Jan 23, 2018

Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain

Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain
New book examines the bogus science, hidden agendas, and David Lynch’s campaign to push a million public school kids into Transcendental Meditation while falsely claiming it is not a religion
Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular It is secular and rooted in scientific research, widely practiced in schools and in the workplace. But all meditation is not created equal. In this new book, Transcendental Deception, author Aryeh Siegel exposes the hidden world of the enormously wealthy and highly secretive Transcendental Meditation organization. 

Author Aryeh Siegel was first introduced to TM in the early1970s. What started off as a casual interest in meditation to relieve stress, morphed into an all-encompassing way of life for nearly ten years. Siegel became a TM teacher, attended small sessions with TM’s guru and founder, the Maharishi, and even was in Maharishi’s entourage in 1975 when he appeared twice on the Merv Griffin Show. 

Siegel mostly worked at TM’s U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles and was involved with some early studies that were supposed to demonstrate the power and efficacy of the TM approach. He also participated in what was called the “TM-Sidhi program” which promised that meditators could learn to levitate, become invisible, develop miraculous powers, achieve permanent perfect health, and even eternal life.

Over time, Siegel became disillusioned with both his TM practice and the organization. And he didn’t need his Ph.D. coursework in behavioral science at UCLA to understand that the so-called research TM was pushing was biased, poorly designed, and flawed. This was not science, but a form of contrived promotion. Although Siegel seriously practiced TM and the Sidhi program for years, he experienced no miraculous powers, no flying or levitating, just wishful thinking and hype. It became increasingly obvious to him that TM was a poorly adapted form of Hinduism, a religion, but was being falsely promoted to the public as secular and scientific. And lastly, Siegel experienced the TM organization as becoming increasingly authoritarian and cultic.

Siegel’s new book, Transcendental Deception, is the first comprehensive look at the TM movement written by a former insider.

  • Deconstructs the practices and philosophy of the Maharishi and the TM organization, demonstrating just how much it is a religion 
  • Analyzes TM’s secret religious ceremony – the Puja – and explains why the TM movement keeps its content hidden so that individuals, students and teachers don’t realize the true meaning of the Sanskrit ritual 
  • Explores how TM continues to maintain the fantasy that it is not a religion, but instead endlessly repeats the narrative that it is secular and scientific
  • Analyzes key research on the TM practice and demonstrates how most of it is preliminary, inconsequential or bogus 
For many people, this book will be a surprise, even shocking. Over the decades, millions have started TM, seeing the practice as a simple form of meditation or stress-reduction. Some people clearly benefit, but that is true of many forms of meditation, not just TM. Most people who practice TM know nothing about the organization and what goes on behind the scenes. This is especially true for the many celebrities from Jerry Seinfeld to Tom Hanks.

“To be clear, I am not against meditation, mindfulness, or even Hinduism,” says author Aryeh Siegel. “In America, anyone is free to practice their religion, but what concerns me is the deception at the heart of TM. No religion has a place in our public school system. TM has falsely promoted itself for decades. It is important that people know the truth. That’s why I wrote this book.”

Aryeh Siegel is available for interviews. Transcendental Deception is available from Amazon Here.

For further information, www.tmdeception.com or email info@tmdeception.com

Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain – bogus science, hidden agendas, and David Lynch’s campaign to push a million public school kids into Transcendental Meditation

Author Aryeh Siegel was first introduced to TM in the early 1970s. What started off as a casual interest in meditation to relieve stress, morphed into an all-encompassing way of life for nearly ten years. Siegel became a TM teacher and worked at TM’s U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. He was involved with some early studies that were supposed to demonstrate the power and efficacy of the TM approach. He also participated in what is called the “siddhi program” which promised that meditators could learn to levitate, become invisible, develop miraculous powers, achieve permanent, perfect health, and even eternal life. 

Over time, Siegel became disillusioned with both the TM practice and the organization. He saw that the so-called research TM was pushing was biased, poorly designed, and flawed. Much of the science behind TM is but a form of contrived promotion. Although Siegel seriously practiced TM and the siddhi program for years, he experienced no miraculous powers, no flying or levitating, just wishful thinking and hype. It became increasingly evident to him that TM was an adapted form of Hinduism, a religion, but was being falsely promoted to the public as secular and scientific. And lastly, Siegel experienced the TM organization as becoming increasingly authoritarian and cultic. Siegel’s new book, Transcendental Deception, is the first comprehensive look at the TM movement written by a former insider. 
  • Deconstructs the practices and philosophy of the Maharishi and the TM organization, demonstrating just how much it is a religion 
  • Completely analyzes TM’s secret religious ceremony – the Puja – and explains why the TM movement keeps its content hidden so that individuals, students, and teachers don’t realize the true meaning of the Sanskrit ritual 
  • Explores how TM continues to maintain the fantasy that it is not a religion, but instead endlessly repeats the narrative that it is secular and scientific 
  • Analyzes research on the TM practice and demonstrates how most of it is preliminary, inconsequential or bogus For many people, this book will be a surprise, even shocking

Over the decades, millions have taken TM, seeing the practice as a simple form of meditation or stress-reduction. Some people benefit, but that is true of many types of meditation, not just TM. Most people who practice TM know nothing about the organization and what goes on behind the scenes. This is especially true for the many celebrities from Jerry Seinfeld to Howard Stern. 

Someone needed to set the record straight and with his experience in TM and his academic background in public health and behavioral science research, he thought he should be the one to do it. “To be clear, I am not against meditation," says author Aryeh Siegel. “In America, anyone is free to practice their religion, but what concerns me is the deception at the heart of TM. No religion has a place in our public school system. TM has falsely promoted itself for decades. It is important that people know the truth. That’s why I wrote this book.”

This is a “must-read” book if you wish to know the facts about Transcendental Meditation! As a licensed mental health counselor who has been working with former members of a wide variety of groups that exert “undue influence,” including cults, I read this book with great interest. I am pleased to say that it is thorough, accurate as to all of the research and to the experiences of former members I have counseled as well as interviewed. The general public has a very benign sense of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM organization, and that is because the vast majority of people stopped after being initiated and given the mantra. But unfortunately, there is a percentage of people who go deeper and deeper into the group, perhaps even attending the Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa. I am well aware of the deceptions and psychological damage involvement with this group can cause some individuals. Please read this book carefully and thoroughly if you are considering getting initiated into TM, or if you already have been. Please read it if you are a politician, a celebrity, a parent, or a person of any religious faith on no faith. Please do consider learning meditation but stay away from any group or ideology that has you surrendering your critical thinking or free will to a guru or messianic figure. - Steven Hassan M.Ed. LMHC, NCC Freedom of Mind Resource Center Inc.
Religious freedom means that people can join whatever faith group they want – even ones that have doctrines that seem esoteric or unusual to others. If advocates of Transcendental Meditation were simply seeking adult converts, there’d be no problem. But TM adherents often claim that their religion is really a ‘science,’ and they seek to interject it into public schools and other taxpayer-funded institutions. This is a clear violation of separation of church and state, and Aryeh Siegel has performed a real public service in exposing it. - Robert Boston, Director of Communications, American United for the Separation of Church and State
I was appalled when I heard that my child was expected to bow and make offerings to a candlelit altar, in a mantra initiation ritual with chanting and Sanskrit prayers, and for a stranger to teach him to keep aspects of this secret from his parents as part of a "health" class. And I was horrified to find that the principal thought this acceptable. Persuading a public school that this was unconstitutional and a danger to the wellbeing of minors would have been much easier had I had this book at hand. - Sara Ritchey, San Francisco public school parent.
This is a very personal and eye-opening expose of the hidden world of life in the Transcendental Meditation Movement. It took great personal courage and strength for Aryeh to break away and build a new life for himself and his family. A must read! - Patrick Ryan, Cult Intervention and Recovery Specialist
Whether you are merely curious about Transcendental Meditation or an old devotee of the Maharishi, this book by Aryeh Siegel will answer a host of questions with solid research. The metaphysical snake oil concocted by TM’s founder may sell well to anxious seekers, but that does not mean it works or is true in its claims. - Joseph Szimhart, Cult Information Consultant
In a conversational style, Siegel reviews his personal history, provides an overview of TM’s controversies and presents a concise direct argument against the marketing of TM. - Gina Catena, MS, CNM, NP; Advisory Board of the International Cultic Studies Association and raised in the TM movement.

Buy on Amazon!

Jan 22, 2018

VOX POPULI: Doomsday cult’s evils were not so far removed from society

The Asahi Shimbun.
January 22, 2018

In the year following the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult’s sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system in 1995, Japanese philosopher Masahiro Morioka confessed that he might have joined the group.

