Oct 1, 1993

Profile: Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan (BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, Maharishi International University) is the founder and former head of TM-Ex, the organization of one-time members of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement. His association with AFF involves frequent attendance at conferences, where he is often a speaker, work with other ex-cult members, and a book about his personal experience, Recovery From Cults, to be published this August.

TM recruiters were allowed into his high school in the mid-'70s, a time when the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a frequent guest on the "Merv Griffin" and other TV shows. Mr. Ryan attended an informational meeting which led to a weekend, then a week, with "no privacy, endless tapes of chanting, meditation, and lectures." Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence, was one of the teachers. She and her husband attended MIU, to which she persuaded Mr. Ryan and 250 others to go for both "academics and enlightenment." `His five years there provided "a mixed bag academically."

The school was accredited through the Ph.D. in various subjects, and because courses were taught by the "block system," good faculty could be brought in briefly for good pay. Out of three months, two were allotted for academics, one for meditating, sometimes as many a 7 hours a day for 7 days at a time. There was an average of 4 hours' trance-inducing activity per day, and all for academic credit.

After graduating, Mr. Ryan worked a year for a Maharishi community. A family intervention when one of his sisters joined "a cult" (The Way) began his questioning process, and he started to see parallels in his situation. He sought insights from former TM-ers, and was further disillusioned. Several lawsuits against the organization exposed hitherto secret tales of "yogic flying," adding to its embarrassment. An attorney in one such suit urged Mr. Ryan to visit Dr. Margaret Singer, who put the "crowning touches" on his liberation. She sent him to a Cult Awareness Network conference where he met many families of TM members. Thus began his exit counseling career which, after he gave up a thriving import business, soon became full-time. He works with a variety of cult members, stressing that he does "no involuntaries."

The young man once trained as a "spiritual warrior" for TM (a distinction reserved for heroic meditators, not the mere 20 minutes a day kind) is now an internationally recognized cult expert, relied on by families and media in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. He is also another of those AFF associates whose advice to law enforcement officials might, had it been heeded, have helped avert the Waco debacle.

Cult Observer, Vol. 10, No. 06, 1993

Sep 29, 1993

The magic of the Natural Law Party

Medium: Television
Program: CBC at Six
Broadcast Date: Sept. 29, 1993
Guest: Doug Henning
Reporter: Lorne Matalon

Duration: 2:06

The Story

He can make an elephant disappear, and now he's promising to do the same for the national debt. Sound fantastic? Doug Henning, illusionist and newly-minted candidate for the Natural Law Party, is dead serious. Applying "proven scientific principles" and employing 7,000 "yogic flyers" as the spiritual core of an all-party government, NLP promises to relieve the nation's stress and solve all of Canada's problems. Yet even with the fourth largest contingent of candidates running in the 1993 federal election, it might take more than magic to put the NLP's 231 hopefuls in Ottawa.

Did You Know?

Founded as the political wing of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's program of transcendental meditation, the Natural Law Party (NLP) contested elections in several countries, from the U.K to the U.S. and Australia. Although NLP never managed to convince any of Maharishi's former pupils the Beatles to run for office under their banner, George Harrison did play at a fundraiser for them in London's Royal Albert Hall in 1992. In Canada, NLP ran candidates in three elections, 1993, 1997 and 2000. The party was voluntarily de-registered with Elections Canada in 2004.

The Natural Law Party raised $3.4 million for the 1993 election. After the party won just 85,000 votes in its first try, the Globe and Mail calculated that they'd spent approximately $400 per ballot.

Often mistaken for the party's leader, magician Doug Henning only stood for Parliament in the 1993 race. He ran in the affluent Toronto neighbourhood of Rosedale, coming in sixth with a mere 817 votes. The Winnipeg-born Henning rose to international stardom in the 1970s with a Broadway hit and several big budget television magic shows. He left magic in 1987 to focus full time on transcendental meditation, selling his illusions to David Copperfield among others. Henning died in Los Angeles in 2000 of liver cancer. The proposed theme park Maharishi Veda Land, discussed in this 1993 report, was never built.  


