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.