“I shudder at the possibility that I could have made the mistake of joining Aum Shinrikyo,” he wrote in his book.

Morioka said he had felt excited when he found a book at a bookstore that included a picture that claimed to show the cult’s founder, Chizuo Matsumoto, a.k.a. Shoko Asahara, performing “levitation” in a Zen meditation posture.

The line between him and the cult’s followers was that he stopped short of buying the book while the followers actually bought and carefully read it, the author wrote.

He asked himself how different he was from the people who had committed hideous crimes as members of the sect.

The two-decades-long legal saga involving many criminal trials over crimes committed by the cult is now coming to its denouement.

Many indicted former Aum Shinrikyo followers have cited various reasons for joining the cult.

“I lost faith in the unlimited progress of science,” one said. “I wanted to experience supernatural phenomena,” explained another. Others cited “solitude” and “a sense of inferiority.”

The cult made itself accessible by operating its facilities as yoga centers.

Remarks made by prosecuted former cult members in the courtroom revealed various psychological factors that turned them into a criminal organization.

Ikuo Hayashi, who was involved in perpetrating the deadly sarin attack and is now serving a life sentence, said he had hesitated when he saw women and children on subway platforms. But he carried out the attack by goading himself with guru Asahara’s declaration saying, “This is a battle.”

Kazuaki Okasaki, who is on death row, said, “Feeling pity (for victims) means weak faith.”

There are ideas and arguments that look completely unreasonable and outrageous to outsiders but make perfect sense to the members of a closed group.

Such thoughts sometimes cause disasters. This is a dangerous trap into which closed groups that don’t tolerate dissenting voices among their members, not necessarily religious ones, often fall.

We heard Aum Shinrikyo followers utter many odd-sounding words, such as “guru” and “poa or phowa,” which was used to mean killing.

There is no doubt that it was a terrorist group and a religious cult.

If, however, we use these descriptions simply to characterize the group as an evil element completely different from the rest of our society, we fail to glean some important lessons from their crimes.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 21


Event: Awareness of High-Control Groups: An educational seminar re: mind-control groups

Aaron Smith-Levin, a former Scientologist whose story was featured in the Emmy award-winning television series, Leah Remini: Scientology-The Aftermath. He has a very compelling story about his years in Scientology.
Aaron Smith-Levin, Donna Backstrom

Saturday, April 7, 2018
10 a.m. - noon
Grand Opera House
135 8th Street, Dubuque, Iowa
Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

Complimentary coffee and donuts
No charge l Donations appreciated

Keynote Speaker: Aaron Smith-Levin, a former Scientologist whose story was featured in the Emmy award-winning television series, Leah Remini: Scientology-The Aftermath. He has a very compelling story about his years in Scientology.

Donna Backstrom will share her family's experience with The Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission (LHTBM), a cult-like, high-control group with followers in Dubuque and surrounding areas. 

Another speaker will share how his family life has been negatively impacted by a local high-control group.

Additional information to be shared: 
  • How to recognize a high-control group (i.e., watch for red flags!) 
  • How to get help if you think you or your friends are involved in a high-control group
Presented by Donna Spielman Backstrom McCoy 

For more information contact Donna at (563) 650-4716

How Do You Rebuild Your Life After Leaving A Polygamous Sect?

A decade ago, members of the FLDS — a fundamentalist sect of the Mormon church that practices polygamy — began leaving of their own volition. Today, they're returning home to rewrite the dark narrative that's formed around them.

Anne Helen Petersen

January 18, 2018

At 62 years old, Coylyn Pipkin is still a teenager. Women who've left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS, often think of themselves in this way. They joke that their development, especially when it comes to emotional intelligence, stopped when they were young. When they leave the FLDS, they go through the same phases that every kid does: teenage rebellion, twenties exploration, thirties confidence. Coylyn left the FLDS in 2015, and has only recently started wearing her long gray hair without the elaborate front wave — a mix of '90s bangs and something vaguely 19th century — taught to all women in the church as children.

When I met Coylyn, she was dressed for the third annual Girlfriends Day Out, a celebration for ex-FLDS women hosted by the Creekers Foundation — part of a larger movement of ex-FLDS members working to wrest their narrative away from the church its members have left behind. She wasn't wearing heels, like some of the younger women, or a tightly fitted dress. It hadn't been that long since her wardrobe was entirely composed of the long, puffed-sleeve dresses that outsiders called "prairie" and those in the community called "polyg" (pronounced "plig"). When her husband teased her on the way out the door, mumbling, "Oh, you feminist women," she ignored him.

For more than a decade, the FLDS ran the small borderline towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona — collectively known as Short Creek, with a population somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 — like a totalitarian fiefdom. They owned the houses, the dairy, the farm, the grocery store. They controlled the utilities. If an outsider tried to move into town, they wouldn't give them a business license or turn on their water. If someone was expelled from the community, they'd be shunned entirely. Any visitors were tracked by the dozens of surveillance cameras positioned around town and followed by a group of church enforcers, the "God Squad," who'd drive around in SUVs with tinted windows.

Coylyn grew up with three mothers: her biological mother, plus two other women, or "sister wives," who were married to her father. Coylyn's own mother had 13 children; Mother Charlotte, as Coylyn calls her, had 16; Mother Elaine had 15: 44 in all. When Coylyn was a teenager, she and three of her sisters were married to a man named Don Pipkin. When he passed away in 2002, Warren Jeffs, then the "prophet" and leader of the FLDS, married them all to another man. When that man was kicked out of the FLDS, as so many who directly or indirectly challenged Jeffs's authority were, Coylyn left the church to be with him.

Leaving is traumatic in many ways — including realizing that you never really chose, or maybe never even loved, the person the prophet paired you with.

"People wouldn't look at me or acknowledge me," she told me. "They'd walk the other way — people I've been friends with my whole life." She has two biological children, but also considers her sisters' 31 children, most of whom have left the FLDS, her own. "I'm their mother," she told me. "I'm the one they come to, because all their mothers are still in."

Coylyn's story is typical of ex-FLDS women in many ways, but she's an outlier among those who have left the church, simply because she's still with her husband. Leaving is traumatic in many ways — including realizing that you never really chose, or maybe never even loved, the person the prophet paired you with. (In the FLDS, only the prophet can sanction a marriage.)

Leona Bateman started the Creekers, then called the Girlfriend Club, in 2013. She estimates that 90% of the women who leave the FLDS community see their marriages disintegrate. At one point, Coylyn's daughter opened up a dating app to show me just how few options for relationships there were in the area — especially if you were looking for someone you could be certain you weren't related to. Most people in the Crick, as FLDS members call it, descend from the same founding families.

"We don't have family trees," she said, laughing. "It's more like family wreaths."

The FLDS broke away from the Latter-day Saints (better known as Mormons) after the church abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890. They believe Mormons have forsaken the foundational teachings of their religion, and consider them, along with anyone else who is not part of the FLDS, to be "gentiles." The original leaders chose Short Creek for its remoteness: Zion National Park is to the north, the Grand Canyon is to the south, and miles of vacant desert lie between.

When Warren Jeffs came to power in 2002, everything that had made Short Creek feel alive was gradually taken away. Dogs, books, basketball. School. The Fourth of July. Friends and parents and siblings, especially men, were sent away to "repent" so that Jeffs and those in his inner circle could take their wives as their own. Teen girls were married off to men many decades their senior; some were taken to Jeffs and abused. Teenage boys were excommunicated for watching movies or talking to girls and disavowed by their families. Slowly, word of the inner doings of the super-insulated FLDS began to reach the outside world, largely through stories — including Jon Krakauer's book Under the Banner of Heaven, Sam Brower's Prophet's Prey, and Carolyn Jessop's Escape — that alternated between being infuriating and horrifying.

"At first, the narrative had to be dark," says Elissa Wall, whose own book, Stolen Innocence, details her teenage marriage, abuse, and eventual escape from the FLDS. "It needed to uncover and dig out that grossness that was going on. We allowed all that nastiness to come to the surface, and we've been successful in shining a light on all that was going on." Now, however, that narrative is changing. "We are more than Warren Jeffs and the FLDS and where we were," Wall told me. "We are better than the stories about us. We have a new narrative: resilience."

On Airbnb, you can scroll through the photos of the rentable room in the compound that hosted Girlfriends Day Out. Today, it's known as America's Most Wanted Bed and Breakfast — a deliberate mockery of Warren Jeffs's time on the FBI's Most Wanted list. There's a queen bed with elaborate pillow landscaping, a leather couch, and an expansive bathroom with twin vanities, one on each side of the bathroom wall. The unnervingly thick baby blue carpet goes halfway up the walls.

