Sep 19, 2018

Yoga in Transformation: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Vienna Forum for Theology and Religious Studies, Volume 16

Vienna University Press

"This volume explores aspects of yoga over a period of about 2500 years. In its first part, it investigates facets of the South Asian and Tibetan traditions of yoga, such as the evolution of posture practice, the relationship between yoga and sex, yoga in the theistic context, the influence of Buddhism on early yoga, and the encounter of Islam with classical yoga. The second part addresses aspects of modern globalised yoga and its historical formation, as for example the emergence of yoga in Viennese occultism, the integration of yoga and nature cure in modern India, the eventisation of yoga in a global setting, and the development of Patañjali’s iconography. In keeping with the current trend in yoga studies, the emphasis of the volume is on the practice of yoga and its theoretical underpinnings."

This is an open access title and available at:!

The editors

  • Karl Baier is Head of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Vienna.
  • Philipp A. Maas is Research Associate at the Institute for Indology and Central Asian Studies, University of Leipzig.
  • Karin Preisendanz holds the Chair of Indology at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, University of Vienna.

Event: Health and Healing in Minority Religions.

Inform Seminar
Inform Seminar – Saturday 24th November 2018.

This seminar will explore a range of religious models of health and healing, and to what extent these are related to what practitioners actually do with the aim of preventing and curing diseases of the body and the mind. Many minority religions provide their members with a comprehensive worldview in which beliefs and practices concerning health and healing are incorporated in religious beliefs. Perceptions of body, mind and soul, and their relationships are intricately entwined with a supernatural or transcendent realm.

At one end of a spectrum, there are religious traditions that consider the body a temple and who consider maintaining its health through lifestyle and diet a form of worship. At the other end, there are those who consider the body inferior to the spiritual or cognitive realm, and not of primary importance. Then there are those who believe in possession of the body by evil spirits to be a source of illness, and there are those who believe in ‘faith healing’ and associated practices.

Some of these positions will be explored at this seminar, which will include presentations by academics, academic researchers, and members of Christian Science and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Sarah Harvey
Senior Research Officer
020 7848 1132
c/o Dept. of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London
Virginia Woolf Building, 22 Kingsway, London WC2B 6LE.

Sep 18, 2018

Man enters plea in Gwinnett baby starving death — but still disputes case

Joshua Sharpe
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
September 18, 2018

Rather than face trial, a purported Nuwaubian cult member made a plea deal and accepted a life sentence for the 2014 starving death of his 15-month-old daughter.

Calvin Mcintosh, 48, who authorities have said is tied to the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, entered Alford pleas to felony murder and three counts of cruelty to children. The Alford plea allows a defendant to accept punishment for crimes while still maintaining their innocence.

Judge Melodie Conner sentenced Mcintosh to life in prison, with the chance of parole, plus 30 years of probation. “Life” is 30 years in Georgia, meaning that he can seek parole after serving that time.

Charges of starving and false imprisonment of the baby’s mother, Iasia Sweeting, were dropped as part of the plea agreement. Prosecutor Rich Vandever said Sweeting agreed to the terms.

“We had solid evidence to prove those counts,” Vandever told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of the charges related to Sweeting. She weighed only 59 pounds at age 21 when she was rescued from a Gwinnett County hotel in Peachtree Corners.

Sweeting’s family has said she was abducted by Mcintosh in 2010 in DeKalb County though he wasn’t charged, and Mcintosh’s attorney disputes the claim. Sweeting, a former DeKalb School of the Arts student who couldn’t speak or walk after her rescue, has made a remarkable recovery and is looking forward to attending college. She couldn’t immediately be reached for comment after the hearing. 

Her mother Elvis Morgan was conflicted after the pleas.
“I don’t know how to feel right now,” she told the AJC. 

The pleas mark a major step, but not the end of the case. Mcintosh’s daughter, Najlaa, who is also accused of murder in the death of baby Alcenti for allegedly denying food to her, three other children and Sweeting at her father’s order because of some “misbehavior.” No trial date has been set for Najlaa Ncintosh.

The murder case began on Nov. 11, 2014, when Calvin Mcintosh went to a Sandy Springs hospital with the baby and told staff she wasn’t breathing. It was too late to save her, and a nurse said the child looked like a skeleton.

None of Sweeting’s family had ever met the baby; they’d been searching for Sweeting for four years.

Hospital staff notified Gwinnett police, who soon raided Room 310 at the Extended Stay America on Jimmy Carter Boulevard, where the group had been living. They found Sweeting in dire need of medical attention and the other three children malnourished. Police said two of the children were the product of incest between the Mcintoshs, the other was another child Sweeting had with Mcintosh.

In the room, officers also discovered literature about the beliefs of the Nuwaubian group, which authorities have long called a black supremacist cult. The group once had a secretive Egyptian-themed compound in Putnam County until the leader, Dwight York, went to prison for child molestation.

Defense attorney Walt Britt said the Alford plea doesn’t mean Mcintosh is admitting guilt and he pointed out that he had planned to keep the state from bringing up anything about the Nuwaubians.

“Mr. McIntosh, at his plea and sentencing, disputed the state’s case, but determined it was in his best interest to enter a plea,” Britt told the AJC. “I am very sorry the death of the baby...and all injuries and problems that the other children suffered.”

Sep 17, 2018

Mormon fighting to end youth interviews ousted from faith



September 16, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Mormon man who led a campaign criticizing the church’s practice of allowing closed-door, one-on-one interviews of youth by lay leaders that sometimes included sexual questions has been kicked out of the faith following a disciplinary hearing.

Sam Young read a verdict letter for the first time Sunday that had been delivered to him following last week’s hearing with local church leaders in Houston.

Young and his supporters say the interviews where youth are asked if they’re following the law of chastity led to inappropriate conversations and shaming.

Young called his excommunication “a supreme disappointment” and was emotional at a news conference attended by about 100 of his supporters.

“The whistleblower has been kicked out,” he said. “But they have no power to excommunicate me from the cause of protecting children and protecting the healing of my friends. For our children’s sake, this whistleblower is not going to stop roaring.”

Young, 65, recently finished a 23-day hunger strike in Salt Lake City near church headquarters to bring attention to his cause. In March, he organized a protest march of about 1,000 people who walked to church headquarters.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t comment on disciplinary hearings to respect people’s privacy.

While not a lifelong ban, excommunication is a rare move that amounts to the harshest punishment available for a church member.

Young becomes the third high-profile Mormon who led protests about church policy to be excommunicated in recent years.

Kate Kelly, founder of a group pushing for women to be allowed in the religion’s lay clergy, was excommunicated in 2014. John Dehlin, who runs a podcast that allows doubting Mormons to tell their stories, was kicked out in 2015.

In his summons to the disciplinary hearing, church leaders told Young he was facing excommunication because he encouraged others to vote against church leaders and because he organized more than one public action that expressed opposition.

The youth interviews usually happen twice a year starting at 12. One of the questions asked by men who are called bishops deals with sexual activity: “Do you live the law of chastity?”

Young and the Mormons and non-Mormons who back his campaign say the question is unnecessary and inappropriate.

The church changed its policy earlier this year to allow children to bring a parent or adult with them. Parents were only allowed in a hallway or adjacent room under old rules. Youth can still go in alone if they choose.

In June, the faith, for the first time, posted the list of questions lay leaders are supposed to ask during the interviews.

Mormon leaders say the interviews are an important way for bishops to get to know youth better and determine their religious habits and obedience to God.

Young’s ouster means he’ll be leaving a religion he’s been a member of his entire life. Mormons usually have tight-knit connections with other people in their congregations, bonds forged by spending worship and social time together.

Excommunicated Mormons and those not in good standing can’t go inside temples where members are married and other ordinances such as baptisms for dead relatives are performed

Paedophile cult leader Warren Jeffs tore this town apart. Now his victims are putting it back together

Former members of a polygamous Utah cult struggle with their own #MeToo reckoning.

New Statesman
September 17, 2018

Cottonwood Park, the largest public gathering place in Hildale, Utah, nestles in the midst of a surreally gorgeous landscape. Rugged cliffs and stunning canyons dramatically rear and stretch in the distance, framed against a crystal blue sky. Newcomers to the area never fail to remark on the vista, to which the people who see it every day simply nod with pride. There’s something about the land here, the locals say; something that calls them back when they leave.

The park is crowded this afternoon. The smell of fresh turf fills the air, which is whipped into a chilling wind by early spring, despite the sun. Residents of Hildale and its sister town across the state line, Colorado City (the two towns are collectively known as Short Creek) have worked all day to replace the barren, dusty ground with a thick layer of grass and soil, but only about a quarter of the park has been completed. There’s still plenty of work to be done.

Leona Bateman, a trim, feisty-looking woman in her 50s wearing skilfully applied make-up and a bright dress with cut-outs that reveal her shoulders, floats from one picnic table to the next, greeting those seated by name. “Hey, how’s your daughter? I heard she had an accident, is she okay? Good, glad to hear it. See you at the meeting this week!”

She makes her way to a large table set up with sandwiches in plastic boxes and bottles of water. Another woman, Anne (whose name has been changed at her request) and her daughter, a pretty girl in her early twenties, are handing out snacks. Even though there’s supposed to be a barbecue for the entire town later this evening, laying turf is hungry work.

“Hi Leona, good to see you,” Anne greets her. The two women exchange brief hugs and chat for a few minutes.

