Bellingham, WA Private Investigator Molly Monahan of Sirius Investigations is willing to work for cults. She’s been hired by cult leader Aaravindha Himadra to find negative information and intel about prominent cult reporter Be Scofield. Aaravindha teaches in Bellingham, where many of his followers currently live. The town is just a few hours from his home on Orcas Island.
Monahan is using her position in UU institutional leadership circles to find and contact former classmates of Scofield from Starr King looking for dirt and intel. Several report being called by Monahan, who claims on her website that she “can talk even the most reluctant sources into supplying details.” She has also discussed her ability to locate people. It was made clear she didn’t want Scofield or the general public knowing about her investigation.
In 2019 Scofield exposed Aaravindha’s cult and the suspicious death / potential murder of his student Carla Jean Shaffer on Orcas. The story sent shockwaves through San Juan Island communities. Both the Island Sounder and San Juan Islander covered Aaravindha’s frivolous $250,000 lawsuit against Scofield which he subsequently lost. Aaravindha also hired a ghostwriter to create a smear campaign against Scofield which failed. Now he has employed the services of Monahan, a professional private investigator to find dirt on Scofield.
Both Scofield and Monahan have long been affiliated with Unitarian Universalism. Monahan is a lifelong UU who served on a UUA executive committee about the youth movement in 1972. Scofield graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry, a Berkeley based UU seminary in 2014. There she studied closely with author Rebecca Parker and taught a graduate course on Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s creepy to know that someone is tracking you and harassing former classmates to dig up dirt,” Scofield said. “And then to learn that it’s being done by a fellow UU is really disappointing.”
Scofield’s cult reporting has led to the shutting down of some of the largest cults and exposed numerous rapists in the tantra / sacred sexuality communities. Her journalism has garnered over 1 million views in the last year or so and stories based on her work have appeared on The Guardian, The Daily Mail, CNN, the New Zealand Herald, VICE and Playboy.
Monahan is also the executive director of the Bellingham non-profit Pass the Hat and has done work for a Netflix drama called Evil Genius and has been “hired by CNN for work used by Anderson Cooper.”
New Age guru Abraham Hicks has made many shocking and disturbing statements about rape, slavery, 9/11 victims and Holocaust deaths. She claims “less than 1% of rapes” are “true violations” and the rest are attractions. Hicks believes slavery was “the beginning of a journey that was better” and part of an “overall improvement in humanity.”She says “AIDS is the physical manifestation of not liking yourself.” Hicks and others like Rhonda Byrne, creator of “The Secret,” have taken a partial truth and concretized it into a religious absolutist system known as the Law of Attraction and made millions in the process. The teaching is harmful and a form of spiritual bypassing.
[This article is based on countless hours of research and writing. Please consider donating to support these efforts.]
Exactly fifty years prior to the publication of the best selling book and DVD The Secret, Earl Nightingale released a vinyl record in 1956 that set the motivational world on fire. It was called The Strangest Secret and it shared the same fundamental premise as Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 The Secret; we become what we think about and our thoughts create our reality. His self-written and recorded LP sold over 1 million copies making it the first-ever spoken word album to achieve gold status. After his phenomenal success, Nightingale went on to form Nightingale-Conant which became one of the largest self-help audiobook publishers ever. With only a one-word difference between the names did Byrne steal Nightingale’s title and message? We may never know but they are undoubtedly two of the biggest and most successful proponents of the Law of Attraction in the modern era.
New-age guru Esther Hicks, who claims to channel 100 entities known as Abraham is the other largest force behind the spread of the Law of Attraction. One of these entities is supposedly Jesus, another Buddha. Now 71 years old, she is also one of the most well-known figures in modern spirituality, traveling the world speaking to massive sold-out crowds. The late Dr. Wayne Dyer said Abraham are “great Masters of the Universe,” while Louise Hay, founder of the popular Hay House publisher said they are “some of the best teachers on the planet today.”
“That which Jesus was, Esther is” – Abraham
Just like Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, the uniqueness of Esther Hicks and her teachings as Abraham don’t seem to be all that original, however. She too got her schtick from elsewhere.
Before Abraham was manufactured, Esther and her husband Jerry had several visits with a woman named Sheila Gillette who claimed to channel a group of twelve Archangels called THEO. Sheila acknowledges the origins herself, “Within a year of Esther’s experience with THEO, she began channeling ABRAHAM.” The channeled voice of Abraham was remarkably similar in accent, style, and content as THEO. “I was captivated by what I heard from Theo,” Esther said. The precedent had been set. The husband and wife team of Sheila and Marcus Gillette built a following and business channeling a cosmic entity using an accent. Esther and Jerry took note.
Esther also took a page from the books of Jane Roberts who claimed to channel an entity known as Seth. Author David Stone claims that Abraham is merely a dumbed-down version of Seth.
“Not long after their marriage, Jerry introduced Esther to Jane Roberts’ Seth books. Roberts claimed to be channelling an entity with traits in common with the soon to arrive Abraham. The primary distinction separating the two is that Seth is much pithier, more complex and original than Abraham, a supposed entity that often seems to voice nothing more profound than a simplified rehash of Roberts’ Seth.
Abraham, in fact, sometimes reads like dumbed down Seth, a digest constructed for easier mass consumption. Esther recalls Jerry reading out loud from the Seth books in bed, tickling her toes under the covers.”
Jerry was also heavily influenced by new thought teachings such as Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich prior to the emergence of Abraham. In Hill’s book, The Law of Success he uses the exact phrase “the Law of Attraction” 11 times. Yet both Jerry and Esther claim the first time they ever heard the term was from Abraham. Stone argues that Jerry was the motivating force behind creating Abraham and that he edited and helped write the books.
From Amway to NYT Bestselling Author
Why did Rhonda Byrne and the Hicks’s become world-famous multi-millionaires while Sheila and THEO never did? They had something Sheila and her husband didn’t: extensive experience marketing and selling product. Byrne was an infomercial and TV producer prior to creating The Secret. She knew how to dazzle an audience with presentation and packaging. Jerry was a prominent Amway salesman who was married to a highly successful Amway saleswoman named Trish. And Esther was Trish’s bookkeeper, thus she was also heavily immersed in the culture. Amway was a prominent multi-level marketing business known for its pyramid marketing scheme.
Former Abraham Hicks devotee turned critic Kyra explains that Amway salespeople made most of their money selling “motivational materials” such as Think and Grow Rich and audiobooks about them to new recruits, not from the product itself. “This is how [Jerry] became a Crown level with his former wife Trish. Not from selling soaps, appliances, etc. But from selling his motivational courses, tickets to “business presentations”, and tapes like so many Amway distributors did before him.” Amway salespeople were required to purchase one motivational self-help book a month.
“They worked for Amway, selling motivational materials to their recruits/distributors (aka “business associates”), and then Abraham mystically happened to them and they just started selling their own Abraham materials to their associates. And as their business associates recruited new people, they sold more, and then, like any Amway “business”, it just got bigger and bigger till they decided to take their act on the road, so that now they are on the New York Times Best Seller list.”
The recipe for success was laid out for Esther and Jerry. They got the style, accent, and initial content from THEO, more specific teachings came from Seth and they used their Amway sales and marketing background to launch Abraham into the world. They knew the scheme would work because as Kyra states, “Jerry and Esther were already giving workshops, holding seminars, and touring the country with Jerry’s Amway business presentations.”
David Stone suggests that Esther and Jerry were originally experimenting with cult-like elements to test the waters. Esther, via Abraham, used to make prophecies about natural disasters and gave specific dates (none of which came true) and these were edited out of later editions of her first book. In her early days she would scream in an authoritarian manner and she no longer does. She also no longer circles and bobs her head in dramatic fashion at the beginning of her sessions as she originally did.
A New-Age Cash Cow
The Law of Attraction and related works are a big-money business. Nightingale sold 1 million records while The Secret has sold over 30 million copies. Esther and Jerry Hicks became multi-millionaires. Think and Grow Rich has sold over 20 million copies. Oprah and Larry King profited by featuring The Secret cast several times. Many modern spiritual teachers have also profited from the concept. Presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson even cashed in on the phenomenon with her 2012 bookThe Law of Divine Compensation. It merely regurgitated a lot of the same non-sensical beliefs as The Secret. She states,
“The Fairy Godmother didn’t order a limo; she turned a pumpkin into a coach and mice into horsemen. Whatever Cinderella needed, the universe took care of it. The Fairy Godmother didn’t have to order a dress or call out for a car because the universe miraculously transformed existing material. That’s how the universe operates. Cinderella, despite her circumstances as a servant, had the mind-set of the miraculous. And so miracles came to her.”
Williamson literally invoked fairy tales to describe her understanding of how the world works. She was in good company with The Secret.
The money was so big in the Law of Attraction scene it led to a split between Byrne and Hicks. The original version of The Secret actually featured Esther. But once Byrne saw the massive profits to be made she forced all presenters to turn over their intellectual property rights, meaning they’d receive no compensation. Hicks’ original contract gave her 10% which was $500,000 at the time. Byrne gave her an ultimatum: she could either turn over her rights or be edited out. Hicks decided to be removed from the film and said the way Bryne handled the situation was “not nice.” As a result of Bryne’s power-play money grab, she became the sole profiter of those 30 million products sold.
Shocking & Disturbing Statements by Abraham Hicks
There are many ridiculous, outrageous, offensive and shocking statements made by Esther Hicks, Rhonda Byrne, and Law of Attraction teachers. From delusional and fantasy-based ideas that you can manifest cars, bikes or diamonds in an instant to horrible statements blaming victims for abuse and rape, there are a wide range of terrible comments made by these new-age prophets. Hicks says humans and dinosaurs once roamed the earth together and denies evolution and that humans evolved from an earlier species. They have gotten away with them because, in part, they are “spiritual teachers” who are often shielded from critique. Had a politician or public official made these same comments they’d immediately be forced to resign. And these statements reported here are certainly only a small percentage of the horrible things Hicks has said throughout her career.
On several occasions, Esther Hicks via Abraham has stated that if a woman or even a little girl were raped or sexually assaulted it came about because they attracted it to themselves. These quotes are taken from various talks she has given.
“It is less than 1% of the actual rape cases that are true violations, the rest of them are attractions and then a changing of intention later…”
“As this man is raping it is our promise to you this is a disconnected being, it is also our promise to you is the one he rapes is a disconnected being…”
“We believe that this subject [of rape] is really talking about the mixed intentions of the individual, in other words, she was wanting the attention, she was wanting the attraction, she was really wanting all of it and attracted more than she bargained for and then as it is occurring or even after feeling differently about it…”
A woman asked Hicks during a talk how she could have attracted being sexually molested as a little girl. Hicks responded by saying that we all create our reality and that early “contrast” i.e. suffering is a way to accelerate spiritual growth.
“No one ever wants to hear that they are the creator of their reality when things are not the way they want them to be. But we cannot say you are the creator of your own reality sometimes and sometimes you are not. Everything that comes, comes in response to your vibration. What people mostly don’t realize about the creation of children is that children are offering vibration even when they are not offering words. You pick up your vibration from those who surround you, from what you hear. You pick up your vibration and you offer your vibration…Why would some child with all of this innocence negatively attract? We say because you came forth thinking you had free will to think. And you would not give up your free will to attract wanted or unwanted by having someone else making all of the decisions of what should come to you…Also, you hit the ground running and there isn’t anything that causes streams to move faster than early contrast, there isn’t anything that puts more into your vibrational escrow than early experience. “
When responding to a question on Oprah’s radio show about how the Law of Attraction would lead to a young girl attracting her own rape and murder, Hicks responded by saying parents don’t teach their children how to think properly and they are influenced by the negative thinking of the adults around them. She told Oprah, “If they are listening to the guidance within they could not comfortably ever settle on the thoughts that would lead them to attract something unwanted.” What was also surprising was Oprah’s complete lack of a response. She said “OK” and moved on.
Hicks has also claimed that protesting rape or rapists is what actually attracts rape. She says standing on pedestals protesting merely spreads rape “outwards.” Hicks also says that unless we can understand a rapists motives we have no right to critique him.
“Attention to people being raped and a feeling of irritation and irateness or anger at such injustice is the very vibration that causes you to attract it into your own experience. Give your experience to things you don’t want and it becomes your experience, it is law. Most whoever who have had that sort of experience will not allow themselves to look at the positive aspects and would rather gather together with others in groups and talk about the injustice of it. They’d rather stand on platforms and vibrate in a place of disconnection from who they are. And you can tell they are disconnected by the crummy way they feel. As they shout their outrage or cry their tears of pain. So, as they’re involved in this trauma and disconnectedness they spread disconnectdness and future rape outward. Whereas if you can acknowledge it as your attraction and understand how you attracted it, then instead of standing on platforms and spreading rape you can stand on platforms and spread deliberate control… Where is your time better placed? Abbhoring rapists? Joining panels that scout them out and persecute them? Or is your time better spent in finding the harmony of your own vibration? Do you have the right to eradicate a rascal? Can you understand his motives? And if you can’t understand his motives, do you have any plausible right or ability to tell him what to do or what not to do?”
In her book The Law of Attraction, she echoes a similar sentiment. “And so, if there is one who gives much thought to, or one who speaks much about rape, then it is very likely that they will be the “victim,” by their words, of such an experience. Because, by Law, you attract unto you the essence.”
Race and Slavery
In response to a question about slavery and how an entire population could have attracted such tragedy to themselves, Hicks replies by saying it was the start of something better.