Some things, though, you can't see in the photos: the walls, almost a foot thick, that block out all sound; the door that leads into a study, which in turn leads to a recording studio, which looks, through a one-way window, onto a living space, with stairs that lead down to the back of the house. The room was intended to be Warren Jeffs's, and the suite his private lair, which would offer a way for girls, dropped off by their parents in hopes of being selected as Jeffs's next wife, to enter the house without notice.

The 10-foot wall that surrounds the compound cost an estimated $1 million. It was the white powder used to color the concrete that drove up the cost: "It was just a veil of holiness," George Jessop, the current caretaker and a member of one of the old Short Creek families, told me. "They were trying to create such a holy space, using that white — but they used the deception of that holiness to mask horrible things."

We were standing on a balcony on the second floor of the main compound, which, in addition to Jeffs's master suite, has 12 bedrooms, several living spaces, and two massive kitchens. George worked pouring concrete; dozens of others dropped what they were doing to build it as fast as possible, completing it in just 90 days.

America's Most Wanted Bed and Breakfast is a former polygamist compound surrounded by a $1 million wall in Hildale, Utah.

George pointed to the building next door. "That was meant for the holiest of holies," he said, "just like in Texas, where he'd bring girls in there and rape them."

When Jeffs was fleeing the FBI — before his 2006 Utah arrest — he'd periodically escape to the Yearning for Zion ranch in West Texas, home to over 500 of the FLDS faithful. A 2008 FBI raid of the ranch revealed documents and recordings that implicated Jeffs in the sexual assault of minors, including a 12-year-old girl he'd taken as a wife.

When Jeffs was convicted, the Hildale compound passed out of the control of the church. Today, it mainly serves as a place to stay for overflow tourists of Zion National Park, whose reviews on Airbnb communicate various amounts of knowledge about the FLDS, the area, and why it feels the specific and peculiar way it does.

Like the Fourth of July celebration that George and his wife Miriam have helped restart, America's Most Wanted Bed and Breakfast is part of the next chapter of Short Creek. But to understand the chapters that came before — how Jeffs leveraged and continues to leverage his power over his thousands of followers — you have to take a drive.

"They were trying to create such a holy space, using that white — but they used the deception of that holiness to mask horrible things."

I hopped in George's red Suburban — very few vehicles in Short Creek seat fewer than seven — and we headed into "town," an approximately five-block journey. Within seconds, he announced we'd crossed the Utah state line, over Uzona Avenue into Arizona. The proximity to the border is no accident: For a group persecuted for decades for their polygamous lifestyle, it provides a useful blurring of jurisdiction.

There's something about the area around Short Creek, and its shadowed position below the red cliffs, that makes it feel like you're hiding in a corner. Around two-thirds of the roads are paved, but others peter off into dirt or gravel. Even though many FLDS members have moved out of town, vestiges remain: in the baby cemetery; in the field filled with appliances, dropped off to be fixed by an FLDS repairman who's long gone; or, most vividly, in the occasional sightings of FLDS children, immediately recognizable in their jewel-toned prairie dresses or work shirts buttoned all the way up. Their heads bob above the fence line while they bounce on a hidden trampoline, or pump water from a cistern up in the hills, or ride a pair of Shetland ponies down the side of a Hildale street.

The ex-members I spoke with believe that most of the hundreds of leftover FLDS devotees in town are, as they put it, "coming around."

The current leadership of the FLDS is in prison or has fled — most think to South Dakota, or maybe Colorado or Texas or Canada or Mexico — along with the vast majority of Jeffs's wives and members "in high standing." Those still in Short Creek abide by the ever-evolving revelations (that they must eat a gluten-free diet, for example, which is why so many of the current FLDS are so skinny; or that they cannot even touch billing notices — let alone heed them — requiring them to pay nominal rent on the houses owned by the trust now controlled by ex-FLDS. As a result, most were evicted).

The Short Creek of today is unrecognizable to many who grew up there. During the 1970s and '80s, life was removed from and considerably less modern than the rest of the United States. Ex-FLDS describe it as deeply, wonderfully fun. The town was a de facto playground, with a sprawling zoo filled with exotic animals and an elaborate park, complete with a functioning mini train at its center. The prophet at the time, Uncle Roy — all leaders are referred to as "Uncle" — is remembered as kind and benevolent.

Back then, women married young, but rarely as teens. You could read (most) books and watch (some) movies. You could go to school. You could pick your own clothes, so long as they were modest. The community would come together to build a house in a day: pouring the foundation the night before, then working together to make it livable by nightfall. Every month, there'd be a play, operetta, or concert put on by members of the community. There were elaborate celebrations on Uncle Roy's birthday and on Pioneer Day — a sort of Mormon independence day. Today, many ex-FLDS are deeply nostalgic for that period in the community's past: before the internet, before it all went wrong. Before Warren Jeffs.

In the 1980s, a schism in the FLDS priesthood council — which advises and enacts the will of the prophet — led to the expulsion of several men, along with their families. The expelled men moved a short distance out of town, to an area now known as Centennial Park, and started their own splinter sect, unaffiliated with Jeffs, which flourishes today. The group, which numbers in the thousands, practices polygamy but, as one ex-FLDS member told me, "aren't as into the teen girl thing."

"You see all those fancy houses?" George asked me, driving slowly down a street in Centennial Park lined with brick McMansions. "They're built on land that wasn't owned by the church, which meant they could take out mortgages. And when you take a mortgage, you can get enough money to actually build your house all at once."

They're a stark contrast to most houses in Short Creek, whose primary aesthetic could be described as "Frankensteined": Houses were built piecemeal as money sporadically became available for new additions; entire sections often remained unfinished or covered only in particle board; other wings were added as families expanded. Building a house, according to George, often took years, if not a decade. Some FLDS houses are discernable by "Zion" signs; all are surrounded by thick walls, constructed, under Jeffs's instruction, to ensure outsiders couldn't see in.

While the towns of Colorado City and Hildale maintained local governments — they had to, in order to get streets paved — the church and United Effort Plan, a trust formed to shelter all church land, actually ran the towns and owned the handful of businesses, including the grocery store. They controlled the utilities and the police department. They didn't control the public school, but the vast majority of teachers employed there were FLDS.

That sort of control, under different circumstances, might be called "an intentional community." But it was also a perfect setup for financial and ideological exploitation.

The history of the FLDS is rooted in a gospel-like belief in its own persecution. That belief manifests in all corners of FLDS life, including at the edge of the town park, where a small piece of jagged sandstone reads:



The '53 raid ended in the arrest of all but six members of the then–400-member polygamist community, which the Arizona governor described as "insurrectionists" intent on producing "white slavery." At least 100 members of the press observed as hundreds of children were separated from their parents, sparking an unlikely public backlash.

The community survived, as most, but not all, of the children were returned to their parents. But the raid became a pivotal chapter in the FLDS's understanding of themselves as a persecuted people. When the state of Utah convicted Jeffs in 2007 on two counts of acting as an accomplice to rape — only to have the ruling overturned on appeal three years later — it would feed into that same understanding. When FBI members attempted to tell FLDS members about Jeffs's misdeeds, they refused to believe him. "All of it was framed to us as persecution," George told me. "It locks people up tighter than hell, in terms of ever being able to break out. Even when Texas prosecuted him for stuff he really was doing, to us, it was all still persecution."

"All of it was framed to us as persecution," George told me. "It locks people up tighter than hell, in terms of ever being able to break out."

Uncle Roy had helped cultivate that narrative of persecution, and when he died in 1986, it was perpetuated by Rulon Jeffs, who took his place as the head of the FLDS church. Rulon was 77 when he took the position, but continued to marry wives, accumulating as many as 75, even as he became increasingly disoriented and incapable of consummating a marriage.

According to those who've left the FLDS, the wives were added at the behest of Warren Jeffs, who knew that the more wives were given to his father, the more Warren could marry upon his death, thereby solidifying his rule of the FLDS. But Uncle Rulon stayed stubbornly alive until 2002, when he passed away at the age of 92.

For the ex-FLDS, Warren Jeffs's ascension functions as a cleaving point, separating one way of life from another. When Leona Batemen showed me photos of herself, she prefaced each with "before" or "after" Warren. Even without her guidance, there were giveaways: the hairdos, of course, and the dresses, both of which were meant to mark FLDS women as different, as irreconcilable to gentile culture.