The magic of the Natural Law Party

He can make an elephant disappear, and now he's promising to do the same for the national debt. Sound fantastic? Doug Henning, illusionist and newly-minted candidate for the Natural Law Party, is dead serious. Applying "proven scientific principles" and employing 7,000 "yogic flyers" as the spiritual core of an all-party government, NLP promises to relieve the nation's stress and solve all of Canada's problems. Yet even with the fourth largest contingent of candidates running in the 1993 federal election, it might take more than magic to put the NLP's 231 hopefuls in Ottawa.

Did You know?
Founded as the political wing of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's program of transcendental meditation, the Natural Law Party (NLP) contested elections in several countries, from the U.K to the U.S. and Australia. Although NLP never managed to convince any of Maharishi's former pupils the Beatles to run for office under their banner, George Harrison did play at a fundraiser for them in London's Royal Albert Hall in 1992. In Canada, NLP ran candidates in three elections, 1993, 1997 and 2000. The party was voluntarily de-registered with Elections Canada in 2004.

The Natural Law Party raised $3.4 million for the 1993 election. After the party won just 85,000 votes in its first try, the Globe and Mail calculated that they'd spent approximately $400 per ballot.
Often mistaken for the party's leader, magician Doug Henning only stood for Parliament in the 1993 race. He ran in the affluent Toronto neighbourhood of Rosedale, coming in sixth with a mere 817 votes. The Winnipeg-born Henning rose to international stardom in the 1970s with a Broadway hit and several big budget television magic shows. He left magic in 1987 to focus full time on transcendental meditation, selling his illusions to David Copperfield among others. Henning died in Los Angeles in 2000 of liver cancer. The proposed theme park Maharishi Veda Land, discussed in this 1993 report, was never built


    Jun 1, 1993

    Cult Problems Grow As Following Shrinks

    Brother Julius, aka Julius Schacknow. (STEPHEN DUNN / Hartford Courant)

    Gerald Renner
    Hartford Courant
    June 1, 1993

    The business of the "sinful messiah" has fallen on hard times.

    Followers of Julius Schacknow, a cult leader known as Brother Julius, have been deserting him as fast as the central Connecticut business empire they built up in the 1980s has collapsed in the 1990s.

    A dedicated corps of 200 devoted followers has dwindled to perhaps 50 or fewer. Many who have quit tell stories of sexual and financial exploitation, and say Brother Julius is acting in an increasingly bizarre and abusive way.

    In addition, the federal government is seeking the return of $2 million that is missing from two government-protected pension funds set up for workers in a construction business.

    Recent interviews with people who have broken with Schacknow, sources close to the secretive cult and public documents draw a picture of a disintegrating enterprise that had been built up around the Bible-quoting preacher and his "chief apostle," who had a genius for business ventures.

    Schacknow, 68, has declined to be interviewed by The Courant for this story.

    He has operated in central Connecticut for 23 years, ever since he moved from New Jersey and proclaimed at an outdoor revival in Trumbull in 1970 that he was Jesus Christ reincarnated.

    Several hundred idealistic young people, hungry for spiritual direction, flocked to the guidance of the long-haired preacher who wore a white robe and had mesmerizing green eyes.

    He set up a base in Meriden and commanded national attention as a cult leader until, in 1976, he stopped making public appearances.

    Driven by what they saw as a holy mission to advance "the Work," Schacknow's followers throughout the 1980s oversaw the building of an expanding, multimillion-dollar real estate and construction business.

    They achieved an outstanding financial success under the direction of two of Schacknow's closest associates, Paul Sweetman, his "chief apostle," and Joseph Joyce, another top "apostle."

    Among the businesses was J-Anne North/Century 21, a real estate company based in Southington that operated five Century 21 franchises in central Connecticut and did $100 million in sales a year, national franchise records show.