“Has Donia made an appearance yet?” Leona asks.
“Not yet,” Anne answers. “I’m sure she’ll be along eventually. It’s part of her duties now.”
Named for the ancient, gnarled trees that twist their way up to the sky, Cottonwood Park has gone to seed over the past few decades. For many years, the land was in the hands of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints or FLDS, an extremist polygamous sect of Mormonism that until recently had a stranglehold on all of Short Creek.

The FLDS is most notorious for the reign of its former prophet Warren Jeffs, who took leadership of the cult in 2002 after the death of his father Rulon, the previous prophet. By the end of his tyrannical rule, Jeffs had taken 80 wives, each of whom had an average of 10 children. In 2011, he began serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting girls as young as 12, sometimes tying them up in a large domed structure specially constructed for the purpose, and raping them in front of his other wives and favourite followers. Jeffs called these gatherings “Witnessings.”

In Jeffs’ day, almost every property in Short Creek was set up with feeds for security cameras. They all went back to a room full of TV screens in his house, where he could monitor the intimate lives of his followers to make sure they weren’t disobeying the rules of his invasive, unthinkably restrictive ideology. While Jeffs was prophet, members of the FLDS weren’t allowed to use the word “fun,” because he considered it too unrestrained. They had to say “enjoyable.” Outsiders were always to be shunned, but Jeffs forbade the townspeople even from socialising among themselves. As Leona puts it, “we knew each other, but we didn’t really know each other.”

Jeffs manipulated his followers with a variety of mind-control techniques, including the threat of separation from their families. When a member of his flock was disobedient, he or she would be expelled from the community to “repent from afar.” Male FLDS members on repentance missions were required to send the lion’s share of any profit they accrued through their work back to Jeffs in order to earn their way back onto “the ladder of trust” and be reunited with their families. In fact, almost all the money anyone in Short Creek made went straight to Jeffs, who pooled their resources into a sizeable fortune that he distributed as he pleased.
Jeffs was arrested in August 2006, after having been on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for months. In 2007, he was convicted in Utah of two counts of accomplice to rape and began serving a sentence of 10 years to life, which was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 due to incorrect jury instructions. Jeffs was then extradited to Texas, where he was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of minors in connection with a raid by Texas law enforcement on an FLDS ranch there and sentenced to life in prison.

Since Jeffs’ imprisonment, the FLDS has lost a great deal of control over Short Creek. Some people remained in the cult, which has splintered into smaller groups since the departure of its prophet. They can still be seen around town, walking hurriedly past apostates with their eyes cast down; the women dressed modestly in long skirts and prairie blouses. But law enforcement has been keeping a close eye on lingering remnants of the group, and last year, Donia Jessop, another former member of the FLDS, was elected the first female mayor of Hildale – a move that scandalized the remainder of Jeffs’ congregation.

The past two years have seen the town rapidly transform from an inaccessible place of walled properties and suspicious glares, where the formerly FLDS-controlled local police force quickly drove out any outsiders brave enough to invade its streets. Since Jeffs was arrested, many members of the cult have decided to leave its restrictive lifestyle and begin their lives anew. People who were expelled from the FLDS and sometimes shunned for years by their families have returned with a drive to help Short Creek rejoin America in the 21st century. They’ve become involved with local government, started community outreach programs and opened businesses – including a brand-new microbrewery, Hildale’s very first alcohol-serving establishment, brazenly situated right next to the most popular casual food joint in town.

Despite the fact that the women of Short Creek have known nothing but polygamy for most of their lives, they’ve driven many of the changes in the area. Until recently, these women were trained to live only as appendages of the men who married and often abused them. Given the violent, paedophilic proclivities of Short Creek’s former prophet, the stain of misogyny, incest, and sexual violence has hung like a noxious mist over the twin towns for years. That stain has only recently begun to recede, in large part due to the efforts of women who already face plenty of challenges adapting to the unfamiliar environment of life outside the FLDS community. Despite the uncertainty of entering a world they were raised to fear as the gateway to hell, they must continue tending to their large families even as they try to heal themselves and their town from a life without choices.

In a community where a man’s worth was partly measured by how many wives he had, Leona’s husband Craig Bateman was always an oddity. Leona was his only wife for 35 years. He sometimes jokes that he never took another wife because he had his hands full with this one, and it’s easy to see why.

Like almost everyone in Short Creek, Leona was born into a plural marriage. Her mother was a second wife, married to Leona’s father when she was 15 years old. Leona was one of 32 children raised in her house.

Leona’s family taught her what all Short Creek families used to teach their daughters: that her only mission in life was to care for her husband and bear as many children as possible. Despite a childhood that denied her the assertive streak she’s now growing into, Leona speaks of her time growing up with a fondness shared by many long-time residents of the towns. Though the community has been under the control of polygamous Mormons since the 1930s, Leona says things were different before Warren Jeffs became prophet in 2002.

Short Creek was always a deeply religious place, but when Leona was a child, she says, people socialised often and supported each other through hard times. No one in town was ready for the calculated process of isolation and mind control that Warren Jeffs began to implement when he took power. Perhaps that’s how he managed to execute it so well.

Over breakfast at the Merry Wives Café in Hildale, a sweet little diner with lace curtains on the windows, Leona explains how Warren consolidated his power over their lives. Two tables of FLDS women in their familiar modest garments, accompanied by a flock of extremely blonde children, are seated nearby. Leona keeps her voice lowered as she speaks, so they won’t hear what she’s saying.

According to Leona, before Warren came, there had already been a fair amount of domestic abuse in Short Creek, as there often is in patriarchal, religious rural communities. She says that was how he won the townspeople over at first – with his morality, forbidding corporal punishment of children and wives.

“It was common for the women to get beat before Warren,” Leona says. “It was common for the kids to get beat. When he came, he banned that, and he said if anyone hits their families again, they're going to get kicked out. For the first time ever, women had a little tiny bit of power over their husbands.” But the women of Short Creek would soon find out that some punishments could be even worse in their own way than being beaten.

“After a while, if you didn’t obey your husband, then he would go tell Warren Jeffs,” Leona explains. “Warren would say, ‘take her kids from her, and move her to the trailer court, or put her in complete isolation from the family. Ban her from the church.’ What they would do is mind manipulation, which is far worse than a spanking or a beating. I know many women who got their babies taken from them … just by applying social pressure, he got complete control.”

Leona pauses, checking again to see if the FLDS women at the other tables are listening. They’re not, so she discreetly gestures at them as she continues.

“There’s no leader out here right now so they don’t want to give up their faith cause they’ll feel wicked or destroyed,” Leona whispers about the families. “We call it ‘process.’ It took three years for me to even believe that the news wasn’t lying about Warren. I just thought they just made all that up. So, they’re in process. You'll see them all over town wearing dresses.”

An estimated 10,000 active FLDS members still live in and around Short Creek, but the group appears to have splintered since Jeffs’ imprisonment – its leadership contested by competing candidates for the prophethood. At least, that’s how the FLDS presents itself, now that law enforcement is monitoring them so closely. There are rumours that a young man named Rulon Johnson might be consolidating some power as a leader, but despite his crimes, Jeffs is still seen as God’s incarnation on earth by many people in the cult. According to Leona, there’s a ceremony that current members of the FLDS have taken to performing. They have to build a small room out of wood they chopped themselves and sit inside it for hours, so they will know how their prophet suffers in his jail cell.

Jeffs still appears to be leading the group as much as he can from prison, refusing to relinquish his control over those citizens of Short Creek who are still too frightened to go out into “The World,” as they call it, with capital letters. His followers are still waiting for the “Millennium”, Mormonism’s apocalyptic vision of what will happen when the world ends.

According to believers, when the Millennium comes, God will judge the righteous and those who pass the test will live for a thousand years in peace and glory, while those who fail will be cast into eternal suffering. That was one of the ways Jeffs frightened the townspeople into submission. If his followers disobeyed, they were convinced they would be damned to hellfire for eternity, while those who were compliant were admitted into something called the “United Order”, an elite group they were taught to see as the direct pathway to heaven.
But even though Jeffs is now behind bars, people who have left the FLDS say the damage he did remains etched into their lives. When Leona was 40 years old, her brother Johnny committed suicide after being cast out by Warren. Leona deeply regrets the way her family treated him when he was expelled, but their fear of being infected with what they were taught to see as her brother’s disobedience to God’s will was too intense for them.

“He called home for help,” Leona says. “He called probably ten or 20 family members and we just told him no or hung up on him. They eventually found him in a hotel room. He hung himself and he had been there for ten days … To this day we don't even know what happened. We didn’t even go to his funeral.”

Leona’s brother wasn’t the only loved one she lost to the trauma of a life under Jeffs. Two years ago, her son Randy also committed suicide. He had been expelled from the group in 2000 and got into drugs after he was barred from his community and shunned by his family. Although Leona and her family reconnected with Randy when they decided to leave the FLDS in 2012, the damage to his psyche had already been done. They only got to spend a couple of years with him before he killed himself.

In the aftermath of Randy’s death, Craig and Leona divorced. “Craig went into a depression and said he could not have a family or deserve one,” says Leona. The couple spent seven months apart, but are now back together. “I have no idea where it's going to go,” she says. “We're still struggling but we haven't given up on each other.”

