Several women have accused “tantra” teacher Andrew Barnes of rape, sexual assault and abuse. Most of the abuse victims report receiving multiple sessions free of charge. His long time teacher Shantam Nityama was recently outed for sexual abuse and running a cult. Barnes was a head teacher at ISTA (International School of Temple Arts) for some time. They parted ways over his stance on animal rights and ISTA eating animal heart during their trainings. Barnes apparently “would get furious” if anyone hurt an animal.
Andrew Barnes did not respond to my request for an interview.
Larissa Gray met Andrew Barnes at the European ISTA conference where he was teaching in 2010. She was with a tantric massage therapist friend who saw Andrew and remarked about how amazing he was. This gave her trust in him she said. While in another teachers workshop he started to perform energetic orgasm on her. And he offered her free session in his room at lunchtime.
Larissa did end up going to his room for a treatment. She started to really open up to him. At that time she didn’t know anything about protecting her boundaries or boundary work. She claims that he then raped her during the session.
“I was telling him all my fears about men and my past. I had been celibate for years in my healing process. He started doing the energetic work on me and the next thing I know he was penetrating me. He never asked consent. There was no verbal conversation. He just did it. I just froze. It lasted about five minutes and he did not use a condom. He then ran out of the room to go present about student/teacher sexual boundaries at the ISTA conference.”
She was conflicted about how to handle it. “I was in a difficult position. Everyone was looking up to this guy. I was a newbie to this world. I didn’t want to be pushed away out of the group.”
“This was a teacher, I thought I was safe. He took my light and destroyed it and he’s not having it anymore. I want it back!”
Larissa Gray is one of several women who are now speaking out about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of Andrew Barnes.
A self-described “internationally acclaimed tantric teacher,” Barnes is the latest in a string of “tantric” healers to be accused of sexual abuse. His long time teacher Shantam Nityama was recently accused of sexual abuse and running a sex cult in an in depth expose.
Barne’s bio states that he has taught in 46 countries. He has offered his “Tantric Body Dearmouring” and full body orgasm workshops around the world. His business is called Awakening Within Foundation. It’s a non-governmental organization that allows him to operate tax free a source said. He was also a head teacher with the “International School of Temple Arts” (ISTA) for some time.
A similar pattern emerges out of the women’s stories who were interviewed. Three women allege Barnes raped them, two allege sexual assault and one claims he groomed her into having sex with him during sessions. One woman said she knows there have been several other women who have also been victimized by Barnes. Some of the women received multiple “tantric” sessions from Barnes and most all of them were free. Some women were groomed over the course of several sessions to slowly break down their boundaries. All of the women report a desire to heal, open or learn more about tantra. And they were trusting of Barnes. They believed that he had their best interest in mind.
Andrea Williams (not her real name) described a sensual healing session where Andrew Barnes raped her. Like other women, Andrea had several sessions with Andrew and he progressively groomed her.
Andrea first met Andrew at an annual retreat and had attended some of his workshops and been to some of his cuddle parties that he hosted outside of the event. It was after one of the retreats that Andrew offered her a 3-session package at a “very reduced price” she said. She took him up on the offer saying that she trusted him to know where to take her. It was during the third session that she said he raped her.
“I was in total orgasmic state. I hear this voice and he said “you need to ground. You need to come back into your body.” I couldn’t even talk, because I was so out of my body in an orgasmic state. I could hear him, what sounded like in the distance, saying ‘I don’t do this very often but sometimes it’s helpful to have the penis in the vagina.’ Next thing I knew was his penis was in my vagina. I didn’t have time to say yes, or no, let alone give consent. He put his penis inside of me for a few minutes. I never gave him consent. I was still off in orgasmic land. He then pulled out and left me to get dressed. No discussion about what happened, or how I felt after the session. I left felt very confused as to what had happened and only many years later realised the actual extent of what had happened and how he had totally manipulated me.
There are so many ways he could have grounded me back into my body. He could have got me down regulating my breath which grounds you, he could have put his hand on my belly to ground me. He most certainly didn’t need to put his penis in me without consent to do this. It was all to stroke his ego.”
Sophia Nielsen (not her real name) was a short time lover with Andrew. Although most sexual experiences happened with consent she explained that she once was met by a very different Andrew. “He was aggressive, his eyes looked different. He held me down and forcefully had sex with me against my will. I froze and was in shock.” The experience was non-consensual but she was too overwhelmed to know how to act she said. “He was my lover and I couldn’t believe he would actually do this.”
Andrew demonstrated a pattern of grooming with Victoria Holloway (not her real name) over the course of several sessions. She was young, only 20 at the time, and was very impressionable she said. She stayed with him for a month on the recommendation of a friend whom she told she needed a place. She had no idea who he was or what he taught. Barnes eventually asked her if she wanted a “discovery session.” In subsequent sessions she claimed he sexually assaulted her by performing oral sex on her without consent. They also did a “self-pleasuring ritual” together in his healing room during a “session.” Later they became sexual and lovers. Like the other women, all of her sessions were free.
“Andrew framed it as ‘I want to do a session with you’ and I said ok. It was a talking session. He just hit the nail on the head with my stuff, my trauma, my relationship to my dad and so on. He touched on my ultimate fears, fear of abandonment, betrayal, rejection. He literally blew my mind that he knew and how well he read me. It opened me a lot and made me hugely trust, I thought he was God.
The second session came a few days later. He was giving me a massage and doing some energy work. He may have asked if he could touch my yoni, I don’t remember. He did though. He then went down on me and I was very surprised as I did not know that was part of an ‘energy session’. He never asked my consent. I froze in my body completely. He then made me orgasm.
The next session he proposed that we do a self-pleasuring session together. We were both naked in his healing room masturbating. I don’t think he even had a reason, maybe a ‘ritual’. The whole thing lasted about 30 minutes and he ejaculated.”
“Is any of this tantra? I don’t think so” she said.
Victoria said Andrew would often be masturbating to porn in his room in the open with the door open.
Several months later he was in her town and came to her place to do a healing session with her. She said she was very “open and orgasmic.” She continues. “He was really going for it and I asked him if he would penetrate me and he did. He used a condom and ejaculated inside of me.”
Later, he paid for her to go to another country to attend his de-armouring workshop. She didn’t know what to expect. She describes what happened:
“He asked if I’d be the demo for the session. He was inside of me and fucking pounding me with his fingers. I’ve never felt so much pain. There was much pain and so much emotion. Very, very intense and very orgasmic. He was trying to make me ejaculate although I had no idea about this at the time. He did not make me ejaculate.”
While together at this time they were sleeping together frequently and had become lovers.
Faith Wright, a tantra teacher and former organizer for Andrew said she stopped hosting him for events after she received numerous complaints from women about him violating them sexually and crossing their boundaries during sessions. Wright said witnessing a disturbing incident in a training where he violated a woman without her consent also led to her stop working with him. “The woman was in a state of shock” she said.
She also witnessed highly controlling behavior towards his young girlfriend who was around 22 at the time. Andrew was in his late 40s. “The way I observed him treating her I just wanted to put her on a plane back home and get her away from him. I tried to insert myself to spend time with her and he was incredibly controlling of me spending time with her alone.”
Wright said she no longer promotes or recommends male tantra teachers because “every single one of them has complaints.” She said “my focus is healing, not further traumatization.”
Cathy Neff (not her real name) received around five sessions from Andrew — all free of charge as well. She believed the sessions would entail energy work and massage. She said he never told her he would do yoni massage. At the beginning of the session he told her “take all your clothes off and lay on the table.”
“He seemed like he was trying the energy work that he does. Light touching here and there. He never asked but he just started rubbing my yoni and gave me a yoni massage. I felt kind of frozen. I didn’t really expect that. I was really surprised and I was freaking out. My first reaction was I’m going against my relationship.”
She said that he said it was ok because it was how sexual therapists “all around the world” work. “He told me to be mindful of who I talk to about the sessions as others wouldn’t understand.”
In subsequent sessions Andrew had sex with her.
“One time he suggested sex in the session and I was like ‘no way.’ He never pressured me or forced me but he did suggest it again the next time. I really wanted to heal and be open and I thought if I do this extreme thing and massively cross my regular boundaries it will really open me. I thought maybe it is some kind of healing transmission that just opens a woman so much. It sounds so fucked up and crazy but I trusted that he had my best interest at heart and I thought if it’s for healing I can just do it and then I’ll be open.”
She said she had sex with him during two sessions and that there was “no healing transmission” and it “really wasn’t anything special.” She said it did not help her heal or open. “It was just a guy getting off.”
“I did end up feeling like I had gone against my relationship in the worst way possible and felt so much guilt and shame. Andrew recommended not to tell my partner, and this caused so much inner turmoil and conflict within my heart. I just wanted to heal and open but all of this was not helpful or necessary and in the end felt very damaging.”
Naomi Evans said that her experience receiving vaginal dearmouring work from Barnes was very violent and has left her with problems urinating years after. She was in “complete shut down mode” and the session was a “catastrophe” she said. Namoi said Andrew “forcefully hammers” and that it “very easily creates physical damage.” The pressure was a “9 out of 10” she said.
Naomi described how Andrew would participate in an exercise where men and women yelled at each other to release aggression. She said he would yell at a female student for 15-minutes and then be yelled at by the student. She said he would say “I need to have this possibility to participate because I have so much rage against women.” She said “many women felt very unsafe that he participated in his role as a teacher. He should have held space. Instead he would be very, very angry towards women.”
She said she witnessed Andrew being aggressive and yelling in a variety of situations.
At the beginning of workshops she said Andrew would tell the students “I am a grown up man. Everyone here is grown up. If I want to have sex with someone I can because everyone is grown up.” He would then say “agree?” and ask for people to raise their hands if they did. Naomi said she felt this was inappropriate given his role as an authority and teacher in the space. “He is very charismatic and very good with words” she said.
One of the women said something particularly poignant for our times. “Being a tantra teacher allows someone to get sex, fame and money without having much to offer.” It’s painfully true. Perhaps this is the heart of the matter. These men like Andrew Barnes were never in it for the tantra or the healing. They were in it for themselves. For the sex, the money, the power and the status. Tantra was their ruse to get their rocks off. But now the whole world is watching. #TimesUp #MeToo
Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, the founder of Agama Yoga has indefinitely fled the center in Ko Phangan, Thailand several sources confirm. He is believed to be headed to Europe, presumably Romania where he is from. His abrupt departure comes just four days after the publication of an expose that chronicled numerous accusations of sexual assault against him and several senior Agama teachers. The story has gone viral, gathering over 25,000 views since its publication on Tuesday. A public statement posted on Facebook by Agama says that Swami has “taken the decision to step back from all his administrative and teaching responsibilities” while they investigate.
Agama yoga teacher Ram Avnur, accused of sexual misconduct in the article, fled Ko Phangan yesterday sources confirm. It is believed Muktananda, also accused of sexual misconduct, is leaving the island.
The accusations have rocked the island of Ko Phangan, where hundreds of people flock for Agama yoga and tantra programs each year. “It’s like a bomb exploded” on the island wrote one student. Another wrote that everything is in “chaos” at the center. Several witnesses report that it is a “ghost town” with little activity and very few people attending classes. Additionally, some key Agama staff have quit since the publication of the article. One teacher who quit states that several yoga teachers left when they realized Maha and the leadership were not interested in changing:
“Several teachers have resigned. They saw that the school has no real intentions to change and keep up the denial and secrecy. I’m of course one of the teachers who said we can’t stand behind a system that doesn’t stand behind it’s teachers and students who got hurt. We started to see all the manipulation.”
The current director of Agama, Ananda Maha, held a community meeting on Friday night to address the controversy. An attendee reports that the meeting was “a big cover up. No acknowledgements. There was no compassion for the victims.” She said it was clear “there will be no investigation into what these 31 women from the 31 written statements have experienced. Not by an internal committee, nor by an external source.” In regards to the numerous women who have come forth with sexual abuse stories, Maha said “It had all been their own perception, because of the wounds they were already carrying” the attendee claims. A source previously stated that Maha, who is Swami’s former lover, has turned a “blind eye to every abuse” that has occurred over the years.
A Ko Phangan resident has started a Facebook group called “Boycott Agama”where people can stay updated on the story.
Yoga Alliance, the governing body for Agama’s yoga training certifications, has received several formal complaints and has begun their own investigation.
This is a developing story. Information will be updated when possible.
The founder of the Thailand based yoga and tantra school Agama, Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault. He claims to be the “brilliant exponent of a unique and modern trend of thinking in Yoga” who “has reached high states of spiritual realization.” Agama is one of the world’s largest yoga training centers. Swami’s teacher is the infamous Romanian yoga guru Gregorian Bivolaru. He was sentenced to six years in prison for having sex with an underage girl. Swami warns those who dare to speak against him that they are under “demonic influence” and face “infernal consequences for many lives to come.” Several of his most senior teachers have also been accused of rape or sexual assault. Former staff have stated Swami says he is paying off the Thai authorities. This article draws from interviews of several former students and staff, most of which chose to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal and retaliation.
UPDATE – 7/28/18: Just 4 days after the publication of this article Swami has fled Ko Phangan indefinitely. Sources believe he is headed to Europe, probably Romania where he is from. Read full press release.
UPDATE: 9/4/18: Thai police and military raided Agama Yoga today after charges were filed against Swami.
UPDATE: This article has led to the closure of Agama Yoga and widespread international coverage including front page stories on The Guardian, CNN, the CBC, Die Zeit and the New Zealand Herald. There are now over 50 articles in 25 counties. SEE PRESS.
[Each of these articles takes over 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]
It was a typical night on the island for Jessica Rose (not her real name). She had just finished hanging out with some girlfriends and was headed home. She had been drinking wine. On the way she noticed that her spiritual teacher and employer, Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, had his light on. She hadn’t seen him in ages. She popped in to say hi like she had previously done on several occasions. Swami was glad to see her. He immediately made a comment about her being drunk. She sat down on the couch and there was small talk between them for several minutes. She doesn’t remember specifically what happened for a short period of time. She described to me what occurred then, “The next thing I remember I’m sitting on the edge of the couch and he’s putting his dick inside of me and I didn’t want that. And then he put his fingers inside of me and I said I didn’t want that. I told him that this is not what I wanted and that he needs to stop immediately.” She then left and cut off all contact with Swami (real name Narcis Tarcau).