“Do you think it would be accurate to say that many of the descendants of some of those who were brought here in slavery are now living in a much better environment than if they’d stayed there? It’s really hard to believe that whole cultures of people could have things in their vortex that would call them to it that would be part of an overall improvement of humanity...Some of that trauma and tragedy that they are wanting to condemn, if you could make peace with it and acknowledge it was the beginning of a journey that was better then the improvement could be yours today, but the determination to condemn it as wrongdoing on whoever’s part you want to point the condemnation toward holds you in the place in not receive the benefit they all cared so much about in that they were willing to live it in order to create it.”
During a talk, an African-American woman asked Hicks about how she should teach slavery to her kid. “He could go to school and daydream,” she replied. “None of that [slavery] has anything to do with him,” and “he won’t have to deal with it” she continued. Hicks proceeded to equate the teaching of African-American history with a family legacy of passing down “bad” feelings. She then blamed Martin Luther King Jr. for his own death. Hicks stated, “He lost sight of his dream momentarily…he began to push against. And when one pushes against in a very fast-moving stream abrupt things happened…It’s trying to get others to agree with us about our dreams that causes backlash.”
At an event, Hicks was asked about the cause of prejudice and discrimination and she said the one being discriminated against attracts it to themselves. “More often, the one who feels discriminated against is the most powerful creator in that experience. The being who feels that others do not like him — for whatever reason — whether it is religion, race, gender, or social status . . . no matter what the reason is that he feels that he is being discriminated against — it is his attention to the subject of the prejudice that attracts his trouble.“
In response to a question from a participant about the Holocaust Hicks replies that the Jews who were killed were partially responsible.
“All of them were co-creators in the process. In other words everyone that was involved in it did not die, many of them who were well connected with their inner beings were inspired to zig and zag. Many of them left the country.”
In another talk, a woman asks Hicks a similar question about the Holocaust. “How did six million people of Jewish descent attract such despair and suffering that they endured?” Hicks replies by saying that many did not die because of vibrational differences amongst them.
“For everyone that died in that way there were many, many, many more who didn’t. In other words, it didn’t happen to everyone, so why didn’t happen to everyone? Because there were vibrational differences among them you see. How can that many people have that negative experience? Because you hang around with each other and you talk similarly, and you get a similar vibration going and you dovetail into the currents of things and then inevitable things happen.”
Hicks also said that people were creating “future holocausts” by talking about victimhood, injustice, and unfairness. She even went on to say that the countries being bombed by George Bush were attracting it to themselves by their negative emotions.
9/11 Terrorist Attacks
In response to a question about how so many people could have simultaneously attracted their deaths on 9/11 Hicks says that someone couldn’t wake up “happily vibrating” and walk into a building like the World Trade Center.
“How would it be that so many would find themselves a vibrational match to something? That is what vibrational matches are about. All of the elements that have culminated in that eggarated experience have been percolating. It has been in the making. In other words you don’t just wake up one morning and be vibrating happily ever after and just walk into a situation like that. You don’t just wake up one morning vibrating happily ever after and find yourself working in a building where previous bomb threats have even happened.”
She also stated that one could see clearly how the Law of Attraction applies when looking at all the factors.
“When you think about the WTC and you acknowledge that it has been a target before, that there have been experiences there before, that trauma has surrounded it before, that some who are there are offering some similar vibration around that. When you think about the turmoil that has been happening around the airlines, when you think about the air rage that has been pulsing, as you have access to specific information about many factors that all culminated in that, as you address it from your knowledge of law of attraction suddenly things come into clear view.”
Hicks also said that if the questioner understood the personal history of everyone killed in the attack it would be much easier to understand how the Law of Attraction was at play. And she said because “only” several thousand of the workers died and not the full 20,000 who were in the buildings that it was clear the Law of Attraction was involved.
Assault and Murder
In this passage from Hicks’ book The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham Jerry asks Hicks how innocent victims of robbery attract it to themselves.
“Jerry: I can understand robbers being attracted to those they’re robbing, but it’s difficult to see innocent victims (as they’re called) attracting the robbery, or the person being discriminated against attracting the prejudice.
Abraham: But they are, just the same. The assaulted and the assaulter are co-creators of the event.“
In a video, Hicks also blames people who are murdered for attracting their own death.
“Every death is suicide because every death is self-created. No exceptions. Even if someone comes up and puts a gun to you and kills you. You have been a vibrational match to that.“
And another example. “Unless you invite them through your thought, aggressors will not be part of your experience. That is Law, in your physical setting or in our Non-Physical setting.”
A lesbian woman who asks Hicks about gay marriage is told: “what is that stupid piece of paper anyway?” She responds that it is important because of wills, taxes and social security. Hicks replies with “that is all shortage consciousness.” The woman says to her “but, how do you create change in the world?” Hicks goes on to derail this woman’s interest in legalizing gay marriage. She tells her she has to stop pushing against. “Every time you say 35 states and 42 this and 152 that, you use that evidence to split your vibrational escrow.”
Hicks claims that people with AIDS attracted it to themselves and that it is the “physical manifestation of not liking oneself.”
Jerry’s Death & Multiple Wives
Because Jerry and Esther have made a career of lecturing others about how negative things in their lives come from their thoughts, their own personal lives are fair game for analysis.
Jerry had at least five wives and even told an interviewer he “lost count” of how many he had. Is this evidence of an expert in practicing the Law of Attraction?
Esther via Abraham also has lectured her followers about not needing health insurance or traditional medicines. She’s stated, “The ultimate health insurance is ‘just get in the vortex’ but so many people don’t even know about the vortex.” On March 2nd, 1997 Hicks said, “In reality, we have never encouraged Jerry or Esther to take any sort of medication or medical treatment because we know it is easier to teach them with what they know how to find their vibrational harmony with energy.” When Jerry got leukemia he went on a high dose regimen of chemo which he referred to as the “big guns,” seemingly contradicting the teachings of Abraham. One must wonder why he didn’t just use the “vortex” as Esther preached to her susceptible followers. Hicks has said, “You could be diagnosed with every deadly disease known to man — but you could be lying in your bed in a state of utter allowance, and allow the Energy of Source to flow through to the cells of your body — and you would have an instant healing!” Jerry died from cancer in November 2011.
The Secret Presenters Disturbing Statements
“The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts.” -Rhonda Byrne
In an interview with Nightline News anchor Cynthia McFadden, The Secret commentator Bob Proctor states that the country of Darfur has starving children because they have manifested it on a level of thought. Thus, negative or “bad” thinking has caused children to starve. He goes on to claim that he could teach them how to think properly because “the child in Darfur probably doesn’t even know anything about thinking.”
In The Secret, Proctor states rich people are wealthy because they know The Secret.
“Why do you think that 1 percent of the population earns around 96% of all of the money that’s being earned? Do you think that’s an accident? It’s designed that way. They understand something. They understand the Secret, and now you are being introduced to The Secret.”
Rhonda Byrne confirms this line of thought when speaking about those who have money, “The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts.”
In an interview, Byrne states that those stated killed on 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina attracted it to themselves.
“In responding to the question about events where massive numbers of people are killed, there are a few important points to consider. First, there is no one to blame…In a large-scale tragedy, like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc., we see that the law of attraction responds to people being at the wrong place at the wrong time because their dominant thoughts were on the same frequency of such events. Now, this doesn’t mean that they thought of the same exact event, but if their dominant thoughts and feelings were in alignment with the energy of fear, separation, powerlessness and having no control over outside circumstances, then that is what they attracted.”
Another Secret presenter, James Arthur Ray, claims that “many” Jews didn’t think the Holocaust was that bad, “I know many people, for instance, of the Jewish faith and heritage, who don’t necessarily believe that the Holocaust was bad.” He continues, “Now, that might, that might be shocking to you, but I’ve had — I have people on record who have said, ‘Hey, there was a lot of good things that came out of that, a lot of lessons, a lot of opportunities for the world.’” He said similar things about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “I’m suggesting to you that there’s every bit as much good in 9/11 as there was bad.” In 2011 Ray was convicted of negligent homicide in the deaths of three of his students who died on his retreat in a sweat lodge he mismanaged.
Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series describes the fruits of using the Secret while images of his Malibu mansion are shown in the background,
“Since I learned the Secret and started applying it to my life, my life has truly become magical…I live in a four-and-a-half million dollar mansion…I get to vacation in all the fabulous spots of the world. I’ve climbed mountains. I’ve explored. I’ve been on safaris. And all of this happened, and continues to happen, because of knowing how to apply The Secret.”
Secret presenter Michael Beckwith makes astonishing claims about the power of the Law of Attraction, “I’ve seen kidneys regenerated. I’ve seen cancer dissolved. I’ve seen eyesight improve and come back.” And The Secret itself states “Imperfect thoughts are the cause of all humanity’s ills, including disease, poverty, and unhappiness.”
The Law of Attraction
The Law of Attraction is the quintessential form of spiritual bypassing. It requires you to avoid, deny and suppress anything that is perceived to be negative. The end result is the creation of a robot-like person who has disconnected from the reality of their humanness. This means trauma and wounds will go unhealed because they cannot be sufficiently processed. Moreso it means someone will constantly be guarding themselves, interrogating their mind and in a state of paranoia about their thoughts. They are left in a state of worry, monitoring their inner dialogue because their quasi-religious belief system has taught them it is a dangerous place in which any wrong thought can lead to a disaster. This is Calvinism 2.0.
Psychotherapists have described how they’ve seen patients who use the Law of Attraction get sucked into shame spirals. What this means is that people become even more depressed when their efforts to use the Law of Attraction don’t work. Since practitioners are taught that the law is perfect, then any failure must be due to the user. Thus, the person depressed from having cancer or heavy debt becomes even more depressed when they think they’re a failure for being unable to apply the Law of Attraction properly and fix their situation. The system sets a high bar and practitioners can easily get down on themselves for not following it perfectly. Similar shame spirals have happened with people practicing Byron Katie’s The Work.
Not only can the Law of Attraction lead someone to bypass their own pain but it can lead them to bypass harmful or negative behavior of their partners or people in their lives. The Secret asks us to write down all of the positive qualities of an abusive partner for example. Thus, the important acts of discernment and judgment in a harmful relationship are dismissed as “negative.” A practitioner may try to spin a clearly problematic or dangerous situation in a positive light. Anger, frustration, fear or sadness about what is happening is portrayed as negative and could be dismissed or denied.
And what about people who suffer from severe phobias? Wouldn’t the Law of Attraction predict that someone who is constantly obsessed with the fear of car crashes would quickly get into a car accident? And what sort of divine or universal intelligence is this that would punish someone further who is deeply struggling with a mental illness like a phobia by then sending them negative experiences?
Most importantly, research in psychology has shown that this devout adherence to positive thinking isn’t supported by the data. As Mark Manson describes in his article “The Staggering Bullshit of The Secret.”
“But this prescription for ‘delusionally positive’ thinking can have negative consequences for people as well. Psychological research shows that trying to suppress thoughts about something only makes those thoughts more likely to recur. In fact, rumination and obsession appear to operate in this manner, especially in people with chronic mental disorders like OCD, depression, and anxiety: the more you try to get rid of unwanted thoughts, the more these thoughts dominate your mental space. It’s like if I tell you, “Never think about a pink elephant!” the first thing that likely pops into your mind is a pink elephant. Thinking about the things you do not want can lead to more negative thinking and put you in a vicious cycle of negativity.
Research also shows that actively engaging in positive thinking, such as when you imagine getting a job, doing well on an exam, or even successfully recovering after surgery, can actually result in poorer outcomes. Psychologists think that this kind of delusional positive thinking can make us complacent and lazy, as though we already accomplished something we have yet to accomplish, causing us to put forth less effort and to feel less motivated.
Other studies show that people who engage in “self-affirmations” and are then presented with information that threatens their affirmation (even healthy criticism or feedback) actually engage in more faulty reasoning than people who don’t use self-affirmations. In fact, people who indulge in delusional positive thinking ironically become downright angry when someone tries to contradict their wall of airy-fairy thoughts. The truth about their situation just becomes that much more painful to them.”
How Does It Actually Work?
Proponents of the Law of Attraction never tell us how it really works. Do seven “negative” thoughts from yesterday mean seven “negative” experiences today? Or do negative thoughts from two weeks ago affect the current moment? Or is it only negative thoughts from the last few hours that could attract something like a car accident in the present? What if the mix of negative and positive thoughts are equal in a day? Is the impact canceled out? What if your overall “vibration” is “low” and you are chronically depressed, mopy and anxious but you manipulate your mental reality by rehearsing positive thoughts in your mind throughout the day? Is it the actual thoughts or the overall energy vibration that matters most?
We have tens of thousands of thoughts each day, some of which may be considered negative, neutral or positive. Take the seven billion people on the planet and multiply it by the tens of thousands of thoughts they have each day and you have an almost unfathomable puzzle to solve. Who or what is computing all of this and assigning positive and negative experiences to each of the seven billion people’s lives? Does god send a lighting bolt down for someone who is thinking negative thoughts? A pony for a little girl who is behaving well? Death via a murder to someone who had one too many negative thoughts? While Hicks and other modern new-age thinkers denounce the draconian ethics of traditional religion their own beliefs end up sounding a lot like them.
Proponents have also never offered a clear explanation of what exactly qualifies as a negative or positive thought or emotion. Sometimes we hear cliche statements like anger, hatred or jealousy are negative. But those are just part of being human. They arise in response to real-world events. Certainly one could overly dwell on some thoughts but it is human to experience reactions to life’s stimuli. If you didn’t get into the school of your dreams it is perfectly human to feel upset and disappointed. But the Law of Attraction proponents would argue that this is “negative” and would attract bad things to your life. In reality, one’s psychological state would be detrimentally impacted by avoiding the fullness of who they are.