But there's something else, too — a flatness, a weariness behind the eyes. Women who were listless or insubordinate were medicated with antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, as were men and children. It was one of many ways that Jeffs ensured his flock would remain docile and subordinate, especially as his attempts to consolidate his power became more and more overt. He declared that the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City were a sign of the forthcoming apocalypse and forced all FLDS to gather in Short Creek, where they could be monitored closely. He cut off access to "worldly" culture. He ordered basketball hoops cut down. After a young child was killed by an aggressive dog, he forbade owning dogs — and declared that all existing ones in the community were to be killed.

All the children were pulled from school. Families whose relatives had been sent away were ordered to burn their family photos. One of the original structures of Short Creek — a sandstone house that had been turned into museum commemorating the settlement's history — was shuttered. "It wasn't centered on Warren. It was about Uncle Roy," George Jessop told me as we drove past the building. "So Warren issued a massive revelation calling for us to destroy it." He commanded that a marble stone monument, 24 inches thick, be razed. All the historical photos housed within the museum were thrown away.

George stopped the truck and stared at the building for a bit, admiring the masonry. His cell phone buzzed repeatedly, but he ignored it. "It was a mean, mean deal."

Then he threw the truck into reverse, backed away from the house, put it back into gear — and kept driving.

When George decided to leave the FLDS in 2012, his family remained in town, but became completely isolated. No one, including family, would speak to them. When Leona Bateman and her husband left, it was out of frustration: Their kids were getting kicked out or leaving of their own accord, and the church was poised to liquidate their family business. Some, like Coylyn, left to be with their expelled husbands. Others flee knowing their husbands would eventually get kicked out, and the wives forced to remarry. Ada Barlow left for teenage love — but her story nonetheless highlights just how few options were open to her, then and since.

Ada has early memories of the time before Jeffs took control — reading Anne of Green Gables, watching Where the Red Fern Grows, running around town in a swarm of unsupervised children — and says she knew, at a young age, that something about Jeffs was wrong. "My mom got upset one time when I took her bookmark with Warren Jeffs on it, because she'd be lonely without it," she explained. "That's when I realized he had become an idol."

Ada first noticed the man that she wanted to marry when she was over at his house, playing in the yard. She could've been one of his daughters. "I saw young girls get married to old guys all the time," she told me. "It was just the norm, the thing that happened." When she was in fifth grade, Ada's mom broke her back. Her other two moms were working full-time (most women with jobs worked in one of the towns nearby; some would work at construction sites or FLDS-owned properties hours away) so Ada became a stay-at-home caretaker. In the morning, she'd pick up the babies from the three mothers and take them down to the day care. Then she'd come back and start on the housework: endless laundry, endless food prep, endless dishes. She didn't have a driver's license, but back then, it didn't matter. Kids drove the cars around town; many of the women's cars didn't even have license plates, so as to prevent them from actually leaving the area.

Ada went back and tried sixth grade three different times, but it never stuck. There was always something pulling her away. When Jeffs pulled all children from school in 2000, her education was officially over. Around that time, her mom started talking about wedding dresses, and Ada knew she could be next in line.

Meanwhile, the man she had had in mind for a husband had been commanded to leave. "He couldn't even go and repent," Ada said. "Warren was on the phone with him screaming, 'I feel you have the spirit of contention! I want you out of my town!'" He had no choice but to go.

But he had a trade, setting tile, and could easily find work. He moved to St. George, where two of his sons, who'd also been kicked out, were already living. He'd drive the sons back to Short Creek to see their girlfriends, who were friends with Ada, then 17. The girls would pile into the truck and flirt; eventually, this man figured out that Ada was interested. When she left to join him, they moved to wherever he could find work: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Canada. She got pregnant and had a baby, a second, a third. One year, they ended up outside a mining camp in Canada. She didn't have a car or a license, and her husband would be gone for weeks, even six months at a time. Outside, there was big mining equipment in one direction, a train track and a river in the other, and a mountain behind them. Not a single safe place, she explained, for her kids to play. The children got so bored they tore their beds apart.

"That was my lowest point," Ada told me. "I was pregnant with my fourth and got so depressed that nothing mattered." When she needed to get one of her kids to the hospital, a friend of a friend took an interest in her, and began taking her to buy groceries, spending time with her and the children. "She wasn't in the religion or anything," she explained. "But she helped me get the things I needed."

"A lot of girls, their bodies weren't theirs. Their bodies were their dad's, or their brother's, or their husband's."

Eventually, Ada and her family returned to Short Creek, where she's become an active member of the Girlfriend Club. "This is my place," she said. "There's just something about it that I can't describe. It's my home."

Ada never actually married the man she calls her husband. But he remains, in her words, "around," currently at work building a shed in their backyard. Like most men and women who've left FLDS, it's difficult for Ada to reconceptualize what a relationship might look like. "I tell him, here's my X, Y, and Z that I need and deserve now," she said.

"But it's been a journey," she continued. "I was told when I was very young that my body is mine, and nobody has the right to it. It was the only thing that was mine. But a lot of girls, their bodies weren't theirs. Their bodies were their dad's, or their brother's, or their husband's."

FLDS women are never introduced to the concept of consent, especially as it relates to sex. Those who've left the church struggle to figure out how to say no to unwanted advances: That option, and that language, was never available to them. As a result, many have been date-raped or sexually assaulted by men they've met since leaving. It's even worse for teens who were raised using Rulon Jeffs's "Keep Sweet" training, which taught children that, as "priesthood people," they did not fight, disagree, or resist. (Their watchwords: "Perfect obedience produces perfect faith.") When men in the area learn that ex-FLDS women don't know how to say no, they become easy targets.

That's a reality Leona Bateman has been trying to wrap her head around for the last three years. When Leona speaks, she's often either raising her eyebrows or lowering her head and leaning in. Coupled with her round, quasi-Southern Creeker accent ("Crick" instead of "Creek"; "Hurricun" instead of "Hurricane") this can make conversations feel like being let in on a massive, gradually opening secret.

In Hildale, Leona's house sticks out. When I visited, the outside was peppered with Pinterest-style fall decorations. Her interior design, like her wardrobe, is distinguished by heavy use of animal print; she loves to tell people that since leaving the FLDS, she's dyed her hair every color on the shelf, but looks best as a blonde. The walls of her living room used to be filled with portraits of the prophets, announcing the family's faithfulness to whoever drove by. Now, they're covered in photos of her family.

When Leona left the FLDS in November 2012, she became a quick study in the world she'd missed. "I'd go to the grocery store in Elko, still wearing my dresses. I'd observe all the women, what they were wearing, how they were acting," she told me.

"I didn't say anything," she admits, laughing. "But I watched."

Leona also had a few decades before Jeffs's arrival to develop her taste. Not all ex-FLDS — especially those who came of age during the Jeffs era — had the same privilege. As one woman who still feels uncomfortable in non-polyg dresses told me, "Gentiles growing up get to try something on, and try something else on, and see someone wearing a different style and say, 'Oh, I like that!' But we never developed taste. There's all this other trauma when we leave the FLDS — and then we have to figure out how to dress, too."

What Leona describes as her "natural, worldly taste" others attribute to her "half-gentile" bloodline: Her father was a Mormon missionary, sent to Short Creek to try and convert the FLDS back to the Mormon faith. But instead he fell in love with an FLDS girl and married her — making him and his family "new blood." He married another wife, and Leona's two moms, in her words, "fought like hell."

Leona first met the man who would become her husband when she was 14. "I fell in love with him instantly," she told me. "So I went to my dad and said, 'I need to marry him.'" He said, 'If you stay clean until you're 16, I'll let you ask for him.'" It was a rarity, even in the pre–Warren Jeffs era, to have a say in who she'd marry.

Over the next 30 years, Leona gave birth to 12 children: 9 boys and 3 girls. Her husband ran FLDS construction crews; Leona cooked for them. After Warren Jeffs took over, he kicked out their eldest son for having a girlfriend. When her second oldest reached 18, he decided that he didn't want to remain in the religion. "We cried and thought he'd lost his salvation," she explained, "but we let him go."

Even as she and her husband lost their children — and others' were taken out of school — Leona remained faithful to the church. In some ways, her life had changed for the better under Jeffs. "Before Warren came, all the men were really abusive," she said. "It was socially acceptable to beat your kids. But then Warren banned all that. He said, 'If another woman comes in and tells me she's gettin' hit, or her kids are, then you're kicked out.'"