Suicide is common among ex-members of the FLDS, as well as drug abuse and maladaptive sexual behaviour. Many people who were never allowed to make a personal decision have fallen into one addiction or another since leaving the cult and entering a world full of dangerous choices – a problem that troubles those who want to improve the lives of people in Short Creek.

John Barlow, a 27-year-old former Marine who left the FLDS when his father was expelled in 2001, is one of the once-shunned community members who have recently returned to the area. He now works as the town city manager and Mayor Donia Jessop’s right-hand man, hoping to reshape its politics. On a cliff overlooking a sweeping view of the town, framed by those extraordinary rust-coloured canyons, Barlow explains that the self-destructive behaviour displayed by many former FLDS members is rooted in many years of a life without autonomy.

“I call it a rule-based morality system, where you don’t really think about the cause and effect of things,” Barlow says. “You just know that there are things that are right and things that are wrong. So when you’re presented with a choice, you just ask yourself, ‘is that on the list of things that are allowed or is it on the list of things that isn’t?’ As soon as that list disappears, some people throw out everything on it and end up in trouble … and redefining relationships for polygamist families, redefining relationships for young adults, is extremely difficult, because all their models of how to interact with the opposite sex have not been very positive.”

As for Leona, she is frank that the town is still struggling to shed the sexually abusive, misogynist mentality that permeated its way of life for so long, and some extremely troubling aspects remain a challenge for those who want change. On a drive through Short Creek and a neighbouring town still under the control of another polygamous Mormon sect called Centennial Park, Leona gestures at one of the houses, a drab little structure with an unkempt yard.

“Everyone here is related and some bad things still go on,” she says bluntly. “The man who lives there has been sleeping with all of his daughters since they turned 12. He felt like it was his job to teach them about sex. Lots of people who have never been able to date, you know, they get into that stuff.”

Bateman drives past a large building with strangely modern architecture that looks abandoned, “That was the old FLDS meeting house,” she says. “They’ve closed it now.” But not everyone seems to have accepted its retirement. Two FLDS women carrying brooms are out front, lovingly sweeping tumbleweeds from around the shuttered building, their long skirts dragging in the dust.
Craig was the one who pushed Leona to leave in 2012. He had begun to seriously question FLDS ideology, and is now a committed atheist who can’t bear any talk of spirituality. At the time they left, Craig owned a construction company with over 80 employees. Despite the fact that he only had one wife, the Bateman family had been quite comfortable with their financial and social standing in the community, so Leona was reluctant to leave at first, not knowing how they would fare out in The World.

But in the years since, the couple and their 12 children appear to have adjusted well to the freedom of life outside the FLDS. On a Saturday night at the newly opened microbrewery, called The Edge of the World, what seems like the entire town is crammed in. A young female server with green hair, piercings and tattoos takes orders as more and more people join. The atmosphere is indistinguishable from any similar bar in any other part of America, with no indication that most of the brewery’s customers have only recently been able to consume any alcohol at all.

Leona and Craig are enjoying the evening with their daughter Andrea, a 28-year-old mother of three with green hair almost matching that of the waitress, who is a friend of hers. At one point, Craig gestures at a table across the room, where a man in his late middle ages is laughing over a beer.

“See that guy?” he whispers. “Warren appointed him to be our enforcer. He used to turn us in for any little thing and we’d get in so much trouble. Now here he is, having drinks with all of us. It’s really strange.”

Life without the FLDS may have its moments of strangeness, but Leona is managing to cope with her own adjustments by assisting others in the community through their transitions. In 2013, she started a group called Creekers to help former members of the cult assimilate back into society. She also set up a weekly meeting of former FLDS women she playfully calls the Girlfriend Club, where they process their trauma by supporting and sharing their experiences with one another. And last summer, Leona held a “Brave Woman Camp” for female members of the group who have survived sexual abuse.

“We had 12 rape cases come out of that camp,” Leona says matter-of-factly. “When you’re going through transition and leaving a cult, and you’re used to [having] no power, and you have no education, you’re very vulnerable. A few of the cases that came out were happening in the church, because stuff like that still happened and just was secret. The more I do this work, the more I realize how needed it really is.”

But Leona also has to continue raising her children while she organises services for the community. The youngest of her kids, Paris, is still 10 years old, and running a household with Leona’s perfectionism can’t be easy work. The Bateman home, an enormous stone mansion with architectural details reminiscent of a medieval castle, is well arranged and pristinely tidy. Photos of their children are everywhere; including a few of Randy, memorialised as a young man with all-American good looks and a wide, joyful grin.
In her tastefully decorated living room, Leona gleefully shows off a photo of her on her wedding day. In it, her hair is tied up severely. She’s wearing a white lace dress with long sleeves and a collar so high it looks like it’s choking her. A young Craig modestly stands by her side, barely touching her.

“I look a little different now, right?” Leona laughs, posing next to the photo. Today, she’s wearing a zebra-striped jacket over a black top with gold studs spangled around the collar. “You know, I was always taught to try my hardest to be the best at anything I was supposed to do,” Leona says. “And for years, I was supposed to be the perfect, obedient wife.”

She gives a sheepish little smile. “I tried as hard as I could, but I wasn’t very good at it.”

The house in which Jeffs used to live with a rotating number of his 80 wives and their children now seems to stand as a symbol of Short Creek’s transformation. Recent transplants to town, Jena and Glyn Jones, just turned the building into a “Dream Center”, one of similar properties across the United States run by a Christian charity. The charity uses the properties they acquire to offer housing, counselling and addiction recovery services to disadvantaged populations.
Brielle Decker, Jeffs’ 65th wife, was able to purchase Jeffs’ former residence at a discounted price in 2017 and donated it to the Jones’ enterprise, which is entirely donor-funded.

At a potluck held by the Dream Center every Thursday, it’s warm and noisy in the imposingly designed, enormous house, which has the words “PRAY AND OBEY” ominously set into a brick wall on the outside of the building. Inside, small crowds of children scamper around as their parents line up at a buffet table to be served from a variety of potluck-style dishes. Laughter and easy chatter fill the rooms, which are strangely large for what appears to be a residential property. It’s clearly a place where a large number of people were meant to live, work and eat – but not play. The playing is new.

Despite the Dream Center’s sordid history, the women of Short Creek desperately need the services it provides. The disintegration of the FLDS and its polygamous lifestyle has created a large population of husbandless women with huge broods of children and no education or work experience. And many of the women who have left the FLDS are struggling to cope with the kind of trauma that never really leaves them.
At the potluck, Anne and her daughter chat with Leona over dessert. They’re all grateful for the Dream Center and the services it provides, but have mild concerns about the personal histories of the Dream Center volunteers, as well as the fact that it’s a religious Christian charity. The Joneses say they take care not to proselytise, but given the town’s history, any organised spirituality makes some Short Creekers nervous. “After what people have been through here, they’re leery of religion,” says Anne. “We’re leery of everything, basically, because we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into. Look what we got ourselves into in the first place, and how did we do that?” She laughs.

Growing up in the FLDS, Anne didn’t share Leona’s relative good fortune. Born with a cleft lip, she was relentlessly bullied as a child, even by her adult bus driver.

Compounding Anne’s childhood troubles, when she was 19 years old, she fell in love with and married a man with a last name that was decidedly unhelpful in the hierarchical, dynastic society of the FLDS. Certain families were more respected than others in the community, and Anne’s wasn’t one of them. In hindsight, though, she says that may have spared her daughters unwelcome attention from Jeffs and his favourite male followers.

“I’m glad that we were shunned a little bit because it kept us out of that circle,” Anne says. “Our girls were just not quite as good as everybody else’s to them.”
Like Leona, Anne describes the time before Warren Jeffs became prophet as much happier than it would become. Her stepfather, whom she speaks of with deep love and grief, was a rare bright spot in her difficult childhood. He was one of the community cooks, a friendly man supposedly beloved by many people in town. But sixteen years ago, she woke up one day to discover that her stepfather had disappeared. Warren had sent him away to “repent from afar,” with no explanation whatsoever for Anne and her family. For a long time, they didn’t even know what sin he was supposed to have committed.

“He was gone for five years,” Anne says. “Then we got word that he had passed away. [Jeffs and the leadership] called all of his kids in together and told us that he had been judged by God and was on the right hand of God and was glorified in the Heavens.”

His children were relieved to hear that their patriarch had redeemed himself in the eyes of the Lord. But the next day at the community meeting, Jeffs had a surprise for them. Instead of repeating his praise from the night before, he told the congregation that Anne’s stepfather had been cast down to hell. According to Jeffs, he sent her stepfather away to repent because he had discovered that one of the man’s wives, who worked as a midwife, let a severely deformed, premature baby die without intervening to save it. Anne’s stepfather had supposedly been excommunicated because he failed to report his wife for her sin.

Given the fact that almost everyone in Short Creek is related, birth defects are highly common due to inbreeding. Anne says the baby in question was about a pound and a half at birth and “didn’t have all its parts.” Absent intensive medical care in a hospital, there was scarcely any chance the child would have lived. But Jeffs said it was a sin to let it die, which is why he sent Anne’s stepfather away. In reality, though, Anne says her stepfather, always popular among the congregation, had started to question Warren a little too loudly for the prophet’s liking. So he cast him out. That day at the meeting, Jeffs made it clear that even her stepfather’s death hadn’t erased his dishonor among the community.