Jessica said Swami should have known better. He was both her spiritual teacher and employer. In addition to the fact that she was drunk, “He knew that I wasn’t into him for sure,” she said. “He knew that I was in a closed relationship and not open to other guys. I had clearly told him in the past I’m not attracted to you sexually and I just want a teacher/student relationship.” She said she didn’t want to go to the police because she had been in Thailand illegally.
Jessica’s account, which occurred in June of this year is the latest in a string of accusations that have followed Agama Yoga founder Swami Vivekananda Saraswati for years. He founded the center in 2003 and since then it has become one of the largest schools of tantra yoga in the world with thousands of students having passed through. A Yoga Alliance registered school, Agama offers 200hr and 500hr yoga teacher training certifications, tantra instructor training, yoga therapist certification and more. Several women, many of which are former senior staff, have recently come forward with their stories of sexual abuse by Swami and other senior Agama teachers.
A Pattern of Abuse
When Agama student Kelly Anne (not her real name) met with Swami for her first spiritual consultation she says he sexually assaulted her. She told me that she sought advice from him on anxiety and other issues. His advice was three men a day she said. When she tried to leave he threw himself on her, “Then I got up to go away and he started kissing full on tongue. It was very aggressive. And then he started groping my bum. I was literally dizzy.” This was her very first consultation with Swami.
Kelly Anne did eventually end up being sexual with Swami at one point. However, on one occasion she messaged him before she arrived for a meeting and said, “I don’t want to have sex. I don’t know what I want to talk about.” She made it clear what her intentions were, expecting he would listen. Yet, when she arrived Swami immediately threw himself on her:
“When he opened the front door he instantly stuck his tongue in my mouth and started kissing me. I closed my mouth and started moving my head away. He then proceeded to feel my ass and tried to get his hands inside my shorts to finger me. I pushed his arm away, in a downward movement, with my fist clenched. To this day I don’t know why I didn’t slap him and walk out of the house.
Instead we sat on the sofa and he continued to try and get in my shorts. I remember moving positions several times, to try to get his hands away from that area. In the end, he succeeded and I was lying on the sofa, he had his fingers inside of me. It wasn’t like he was trying to pleasure me, he just had his fingers inside me and continued to chat to me about general things.”
Kelly Anne describes another incident, “I had come over for a yoni massage. Instantly after I got there he was trying to fuck me. Then he went down on me and started to stick it in.” A yoni massage is a sacred healing massage that involves therapeutically touching a woman’s genitals. She said she felt sexually violated.
Stephanie Houser (not her real name) went to Thailand to work through issues related to having been raped twice several years before. She believed Agama would be a “safe and welcoming environment” to work through her pain and trauma. Like so many of the other women, Swami told her she “had a lot of sexual energy but that it is blocked” and that she would need “a few normal men to satisfy it.” She says he essentially told her “I could come to him and make love with him and he could help move those blockages for me.” It rattled her:
“I felt sick. I wanted to say how inappropriate that was, how I felt he was taking advantage of me and using this opportunity to manipulate my “weaknesses” and traumas into something that would bring him pleasure. I didn’t feel he actually cared about helping me figure out what was best for me, but instead thinking he knew what was best, which was to have me allow him to ‘fix me’ with his ‘lingam.’”
When she tried to leave he began telling her how beautiful, powerful and sexy she was and he kept pressuring her:
“And then he hugged me goodbye, and wouldn’t let go. He started caressing my back, kissing my head, despite the multiple times earlier that I told him I was not interested in being his lover or being ‘healed’ or ‘unblocked’ by him. I had already clearly said no. He didn’t listen, or if he did, he didn’t care what I wanted or didn’t want.
He then backed me against the door, with his hand against it so that I could not leave (I froze even more, as Swami is a very large man, and I was now feeling afraid he would force himself on me).
He leaned in (me still frozen and in total disbelief of the violation and power being so inappropriately used) and kissed me, sticking his tongue in my mouth.
I felt disgusted and completely violated. He penetrated me when I said no, not with his ‘lingam,’ but with his force and tongue. He then started to try and lift my skirt and touch my inner thigh, and that’s when I snapped out of it.
I told him no, I was not interested, ducked under his arms, and said I’d like to leave now.”
She said the encounter left her feeling “gross, violated, unclean, and like a disposable item.” It “tainted” her “trust in Tantra teachers,” and she questioned what Tantra even was after that. She wondered how “a true teacher of Tantra could use sexuality in such a manipulative way.”
Another student recounts an almost identical experience to Kelly Anne’s. She also had communicated to Swami her intentions for coming over and that she really needed his advice about emotions she was experiencing. She describes what happened:
“The door opens just a small amount and he pushed me against the door and his fingers were inside of me. It took me minutes to push his body away. His hand was still in me. I was afraid that if I fully rejected him that he would fully overpower me and push me, hurt me, or slap me. That’s been my experience with other men.”
“The first time I ever went with him, was also during a meeting that was meant to be to talk about the issues I was having at the school at the time. He was not interested at all in talking about anything with me. Instead he did a music meditation with me to feel all my chakras. After that he sat me on the sofa and stuck his finger inside me and because I was aroused he took me into his bedroom to have sex.”
“We met at his office and I explained to him that my decision about not seeing him for sexual appointments anymore was final and that I do not want to be having sex with him anymore. He looked at me and said that I should stop pretending, that I know I wanted it, then he grabbed me by my waist and he sat me in his lap. He started kissing me and he pulled my knickers to the side and entered me. No man has got the right to violate any woman’s spoken boundaries to such an extent.”
One former senior staff member and teacher who had slept with Swami previously claims that he anally raped her. She says that she never even wanted to sleep with him to begin with but after years of him breaking her down she finally conceded. She describes what happened:
“I was in bed with him, and he just turned me over and shoved it in. It hurt like hell and didn’t ask if I wanted it but he kept going. It was only after I’d left the school and looked back at that incident that I actually realized it was rape. It was absolutely not consensual. It was violent and painful.”
Another staff member, who had also slept with Swami previously, shares an almost identical story of being anally raped by Swami:
“He grabbed me and threw me on the bed. He didn’t say anything. There was no talking. He pulled my pants down and he shoved his dick up my ass. He was shoving it violently. No lubrication. He kept shoving it and shoving it. I said “this is hurting me, this is hurting me.”
One woman says she “got all her courage up” one day to visit Swami in seek of support. “I told him everything; that I had issues approaching a man, that I felt sexually vulnerable & confused and that I need advice on how to heal and live healthy sexuality & relationship,” she said. She was “shocked how ‘blunt’ and not sensitive he was talking” to her. And like other women he told her she had a “big sacral chakra” and that she should be with a lot of men. When she tried to leave she says “he pulled me toward him and kissed me very abruptly” which left her “very shocked.” He told her he could help her heal if she went back. In hindsight she is really embarrassed that she did go back. “All I wanted was to live a healthy sexuality, and I thought he could help me heal.” She said that she expected to work together with him and that he’d “explain things to me or him to be very sensitive, but he only slept with me. I had to say that ‘I am his’ all the time and I felt so empty.” Other women also report that Swami would ask “are you mine?” and make them answer yes when they were orgasming. She says he then told her to get in touch with her desires and to “send him naughty text messages” which she did. “It all felt so wrong, but I thought I was only dealing with my blockages and the resistance was to be broken and behind it was happiness and freedom” she said.
A woman who went to see Swami for advice because her father was about to pass away says his first question was inquiring about how many lovers she had. He began teasing her for being too “picky” with men she said. Swami told her to have lots of lovers and claimed to have read the impurities in her chakras. It all appeared strange to her as it was completely unrelated to why she went to see him. On the way out she says “he grabbed my bum, reminding me about sex.” She felt “disturbed and unsatisfied” after the meeting and soon left the school.
A former student says she “did not get any support” from Swami and her “concerns and my questions were always ignored.” She said he was someone who “did not care nor show any respect towards” her. She describes how every time she went to him for guidance he only wanted sex. He wasn’t willing to address her “sexual questions or concerns” and she found it “very damaging” she says. Her attempts to discuss her feelings with him fell flat as she claims he just “dismissed” and “talked over” her.
Another former student told me she found the overall environment at Agama exploitive and that the Swami “often asked me to have sex with him.” He told her “it would benefit me to experience his Tantra master energy and that I had this power that needed to be matched by someone experienced like him.”
After telling Swami about a crush she had on a teacher he advised Jessica Rose to “go for it” despite knowing that teacher was in a monogamous relationship. “You can have anything you want” he told her. His direction was to masturbate while thinking about the person she had a crush on and audio record it. He told her to scream his name while she was orgasming. Swami wanted the audio recording himself so he could “analyze it” she told me. She was hesitant about doing it and told him it sounded like dark sex magic. But he convinced her and she went along. After sending Swami the recording she immediately felt like she shouldn’t have done it.
One woman who tested positive for chlamydia after having sex with Swami says that he told her she “psychologically created” the STI. He tested positive as well but told her she needed to ask permission to tell anyone else. Women were not warned by him she said, despite that fact that he did not use condoms during sex. I’m told that numerous women got Chlamydia at Agama.
According to the staff and students who have come forward it was common for Swami to often grab women’s buttocks, touch them without consent and tell them they were beautiful, and send flirty text messages. After having only met Swami twice, a new staff member expressed how weird it was when her boss and director of the center sent her text messages such as “5 cervical orgasms in a row will blow your Virgo reservations to the moon,” and “I will love to see you have some massive surprises that will shatter your rational character.” He would often tell staff and students, “I’m open to it,” referring to sex. Women report that despite clearly stating that this type of behavior crossed their boundary and made them uncomfortable he would continue it. Sometimes Swami would try for years to sleep with a student or staff member. One woman says he regularly put her down and “constantly chipped away at my confidence and undermined me” in order to have sex with her.
Senior Agama Teachers
There are complaints of sexual assault and rape about other Agama teachers as well. Swami’s most senior students are Somananda (Moses Maimom) and Muktananda Mistry (Khushru Mistry). Serkan Temel is an advanced teacher who opened Agama Linz in Austria. They’ve all been accused of sexual misconduct.
One woman who went to a yoni massage with an Agama teacher says he pulled out his penis and told her she could touch it while telling her they could take things further. A former staff member describes one of her experiences with Agama staff, “I had one senior teacher come over to my house and penetrate me without my consent when I was in an altered state and really vulnerable. I came to my senses and threw him off me half way through.”
Somananda is one of Swami Vivekananda Saraswati’s most senior Agama teachers. He’s been studying with him since 1999. He claims to have reached self-realization. Several former Agama employees and students explained to me that Somananda was pushed off the island by Swami after being accused of rape as a way to hush the situation. Sophie Bekkering, the woman who experienced the alleged rape, describes what happened. It occurred during a yoni massage, she says:
“I had my eyes closed the whole time trying to go inward and focus on my sensations in an attempt to drop in. However all of a sudden I felt something inside my yoni that felt very different then a finger. As I open my eyes and I see Somananda (completely undressed all of a sudden) who was now penetrating me. I was completely in shock and felt absolutely frozen. He did not use a condom and did not say a word, or gave me any warning or any other signs that would make me see this coming in any way.”
When Bekkering reported the incident to Swami he said “that he didn’t believe it happened this way” she said. “He implied that I was ‘asking for it’ and said that I needed to have lots of sex because I had a lot of confusion in my Svadhisthana.”
Somananda currently runs one of the largest tantra massage schools in the world which is publicly affiliated with Agama.
Serkan Temel is a senior teacher who runs the Agama Yoga School in Linz Austria. An Agama teacher and former co-worker describes an incident in Linz where Serkan forced her into having sex:
“I told him a couple times I did not want him to be sexual. I had told him for weeks that I did not want to be sexual with him…I would tell him cuddling is ok, but I do not want to have sex. He said okay and stopped. Then a few moments later he would start again, trying to get his hand in my pants, pulling his pants down. After asking him to stop and pulling his hand away several times, I push his whole body away physically. I told him ‘Serkan, I really do not want to, can you please just stop it.’ I tried with logic. He replied with the argument that we are a tantric school. I got angry to the extent that I got louder and tried to push him away more strong. But at that point he had already wrapped his arms strongly around me. He didn’t respond to my clear and repeating no’s.”
She felt helpless and out of options with a larger man on top of her, overpowering her. She contemplated physically hurting him to get away but quickly thought of both the immediate and longer term consequences of that at the school. Despite her repeated attempts to both physically push him away and say no numerous times she finally relented.
“I turned around to my side (so I wouldn’t have to face him) and let him have sex with me. I was frozen and didn’t make a sound. I didn’t move and didn’t make any moans. I didn’t even dare to breath. I just wanted it to be over. I tried to disconnect as much as possible from my body. When he was finished I felt disgusted. I laid frozen there. He fell asleep. As soon as I could move again and I knew he was asleep I got out of bed and left. I quietly gathered my stuff, packed it downstairs and ran home 20 minutes at 1am. I took 3 showers. I felt sick. I cried. I didn’t quite understand what happened. I didn’t understand for months.
When I saw him the next day, he hugged me and whispered in my ear ‘that was so hot last night when you really didn’t want to have sex and I just took you despite it.’ I was shocked, I was speechless. I felt deeply disgusted by him and myself.”
She also described an incident while working in Linz where she was approached by Serkan and Ram Avnur, another advanced teacher, in a “very predatory like way.” She says she was “completely overwhelmed by the situation” and that she “got really scared.” She told them “no, I’m working right now”and but they continued to pursue her. She describes what happened:
“I couldn’t get out of the situation (at least I was convinced so), so it was either Serkan or Ram. I felt more comfortable with Ram, less endangered. It sounds weird but Serkan kept touching me, so I literally just buried my face in Ram to get away from Serkan. Serkan started rubbing himself against me, playing with himself and masturbating against me so I tried to get away from him by getting closer to Ram.”
Serkan then took a selfie while she was performing oral sex on Ram in the background:
“Serkan said ‘this is such a cool Agama teachers meeting. We should take a picture and send it to Mukta.’ I thought he was joking. When I looked he was taking a selfie with me and Ram in the background. I was really shocked. I didn’t realize what was going on. And then, without anything he sent it to Mukta. I was so shocked. I immediately stopped. I realized what the fuck, what am I doing here, I don’t like any of these actions, this is so against any of my boundaries, I feel so uncomfortable, I don’t feel safe at all. I feel really endangered right now.”
