportunity to gather in community. It’s a huge loss. I’ve fought so hard to be able to have these types of experiences. It’s more missed fun, joy, love and connection. It’s devastating.

On the positive, the Beltane event and other Asheville events are much more likely to be trans inclusive from now on. This experience was a huge wake up call for many. There is so much more awareness of how important trans inclusion is in our communities.

I want to end with something I posted in the Facebook event:

“Events like these can be so important for trans folks given the everyday exclusion we face. It just hurts more when the transformative communities also exclude us because there are so few spaces for us to be comfortable in. Getting shut out of an event like this is not just an isolated thing for trans folks. It happens in a context of intense exclusion in life in general. But the people at Beltane are supposedly my friends, are progressive, “spiritual” and more aware. So, it sucks when this stuff happens with a supposedly inclusive community.

I’m excluded from most all jobs, there’s only a handful of cities I feel comfortable living in, I always have to check or am worried if a business or service provider is trans friendly, getting a lease is always a concern, I don’t travel much, I fear even getting pulled over, I’m shut out from many spaces, every new activity or event I go to I have to seriously think about it and wonder if it will be alright, I receive lots of weird comments, I’m the only trans person wherever I go, my existence is constantly questioned and debated, laws are passed to prevent me from using the restroom, people portray trans folks as predators, we are discriminated against in every area of life…

I’d wish that these festivals and events could be a reprieve from the harsh reality of being trans but sometimes they are part of the problem.”

The New Predator: Spiritual Teacher Padma Aon Prakasha Accused of Abuse

Fifteen women and two men have come forth with accusations of abuse against spiritual teacher and self proclaimed “child prodigy” Padma Aon Prakasha. They include allegations of physical and emotional abuse and manipulation. While on spiritual retreats, women who spoke against his tactics were often told they had “satanic contracts” or were under the influence of the “Twisted Sisterhood” — discarnate female spirits who are angry at men. Marriages or partnerships were ended at Padma’s direction and he would suggest sexual partners for members. A spiritual pilgrimage in Egypt turned into a hunt for dark aliens in the pyramids and culminated in Padma claiming to channel the Anti-Christ into a woman’s womb for transmutation while she laid naked on a sarcophagus. In 2011, he told his group the end of the world was near and they needed to move to Australia where they formed the “Aon Sphere” community.


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.]

3/22/18

“Padma was a tough, rigorous, irascible teacher, frequently screaming, making us easily feel worthless or incapable, treating us as kids.”

In 2015 Ashley Ray (not her real name) arrived in Hawaii for a Womb Wisdom retreat based on the teachings of Padma Aon Prakasha. It was being taught by the mother of his child and core instructor of his work, Shekinah Zorenski. Ashley had already read his books and been enrolled in his 6-month online course which Padma oversaw. After meeting in person for the first time in Hawaii after the retreat he messaged her and told her that she could be a great teacher of his work but needed a “healed masculine presence” first. He then visited her at the retreat center Ashley was staying at. She describes what happened when Padma was in her room one evening:

“He then kissed me and quickly moved himself on top of me…The way he placed himself onto me was overwhelming and I could feel pain shooting inside my mouth as he kissed me with intense vigor…I was so surrendered and even though it hurt, I didn’t have enough within me to tell him to stop. I was powerless and weak underneath him…The next morning I woke up with swollen and bruised lips and a gut feeling that something was not right.”

Just before moving himself on top of Ashley, Padma told Ashley that they had been Egyptian lovers in a former lifetime. It began after dinner when Padma touched her thigh and “energy shot through” her “entire body.” He then brought her to her room to share a story about how he was a Priest and she was a Priestess in a past life. “He kept telling me I was his ‘soul mate.’” She even felt “special and exalted in his presence” she says. He also told her that he was Judas and she believed him. Ashley said she was “shaken at the core and so entranced” that such a powerful spiritual figure had come onto her. She was 24 at the time and Padma was 40.