    Their contracting business, County Wide Construction Co. and its affiliate, County Wide Home Improvement and Maintenance Co., did major work for towns, private developers and homeowners.

    Schacknow himself stayed aloof from direct involvement in the businesses but exhorted his followers to give their utmost. People who quit complained that they put in long work days, were paid below-minimum wages and sometimes were denied sales commissions.

    But, if the 1980s marked the ascendancy of the self-proclaimed messiah, his decline and fall is being tracked in the 1990s.

    Many people have left him, former followers say, including several of Schacknow's "12 apostles," the key men who had been in charge.

    Schacknow, whose self-description progressed from prophet to reincarnation of Jesus Christ and finally to God almighty, is reported to be ailing. He frequently calls off his six-hour-long Sunday services he holds in a rented Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on Route 10 in Plainville.

    Although David Koresh of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, called himself a "sinful messiah," Schacknow virtually coined the term in the 1970s, claiming that he had to sin himself to know what sin was like.

    Born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn in 1924, Schacknow converted to Christianity after he served in the Navy in World War II. He recounts his conversion in an autobiography he wrote in 1947 for admission to the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, a fundamentalist school.

    He was an outstanding student of the Bible. But from his earliest days as a preacher he was being accused of using his charisma and position as a religious leader to manipulate young women, suggesting that it was God's will that they sleep with him.

    At least two women, including a stepdaughter, accused Schacknow in separate lawsuits in 1986 and 1988 of having sexually abused them when they were children. Their civil suits were settled out of court for undisclosed sums, and no criminal charges were ever brought against him.

    All but one of the six Century 21 real estate franchises the Juliusites ran have closed or been sold. Joseph Joyce continues to run J-Anne North in Southington with a reduced staff.

    County Wide has gone out of business. The 130 people who worked for County Wide and had money coming to them from two federally protected pension plans have found that nothing is left to pay them, court records show.

    Paul Sweetman and Alfred Dube Jr., another "apostle," were trustees of the plans. The U.S. Labor Department has accused them of having taken more than $2 million from the plans for personal loans and loans to companies in which they had an interest.

    Sweetman and Dube agreed to reimburse the pension plans $1.8 million by January 1994, and to waive their rights to their share of more than $300,000, in an order signed by federal Judge Alan H. Nevas in the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport on Jan. 28.

    They made an initial payment of $10,000 but missed making a $100,000 installment due April 28, said John Chavez, a Labor Department spokesman in Boston.

    No further action is being taken against them at this time because, Chavez said, "They are continuing to show the department good faith efforts to try to raise the money."

    But those who are owed the money raise questions about how much good faith Sweetman and Dube are showing.

    "As far as I am concerned, I think they took the money and squirreled it away and we won't ever see it," said Bob Langston.

    Langston, who had been a follower of Brother Julius for nearly 20 years, had been in charge of County Wide's aluminum division. When he quit both the job and the cult, he sought his pension money but, he said, "I was getting the runaround from everyone."

    He complained to the Labor Department, which investigated and took civil action against Sweetman and Dube.

    In a consent decree with the Labor Department, Sweetman and Dube cite assets that will be used to reimburse the pension plans. But one asset they cite is highly questionable.

    For instance, Sweetman and Dube said in the consent decree that County Wide will assign $1.3 million due to the pension plans from Prentiss House Inc., which owned a condominium development called Prentice House in the Kensington section of Berlin.

    What is not mentioned is that Sweetman is president and the major shareholder in Prentiss House Inc., which has a shaky financial base. It has not made mortgage payments on the condominium development since February 1991 and is in arrears on taxes to the town of Berlin, court records show.

    Last month the Superior Court in New Britain ordered the condominium development to be sold Nov. 6. Fleet Bank holds the mortgage, which amounted to more than $1.4 million in unpaid principal and interest two years ago. The wholesale value of the property was assessed at about $1.7 million in a 1992 court document.