For many women, that felt like power — power bestowed upon them by Jeffs. But Jeffs had another way of abusing them. If a wife didn't obey her husband, there were all sorts of ways of disciplining her. Her husband wouldn't sleep with her for a year, or her children would be taken away. Or they'd be moved to the trailer park in the center of town, which functioned as a sort of disobedience holding cell. "Warren never said 'we're gonna mentally abuse them,'" Leona said. "But that's exactly what they did."

Still, Leona never thought of leaving. Such thoughts — like anything else that went wrong in a woman's life, from a miscarriage to a child breaking their arm — were considered proof that she was unworthy of salvation. It's difficult for outsiders to understand just how hard it is to break free when you believe you and your family will be literally damned if you do. "My husband begged me to leave," Leona said. "And when I actually did, I really did think I was giving up my salvation to be with him and my family. It broke my heart."

When the Batemans left, they also brought several members of the construction crew along with them. "We just locked the door on our house, took those 28 boys, and eight of our own kids, and started over," she said. They found a big house outside of Elko, Nevada, where the men could work in the mines.

"Some of these boys couldn't even read, so my husband took their tests," she said. "And I watched these innocent boys, who, before, hardly dared talk to anyone, experience all the dating, all the drugs." She started attending the local Mormon church, where the women taught her how to advise the young men in her house.

But it was too much, all at once, too soon. In 2014, she moved back to Short Creek, where most of the boys and her husband eventually followed her. Back in the Elko house, she says, she knew there had been drugs around, but she didn't know anything about them, had never seen a drug herself. Then her eldest son killed himself by overdosing — Leona never learned what, exactly, he took. He wasn't discovered for 10 days.

Today, Leona's son's death remains the great and guiding trauma of her life — but it also prompted her to start the Girlfriend Club. "Even though I knew all of these women, we hadn't really been allowed to talk for the last decade. We needed the education, we needed to socialize, we needed to forgive each other, and we needed to get to know each other again. That's why I do what I do."

Over the last three years, the Girlfriend Club has grown from a social gathering with the occasional guest speaker to an elaborate web of support groups, peer mentorship programs, and mini retreats directed at teen girls in particular. A vibrant private Facebook group connects ex-FLDS women from all over the world, and one of the dominant themes in the group is celebrating choice. Some ex-FLDS have become Mormon; others have left God behind altogether. Some have left their husbands, others still stick by them. Some choose to read the interview transcripts, circulated at events like Girlfriend's Night Out, outlining the sexual abuse that's still going on in the church; others consciously avoid them. Some feel strongly about returning to Short Creek; others can't abide it. Some still live "the principle," meaning plural marriage; others see it as too connected to the trauma of the FLDS under Jeffs.

"If a woman has an education, if they're over 18, and they want to do that, I don't care," she said. "Just call it polyamory, like the gentiles do!"

Like most of the women I spoke with, Leona is against persecuting those still "living polygamy." "If a woman has an education, if they're over 18, and they want to do that, I don't care," she said. "Just call it polyamory, like the gentiles do!"

"All I care about is making sure we have that education: With education comes the option for choice," Leona said. But education comes in layers: first, how to survive in the world outside of the FLDS, and second, how to thrive in it. Fundamental to both, Leona says, is realizing that you're not alone. As she told those assembled for the Girlfriends Night Out, "We think our stories are bad. But you know what? Everyone has a story, some good, some bad. If I find a woman who can empower us, who's overcome obstacles, here or anywhere — my goal is to bring us together."

That night, over an elaborate, Thanksgiving-style dinner, a no-nonsense, blonde-haired woman in her forties named Donia Jessop greeted the group. Many of them had worked to elect her, just days before, as Hildale's first woman mayor.

"People say this was a great win," Donia said, pausing for a few whoops from the crowd of three dozen women. "But I say this is a great win for our community. Our community won on Tuesday night."

Even after Jeffs was arrested, the FLDS maintained a stronghold on all publicly elected offices in both Hildale and Colorado City. Most candidates for local offices ran completely unopposed, and many women were not even registered to vote.

Donia knew that the only way for the community to recover was to make it friendlier to businesses, which is to say, friendlier to ex-FLDS and non-FLDS businesses. Until recently, it could take months for someone who was not FLDS to get a business license approved; today, there are still regulations prohibiting "obscene" business: massage parlors, hair salons, and nail salons. Donia's family — her husband, 10 kids, and a sister wife — recently opened a small restaurant in the center of town, and has plans to open Short Creek's first-ever bar.

Which is why Donia joined with two city council candidates — Maha Layton, an ex-FLDS elementary school teacher, and Jared Nicol, a Mormon who'd recently moved to the area — to contest the FLDS stronghold. They helped mobilize the community, putting on educational seminars at the school and working to strike 102 people who'd moved out of Hildale from the voter rolls. "One woman I was talking to, she's a year older than me," Donia told me. "This was the first time she voted. And she asked me to put a sign on her fence!"

You can still see Donia's signs scattered around town, including one, just a block away from Jeffs's intended compound, spray-painted with the word "NO." But Donia ended up winning handily, with 61% of the vote.

Still, when Donia talked to the Girlfriend Club, her theme was self-doubt: "During the campaign, I have definitely looked in the mirror and thought, What are you thinking? Who are you? You don't have a college education. You don't have all the answers. You sound like a hick from the sticks that doesn't know anything. But I knew I had the heart, and I had the desire."

"I felt like no matter what the campaign results were, it was a win for our community," Maha told me after dinner, when the women had gathered around extra servings of pumpkin pie. "I had my son come home from school and say, 'Mom, are you registered to vote?'"

"The best part is the way the children have become interested in their community," Leona said. "My little 10-year-old, she said to me, 'Mom, have you seen Donia? I think she should be mayor!' When I was 10, we were taught just the opposite: If someone's up there and doing that as a woman, they're to be avoided at all costs."

"Now that the women are taking control again, the men don't know what to do," Donia added. "An ex-FLDS man, no matter who he is, is in low ranking. Everything they were — it's all been stripped."

Which is why, even as the women themselves struggle — with the gaps in their own education, with figuring out their own sense of style and self, with concepts like consent and desire — they've shifted focus to a second task: helping the men deal with their own loss of identity. As Leona put it, "The men are in the muck and the mire, and the women are like, 'I've been there — I don't want to do that anymore. Let's go.'"

"It's hard for them to see that a woman will be with them, and love them, and be their woman because she wants to, not because they have to," Coylyn said.

"There's got to be a way to support them, too," said Elissa Wall. "The FLDS was so ingrained into their identity. All of their instincts about how they were supposed to treat a woman — kindness, gentleness, all of that — were removed from them because of FLDS culture. Now, they're so unequipped."

"I was talking to a man who's been married for 30 years," Leona added. "He said, 'I really don't know what to do. I love my wife, but I like her like one of the children. She was given to me, and I've always felt responsible for her, but I wanna know what it feels like to be in love!' That's how 50% of the men feel. They didn't actually get to go and feel love, or think through, 'Oh, is this what I want?' It was a job they were given."

"But unlike us, they don't know how to reach out for help," Elissa said.

"They could learn from us!" Leona exclaimed. "But they hate the Girlfriend Club because it's giving us a voice."

"Plus, there's nothing in their environment, inside the FLDS or even now, that has ever told them to look to a woman as an example," Elissa said.

"I know the boys need it just as much," Leona said, shaking her head. "We can forget the old men and just let them go drink until they die. But there's this whole other group, and we just need one good man to think about it."

Last summer, after years of dealing with PTSD and the suicide of their son, Leona and her husband divorced. In November, after months of talking through their future and what they want and need from each other, he proposed again.

When you meet someone in Short Creek, the first and most important question asked concerns your last name: In a community that closed, for that long, it's like a passport. If you don't have one of the dozen or so last names from the area, there's a natural wariness. Even though the God Squad is gone, Short Creek can still feel like a fishbowl. Everyone knows your business and your family's business, and is guarded against the business of anyone who's come from outside, including the Mormon Church, evangelical pastors, and nonprofit assistance groups.

"Over the years, the energy here was so heavy and disruptive. You could feel it the second you drove in," Elissa Wall told me. "You could tell something wasn't right. I used to get panic attacks as soon as I'd see those red cliffs. But it's changing."

Everyone I spoke to struggled, in one way or another, with coming back to Short Creek. But few have had homecomings quite like Elissa's. When she was 14, Rulon Jeffs orchestrated her marriage to her 19-year-old cousin, who sexually and psychologically abused her. She had five miscarriages and gave birth to a stillborn baby before developing a relationship with an ex-FLDS member named Lamont Barlow. When that relationship was discovered, Elissa's marriage was annulled, and she left the FLDS, married Barlow, and eventually gave birth to two children.