While we can manipulate our thoughts, we cannot manipulate our emotions. This is why the idea of “negative” emotions is not accurate. There is no such thing as a negative emotion. There are just emotions that arise inside of us. Perhaps difficult emotion is a better word for those experiences that we find unpleasant. One cannot control the emotions arising, they can only choose to experience and process them or not. Being real about what is happening and meeting it with compassion and understanding is a much wiser approach than attempting to cut off or control reality.
The “Law” of Attraction?
The Law of Attraction is by no meaningful definition a law. At best it is a hypothesis which is defined by Google as a “supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” Yet, author Jack Canfield claims it is “the most powerful law in the universe. Just like gravity, it is always in effect, always in motion.” None of the proponents of this idea have ever offered a systematized break down of how the law actually functions, however. No one has explained how it works beyond vague statements like “you attract your reality.” Yet, to become a law, let alone a theory there needs to be evidence and a well thought out rationale behind it all. Instead, the public has been fed a variety of cliche statements, half-truths and faux scientific claims about the reality of this supposed universal law.
Proponents in The Secret also invoke quantum physics to bolster their arguments that the Law of Attraction is scientific. They claim that thoughts vibrate on positive and negative frequencies and that quantum physics explains that everything is “energy” and therefore can be manipulated by our minds. New thought minister and Secret star Michael Beckwith claims, “It has been proven scientifically that an affirmative thought is hundreds of times more powerful than a negative thought.” Also in The Secret, Mike Dooley states, “It is no more difficult to attract on a scientific level something that we consider huge to something we consider infinitesimally small.” There is a difference however, because what happens on the quantum level is not equatable with what happens on a larger scale. And even if one could manipulate reality on the quantum level it doesn’t mean that the universe then becomes a giant ATM for the Law of Attraction devotee. Also, brainwaves are incredibly weak, which is why sensitive electrodes are needed to measure them.
If the Law of Attraction were really a scientific law that worked 100% of the time then literally every single moment of each day would somehow be choreographed by one’s thoughts. Everything that occurred, no matter how big or small, would happen entirely because of one’s thoughts. Spilling your coffee on the kitchen table. Your puppy peeing on your slippers. The sink getting clogged and splashing water on your work clothes. Winning a $5 lotto ticket. Getting a raise. Puncturing a tire on the way home. Just imagine the sort of complex super consciousness that would need to continually regulate all thoughts and then assign them experiences, pair people or groups together for events, in the real world accordingly.
“We must understand that the founder of a cult or new religion has no room for compromise: absolutes are necessary. True believers in mystical psychotherapy will not embrace a gospel with modest claims: it must be all or nothing.”– Martin Larson
While there are no claims of virgin births or bodily resurrections made by the new prophets of positive thinking they do preach many miraculous and magical ideas. And like other religions, the Law of Attraction promises salvation from the difficulties, anxieties and tensions of everyday life, which undeniably fuels its mass cultural appeal. Every era seems to have a book or an influential figure who is able to fill this role.
Charismatic leaders viewed as Godlike speak with authority and conviction. In early videos Hicks can be seen shouting at her audience in a way that is reminiscent of fire and brimstone preachers. It is this unwavering absolutism and belief in her system that has allowed her to convince the masses to drink from the positive thinking well.
The Law of Attraction is perhaps the most accurate form of postmodern religion one could imagine. It is individualistic (no community needed, one person’s thoughts run the world); narcissistic (the universe will supply me with anything I ask for); focused on immediate gratification (it’s central teaching is to “feel good now”); materialistic (strongly emphasizes achieving money and wealth); detached from structural reality (lacks an awareness of political/social/cultural systems) and is hypocritical (claims to be free from religious dogma when it is actually reproducing it).
The Law of Attraction is also similar to dogmatic religion in that criticism or questioning of the system is not allowed. All critique is dismissed as “negative thinking” and practitioners often become very defensive when challenged. Author Barbara Ehrenreich describes this as the “cult of cheerfulness.” The Secret author, Rhonda Byrne warns, “If you are criticizing, you are not being grateful.” Diane Ahlquist in the Idiots Guide to the Law of Attraction states, “Challenging the source can come off as a lack of belief….If the law of attraction hasn’t worked for you yet, you are probably saying or thinking many things, none of them particularly positive….The best advice I can give you is to stop questioning the process because by doing so, you’re effectively telling the universe that you don’t trust it.” This is not unlike true Christian believers who have it ingrained within them that doubt, questioning or critique are profound threats to their salvation. With the Law of Attraction however, the leaders have ingeniously convinced practitioners that questioning will lead to them attracting terrible situations to themselves. Thus, practitioners won’t go to hell like Christians may believe if they abandon their belief, rather their lives will become hell. Coach Julia Stewart describes how the Law of Attraction shares a fundamental trait with cults.
“It is the insistence that you replace your current worldview with a completely new one in order to get what you want and that you must control your thoughts and eliminate any deviation from what is prescribed in order to succeed. That robs you of your inner knowing, common sense, intuition, confidence, etc. Then you become dependent upon the Law of Attraction “experts” to help you succeed. Usually they’re happy to sell you more books, programs, coaching, seminars, etc. that explain all over again what and how you should think. Folks do get rich with the Law of Attraction, but it’s usually the sellers, not the buyers.”
Spiritual Growth is NOT Easy
In this quick fix and immediate gratification culture, people want easy solutions to their pain and suffering. Abraham Hicks and her new age teachings provide this easy approach. They don’t actually work however. The Law of Attraction merely guides people to bypass, escape, deny and suppress those difficult aspects. While the practitioner may experience a brief reprieve from the immediate suffering they are experiencing it won’t last because the core issue was never dealt with. Merely staying positive and thinking happy thoughts won’t address one’s concerns.
Now, more than ever we need to challenge this narrative that spiritual growth is easy. Instead of running away from our pain, shadows and difficult emotions we need tools to embrace them and work with them. Real spiritual growth is tough. There are no quick fixes or easy outs. And we must use discernment to sort through what is a healthy and not healthy form of spirituality.
[This article is based on countless hours of research and writing. Please consider donating to support these efforts.]
Is Byron Katie’s method known as The Work harmful? Some believe so. There are numerous instances of Katie on stage blaming sexual abuse victims, denying racism, stifling efforts for social change, denying the reality of abuse and accusing people of things they didn’t do. It’s all done under the guise of spiritual growth. Katie claims to haven’t had a thought in 26 yearsand says she could walk into a gas chamber knowing it’s an “amazing day.”
[This article is based on countless hours of research and writing. Please consider donating to support these efforts.]
“As a psychotherapist who works with people who’ve had severe trauma, my opinion is that Byron Katie is dangerous.” – Karla Helbert
Author and teacher Byron Katie has been described as a “spiritual mentor to millions.” With her method of inquiry known as The Work she has traveled the world for the last thirty years speaking to sold-out audiences inspiring them to find freedom from their suffering. Her popularity has undoubtedly made her one of the most well-known figures in the self-help and new age spiritual scene. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, says Katie’s work is “a great blessing for our planet.” Oprah Winfrey is also a fan. She interviewed Katie in 2010, strongly praising her teachings, later saying she had never met anyone like her. Katie’s books Loving What Is, A Thousand Names for Joy and Question Your Thinking, Change the World have sold hundreds of thousands of copies internationally.
Katie wasn’t always a highly confident, well-spoken spiritual luminary, however. She claims The Work was born out of her own journey through the dark night of the soul.
According to Katie’s official story, she suffered from years of deep depression, severe anxiety, and compulsive overeating. She drank excessively, took codeine pills and obsessively ate until she was over 200 pounds. Suicidal, she prayed each night to not wake up the next morning. At the age of forty-three, she checked herself into a half-way house for women with eating disorders and while there she slept in the attic because the other residents were so frightened of her. They even booby-trapped the door because they feared she may “do something terrible to them.” Katie slept on the floor of the attic because she didn’t feel worthy of sleeping in a bed.
After only a few weeks of being in the half-way house, Katie says she had an awakening experience that gave birth to The Work. One morning while sleeping, a cockroach crawled over her foot and “woke” her up. “I understood that when I was asleep, prior to cockroach or foot, prior to any thoughts, prior to any world, there was — there is — nothing. In that instant, the four questions of The Work were born.” She claims she then saw the world through perfectly neutral eyes. “There was just awareness, no story.” This pure consciousness “had never seen anything before” and “it had never been born before” she says. All her depression, fear and tormenting thoughts were gone. She then became “intoxicated with joy” and it has never ceased to this day Katie claims.
Katie says she spent the next year sitting in meditation and practicing deep inquiry about any thoughts that arose. Any thought that took her away from her newfound state of peace and joy was “subjected to rigorous inquiry” until it was resolved.
“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but when I did´t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment.”
She says it was from this real-life field testing that she created her four-question method and began offering it to others in 1992.
Katie claims that since her awakening she has lived in a dream-like state where everything is beautiful and wonderful. In a 2012 interview with Haaretz she claimed to “have never had a thought in 26 years,” since her awakening in 1986. Katie told him she lives in a “state of total peace of mind…a kind of nirvana.” She also said she doesn’t get upset or mad anymore. When the interviewer asked her how that was possible she explained:
“Look, so far I haven’t experienced anything like that. But I’m open to such an experience. It’s very liberating to live in the world where I live. A world where there’s no right and wrong, just or unjust. Everything is right. Everything is in place. There’s no possibility of making a mistake.”
ANATOMY OF THE WORK
The four questions of The Work taken from Byron Katie’s website are as follows:
Step 1:Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.) Step 2:Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.) Step 3:How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Step 4: Who would you be without the thought?
Katie guides students on stage and in her books through this process of inquiry to help them see how their thoughts are causing them suffering. No experience or trauma is too difficult for her method. The Work is true for every human being and can be used on all problems humans face she claims. According to her website, The Work “is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the fear, violence, depression, frustration and suffering in the world.”
How does Katie’s method actually work? It is quite simple, although to an untrained eye it can seem like she is offering something psychologically sophisticated or spiritually profound.
The Work is similar to a method known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in that it focuses on correcting our mental patterns. CBT, however, focuses on correcting actual cognitive distortions like “everyone thinks I’m ugly” whereas The Work tries to “correct” valid thoughts about real-world situations that Katie believes to be “negative” or judgmental. She wants people to stop believing the perfectly normal and healthy thoughts that arise in response to injustice, abuse or trauma. She thinks being upset or angry at your abuser is causing your suffering, not the abuse itself. This is where The Work gets dangerous. When used like this it can blame those in pain for their own suffering and often requires people cut off important parts of their inner lives and spiritually bypass difficult emotions.
In Katie’s view, nothing in the world no matter how awful it is can cause us to suffer. Only our minds are real and thus only we can cause ourselves to suffer. “Harm is nothing more than believing your thoughts” she states. This is an extreme form of philosophical idealism, the notion that only minds exist. She’s essentially taken the new age cliche “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” and monetized it with her four-question system. As this passage from her book A Thousand Names for Joy illustrates, Katie literally believes the worst thing that could ever happen to someone is a belief.
“Nothing terrible has ever happened except in our thinking. Reality is always good, even in situations that seem like nightmares. The story we tell is the only nightmare that we have lived. When I say that the worst that can happen is a belief, I am being literal. The worst that can happen to you is your uninvestigated belief system.”
In 2016, Katie posted a tweet that read: “All harm in 2015 was nothing more or less than how you react when you believe your judgments.”
Katie’s extreme view of thoughts equal reality is further illustrated in this quote referencing the holocaust, “When I’m walking to the gas chamber, other than what I’m thinking and believing, what an amazing day!” Katie believes “everything outside you is a reflection of your own thinking” and thus terrible situations such as walking into a gas chamber become merely mental illusions that can be easily corrected by denying the awful reality of what is occurring.
“When I’m walking to the gas chamber, other than what I’m thinking and believing, what an amazing day!”
Remarkably, in her book Losing the Moon Katie even states that she could throw her baby into the fires of the concentration camps without resisting.
“If Someone (God, ‘what is’), pulls my baby from me – if that’s what it takes, I’m there. Take the baby. Tear my baby from me. Throw it in the fire….My discomfort is my war with God.
You see, there are NO choices. What is, is.
But when we get to the baby thing, we’re getting down to our sacred little concepts now….You take my baby from me, you’re messing with the illusion of I’m the mommy, this is the baby, there’s the daddy…
But tearing the baby away- that’s the higher. That’s the higher, because it snatches your story from you and makes it apparent in your face – nothing’s real short of reality….
That’s it. That’s what is. That’s love. That’s absolutely un-describable love. That you, God, would even give me that.
Can you know that Hitler didn’t bring more people to realization than Jesus? On your knees – God. God! God! But our stories of reality keep us from the awareness of God is Everything. And God is Good. […]
There has never been evil and there never will be. Evil is simply a story about what’s not…”
In her interview with Haaretz she was asked about the world’s problems. “According to you, all the problems that we’re dealing with are nonexistent?” Katie responded “true.” In the same interview, Katie states that the cause of people’s suffering from things like rape, abuse or murder is strictly their belief in their thoughts.
Interviewer: People come to you with very bleak stories of abuse, rape, bereavement, even murder. Do those stories shake you up? Do you feel sorry for them?
Katie: No. Never. I know that they’re perfectly all right. They only believe their thoughts. You can examine your life for a moment. If you set aside the things that you think and believe in, isn’t your life good? Aren’t you all right?