    "If County Wide or Sweetman is anticipating any revenue from Prentiss to pay toward the $2 million, I doubt if there will be anything paid," said Joseph Gall of Milford, secretary of Prentiss House Inc. He said he lost $175,000 when he went into partnership with Sweetman to convert a factory building into condominiums.

    The factory building was converted into condominiums by County Wide Construction, Gall said. An initial estimate that the conversion would cost $45 a square foot soared to $90 a square foot by the time the job was done, Gall said.

    Sweetman, who had been living in Cheshire, could not be reached for comment. Dube, who also lives in Cheshire, said, "I have nothing to say."

    David Wayne Winters, who represents Sweetman in negotiations with the Labor Department, said, "I just cannot discuss my client's business. I just won't comment."

    Julius Schacknow is also unavailable for comment. He has shunned public appearances for 17 years and rarely gives interviews. He turned down a request from the Courant for one last month.

    In a two-hour interview with The Courant six years ago, he reiterated his claims to divinity and said he had come to call the world to repent.

    "I'm your creator and I've come to punish the world for their sins, for their ungodliness, their crookedness, breaking my commandments ... and treating people who love me as Jesus with contempt. ... You are interviewing Jesus, who has returned like a

    thief in the night," he said.

    Of the allegations against him, he said: "I won't comment. You have no interest in the truth. You're interested in smutty material that will satisfy the lustful eyes and ears of your public."

    He maintains the same position. He responded virtually the same way to a reporter from the Boston Globe in an interview in Boston last month.

    Former followers say Schacknow circulates among seven "wives," staying with each one no more than one or two days a week, a regimen he has followed for years. His main "wife" lives in Berlin. An aide drives him from place to place because he has never learned to drive, people close to him said.

    But he leads a diminishing flock.

    "All the big guns are leaving and when an apostle leaves it has a great effect on everybody in his group," said John Goski, 41, formerly of Bristol, who spent 18 years in the cult.

    Each apostle has charge of people who were born under each of the 12 astrological signs, Goski said, so when an apostle quits it has a demoralizing effect.

    "He is threatening the people who leave him now," Goski said. The threats are not directly physical but a warning that the deserters will reap divine retribution.

    "When I came out he threatened me. He said things like, `One of your kids may die.' Getting the courage to leave is the real miracle," said Goski, who joined Schacknow as a 20-year-old looking for spiritual direction.

    A web of friendships, family and work kept him tied to the cult, even after he wanted to leave, Goski said. He finally quit two years ago and has since moved with his wife, Pat, and two children to northern New Jersey.

    Pat Goski said Schacknow's tolerance of sexual abuse of some children in the cult caused many people to leave.

    Schacknow's son, Daniel Sweetman, 30, was sentenced in Superior Court in Meriden in September to a year in prison for sexually abusing four children. He was released on probation in March. Police investigated allegations against another cult member but said no parents would make a formal complaint.

    Daniel Sweetman is the son of Schacknow and Schacknow's former wife, Joanne Sweetman, who is known in the cult as the "holy spirit." She left Schacknow and has been living with Paul Sweetman for at least 20 years, people who know them, including their children, said.

    Schacknow and Sweetman swapped wives in New Jersey in the late 1960s, the sources said. Sweetman's first wife, Minnie, who went to live with Schacknow, died in 1970.

    Schacknow has recently been pressuring women to share their husbands because so many men have quit the cult, one women who had been with him nearly 20 years said.

    "That was the big issue. It was very possible your husband would have to take in another woman," said the woman, who quit two years ago.

    She declined to be publicly identified because she did not want to be embarrassed at her place of employment.

    She said she and some other women "weren't going to sleep with Julius and we weren't going to swap wives. ... He got into a rampage where he wanted to get rid of people and he got rid of us."

    She said throwing people out of the group was Schacknow's way

    of exercising his authority. People usually begged him to return, she said, but she and her husband decided they had had enough.