A former Agama staff member recalls when Ram Avnur made sexually offensive comments to her. She said that during a group conversation, “he started being vulgar in a sexual way, and he announced to me, and in front of the other people, that he would like to get a glass bottle and shove it up my yoni.” On another occasion Ram told Swami in front of her that “she is a dirty little slut.” She says “Swami just nodded at him” and they left.
Muktananda Mistry is one of the most senior Agama teachers. He has been studying with Swami for over 16 years. He has been a principle defender of Swami when allegations surface, claiming that he has witnessed cruel rumors being spread about him over the years. He has told Agama students they should look within first and take care of their own issues before accusing Swami.
One student says she felt Muktananda took advantage of her in a vulnerable moment after she collapsed in yoga class. She says he suggested she come talk about it with him at his house and he then began being sexual with her. She said she only wanted to talk about what had happened in class but ended up having sex with him. She felt like he took advantage of her altered state.
When Jessica Rose, the woman allegedly assaulted by Swami while she was inebriated, spoke with Muktananda about her concerns of having been violated by Swami he twisted and manipulated her account she says. He told her, “The demons always come and test you. The demons take over. They were puppeting you to test you with Swami. He could have sent you home or act in that moment.” She told me Muktananda “was suggesting that Swami put his penis in me to get the demons out.” He also told her “The more you tell other people, the more you will attract bad things.” Muktananda told her “I’m your friend.” He said “all these people are just blind and only seeing the surface level, they’re not seeing the causal level of what happened with Swami.”
An insider also told me, “it is known by a select few in the community that Muktananda has been accused of rape and was detained in prison in India.”
One Agama staff member says that Muktananda sent her several unsolicited “dick pics” over the years of being there. And other women spoke about additional predatory type behavior against them by Muktananda and Ram as well.
On one occasion Muktananda referred to the Agama yoga teachers as “our bitches” while laughing and claiming he and Agama can get them to “do whatever they want them to do because they are so desperate to get some teaching experience.” A former staff member told me this was in regards to her wondering how they’d fill the extra teaching slots needed after a scandal erupted and many staff members had left. She said this lack of gratitude and willingness to manipulate Agama teachers was “sickening” to her.
Muktananda has also stated “I disagree with the #MeToo movement” claiming that women were “playing too much the victim.”
Swami’s Guru: Gregorian Bivolaru
Swami’s spiritual teacher is the infamous Romanian yoga guru Gregorian Bivolaru, founder of MISA (Movement for Spiritual Integration in Absolute). It is perhaps the largest tantric yoga school in the world. In 2003, he was sentenced to six years in prison for having sex with an underage girl. He has been accused of “coercing or seducing hundreds of vulnerable women into producing hard-core porn videos,” some of which were allegedly underage. An article in the DailyMail claims that he “promised tantric illumination in exchange for sex with virgin girls as young as 15” and reveals that former members claim he was carrying out an Indian myth that said if you have sex with 1,000 virgins you will achieve enlightenment. Former members claim his yoga students would send him photos of girls that he would have sex with that had their birthdate on the back of the picture. Agnes Arabela Marques, who had sex with Bivolaru when she was 15, and was in a relationship with him at the time said, “In his apartment, there were constantly girls that were there to have sex with him” and that they’d rotate out every week. An article in the Huffington post includes statements from former members who say teenage girls are recruited into the group and “are slowly drawn into a series of deepening and more compromising personal commitments, frequently backed up by written contracts that the members are led to believe have the force of law.”
A Culture of Abuse and Denial at Agama
Members of the community testify to a culture at Agama of rampant sexual misconduct, abuse and boundary violations. When incidents are reported to senior staff women have been victim blamed. Or at best, small, incremental changes are made which have little to no real impact on the abuses occurring a source says. Swami and other senior teachers and staff will dismiss complaints as being “ego based” or “drama.” People who speak out have been referred to as impure or not advanced. Others have been told bad karma will come to them. There is no official, company process to receive, document and deal with complaints from what I understand.
One former staff member testifies to the exploitative environment she found herself in at Agama. She says she had her “tits and ass grabbed without consent hundreds of times, included being pinned down and assaulted regularly in public, often by senior teachers.” She says “there’s continual incidents of sexual assault and rape by senior teachers” at Agama.
Some women were told they need to be better “tantric women” when they expressed their boundaries or refused sexual advances.
When Jessica Rose reported the incident of being sexually violated by Swami to the general manager, she victim blamed her, “There was no part of her that thought it was wrong” she told me. She said “it was you who broke your tapas [of drinking]. You offered yourself to him. It is very easy to put the blame on others.” Jessica told me that the general manager was “saying this was my fault.”
Ananda Maha (Dr. Mihaiela Pentiuc), the director of the yoga therapy teacher training program and a trained doctor, has “turned a blind eye to every abuse, often even sending women to him saying ‘he’s the best at what he does’” an insider said. Maha has a 20+ year relationship with Swami which began as sexual and is now platonic.
Justine Baruch, another senior teacher, runs the Agama Tantra Initiationtraining program and has taught there for 15 years. The same inside source as above says she “has also turned a blind eye, even blaming the women for having issues. Many women have gone to her only to receive no empathy and the hardline — its your projections onto swami — you have to deal with it. I was told yesterday she also has a pile of testimonials of which nothing was ever done with.”
Other women who report to senior teachers about Swami’s behavior have been told that he “was doing this for the benefit of a woman to use their full potential” a former staff member said.
Swami has threatened students who speak up to him or others in the community about the abuse they are experiencing. One former member says she’s heard him say he can get people’s legs broken if he wanted. He tells them they are under the influence of “demonic influences,” and speaking out equates to “terrible spiritual crimes” that will incur “infernal consequences for many lives to come.” He also has accused women of creating a relationship with him that is based on “egocentric neurosis.” All of these actions will be “dearly paid karmically” he has told them. Anyone who continues will be subject to “further demonic influence.”
There are many negative reviews about Agama on TripAdvisor which warn potential students about Swami and the exploitative culture that surrounds him. You can read a few of them here: Sexual Manipulation of the Shakti’s, Beware of Fake Gurus and The Dark Underbelly of Agama. One former staff member told me that when she asked other Agama staff about the reviews they made excuses by downplaying them or dismissing them as coming from crazy or loose canon women. Yet the negative reviews all echo the claims made by those I’ve spoken with.
It’s also important to note that many have studied and trained at Agama over the years have deeply benefited from the trainings, yoga classes and community created by the school on Ko Pha-ngan.
Deeply Entrenched Patriarchy
From the numerous accounts I’ve received about the school, it is steeped in a deeply patriarchal view of women and sexuality. One former staff member, Ryan (not his real name), who worked and taught there for six years, told me that Swami has stated “Women are fundamentally inferior on the spiritual path” and that “men are fundamentally superior — which is why there are so many more saints, enlightened beings etc who are men throughout history.” He also said Swami claims men achieve awakening through samadhi (meditative consciousness) whereas women achieve it through sex. At Agama they teach men to not use condoms because it “disrupts the flow of energy” he said. Ryan also told me that women could get almost unlimited time with Swami and men could get almost none. Men are encouraged to use “pickup artist” tricks from The Game and other things such as “negging.” When Ryan asked Swami about the Agama rule against teachers sleeping with level I students he replied “you’re a man, she’s a woman, nothing else matters.” Ryan said the “rule” is almost universally ignored. He said he knew Swami was sleeping with at least four women in the teacher training that he coordinated.
There also have been men at Agama who have spoken out against abuse over the years. They have defended victims, raised awareness and fought for what’s right. While there are deeper systemic problems, many individuals, both men and women have tried to do the right thing. The problem is that no real change has been implemented.
A Counselor Speaks Out
Susan Kirk (not her real name) is a counselor who has had many former Agama students referred to her. Over the years she heard numerous accounts of trauma, sexual assault and abuse:
“I have been approached by women in or formerly in the community who are suffering or who have suffered assault, harassment, violation, trauma & retraumatization. I have done sessions working through violations ranging from rape, non-consensual touch, coercement, psychological manipulation and boundary violations. Victims are usually too afraid to report incidents for fear of retribution from the school or community. They worry that the Thai Police are part of the circle and won’t take their report seriously or that their safety will be threatened. Silencing or ‘shushing things up’ I’ve seen happen a few times — the most serious one when Somananda had non-consensual sex with a woman while doing yoni massage. He quickly left the island. Another one was a woman who went into psychosis after having group sex with several male student/teachers. She had to be put into hospital, she was in such bad condition.
It appears the school diminishes, minimizes and silences victim experiences. I’ve had women say to me that they are told it’s their fault that and they have brought the assault or violation onto themselves in some way. It is clear people are being awarded teaching certificates and qualifications that put them in places of power which are then abused by some.”
In reference to the Thai police and government connection to Agama, one former senior staff member said that Swami told her and another staff member in a meeting that he was paying off the authorities. When someone told Swami they couldn’t just put up promotional stands all over the island he said they “shouldn’t worry about that too much as enough money is being paid and that it will cover it and added that actually he could buy himself underage Thai girls for sex and do whatever he wants with them if he wanted and he would be covered.”
A former staff member who worked closely with Swami for years says that he has been banned from India, where he operated from for many years, because there were allegations of rape.
Reform or Revolution?
In 2015 many senior Agama staff members quit. It was one of several exodus’ that have apparently occurred every few years when the staff realized the type of place they are working at. A long email thread ensued where members of the community debated about a path forward amidst the numerous allegations against Swami and issues facing the community. A few incremental changes were made that had no real lasting power I’m told. After the last exodus in 2015 it was business as usual until 2017 when another group left.
Staff have tried to act and they’ve been stopped. A former staff member ended up leaving the school after her attempts to create change fell flat. When Swami denied engaging in inappropriate behavior anymore she asked him, “So you say you are not actively approaching women anymore and not touching them without consent, so how come you did both of that with me? How was I different?” She said “Swami didn’t answer my question, he just looked down and remained silent in his seat.” This occurred after a large travel booking platform contacted her to say they would no longer refer people to Agama because they’d received numerous complaints of sexual assault.
Susan Kirk, the counsellor quoted in this article, reflects on attempts to create change at the school:
“I’ve heard there have been many attempts at internal change which come and fail. It is not taken seriously and never gets up, never succeeds. People see the good things they get out of the school so they get attached and turn a blind eye to the shadow. There are many long term enablers there. Most of the long term senior teachers are enablers. Even those who think they want change are actually attached to the school so couldn’t bear it’s downfall.”
Sex scandals are nothing new to the yoga and tantra communities. Matthew Remski chronicles some of the latest yoga scandals in his latest article which exposed sexual abuse by Ashtanga Yoga founder Pattabhi Jois. Fueled by beliefs about unconditional devotion to the guru, claims of divine authority and deeply entrenched patterns of institutional denial, abusive gurus are able to get away with misconduct for years. Many of the women genuinely believed that what Swami was doing was Tantra and it left them confused and doubting what they’d otherwise know was harmful behavior. Mix in wounded spiritual seekers looking for love and healing and it’s a recipe for disaster.
The actions of Swami, Somananda, Serkan, Ram and Muktananda have had real, lasting impacts on the lives of those who have come to Agama for healing and transformation. Students and staff that I’ve spoken with suffer from PTSD, trauma, anxiety, low self esteem, flashbacks and other conditions. One former staff member says that many women’s lives have been ruined. She said “I was left emotionally wrecked, my confidence destroyed and my physical health was ruined for a long time.” People report showing up bright eyed and excited and then lose their friends, family and life, leaving the island a complete mess.
The people I spoke with for this article believe that Swami must step down and even suggested the school shut down. One former senior staff member told me “he needs to be in prison.” The most likely successors, Somananda and Muktananda would be very poor choices to take over they believe given their sordid history. Other potential successors, Ananda Maha and Justine Baruch, have played a central role in maintaining the status quo in the face of widespread abuse. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who could run Agama who is not tainted by the years of abuse that has gone on. Perhaps Agama’s days are coming to a close.
My request for an interview with Swami Vivekananda Saraswati had not been granted at the time of this publication.
Several women have come forward with stories of abuse by Neo-Tantra teacher Shantam Nityama who calls himself “The Divine Madman.” Women report being sexually violated by him during sessions and trainings. They describe a “sex cult” environment where Nityama’s inner circle of women recruit other women to have sex with him and pressure women during trainings to sleep with him. He teaches that AIDS and sexual diseases are an illusion so he doesn’t use a condom. Nityama has no lineage or teacher other than having spent time in Osho’s ashram. He lives in Australia in a home with ten women who service him sexually and work for free. He says several “crazy” women have lawsuits against him and he’d be arrested if he returned to U.S. says a former member.
NOTE: Shantam Nityama did not respond to my request for an interview.
[Each of these articles takes up to 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]
When Ashley Morgan (not her real name) went to Shantam Nityama for a healing session she believed it’d consist primarily of energy work based on what she had read on his website. She wanted to learn about tantra and had put a lot of trust in him given his status as a teacher.
Ashley said the session started immediately when he entered the room. He didn’t explain what would happen, discuss boundaries, ask her about her background or ask consent to touch her sexually. Rather, he walked in and began with a 30-minute “orgasmic hug.” They then moved to the bed where he used a variety of energy techniques along her spine and body. After about 3 hours he told her it was time to undress.
Once she got naked and laid on the table he consulted with his OBI’s (a Voodoo divination device) and then turned to her and said “Apparently I don’t need to penetrate you.” She was struck with confusion. “I was like ‘what?’” She had no idea what OBIs were. She didn’t know why he said he didn’t need to penetrate her. He asked her if she was married or had a boyfriend. She said he made it seem like he was trying to figure out why the OBIs said no penetration. During the session she says he sexually violated her.
“He did something with his tongue in my mouth. He put his tongue under my tongue. He then began kissing me on my mouth, neck, arms and was sucking on my nipples. As he was sucking on my arm he said ‘pretend it is your clitoris.’ He never asked or warned me. Nothing was explained before the session.