Obviously, the students seeking her out for support are not “perfectly all right.” Merely telling students to no longer believe the thoughts that stem from trauma and abuse doesn’t address the reason they are experiencing those thoughts. Any momentary relief a student will receive from temporarily switching off their thoughts will be short-lived. If the core wound is not dealt with the person will not find freedom from the painful or traumatic experience. They will find that those thoughts revisit them regularly.
Healing occurs when someone is met where they are with empathy, care, and connection. By claiming a student is not really suffering and dismissing their pain as a “story” or “belief in their thoughts” Katie is trivializing their experience. She regularly does this live, on stage with abuse victims and trauma survivors. Katie is missing an opportunity to deeply listen and instead invalidates their reality.
The Work echoes something we see more broadly in new age spiritual culture; the idea that all healing can occur on the level of thought alone. Of course, psychotherapy works on the level of thought and it can be highly effective, but it is a longer process and based on certain parameters like a caring therapeutic relationship, not just the manipulation of thoughts. What these new age teachers mean is that healing can occur by using quick fix mental techniques. A Course In Miracles, for example, describes a miracle merely as a shift in perception from fear to love. But those who understand the process of healing know that shifting a perception, denying a thought or suppressing an emotion won’t address the real underlying problem.
In the context of Katie’s awakening story, one can understand the method behind The Work. Remember, she says the inspiration for her technique comes from her realizing that she had no thoughts while sleeping. She then realized that she no longer needed to believe her thoughts and from this unending joy and peace were felt. Given her explanation, it’s understandable then why her method involves literally shutting down the mind to turn off any “negative” or judgmental thoughts. When she was sleeping the morning of her supposed awakening those thoughts didn’t exist. Her method is an attempt to return to that undisturbed place.
What Katie has done is essentially monetized her trauma, as Matthew Remski, author of Practice and All is Coming describes it. The suppressing of her pain and thoughts became an unsubstantiated pop-psychology healing method used by millions. Mixed with her new age spiritual influences she crafted The Work which quickly became an authoritative self-help process and text.
THE WORK IN ACTION
There are numerous instances of Katie on stage blaming sexual abuse victims, denying racism, stifling efforts for social change, denying the reality of verbal abuse and accusing people of things they didn’t do. She probably believes she is helping but the consequences of her applying The Work unconditionally to every situation can make things worse for some of her students, potentially leaving them confused and further traumatized.
In this exchange from her book Loving What Is, Katie, convinces a woman who is upset about terrorism that the real problem is in her mind. If she wants true freedom she must get rid of her judgmental and “negative” thoughts about terrorists.
Emily: They’re evil, ignorant, and yes, they’re successful and powerful.
Katie: And I…
Emily: I am evil, ignorant, successful, and powerful?
Katie: Yes. In all your righteousness.
Emily: My thoughts are like locusts.
Katie: Exactly. I don’t see any terrorists in this moment except the one you live with: yourself.
Emily: Yes. I see that.
Katie: I live in peace, and that’s what everyone deserves. We all deserve to end our own terrorism.
Emily: I can understand the arrogance of doing what I’ve been doing.
This is called the “turnaround” technique where Katie convinces the student that the real problem is in their head not in the world. Emily went from someone with legitimate feelings about terrorism to someone believing that she was the actual terrorist , a mental terrorist to be precise. It goes without saying that it’s quite normal to be angry and upset with people who intentionally kill innocent civilians. Yet, Katie’s method left Emily believing her thoughts are “like locusts.” Until Emily can remove any “negative” or judgmental thoughts about terrorists she cannot be free according to Katie.
In this exchange taken from a video, a woman speaks of her concerns about the meat industry and factory farming. Katie downplays her valid and legitimate perspective by convincing her the problem is only in her mind.
Katie: So, the meat industry is the largest, most accepted form of violence in the world today? How would you turn that around?…Fantasy is.
Student: So you’re suggesting to replacing the meat industry with fantasy?
Katie: Yes, or “my thinking.”
Student: Oh, definitely. My thinking is the largest most accepted form of violence.
Katie: Of violence in in your world today and it just wipes people out. It can wipe out your happy life.
Katie believes this woman is upset only because of her thoughts about the meat industry. Factory farming itself could never cause someone to be upset. It is only a choice we make in our own minds and being upset equates to suffering in Katie’s view.
In this exchange, also from Loving What Is, a passionate believer in social change expresses hurt and frustration about corporations polluting the planet, only to have Katie tell her that her feelings are violent.
Margaret: It hurts. I can’t stand what they’re doing to our planet.
Katie: Doesn’t all that anger feel violent inside.
Katie: Anger is violent. Feel it.
Margaret: But it motivates me to act, so it’s good to have some stress. We need it to get things moving.
Katie: So what I hear from you is that violence works, violence is the way to a peaceful solution. That doesn’t make sense to me.
Margaret knows that the anger she feels about pollution is a motivating factor to take action but Katie twists this around in her mind. The result may leave the woman confused about her activism. Furthermore, Katie’s method cuts off an essential part of Margaret’s human experience.
There are numerous examples of Katie victim blaming sexual and verbal abuse survivors in her books and in videos.
In this exchange from her book Loving What Is, Katie convinces a woman who was sexually abused by her stepfather that she abused him.
Katie: He abused me — turn it around. I…
Diane: I abused me?
Katie: Yes. Can you see that?
Katie: There’s another turnaround. I…
Diane:…abused…[There is a long pause.] I abused…him? That’s a hard one.
Katie: Tell me about that.
Diane: I abused him.
Katie: Yes, sweetheart. Tell me about it.
According to Katie, this woman is abusing both herself and her step-father merely by thinking critical thoughts about her abuser. Katie is requiring abuse victims to state live on stage in front of hundreds of people that they abused their abusers.
In this exchange, also from Katie’s book Loving What Is, Marty explores the pain of verbal abuse they experienced from their uncle. The same turnaround technique is used by Katie to deny the reality of this persons experience and blame them for the abuse.
Marty: I’m still feeling the pain of his verbal abuse.
Katie: Okay, verbal abuse — turn it around. “I’m feeling the pain…”
Marty: I still am feeling the pain of my verbal abuse.
Katie: Toward him in your mind.
Marty: I’m still feeling the pain of my verbal abuse toward him in my mind?
Katie: If your uncle says something that hurts, he’s just revealed what you haven’t wanted to look at yet. The man is a Buddha.
Marty: You mean that everything I’m defending against is the truth that I don’t want to see? Holy shit! No wonder I’ve been seeing my uncle as an enemy! This is amazing!
Katie: Uncles have never been the problem, and they never will be. It’s your uninvestigated thinking about your uncle that’s the problem. And as you inquire, you set yourself free. Your uncle is really God in disguise as an uncle. He’s giving you everything you need for your freedom.
Marty falsely believes they’ve experienced a breakthrough or profound insight based on this inquiry. What’s really happening is that an abuse victim is blaming themselves for “abusing” their abuser. On top of this awkward exchange, they are being misled to think it is “spiritual” to tolerate abuse. Katie tells them that their abusive uncle is a Buddha and “God in disguise.” Marty is then told that the cause of their suffering is the resistance to the abuse. Katie likes to say “war begins at defense.” Their uncle’s abuse is actually helping them discover things they didn’t want to look at according to Katie. Denying someone’s reality like this and making them question their own reality is undoubtedly a form of gaslighting.
In a video, a man is on stage discussing his girlfriend’s verbal abuse towards him. When Katie asks him if he can think of any instances where he is verbally abusive to her he says “nothing comes to mind.” Katie then focuses in on that “terrorist” in his mind and asks about the thoughts he’s been thinking about his girlfriend’s verbal abuse towards him. And voila, she’s found the real culprit. He tells Katie “My thinking would be insulting to her definitely. I’d be looking at her thinking you’re crazy, this is insane, damaged, very unevolved behavior. I would definitely be having insulting thoughts.” Katie responds “there it is!” Having critical thoughts about someone who is abusing you is normal. It protects us from harm and is a sign that things are working properly.
It’s important to understand when reading these passages that Katie outright denies the reality of verbal abuse. “There’s no such thing as verbal abuse. There’s only someone telling me a truth that I don’t want to hear. If I were really able to hear my accuser, I would find my freedom.” In one video she says “aggressives come for us, not to hurt us, to open us.” This quote from Katie further illustrates her belief about the benefit of an abusive partner.
“There’s never a mistake in the universe. So if your partner is angry, good. If there are things about him that you consider flaws, good, because these flaws are your own, you’re projecting them, and you can write them down, inquire, and set yourself free. People go to India to find a guru, but you don’t have to: you’re living with one. Your partner will give you everything you need for your own freedom.”
It’s worth pointing out that, by her own admission, Katie’s husband was so verbally abusive to her that people would leave the house in fear of him. She says he was her Buddha, teaching her profound spiritual lessons that she truly needed to grow.
It goes without saying that verbal abuse is serious and can cause severe trauma. Anyone who has ever been screamed at knows intimately the lasting impact it can have in your body and psyche. The effect of long-term partner abuse is even more serious.
In a video, an audience member tells Katie she is upset with someone named Bob because he lied to her, stole from her and betrayed her. Katie has the woman turn around her statement and say “Bob should lie.” Later in the exchange, the woman tells Katie that Bob groped her inappropriately at her husband’s funeral. Katie asks her what her thoughts were about the incident and she replied, “I just thought that he was a disturbed person on a power trip.” Katie immediately says “turn it around” to which the woman responds “I’m a very confused person on a power trip and I’m self-absorbed.” She continues, “yeah, I guess so. I was deciding what behavior was right for him and what wasn’t. I was very self-absorbed. I wasn’t thinking about what he was thinking, I was thinking about me and what I felt.” Once again Katie convinces someone who was harmed that she is the problem, not the perpetrator.
In this exchange taken from a video, Katie tells a woman she is the one having an affair, not her husband who cheated on her.
Woman: Bill had an affair.
Katie: Turn it around.
Woman: I had an affair?
Katie: Have you ever imagined him with her?
Woman: Of course.
Katie: So you’re having an affair and you’re using him and her to do it. You’re having an affair in your head.
Woman: Because I’m picturing their affair in my head?
Katie: Can you find another turn around?
Woman: He didn’t have an affair?
Katie: Give him some credit, there were some times when he didn’t.
Katie proceeds to stifle this woman’s desire for her husband to accept responsibility for cheating on her by questioning her at length until she abandons her efforts. She also asks her where she has been “sneaky” and dishonest with her husband and her children which confuses the woman.
In a video on her channel titled “No One Can Hurt Me, That’s My Job” she tells an audience member that if someone threatens to kill him with a loaded gun that he is responsible for any suffering that stems from the situation.
“If someone pulls a rifle and says ‘I’m going to kill you’ where’s the problem?” He says he’s going to kill me, the gun is in his hand loaded, his finger is on the trigger. Where is the problem? Here [pointing to her head]. I imagine whether I’m aware of it or not, he’s going to pull the trigger, bloods gonna fly and I’m going to die or I’m going to be maimed and fall and be in agony and my family’s going to suffer and I’ll never see my children again and it’s not fair and it’s all because of the color of my skin or my national or my culture or whatever it is, and he hasn’t even pulled the trigger yet. So who would I be without all of that? Who would I be if I were not projecting a future into imagining what’s going to happen. Who would I be without out it. Look into his eyes, the sun is shining, I’m looking around, it’s just, in reality an amazing world, a gift. So, who caused my fear and pain, was it him that said I’m gonna kill you or was it me? Who’s causing my agony now in that situation? How many of you get it’s me. 100% totally there’s no exception to it.”
Katie blames any pain or suffering entirely on the victim being held at gunpoint. Yet, it is totally normal for someone to panic in a life and death situation like that and they should not be blamed for the responding experience.
Katie flat-out denies reality in one video by telling a woman who has cancer that she doesn’t.
Katie: I have cancer. Turn it around.
Woman: I don’t have cancer.
Woman: I don’t have cancer. It’s just that simple.
Katie: That’s it.
Woman: It is just that simple.
Katie: Exactly so.
In this exchange from a video, Katie tells a young boy he should celebrate when someone he knows dies.
Boy: What would you do if someone just died that you know?
Katie: Celebrate. What would you do?
Boy: Probably be sad.
Katie: Oh, why?
Boy: Because I love them and they’re gone.
Katie: Well, if you love her why wouldn’t you celebrate?
Boy: I don’t know.
Katie: Have you ever hurt yourself? Ok. Well, that person you love, there never gonna be hurt again.
In a dialogue with a World War II survivor in Loving What Is Katie convinces him to say that he looks forward to “the bombs falling again.”
Willem: I don’t ever want to experience again the bombs falling on my head, or being a hostage, or feeling hunger.
Katie: If only in your thinking. The bombs aren’t coming from out there; they can only come from inside you. So “I look forward to…”
Willem: It’s hard to say this.
Katie: I look forward to the worst that can happen, only because it shows me what I haven’t yet met with understanding. I know the power of truth.
Willem: I look forward to the bombs falling again and feeling hunger. Hunger is not so bad. [Pause] I don’t feel it yet. Maybe I will later.
In a video, a black woman in the audience at one of Katie’s events recalled a conversation she had with a white man who told her to just forget her ancestral history. Her gut feeling was to say “fuck you” to that idea because “the history is still happening today.” She was trying to understand the collective history, her personal story and the reality of racism in her world and asked Katie for her insights. Katie’s response was to essentially derail the reality of racist harm by saying it’s happened to everyone equally and to claim she is not a color.
“Things that happened to you have happened to every color. You are not a color. You are beyond that…When you really love your people. When you stop fearing for them is when you stop fearing for yourself and then everyone is your people.”