“He would have given the clothes he was wearing to somebody,” Anne says of her stepfather, with tears in her voice. “He loved everybody.”
When her stepfather was banished, Anne started to have serious doubts about Jeffs’ leadership of the community. Other painful aspects of his rule began to anxiously eat away at her mind too. For example, Jeffs had instructed Anne’s husband not to sleep with her anymore after she had to have a hysterectomy. Her husband had taken her biological sister as a second wife when Anne was 32 years old and watching the man she loved being intimate with her sister-wife instead of her was incredibly difficult.

After Jeffs went to prison, Anne’s husband left the FLDS. He asked her to come with him, but she stayed at first, believing she would have “blood on her skirts” if she took her family out of the community and exposed them to The World. Five years later, Anne finally decided it was time to get out of Short Creek. She and her children snuck out of the house in the middle of the night with as many of their things as they could carry. According to Anne’s daughter, her siblings were protesting as they left, fearing eternal damnation.

“They said, ‘Mom, you’re taking us to hell!’” her daughter recounts. “I was like, ‘Mom, let’s go, let’s go!’”
That night, Anne’s husband picked them up in his car and they drove off into the unknown. But Anne’s sister-wife and her children refused to leave the FLDS. They are still in the cult, and Anne worries for them. She’s currently looking at renting an apartment with her husband and they’re thinking of getting a room ready for her if she decides to leave the FLDS. Anne says their plural marriage was difficult at times, but she misses her sister and would welcome her back.

Circumstances for the family have improved now, but things were quite difficult for them when they first left. According to Anne’s daughter, they had to stay in shabby hotels for months and had periods of near-homelessness. But at least her mother and father stayed together. Though they’re still faced with the difficulty of navigating their marriage now that it’s just the two of them, the couple seems to have found strength and support in each other.

Anne giggles when asked about the most outrageous thing she’s done since leaving the FLDS. “I got drunk for the first time at Leona’s event,” she confesses. “I was sick for three days. I’ve been going through a lot of emotional stuff for the last four months. One of the girls says to me, ‘I want you to tell me what’s going on.’ Then I started crying and I told her. And she said, ‘Let’s go dance it off.’ And I just let it go. My husband was there and he said, ‘are you sure? Okay, I support you one hundred per cent.’ … Afterwards, I said to him, ‘Don’t ever let me get drunk again!’”

Anne will need her husband’s support now more than ever, as she struggles to process some extremely disturbing memories that have resurfaced since she left the FLDS. For most of her life, Anne says she believed the man who raped her when she was five years old was a black orderly at the hospital she was taken to after it happened. She had to have surgery on her lip in the aftermath of the sexual assault, and she confused the memory of the unfamiliar man who took her out of the ambulance with the man who had raped her.

That belief persisted until last year, when Anne attended one of Leona’s Girlfriend Club meetings and the group was given handouts to read, describing the testimony of a young girl who had just left the FLDS. “She was eight years old,” Anne says of the girl’s story. “Someone would come pick her up her up, blindfold her, put a hood over her head, take her into this room and tell her to undress. Then they’d call her by a number. She was number six. They’d take her in another room and there was Warren Jeffs. I read that and totally freaked out.”

“I remembered that it was Warren who raped me,” she continues quietly. “It was at his father's home and he would've been 19 years old at the time … One of the things that helped me remember was that after I was raped, I remembered hearing these words. This girl said that Warren told her, ‘If you tell anybody you'll burn in hell. You'll actually burn.’ That’s what he said to me. ‘If you tell anybody, you’ll burn in hell. Burn in fire.’”

Though Anne is doing her best to recover from her experiences, such complex trauma is extraordinarily difficult to heal from. Shelli Mecham, a clinical social worker based in Salt Lake City who counsels people leaving polygamist groups, says there are a number of challenges for mental health professionals when treating former members of the FLDS. “When you’ve been sexually molested or raped as a child, and you don’t have any foundation to begin with, it feels like kind of the norm,” says Mecham. “So it’s back to reforming a normal foundation, and that is difficult to work with … but I think that often the bigger piece is attachment trauma, where families are removed, and children are removed…The void of a real connection to a caregiver – that’s a harder one to wrap my hands around.”

Anne is seeing her own therapist now to process the trauma of her childhood, and services provided by Leona and the Dream Center are assisting her with adjusting to a new life. Raising her youngest children in a world she was raised to think of as hazardous and full of misery has proven especially challenging. Her daughter, for instance, is having trouble finding a decent boyfriend among the men in town, and Anne worries for her.

But Anne’s pride in her children is immediately noticeable. She says her kids were a major driving force that motivated she and her husband to return to Short Creek after having left for three years. At the potluck dinner, Anne lovingly puts her hand on her daughter’s arm.
“My kids had a big part in us deciding to move back,” Anne says. “They were like, ‘you know what? Let's go back to the Creek, because where we are in our lives right now, we can tell other people it's okay to walk away.’ They felt like that they were ready to tell their other brothers and sisters, or their cousins, or whoever they meet that we are still us. We haven't changed just because we left the religion.”

She surveys the bustling room of families who weren’t allowed to socialise with each other just a few years ago, now enjoying a friendly meal together in what was once the home of the man she believes raped her as a child, and smiles. “It’s just lifesaving – to be free of that and be able to make our choices,” Anne says. “They could be good or bad choices, but at least they’re ours.”

Many of these newfound choices have been difficult for some men in Short Creek to swallow. For example, most of them would have laughed at the idea of a female mayor while the FLDS was in charge, but they hadn’t counted on Donia Jessop moving back to town.

Donia and her husband Joe left the cult in 2012, the same year as Leona. According to Donia, she didn’t have the same experience growing up as many other female FLDS members. She came from a family of strong women, as did her husband, which helped with the fact that Donia never seemed to manage being an obedient FLDS wife. An imposing woman with a charming smile and a visible dominant streak, she always seems to command whichever room she walks into.

Those traits never seemed to sit well with many men in the community when she was in the cult. “I knew all the rules,” Donia explains at a bustling gas station and diner she owns and oversees while working as mayor. She pauses the conversation periodically to shout instructions at her daughter, who is manning the register. “If we were going to see the leaders or be in church or anything like that, I would never stand in front of Joe. When we would go to shake hands in church, then Joe would be first and then me and the kids … and a lot of the men would only shake his hand and not mine.”
But Donia found her way to some authority even when she was forbidden to be a leader. Under Jeffs’ reign, female members of the FLDS were only allowed to socialise with each other for very specific purposes. One of those purposes was the Mormon Relief Society, of which Donia was president. She regularly oversaw a hundred or so other women as they sewed clothes by hand for less fortunate people who couldn’t afford them. Despite her gender, Donia somehow still managed to position herself at the centre of the community.

But nonetheless, she was relieved when Joe said he wanted to leave the cult. After the couple became apostates, though, Donia was devastated by the way her former neighbours and friends treated them. Shunned by the rest of Short Creek, which was still under the control of the FLDS, she became lonely and depressed. So she pushed Joe to move to Santa Clara, about 50 miles away, in order to start a new life. But in 2015, just before they were getting ready to buy a house in Santa Clara, Joe abruptly announced that he wanted to move back to Hildale. Despite her misgivings, they packed up again and returned to their hometown.

Trial to begin Monday for leader of New Mexico paramilitary cult Web Staff
September 16, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The trial for one of the alleged leaders of a paramilitary religious cult is set to begin Monday.

Deborah Green was arrested in August of 2017 by Cibola County deputies. Authorities said the aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps in Fence Lake, New Mexico deliberately hid children from the state. They didn't even have birth certificates.

Green is facing several charges, including child abuse, sexual penetration of a minor and failure to report a birth.

How Cults Take Hold in Hollywood: The Myth of Manson and Beyond

Charles Manson
E! Online
September 17, 2018

The thing about cults is... no one who's in a cult is going to admit they're in a cult.

They're being enlightened and empowered, they've been shown the way, a better way to live. The hole that's always been there has been filled. They've finally found their people.

Their people, however, are generally being led by one guy (it's almost always a guy, though women can be master manipulators, too) and his ostensibly empowered minions, some of whom inevitably end up being women—because women are used to make other women comfortable.

All of this would appear recognizably insane to an outsider.

But when you're in it... outsiders just don't understand.

"No 'why.' We never asked why," Sandra Good, a member of Charles Manson's "family," says in a decades-old interview with a filmmaker shown for the first time in Inside the Manson Cult: The Lost Tapes, premiering tonight on Fox. Good later spent 10 years in prison for making death threats against corporate executives on radio and TV.

"Whatever we had to do," adds Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, one of Manson's most devoted acolytes, who spent almost 34 years in prison for attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford and was paroled in 2009. "We leave our house open, to the soul. Leave our mind open."

"Charlie is love," was the gist of their beliefs, according to Vincent Bugliosi's 1974 book Helter Skelter, the definitive account of the Tate-LaBianca murder trial.

That's the thing. If you're in the cult, you're the one with the open mind, while the poor saps on the outside are busy living their small little lives.

Listening to that sort of talk can't help but bring to mind Smallville star Allison Mack, who so far appears to be standing by NXIVM founder Keith Raniere, a self-help guru who founded a leadership seminar program that's attracted a number of prominent students over the years—but who earlier this year was charged with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy. Mack has also been charged with those crimes; federal investigators allege that she, empowered by Raniere, recruited women to a group-within-the-group called DOS to be groomed as sex partners for Raniere. According to former members, including actress Sarah Edmondson, the women were branded with a symbol that incorporated Raniere's initials.