In 2006, the state of Utah pressed charges against Warren Jeffs as an accomplice to rape; when he was captured a year later, Wall testified against him. Jeffs was sentenced to 10 years, but the conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 due to "improper instructions" given to the jury. The state declined to reprosecute, in part because Jeffs's defense alleged that Wall had asked the midwife who cared for her during her miscarriages to recreate records of their conversations. What's more, Jeffs was about to be extradited to Texas, where he would be eventually sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.

After she left the FLDS, Wall became the most prominent face of the ex-FLDS. Her book, Stolen Innocence, was a best-seller, leading her to appearances on Oprah and in People magazine. With her brother, she started a clothing and tutu company for children. She went to a lot of therapy. She worked with organizations like Holding Out Hands, which works with those who've fled the FLDS and other religious sects in Utah.

But she was still largely hated, even amongst those who'd left the FLDS. "I was the bad guy for 10 years of their lives," she told me. "Every bad thing that happened to them, it's because of me." When Jeffs was in prison, life got worse; when the conviction was overturned, it was interpreted as proof, as George Jessop put it to me, of their continued, unlawful persecution.

In 2016, Wall's civil suit against the church resulted in a $2.75 million property and cash settlement; earlier this year, she was awarded $16 million in damages from Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. She moved back to Short Creek, where she's transforming an old technology school building, given to her as part of the settlement, into a production space for her clothing company.

"When I first got here, there was garbage dumped in every room," she told me. "When they heard the building was going to me, people came in and smashed all the toilets." On the second floor, amid walls of tulle and folded piles of onesies with slogans like "P is for Punk" and "#HANGRY," Wall shows the space where, during the day, a handful of women assemble tutus that get shipped across the US. "I've employed some people I grew up with, some kids just out of high school who need some mentorship," Wall said. "A lot of moms, and we work around their schedules."

This sort of starter job, especially one that allows for flexible schedules, is incredibly hard to come by in Short Creek. Many women still lack a high school education; others have no job history. Driving to Hurricane, St. George, or nearby Fredonia in Arizona, requires a car and, given the number of children most ex-FLDS still care for, reliable childcare. Many women get their start with multilevel marketing companies, especially for skincare and makeup, that offer flexible, at-home work, but often little by means of profit, especially when the potential market lacks disposable income. (The poverty rate in Hildale is 44.2%; in Colorado City, it's 54.6%. Such a high percentage of children qualify for free breakfast and lunch that Hildale schools provide it free to all).

Because Wall was one of the first to leave the FLDS, she's had years more experience grappling with the challenges (fiscal, psychological, practical) of the outside world. "I always tell people that we're educating three generations here: We're educating kids, we're educating parents, and we're also educating grandparents." Earlier this year, Wall was elected head of the PTA and became central to the get-out-the-vote effort. But she's reluctant to be called, or even thought of, as a leader. People still come up and yell at her in the streets. Many ex-FLDS I spoke with had no personal problem with her, but understood why others did.

"I've had to realize that not even this place is stronger than me."

"Instead of a leader, I think of myself as having empathy in the trenches," Wall explained. "Because I really am still in the trenches. Maybe I'm a few blocks ahead, but wow, am I still there." Earlier in the year, Wall had been walking around the small reservoir on the edge of town with her kids and a few friends. A man stopped one of her friends to chat. It was her ex-husband, now out of the FLDS, who she'd been forced to marry when she was 14.

"This person had tortured me and held me captive for 10 years, and here he was, in plain clothes," she said. The sun had just sunk out of sight of the school's windows, and a sherbert sunset was taking shape over the cliffs. "He said my name. It was one of those moments when all the progress you think you've made comes crashing down. I couldn't talk about it for three weeks."

"At first, I had this fear of running into him again at any point," she said, "and I was like, What am I doing here? I've had to realize that not even this place is stronger than me. But it takes so much personal determination to decide that you're going to define it differently. After I saw him, I backed up, got all those tools and skills I've acquired over the last 10 years, and said: Is this place mine? Do I want to keep it? Do I want to feel this way?"

"Ultimately, it was a good reminder to me," she said. "This is what these women go through every day."

When I first met Elissa earlier in the week, I'd noticed an inscrutable tattoo on her wrist. When I asked her about it, she laughed, and said, "No one understands, until I explain it, and then they're like, ahh!"

Wall's tattoo emblematizes so much of the lives of the ex-FLDS, a journey whose real meaning is legible only to them. It started with an open triangle, to signify an openness to change when she first became a single mom. Then she added a chevron sign, which, in Greek, signifies creating your own destiny. The asterisk is her favorite: In all her education, she found herself fixating on footnotes and their promise of more information, more context.

"I got it at a time when I had been so sold on this story that I had been telling for so long," she explained. "Life had made it so that I had to tell it over and over again, and I was just living the drudgery of it. But I realized, over time, that the story itself won't change — but the importance of that story, my attachment to it, can."

Finally, she added a semicolon. "A semicolon means there's always more to the sentence," she said. "I could've stopped, but I chose to continue." ●


Saunas and high vitamin doses: The discredited Scientology-backed drug rehab programme slated for Meath

Scientology's new community centre in Firhouse, south Dublin.
There have been a number of protests against Scientology’s presence in Ireland.

January 21, 2018

LAST MONTH, REPORTS emerged that a drug rehabilitation clinic linked to the Church of Scientology could open in the Meath village of Ballivor.

The centre, which could feature the Narconon programme, is believed to be slated for development on the site of a former national school.

Last year, TheJournal.ie broke the news that a new Scientology community centre was opening in Firhouse and that there had been plans to bring a number of the church-backed initiatives (such as Narconon) to Ireland.

There have been local concerns that the rehab facility will open in Westmeath in the coming months.

Over 200 people protested to express their concerns over the reported plans in Ballivor this week.
But what is Narconon and why are locals so concerned?

According to its official website, Narconon “uses unique rehabilitation technology that gets to the problem at its source and provides a path for long-term success”.

But their methods have proven controversial.

Their drug detoxification programme uses high doses of vitamins along with long periods in dry saunas which it says is an attempt to flush toxins out of your body.

Narconon-providing facilities have also been involved in wrongful death lawsuits in the US. There were four deaths in three years at one Narconon facility in Oklahoma although these have not been linked specifically to the treatment administered during the programme.

The Church of Scientology offers a so-called religious version of this called the purification rundown.

A former member of the group explained what it was like.

John McGhee told TheJournal.ie: “I was put onto the “purification rundown”, also know in ‘scientologese’ as the Purif, as my first step on Scientology’s ‘Bridge to Total Freedom’.

“It consisted of me going into the sauna every day for up to 4 hours for 32 days. Immediately before each session in the sauna I was given high doses of niacin (vitamin B3) and brought on a two-mile jog so as to induce the niacin flush. Once my skin start turning bright red and feeling like I have been stung by fire ants, it was time to jog back to the mission and get straight into the sauna.

“It was absolutely unbearable and I would often fall asleep inside the sauna with my Purif twin (another guy who was undergoing the purification rundown with me) waking me up and talking about how great L Ron Hubbard was and that how the rest of the world was deficient without Scientology in their lives.

“The person supervising our purification rundown was called the Purif i/c (in-charge). They will periodically check on us in the sauna and administer to us salts to take orally, with water, and ensure that we would have brief cold showers and return to the sauna promptly.

“I was told by Scientology the purification was the first step on the bridge because one needed a clear body and clear mind to proceed with the intense auditing which was to follow.”

A vocal opponent of the centre setting up in Westmeath is TD for the area Peadar Tóibín.

He is worried that there is no legislation in place that requires private drug treatment facilities to be independently assessed. He said that the State has a duty of its care to all people here.

In an answer to a parliamentary question by Tóibín, the Department for Health admitted that there is currently no provision in legislation for the regulation or inspection of residential treatment or rehabilitation centres specialising in addiction.

He said that this causes “significant concern”.

“The Department of Health also stated to me that organisations which provide addiction services and are funded by the HSE are required to meet minimum standards in the delivery of services across a range of criteria which form the basis of any service level agreement.

It appears that anyone can set up a residential treatment facility without accreditation and regulation in Ireland at the moment. To me this is a major gap in the state’s responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people.

“People in the grip of addiction are often at their most vulnerable. Over 80% of people presenting with substance abuse suffer with anxiety, depression and have backgrounds of trauma.”

TheJournal.ie contacted the HSE to get the Irish health service’s opinion on the detox. A consultant psychiatrist in substance misuse from the National Drug Treatment Centre said that Scientology’s programme has no basis in science.