And then he put his fingers inside of my vagina without saying anything. I could feel he was trying to make me ejaculate and I did within five minutes of him pulsing my g-spot. When he entered my vagina, my system went to a “freeze state.” It was a bit like being in a shock. The moment I went on the table naked, I felt his energy was much more taking from me. I could feel like it’s not for me, it’s really for him. Again, none of this was explained nor did he ask consent to do any of it.”
Ashley was offered a free second session — something she is glad she did not agree to in hindsight. She learned later that this is when Nityama would often have sex with women. She said the first session served as a testing ground to groom her, steal her energy and plant his. She said it seemed how he determined if he thought a woman would eventually have sex with him.
Ashley’s account is one from several people who have come forward with stories of abuse by Nityama. They are speaking out now to warn other women of the potential dangers of working with him.
“He told us that during the tantric initiation the teacher plants his seed of transformation in you.” — former student
Video of Shantam Nityama
Kelly Jones (not her real name) told me she knew nothing about tantra and wanted to experience deep healing when she booked a session with Nityama on the advice of her friends. He didn’t explain anything to her about the session before hand she said.
“The first session consisted of energy work while I was laying on the table naked. I felt energy moving and tingling sensations and when I started to cry he said ‘don’t worry baby, I got you.’ I thought this was strange. He then put his tongue in my ear and said ‘are you afraid?’ to which I said ‘no.’
After this session I felt very sexually aroused and I would randomly have orgasms throughout the day. I would go to the supermarket and get wet for no reason days after the session. It was unexplainable. He would just pop in my mind.”
She says Nityama told her that she needed a second session and it’d be free — something she appreciated because she didn’t have the large amount needed (sessions can cost as much as $1,000).
“One day before the session he called me and told me ‘tomorrow I’m making love to you.’ He said that this was the path of initiation in Tantra. I paused and said ‘oh, ok.’
I was really nervous during the second session. He went down on me for a few minutes and then we had sex. It lasted for 7 hours. He stayed inside of me the entire 7 hours. The sex was not enjoyable in anyway. I felt a lot of energy moving but pleasure was not one of them.”
In explaining how he kept his penis inside of her for 7 hours straight she said she did not need to eat, drink, go to the bathroom or sleep. It “was strange” she said.
She became one of his lovers after this session. “Our relationship moved super fast. I felt so special and very loved. He said I had potential, I’m beautiful and was so powerful.”
Kevin Ness (not his real name) said that in a workshop he witnessed Nityama make a woman ejaculate during a hug. “He was starting to get her really aroused and she started ejaculating and then he moved aside and laughed at her for ejaculating in front of the group. She then burst in tears in shame. There was no support for her at all.”
“I could be on this side of the world and have a woman on Skype on the other side of the world and make her [ejaculate], make her shoot out across the room.” — Nityama
Sophia Brown (not her real name) hosted Nityama for a training in her home in 2017. She said a young 21-year old woman in the training had a healing session with him where he sexually penetrated her without her consent. She told Brown about it the next morning. “Hours into the session his dick came out and he penetrated her. She was so in a freeze. She allowed it to happen because she was so scared.”
Julia Reed went to Nityama for what she thought would be only an energetic healing and he ended up asking to kiss her and then berated her for not obliging.
“He talked to me and touched me, like a massage on my back, with clothes. But then he asked me if I was ready for my first kiss? No, I wasn’t. It was then that it started. He tried to frighten and manipulate me, telling me that I was weak, childish, that he could feel better what I needed and that if I didn’t have the courage to break through my boundaries, life would present me very difficult situations until I finally learned my lessons. He talked to me for hours and afterwards I realized that it was almost hypnotizing. It asked a lot from me to resist him. After all, he was famous and highly recommended by people I trusted (Sasha Cobra).”
Coercing Women into Sex
“He’s taking my energy. He’s wanting something from me. I felt that the most when he made me ejaculate.” — former client
When Kelly Jones was part of the group and assisting Nityama she said she’d help recruit women to have sex with him. She recalled a story during a training when he told the women they could have sex with him to clear the past energy of men they had slept with.
“Nityama told us that the energy of every man that women have sex with is stuck with them for life. He said ‘If it is a crazy man you become crazy, if it is a nasty man you become nasty.’ And he then says there are two ways to deal with this: you could not have sex for 7 years or you can have sex with an IFA priest. ‘Everything is gone after having sex with an IFA priest’ he said. Nityama claimed he was an IFA priest, but I know he was only a student. I noticed women became concerned about the past men they had slept with.”
Nityama would end up sleeping with nearly every woman that came to that training she said. Many did not want to and were pressured into it by other members. Jones ended up talking some into having sex with him.
“One of the participants in the retreat came with his girlfriend and daughter. Nityama ended up having sex with the man’s daughter and girlfriend. This man was very confused. Nityama spooned his daughter in front of him. Touched her private parts in front of everyone. He cuddled on the floor, he put his hand on her chest like lovers. Her father walked in and he grabbed his plate and quickly walked out. A few days later Nityama had sex with her. I talked her into having sex with him. She told him ‘I’m not sure I want to. The OBI said no.’ He told her to check again she said.”
Jones told me she wasn’t the only one who pressured women into sleeping with Nityama. She said there was a group chat message where women would send pics of women they’d groomed to have sex with Nityama saying “this girl is ready.” His long-term partner of 15 years, Roxanna Minnona, would also pressure women she said. If they refused she would flip on them. “If you ever question Nityama she turns her back on you so fast.” She said she called her crazy and that she shouldn’t say no. One woman did not want to be sexual with Nityama but his assistant told her that she “needed a man that could lick” her and that was “strong enough for” her. When she kept refusing Jones said Nityama got harsh. He said ‘You know what you need, but you keep finding a reason to say no.’
Jones described how Nityama would groom women to have sex with him during his trainings. “He talked to each of them privately” she said. “He would talk intimately with a woman with his arm around her. And then the next night he’d take her up to his room.” She said “Every night we could hear everything. Screaming, moaning. Sometimes two women at a time.” Another woman said “During workshop breaks he’ll have sex with the women participants.” Jones said they all felt special when he approached them individually. “He hugged them and was moving the energy.” Jones said “Women had no idea this was going to happen to have sex with him. They just wanted to learn tantra. Along the way we were told ‘initiation’ was a part of it.” This was in the context of Nityama teaching them “Women are so jealous, selfish and want to take” and that “One of the ways to give back is by sharing love.”
Jones noticed that the day after the women would have sex with him she saw they had a “distorted look, one of emptiness, confusion and would often be crying in the corner.”
A former student told me Nityama tells them that “young woman should have sex with him for their first time. He told us he had sex with a 12-year old.” On another occasion a former student says a young 15–18 year young girl was brought into the group to have sex with him.
“I did a workshop in the UK on Skype. One of the women came up in front of the big screen. I was interacting with her and at a certain point I saw what was going on with her so I said ‘you just need to be made love to.’ I energetically made love to her in front of the women in the group. It was powerful because every woman in the room went into orgasm with her.” — Nityama
Inside the Trainings
“He would teach us all women are insane by default and the only thing that can save them is to have sex with him.” — former student
Several former students said Nityama’s trainings and workshops did not include very much substance. One person told me “He would just say anything would come to his mind.” There was apparently no structure, no method and no formal teachings. She said it was “Just whatever the mother wants” and “he’d tell stories.” The training started whenever he showed up in the morning and often they wouldn’t know when if at all if they’d have lunch. “Then he may just get up and take one or two of the girls to his room” she said. And “then in the afternoon we’d have plant ceremony.” Kevin Ness said Nityama “had no idea what the workshop was about” and he was “sitting there just talking about himself. Saying how could they be so stupid for asking these questions.” Ness said the main purpose of the training seemed to be Nityama recruiting people into a community to live with him. One student said that he told them “There are only 12 people on earth who really know about sex. He was one of them. That’s why we need to be grateful to have sex with him. He’d say a blow job is a token of gratitude.” Another student said they witnessed shouting and humiliation.
When there was content in his teachings former members told me it was a mash up of various things. While he claimed his teachings were unique and special his students traced them back to the Four Agreements, the science of being, the enneagram, human design and the polarity process among others.
“Women Are Horrible”
Marielle Spronck attended a “Tantra” workshop with Shantam Nityama and was so shocked at what he was saying that she figured he was joking. But he was serious. Within the first few minutes of the training he was berating women she told me.
“He told us how horrible women were and what kinds of bad things they did. He said he was the only one in the world who knew how to live. He said he was channeling the Mother and that the only way to be safe was for us to do what he told us. He even told us we are all stupid because no one was questioning him. When I did speak up he used my astrology and enneagram info to attack me. He was trying to shut me up. Everyone that said something, he would say the most horrible things about them so people don’t dare to speak up anymore.”
Because of her previous experience with another cultish “Tantra” group she left the training that same night and posted on Facebook to warn others:
“I was shocked that a teacher that is praised by so many rules his group like a manipulative dictator. Teaching by spreading fear and freeze reactions in people, making them feel stupid and afraid to speak up, turning around information and questions so that it suits him and shows that the people in the room are stupid and ignorant and in desperate need to learn from him as they are all blind. Horrible it was.”
In the workshop where Nityama made the woman ejaculate Kevin Ness said he also witnessed him berating people when they spoke. He was dismissing and judging people when they asked questions he said.
Kelly Jones echoed their experiences. She told me Nityama would teach “All women are insane by default and the only thing that can save them is to have sex with him. Women are so selfish and self-centered, we just take and never give. I didn’t want to be one of these women.” She said that this manipulation led women into wanting to be in service to him.
“I’m full blooded Native American on the quiet side. I’m actually a Yama, Yamasaw…All of a sudden I got tongue tied on the name…Yamasee nation. I’m a chief and shaman in that nation. That’s just a whole other side to my being here and my personalities.” — Nityama (source)
“No such thing as an STD”
A former lover said that Nityama held a variety of strange, un-scientific beliefs. She said that he taught that there was no such thing as STD’s and “that if you have an infection it’s your fault because of something you do.” He doesn’t use condoms either. She said he doesn’t believe gravity exists, the earth is flat and that he “doesn’t believe in any kind of science about earth. If we want to know the truth we have to watch the Matrix he told us.” She also said that “Nityama said when a woman is raped she is actually enjoying it.”
“Nityama said when a woman is raped she is actually enjoying it.” — former student
Jones said that Nityama asks women to smuggle drugs for him. They’d disguise weed in a variety of containers such as face cream. His followers would travel the world with weed and hash for him and the group.
“There is a woman assigned the task of rolling the joints. Weed, hash and tobacco. Students are expected to take turns smoking. If someone said maybe not now, others would pressure them “it will help you understand him better, tune in better, different vibration.”
On one occasion she said Nityama and his inner circle asked Jones to smuggle drugs internationally knowing that because of a unique circumstance she would have been searched. It was at that point that she realized they didn’t care about her she said and began the process of leaving.
One former student said that “drug use is rampant” in the group. Some used ayahuasca, San Pedro and weed/hash. She said Nityama’s drug usage has gotten worse over the years to where he is high all the time now — including during trainings.
Kelly Jones claims that Nityama sexually assaulted her by lacing her drink and making her really high.
“He said ‘Now that you’re high I have to have sex with you.’ He just pulled out his penis and shoved it inside of me. I thought it was consensual but I’m now aware it was not consensual. I never gave him my consent to put anything in my drink. No foreplay, no anything.”
Turning Lesbians Straight
Nityama says that after hugging a lesbian woman who had multiple orgasms during the hug that he had sex with her and made her straight. After that many of the “top lesbians” in the city called him with the request to have sex. He explains.
“One day the woman calls me and says ‘ever since I’ve been seeing you and meeting you and getting hugs I have become extremely confused. I’m wondering did I quit men before I ever met a man?’ She tells me ‘I want to pay you to make love to me because I want to settle this for myself once and for all.’ We made love and she came out of it totally orgasmic. She looked at me in the eyes and said “I am no lesbian.” Two days later I get a call and it’s the wife with the same request. By the time it was over 13 of the top lesbians in the city called me with the same request.”
“Sectarian Apocalyptic Cult”
“Nityama says the earth needs to be saved and he’s one of the only persons on this earth that can do this work.” — former student
Several former members describe Nityama’s group as a sex cult. There are numerous cult like dynamics in play. One former member said he uses “hypnotic languaging” to seduce people. The combination of really slow, methodical and monotonous speaking with confusing jargon that people don’t understand leaves people in a trance like state she said. It allows him to plant his ideas and makes the grooming process easier she said.
Jones said people were brainwashed into thinking he was god.
“There would be consequences if you spoke against him. He was the only god man assigned to heal women by the Mother. As a woman it’s our duty to serve him. When we had sex he’d say ‘now show me what the mother put in you to give me.’”
Jones was terrified of leaving the group. During sex he had told her “There will be no options” and “there’s no turning back.” He said “we are in this forever” and that I wouldn’t be “able to go back to my own life.” He would plant these ideas during sex with group members because it was when they were very open and vulnerable she said. “I’d bear the consequences of it all if I left.”
A former member says Nityama has women working and servicing him sexually in a home in Australia. They are not paid she said as “It is seen as a privilege to be in the ‘Buddha field’ created by Nityama.” She said he uses a “zero frequency” device called ZEB. “It makes you feel sleepy. It is a frequency that makes you more receptible to manipulation.”
“There were about ten women in the house last year being at his service for sex and having to do work and jobs as well. Some are residential, others come during the day. When he was there he would choose a woman every night to sleep with him.”
Kelly Jones said she began to see inconsistencies between what he teaches and practices. When she questioned them he’d get upset. “There were many red flags” she said. “He would tell me a story about a girl who he lived with and called her an ungrateful bitch. He said no period sex or any interaction with the opposite gender during periods, but would engage with women during their periods. Has five kids which he doesn’t take responsibility for. He used weed and hash a lot.” She said “In private he said I was psychotic. Tearing me down and building me up.” He would also berate her in front of others she said.
When Jones changed her mind about having group sex she said he became irate.
“He told me ‘You are weak, you are timid, you are fucked up in your mind. Women like you are messed up.’ He went on about not letting fear overcome me. I was wasting his time. I was feeling really scared. I just sat on the edge of the bed for three hours. Everyone changed on me. His assistant and his boyfriend became really cold.”