NXIVM's practices, even just as a business, had been under scrutiny for two decades. When women started to speak out about what came to be known as DOS last year, NXIVM directed NBC News to a statement declaring that the company "firmly opposes and condemns violence, victimhood, dishonor and abuse."

In response to Raniere's arrest in March, NXIVM said in a statement on its website that they looked forward to Raniere's innocence being proved.

"We strongly believe the justice system will prevail in bringing the truth to light," the company stated. "We are saddened by the reports perpetuated by the media and their apparent disregard for 'innocent until proven guilty,' yet we will continue to honor the same principles on which our company was founded. It is during the times of greatest adversity that integrity, humanity and compassion are hardest, and needed most."

"I think everyone needs a mentor. I don't think any of us really know the answers without a little bit of wisdom," Mack told FineMagazine last year. "If you aren't willing to be humble enough to seek wisdom from other people, I think you're missing a lot of really incredible opportunities to build a certain amount of depth and value in your life that you wouldn't have if you didn't have somebody to help guide you. I chose to have this mentor in my life, and I was talking to him about my struggle, confusion, and not knowing what to do. He said, 'Why don't you take some time and think about? Give yourself some space to figure out who you are now.' So that's what I did."

Mack told the New York Times Magazine earlier this year, before Raniere's arrest, that DOS was "about women coming together and pledging to one another a full-time commitment to become our most powerful and embodied selves by pushing on our greatest fears, by exposing our greatest vulnerabilities, by knowing that we would stand with each other no matter what, by holding our word, by overcoming pain."

Both she and Raniere have pleaded not guilty on all counts. Since their arrests, Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman—who along with sister Sara Bronfman has reportedly given Raniere millions of dollars over the years—has been charged with conspiracy to commit identity theft and racketeering conspiracy. A class-action lawsuit was filed against Sara on Sept. 4, the plaintiffs alleging she purposely misled them about Raniere's credentials and the promise of NXIVM's "Executive Success Program," and that their money ultimately went toward financing a criminal enterprise rather than bettering themselves.

"I think it's a cult," their father, Edgar Bronfman Sr., told Forbes in 2003. The spirits mogul, who died in 2013, said at the time that he hadn't spoken to his daughters in months.

A former NXIVM member sued the company last year, alleging in court documents, "This company is a cult preying on vulnerable men and women who are looking for a credible self help program. Unless forcible confinement, branding, sex with students, and taking people who disagree with the program to court is a bona fide business in New York then I suggest all fees and tuition collected are baseless and fraudulent."

"Nxivm operates largely in secrecy," the criminal complaint against Raniere states. "Nxians were often required to sign non-disclosure agreements and to make promises not to reveal certain things about Nxivm's teachings."

Manson's operation didn't involve NDAs or thousand-dollar seminars. He had his female followers begging in the streets. They scavenged in dumpsters and were in and out of jail for loitering and other petty offenses. One similar through-line is that Manson had sex with the women, and fathered at least one child during the several years the Family was together. And he used his female followers to make other women feel safe and to attract more men into the Family.

David Koresh also had sex with multiple women and underage girls who lived at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas—once they had "the light," they were told—before a fatal encounter with ATF and a disastrous FBI siege resulted in the deaths of more than 80 people, including 22 children. All was revisited this year in the limited series Waco; John Leguizamo is nominated for an Emmy for his role as an ATF agent who goes undercover as a regular-guy neighbor to better monitor their comings and goings.

Mack, who has been living with her parents while awaiting trial, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 1, hasn't made any public comment about NXIVM or DOS since her arrest.

Those who choose to leave the group are portrayed among members as being out to destroy NXIVM, the New York Times reported last October.

Former Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenberg's new book, Captive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult, details her efforts over the past year to get her daughter, India Oxenberg, out of Raniere's alleged clutches. Only recently did India start spending time with her family again, after initially disputing anything was wrong and calling whatever she was going through "a character-building experience."

"I never gave up," Catherine told E! News last month. "I must be hard-wired as a mom, I'm not capable of giving up. Even in the hopeless moments I just kept persevering and trusting that it would turn around." She said India would speak about her experience in her own time and, until then, she vowed to protect her daughter's privacy.

During the ordeal, "I educated myself," Catherine explained. "And the experts I reached out to said there's nothing that I did that created some predisposition, that I didn't cause anything, that it wasn't my fault, that anybody can be susceptible." That was news to her, she revealed, that "anybody at certain points in their lives can be vulnerable to being influenced, manipulated and deceived by a group like this."

Mark Vicente, a former NXIVM higher-up who directed a flattering documentary about Raniere's work called Ignite the Heart, told the New York Times that his views started to change once his wife left the program and subsequently became persona non grata among members. He also heard rumors about a secret society.

"No one goes in looking to have their personality stripped away," Vicente said. "You just don't realize what is happening."

Dianne Lake, aka "Snake," who at 16 was a fully committed member of the Manson Family, ended up becoming a key prosecution witness at the Tate-LaBianca murder trial—though after nearly two years of regular LSD use and emotional and physical abuse, she needed some time to get her facts straight. After nine months at a psychiatric hospital, she was finally able to get Manson's voice out of her head. Enough to testify, anyway.

"There was one officer in particular that really treated me with respect and, like, a tenderness," she recalls in Inside the Manson Cult. "It made me feel safe enough to start telling the truth."

Not surprisingly, her former "family" thought she was the one who had been brainwashed.

"She's a very young girl, and by the time the D.A. had gotten through with her, she was speaking their language," Sandra Good explained in the filmmaker's interview. "She's just like a baby, she can be molded any way anyone chooses to mold her."

Despite their dedication, meanwhile, neither Good nor Fromme was called upon to commit murder on the nights of Aug. 9 and Aug. 10, 1969. Those are the nights, respectively, when seven people were brutally killed by Family members Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten.

Atkins died in prison and the rest all remain locked up after being denied parole multiple times. Manson, who was also convicted of first-degree murder for orchestrating the killings, died in prison on Nov. 19, 2017.

While Manson's deranged philosophy—that the Beatles' White Album contained hidden messages about an imminent race war between black and white people and it was Manson's job to trigger the chaos, the "Helter Skelter"—would have been the stuff of legend on its own, the fact that one of the victims was actress Sharon Tateboth terrified the rest of Hollywood in the moment and ensured that the Manson Family would have its own chapter in pop culture history (as well as countless treatments in print, music and onscreen, including Quentin Tarantino's upcoming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).

Paul McCartney told NME recently that, naturally, what transpired stopped him from performing the song "Helter Skelter" for years. He's been closing sets with it lately, though.

"I thought, I'm not doing it, you know, because it was too close to that event, and immediately it would have seemed like I was, either I didn't care about all the carnage that had gone on or whatever, so I kept away from it for a long time," the former Beatle said. "But then in the end I thought, you know, that'd be good on stage, that'd be a nice one to do, so we brought it out of the bag and tried it and it works. It's a good one to rock with, you know."

Or as he said on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, "For years I wouldn't do that song. I felt like if I did it, it would be a victory for [Manson]. Then I thought, 'Wait a minute, I wrote it!'"

Moreover, Manson was crazy.

"I don't really remember it being impressed on me that we were going to start [the race war]," Lake recalled to E! News. "At one point I was left [at Barker Ranch, near Death Valley] with some other people, and this was the first time that i hadn't really been a part of the inner, original group...I felt abandoned and I had an opportunity to go back, and I did, and Charlie was furious with me."

When Lake returned to Spahn Ranch, where Manson was based when the murders took place, more than ever she got the sense that he was definitely preparing for...something. "It wasn't like the happy, smoking marijuana, listening-to-music kind of thing anymore," she said. "More energy was being put towards a survival mode in the desert." By then she had been with the Family for a little over a year.

Manson, who had been physically abusive to her, was still mad she had left Barker without his permission, so he, of all things, took her back to her parents. They too were hippies who had already exposed her to drugs and commune living by the time she was 13, and then didn't mind when she went to join Manson at 14.

"But I couldn't handle it," Lake said. "I only heard Charlie's voice in my head, and his songs...and at that point I had been with Charlie and his programming for too long, and I just couldn't survive, mentally, in the outside world." She returned after a few days; Manson continued to shuttle her around to different locations until, eventually, "he took me back."

Among the things she told investigators later: Tex Watson had told her that he stabbed Sharon Tate, because Charlie had ordered him to kill. Leslie Van Houten, who had only participated in the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca on Aug. 10, 1969, had told her about stabbing someone who was already dead.

But Manson wasn't just some boogeyman lurking in the shadows. He was a frustrated musician who felt that his songs were the truth and it was only a matter of time before they were spinning on record players everywhere. And because he had the charisma of a cult leader—and it was a less cautious time, with more welcome mats and fewer security guards—he managed to weasel his way into the consciousness (and homes) of wealthy, successful and substance-enjoying types like Beach Boy Dennis Wilson.

In 1968, Wilson—who earlier in the year had hung out with the Beatles and the Maharishi in India—picked up two teenage girls hitchhiking, and brought them back to his Sunset Boulevard home.

"I told them about our involvement with the Maharishi and they told me they too had a guru, a guy named Charlie who'd recently come out of jail after 12 years," Wilson told the Record Mirror that year. "He drifted into crime, but when I met him I found he had great musical ideas. We're writing together now. He's dumb, in some ways, but I accept his approach and have learnt from him."