The doctor said: “Scientology’s drug treatment programme has no standing amongst medical professionals involved in the treatment of persons with alcohol and drug use disorders.

“It comprises a series of interventions (‘Narconon’) with limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology and brain functioning and may potentially be harmful directly (with overuse of vitamins and other products) and indirectly in that persons are engaging in an intervention with no evidence of potential benefit for them.”

In response from a request from TheJournal.ie about the purification programme, which shares many similar characteristics with Narconon such as saunas and vitamins, the Church of Scientology said:

“The Purification Rundown is a part of the spiritual path a member of the Scientology religion will take part in. It has been found that drugs and toxins can take a heavy toll on the emotional and spiritual well-being of an individual and the programme enables an individual to rid himself of the harmful effects of drugs, toxins and other chemicals that lodge in the body and create a biochemical barrier to spiritual well-being.

We live in a chemical-oriented society. Virtually everyone is regularly subjected to an intake of food preservatives, pesticides, atmospheric poisons and the like.

The statement quoted a paragraph from the book Clear Body Clear Mind, authored by the founder of the Church of Scientology L Ron Hubbard:

“The Purification program cannot be construed as a recommendation of medical treatment or medication and it is not professed as a physical handling for bodies nor is any claim made to that effect.

There are no medical recommendations or claims for the Purification program or for any of the vitamin or mineral regimens described in this book.

“Contributions for taking such services are given willingly by our members and our members are well aware they are used by the Church to further our community betterment activities.”

TheJournal.ie specifically asked for a comment on Narconon but was told by the PR for Scientology in Ireland that is a completely separate entity and that he would be unable to comment.


Jan 21, 2018

TM Teacher Training 1970

Lorin Roche, Ph.D.

"My meditation teacher training involved many months during which most of the day was spent doing asanas, pranayama, and meditation. This was called a "round:" asana, pranayama, dhyan. You'd do a set of asanas, then a couple of minutes of alternate-nostril breathing, then meditate. This gets to be quite intense after a few weeks, because your muscles and nerves become too relaxed to hold back any tension, even the things you have been afraid of your whole life. Even the worst trauma you've ever experienced."

"In those days, meditation teacher training was a moveable feast. The TM organization never knew how many people were going to come, and they were just making it up as they went along, how to accommodate everyone. They would put out a notice, we are going to have a TM meditation teacher training, and then they would wait as 100, 200, 300, a thousand people would sign up. How do you plan something like that?"

"The TM organization had a guy, Jerry Jarvis, who was a kind of genius at improvisation. Jerry was the most relaxed person I have ever met and he was the main administrator of the Student's International Meditation Society - SIMS - which ran all the TM courses I ever attended – my introductory course in which I learned TM, and all my teacher training. Jerry could stand in the middle of 10 people hassling him for answers and calmly answer one at a time, giving each person his full attention for a moment or two, making a decision, and then going on to the next. While doing that, if you came up to the crowd with a sense of urgency, he would glance at you, read your situation, give you a wink or nod, and half a second later be looking at whoever was right in front of him. He just seemed to be aware of the whole sphere around him at all times."

"If I have ever met a person on this Earth who knew and lived the truth of, "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff. And It's All Small Stuff" it would be Jerry. He was constantly dealing with issues such as: "Jerry, we have 500 people signed up for the next teacher training course and the hotel in Switzerland has confirmed they can handle 520 maximum. . . whoops, Jerry, we now have 1200 people for the meditation course that starts in two weeks, and the Canary Islands are not available, the Majorcans are stalling for more money, the La Antilla hotels aren't answering our phone calls, and Billy was just arrested with a briefcase with $120,000 in it which was going to be used as a deposit for the rooms, and the Spanish are holding him as a currency smuggler.""

Continue reading: http://www.lorinroche.com/lorin/lorin/tt.html

Cheating and manipulation: Confessions of a gaslighter

Megha Mohan
BBC Stories
January 11,2018

Greg, a Canadian lawyer, is 28 but he's already had 11 serious relationships. He says each of those relationships ended with infidelity, on his part, and severe self-doubt on the part of the women. He is a self-confessed "gaslighter".

"Looking back it's clear that I was gaslighting the women and slowly making them second-guess their version of reality," he says.

He's speaking out now to give insight into the mind of a gaslighter, and to warn women of the tell-tale signs.

Gaslighting has been described as psychological abuse where false information is deliberately presented to the victim - the purpose being to make the victim question their own memory and perception of events.

Greg learned that he was a gaslighter recently, while in therapy.

He pinpoints the start of his behaviour to a relationship when he was a 21-year-old law undergraduate.

Paula was four years older and completing a master's degree. Greg describes the relationship as "romantic but unsteady". He soon began sexual encounters with other women behind her back.

I deliberately used demeaning language to make her lose confidence in her reading of the situation, of my infidelity - she was 'paranoid', she was 'crazy', she was 'full of drama'

But Paula was an intelligent woman and soon picked up that Greg was being unfaithful to her. Greg says that in order to continue cheating, while still maintaining their relationship, he had to "alter her reality".

He began identifying "techniques and pathways" in which he could manipulate Paula - laying the groundwork in order to make the lies that would come later more believable.

"Paula was extremely intelligent, but I was aware that I was leaving traces of infidelity in the digital world, on social media," says Greg.

He said he made jokes over a period of time pointing to her "obsession" with social media, making her feel that she was suspicious in an unhealthy, even "crazy" way.

"I deliberately used demeaning language to make her lose confidence in her reading of the situation, of my infidelity. She was 'paranoid', she was 'crazy', she was 'full of drama'.

"I'd say this all as jokes. But they would build over time, and she then started to believe."

The desired effect was achieved. Paula, who had suspected his infidelity, began to wonder aloud if perhaps she had been wrong to doubt him, if her judgement had left her. While she still had her doubts, Greg says she had started to question herself and apologised for suspecting him, vowing to spend less time on social media.

"Gaslighting as a term has been overused," says Dr George Simon, psychologist and author of international bestseller In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People.

"Gaslighting is when you know in your gut that you have a situation read right, but the other person is trying to convince you that you have read it all wrong. If this happens over a period of time one's sense of reality slowly erodes. There is a scale to gaslighting, from lying and exaggerating to controlling and domination. Greg was on the less extreme part of the scale but definitely on it."

Another tactic Greg used was to discredit other women. Some were women Paula had never met - the women he was cheating on her with. Others were Paula's own friends.

From my experience it's not true that it is vulnerable or insecure women who are susceptible to gaslighting - these were successful women

"I'd construct narratives where these other women, the ones who could reveal my behaviour, were women who couldn't be trusted, where they were liars.

"And despite Paula's better judgement, despite saying she was a feminist, she would then trust me and take a dislike to women whose version she would now no longer believe, even if she did meet them and found out they weren't these terrible human beings I made them out to be.

"I was isolating her from those who would tell her the truth."

After Paula, Greg embarked on a series of other relationships. He says that the women came from a variety of backgrounds and had different personalities. The pattern continued.

"There are two traits that people - and we must say people as men are also vulnerable - who are prone to being gaslighted share," says George Simon.

"One is conscientiousness. People who have a conscience, people who generally do the right thing and are trusting, because they are trustworthy in nature.

"The other is agreeableness. You want to treat people well and get along. You don't want to unnecessarily rock the boat in your relationships."

For Greg, there was a third quality that the women he gaslighted all shared. They were all intelligent and successful. Intriguingly, he says this was a key factor in how receptive they were to being gaslighted.

"I've dated a doctor, an engineer, a well-known social media personality.

"From my experience it's not true that it is vulnerable or insecure women who are susceptible to gaslighting. These were successful women but that came with a perception of what they thought a 'successful' relationship should look like and they shared that. They gave me a blueprint to what they were looking for in a man."

The women, he says, approached relationships like they did their careers. With a checklist of qualities, often from relationships depicted in films, and high expectations.

They wanted stimulating conversation peppered with attentive charm and humour. They were also looking for men who could match them in their success - men with impressive careers who also owned property and had financial security.

This kind of checklist narrowed the field of suitable men considerably, he says, and made it easier to play to their desires.

"When you are gaslighting, you see the narrative that the other person wants the relationship to follow and you then go about setting how that fits in with what you want. As a result, you do little things over an extended period of time that increases the likelihood that the partner will accept your narrative over their own.

"In my case, I have never been aggressive, violent, issued threats, or blackmailed anyone. There has literally been nothing stopping any of these partners from telling me to get lost. But none of them ever did.