In an exchange with Katie, a woman expresses her desire for there to be less racism in the world. She references the murder of James Byrd Jr., a black man who was murdered by three white men in 1998. “I was thinking about the guy in Jasper Texas. These guys dragged him behind the truck.” Rather than saying how awful that incident was and acknowledging that racism is a blight on our society, Katie responds by awkwardly asking her to turn the question inward. Katie says, “How did I drag my three children behind the truck their whole life? Let it begin with me. I begin there and then I’ll go talk to those guys.” The woman presses on with her desire for a more just and sustainable world. “I need for the establishment to give up the need to separate by race, to accept that people of color can be smart, successful, brilliant.” Katie responds by asking her “Can you see a reason to drop the story first?” The woman is confused and doesn’t want to abandon what she knows is right. “I don’t know. I’m having problems with that. I’m having this wedge of resistance.” Katie responds by saying, “You want to control our thinking.” The woman is then convinced that it is unloving to want people to not be prejudiced.
Katie: I want people to stop being prejudiced. Turn it around.
Woman: I want me to stop being prejudiced.
Katie: That will work.
Woman: I just didn’t realize how unloving that was to not let people have their prejudices.
[This article is based on countless hours of research and writing. Please consider donating to support these efforts.]
I GOT MINE
What about all of the people who report profound breakthroughs and healing from doing The Work? The first response to this is that the same reports are found in every spiritual or religious group, no matter how outlandish they are. This is referred to as “I got mine,” as formulated by author Matthew Remski and it’s one of the most commonly used defenses to shut down criticism. Scientologists, followers of cult leader Jim Jones and devout Christians report to have significant transformations and breakthroughs. Do we conclude from this alone that being a saved Christian is a useful method to heal trauma or abuse? Do we assume that what Jim Jones offered was a responsible and wise approach to treating depression or personal problems? Karla Helbert is a psychotherapist familiar with Katie’s method and believes it is harmful. She shared her views online about the efficacy of The Work to warn students who may be misled.
“As a psychotherapist- who works with people who’ve had severe trauma, my opinion is that Byron Katie is dangerous. She has no training in supporting people who have been traumatized. She blames and shames them and calls it The Work. In her book Loving What Is, she has a woman agree that as a child she was responsible for her sexual abuse and invited it. It’s appalling and psychologically and spiritually dangerous. I can’t believe no one has sued her. Her method of questioning our own thoughts, challenging our own beliefs is sound and a good practice- ultimately the basis of Jnana yoga- but when it comes to the flip, turning the statements toward yourself and the way this can easily turn to blaming a victim/survivor is horrid.”
In the very least, a conversation about the scope of what situations The Work can be applied to would be beneficial.
Secondly, The Work is similar to a cognitive-behavioral technique, so it could offer people relief when applied to actual cognitive distortions like “everyone thinks I’m ugly.” As Helbert mentioned, there can be a place for examining and reframing certain types of thoughts. And even victims of abuse may experience relief after doing The Work. The problem is that it is often only a temporary shift that undoubtedly returns once the student no longer suppresses or denies the difficult emotions and thoughts. Regardless, Katie has no training in CBT or psychotherapy either, so the efficacy of her work, even when applied to cognitive distortions, is questionable.
Lastly, you have to consider the context that The Work is being used in. All of these exchanges with Katie occur on stage, in an environment and context that carries with it a certain power. Students often uncritically accept her method as legitimate because she has authored books and can command a stage. Nervous and traumatized people sit in awe of a self-proclaimed awakened spiritual teacher who is seemingly showing them love. The act of sharing your story with someone alone can be cathartic and shouldn’t be discounted as a contributing factor when a shift occurs. Matthew Remsksi describes the power dynamics at play in his insightful article “Byron Katie’s Domination Technique: a Case Study.”
“Consider the performance pressure on the subject, on a dais in a room filled with a hundred people or more, with whom she must socialize on breaks, to whom she might be looking for relief from social isolation, who might constitute for her the idealized friend group for which she’s longed for years. Imagine the stakes involved in her talking back, refusing the advice, reasserting her original thought, wrestling back her agency from Katie.
Note signs of Katie’s somatic control: talking to the subject but really to the crowd, nodding as though she’s heard it all before and nothing could possibly surprise her (grandiosity), the implicit agreement that she can interrupt anyone at any time (because she’s not there to listen but to tell).”
Remski refers to this stage performance as “somatic theatre.” In no way is this performance dynamic unique to Katie’s method, it can be found widely in spiritual culture.
In addition to offering workshops and events, Katie offers a 9-day experience called The School where participants question “the fear-based stories” they’ve “innocently clung to” for so long. Some schools have had as many as 300 students. With a tuition of $3,500 per person, Katie is making hundreds of thousands of dollars per event. Katie also sells a 28-day program called “The Turnaround House” which costs $20,000 per person.
The School may have evolved since its inception but previous participants have complained that Katie creates a cult-like atmosphere. They’ve reported it consisted of: a 36-hour long fast, intense group confessional sessions where people were required to list the worst things they’ve ever done, participation in long days (7:00 am-11:00 pm), being subjected to Korn’s heavy metal music to probe out deep traumas, being encouraged to criticize Katie and The School only to be shunned when doing so, being required to go two days as a “silent one” where no talking was permitted and not being allowed to exercise or have contact with family. When some people vomited from the food provided it was seen as cleansing and evidence of how powerful The Work is. Also, any questions, criticisms or concerns about The School were required to be endlessly subjected to the turnaround technique until they lost their inner critic. Apparently, none of this is explained to participants beforehand either. Current descriptions of The School do not say what occurs during the nine days.
One participant describes what they witnessed when people were forced into deep confessions in the “shame” unit of the week.
“In the Shame unit, we were instructed to write down the thing we’d done in our lives that we were most ashamed of, then take the mike and tell the whole group, then do The Work on it with a partner.
People stood up and, sobbing or preening, revealed everything from bestiality and zoophilia to embarrassing physical features, infidelity to poor parenting that bordered on abuse. Many people told of having been abused and shamed by that. The reward for producing a novel or particularly painful shame experience was Katie’s cooing, warm approval and attention. This was such a powerful exercise that, for the next few days, Katie would interrupt whatever exercise was in process to say that so-and-so desired to tell about their shame.”
A former senior staff member of many years named Janaki broke away from Katie after realizing how dysfunctional she was. She went on to write a 72-page document detailing her time working with Katie. She warns of The Work becoming like a religion and of Katie adopting a messiah-like complex.
“It seems to me that The Work has become a religion that is now taking on global forms, especially when I see how it is being marketed through Katie’s various websites and her weblog. The four questions have become the holy bible…
Many years ago, I sat with Katie in her room one morning. She was talking about the future of The Work and she said, ‘I have seen it Janaki, it is going to be like the Sermon on the Mount’. I felt so in awe of her at the time. Here I was sitting with someone equal to Jesus Christ, having tea on the balcony.”
Janaki says that other staff members and core followers believe that Katie exists in a state of flawless perfection as well.
Stephen Mitchell is Katie’s current husband and helped her write Loving What Is. He told Janaki that he was proficient at understanding the significance of people’s eyes and whether or not they were spiritual masters. From their eyes alone he could tell if they knew “The Great Secret.” When looking into Katie’s eyes he saw something truly unique: “But Katie’s eyes were even more glittering, I felt, even more ancient, and so beautiful that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with joy. The joy shining from them was something I had never seen before.” In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mitchell said in regards to Katie’s awakening, “I don’t know of an instance of this happening to another human being. It’s like if you took psychosis or amnesia as a negative and printed it as a positive photograph.”
Taken as a whole, Katie’s project begins to fit the description of a cult: A spiritually awakened charismatic figure who claims to have no thoughts and that exists in a pure state of awareness, the use of behavior modification, thought reform, shaming techniques, confessionals, the stifling of criticism, and the manipulation of the environment to break down individuals. The result is a new person who has shed their previous identity and has merged with Byron Katie and her system. Katie promises that “once the four questions are alive inside” of participants their minds “become clear.” Ironically enough, “clear” is the same term Scientology uses to describe when someone has achieved mastery in their program.
THE REAL ORIGINS OF THE WORK?
Did The Work really come spontaneously from Katie’s awakening experience in 1986? Former staff member Janaki points to different sources: the work of Ken Keyes, Ramana Maharshi, A Course In Miracles and other spiritual new age books. She claims to have spoken with someone who lived near Katie in her early days who told her that Katie’s basement was filled with boxes of spiritual books that allegedly “had underlined sentences in them and contained notes in Katie’s handwriting.” This disputes the assertion of her husband Stephen Mitchell, who has stated, “Anyone who knows Katie knows that she doesn’t read books.”
Janaki was told that Katie had all of Ken Keye’s books. This is significant because she makes a compelling case that Katie plagiarised Keye’s’ teachings when creating The Work. After purchasing Keyes books she realized how strikingly similar they were to Katie’s method.
“I became more curious and ordered some of his books. I was amazed. He called his process The Inner Work. He worked with worksheets that consist of 6 uncompleted sentences. I found a list of all the questions that are on the worksheet from The Work: I want, I need, he should, what I never want to happen again. I also found some of the questions, especially the 3rd question was literal, including the answers that are given to that question. I found the turnarounds, exactly the way they are done in The Work. And there was a lot more.”
Towards the end of her 74-page document called “Byron Katie and Janaki,” she illustrates the similarities in detail by using images taken from Ken Keye’s work. In total there are over forty pictures from his books that show strong evidence for the true origins of The Work. The image below clearly shows the origins of Katie’s turnaround technique. Keyes calls it the “Insight Leap” but the method is identical.
NOT LOVING WHAT IS
Byron Katie’s dictate to “love what is” has taken an idea that at best is a quasi-universal aspiration and awkwardly contorted into a pseudo-method for healing. For Katie, what is is. If it has happened or is happening, no point in judging it. People who lie, cheat and steal should lie, cheat and steal simply because they are doing it. This is God’s plan according to Katie. The world is a beautiful and perfect place, where nothing terrible has ever happened. Suffering only arises when we think reality should be any different than it is or was. It is our “negative” or critical thoughts about what has happened that take us away from inner peace, not the actual abuse or injustice we’ve been subjected to.
As a result of this erroneous conflation of the absolute with the relative realm, Katie has led millions of people to believe disassociating from their thoughts and feelings is a valid form of spiritual growth. If only healing were as simple as a shift in perception, or the reversal of difficult thoughts.
The Work is ultimately a double betrayal. On one level wounded participants are being deceived because they’re sold a system that most likely won’t help them. On another level, they are gaslighted to such an extent that they are coerced to say on stage in front of hundreds that their abusers never abused them, that they abused themselves and that they abused their abusers. When Katie tells students their abusers were “God in disguise” or the Buddha she has weaponized spirituality in the disservice of fragile trauma survivors.
Following Katie’s logic ultimately leads to a predicament: we can no longer try to change the world because challenging reality causes suffering. Remember, the problem in Katie’s view wasn’t the corporation polluting the world or the factory farm inhumanely processing animals. The real problem was the anger and frustration in the mind of the student discussing their concerns with Katie. She told Haaretz news that all of the problems in the world are non-existent. Katie will push back and say her intent is not to prevent people from creating change. Yet, in example after example of her doing The Work and in her statements she is doing just that.
We’ll never know the full extent of damage that Katie’s methods have caused, regardless of her claim that “it’s not possible for” her “to hurt another person.” One can only imagine the lasting confusion in the young boy who was told by an authority figure whom his parents admire that he should celebrate when a loved one dies. Or the harm caused to the World War II vet who said on stage that he looks “forward to the bombs falling again.” Or the re-victimization of the woman sexually abused by her step-father who proclaimed to an audience of several hundred that she abused him. Or the pain of someone having to list off positive qualities of their abuser. Or the stifling effect it had on the student who was passionate about reforming the factory farm industry.
It is not spiritually wise to blindly follow a dictate like “love what is” and apply it equally to all situations. We need to use discretion and critical thinking to navigate a complex and treacherous world. This is a fact that marginalized people understand much better than Katie ever will. As a wealthy, straight white woman it is much easier for her to live in a fantasy world where everything is always wonderful. And isn’t Katie merely promoting the same false story that underlies neoliberal capitalism? That everything is ok no matter how terrible things actually are? That we can grow and pollute exponentially without harm? That individuals alone are responsible for their own well-being or suffering?
In conclusion, like so many other well-meaning spiritual systems, The Work tragically leads participants away from themselves under the guise of leading them towards themselves. This is a form of toxic spirituality that we must challenge and think critically about as spiritual practitioners, journalists or concerned citizens.
[This article is based on countless hours of research and writing. Please consider donating to support these efforts.]
Janis Briedis also known as Aaravindha Himadra and his lawyer Nadeen Hayden of Minc Law in Clevland Ohio were handed a defeat today when they were compelled to dismiss their defamation lawsuit against prominent cult reporter Be Scofield.
In February, Aaravindha hired Nadeen Hayden of Minc Law to bring a $250,000 lawsuit against Scofield for her investigation into Aaravindha’s Orcas Island cult and the suspicious death of his student. Two attorneys, Tim Cunningham and Ambika Doran from Davis Wright Tremaine represented Scofield pro bono. Once the lawsuit was filed it garnered local media attention with both the San Juan Islander covering it and the Islander Sounder as well.
No specific defamatory statements were ever listed in Minc Law’s lawsuit, however, a classic sign that it was a frivolous lawsuit also known as a SLAPP. Rather, they argued that the article in its entirety was defamatory. These types of lawsuits are designed to harass and intimidate journalists, often causing stress and financial strain.