Jones is one of many women who has now left Nityama’s group. It wasn’t until she finally studied Tantra with a woman teacher that she learned what she had originally approached Nityama for. The healing journey has been long for her but she has made huge improvements. With sharing her story and the stories of other women Nityama can be prevented from abusing more people in the future.
After an expose chronicled numerous accusations of sexual assault and rape against teacher TJ Bartel, Source Tantra has defended him.No one at the school has beenwilling to take the allegations seriously or to condemn TJ’s actions, diminishing the trust and integrity of the organization.
After the publication of a widely shared article that exposed numerous accounts of rape and sexual assault by long time Source Tantra teacher TJ Bartel, the school’s leadership has defended him. Whereas many readers were shocked and outraged at the accounts of abuse in the article — with some not even being able to finish reading it — the school stood by their longtime employee and friend. Many in the tantra community were hoping for accountability, action and support for those impacted. Instead, founder Charles Muir and Source Tantra leadership seemed to further aggravate the situation by attacking the victims, the article and by supporting TJ. And now some have called for the school to shut down as a result.
In a statement about the article, Charles Muir seemed to blame the women victims who came forth, “Perhaps some of their anger was due to being removed from our school for their own transgressions with students.” And he also made excuses for TJ’s alleged rape and sexual assault, “TJ has made mistakes in the past two years, after suffering several seizures. He has learned from his mistakes and changed his practices.” One commenter was quick to point out “rape is not a mistake.” Muir also said, “TJ has not been an employee at our school this year.” Several people confirm that TJ recently taught at the September / October teacher training but he perhaps wasn’t technically an “employee” of the school. And finally, Muir praised TJ’s abilities, countering the claims of abuse about him, “I have supervised over 1000 sessions of TJ Bartel at my trainings. There have been no complaints and many breakthroughs.” Muir offered no compassion, empathy or concern for the victims who came forth. Nor did he express any interest in taking action about the allegations in the article.
Charles’ wife, Christy Rose Muir, who is staff at Source Tantra, also challenged the article. She said, “This article is poison” and it is “filled with fabrications.” Christy said I was “being totally dishonest.” She also said we all had no idea “what you have been drawn into” by one of the victims, who Christy Rose Muir said “winds up shitting on everyone who trusts her.” She also accused several of the victims of lying in the article. And she said to one commenter who was trying to raise awareness “You don’t care. You want blood. Admit it. It’s ok.”
Rima Bonario, who is TJ’s “accountability partner” — a supposedly objective voice to analyze TJ’s behavior — also criticized the article. She said “Women who claim false rape hurt women who are really raped.” She called the article a “smear campaign filled with falsehoods and unsubstantiated allegations.” Bonario also teaches with TJ and is co-leading an all women’s “Awakening the Goddess Within” retreat to Egypt with him where TJ will also be offering yoni massages.
Vice President Leah Alchin Piper did not respond publicly, but as stated in the previous article, several students accuse her of covering up and minimizing TJs and others abuse for years.
Alchin and TJ have been very close over the years and were former lovers. They also have worked together offering dual VIP intensives says a former student.
There has yet to emerge a voice at Source School of Tantra Yoga to take the allegations seriously or to publicly state that they will take action to address these types of behavior. No leader or school official has condemned TJs behavior yet or officially distanced themselves from him.
The Community Responds
After seeing the lackluster response from founder Charles Muir and Christy Rose Muir the community voiced their concerns.
Rodolfo Oliveira had hoped the school would have shown empathy and concern for the victims:
“Everyone seemed to hope for some kind of accountability, ownership even some sort of remorse? The behavior of the school has shown itself intensely traumatizing in the least, consistent in blaming victims and certainly this is criminal behavior. It’s time for charges to be pressed. Rape is a violent act. The men and women of source school need to be stopped. The way this woman Christy Rose Muir behaved in the commenting is intensely manipulative. It’s time for justice.”
A former Source Tantra student, Kevin Raines (not his real name), called for the school to close:
“Yes, it’s time for Source school to be shut down. People need to stop attending their workshops & trainings. People need to stop supporting Muir if he’s going to condone sexual misconduct by himself & his main male teachers.”
He went on to say that if the school really had integrity it would “be coming from a place of compassion & wanting to make things right. Healing things would be the priority.”
Tantra educator Tanja Diamond agreed that Source should close and expressed dismay at them not standing up:
“It’s appalling that Source School is not addressing the fact one of their senior teachers, TJ Bartel, has been called out as a serial rapist. In fact their staff and associates have been engaged in harassing and intimidating the victims and this has to stop. It’s a crime to allow the school to continue, it needs to be shut down before more people are hurt.”
Caroline Carrington — a former Source Tantra student and current NeoTantra educator — also chimed in on her concerns with the school.
“Source School of Tantra Yoga staff have been complicit in protecting the abusers. Victims and anyone asking too many questions have been manipulated, gaslit, threatened and told they were troublemakers. Many people have been talking privately for years to Source Tantra to ask for accountability. When our requests were repeatedly ignored, it felt imperative to speak out so the public can be informed to prevent others from being harmed.”
One commenter wrote, “It is depressing that people are so prone to protect abusers, not their victims.”
Another expressed their disgust over the situation:
“I am horrified and sickened after reading what has happened to these women who trusted these teachers, healers and school. How men in positions of power, think that they can violate women/men like this, as though their behavior is normal, acceptable and of benefit to the women/men that they are abusing surpasses my comprehension.”
These are just a handful of the widespread critical responses that have emerged since the sex abuse scandal broke.
Source Tantra Loses Credibility
In today’s heightened climate, if an organization or business does not take allegations of rape and sexual assault seriously they will lose their integrity and credibility and risk their existence. This is even more true and important for a school that is centered on sexual healing. Having clear, enforceable polices for misconduct is how a healthy foundation is established. Without this, a school like Source Tantra risks their future.
The questions Source Tantra will have to answer now are: Why would anyone feel safe at the school if they continue to work with people accused of sexual assault and rape? Why would students trust the leadership when they do not take sexual misconduct seriously? If a student is abused, how can the public be assured their complaints would be heard given the schools history of gaslighting and abusing victims and their supporters?
Multiple women have accused Source School of Tantra Yoga teacher TJ Bartel of sexual misconduct. The allegations include rape, sexual assault, violation of boundaries, forceable kissing and manipulation. Women also report that he allows clients to perform oral sex on him and have sexual intercourse during yoni massage sessions. Source Tantra founder Charles Muir and Vice President Leah Alchin Piper are accused of enabling and covering up the abuse. Charles Muir teaches that you cannot get STI’s and do not need to wear gloves in sessions if your vibration is high enough. Also, many Source teachers have sex with their students and clients, although they publicly teach this is not ok.
[Each of these articles takes up to 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.]
UPDATE: Charles Muir has read the article. He said TJ has made mistakes and learned from them and that there have been no complaints about the sessions he has overseen. Muir expressed no concern or empathy for the victims and said they may be angry for being removed from the school due to their own “transgressions.”
In light of multiple sexual abuse allegations against senior teacher TJ Bartel, the Source School of Tantra Yoga (SSTY) has publicly stated they terminated their relationship with him. In April, 2018 founder Charles Muir stated online that he was fully aware of the situation and that TJ had been removed. Muir’s executive assistant — providing me a statement via an email thread that included Muir — said “TJ is not teaching at our seminars this year. He has not worked at the School since January 2018 in Thailand.” Source’s claim is contradicted however, by several people who saw Bartel teaching at the recent level III teacher training in September / October. They said he was there, on stage, giving sessions and promoting his new book, course and clothing line. Several people confirm an email was sent to students that said TJ would be the tantric healer or “Daka” during the training. When I asked Muir and his assistant about the discrepancy I did not receive a response.
According to TJ’s bio, his relationship with Source Tantra extends back to 2004. He is Charles Muir’s most long-term senior student and close friend a former student says. Some refer to TJ as a “Daka to the stars” given his celebrity / Hollywood clientele. Bartel taught at many of their trainings over the years, serving to bolster the school’s reputation as the pioneer in the modern Tantra education movement. Founded by Muir in 1978, Source Tantra has played a central role in popularizing ecstatic and sexual awareness practices and healing techniques. Some in the tantric community refer to Muir as the “grandfather of the modern tantra movement.”
Victims and their supporters allege that Muir and vice-president Leah Alchin Piper (Muir’s student turned lover, now separated) have downplayed and minimized the allegations over the last several months. They claim that Source Tantra is complicit with enabling Bartel’s abuse. A former student says that TJ is central to their trainings and revenue stream. Muir even told one person that her efforts to raise awareness would bring her bad karma as he “invoked the law of sevenfold effect.” He also told her that her “friends” should take lie detector tests because the victims were lying.
When Source Tantra student Palki Mawar told Charles Muir and Leah Alchin Piper of her sexual assault by TJ she says they acknowledged it was wrong but failed to act at the time. She says he told her that TJ “is still learning” and was shocked when Muir made TJ the lead teacher at a Boston workshop despite the acknowledged assault. Mawar claims Alchin put the onus on her and suggested she needed to forgive TJ. When she said she wasn’t feeling forgiveness Alchin told her “we’ll have to see if level II tantra teacher training is right for you then.” TJ was still scheduled to teach in that training. Later, during a meeting in which TJ was present with Mawar, she says that all Muir did was merely remind TJ that he was not using intake forms during sessions. There was no reprimand or action taken.
If you have a story of abuse by TJ Bartel, Charles Muir or Source Tantra please contact me at [email protected]
Critics point out that Muir and Source Tantra have evaded and avoided taking real action against perpetrators. In response to an incident of sexual assault by a different Source Tantra teacher, Muir publicly sided with the man and posted in his defense on Facebook. After calling out a Source Tantra Daka for abuse, Heather Rhea Dawn says she was punished by Charles by being removed from the Source Tantra Facebook group and a Meetup group. When Caroline Carrington tried to raise awareness about an abusive Source teacher, vice-president Leah Alchin Piper told her to “stay in your own lane” she says. She said Alchin told her that her efforts were “creating more discord” and removed her from the approved list of Certified Tantra Educators listed on the Source Tantra website, even though this is offered to all graduates of the teacher training program.
Accusations of Abuse
“The practitioners should be in service to the needs of the student or client and get their own needs meet elsewhere.” — Caroline Carrington
The eight women who share their stories of sexual abuse by TJ below echo a similar pattern of misconduct which took place during yoni massages. His sessions cost up to $900 per session. The victims claim the sessions were oriented around TJ’s pleasure, not their healing. TJ rarely if ever used an intake form or asked about the women’s needs or desires for the session they say. The sexual misconduct accusations include rape, sexual assault, violation of boundaries, manipulation, forceable kissing and sexual engagement during sessions. Several women claim that TJ positioned his genitals in their face for most of the session. Some women report that TJ was naked during the session — a violation of Source Tantra’s policy as they require men to keep underwear on. Two say that TJ told them he allows women to give him oral sex or to stroke him during sessions and others say TJ has sexual intercourse. And just like his mentor Charles Muir, TJ believed he was immune to STIs.
Palki Mawar went to TJ for a yoni massage in 2017 at his home in Topanga Canyon. She told me he raped her during the session.
“I looked up and noticed him standing on his knees with his penis hard against my yoni without underwear. He poured very warm coconut oil on his chest that dripped over my yoni and he said that ‘these are advanced techniques.’ He slid his penis in me with a condom on. I had no idea this was going to happen nor did I consent to it. It lasted about five minutes and he came inside of me.”
Palki described the trauma it left her with.
“It messed me up completely. All of my childhood trauma was magnified by it. It was a realization of being raped on the level of my soul. Somehow it was more painful than the pain of childhood sexual abuse. Simply because this man posed as a yoni worshipper, and a healer and protector of women.”
Later, Mawar emailed TJ looking for answers as to why he penetrated her during the session. She said he emailed her and said that he felt there was something more between them in the moment. She recalled what he wrote:
“I felt like it meant more. I felt a sense of familiarity and you had a deep poise. It felt like a blessing for both of us. You looked like a Dakini from a poster of mine. You seem like a woman who doesn’t hesitate to grab what she wants.”
She told me all of these feelings were “in his own imagination.”
Kara McNealy (not her real name) had a yoni massage session with TJ where he was completely naked and used his penis on her body she claims. She also claims TJ penetrated her without consent.
“He told me that he found me attractive, that I was “his type” and proceeded to work without underwear on, using his lingam [penis] on my body and genitals. During this session he said ‘I can’t help myself.’
She said he told her that he only chose to not wear underwear during a session for “people he felt drawn to” like he did with her. In a later session she says TJ sexually violated her.
“In one exchange, I was receiving from TJ, and he penetrated me without consent, without a condom. I was shocked and surprised.”
And when she tried to confront TJ about what happened he was not available. “The insult to injury for me was that I attempted several times to handle it as an adult with TJ afterwards, I called, I texted, letting him know that I needed to speak with him about the integrity breach. He said, ‘I know’ but never made himself available for this even with my several attempts.”
Erin Grace (not her real name) had a yoni massage with TJ in which she claims he exposed himself to her naked and “rammed himself” into her from behind, without physically penetrating her.
“I was still on the bed and moving in ecstasy with waves of orgasms when he returned in his short robe and he laid the opposite way to me with no shorts on and exposing his balls and cock to me and began stroking my legs so I stroked his legs and said I want to keep feeling this orgasmic. I thought to myself he is letting me touch him and is this allowed? He went back into the bathroom and I followed. He then bent me over and from behind rammed himself into me. Even though he didn’t physically put his cock inside me I could energetically feel him inside of me. My energy rose and he pushed my face into the mirror over the sink as he rode me into a higher state. All I wanted was to feel more and more and I also didn’t understand if this was part of the session as it felt very different. He lead me into the bedroom and I said I don’t feel grounded, I feel like I am flying and my whole body is shaking and vibrating and I feel electric and uncontrollable. He tries to hold my feet to ground me and said our session is over. I feel confused and high as I start to dress. I said how much do I owe you he said his price and I could barely get the money out as he headed me to the door and said goodbye.
I wasn’t in my body fully and I felt fear and confusion rise as to what had just happened. I felt shame and cried as I tried to find my own hotel room as to how I would explain this to my fiancé. Our session was over 4 hours and was only supposed to be 2. I wondered was this my fault for flirting for touching him for feeling so much pleasure and for wanting more of it.”