"So for a long period of time I didn't feel like the villain."

But now, he says, he is aware of the consequences of his actions.

"These women were intelligent and I felt that if they wanted to, they could have questioned the narrative I was spinning. But now I'm aware that is a flimsy argument where love is concerned.

"I wanted the experience of multiple partners and the ego boost that came with that, so I justified my behaviour to myself for years.

"I guess, as a lawyer, I was able to explain away discrepancies in my story to girlfriends and convince myself that I wasn't a bad guy."

For help, contact:

Freephone 24-hour UK National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Some tactics of gaslighting, including isolating the victim from sources of support and depriving them of means needed for independence, could fall under the "Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship" section of the Serious Crime Act of 2015, in England and Wales.

But controlling or coercive behaviour is not a crime in Canada, and the same is true in many parts of the world.

Some individuals have learned these behaviours from early childhood experiences - then there are the narcissists, the ones that have no belief in anything bigger than themselves Dr George Simon, Psychologist

Recently Greg told a friend about his behaviour and his friend confessed that he too had been a gaslighter.

"My friend is a writer, so I guess he's also good at constructing narratives."

He says that if there is one piece of advice he would give women who are being gaslighted it's to speak to a male friend about it.

"Women in friendships often tell each other what they want to hear. Or if women do have searingly honest friends, this friendship seems to come under strain when one woman enters an abusive relationship.

"For some reason women seem to accept honesty better from male friends than female friends.

"I was wary of the male friends of my ex-girlfriends. They could often see through my behaviour and good male friends don't allow a friendship to break."

Greg says there was no one thing that caused him to seek help to deal with his gaslighting - he just grew weary of his own behaviour.

He wouldn't say he's cured yet, but he hopes he's on his way there.

George Simon says whether Greg can be cured or not depends on what type of gaslighter he is. There are two types, he says.

"Some individuals have learned these behaviours from early childhood experiences. Their manipulation rose out of some kind of personal pain and this is how they operate in the world. They developed a strategy to cope in life that was borne out of some trauma. There is hope for those individuals.

"Then there are the narcissists. The ones that have no belief in anything bigger than themselves. There's less hope for them and any change usually involves a huge, life-changing, catastrophic reckoning that shakes them to their core.

"And that may never come."

Greg and Paula's names have been changed

Illustrations by Tom Humberstone


Surviving and Moving On After a High-Demand Group Experience: A Workshop for Those Born/Raised in Cults

Surviving and Moving On After a High-Demand Group Experience: A Workshop for Those Born/Raised in Cults
When: Friday 4:00 pm April 27, 2018 to Sunday 2:00 pm April 29, 2018 (Check-in time is 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm.)

Where: Guest House Retreat & Conference Center, 318 West Main Street, Chester, CT 06412 (860–322–5770).  

As increasing numbers of people born or raised in cultic groups or relationships have reached adulthood, the International Cultic Studies Association has developed a program* that addresses their special needs. 

People born or raised in cultic environments cannot look back to a “pre-cult” identity. Raised in fringe subcultures, they often have educational and other skill deficits that interfere with adjustment to mainstream culture. Having grown up under the influence of irrational belief systems, they struggle with issues of dependency, self-esteem, and social conflict, and often have to deal with the trauma of physical and/or sexual abuse. They have difficulty getting help because they tend to lack finances and be wary of other people, including helpers. 

Meeting annually since 2006, this workshop addresses the needs of people born or raised in cultic environments through presentations by specialists and former members, including discussions in which attendees may participate according to their comfort levels. Special attention is paid to attendees’ needs for privacy, reflection, and working at their own pace. 

Workshop subjects include: 
  • Critical Thinking: What Is It and Why Does It Matter? 
  • Is There Such a Thing As a Healthy Family? 
  • Stages of Development: What Did We Miss and How Can We Catch Up? 
  • Now We Are Parents: What Have We Learned? 
  • You Mean I Have a Right to Boundaries? 
  • What Are Our Strengths and Challenges Building a New Life? 
  • Perfectionism, or The Inner Critic: Can We Accept Success? 
  • Moving On: What Does It Mean and Is It Possible? 
  • Postcult, How Should We Feel Toward People Who Harmed Us? 
  • Relationships: Why Are They So Difficult? 
This workshop has been made possible by special donations and the willingness of facilitators to volunteer their time. Without the dedication of these people, registration fees would be much higher than they are. Donations cover a substantial portion of the total cost. Because many people born or raised in cultic environments struggle financially, we urge those in need to apply for additional assistance. Please contact us at 239–514–3081 or mail@icsamail.com All contacts will be kept strictly confidential. 

More info: http://www.icsahome.com/events/workshopsgas

Gov. Brown reverses decision to parole Manson family killer

Gov. Jerry Brown has reversed a parole board's decision to free convicted killer and Manson family member Leslie Van Houten, shown here at her parole hearing in September at the California Institution for Women in Corona. (Stan Lim / Associated Press)
Howard Blume 
Los Angeles Times
January 19, 2018

Gov. Jerry Brown has reversed a parole board’s decision to free Manson family killer Leslie Van Houten.

In September, the Board of Parole Hearings found Van Houten, 68, suitable for release. When she was 19, Van Houten took part in the brutal slayings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in Los Angeles on Aug. 10, 1969.

“The question I must answer is whether Leslie Van Houten will pose a current danger to the public if released from prison,” Brown wrote in his statement, released Friday night. He said he had to consider Van Houten’s young age at the time of the crime, her dysfunctional upbringing and other mitigating factors.

He also noted Van Houten’s exemplary conduct in prison. Supporters and prison staff have described her as a model inmate who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and, as Brown put it, “exceptional work ratings as a tutor.” Van Houten also took leadership roles in self-help efforts among inmates.

But “in rare circumstances,” Brown said, “the aggravated nature of the crime alone can provide a valid basis for denying parole, even when there is strong evidence of rehabilitation and no other evidence of current dangerousness.”

Brown cited the horrific nature of the murders, Van Houten’s eager participation and what he characterized as her minimization of her role in them.

The reversal marks the second time Brown has overturned a parole board decision in order to keep Van Houten behind bars. The first time was in 2016. Before that, the state parole board denied Van Houten’s attempt at winning release 19 times since she was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Manson died in November. Another participant, Susan Atkins, died in prison in 2009.

The youngest of Manson's followers, Van Houten has been portrayed by supporters as a misguided teen under the influence of LSD — and the twisted influence of Manson — on the night of the slayings.

A former homecoming queen from Monrovia, she did not join in the Aug. 9, 1969, murders of Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of film director Roman Polanski, and four others in Benedict Canyon. But Brown’s statement noted that Van Houten felt “left out” and that she wanted to participate in the carnage of the following evening.

Van Houten was part of the group that stormed into the LaBiancas' home in Los Feliz. Van Houten testified to stabbing Rosemary LaBianca in the back at least 14 times, possibly after she already was dead. The group wrote messages in blood on the walls, and Van Houten, Brown noted, drank some chocolate milk from the refrigerator before leaving.

Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi argued during the trial that Manson orchestrated the murders as part of a plan to spark a race war that he called Helter Skelter. He and his followers planned to survive by living underground near Death Valley and then would take power.

Van Houten, Manson and three others were convicted and sentenced to death. But after the California Supreme Court struck down the death penalty, their sentences were commuted to life in prison.

An appellate court overturned Van Houten's conviction in 1976, and a second trial the following year ended in a hung jury. She was convicted in her third trial in 1978 and sentenced to seven years to life in prison.

At a 2002 parole board hearing, Van Houten said she was “deeply ashamed” of what she had done, adding: “I take very seriously not just the murders, but what made me make myself available to someone like Manson.”

Her supporters have come to include retired reporter Linda Deutsch, who covered the trial for the Associated Press.

“During her incarceration, Van Houten has demonstrated remorse and, in my first-hand assessment, she is living proof that redemption is possible even for those whose crimes are unforgivable,” Deutsch wrote in an opinion piece for The Times.

“I've learned that she has spent decades in therapy to understand how she fell under Manson's control,” Deutsch wrote. “She once told me: ‘I could not have lived without paying for what I did.’ ”

“But she has paid,” Deutsch added. “At issue is whether a person who earns her release through hard work over many years should be treated differently because her case was in the headlines.”

Opponents of Van Houten’s parole take a starkly different stand.

“Ms. Van Houten should not be paroled and society cannot trust someone who committed such a heinous murder without showing any remorse for years,” according to a statement on a Web site devoted to keeping “the Manson Family Killers in Prison.”