Wilson, who died in 1983, financed a studio session for Manson and introduced him to his bands mates, brothers Brian and Carl Wilson, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. Neil Young remembered the aspiring artist in his 2013 memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, in which he wrote about meeting Manson at Wilson's house.

"After a while, a guy showed up, picked up my guitar, and started playing a lot of songs on it," Young wrote. "His name was Charlie. He was a friend of the girls and now of Dennis. His songs were off-the-cuff things he made up as he went along, and they were never the same twice in a row. Kind of like Dylan, but different because it was hard to glimpse a true message in them, but the songs were fascinating. He was quite good."

Eerily enough, the Beach Boys song "Never Learn Not to Love," off their 1969 album 20/20, is a reworked Manson song, originally called "Cease to Exist." That didn't go over well with Manson, who had his family start stealing items from Wilson's house, ultimately costing him a reported $100,000.

The original version of "Cease to Exist" can be found on an album Manson recorded between 1967 and 1968 called Lie: The Love and Terror Cult. It was released in 1970, after the murders.

Manson also met talent scout Gregg Jakobson, whose father-in-law at the time was comedy legend Lou Costello, at Wilson's house. According to Helter Skelter, Jakobson introduced Manson to producer Terry Melcher, Doris Day's son, who when he met Manson was living at 10050 Cielo Drive.

At Jakobson's urging, Manson played his music for Melcher, but Melcher passed. Talent manager Rudi Altobelli, the owner of 10050 Cielo Drive, also met Manson at Wilson's house, and he had dismissed his music as "nice" before going about his day. On March 23, 1969, Altobelli later recalled to Bugliosi, Manson showed up at the Cielo Drive property and said he was looking for Melcher, who had moved to Malibu with his then-girlfriend Candice Bergen. Altobelli had been showering in the guest house, because the main house was already being rented by Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate, and it's possible Manson saw her and three other people who would end up dead that August before he was directed to the guest house.

So it turned out to be possible that Manson had Melcher, Altobelli or any of the above in mind when he sent Atkins, Krenwinkel, Watson and Linda Kasabian to go and kill whomever they found at 10050 Cielo Drive on Aug. 9, 1969. (Kasabian was picked to go because she was the only one who had a valid driver's license. She herself didn't commit any violence on either night in question and ended up being the prosecution's key witness at trial.)

Bugliosi—who as a Deputy District Attorney of Los Angeles County won guilty verdicts and death sentences (later converted to life sentences) for everyone charged with the Tate-LaBianca murders—learned that Jakobson had talked to Manson over a hundred times since meeting him, having found him "'intellectually stimulating.'" Jakobson, who had married into Hollywood royalty, didn't officially join the Family, but he made multiple visits to Spahn Ranch.

Charlie would say that "'he had a thousand faces and that he used them all—he told me that he had a mask for everyone,'" Jakobson said. He had masks "'so he could deal with everyone on their own level, from the ranch hand at Spahn, to the girls on the Sunset Strip, to me.'"

Bugliosi asked Jakobson if Manson had ever talked about Scientology or "The Process," aka the Church of the Final Judgment, whose members worshiped Satan and Jesus.

No, Jakobson said, Charlie mainly quoted the Beatles and the Bible.

No one in the Family seemed to mind, Bugliosi wrote, that Manson preached personal freedom and independence but made sure that his followers were dependent on him and he made all the decisions. During Family dinners, he'd sit on a rock and the rest would sit on the ground in a circle around him.

At the same time, "Charlie wanted to be a recording artist," Jakobson said. "Not so much as a means to making money as to get his word out to the public. He needed people to live with him, to make love, to liberate the white race."

Crackpot stuff, but as far as his followers were concerned, Charlie may as well have been Jesus Christ.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world," Dennis Wilson later told Bugliosi, "because I got off only losing my money."

Inside the Manson Cult: The Lost Tapes airs Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox

Shocking video shows pastor beating followers of South Korean cult

Footage also appears to show family members forced to assault each other during Grace Road Church meetings
Kate Lyons
The Guardian
September 17, 2018

Accused South Korean cult leader filmed beating her followers – video

Shocking footage showing a South Korean pastor beating her followers and ordering them to beat one another has emerged as Korean police investigate claims that she ran a cult in Fiji, forcing people to work without pay and endure violent rituals.

The footage appears to show violent assaults on members of the South Korean Grace Road Church.

Pastor Shin Ok-ju was arrested last month along with three other church leaders when they landed at Incheon airport just outside of Seoul.

Roughly 400 of her followers had moved to Fiji since 2014 after Shin predicted a famine would come across the Korean peninsula and that Fiji was a promised land where they could survive.

However, once the group arrived, former members claim their passports were confiscated and they were made to work without pay and perform ritual beatings on each other, called “threshing floors”.

The footage, shared with the Guardian by South Korean police as they prepared to go to Fiji to continue investigations into the group, shows some of the beatings that took place in the Korean branch of the church. Followers say the assaults continued in Fiji.

The footage was originally broadcast in an episode of weekly South Korean television programme Unanswered Questions, on the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), in August.

In several videos, Shin is shown calling members of the church forward during her sermons and then hitting them on the face, pulling and cutting their hair and throwing them to the ground.

Shin Ok-ju speaking to her followers in South Korea. Photograph: YouTube/Grace Road

In one video, Shin is seen instructing a girl, who appears to be a teenager, to slap a woman, believed to be her mother. After the girl hits her softly, Shin admonishes her, saying “you’re hitting the cheeks of the enemy”. The girl goes on to hit the woman 25 times. Later, the woman is shown repeatedly hitting the girl and forcefully and pulling her hair.

In a lengthy statement, a spokesperson for the Grace Road Group did not deny beatings occurred. The spokesperson said Shin Ok-ju “has biblically rebuked people by publicly reproving them so that they would turn back and no longer sin”.

“Threshing floor is written throughout the whole Bible … Grace Road Church alone has carried out the perfectly biblical threshing floor,” said the spokesperson.

The footage also includes allegations from witnesses that a man in his 70s, who was a member of the church and had travelled to Fiji, was subject to a beating in which he was hit 600 to 700 times by a number of church members over several hours.

The programme alleged that when he went to work the next day he could barely walk and was covered in bruises. He later returned to South Korea and eventually saw a doctor who told the television programme that the man had suffered a subdural haematoma. The man died a year later.

Grace Road, which says it is not a cult, denies any connection between the man’s death and any alleged beating.

“If the man indeed died from being beaten hundreds of times, would his wife, his son, his daughter-in-law, and his grandchildren stay happily in the church that supposedly beat their husband and father?” the church said in a statement.

Arum Song, the son of the man who died, told the programme his father died from an unrelated illness and that while his father had participated in the threshing floor, he had merely slapped himself, and was not beaten by anyone else.

One of Arum Song’s friends in Australia, where Song had lived since he was a teenager, told the Guardian he had known Arum since the late 1980s but they had lost touch eight years ago.

“The family left the church that they’d been going for years and started going to meetings and gatherings. After that I heard they sold all their properties, the family sold everything they had in Sydney and basically went back to Korea to join this group, that’s when my alarm bell went off but I thought it’s too late,” the man said.

Do you know more? Contact

Inside the Manson Cult: The Lost Tapes


FOX TV – Inside the Manson Cult: The Lost Tapes

Special Reveals Chilling Film and Photos from Inside the Infamous Cult

Narrated by Emmy and Golden Globe Award Nominee Liev Schreiber; Produced by Naked Television

INSIDE THE MANSON CULT: THE LOST TAPES, a new two-hour true crime special about Charles Manson and his gang of blindly loyal followers, will air Monday, Sept. 17 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX, it was announced today by Rob Wade, President, Alternative Entertainment and Specials, Fox Broadcasting Company. The special will be narrated by Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominee Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”).

Culled from more than 100 hours of footage, the two-hour special goes inside Spahn’s Ranch, where the Manson cult lived, to offer an intimate and terrifying look into America’s most murderous group. Airing 10 months after Manson’s death, the special will feature new and archival interviews with former Manson cult members, such as Catherine “Gypsy” Share and Dianne “Snake” Lake, as well as key people involved in the history of the Manson case, including prosecutor Stephen Kay and FBI criminal profiler John Douglas. The special also features an exclusive interview with Bobby Beausoleil from prison, where he is serving a life sentence for a murder he committed in association with the Manson family.

Watch/share the all-new promo for the special here:

“The Manson murders are some of history’s most shocking and grisly crimes,” said Wade. “THE LOST TAPES offers incredible insight into how such unsuspecting people fell under Manson’s demonic spell, and how so many of them committed such heinous acts.”

“Raw, candid and compelling, this extraordinary cache of material takes us right inside the Manson family home at the very time the crimes were committed,” said executive producer Simon Andreae. “The footage shows – in real time – how the cult members were brainwashed under Manson’s influence.”

Fifty years ago, Charles Manson assembled a group of young followers, setting up a commune in Southern California. Mirroring the energy of the era, Manson was an aspiring musician who preached messages of peace and love, attracting seemingly innocent people into his inner circle. No one would have suspected that his followers would commit the most infamous series of slayings in U.S. history. During this period, one young filmmaker was given exclusive access to the Manson cult. In October 2016, he died, leaving a vast collection of footage, interviews and photos. Now, INSIDE THE MANSON CULT: THE LOST TAPES presents the inside story of how a peace-loving commune turned into America’s most horrifying group of cold-blooded killers.