Padma would later have sex with Ashley and they then became lovers on and off. She said that she was in a very vulnerable state at the time and viewed him in extremely high regard having previously read his books. While Padma wasn’t teaching that first retreat she was on, he did teach part of the second retreat she participated in. She viewed him as her teacher and he eventually told her that he was her teacher. He also slept with other women who were followers of his work according to these women.

Another student spoke up against Padma as she was aware of the relationship with Ashley:

“It began when I decided to message Padma and express my feelings of anger and concern for Ashley, and that I did not feel it was okay for a ‘teacher’ to be intimate with a student in the way I had witnessed them. His response was that I was having feelings from a past life arise, that this was all because of something that Ashley, him and I had been through in Egypt.”

Padma also intentionally kept the relationship secret. The same student continues: “No one other than Ashley, myself and the guides knew about Padma relating with Ashley. I’m sure others may have suspected, but we were not allowed to speak to it to anyone.”

Speaking Out

According to the numerous women who have come forward, Padma Aon (real name Vikas Sharma), has used spiritual teachings about the divine feminine to exploit and abuse women for nearly 15 years. One former member says he’s “on a pathologically, psychopathically, narcissistically, driven mission to bed as many women as he can possibly seduce, under the twisted guise of ‘empowering’ and ‘sexually healing / activating’ them.” His quest has taken him from Bali to Egypt where he’s led retreats called “Womb Wisdom,” “Wounds of Love” and “The Seven Gates” among others about feminine wisdom. The retreat schedules were arduous. One former follower describes them:

“Lots of chanting, sounding, breath work, transmissions and deep deep states. Teaching schedule is all day and often into the night. It’s very intense with practices that are difficult to endure. Lots of challenging postures (like squatting ) for prolonged periods of time which result in all kinds of breaking down. All done to release spirits, dispel curses and spells… it’s nothing but one cathartic process after the other. He has no training what so ever — making it up as he goes along.”

In an effort to maintain control, Padma and his former partner Shekinah would often tell women that some women had “satanic contracts” on them. They also used a term Padma coined called “Twisted Sisterhood” which meant “Discarnate female spirits who are angry with men.” If a woman spoke up against Padma’s abuse he would tell her she “did not know her own mind because she was terribly possessed.” One woman describes when she found out the reason she was banned from the group:

“I later found out that the reason for me being banished from the course and all work with the ‘team’ was due to having a ‘satanic contract.’ There was a list sent to Jamie which she shared with me that I was on this list. At the time I was really broken by this, I felt horrified at the depths of my darkness, that I could be so dark.”

“One practice we did we were in prayer and Shekinah began to tell one woman that she had invited Satan into this space, that she had made a dark contract and should feel why she was now inviting this energy into the space. This woman wept as the rest of the sisters looked on.”

On many occasions the women were asked to break off long-lasting friendships, partnerships and even marriages at Padma’s direction. One person was even told to abandon their children because “it was God’s plan.”He also told some women with children that they were less spiritually evolved because of their kids. One woman describes how difficult it was for her to separate from her husband:

“While living in Australia he asked my husband and myself to get separated for the second time. I left the group the following morning after crying out all night and that moment of separation was awful for me…He asked me to go to an Osho ashram in Puna (India) for nearly 3 months and said it would be good I had a sexual experience over there. We were again not allowed to have any written or oral exchanges between my husband and myself. Under influence we accepted. That was again a very difficult time for me.”

It was common for Padma to also suggest or assign sexual partners for members, telling them they needed to explore new experiences.

Many women who had read Padma’s books and went on spiritual retreat with him were enamored and awestruck by him just as Ashley was. And he used many of the same manipulative tactics on all of them, including telling several of the women they were married in former Egyptian lives. Searching for healing and growth, they believed him when he told them he was the only path to God. Padma told one woman she had the sign of Christ in her third eye and that she could be one of his special teachers. He said that she was “sphere 2” but would have to grow another sphere to be considered as a teacher.