After several months of motions and legal moves, Aaravindha and his attorneys were forced by Washington state law to list the specific statements which were defamatory in the article. It was at that crucial juncture that they chose to withdraw the lawsuit, proving that they had no actual grounds to file in the first place.
Aaravindha and Minc Law was previously dealt a loss in the case when Aaravidha was ordered by the court to pay Scofield’s legal team $2,500 for failing to abide by proper legal procedures. Cunningham and Doran sought to move the lawsuit from state court to federal court. In order to do so two criteria had to be met: Scofield had to not live in the state of Washington and the lawsuit must be for more than $75,000. While the initial letter to Scofield stated $250,000 Aaravindha’s legal team wouldn’t officially declare the amount they were seeking, a move Scofield’s lawyers argued was designed to frustrate their efforts moving to federal court. The judge agreed and ruled Minc Law’s effort was in “bad faith,” penalizing Aaravindha $2,500. The case was successfully moved to federal court.
Nadeen Hayden also filed a bogus claim that because Aaravindha had brief email contact with an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine that there was a conflict in other attorneys from that firm representing Scofield. There is no relationship established however from simply replying to an email, otherwise, this would be a very easy tactic to get lawyers dismissed from cases. Hayden’s attempt was a disingenuous effort to remove legal support from Scofield’s case.
This victory for free speech will hopefully deter future SLAPP lawsuits against journalists and help make reporters aware that there are legal firms willing to represent them at no cost.
Former members accuse spiritual teacher Mooji of running an abusive cult at his isolated ashram three hours from Lisbon, Portugal.
They allege sleeping with students, abuse such as screaming, shouting, shaming and humiliating, controlling behavior, pairing and breaking up couples, brainwashing and mind control, coercing people from leaving and more.
Mooji lives in a secluded hilltop gated area of the property with three young female disciples whom insiders say he is sleeping with. They also dress and undress him daily.
Mooji has cheated on his past three girlfriends with other students. One longterm female resident of the ashram who left claims to have had sex with Mooji the entire time she was there. There are other women too afraid to speak out.
Followers believe Mooji to be God and refer to him as “my Lord,” “my Master” and “my Father.” They regularly kiss his “holy” feet and bow to him.
Strange ceremonies and rituals including exorcism type events occur at the center.
Mooji has designated an isolation building for members who act out. They will be given one meal a day and learn to “know the self.”
Mooji and his team smuggled over €200,000 of unreported cash into Portugal from London and one member got caught. They used this to purchase Monte Sahaja.
Two members committed suicide in 2017, one at the ashram in Portugal and another in India.
[Be Scofield is one of the most prominent journalists in the world exposing cults and abusive gurus. In 2018 alone, her articles received almost 1 million views. Stories based on her work have appeared on The Guardian, The Daily Mail, VICE, Playboy, CNN, CBC, New Zealand Herald, Die Zeit and more.]
[Several people were interviewed for this article including former senior Mooji staff, students and volunteers.]
The Next Wild, Wild Country
“We are living with a living Jesus Christ. He is God living.” That’s how a Mooji disciple named Lakshmi described her experience living with her guru at his ashram during an interview. She continued, “The whole vibration here is vibrating with Mooji…it is pure divinity.” Another devotee, Bill Free, was conducting the interview in a series with “Mooji disciples” — the most dedicated and loyal inner circle. He replied, “This guy is just like Jesus. The truth comes out of him in every sentence.” A longtime disciple named Shree says “Mooji is not a man, he is a master.” Another devotee goes as far as to say “Mooji is certainly the evidence in this world that God exists.” One follower refers to Mooji’s “divine presence” and says that he is “so humble, so pure and so profound, he has transcended the limitations of thought forms.”
On stage at his Monte Sahaja ashram in rural Portugal, Mooji directs his devotees to bow and kiss his feet. They gush with love and devotion in tears. A young woman says to him in an accent, “I don’t kiss your feet, I kiss feet of God of universe.” Another woman tells Mooji, “I had an experience recently, where you, as the lion that you are, took my heart in your teeth and you shook me and the peace and the miraculous revelations that came from that are incredible. It is only because of your generosity to be the lion that we can be the sheep.” A guy who calls Mooji “beloved Godfather” tells him “It is by your grace alone Lord that thy will be done.” Another, “You give everything. You give us life. You bring us home.” A young devotee reads a poetic letter she wrote to him, “If I have to cry let my tears be holy waters to wash your feet. If I have to die, let me die at your feet today…If I have to fall let me fall in love with you my Lord.”
“It’s definitely a cult,” says a former longtime senior staff member who spent many years in Mooji’s group. Former members who are speaking out agree. They claim Mooji has appropriated and distorted the guru tradition and has used it to justify a cult of devotion and worship around himself while abusing many in the process.
“If I have to die, let me die at your feet today…If I have to fall let me fall in love with you my Lord.” — Mooji devotee
“He encourages dependence,” says one person who spent time at the Monte Sahaja ashram. She said it “seemed odd and inappropriate” the way he fueled the worship of himself. “I couldn’t understand why he didn’t tell people to not do it. He would just lap it up. There were times when people were literally just physically hanging off of him.” In videos, Mooji can be seen directing devotees to bow and kiss his feet. One man told Mooji “I never had a father,” to which he replied, “God wanted you here. I am your father now.” Former members describe residents of the ashram as “zombies” who have lost all sense of themselves in their worship of him.
A scholar with a Ph.D. in Indian religions said that Mooji has no guru lineage as his teacher Papaji was “not authorized to take the gurus seat” by Ramana Maharshi and Mooji was also not authorized by Papaji. “Mooji is a self-appointed guru. In Indian tradition, a self-appointed guru is the least trustworthy person around, because only a dangerously deluded individual would want that position and the adulation that often comes with it.” He also said feet kissing is not a traditional Indian practice in the guru tradition.
Mooji also eats meat including cow and has been married twice in a traditional Hindu marriage by a Hindu priest in a temple in India within 2 years of each other. And he ended both relationships without dissolving the previous marriage which technically makes him a bigamist legally. A source who is Hindu explains. “Most Hindu traditions are vegetarian and no temple or ashram serves meat. By eating cow meat, doing two Hindu weddings without respecting its legality and sacredness, they aren’t promoting Hindu philosophy. They’re ruining its traditional beauty.”
After two Mooji devotees committed suicide in 2017 people are becoming increasingly concerned about the well being of those living under his command at the Monte Sahaja ashram.
VIDEO: The Only Video You Need to See to Know Mooji is Running a Cult
There is music devoted to Mooji as well. One kirtan song, sung to hundreds of his followers who live at his ashram, has the lyrics “Mooji you’re the answer, master you’re the way” repeated over and over again. In another, a devotee sings on stage “Praise to my father, Sri Mooji. Praise to his lotus feet that whatever they touch they make it pure.” Another song has the lyrics “If you have to die, die at the feet of the guru.” Another one sung to Mooji “By your grace I am. I come to life in you. Shiva, Shiva.”
VIDEO: Music for Mooji — “Mooji you’re the answer, master You’re the Way” & “Praise to my father, Sri Mooji, the most humble king”
One person who spent time Monte Sahaja reports seeing “frequent crying, screaming and the appearance of many weird individuals as well as some exorcism-like episodes.” A staff member says exorcisms were common.
“The first exorcism was in Tiruvannamalai around 2011 or 2012. It was a Spanish woman who came in and started to scream on his lap. She was possessed according to Mooji. That night we were there all night and he was trying to get the spirit to leave her but it refused to leave her. And then later on a little girl was possed with many demons according to Mooji.”
She said people with mental illness started to regularly show up and Mooji would tell them they were possessed with demons. People would have voices in their head and other symptoms and he believed they were possessed.
A former member says “There was a lot of indoctrination occurring like naming ceremonies and women would have their heads shaved by him. There were some very strange, bizarre things going on. It felt very unhealthy to me.”
“She was crouched against the wall saying ’no, no, no’ and he took the scissors and cut her hair against her will.”
The staff member who witnessed the exorcisms said Mooji cut her hair and another woman’s hair against their will. Some went along but some did not want it. There were about 20-30 people in total who had their hair cut by Mooji that night. She described what happened:
“I was like ‘I don’t want my hair cut, I don’t want to do it.’ Mooji said ‘No, no. It’s your turn, come on, come on.’ He ordered me to stand in front of him to get my hair cut against my wishes. He would grab our hair and pull it up toward the ceiling and then take the scissors and cut all the way across. It was a bad hair cut. He did the same thing to another woman with very long hair. She was crouched against the wall saying ’no, no, no’ and he took the scissors and cut her hair against her will.”
VIDEO: Mooji Conducts “Divine Ego Exorcism” While Blood-Curdling Screams are Heard in Background
Before Mooji became God he was Tony. Anthony Paul Moo-Young to be precise. Born in Jamaica in 1954 he made his living as a street artist doing charcoal paintings and selling incense. He eventually opened up a small Chai shop in London. As he became interested in ideas of awakening he began teaching to small groups of students which slowly grew over time. According to his bio he spent a few months studying with Papaji and now claims direct lineage to Ramana Maharshi because of it. In 2011 he opened a spiritual center called Monte Sahaja in a remote area of Portugal where he currently lives with hundreds of devotees. He teaches his followers there and around the world that they can attain “immediate awakening.”
“Just one look, one glance, one touch, one word from Mooji can transform your whole life.” — Mooji devotee
Mooji now sits at the top of the self-made guru game. He has 52 million views on Youtube, 70,000 Instagram followers, and 380,000 likes on Facebook. His talks are live-streamed and he runs a membership site with exclusive content. He’s made millions, has a book published on Sounds True and has hundreds of thousands of followers around the world. People line the streets to get a chance to see or touch him and massive crowds come to see him speak. He is one of the most worshiped and sought after spiritual teachers of our time.
But now, for the first time ever, Mooji’s holy status and divine empire are facing major public scrutiny. Allegations of being sexual with students and of running a destructive cult are surfacing — verifying what people have been stating for years in online cult forums and websites.
“When I see Mooji from these eyes now, I don’t feel like I’m following a man. I feel like I’m following the embodiment of the Christ mind, of the one Braham, God mind.” — Bill Free, Mooji devotee
Breaking the Silence
In January 2019 a former staff member in his ashram and follower posted a video called “The Real Mooji Exposed” on Facebook. She had reached out to someone and got first-hand knowledge of what was happening at the ashram. She publicly called out Mooji and alluded that he was having sex with young students. “What you’re doing, that you know is wrong to young women, all under the guise of spirituality and being a spiritual master, telling them this is their way to quicken their awakening and merge with God. Shame on you. It is a blatant misuse of power and it’s wrong.” She said that she wasn’t one of those girls who could be manipulated or silenced. She said “every single one of my fears was confirmed today” and describes it as “devastating news” as Mooji was her spiritual master. The video caused a stir, garnering over 14,000 views.
Mooji responded publicly in a Facebook video that has been viewed almost 60,000 times. While he didn’t address any specifics or reference the recent video he said he wasn’t guilty of any of the allegations. “My heart has always been clean before God. I’ve not done anything to harm anyone…It is an intentional and malicious attack on myself.”
A longtime Mooji disciple and Monte Sahaja staff member was one of many who defended their beloved teacher in the comments of the video:
“Moojibaba is impeccable in all aspects of his life and so is Monte Sahaja a pure reflection of the Master’s purity and God’s Grace, for the miracle of awakening happens here. When we go to rest at night I see the Master rushing off to work on yet another project that is to benefit humanity…The Master doesn’t ever think of himself.
For myself I am eternally grateful for knowing Moojibaba, for he has taken me from a kind of death to real life. Through his pointings my eyes were cleaned from the distortions of human thinking that produce the kind of unfounded lies that we encounter in [the] video.”
A young female devotee who’s been living at Monte Sahaja for 3.5 years also commented:
“I could never possibly express the gratitude that I have for my Master in words…It hurts my heart hearing such untrue gossip about him.”
Another devotee’s comment:
“He is not a person, how can you doubt?
Sex with Students & Disciples
There are credible accounts of Mooji engaging sexually with female students. One longtime former disciple who left abruptly claims she had sex with Mooji secretly the entire time she was at Sahaja. Additionally, insiders say that Mooji is sleeping with the three young female disciples who live with him in the secluded gated area of the property. The follower who initially exposed Mooji stated he is telling young women “this is their way to quicken their awakening and merge with God.” It is all happening under coercive mind control and an abusive environment. There are other women who have made themselves known too but are afraid to speak out publicly as well.
A former senior staff member who spent many years close to Mooji said he has a fetish for “young, hot girls.” She described a pattern of Mooji cheating on his girlfriend and then dumping her for a younger, more attractive woman who was a student. She said it left the women completely devastated and in tears. One girlfriend “was laying there sobbing on the bed, a complete mess, and no one helped her.” She asked her “Why are you crying?” She said “he left me. Mooji left me.” And then the girlfriend would be out of the group or sidelined. Mooji has cheated on his prior three girlfriends with students and dumped them for a new, younger student she said.
One time Mooji slipped out at night to get away from his girlfriend Radha so he could have sex with a devotee while in India for a retreat she said.
“She was staying next to my room during the retreat and I heard the loud noise of her orgasming because there was one wall between us. I was like ‘she’s having sex.’ I could hear the bed. I was like ‘with whom?’ because I knew there was no guy around she liked. And I went out to see if I could see bikes or something and I saw Mooji’s bike out there. The girl was shouting so loudly. I knew he was having sex with her.