In July 2015 Irina Lapshina received a yoni massage from TJ in which she claims he penetrated her with his penis while it was still in his boxers.
“During a yoni massage he put his penis in me pretty far even though it was still in his boxers. He would just enter me and leave it there and pulse it. He did this without my consent. He kept it there for a few minutes at a time for about three different times during the session. I was really confused. He told me he was doing it for my healing. I’m kind of ashamed to admit it now but I saw him as a glorified teacher and that’s why I didn’t say anything. During the session his penis was often in front of my face and he encouraged me to touch it and play with it. He also kissed me all over and said I could kiss him back anywhere I wanted. I got a sense it really was up to me how far I wanted to take it, and I didn’t want to take it far. I wanted to heal, not to have sex with my Daka.
I literally cried for two days non-stop after the session. I realized that I was forking over money to this guy and he was not providing any valuable service to me at all.”
She said he told her that he couldn’t get sexually transmitted diseases:
“He also told me he’s immune to STD’s despite having slept with ‘thousands of women in his life.’ He’s quite proud of his ability to ward off diseases with a strong aura and good intentions. He doesn’t believe he can get an STD, or any physical illness for that matter. Later I found out he had been treated for STD’s, and not too long ago was hospitalized for exhaustion.”
During a session she said that he never did an intake and for twenty minutes before the session he talked about himself and his business plans and showed her around the house. “He was not interested with anything about me, nothing that pertained about the session. I wanted to scream ‘I am the paying client! Why am I here to listen to your business plans?’” she told me.
Tantra educator Heather Rhea Dawn went to TJ for a yoni massage in 2015. Like many other women she reports that TJ pressed his erect penis against her vulva, kept his groin close to her face and was open to sexual interaction after sessions.
“He was grinding on me with his underwear on. He was grinding his lingam against my vulva. He kept putting his groin really close to my face. I wasn’t sure if he had wanted a blow job. His groin was always close to my face except when he was grinding on me. When we cuddled at the end he put his hand right close to his lingam, I think one or two of my fingers were touching his lingam. I was feeling like he wanted me to touch him. I finally was like ‘I’m not doing this.’ Then he just fell asleep curled up next to me for the next two hours.”
“I felt the session was all about him in the way that he was determined to make my body do what he wanted it to do, as he was focused on grinding, me having amrita (squirting) — as he is known for that — and me stroking him afterward. I left feeling drained from the session and shocked.”
When TJ woke up she asked him about his unorthodox techniques. He told her “oh you’re a Dakini I figured you could handle it.” When she asked him about why he made her hand touch his penis he said “Some women want to give me a blow job afterward or stroke me as a way of giving back to me.” She looked at him and said “you let them give you a blow job?” He said “yeah.”
Kelly Bentham (not her real name) says that TJ performed oral sex on her without her consent during a yoni massage and gave her genital herpes.
“He didn’t ask my permission and I never asked for him to do it. He licked my pussy. He had a sore on his lip and gave me HSV1 (Herpes). I would find out years later that multiple students accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior.”
Genital herpes is something she has to live with everyday of her life and it impacts her relationships greatly she told me.
In 2017 Heather Gold (not her real name) experienced significant trauma after what she describes as a sexual assault by TJ. She went to him for a yoni massage and was told it would be hands only, but he tried to make out with her several times, pressed his erect penis against her vagina and laid his whole body on top of her she says. She also thought it was strange that he showed up to the session in only his boxers.
“As the session went on, he began using his body as well as his hands, laying on top of me. Several times he tried to kiss me on the mouth. I felt vulnerable and completely froze. I was embarrassed to stop the session as it had been set up as an experience where you’re supposed to ‘let go.’ If I stopped I felt like I would be failing. Also each transgression happened incremental, I kept letting it slide. In my head I kept justifying each progressive action and thought my body language, by turning my head away, expressed I did not want to engage in a reciprocal sexual way. At one point he tried to force my mouth open with coconut oil. Then he pressed his erect penis up against my vagina. Sadly I let the session continue, being somewhere else in my head. Though it wasn’t particularly enjoyable and actually hurt, I was brought to orgasm. I wish I had stopped because I feel like this set the trauma deeper.”
Afterwards she slipped into a depression for around 6 months and began experiencing “many strange feelings” which she later learned were “trauma reactions.” The experience left her with long term trauma that she hasn’t been able to get rid of. It’s still negatively effecting her relationships she says.
“It severely fucked me up…I’m still having abnormal sexual reactions, or non reactions, and it’s nearly a year later. I feel like I have had a healthy sex life stolen from me. Because of the nature of experiencing this trauma in association with having an orgasm I have lost interest in sex. It lodged a reflexive fight or flight response in me because it happened during an orgasm.”
Caroline Carrington describes an incident with TJ in the shower after a yoni massage that left her seriously confused.
“He said I could have a shower in his bathroom. I went into the shower and then he said, ‘Would you like me to get in the shower and wash your hair?’ He ended up washing my hair and washing my body all over. I walked out of that session so confused. For a week, I was like ‘are we dating? Is he into me?’ It all happened directly after 3 hours of g-spot activation. He doesn’t even have an understanding of a container. I spent a week confused and spoke to some of the Source Tantra staff about it.”
She told him the next week, “This really messed with my head. You didn’t technically violate my boundaries but it made me feel really weird and I wanted to let you know.”
Four years later she ran into TJ at a festival and she says that he told her a bold face lie about showering with clients. “He said to me, ‘oh, by the way, after my session with you, Judith Davis, [another Source Tantra Staff member], told me I was completely out of line and I changed my policy and never do that with people anymore.” Carrington told me that “many people I’ve spoken to on the phone who’s had sessions with him since my experience said he’s gotten into the shower with them.”
Source Tantra’s Controversial Practices
“Charles Muir teaches that you cannot get STI’s and do not need to wear gloves in sessions if your vibration is high enough.” — Tanja Diamond
The discrepancy between the public claims and private actions of Source Tantra aren’t limited to their relationship with TJ Bartel. Publicly, Source presents itself as a school that stresses boundaries and consent. “The official party line is no kissing, no oral, no sex” during client sessions Tanja Diamond told me. What happens behind closed doors is a different story.
Source Tantra students and tantric educators told me that many of the teachers in the school have sex with their students and clients during sessions. Publicly, Source would not officially teach this or condone it they said but it is expected and rampant. Those who do not are “looked down upon” says former Source Tantra student Irina Lapshina. “They’re no fun. They don’t get it. You definitely won’t belong” she says. One former student got the nickname “baby Jesus” because she was too prude and “different than the rest.”
Lapshina and educator Caroline Carrington told me that Source Tantra Vice-President Leah Alchin Piper has told them both that she has sex with clients during sessions. One client became her husband after she had sex with him during a several day long VIP tantric healing session. Carrington told me it was strange to see selfies of Leah and her then student (now husband) on social media clearly looking like lovers during the time of the VIP Tantra immersion. Years before, Alchin dated Muir after being his student.
Carrington also told me that she knows of a senior Source Tantra lead Dakini who has had sex with a client. “We taught workshops together for a while so I know she had sex with a brand new Tantra student in a private session because she told me right after it happened.” Caroline stopped teaching with her a few years ago as she no longer wanted to be connected to the Source Tantra staff and their abuse and lack of integrity.
Heather Rhea Dawn said “Most of the teachers at Source Tantra end up dating or having sex with their students coming to them for private sessions, a complete abuse of the power dynamic between teacher and student.” Carrington told me senior Source teachers “Charles, Leah, Lisa and Judith” would “all end up having sex with students either in session or those who have recently graduated.” Some Source Tantra teachers like Mare Simone have openly admitted that sexual intercourse between teachers and students or clients during healing sessions is beneficial. There are even some Source Tantra teachers who refer to their clients as lovers while they have sex with them.
Tantra teacher Tanja Diamond has been collecting testimonies of abuse within the tantra community for years. She told me she has listened to men describe being raped by Source Tantra female teachers during what was supposed to be a lingam massage. The women would straddle the men and start having sex without their consent she said.
“If you are a healer, your mouth, vagina and penis stay out of the picture.” — Heather Rhea Dawn
While Charles Muir “officially” teaches that there is “no kissing, no oral, no sex” during sessions he doesn’t follow this says Irina Lapshina. She described a lingam massage session that she and another woman were required to give Muir for their training. Muir forcibly made out with them, was highly sexual with his touch and touched their bodies including their vaginas Lapshina claims. She describes Muir as a very engaged, active “taker” and says the session, which she believed would be a typical lingam massage, became an “orgy.”
“We thought we were gonna be givers, but it turned out he was an active participant, and a VERY active taker. He basically directed the session.”
“What ensued wasn’t like anything we were prepared for. Charles forcibly kissed us both many times, long and deep. He basically shoved his tongue down our throats, over and over. We both obliged, although were taken aback, because in classroom he has always taught that kissing is not a part of a tantric session. The session escalated quickly and basically became a two-hour, threesome orgy, with us as stunned participants. Charles was the supposed receiver, yet his hands were all over us, and in us, and we basically soaked his bed ejaculating. There was deep kissing, and much grinding. Now, mind you, this was a session. With students. During training. As a part of homework.
When we left his house, soaking wet and bewildered, we looked at one another and asked ‘would we ever be able to share this with our fellow students, as, we’re sure, everyone would be asking? No, absolutely not, we cannot share this. This goes against everything that’s taught in class about how a session should be conducted.’ After that incident I cut ties with Source School.”
When Caroline Carrington received a yoni massage from Muir she says he violated her repeated requests to not touch her throat. She told him she was held at knifepoint and had serious trauma and somatic memory there. Not even her child or lovers are allowed to touch her throat she told him. She said that Charles’ response was “Oh, I’m absolutely going to touch your throat.” She said this to him three or four times but he said “no, we’re gonna do this.” In the end she relented. “In an hour Charles jumped on the four biggest traumas of my life. I was screaming throughout most of the session.” She said she lost her voice on and off for a whole year after the session. She contacted Charles and Leah and couldn’t get support. “I’m losing my voice every single week, what should I do?” And there was no support there she said.
Tanja Diamond participated in an early Source Tantra training and describes several incidents of behavior that shocked her as a student. When a couple started having sex in the middle of the training circle at the end of a segment Charles did nothing. When Tanja witnessed multiple transgressions during triads such as men going down on women unwanted during what was supposed to be a yoni massage Muir dismissed the concerns. Others were having sex in training sessions, sometimes without consent of the receiver. When she brought it up she said “Charles would just bypass my question and tell me to chill out. I wasn’t understanding how the Goddess works.” Others have witnessed Charles making out with and passionately groping another teacher while students were practicing techniques in class.
Allegations of sexual misconduct have also trailed Muir over the years. He has acknowledged that he is aware of them. Muir posted publicly that he is “actively seeking more information” about allegations against other Source teachers and those “who have made claims against me. I welcome hearing from them, for I have never raped anyone.”
The Future of Tantra
“Women go to daka’s for healing, not to have more trauma put in them.” — Heather Rhea Dawn
Tantric and spiritual movements are going through a moment of collective transformation. Abusive and predatorial gurus are being exposed at unprecedented levels. Just two months ago, Agama yoga — one of the largest tantra training centers in the world — was exposed for widespread sexual abuse by it’s founder Swami Vivekananda Saraswati and several of its main teachers. It shut down as a result. The #metoo movement has arrived on the meditation cushion, yoga mat and in the tantra world.
The “hook-up” centric, sex-focused, patriarchal, heteronormative and even sleezy movement that Charles Muir built by merging the swinger lifestyle with tantra is being challenged by a new, younger generation of tantric practitioners. They are diverse, consent focused, differently bodied, queer/trans, gender non-conforming, tech-savvy and trauma-sensitive. No longer can men get away with abusing women without recourse. No longer can broken leaders cloak greed and sexual assault in spiritual lingo without being exposed. No longer will violence against women’s bodies go unchecked. No longer can organizations protect predatorial men without risking their existence.
Charles Muir is now in his early 70s. His generational mindset produced and enabled TJ Bartel. Source Tantra failed to take decisive action against his abuse. Muir endangered the safety of women by protecting Bartel. Muir’s own failure to honor women’s boundaries and consent has inflicted trauma and harm. Publicly teaching “no kissing, no oral, no sex” during sessions while privately encouraging and doing this, threatens the transparency and honesty that is so desperately needed in tantric and spiritual leadership. None of these abuses have been a secret either — they’ve been enabled by an inner circle that fears retribution and loss of social status in the tantra world.
The good news is that the old paradigm is burning down. An inclusive, queer, caring, consensual and transparent future is on the horizon.
Numerous former students and staff are speaking out about sexual, verbal and physical abuse by The New Tantra founder Alex Vartman. They describe a sex cult environment that has left people severely traumatized. Thousands of people have taken The New Tantra courses in over 10 countries since it began in 2010.
Each of these articles takes up to 80 hours to investigate and write, and I am able to do it thanks to donations from people who believe in and support this life-changing work. Please help by donating.
WARNING: This article contains graphic depictions of sexual acts and sexual abuse.
Stephanie Holder (not her real name) was in a group exercise during a New Tantra workshop when she was told founder Alex Vartman wanted to see her. She walked back to a smoke filled room where eight of his staff and assistants circled him “like a rock star” she said. They stared at her intensely. Alex then told his team to get the Non-disclosure Act (NDA) and said to Stephanie, “You are not dressed up in a sexy way, are you? You’re a little bit choppy.” She described what happened next. “He looks at me and says ‘now, I’m going to have sex with you.’ I completely froze. I was like ‘what the fuck?’ The assistants start peeling my clothes off so I’m naked. Then he starts having sex with me.” The assistants stood by, watching. She began feeling an electric current pulsing through her. At that point she says she wasn’t in control of her body anymore. Alex even captured the incident on audio so he wouldn’t miss any brilliant insights uttered while whispering in her ear during sex.
Everyone in the room knew what was going to happen Stephanie said. The guy who brought her back — someone whom she thought could be trusted — was acting awkward and strange. He knew. The staff knew. She was being taken to the Mad Hatter.
