Ashevillage: Where Dreams Go to Die

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

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

2/12/18

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

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

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

Janell Kapoor

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

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

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

The description on the website is nothing short of magical:

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

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

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

Uncomfortable Truths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She has bad blood with everyone”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another person that has known her for over 10 years:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Everything about Ashevillage is illegal”

Several people have raised issues of the legality of Ashevillage:

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

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

More:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physical Violence & Abuse

Former lover Terry Wayne Kirkland describes physical abuse from Janell:

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

“Capitalistic Narcissism”

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

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

Another person speaks to the reality about the financial situation:

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

Another echoes the sentiment:

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

Another:

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

More:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long Term Damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wounded Healer

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

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

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

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

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

This quote from Eva Blake is extremely poignant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We must talk about this in order to HEAL.”

Difficult lessons

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

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

Moving Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen & The Culture of Evolutionary Enlightenment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

Read more disturbing details from American Guru.

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

ANDREW COHEN’S SUPPORTERS

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

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

Craig Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Wilber

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Wilber & Andrew Cohen in Dialogue

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

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

Terry Patten

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marc Gafni

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

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

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

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

Article in Forward Magazine from one of Gafni’s victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

3/22/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hunt for Dark Aliens”

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

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

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

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

Another member who was present describes her experience:

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

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

The End of the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aon Sphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physical Abuse

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

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

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

Anaiya Sophia and Padma Aon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pulsing

Image of Pulsing. *Not Padma’s class.

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

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

Another testimonial about pulsing:

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

More:

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

Emotional & Psychological Abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another woman:

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

Another:

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

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

A former member explains how Padma victim blamed people:

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

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

During a private healing session one woman describes what happened:

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

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

They continue:

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

The New Predator

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

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

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

Anaiya Sophia expands further:

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

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

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