Liev Schreiber currently stars in “Ray Donovan.” He has received three Emmy Award nominations and five Golden Globe nominations for his work on the series. Schreiber also has starred in various films, such as Academy Award winner “Spotlight,” “The Butler” and “The Manchurian Candidate.” Additionally, he is a multiple Tony Award-nominated actor for his roles in “A View from the Bridge,” “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Talk Radio.”

INSIDE THE MANSON CULT: THE LOST TAPES is produced by Naked Television. Simon Andreae, Hugh Ballantyne and Richard Dale serve as executive producers, along with Allan Gaba and Dean Egnater. Follow the special on Twitter @FOXTV and join the discussion using #MansonOnFox.

Sep 15, 2018

'Guru' Mohanial Rajani jailed for touching breasts with feet

September 14, 2018

A self-proclaimed "guru" who repeatedly touched women's breasts with his feet while he was being massaged in a ritual has been jailed.

Mohanial Rajani, who was a prominent member of a Hindu sect, even claimed to be a god and said the women had to perform "devotions" for him.

He also touched their breasts with his hands on two occasions, claiming to be either "blessing" or "purifying" them.

The 76-year-old was given a three-and-a-half-year jail term.
At Leicester Crown Court, Judge Robert Brown described the sexual assaults as "a gross breach of trust".

"You had the trust and loyalty and devotion of these girls and you took advantage of this for your own sexual pleasure," he said.

"Not surprisingly, both have suffered psychological damage as a result of this abuse."
Rajani, previously of Silverdale Drive in Thurmaston, Leicestershire, had pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault.

He admitted touching both of the women's breasts ten times with his feet during massages, and touching both of the women's breasts once with his hands.

Esther Harrison, prosecuting, said Rajani did not claim to be a guru publically, even to his own family.

However, he told the two young women's relatives that they were "blessed" and that he would become their guru.

"Gradually that changed and he declared himself not only their guru but as a god to them," said Ms Harrison.

'Personal service'

The women had to meet him every week for a "small, intimate gathering", or "satsang", said Ms Harrison.

Here they would perform "seva" or "personal service" for him, but Ms Harrison said it was "more personal than it needed to be".

"When they attended he would be lying down upon a bed," she said.

"Everyone present, normally four or five, would massage part of his body, usually taking each limb in turn."

He had stipulated that the two young women should wear saris, which meant he could put his foot on their breasts under the folds of the garment.

When later challenged he claimed the sexual assaults were part of a "testing process" to show they had given their minds to their gods.

During the first assault he claimed he was "blessing" the woman.

The second happened when the other victim confessed to Rajani that she was having a sexual relationship with a man her own age.

"He made it plain that in order to become pure again she would have to perform these [sexual] acts upon him," said Ms Harrison.

He then touched her naked breasts for about a minute with both hands while "claiming to be purifying them".

Eleanor Laws QC, defending Rajani, said he had "always been a kind, loving and caring, father, grandfather, uncle and relative to all of his family".

She said he had resigned from his position when people within the community were made aware of what happened.

"He can't play any part within the community that he had cared so much about, genuinely, for decades," she said.

Dalai Lama meets alleged abuse victims

September 14, 2018

The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has met four victims of alleged sexual abuse in the Netherlands.

The group had requested the meeting to discuss abuse reportedly carried out by former or current Buddhist teachers in several countries.

"We found refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and heart, until we were violated in its name," they wrote.

A spokesperson said the Dalai Lama was "saddened" to hear about the abuse and "constantly condemned" such behaviour.
The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, is currently on a tour of Europe.

The three women and one man who attended the 20-minute meeting on Friday presented written testimonies from 12 alleged victims.

One of those present, Oane Bijlsma, told Efe news agency that it was "a very complicated meeting".

She said that at the beginning the Dalai Lama "didn't want to hear" about their cases, but added that after 10 minutes of conversation he became "more receptive".

"By the end he was closer, he stopped trying to convince us that it wasn't his fault and started to listen to what we were saying," Ms Bijlsma said.

The meeting comes a week after Rigpa, an international Buddhist organisation active in the West, apologised for alleged abuse carried out by its founder Sogyal Lakar, also known as Sogyal Rinpoche.

Mr Lakar is best known for his 1994 book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which sold over three million copies.

Last month, an independent investigation by a lawyer commissioned by Rigpa found that some members of Mr Lakar's "inner circle" were "subjected to serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse by him".

The report added that senior members of the organisation had knowledge of some of the issues and "failed to address them, leaving others at risk".
Mr Lakar, who has stepped down as the head of Rigpa, declined to be interviewed for the investigation due to health issues.

Sep 14, 2018


Barcroft TV

TROUBLING allegations have been made against a young ’spiritual leader’ who claims to have powers such as telekinesis and the ability to change the weather


30-year-old Bentinho Massaro has amassed an impressive following both in real life and online, with 24,000 Instagram followers and almost 300,000 Facebook likes.

But in the past year he has been accused of running an evolved form of cult and his career has been marred by accusations of verbal abuse, sleeping with students, and the suicide of one of his followers.

The Amsterdam-native told Barcroft Media: “I do not consider my group as a cult, if by cult you mean some dysfunctional group of people completely under the spell of a manipulative leader.

“But if you mean cult in terms of a culture, then yes, of course, because anything is a cult. Like politics is a cult. The people that attend a Michael Jackson concert are a cult. The people that talk about aliens are a cult. There are cults all over the place and we accept them all the time.”

Massaro has set up a sleek website for his “Trinfinity Academy” where new followers can access his teachings for free and, according to the banner on the site, “realise their freedom” and “master their life.”

Continue Reading ...

Sep 13, 2018

Panacea Museum

Panacea Society
The museum tells the story of the Panacea Society – a remarkable religious community formed in the early twentieth century.
For 90 years, members of the society quietly lived, worked and worshipped God in their community.

Although they took care to reveal little about themselves to outsiders, the society’s name became familiar to many people beyond Bedford through their national advertising campaign to open ‘Joanna Southcott’s Box’ a curious cultural icon of inter-war Britain.

During the 1920s and 1930s the community grew to more than 70 resident members living in and around Albany Road in Bedford, with about 2,000 members living elsewhere across the world. Over 130,000 people applied to receive the Society’s method of healing through water – its ‘panacea’ to cure all illnesses.
The Panacea Museum is in ‘Castleside’, a beautiful Victorian house that was part of the community’s headquarters. It tells the story of the Panacea Society and other similar religious groups.

The museum also incorporates several other buildings, set within the gardens, that formed the original community’s ‘campus’.

The museum has a small café which serves tea, coffee, soft drinks and a selection of cakes and snacks.

Discover the amazing story of the unique religious community that created its own Garden of Eden in the centre of Bedford.

This museum tells the story of the Panacea Society – a remarkable religious community formed in the early twentieth century.

The Panacea Museum is in ‘Castleside’, a beautiful Victorian house that was part of the community’s headquarters. It tells the story of the Panacea Society and other similar religious groups.

About CenSAMM

The Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM)

The purpose of The Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) is to develop and maintain a world centre of excellence in the critical study of apocalyptic and millenarian movements and to aid the public understanding of the legacies and future possibilities of these crucial, creative and often misunderstood forms of human culture.

The Centre is an initiative of the Panacea Charitable Trust in Bedford, UK created by Panacea trustees, Dr. Justin Meggitt, Dr. Naomi Hilton and Prof. Christopher Rowland. The Academic Director is Prof. James Crossley, and the Academic Co-Director is Dr. Alastair Lockhart.

Its vision is to ensure that anyone will have access to quality resources to enable education, and understanding about apocalyptic and millenarian movements. It will realise this vision by:
Developing and maintaining a world centre of excellence in the critical study of apocalyptic and millenarian movements and aid the public understanding of the legacies and future possibilities of these crucial, creative and often misunderstood forms of human culture.

CenSAMM exists in both the physical world in the form of symposia and interviews, and online as written, digitised and recorded resources.

USCIRF Highly Concerned by Latest Chinese Government Abuses Against Religious Communities

September 11, 2018
USCIRF Highly Concerned by Latest Chinese Government Abuses Against Religious Communities

USCIRF is highly concerned by reports of Chinese authorities’ escalating religious freedom violations. On the same weekend as national media in the United States revealed the horrific detention of countless Uighur Muslims in extra-judicial “re-education camps,” the Chinese government also reportedly raided and shut down Zion Church in Beijing. These collective actions, coupled with abuses against other religious communities, such as Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners, signal an alarming escalation in persecution of citizens in China under Xi Jinping. USCIRF condemns the Chinese government’s ongoing brutal and systematic targeting of religious communities for their beliefs.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at or Javier Peña at or +1-202-674-2598.

Sep 12, 2018

Asaram Sends Mercy Plea to Rajasthan Governor, Seeks Dilution of Sentence

Asaram has pleaded for dilution in his life sentence terming it to be a "gruelling" punishment and citing his age.

The Wire
September 11, 2p18

Jodhpur: Self-styled godman Asaram, who was convicted for raping a minor girl, has sent a mercy plea to the governor of Rajasthan seeking dilution of his life sentence.