Hotlips, Diesel, Mermaid, Helter Skelter, Cheshire Cat, Bulldog — all names given to members of The New Tantra (TNT). The story goes that founder Alex Vartman aka the Mad Hatter and his co-founder would be so high that they could never remember students names so they made up cartoon names in the back room. “This guy looks like Shrek.” It soon became a tradition.
Since making up those first names in 2010 thousands of students have passed through The New Tantra — making it the biggest “tantra” school in Europe. They’ve traveled from all over the world to attend workshops in the Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Bali, Egypt, Denmark, New Zealand, Ibiza and Portugal. Courses regularly have around 40 students and have peaked at 80. People pay as much as $700 per level. There are 9 levels in total.
Alex Vartman (real name Sandford Perrett) used to be a top level assistant of sex and relationship guru David Deida, author of “The Way of the Superior Man.” From 1998–2002 Vartman held Satsangs around the world and gained a following by offering non-dual spiritual teachings. At the NoMind festival he apparently had hundreds of students listening to him. He even taught alongside popular spiritual teacher Gangaji for a brief time. In 2004 he taught with Ken Wilber at the Integral center and then visited a series of Ashrams in India before starting TNT in 2010.
An ex-TNT senior staff member guesstimates that Vartman has made a cool million dollars from The New Tantra — all tax free as it is set up in an off-shore company in New Zealand. None of that made its way to the assistants either as none were compensated and they all had to cover housing and travel costs to the workshops. And several staff members do sex work and have to pay royalties on what they earn. Vartman structures trainings so that local organizers in the host country take in the money and tax burden. He is then paid as an independent contractor and funnels the money abroad.
In TNT students are encouraged to explore their sexual fantasies, push through limitations and become “unconditioned” sexual beings. If you got lost and stumbled into a workshop you might see a group orgy, people blindfolded performing sexual acts on each other, break out groups exploring a shared interest such as fisting, anal sex or bondage or Alex Vartman himself getting penetrated during a class by female students with a strap-on.
“Alex told us that doing these sexual exercises could free us from childhood trauma and deliver life-changing transformation, both in our sex lives and in day-to-day existence” said former student Mark Quinn (not his real name).
The sex-positive amongst us would see no problem with consensual exploration of edgy sexual practices. However, there is much more to TNT than meets the eye.
Part 1: Inside Alex Vartman
“A tall, sinuous, enigmatic figure, he kept his sunglasses on throughout the course. He looked, and acted like a powerful teacher — and his background was impressive.”
“It’s a sex cult” says Jason Marshall (not his real name), one of Vartman’s former long time assistants. “It was often like being in an asylum, especially during the sex orgies. Many couldn’t think and looked like zombies. Everyone was high, there was sex everywhere, people were in trance like states.” He said people were “out of their heads.”
Jason is one of several ex-group members who are now speaking publicly about their harrowing time in TNT. They claim Vartman uses verbal, physical and sexual abuse, psychological manipulation, drugs and energetic practices to break people down and control them.
Several former members report being depressed, broken down and deeply traumatized after their time in TNT. Others report ongoing sexual dysfunction and pain.
“It’s a brainwashing machine” said Sarah Bell (not her real name), a former student who completed six levels in the school. “He’s constantly bullying and psychologically breaking down people in the classes. After level 1 and 2 your identity is shifted — your view of yourself is broken apart.”
“Nobody dares” speak up against him because “he is so hard on you” said Crystal Bentham (not her real name). She said he would regularly tell members who challenged him “Shut up! You’re so fucking stupid! You’re so fucking ugly!”
“It was all about demolishing our psyches to conform to Alex’s will” Jason said.
“If people would have set boundaries or had different opinions Alex makes fun of them — he makes them seem ridiculous and casts them out of the group” Jessica Solner (not her real name) said. Boundaries equal ego which must be “thrashed.”
Because Stephanie Holder believed “it was all tantra” she went along with things that she now sees as abusive and manipulative. She had no idea what tantra actually was. “He calls it tantra and spiritual and people pay him money to fulfill his sexual fantasies.” She said Alex is “just some dirty old man, having a private orgy. None of it was tantra.”
“I was so brainwashed thinking the way they think. I was told I had all these issues and thought I was working through them. I was easy prey for him. He is a sexual predator.”
Jason explained in depth why he got involved and why it took so long to leave:
“Looking back at my time in TNT I still have trouble understanding how I could have bought into something so twisted for so long as I did. But then I also get reminded of how deviously clever it all was put together by Alex to attract us all deeper in to his web of deceit and manipulations. Considering that the core ”teaching” was that our ”egos” were never to be trusted and that only people of ”higher levels of consciousness” (i.e. ultimately Alex himself) could be expected to see through these ”egos” and be able to guide us along the path to higher consciousness, and considering that we all bought into this very foundational belief, then it’s not that strange after all that it all went the way it did and that Alex got away with so much apparent abusive behavior. It really took a major breakdown and plenty of external help for me to finally see the twisted truth of it all, and hence be able to leave this toxic environment.
Many of the teachings and practices used were taken from the old wisdom traditions (such as Tibetan, Buddhist, Vedic, Advaita and so on) and contained truths that we all resonated deeply with. Truths that Alex then would twist so they served his own perverted narcissistic desires and self serving intentions, instead of supporting authentic spiritual growth in us his followers.
All of us on the team (and most of the students) really believed in the teachings and that we were growing as spiritual practitioners on our paths to embody ever more fully our divine potential. Alex very cleverly marketed his teachings and methods as belonging to the ’Crazy Wisdom’-traditions, which are famous for using unconventional teaching methods to reach extraordinary levels of breakthroughs. Hence, we came to considered it normal that we were being treated in ways that others would certainly find abusive and destructive. After all, the name of the game in TNT was to ”Kill the Ego” in ourselves and each other.”
Former members also report that Vartman would direct students to have sex with other students, break up couples, tell people they were gay and shame monogamy. “He was mostly interested in playing with and controlling their minds” Jason said.
Former team members say they had to sexually “service” Vartman around the clock. “It was all about Alex’s ass” Marshall said. “Alex liked to get fucked by women with strap-ons or by straight men” says Allison Kemp (not her real name), a former staff member of many years. Members were required to constantly penetrate him for many hours a day. “If you enter Alex’s bedroom you will never come out from there.”
“Every staff member and assistant has been sexual with Alex either fucking him anally or being fucked by him” Allison said. He would tell them “You need to fuck me to learn to be a tantric man and to have a tantric imprint and to learn to fuck women.” He would brag to staff that he would charge as much as $10,000 for a day session with him to “tantrically imprint” a woman sexually.
A former student and staff member said that Alex convinced her husband (who was also a member) to pay him $500 to tantrically imprint her by having sex with her. “He put 17 drops of CBD oil on my tongue and so I was totally out of it. He would charge whatever he could get from someone.”
“We were fucking Alex 24 hours a day during our staff vacation in Paris” Allison said. “Whenever you want to sleep you slept one hour and then you fucked him, slept one hour and then you fucked him.” Senior assistants would wake them up saying “It’s your turn to serve now.”
In a workshop in Egypt, the eight women on staff “were constantly serving him sexually” Allison said. “We used strap ons, our hands, fingers — anything. Alex was high the entire 7-day training.”
“If a woman fucked him with a strap on for two hours he’d fuck her for ten minutes and say ‘you should be grateful, now fuck me again.’”
Former staff member Natalie Keiler (not her real name) said she “spent a three-day weekend fucking him.” She said he wouldn’t allow them to take breaks. “It was hours and hours of fucking him with a strap on.”
“Alex got so stoned that he was crawling on the floor mumbling and rambling about god knows what while teaching in the training.”
Jason Marshall said he faced extreme pressure from Alex and the group to be sexual with him.
“It was really fucked up. After initially having avoided the crazy sexual carnage around Alex for the first months on the team I was finally told by Alex’s girlfriend that I no longer had the choice to hide away. I was then brought into Alex’s bedroom where the whole team was already busy with servicing Alex sexually. I was in such a state of shock that I was shivering with fear and hardly able to speak. Alex started ridiculing me saying I was such a coward and that I needed to ”man up.” He then instructed some of the team to get me ready by undressing me and ”fluffing” (i.e. sucking) my cock to get it hard enough for his ass.
The whole experience was so humiliating and so totally against my own will. The whole scenario felt sick and twisted. Alex was my teacher and boss. There was no attraction sexually from either of us what so ever. Hence, it was pure sexual abuse to prove he could have his will in whatever case he wished.”
“He and the team were trying to convince me that I was gay. He said everyone is bisexual. He said I should get a gay partner and live a gay life.”
Natalie said Alex tried very hard to convince her husband that he was gay so that he’d have sex with him.
Allison said Alex “forced and guilt tripped people who would not want to fuck him or have group sex.”
“He used the girls as bait to get the guys in” Allison said. “They were told to say ‘You can fuck us after you fuck him.’” Women in group would go to clubs and bars and use Tinder to seduce straight men off the streets. One TNT staff member “always showed a picture of Alex dressed as a woman” to the guys. She would tell the men “You have to fuck him and then you can fuck me.” Allison said Alex would often tell them “You are not allowed to come up if you don’t bring a guy with you that can fuck me.”
“Alex thought the best thing you could get was BBC (big black cock)” Jason said. “In London he made a team member have sex with as many guys as possible in search of the best guys for him. She fucked over 100 guys in a year to find the biggest, strongest men who were great at fucking. There were extra points for black men with big dicks.” He said she ended up being “a complete wreck” from being required to be so promiscuous. Stephanie Holder told me the same woman ended up “dislocating her womb” from having so much sex while in TNT. She is now a key leader in the school.
“Alex Raped Me”
During her second week on the job Allison said Vartman raped her. They had never been sexual in any form previously. “He came into my bedroom around 3 am while I was sleeping and staring penetrating me.” She woke up in shock and froze not knowing what to do. After about ten minutes he told her “I’m now going to fuck you anally” and did for several minutes. This was her boss and her guru. Vartman said she “was a chosen one” and should feel special. Allison told TNT staff what happened but said “they were supporting Alex because that’s how we were trained. We were brainwashed.”
Allison filed a report with the police when she left the group. Because Vartman did not live in the country and they could not interview him they told her there was little they could do.
Kids Exposed to “Drugs and Orgies”
“They had orgies when kids were sleeping few meters away” Stephanie Holder said. A former staff member stated that the lead organizer in Holland would regularly have orgies at his home and his three kids — as young as six years old at the time — were present. “They had to pass his bedroom to go in to the bathroom, so yes, they were exposed to drugs and orgies for many years.” In referring to the Dutch organizer, a former TNT staff member said the kids got used to “even seeing their father fucking Alex in his ass while dramatically cross-dressed as Alexis.” The children of the Denmark organizers and another leader’s child were also in the homes during drug filled orgies Allison said.
Verbal and Physical Abuse
Former members claim Alex uses a constant state of bullying and verbal abuse to control people.
In her first week around him, former staff member Deborah Volk (not her real name) was “in total shock” as she witnessed Vartman “yell, scream and hit his staff and assistants in the head. People were running around like his servants. The first month I was constantly afraid of him because he was so abusive.”
“Alex came from behind me and touched my back and then I squirted through my pants in front of the group. In that moment I felt pretty ashamed.”
“He’s constantly bullying and psychologically breaking down people in the classes” Sarah Bell (not her real name) said. “A part of the training is that your ego should be able to handle that or it is your own shit. He would deliver the “gift” of verbally abusing people to show you your own shit and give you a reason to work on it and deal with it.”
Jason said he witnessed Alex assaulting a young female staff member. “He took his Iphone with the sharp end and threw it right at her head. He said she was stupid and ‘you could do whatever you want to her.’ She cried, she was hurting like hell.”
During a meeting in her first week on the job Allison says Alex hit her so hard that she “had pain for days” in her thigh. “As he hit me he yelled ‘you stupid fucking cow! Don’t answer questions if you don’t know the right answer! You’re too stupid to answer the question!’”
“He would tell us over the loudspeaker that he put viruses in our brains.”
Natalie Keiler (not her real name) also experienced and witnessed physical violence. “He hit me twice in the face with an open hand on two different occasions. I’ve seen him hit at least two others in the face with a flat palm really, really hard. I’ve seen him use a whip on many people as punishment if someone got an erection during group cuddling sessions.” Natalie also witnessed frequent verbal abuse. “He would call us moron and stupid all the time.”
Diesel, one of the current head teachers, was brought into the middle of a group in a TNT class and smacked hard across the face by Alex for questioning his teachings Allison said.
Allison said she “saw Alex smack people in the head regularly.”
On one occasion Jason witnessed Vartman abusing a young 21-year old new assistant. She came “flying out, just chucked out of the room, onto the bed opposite the door.” Alex then screamed, “You stupid little fucking cunt, how can you be so fucking stupid? You come here and you’re not even dearmoured? You fucking useless little piece of fucking shit!” Jason said “she wasn’t dearmoured enough in her pussy to be pleasurable for him to fuck.”
“As he hit me he yelled ‘you stupid fucking cow! Don’t answer questions if you don’t know the right answer! You’re too stupid to answer the question!’”
Like other group members Allison internalized the abuse. She said she believed she was “a lower conscious being” because she didn’t know tantra and was new to the group. It was confusing for her because so many said he was a “very respected spiritual person,” and that she should be “lucky to be a part of this” and happy to be with a “Tantra Master.”
“Alex had control over every student” Allison said. “Anything said that was negative or critical or even if we were wanting monogamy, it would go directly to Alex through a chain of people.” People wanted to report on others to save themselves she said.
“We were constantly expected to monitor students on the Facebook TNT group The Global Family” Jason said. Facebook was used to bully, gang up on and abuse people who were out of line. “Anything that was questioning Alex had to be deleted, reported or dealt with. If someone who said something critical turned up at a workshop they’d be confronted by it.”
“We thought we were better than every other school, every other person. We were looking down on other people because they were sexually conditioned and we were sexually unconditioned.”
When members shared anything critical about TNT or Alex in the men’s and women’s groups it would find its way back to him and they would be punished. “People were eager to turn in others to save themselves” Allison said. Several former members acknowledge that thought policing was common.
Members were under “constant surveillance” Jason said.