A few weeks later she was expelled from the group. He was speaking bad about her in private satsangs and saying she was a devilish girl. So every woman in the team started outcasting her. One day she was a member, next day nobody likes her.”
This woman wanted something more than just sex but Mooji did not she said. “She was not the abusable type so Mooji realized he stepped into a trap and had to set the team against her.”
She said Mooji later admitted to her that he was there. “Mooji told me he was in her room that night. She said that when he walked in she closed the door and pushed him on the bed and just laid on top of him. He was trying to make it out like she initiated everything or was even groping him. As he was describing what happened his girlfriend Radha walked up and he told me we’d discuss it later.”
On another occasion, she said Mooji kicked her and another staff member out of the apartment late one night to have sex with a student. Mooji’s girlfriend was on vacation. She said they both could have stayed as it was also a communal space but Mooji had other plans.
“I knew he was gonna fuck but I was pretty cool about it. I was like ‘ok, the guy is having a bit of a break. He needs a bit of a refreshment. The girlfriend is away. He can have a treat every once in a while. So, that kind of free mindset.’ We left and it was him and her alone in the house. She slept at his place. The next morning we were walking towards his house. We see him and her walking hand and hand and you could see they were pretty intimate.”
The other staff member asked her ‘Is she the new girlfriend now?” and she said, “nah, it’s fine, just forget about it.” She said they learned to just downplay and ignore these types of things.
After Mooji spent a few nights with this girl he “got his hands clean” of her she said by pairing her up with one of his devotees. They ended up in a long term relationship and the guy had no idea Mooji had just slept with her.
She also described several relationships in which Mooji paired people together or broke them up. “He has broken up so many couples. He wants people to follow him and is obsessed with everyone looking at him.” Mooji would give impassioned speeches to people about how good a person was for another group member and how great they’d be together. To break up couples he’d tell one of the partners how incompatible they were with the other partner and dissuade them from being together. He always did this one on one, not when the couple was with him.
A former staff member described how Mooji broke up her and her husband. At first, she was close with Mooji and he never liked having her husband around when they would be working together. When she and her husband couldn’t both afford to go to India they decided that he would go. Mooji resented her for this she said. When Mooji and her husband returned they were very close and she had been pushed out. And then her husband moved to Portugal and Mooji would not allow her to move there. He intervened in her relationship and separated them. One day she got a call from him saying that he was dating a Mooji disciple.
This pattern showed itself again when Mooji’s girlfriend Radha was pushed out for a younger devotee named Krishnabai. Radha dramatically confronted him during satsang in 2014 after her attempts to create more space between him and Krishnabai failed. One person who witnessed it saw Mooji wave his hand at Radha and say “you were too attached.” He said the whole incident occurred in front of hundreds and was recorded on video. Krishnabai then became his girlfriend and Radha was sidelined and eventually left. “It’s knowledge to those living at Monte Sahajra,” that Krishnabi and Mooji are together a source said.
Krishnabai arrived at the age of 20 and quickly became enamored with Mooji. She said the first time she saw him on stage she was filled with love, joy, and light. She then became a dedicated personal assistant. Krishnabai says she lives in a state of “complete devotion” to Mooji. She claims Mooji has the rare ability to reflect the pure self and is God. Mooji is currently 65 and she is now 27.
Insiders say Krishnabai along with two other female disciples live in Mooji’s private and gated area of the property. They say Mooji is sleeping with them. They are also responsible for dressing and undressing him each day. And these disciples rarely leave the gated area, not even to eat with the group much sources say. A former senior staff member refers to these women as Mooji’s “concubine.” A person who lived at Sahaja said of one of these women has been abused by Mooji. “He treats her like absolute shit. I felt like she was trapped. I knew that she had been screamed at and yelled at.”
And this comment from someone who exposes cults suggests many knew of Mooji’s sexual “antics” from the beginning:
“The amazing thing about Tony (Moo) is that everyone knew about his proclivities from the get go. Tony’s great chum Reiki Shiva used to regale everyone with tales of his sexual antics to all and sundry in the chai shops of Tiru. It’s a bit like Harvey (Weinstein): everyone knew but they all wanted the starring role so they played along. Harvey was sharing Hollywood stardust, Tony is selling the mystical allure of enlightenment .”
A former staff member said she has seen emails directly between Mooji and female followers to go on dates and engage sexually. This was while he had a girlfriend.
When one of Mooji’s girlfriends got pregnant several years ago she really wanted to keep the baby and Mooji did not. Mooji having a baby was not in his plan of building his empire as it would have introduced a legal obligation to support a child. Someone who was close to the girlfriend at the time says that Mooji coerced her into getting an abortion against her will.
“I told Krishnabai ‘I know Mooji is God.’ She said, ‘That’s good you know that. Most people just think he’s very wise.’” — Former Monte Sahaja volunteer
Inside Mooji’s Monte Sahaja Cult
“Mooji is the sun and we are his rays. He is the ocean and we are his waves. It is his grace only that brought us together in the first place. He is all that there is.” — Mooji devoteee
“People are being traumatized and brainwashed,” a former senior staff member, who had worked closely with Mooji for years said. Former members speaking out claim people are isolated in rural Portugal, thousands of miles from their homes and are under very intense and coercive mind control. It is a highly regulated and abusive environment centered on absolute devotion to Mooji. Members literally believe he is God. “They sound like him, he speaks through them. It’s creepy. It’s almost like they’ve been taken over by him, like he’s possessed them.”
Former members say the Mooji people see on Youtube and in public events is very different than the real Mooji. They describe him as “cruel,” “abusive,” “narcissistic,” “extremely controlling,” “a bully,” “ruthless,” “dangerous,” and a “demon.” One minute Mooji is loving and kind and the next minute he is screaming and yelling at someone or belittling them.
A former volunteer describes an incident when Mooji threw water on a student’s face:
“We were in the dining area. She asked him a question about her thought process. He then asked a person to slide their glass of water to him. He picked it up and threw the water on the woman’s face. It was a lot of water so it covered her hair and face and was dripping on her clothes. He did this while we were sitting there. No warning. Very calmly. Then he told her ‘go take a walk.’”
She also said Mooji publicly shamed a woman during satsang. “I also remember Mooji reading an email from someone who he said was ‘mentally ill’ and he read her full name so we all knew who she was and said, ‘see what I have to deal with?’”
On one occasion the group doctor was brought in front of Mooji and the community and made to repent and repeatedly apologize for not obeying his commands. Mooji was angry and said, “how long have you been with me and you still don’t act as I want?” He said she wasn’t measuring up to the devotion expected of her and wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be around.
“We may think how cruel the Master is being, but the Master always knows best.” — Mooji devotee and designated teacher
Even Mooji’s daughter is humiliated in front of the group. A former member says it appears she is forced to use public satsangs as her only method of communicating with her father. When she stated during satsang she wanted to leave and live in London he shouted; “I’ll have to shut down the entire Sahaja to afford it!” He controls her and her finances and she would fear being exiled permanently if she ever left without his permission they said.
Former members say Mooji will yell, scream and belittle people regularly in the group. One person says “I also saw him super angry at one of the girls that used to serve him. He was brutal to her and she started crying.” Another echoes this type of behavior, “He would make very outlandish and arrogant remarks and completely embarrass and scrutinize people in front of others…I went to hug him one day and he pushed me off him with an angry look yelling at me because he felt that I didn’t ask enough questions and also called me a devil.” Someone who spent time at Monte Sahaj:
“I spent almost 3 months there last year, I have seen him yelling at people on MANY occasions…She went to Mooji for help and he relentlessly yelled at her in front of over 200 people. She was completely shaken up and her parents are extremely concerned about her. ”
Former members say any criticism or challenge to Mooji or his orders is dismissed as “mind.” One says “you stop questioning anything.” And for members who do act out, Mooji has designated a place to serve as an isolation building. They will receive only one meal a day and learn to “know the self.”
A strict code of silence is enforced 24/7 all year round at the Monte Sahaja ashram, aside from work-related needs. Former members say this leads to isolation and psychological distress. It’s how he prevents people from connecting to each other and their own selves, they say. Members used to be able to talk during meals but Mooji even ordered that to stop because “he didn’t want to hear everyone chatting.” A former volunteer said “You can’t talk to anyone. You are never to speak of your history, your life or anything. You are never, ever supposed to talk about your experience with anyone.” She said a few guys got hell for briefly talking in the smoking area. This was not during a silent retreat. She had no idea it was like that before arriving to volunteer. When she asked a staff member how they were doing they replied, “We don’t ask that kind of question here, but that’s ok, we still love you.”
“Followers are conditioned to march immediately. It’s not natural behavior to scramble like rats to give him what he needs.”
People pay as much as $600 a month to go to Monte Sahaj to do “seva” as volunteers. Critics say Mooji essentially cons vulnerable followers to get free labor by having his ashram designated as a charity. Members work 10 hour days under a very critical and watchful eye. “Clean the showers as if you are cleaning it for Mooji” a volunteer was told. “With all your heart, clean.” She said a few crumbs would drop on the floor while cleaning and someone she didn’t even know came up to her and harshly scolded her. When she was 15 minutes late the first day of volunteering due to severe jet lag and arriving late at night she was heavily belittled by her team leader. The working conditions were disgusting she said. And there were no gloves. Sometimes the work would go into the middle of the night for some crews if Mooji kept the satsang late.
Routine safety issues on the property would also be ignored and when confronted team members would say “do you not trust the Guru?”
“He’s actually quite cruel. He doesn’t want you to have your own spiritual experience. He has to dominate every aspect of your life. And even then it’s not enough.”
Residents of Monte Sahaja live in a constant state of competition for who can be the most devoted to Mooji. “Somehow he put us in direct competition with each to fight for his acknowledgment and most of us had no idea that that’s what we were doing.” And if he doesn’t like someone’s energy or they haven’t shown enough devotion they are kicked out or ostracized. One student told Mooji that she loves other teachers too and he told her “then go be with them.” Her promised work assignment at Monte Sahaja suddenly disappeared. Another said they experienced awakening and she was kicked out for it. People walk around on eggshells fearing him and wanting to outdo others to show how devoted they are.
Students are taught that the mind is “poison” and to relentlessly attack their own thoughts. When this happens in an environment of social isolation and silence with long work days, where there is no emotional support, heavy mind control and when Mooji is abusing them it is a recipe for disaster former members say.
One former staff member said the gaslighting was frequent.
“There is a lot of gaslighting. It leads to so much self-doubting that you don’t believe anything that you think yourself. You rely on Mooji. And you start to do whatever he wants you to do. You don’t trust your inner voice anymore because you are told so often that it is your ego and you don’t know anymore.”
Mooji controls people’s behavior regularly. As one example, a former staff member of many years said that in Mooji’s pre-Monte Sahaja days he coerced all the vegetarians in the group to eat meat. Even an Indian couple who were vegetarian since birth began eating meat under Mooji’s influence. His girlfriend at the time Radha was the last hold out but even she couldn’t resist Mooji’s coercive pressure. “She wasn’t eating by her own will. Her eyes were closed and he was feeding her chicken.” She was shocked watching this scene unfold she said.
“In Sahaja he is really turning out to be the monster he wants to be.”
One former staff member said she would have done anything Mooji asked because she thought she was serving God. On one occasion she said Mooji told her a guy had thrown a rock at him but missed. On Mooji’s orders, she threatened him and the guy never came back. She said she would have tried to beat him up if Mooji had ordered. In hindsight, she said she thinks Mooji lied to her about the incident. She also said she heard a woman say she’d jump off of a bridge if Mooji had asked.
Mooji ordered his team to stay on watch 24/7 all night to prevent a heron from eating fish out of his pond. It was a mother trying to feed her babies. When that didn’t work he ordered the heron shot and it was.
“He is nothing more than a psychopathic, narcissistic mental abuser and con artist out to make money off the backs of broken people.”
Some want to leave the group but can’t because of group pressure, coercion by Mooji, fear of permanent exile from their friends or financial hardship due to commitments to the group. One person who spent a lot of time at Monte Sahaja explains, “I know a lot of people there who are afraid to leave him and afraid to come out and tell what is really happening there. I have begged some of them to leave but they are deeply afraid of him.”
Smuggling €200,000 Cash Into Portugal
A former staff member who was in the planning meeting and present after says Mooji and his team smuggled over €200,000 Euros into Portugal from London. This was from six years of unreported money they had made during retreats and events around the world. The staff member said Mooji worked on a tourist visa all those years and did not have a proper work visa. Another staff member confirms this and said he kept the cash in his room. “Mooji stored tens of thousands of dollars in cash under his bed in his apartment in London. He also had a safe in the closet behind the coats with at least $50,000 cash in it. It was British pounds wrapped in rubber bands.” There was no declaration of taxes before they became a charity in 2010. They took out pounds in London and converted it to Euros which they smuggled to Portugal. They then used this money to purchase Monte Sahaja.
“They were forming a charity and deciding to buy land — 30 hectares, more than €130,000. A person cannot carry more than €10,000. They hid it in the luggage in two different shipments. One of them got caught with the cash. They were all traveling on the same flight, all managed to get through security aside from one guy who got caught with cash. He lied about it and it took him several months to clear it up.”
She said there is a police record of the incident that can be checked using the person’s real name. Another former staff member also confirmed this and says she helped write the statement to the police lying about the origins of the money. She said they told the police the money came from the person who was caught’s book sales.
Another former staff member confirms this and says that she smuggled tens of thousands of dollars in cash on flights for Mooji. She said other staff members would also smuggle cash from America and India to London. “It was always last minute, like the day of the flight or the day before. There was always cash on us.”