On April 25, a Jodhpur court had sentenced Asaram to life in prison after finding him guilty of raping a teenage girl in his ashram five years ago.

Challenging the sentence, Asaram had moved high court on July 2 but the petition is yet to be listed for hearing.

Governor Kalyan Singh, who recently received Asaram’s mercy plea, sent it to the home department seeking a detailed report on the plea.

According to his mercy plea, Asaram has pleaded for dilution in his life sentence terming it to be a “gruelling” punishment and citing his age.

The department then forwarded the plea to the Jodhpur Central Jail administration, which, in turn, has sought a report from the district administration and police.

“We have received Asaram’s mercy plea. We have sought a report from the district administration and police on this mercy plea,” superintendent of Jodhpur Central Jail Kailash Trivedi said.

After receipt of this report, the jail administration will send it to the director general (jail) of Rajasthan.

The 16-year-old girl had said in her complaint that Asaram had called her to his ashram in the Manai area near Jodhpur and raped her on the night of August 15, 2013.

The teenager from Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh was studying at Asaram’s ashram in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh.

How NXIVM Rippled Through Vancouver Actors' Friend Networks

Sarah Berman
12, 2018


“It was like being invited to an Oscar party.”

The story of Vancouver’s NXIVM chapter, which grew into one of the most active and star-studded centres on the planet, began with a chance meeting on a cruise ship. Nearly 15 years before the FBI alleged top members of the self-help group committed sex trafficking and a bunch of other crimes, actress Sarah Edmondson attended a floating spirituality-themed film festival with her director husband in 2005. That’s where she met What The Bleep Do We Know?filmmaker Mark Vicente, who was apparently still buzzing from his first 16-day NXIVM “intensive.”

As Edmondson recounted on a recent episode of the new CBC podcast Uncover: Escaping NXIVM, the cruise itself felt like an opportunity for the 27-year-old basement-dwelling actress to get her life on track. She was barely making ends meet stringing together voice acting and beer commercial gigs—work she said didn’t feel meaningful. While seated together at dinner, Edmondson was trying to hide what was probably a nasty cold virus, but her “seal bark” coughs were constantly interrupting things.

Between hacking fits Vicente took Edmondson aside and asked her a bizarre question she’d never heard before: what would you lose if you stopped coughing? As in: what would be the “downside” if Edmondson wasn’t always so sick. This is the kind of counter-intuitive question NXIVM uses to spark epiphanies, and it prompted a burst of self-reflection in Sarah. She realized her coughs were an attempt to get her husband’s attention—she had subconsciously believed that sickness would earn her the care and love she craved. “I remember thinking wow, whatever Mark from What the Bleep is up to, I wanna do,” Edmondson told CBC.

This new way of looking at her marriage was the first feel-good hook that would eventually set Edmondson on an unparalleled NXIVM recruiting streak. By the end of her first five-day training she thought all of her friends needed this, that she was ready to bring NXIVM to Canada. In particular Edmondson was thinking about her acting colleagues, who she thought needed personal development more than anyone.

One of those actors was Chad Krowchuk, who still remembers the curious way NXIVM rippled through his social network. He first heard good reviews from Edmondson and her husband over dinner one night, and then from his acting friends Kristin Kreuk and Mark Hildreth a few weeks later. But it was his longtime girlfriend, Smallville actress Allison Mack, who finally convinced him to attend his first five-day training with her in Albany.

Both Krowchuk and Mack were child actors who found each other in their early 20s, and built a steady live-in relationship around their busy schedules. Krowchuk was working at Starbucks and bussing tables at a local restaurant while taking acting gigs when they popped up. He wanted to find more time to develop his career as a visual artist, while she was on her way to becoming a household name as Superman’s best friend in a teen superhero show watched by millions.

Mack and Krowchuk were about three years into living together when NXIVM “became a thing” in their group of friends. Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica) was another big name. Though both of them were skeptical at first, it only took a couple months for the excitement to rub off on Mack. When she came home from a women’s weekend retreat in 2007, Krowchuk could tell she was absolutely thrilled, and now wanted to share that powerful experience with him.

“That was the part that scared me the most,” Krowchuk says of his girlfriend’s sudden shift in perspective. “Before we had conversations about it, and we both thought it seemed kind of weird and creepy. I don’t necessarily know if she thought it was creepy, but we agreed it seemed a little messed up.” Now Mack was 110 percent on board, but he still had reservations. Krowchuk wondered to himself, if the tools were really so powerful and the leaders were committed humanitarians, then why weren’t they giving away the teachings for free?

Mack was Krowchuk’s most important relationship at the time, so he sucked up all his discomforts and got on a plane to Albany to meet the NXIVM inner circle. He remembers the Socratic question and answer therapies being very Freudian. It seemed just about any life problem could be traced back to a few moments in childhood—the apparent root of everyone’s mommy or daddy issues.

By this time Vicente and Edmondson were co-founders of a downtown Vancouver teaching space that hosted regular trainings on Wednesday nights and weekends. “I would recruit people, meet people, and it was all word of mouth,” Edmondson told VICE last year. “I welcomed almost every single training. There was only one I missed in the whole 12 years. At the end when they got their sash I would put it around their neck and we'd all clap.”

Though the hand clapping and coloured sashes were weird, Krowchuk says he really liked people he met through NXIVM. They were generally impressive and kind. Sure, there was an unsettling mood in the room that reminded him of obnoxious acting classes, but he liked that coaches gave a name to things he didn’t have a vocabulary for yet.

Over time the self-help group really shifted Mack and Krowchuk’s social landscape. Some preferred to keep a blend of company—both people who knew about NXIVM and people who didn’t care for it—but others started to break away from their old lives in favour of surrounding themselves with likeminded people.

Having a dinner party with NXIVM friends meant constantly dissecting your fears and insecurities. If somebody said they didn’t like sharing the food on their plate, for example, other group members would chime in with probing questions in an effort to overcome the block. What would you lose if you stopped the behaviour? Is refusing to share holding you back? Needless to say, it wasn’t a welcome conversation style for everyone.

Krowchuk could see some of his friends overcoming their insecurities, like Smallville costar Kristin Kreuk, who battled career-stifling shyness. “I felt like I related more to Kristin than anyone there, I could see what the appeal is,” Krowchuk told VICE. But other acting friends grew more isolated, like Battlestar’s Nicki Clyne. “Nicki I know she was the first example of somebody who had a decent acting career, she was doing quite well, and then she took the courses and went fuck it, I want to do this thing instead.” At the time Krowchuk thought there must have been a greater good he couldn’t see, and decided to reserve his judgements.

Mack was invited into NXIVM’s inner circle very quickly, and Krowchuk was able to tag along in the beginning. But he soon realized that he didn’t have the money to go much further with the coursework. “Allison paid for a lot of my courses,” he told VICE. “I would slowly pick away at paying her back, but I couldn’t afford to do it. Most normal people couldn’t afford to do this.” All told, Krowchuk says he probably spent between 20 and 30 grand on NXIVM courses, and by then he and Mack were already on the outs. They both had very different ideas about where their lives were headed, and around 2009 they broke things off for good.

At the time Krowchuk wasn’t concerned for Mack’s wellbeing—he thought her environment was generally positive, and her only goal was bettering herself. This was nearly a decade before allegations of branding, blackmail, starvation and sex slaves would surface.

The courses taught that everyone was responsible for their own reactions to the outside word. But that meant a NXIVM coach could turn just about any bad situation around and blame the student for their flawed response. “If a course like this is in the hands of somebody who means well, it’s harmless,” he said. “But I always felt like it would be really shitty if it was used in a negative way… It gets dangerous when you start stripping away meaning from everything.”

Meanwhile, Mack was a go-getter who was constantly pitching the TV industry people around her, even on the Smallville set. Michael Rosenbaum, who played Lex Luthor on the show, recently recalled her talking about the dorky self-help organization she was involved in. “I remember she was a part of something... doing some self-help stuff,” he told Theo Von’s This Past Weekend podcast. “I remember thinking that sounds a little culty, maybe it’s not for me, but I never thought about it… When I was on the show Allison was the sweetest, most professional, just a great actress.”

By this time Sarah Edmondson was building up the Vancouver business like never before. She had personally recruited big names like Nicki Clyne and Grace Park, and their collective success in the film and TV industry was quickly becoming a draw for new actors wanting to connect with them. And as social media sites like Facebook and Twitter began to rise in popularity, the magic follower boost that comes with fame turned recruiting into an easy numbers game.

But unbeknownst to Edmondson, her biggest opportunity would come at the expense of the woman who taught her everything she knew. In 2009 Barbara Bouchey confronted leader Keith Raniere about his secret sexual relationships with both clients and board members, as well as other improper business practices. Eight other women left with Bouchey, which effectively closed down multiple training centres including the one in Seattle. So instead of Vancouverites commuting south of the border for coursework like they did in the early 2000s, American clients started coming to Edmondson’s thriving new centre.

Bouchey was about to meet a terrible fate involving harassment and lawsuits, but that meant the stage was set for Vancouver to outpace all the other North American centres—even Albany—in its saturation of a young, wealthy market of liberal creative types. This is why one actress and former member described her 2013 recruitment into NXIVM to me like this: “It was like being invited to an Oscar party.”

Sarah Berman is a senior editor at VICE Canada working on a book about the NXIVM sex trafficking trial with Penguin Canada. Follow her on Twitter.