When a student posted in the private Global Family Facebook group that she noticed some similarities between TNT and a cult, Alex got around 100 students involved in a competition to best describe where she was in her ego. All senior students had to take a quiz to reveal their inner thoughts. Alex had found a way to not directly attack her while getting students to “question themselves, defend him and attack the woman.”
Leaving is Dangerous
Deborah said Alex warned members that leaving the group would mean divine retribution. “He would tell all these stories about people that got cancer or fell off of ladders. Alex said ‘One woman was questioning me and she got in a bad, bad accident.’”
“Alex constantly warned us about the danger of being away from him over longer periods of time” Deborah said. “He told us ‘Team members that did that contracted back into their egos and got lost’, which means left the team and TNT.”
“We had to sign a non-disclosure agreement that he could sue us if you mention his name. Everyone around him and on the team signed it.”
One Meal a Day
“Alex would tell us ‘In Auschwitz there were no fat people’” said Jason. He meant that you could only be fat if you were eating too much. “All high level students were only allowed to have one meal a day in trainings. He didn’t like fat people.” Vartman also had members do water fasts where they only drank water and ate no food for up to 21 days at a time. “If you eat more than once a day he’d called it ‘shoving your face’” said Sarah Bell.
For those who didn’t get picked during exercises Bell said Vartman used it as an opportunity to bully them. “Alex would say ‘now this is a chance to contemplate why you didn’t get picked. Or he’d say ‘you’re so fat no one would want to be with you.’” She said it was accepted behavior for Alex or TNT staff to make fun of and bully fat people.
Sex With Students
The TNT code of sexual conduct (created by Alex) says that Vartman is not allowed to have sex with women until they have been a student for three years. However, as Stephanie Holder’s account in the opening vignette illustrates, he doesn’t honor this. “He also lets the women students in level 2 fuck him with strap-ons in the workshop room” Allison said. “Students get flattered that they are chosen to fuck him in front of all other people.”
According to the code of conduct Alex is allowed to have sex with male students whenever he wants. “He says men cannot be sexually manipulated” Allison said.
Alex also had sex in front of students Allison said. “He often liked to fuck his girlfriend or have group sex with other members of the team in front of the students to show us.”
Sarah said Alex would “energetically fuck” women from a distance in front of everyone. “Alex taps her back and she would go into involuntary convulsions. He’d then stand back and energetically fuck her and it looked like she was getting fucked by a ghost. Like a sorcerer. It’s dangerous stuff.”
When it comes to staff and assistants, Vartman tells the team “I don’t have sex with them, they have sex with me. They are in their masculine. The ethics don’t apply because they are fucking me.”
Part 2: Inside The New Tantra
“TNT prides itself on extremes, pushing people to, and beyond their limits, either through sexual extremes or verbally, by attacking their personalities to the point where mental dissociation occurs.”
It’s “slut night” and the men and women are dressed up in sexy women’s lingerie. Alex Vartman is wearing a headset microphone pacing around the room yelling “fuck, fuck, fuck!” The 50 students begin engaging with each. It’s not an orgy though because it’s level one. No penetrative sex is allowed but everything else goes.
If students receive a 7 or above out of 10 they can advance to the next level where full-on sex orgies do occur. The more you pushed your own comfort zone, explored your sexuality and did something you may have been uncomfortable with the better score you got. An 8–10 score was awarded with an armband that says “Advanced Sex Practitioner: The New Tantra.” Another one says “Cumming is for Pussies.” Sarah told me people collected them at each level and wore them like badges of honor. Both slogans were trademarked.
Sarah participated in an orgy on the first day of the Bali level 2 course. They were in a yoga studio type classroom with a red light on. Black faux leather type mattresses lined the floor. It began with the teacher pointing to her and another woman and telling them to go in the middle. The assistant then began squirting coconut oil on their bodies as they started kissing and being sexual. More people slowly joined in until everyone was in the middle being sexual.
On “examination night” in level 2 Sarah said Alex asked someone to share a sex fantasy and then asked for someone who’s interested in playing out the same sex fantasy. They’d go into the middle of the room in the circle and begin acting it out in front of the group. Everyone would slowly join in with their own fantasies until everyone was in the middle.
She and others said there were many aspects of the courses they found enjoyable or liberating but that the cult environment tainted the program.
How To Fuck
“Everytime you cum you are putting another nail in the coffin of your relationship.” — Alex Vartman
“In TNT they teach the men to fuck women extremely hard” Deborah Volk said. “We were taught that women are dirty little whores and sluts and should be fucked like that.” During sex Alex would at times tell women “I’m gonna rape you” and would call them “dirty, slutty whores.” She said “That’s how he spoke to women during sex and it’s how he taught men too.” “Alex taught us that women are sex objects to be fucked. Every man on the team has been taught this sexist culture.” Anyone who didn’t go along was “boring” or would be ridiculed Allison said.
Sarah Bell describes how TNT shames clitoral orgasms. “TNT teaches that clit orgasm is a shallow, surface level orgasm that drains ones sexual energy. TNT promoted higher deeper orgasms, like womb orgasm and full-body orgasms, something one could attain with consistent TNT training. This belief that “bad orgasms” had to be avoided at all costs has been very disorienting in my own sex life since TNT. “
They were also very against ejaculating. Foundational to TNT is orgasming without ejaculating. While Alex was having non-stop sex and orgasms he would rarely cum. When he did it was by accident. This was called a miss.
Violent Body Dearmouring
Stephanie said she “was screaming in agony on the floor” during the body dearmouring that is taught in level 1. It involved three people pushing very hard onto the body of the recipient. People were “covered in bruises” she said. It was only after a student suffered broken ribs that Alex allowed the intensity of the dearmouring to reduce. The body dearmouring was one of the elements of the breaking down process Jason said.
Stephanie Holder said that “Alex and the staff were always high at every event and during the orgies.” She said they “used weed and other drugs” such as poppers and drank. They would also give out viagra to the men so they could perform.” Natalie Keiler said there was “heavy substance abuse of marijuana and poppers” in the group.
Former students report that when participants were tired, physically unable or simply uninterested in partaking in an exercise they’d be highly pressured or even forced to do it.
Crystal was exhausted and “in some kind of a trance” which left her unable to walk after a session. When she refused to participate, TNT staff told her “Are you this little princess that only wants to receive? You need to serve other people!” She said she could hear but not move or do anything. “And then someone asked me to fuck them with a strap on. I was in an overwhelmed state and they were ordering me. It felt like there was no other option.”
“I never received any tantric teachings in TNT.”
In another level Jennifer had been feeling ill and didn’t want to do the striptease exercise. “They literally put me on my feet in the middle of the circle and made me do it.”
A former TNT member experienced a similar thing from TNT staff. He said he was “thoroughly tired” and it was late. “We both decided to leave right before the exercise. We were stopped. The staff said ‘you shouldn’t be going.’” The course leader was not happy with us leaving.”
Crystal said the answer to any discomfort or suffering was always more TNT. “Every time I felt so horrible after each level and I contacted Ms Diesel. I told her ‘I don’t feel well. I can hardly function at home.’ She’d tell me to do the next level. Even when I was out of money she’d say I could pay in payments.”
Pushed to the Extreme
Several members said that Alex would push people’s fantasies to the extreme.
One woman said she was interested in being peed on. “She wanted to try one person just one time” Sarah Bell said. Instead Alex gathered 7 men and said “Everyone pee on her” and instructed them to do so.
When Sarah shared her experience in group of a sexual encounter with another woman the night before she says Alex demanded she reenact it in front of everyone. “He said ‘Do it again, do it right now. Show us what happened. He commands us in the circle of 40 people. This time I’m using a strap on — commanded to the floor.” She said she was thrilled about the experience the night before but not thrilled about getting in front of the group to show it off again.
Sarah Bell described the intensity of the g-spot / squirting workshop. It involved a very rough, forced pumping of the g-spot to make her ejaculate. They were paired up with new students who had never done it before. She said her partner in the workshop was “pumping away” while there was “heavy dark music in the background.” She describes it “very violent.” She said “He was sweating his ass off. No context, no feeling into it. No instruction.” She said the men were told to “Just go in there and pump away for a long time. If it doesn’t work go harder. Soon as I stood up I had a stream of blood running in between my legs.”
Crystal recalled a squirting workshop where approximately 15 men would take turns trying to make her squirt. “Men would come up and put their fingers in your vagina and bang on your g-spot to make you squirt.” She said she tried but couldn’t get into it. “There was only a part of me present — only my body was doing it. The rest of me pulled back because it was so overwhelming.”
“This workshop is clothes-off and features mind-boggling sexually explicit exercises. Here you will learn the essential advanced sex techniques that open up the world of transcendent sexuality.” — TNT Website
In a level 3 training Alex put his girlfriend in “fuck bag” also known as a BDSM “sleepsack” — a dark, tight bag that had hole for the vagina, anus and mouth. For over 20 minutes the ten people in the workshop performed vaginal, anal and oral sex on her. “They performed any sex act they liked” Allison said. No condoms were used. “She couldn’t see anything.” His girlfriend didn’t say no, but Allison explained again that “no one ever said no to Alex. It was a cult. Anyone who went against him would be punished.”
The “Candy Store” exercise in level 2 involved laying down blindfolded, naked on a mattress while receiving sex acts from group members. “First the women would go and men would go around fucking them, touching them and doing anything they wanted” Allison said. And then the roles would reverse when they switched positions.
During the “Sacred Ceremony,” which was an orgy, some of the women ejaculated aka “squirted” in the Kava Kava. Crystal reluctantly drank some but when she refused any more a participant almost drowned her. “He grabbed my hair and drowned me in the Kava bowl. I was gasping for air, my hair was totally soaked.” She had two kidney infections after that training. One former student said that during one training a student drank the Kava Kava with ejaculate in it and got very sick with a kidney infection and almost died.
A former student described an exercise they found disturbing. “There was an exercise called the Mommy/Daddy. The point was to find someone who looked like your parent and have sex with them as if they were your parent. The goal was to transform any trauma’s into unconditional love.”
Level 4 is described as a “sacred ceremony.” Crystal said they had no idea what was going to happen. It turned into a “free flow” which meant instructions to “just fuck.” On Saturday they said “Just fuck until Sunday afternoon.” The next morning she said they ask you “how many people did you fuck?” They were graded on how sexual they had been. If they had lower engagement they would be dismissed as a spoiled little princess or a woman that creates drama.
Several of the people I spoke with said they experienced a “demonic” or “demonic feeding” type energy in TNT.
Stephanie Holder said “I started seeing the teachers faces morphing into creepy creatures. I saw flashes of faces changing. It was like hallucinogenic, like drugs. It was creeping me out. The energy was so strong there.” She told me she believes “Alex calls whatever he can from astral levels — whatever dark creatures come down they attach themselves to the teachers.” She thinks the students’ “life force energy” was being “fed upon.” She fully acknowledged what she was telling may sound strange to others, but emphasized the unique space that Vartman was able to create.
Another woman said there were “absolutely demonic energies” involved. “I felt like I was possessed for quite some time after I left.” She continued. “I saw a fire demon. At one of the ceremonies, there was one man who turned into a fire demon in front of our eyes. It was like his whole body was burning with literal flames.”
Another source who participated in some of the advanced levels echoed the same thing, claiming that there was a lot of “feeding” of energy occurring. He said it felt “demonic.”
Current TNT Leadership
Alex stepped back from teaching in TNT a few years ago when a long time assistant spoke out publicly about the abuse. This prompted some to believe TNT is ok now. The former members I spoke with warn otherwise.
Allison said “Alex is still controlling everything. He has meetings with them and directs them. Those people are his puppets. They are still brainwashed. The leadership are still holding this culture Alex taught. The school is equally dangerous.”
Natalie Keiler said anyone who is in a leadership position in TNT is dangerous given how brainwashed they all are.
The current director is named Apollo (real name Thomas Hamelryck) and works as a scientist in Denmark. Several former staff members warned about him. One said “I would say he’s even more dangerous than Alex. He is extremely narcissistic. He really treats women like low level of creatures and has a really bad attitude.”
Several of the people I spoke with reported a wide variety of distressing symptoms after their time in TNT. They said it took many months if not years to recover and some are still recovering now.
Stephanie said “After that weekend, I had a black eye, was covered in bruises, no idea how I got them. Like I was out of my body.”
Former member Kevin Gill said “It’s impossible to stay constantly on this high level of energy without burning out.” He said the nervous system is “constantly activated. And the adrenal glands, they’re just fully on power all the time. I have seen a lot of people burning out.”
One former member describes her post-TNT experience:
“When I left TNT in December 2016, I was in a deep depression and in a burnout. I had never experienced something like that before. In the end I totally hit rock-bottom. I found myself soul broken, I just wanted to give up on everything. I did not recognize myself anymore.”
“Today just thinking about sex makes me shut down. My bladder and G-spot glands are chronically inflamed and it impacts my life in many ways. Sex is generally a disorienting struggle with emotional and physical pain. Even orgasm often causes a trigger response and I shut down. Before TNT I was in tune with my body like a normal person would be, and I enjoyed G-spot orgasms. Today poking my G-spot feels like poking in a wound. This has been going on for me since my first week in TNT, 4 years ago.”
A former member was deeply impacted after TNT. “I was psychotic and depressed for awhile and was then hospitalized for 17 days in a mental hospital.” She said Alex knew she was psychotic and he told her to drive 8.5 hours home and go to the hospital. She said he should have gotten an ambulance or assisted her to get the care she needed. Later she heard Alex’s voice in her head for years in the form of auditory hallucinations.
Tantra Not Trauma
In 2015 a former New Tantra member started a Facebook group called “Tantra Not Trauma” as a play on the TNT initials. The group was originally designed to be a space to speak out and get support about abuse within The New Tantra. It has since evolved into a place for people to report abuse they experience from tantra and spiritual teachers.
The group is part of the global shift occurring right now around abuse in the tantra and spiritual worlds. Alex Vartman is just the latest in a list of other abusive “tantric” leaders to be exposed. What’s become more and more clear is that these leaders are preying upon genuine seekers and abusing the word “tantra” for their own ends. With each article this becomes more clear. Unfortunately these groups have caused a lot of damage, hopefully soon they will be actually focused on tantra not trauma.
NOTE: Alex Vartman did not respond to my request for an interview.