Padma would exploit the women’s trauma and vulnerability to maintain power and fulfill his cult ambitions. As one former follower explains:

“The underlying truth in all the sacred journeys that I arranged with Padma was his manipulation in weaving history, mythology, and fantasy into something that supported his ‘powerful’ connection to greater beings and the ‘Source’ of creation. And we all fell for it.”

And Padma would engage in some very strange practices to achieve his goals.

“Hunt for Dark Aliens”

Anaiya Sophia, who co-authored books with Padma and was married to him for a year shares her story of being on retreat in Egypt with him in 2009. She describes it as “pure madness.” It began with him wanting her to be sexual with another female participant. She declined. He “was furious, saying this refusal was my own conditioning, and how I needed to move beyond it” she stated. Then Padma had 2 hours of private time after hours in the pyramid. At that point things took a dark turn. Anaiya explains:

“The whole retreat turned into fantasy driven hunt for dark aliens inside of the ancient Egyptian tombs. He announced that he was the reincarnation of Osiris and this was a big mission, that we were destined to accomplish. It really was a life or death situation. Towards the end of the retreat, the final ceremony took place in the Cheops pyramid where he ‘channelled’ the anti-Christ and all that was dark and evil into my womb for transmutation. He felt that my health crisis was a sign that I had an open and pure womb, and that I was destined to take on this level of work on behalf of us all.

As I was lying naked in the sarcophagus, and the strange proceedings began. I knew to hold onto my prayers for dear life.

At first, the group of 28 women and a few men faced the walls of the pyramid, and had their hands against the walls. Padma asked them to chant, and I believe he was sounding all kinds of things. The lights were out. It was a 2 hr darkness experience. Padma passed out and slumped against the Sarcophagus after a while. I was just lying there in the dark holding very tightly to all feels good in the world.

Another member who was present describes her experience:

“I opened my heart fully with the desire that all be safe here, and then, all of a sudden, I felt this amazing energy pouring out of my heart and hands into the darkened room. All that I sensed were these rainbow streams of light frequencies and sound currents flowing within and around the room, to guard and protect all from the swirls of darkness emanating from within and around Padma.

I realized much later that a part of my presence with Padma was indeed to keep a balance so that the dark would not overtake the sacred space or the individuals present.”

The End of the World

During a seminar in France in 2011, Padma told participants they needed to move to Australia. One member recalls that Padma told them:

“He has got the information that the end of the world will soon appear and the only way to stay alive is to go to Australia. Then he asked who among us would like to leave with him in order not to die. We were 11 who decided to go to Australia with him in September 2011. That was extremely hard for me as I had to leave my children, gran children, family and friends behind me in Switzerland, but it was the way for not losing my husband.”

Another member divorced her husband, left her family and left everything to follow Padma to Australia:

“He informed us that earth, and society as we knew it, was imminently destined for upheaval and drastic changes. He was calling forth ‘brave souls’ that would stand up and fight with him against the cosmic dark forces. Simply put, I did not want to ‘miss the boat’ to transcendence, and I really believed that Padma knew the way ‘home’.

Another says the move to Australia was prompted by Padma learning of a “future major devastation of planet earth due to the awakening of super-volcanoes in 2012.” He describes what was required to make the move:

“In an extremely short period of time, we thus went through an extensive phase of detachment, by getting rid of our material belongings and social engagements, and saying goodbye to our friends and family before moving to Australia end of September 2011. There were 11 of us, from all around the globe, committed to the experience and personal growth.”

Padma’s bio reads: “Padma Aon Prakasha is an evolutionary author, visionary creative force and spiritual teacher. Padma holds the power of great change and transformation, and is part of the new generation of evolutionary guides. He combines all his multiple lineage initiations, teachings and skills into being a powerful catalyst for soul expansion. His ability to tap into the heart of the ancient mysteries and articulate their modern day message is renowned, and he has been described as, “Unique, provocative, fresh, full of profound integrity, knowledge and experience.”

The Aon Sphere

Members rented a luxury home with views of Byron Bay in Australia. *Photo not of actual home.