    "I guess Julius did us a favor," she said


    Apr 24, 1993

    How to save a cult member

    The Sun Herald, Australia 
    From the American Family Foundation
    April 24, 1993

    BREAKING the hold of a cult is not easy. But there are some things a parent can do:

    1. Never ridicule the cult or dismiss the member's beliefs. This will only force them deeper into the cult. Show respect and interest. Question the member about the cult in detail, get them to explain everything. Through questions, help them realise the reality of what they are saying and alternatives to the cult.

    2. Maintain contact no matter how bad things get. You could be their only lifeline if they try to get out of the cult. Gently explain why you don't approve of the cult, why it worries you. Its prime aim is to cut off the rest of the world, to paint it as evil. Ask them to explain cult jargon such as"outside world" to help them think about what lies behind the jargon. The family is usually painted as the worst enemy. Be prepared to work through friends to keep contact.

    3. As soon as a member expresses some doubt about the cult, about its leader, its motives, its promises, pursue it. Gently question if this is what they wanted when they joined. Ask what the leader's behaviour shows about the cult. Which attractions are real, which promises are false? Is it worth the price you are paying? Can you get the benefits elsewhere?

    4. Help the cultist realise making mistakes is part of being human, that you can only decide on the basis of what you know. Decisions are not irreversible.