When Mooji first purchased Monte Sahaja it had no buildings on it. A former staff member said the whole center was built illegally. “He didn’t have the permits to build on the land. None of the buildings were built legally.”
Mooji sells a variety of spiritual products at his center. “Sahaja Dust” is labeled as “earth Mooji may have walked on.” It’s dirt from their retreat center. Mala beads blessed by Mooji sell for up to 25 Euros. Pictures of Mooji’s feet sell for 1.5 Euros. And he sells blankets that he has personally used.
Two Suicides in One Year
When two members, Florentin (Flo) Camoin and Helen Kelby, committed suicide in 2017 it was not surprising to some who know what’s actually going on in Mooji’s communities. Flo died at Monte Sahaja and Helen died in India. One resident who knew Flo acknowledges the ways in which Mooji’s teachings and the culture at Monte Sahaja contributed to his death:
“He had no voice for his deep needs and troubles. He needed to be ‘seen’ first as a person before annihilating his identity. He said to a sangha member here that ‘in his life he has never been seen.’ Maybe he needed a subtle ego boost and nourished the ‘spiritual person’ first before cutting off his head. A platform for this must be created to make sure it never happens again.”
There is no emotional support at Monte Sahaja. Anything wrong is just your “mind.” So, you can imagine if someone was struggling at all and then forced to remain silent and keep their problems within.
Was Flo ever put into isolation? Did Mooji ever counsel Flo or offer him spiritual guidance? Did staff members know that he was struggling? Mooji and the team should be held publicly accountable. What other work and social pressures was he put under?
Former Members Speak Out Online
“I suffer from PTSD from all the psychological trauma he inflicted on me.”
For years people have been posting online about their experiences or the experiences of loved ones connected with Mooji’s ashram in Portugal. They have warned others to stay away and that Mooji is running an abusive cult.
One person who was at Monte Sahaja describes Mooji as a dangerous fraud:
“I spent 3 months with Mooji and Sahaja and can tell you first hand that he is a BIG fraud. He and his inside clique uses group pressure to psychologocally break you down and control you, leaving you very confused until they even strip that until you are an empty mindless shell…A lot of people there think he is some God because they feel an energy pass through their hands when he touches them..His old body guard I spoke with recently is absolutley terrified of him. This guy is EXTREMELY dangerous and must be stopped.”
One person lost his girlfriend to the group:
“She left her parents and all her friends same way after staying there for three months, she also doesn’t want to come back home from there this year. I can not speak with her anymore, I am afraid that she is manipulated, brainwashed and misguided to do all of this things by the members of this organization, cult. What kind of enlightenment do they teach there to leave your family like this? Please help!?!”
Someone who was at Monte Sahaja warns others:
“I went to his place in Portugal and there I saw the whole sad truth about this man, I am studiying to become a therapist, I have learned about narcissistic personality disorder, and I have seen many traits and dodgy behaviours in him which are attributed to narcissists…If you want to know about Mooji, educate yourself about NPD (Narcissitic Personality Disorder).
Another lost their partner to the group:
“My partner went for 3 weeks but he never returned. He left 4 months ago. He is brainwashed, he is lost there with all these people who are incredibly selfish. Mooji is just another fake guru with a very good business.”
Another says family members distanced themselves after joining the group: “My father and his wife are devoted disciples of Mooji and he has sadly estranged himself from his children and grandchildren.”
Another person who spent time there:
“They got me to break down and cry. They were really nice to me in the beginning and then all of a sudden everyone starting to become hostile towards me. I really didnt understand why they all of a sudden started to act like I was a criminal. After I broke down and showed my vulnerability I started worshippng him like everyone else and then they were nice to me again. I then started to have doubts again and then they started back being mean to me. Wow I knew that something was up. I knew they were afraid that I had a strong mind and I was encouraging others there to leave which they did not like.”
Another warns a mother who’s daughter got into Mooji, “Don´t let your daughter go to Portugal, he is worshipped like a god, there are brainwashing elements in the daily routine, he is a dictator in his Ashram, during the silent retreat we were watched the whole time, I saw really evil people there in his Sangha group.”
This person’s partner got caught up in Mooji’s group:
“The same almost happened to my husband he went to work at Monte Sahaja for 3 weeks and came back has a zombie. It was really hard to take him out of that stage. It took him 3 years to start behaving normally and because he couldn’t work we lost all the money we had saved for years. Now he is ok and very thankful that I didn’t gave up on him. Now he sees how dangerous Mooji and his people are with their fake love, they will use you and abuse you and when they don’t need you anymore they will kick you out and you have nowhere to go. ”
Another person had to get therapy after her time with Mooji:
“I have sought out counseling after leaving him and had to accept the fact that I unknowingly joined a cult, something I said I would never be a part of. Mentally I was fucked for a while from the mind games he played with me but slowly I am gaining my confidence back in myself which he desperately tried to take away with his incomplete teachings and hypnotic trance techniques. It was VERY hard for me to accept the fact that he is not true. “
It’s Just the Beginning
“When you are living with a master who is in front of you, the very presence is there, it confronts you about things, challenges your perceptions, loves you, beats you, lifts you up…” — Mooji
What is being reported here is a small portion of the abuse and dysfunction that has occurred in Mooji’s cult. Given the rural and isolated location of Mooji’s ashram in Portugal and the fear around speaking about him, much information has remained suppressed. The former staff member who came forward on Facebook with the accounts of Mooji sleeping with students was the first wave. This article is the next. Each thing is a step forward towards truth and exposing the abuse that’s occurring in Mooji’s cult.
[Exposing cults require lots of emotional and financial support. All my work happens only through donations of my supporters. Thanks. Donate Now.]
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.
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.”
“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.”
“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 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.”
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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
Asheville dubstep/dance music promoter Tyler Ray Palmer has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault and rape. His company Unified Events has thrown regional underground parties in Asheville, Charlotte, Marshall and Greenville, SC.
[UPDATE: Tyler Palmer is apparently running a new promotion company under the name “Rage Nation Entertainment” and is planning on throwing events soon.]
In October of last year Sarah Davis (not her real name) went to Tyler Ray Palmer’s house to hang out and maybe get a massage. She hadn’t met him before but she knew of him through his underground dance music event promotion company Unified Events. They chatted on Facebook messenger for bit. She figured it’d be chill. After hanging for a few she describes what happened:
“I was laying on his bed. I had my shirt pulled up some but I still had my clothes on. He was massaging me and then started massaging my ass a bit. I thought it was a bit weird but didn’t say anything. He then got up and turned the lights off and started massaging my ass a little more. He then pulled down my pants and put himself inside of me. I just completely froze. I didn’t say anything. It only lasted like a minute.”
Sarah’s account that she told me is similar to another woman who also claims to have been raped by Tyler.
Kelly Wilson (not her real name) was hanging out with a small group of friends at a house next door to New Mountain Asheville when the molly she took kicked in way harder than she expected. She went upstairs to lay down because she didn’t feel well. She describes what happened next:
“He then followed me upstairs and asked me if I was ok. I was like ‘yeah, I’m just rolling really hard. I can barely keep my eyes open.’ I told him I just wanted to be alone. I came upstairs to be alone. He proceeded to dismiss that and get into the bed under the covers with me. I was in a state of mind where I was kind of malleable but I was still there. He started touching me and I told him I didn’t want to do anything with him. Then he proceeded to keep touching me and I nudged him away. I pushed him away. He proceeded to pull down my pants and let himself in. He had sex with me. I did not want him too. I said to him at one point while he was doing it, ‘why are you doing this?’ He finished up within a minute and a half and stood up and left my pants the way they were.”
Another woman in Asheville claims Tyler laced her drink and raped her:
“I had chatted with him on Facebook and became an aquaintance with him. He invited me over to hang out and I thought, “Why not? Harmless”. We were just drinking a bit and listening to music. I don’t know what happened to make the tables turn because everything is very hazey after that. But, next thing I know, I was passed out in his bed and he was taking off my clothes. I felt very incoherent, almost drugged…but I don’t know due to no blood tests to confirm. He climbed on top of me and began having sex with me without my consent. Next thing I knew, I was throwing up in the floor. By the time the morning rolled around, I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I got out of there pretty quickly and felt so groggy and weird.”
Multiple Women Come Forward
After Tyler posted on Facebook on March 15th calling out famous dubstep producer Datsik for recent allegations of sexual assault, women decided to come forward and share their stories about him. Tyler wrote that Datsik should be “blacklisted” and that the allegations “make him sick.”
Someone who had only recently become friends with Tyler on Facebook describes what happened after they had initially messaged each other:
“A few days had passed and he asked me to video chat and I did. It started like any normal human conversation until he started asking me if I was wearing panties and asked to show him. I repeatedly said no, I’m not going to take my clothes off for you on cam. He proceeded to keep trying to convince me and eventually started jacking off to me on cam.”
Another person who came forward accused Tyler of groping her without her permission. She said he grabbed her breasts and then tried to take her friends pants off.
One woman who spoke out describes her experience of being at a club with him:
“As the night went on he got really touchy feely with me and I told him he needed to back off. He would not stop following me around, like I went to the restroom and he stood outside the door waiting on me. I couldn’t hoop, venture off by myself or anything because he kept me close by. I eventually had to make an escape…He touched on places he shouldn’t have and wouldn’t let me alone. This dude is not a safe person and everyone needs to be aware around him.”
Another woman said he constantly sent her dick pics:
“For the next two weeks or so until the rave I was supposed to go and hang out with him he sent me dic pics constantly, was always talking about how horny he was and in general I don’t think I ever had a conversation where he didn’t bring up something sexual.” And when they did finally meet up she describes him as pushy, “He was pretty pushy about me going on a walk with him so we could make out. He started groping me and I told him to stop. He put my hand on his dick twice and I took it off immediately both times.”
Another person who came forward:
“He’s a predator. And so many people have known but nothing has been said publicly. He’s been a creep on mine and friends Snapchats. He would send unsolicited dic pics. And then got offended when we got upset. I’ve warned so many girls about him.”
This woman claims Tyler sent her and her friends unsolicited dick pics when they were underage and he was 19:
“I knew Tyler back in high school, and he frequently sent my friends and I unsolicited dick pics. We were all 14/15/16 when he was 18 and 19. He would also constantly ask for nudes and it got to the point where we all just blocked him.”
Several years ago at a party in Annapolis Maryland he groped a young woman:
“He came back and like grabbed on my ass and thighs. He tried like 4 maybe more times before my friends date punched him in the chest. And told him to knock it off. We grabbed my boyfriend and left instantly after that.
He sat next to me in homeroom too. He would touch my legs. He would try to slide his hand over on to my knee. After awhile I just stopped going to homeroom which was also a 1st period so I failed. He harassed me through Facebook once I left the school to go back to my homeschool.”
This woman claims that he tried to blackmail her into having sex with him:
“He belonged to a Facebook group I was in and ended up trying to talk to me, he kept telling me we should meet up and I didn’t want to, a few weeks went by with him still bugging me about meeting up and he starting sending me inappropriate pictures of himself when I was 17. He made a fake profile of me and got pictures from my ex and tried to use them to blackmail me into having sex with him. When I told him I would tell police he showed me conversations he was having with himself as me saying that it was my idea to have sex and it was consensual. Thankfully nothing ever came from that other than the fact he had underaged pictures of me but he does blackmail people into having sex with him.”
As this story was unfolding, people that knew him in Maryland reached out to those in Asheville, sharing that there were multiple allegations of sexual assault and rape against Tyler there as well. They also sent documentation of a criminal record. The document states that he was charged with “Display of Obscene Material to a Minor” and that he plead guilty in April of 2016.
One Asheville producer said that Tyler’s parties were using the themes of “Harry Potter and Rick and Morty to get more young people out at his events.” Similarly, another local producer said, “He’s notorious for throwing all ages shows too. His reasoning was that the event was meant to be ‘family friendly.’ Especially at gimmicky ‘kiddie’ places like trampoline parks. Alcohol Law Enforcement shut down one of his shows due to underage girls being provided alcohol in the green room.”
He also tried to throw a “Free the Nipple” themed party where women who were topless get in free and guys pay $20. One woman posted their objections:
After public outcry the event was canceled.
Multiple Facebook Accounts
Tyler also appears to have multiple different Facebook accounts under the same name and at least one fake one which is alarming.
Local dubstep and bass music producers and DJs have organized a thorough and swift campaign on Facebook and elsewhere to inform nightclubs, other musicians and women about Tyler. New Mountain Asheville canceled a recent event as a result of the allegations. DJs are also refusing to play at his events.
None of the women I spoke with for this story wanted to be named publicly. Nor did they want to go to the police. Very few cases like these are successfully prosecuted. They involve long drawn out and often public processes where the accusers past is dug up. They wanted to avoid the potential drama and stress of that process but welcomed an article and more public awareness about Tyler.
There have been comments and posts from women in the local community expressing appreciation for the action being taken, “Thanks for believing the NUMEROUS ladies and putting this creep on blast. That’s how a real man behaves.” Another, “Praise indeed! …very few speak up, and it means so much and is so powerful coming from a brother. Thank you … we need more like you.”
Just days after sexual assault allegations surfaced against dupstep producer Datsik he canceled his entire tour and was dropped from his label and agency. Undoubtedly, we are in a long overdue new era of accountability and awareness surrounding sexual assault. The swift reaction of the Asheville underground dance community to Tyler’s behavior is a part of that movement. Hopefully, the increased attention about these incidents in our society will create a permanent shift in the climate so predators and perpetrators will know they cannot get away with it any longer.