While in Australia they searched for land to purchase to set up this new community known as the “Aon Sphere.” In the meantime they rented a luxury home with views of Byron Bay. Members were told by Padma that there were divine energies supporting them to help humanity evolve. They would meet nightly for “Kodoishka.” This was Padma chanting for hours in a foreign language that at times would last all night. One former member describes their routine, “Practice was going on, rather regularly — when we deserved it, in the evenings, through meditation, sacred sounds chanting or with the seldom use of 3D geometries.”

When members first arrived they were required to put all of their cash into a bowl on the kitchen table. One couple recalls putting in $20,000.

“We were just his playthings; a source of amusement to him. We were all under some kind of dark spell; brainwashed into giving him our power which he was using to manipulate us.”

Eventually, Padma moved the community to one of the member’s country homes in France, requiring them to do extensive remodeling to suit his needs. At that time there were only about six members still part of the group. The community eventually fizzled out in August of 2012 after Padma suddenly “announced his decision to stop being a teacher, move out of the Center, go back to London and be a great music composer. He was “giving us the key of the Center. We had learned enough, his job was completed.” Padma returned just a month later, however. He then refused to leave the community without a significant payment from the house owners, as reimbursement of the works he had funded with sponsors’ money to satisfy his personal comfort and requirements, which they begrudgingly supplied.

One former member reflects on Padma’s true intentions about their time in Australia:

“He got himself a fabulous all expenses paid holiday in Australia for five or six months. Sailing in the Whitman Islands on a privately chartered yacht, scuba diving the reefs, sky-diving, luxury-living, driving a luxury Volvo SUV — that I ended up with all his irresponsible speeding tickets for! All fully paid for and serviced by all of us + sexually serviced, too, by a series of willing, albeit manipulated women. We all got duped into his deplorably selfish, incredibly destructive scheme.”

“I was a part of a cult. There, I said it. A cult.”

Physical Abuse

Anaiya Sophia says that Padma was physically and emotionally abusive to her:

“We would have blazing rows, and that would often end in physical violence because I would try to leave…He would try to lock me in a room or grab me as I tried to leave through the front door, or out of a window. I would try to get out of his clutches and we would often end up on the floor wrestling with one another…There was a particularly wild night where he smashed in the doors and walls of the house…It wasn’t a case of punching, but brawling.I would forever be trying to escape through doors and windows and he would simply pull me back in. To get off the island — seemed impossible…There was one time we were arguing in his mother’s house in London, and he threw me across the room…It is a miracle that I am still here.

One time he yelled at me ‘I am the anti-Christ’ and I completely believed him.”

Anaiya Sophia and Padma Aon

She recounts how one time he asked her to commit suicide with him:

“There were times when he would plunge into a deep depression. Just lying on the sofa, not speaking and growing grayer and grayer. One time he asked me to commit suicide with him. I was terrified. I really thought he meant it. I think at the time he really did. At first, I said no, which angered him. After a while I said yes, but I didn’t mean it. I just wanted him to stop talking in that way.

After one former partner refused to have an abortion Padma tried to attack her:

“He chased me around the kitchen at my parents’ home, trying to punch me in the stomach in order to do the job himself. I pulled out a knife to keep him away and fortunately my parents arrived and we ‘acted like nothing was happening.’ I was in shock and he left.”

She also says that he claimed to have given his ex-girlfriend two abortions by his own hands:

“With his own hands and intention, he performed the death of the fetus himself. He placed his hands on the womb of the mother of his unborn child and asked the fetus to return to God and it was not welcome here. He said that it was a loving exchange and an agreeance between him and his child.”

On one retreat the same ex-girlfriend also claims that “He threatened to break my fingers because he thought I’d treated his expensive camera roughly.”

Pulsing

Image of Pulsing. *Not Padma’s class.