    Jan 1, 1993

    TM-EX Newsletter, Vol. 05, No. 1, Winter 1993

    Volume 05, No. 1, Winter 1993
    Maharishi Inc.
    The bearded popularizer of transcendental meditation has earthly holdings that will blow your mind. His corporate empire includes land holdings, hotels, publishing houses and plans for spiritual theme parks.
    Here's the deal:
    Some 2,400 masters of transcendental meditation fly into Baltimore, check into a hotel at the harbor and start to meditate, each morning and evening.
    Within weeks, mugger begin to lose the urge to mug. Months pass, and robbers forswear robbery. A year or two, and drug dealers are staying off the corners. Within five years, crime has been--not reduced. Eliminated.
    "With its cities free from crime,'' say newspaper advertisements for the American City Project, placed over the last four months in 60 urban centers, "the United States will radiate a powerful positive, harmonious, and nourishing influence for the whole world.''
    This is the laudable result of the Maharishi Effect, named for its inventor: His Holiness, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, popularizer of TM, once-upon-a-time guru to the great, brilliant seer or shameless charlatan, depending
    on whom you ask.
    Here he is now, his lilting, authentic-guru falsetto coming via speakerphone from Vlodrop, Netherlands. He is giving interviews to promote his crime scheme.
    ``When people are involved in crime,'' he explains, ``the mind loses its stress, that affects the atmosphere...In one, two, three weeks,no more, the criminals will think of not using their guns. Their thinking will be more positive. They will not know why.''
    And you may have thought of him as a harmless eccentric, a slightly dotty old man, a little too ethereal for this mercenary world.
    If so, you might be surprised to learn that Maharishi today presides over a corporate empire Indian sources have estimated to be worth more than $2 billion, a sort of Wal-Mart of the spirit, encompassing extensive land holding in India, hotels in Europe, and publishing houses in the Unites States.
    There's the Maharishi Heaven on Earth Development Company, selling schemes for suburbs built in harmony with natural law. There are Maharishi Ayur-Veda medical clinics, curing with herbs and diagnosing disease by taking the patient's pulse. There are plans for Maharishi Veda Land spiritual theme parks in Orlando, Fla., Niagara Falls, India
    and Japan.
    There are Maharishi universities on three continents. There is Maharishi's Natural Law Party, which fielded candidates in the British and U.S. elections last year. There is Maharishi everything, it seems, right down to the Maharishi Jyotish astrology service and the Maharishi Yagya Hindu-good-luck-ceremonies-for-rent.
    True, while the movement is prosperous, in some of its ventures there
    may be less than meets the eye. Some ``universities'' are rumored
    to consist of a hotel suite. A Heaven on Earth executive says development
    has been stalled by the recession. The theme parks consist, so far,
    of land purchases and press conferences. Natural Law Party candidates
    drew far less than 1 percent of the vote.
    But whatever the substance, the image is getting meticulous attention.
    Maharishi's empire is served by an eager public relations operation,
    the Age of Enlightenment News Service, ready to beam Maharishi's
    pronouncement by satellite from his palatial headquarters in the
    Netherlands or Fed-Ex videocassettes of His Holiness explaining
    Maharishi's Science of Creative Intelligence.
    Craig Berg, 43, an affable PR man in Fairfield, Iowa, grew up in
    Baltimore.  [He] is one of thousands of devotees who serve Maharishi's
    projects around the globe for room, board and a small monthly
    stipend. Many dress in the coat-and-tie style he advises to change
    TM's counterculture reputation: ``Throw your blue jeans into the
    ocean,'' he once told them.
    But for some former devotees who have left the TM movement, Maharishi
    is the leader of a cult that literally entrances its subjects,
    bombards them with propaganda and cripples their ability to think
    critically.  Caught up in TM as teen-agers in the `70s, they now view
    their involvement as a prolonged bout of self-hypnosis.
    ``For me, the age of enlightenment turned into the age of
    embarrassment,'' says Roger Foster, 35, a Silver Spring computer
    programmer who spent more than a decade serving Maharishi before an
    anti-cult book changed his mind in 1988. ``I can't believe what I used
    to believe.''
    In retrospect, he sees a sinister side, recalling times when devotees
    had their mail screened and were monitored by a ``Vigilance
    Committee.''  Before qualifying as an advanced meditator, a ``Governor
    of the Age of Enlightenment,'' he was asked: ``Have you ever strayed
    from the movement, even in your thinking?''
    [Another ex-member] tells of paying a small fortune for secret mantras
    and miracle cures; of overhearing a down-to-earth Maharishi in India
    talking profit margins with the Philippines head of TM; of selling
    commodities by phone for the TM-dominated Fairfield franchise of
    International Trading Group, Ltd., later closed in a major fraud case.
    Mr. Berg dismisses TM-EX as a ``microscopic'' group of ``troubled
    people. It seems their mission in life is to be unhappy.'' Maharishi's
    mission is just the opposite, he says.
    Indeed vanquishing crime from U.S. cities is only a piece of
    ``Maharishi's Master Plan to Create Heaven on Earth.'' It should be
    well within the reach of a man, who, at various times, has claimed he
    can teach others to fly, to walk through walls, to become invisible;
    who can reverse the aging process, eliminate hunger, foretell the
    future, end all war.
    Maharishi wants $88 million a year from the city or private
    benefactors--$36,000 in salary and expenses for each of the 2,400
    mediators whose vibes would clear crime from metro Baltimore, quite
    possibly from Washington and Philadelphia as well.
    He would need this money on a continuing basis. ``When the lamp is