Padma co-opted and warped a Tibetan practice called pulsing where someone would sit on top of another’s womb to open the energy. From the various women that came forth it is described almost as a form of abuse as Padma did it in a much more harsh and violent way:

“Yes, so the pulsing we did in the womb wisdom retreats is not the “real” Tibetan pulsing. What we would do, is sit on another women’s womb and sink down fully and then bounce/thrust on top of our sisters wombs, using shakti to move into the womb and open the energy. We would also do this on the heart. It was more controlled on the heart but often very, very painful.”

Another testimonial about pulsing:

“During the retreat I witnessed a sister being pulsed by Shekinah, she was being told she had a spirit in her and it needed to be pulsed out. I was close by and I felt how this was not right, that this woman was in pain, emotionally & physically. This was really traumatizing to witness.”

More:

“Shekinah asked others to brutally pound me in pulsing. At Glastonbury when I first experienced pulsing my body and mind went into shock. My knees (I have arthritis) were so painful I screamed and my body was trembling. My hands would freeze and I couldn’t move them. It wasn’t clenched fists of anger it was pure shock.”

Emotional & Psychological Abuse

The testimonials from women include numerous accounts of emotional abuse and manipulation. Ashley Ray describes her experience with him:

“I remember him saying that the only thing I was good at was making love. I was ‘Satan’s whore, a slut, a cunt.’ When my face would break out due to my hormone imbalance he would call me “crater face” and would get angry at me for not being “feminine enough”, telling me I didn’t care enough about him to take care of myself.. After cooking for him, my food was “shit”. Time and time again he would tell me how stupid I was, that I was brainless.”

“He was very angry and verbally attacked and belittled me…he still ridiculed me to the point I was literally on the floor in shambles crying my eyes out, feeling deep remorse for how I was ‘too stupid’ and how I had harmed him and caused him to receive spirit attacks.”

A former partner describes how just after 3 weeks he began mistreating her:

“He then began abusing me saying that I was the stupidest person he’d ever met, severely creatively blocked and sexually damaged beyond repair. He thought that God had tricked him by ‘falling in love’ with a “commoner from Down Under,” (I am Australian) who knows nothing of spiritual matters. He yelled at God in rage that he deserved to be with someone of his development and spiritual superiority, but then felt “God” say that he needed to learn patience and that not everybody can learn as fast as he.”

A former student who took Padma’s online course and the Womb Wisdom course taught by Shekinah in which he partially taught:

“One day, Padma had me meet Ashley again, in his presence, and told us to hug one another. Resistantly, I did and we both began experiencing intense emotional releases. He then encouraged us to both lie on the bed and hold each other. He came closer to us and spoke words of being whores and betrayers of God as he gently touch points on both our bodies, which released more emotions through the receiving of intense energy in those places. That particular instance we laid there crying horrendously for about 4 hours.

Eventually, both of us laying in his arms sobbing and praying to God for forgiveness. For the next 8 months this continued. He would tell me that I had implants that he needed to remove in order for me to heal certain layers of my wounding from Egypt. But that he would only do so once I had done enough work, become humble and prayed deeply enough.

…In such spaces he would tell us we sold our souls to the devil and that we or Ashley was a whore of Satan. That we had betrayed him and the work he was doing for God with the Priestesses. Ashley was nearly always in a puddle of tears, praying for mine, Padmas and Gods forgiveness.

The same former student describes how Padma had Ashley call her while he was in the room and he forced her to confess “what she had done:”

“She meekly told me a story about her being possessed and harming others without her full knowing. That now it had come to light that her and I had these horrendous entities living in us that were trying to take down the work Padma had been creating to help the world. He yelled at her, and I watched her sink deeper into intense emotions. I felt so much shock and fear, I remember just being absolutely speechless and frozen as he told us we were no longer allowed to do practices and that we were cursed. That our wombs and souls were lost and that our lives would be spent rectifying our wrongs. That we should not have sex for at least 2 years and that we were to stay away from our wombs and any womb work. It was devastating and insane. I was in a complete state of freeze at that point. I could not grasp what was happening. He spun a story around her and I attempting a demise of the entire planet.”

Another woman:

“Padma made it a point of letting me know that I was not a ‘real woman’…I was subject to verbal chastisement, and witness to that same behavior with others as well. I personally experienced and witnessed his rage & anger on multiple occasions.”

Another:

“I couldn’t speak because of fear against this behaviour, the evil was pouring from his mouth. He was shouting at the other teachers telling them they were ‘fucking old men’ the two teachers in tears… so unloving. My soul was raging sat in that room, but I was frozen with fear feeling my own powerlessness against this cruel wounded man.”

One person describes the volatile personality of Padma, “I was scared of his unexpected violent reactions, his attacking my sense of worth or rejecting me as well, and I did not dare to question his authority.”

A former member explains how Padma victim blamed people:

“[In] Hawaii alarm bells started ringing as I started to see Padma’s behaviour shift, informing one woman at a retreat whom had cancer, ‘Your cancer is karmic and your soul is locked up in hell because of the horrible things you did in ancient Egypt and only I have the keys to set you free but not until you are humble.’

At the second retreat in Hawaii I began to notice he was manipulating women to fancy him and I felt a deep sense of illness in my stomach that something wasn’t right…At night I would feel his soul visit the rooms we were sleeping in.”

During a private healing session one woman describes what happened:

“After I told him of my aversion to my parents smoking, he purposefully blew cigarette smoke into my face and I believed his assurances, that it would aid me in overcoming my judgmental disgust and bronchial weakness — assist it may, but it was one of the first signs of feeling cruelly abused.

More harsh words and belittling were followed by what appeared to be a trance like state and then a sudden switch to tenderness and empathy for the ‘past life I had endured as a princess of the Sinai’ (Egypt). He told me that this experience had been blocking me from my true potential, all my life and only he could help me to ‘remove the four locks placed upon the gateways of my womb’.”

They continue:

“I also witnessed a true lack of respect for women, for the feminine, combined with an arrogance and rudeness I had never seen before, especially from a man pretending honouring the Divine Feminine. I witnessed him on several occasions humiliating women of his ‘crew’ in Egypt and Hawaï. And there were moments where I did not feel truly respected either. Whenever I did say something, he was always right and the other person had still work to do for his/her growth, except himself.”

The New Predator

“The dark attack will start its commandeering of the female power in the actual “womb” to stop this [return of the feminine] from occurring in the physical plane.”

Former partner of Padma, Anaiya Sophia, now writes about the phenomenon of the “New Predator.” She quotes Eve Lorgen on the subject:

“The New Predator topic has been long awaited and is something that needs to be disclosed because of its extreme lethality, toxicity and spiritual danger. In some respects, the New Predator has qualities of a classic Dark Side of Cupid — “alien love bite” dynamic, but presents with more “fallen angel” characteristics.”

Anaiya Sophia expands further:

“Usually these New Predator’s are men (and some women), who seek out the opening, creative spirit held in the womb space for their own gain. It’s time to name the elephant in the room, and encourage women back into their own seat of sovereign power.”

She along with the other women who have come forth want to warn others about this “New Predator,” Padma Aon. He is still teaching and offering retreats worldwide. They want to expose his dangerous and abusive behavior. For years, they claim he has taken advantage of dozens of people, often in their most vulnerable and fragile states. He’s taken some of the most sacred teachings about feminine spirituality and womb wisdom and exploited them for his own sexual and financial gain. As one former member describes, “I felt deep disappointment, great lack of respect and genuine love for the feminine, the art in manipulation, judgment and arrogance and abuse of vulnerability, sensitivity, generosity and kindness making most of the women, but also men, blind.”

At this moment of great accountability and awareness these women’s voices must not be ignored. They are standing up against a powerful and intimidating figure who needs to be understood for who he is. They are clear in that they wish no personal harm to him, rather only to expose his dangerous and harmful ways. They must not be forgotten at this new time of women’s empowerment. Their voices are powerful, important and brave.

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