    turned off,'' he explains, ``the darkness returns.''
    It still sounds like a lot of cash.
    Another chuckle.
    ``I never think about money,'' he says.
    Various sources report Maharishi's father as a teacher, a tax inspector
    and a forest ranger; his birth date as 1917 and 1918; his real name
    as J.N. Srivastava and Mashed Prashad Varma.
    Maharishi's real stroke of genius was to take the basic meditative
    technique common to many traditions, give it the catchy, copyrighted
    title ``Transcendental Meditation,'' add a dash of secrecy and
    razzle-dazzle--and put a price tag on it. The introductory TM course
    originally cost about $100; now it's $400. Enthusiasts pay hundreds
    more for ``advanced'' courses, some of which amount to a ceremony to
    pass on a new mantra, a sound the meditator concentrates on.
    In 1975, Harvard psychologist Herbert Benson documented the physiological
    effects of meditation in a best-selling book, ``The Relaxation Response.''
    But Dr. Benson also confirmed that there was no magic to TM. Meditation
    worked fine without TM's lectures on Maharishi's Vedic science, secret
    Sanskrit mantras or fruit-and-flower initiation ceremonies.
    The aging of the `60s generation gradually cut the number of new TM
    recruits. Maharishi responded, like any good marketing man, with new
    concepts: courses in advanced ``TM-Sidhi'' meditation and ``yogic
    flying,'' which looks to outsiders like vigorous hopping. (The PR
    photographs use a fast shutter speed to freeze yogic flyers in mid-hop,
    leaving the impression they are floating cross-legged a few inches
    above the ground.)
    He promised world peace and took credit for the end of the Cold War.
    Now, as Americans turn their attention inward, he is offering to make
    their cities safe. Meanwhile, his products have proliferated.
    In October 1991, the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association,
    having unwittingly printed an uncritical account of Ayur-Veda healing,
    came back with a long article attacking the TM movement for ``a widespread
    pattern of misinformation, deception, and manipulation of lay and
    scientific news media.'' The movement fired back with a libel lawsuit,
    which is still in court.
    Maharishi's boosters say he has no personal wealth and dedicates his
    waking hours to the betterment of mankind. His critics say he lives
    like a potentate, traveling in a Mercedes, helicopter or jet and residing
    in a mammoth former monastery in the Dutch countryside.
    A Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary shows a brick complex
    that might adequately house a royal family. Curiously, though the
    many advanced meditators on the site presumably put out plenty of
    crime-fighting vibes, the perimeter is patrolled by security men with
    What about Fairfield, Iowa? It's a rural center of fewer than 10,000
    residents with hundreds of meditators gathering morning and evening
    in huge golden domes. If meditation can eliminate crime from Baltimore,
    surely crime must be long gone from Fairfield?
    Fairfield police chief Randy Cooksey sounds like he's answered this
    question before.
    ``Crime here is about the same as any small town in rural America,''
    says Chief Cooksey. Last year, he says, produced 9,501 calls to the
    police, including four rapes, one robbery, 31 aggravated assaults,
    84 burglaries, 461 thefts...
    But are the meditators at least driving crime down?
    ``I'd say there's been a steady increase,'' Chief Cooksey said. ``I
    think, based on my statistics in Fairfield, I can show they have no
    impact on crime here.''  The Baltimore [MD] Sun, Scott Shane, February
    5, 1993~
    The Truth About Jonestown: 13 years later--why we should still be
    Those who underestimated the fragility of the human mind could not
    comprehend how anyone in California could remain a member, let alone
    follow Jim Jones into the jungle. Yet those who believed in him could
    not consider any alternatives that were not among the choices
    provided.  Even those who might have been capable of imagining
    themselves getting free of the cult knew about the stated policy of
    murdering defectors.  And since any loved ones who were left behind
    would suffer retribution, few dared escape while family members
    remained in Jonestown. The practical effect of that double bind was a
    twilight-zone reality in which people pretended to be enjoying a
    Utopian existence while living in constant fear for their lives.
    There was a deliberate malevolence about the way Jones treated the
    members of his cult that went beyond mere perversion. It was all about
    forcing members to experience themselves as vulgar and despicable
    people who could never return to a normal life outside of the group.
    It was about destroying any personal relationships that might come
    ahead of the relationship each individual member had with him. It
    was about terrorizing children and turning them against their parents.
    It was about seeing Jim Jones as an omnipotent figure who could snuff
    out members' lives on a whim as easily as he had already snuffed out
    their self-respect. In short, it was about mind control. And, after
    all that, it was not incidentally about Jones's own sick fantasies
    and sexual perversions.
    The first thing that struck me when I met the clients and got to know
    them was that, although the specific details of their belief systems
    and activities varied considerably, those who became involved in cults
    had a frightening underlying commonality. They described their experiences
    as finding an unexpected sense of purpose, as though they were becoming
    a part of something extraordinarily significant that seemed to carry
    them beyond their feelings of isolation and toward an expanded sense
    of reality and the meaning of life. Nobody asked if they would be
    willing to commit suicide the first time they attended a meeting.
    Nor did anyone mention that the feeling of expansiveness they were
    enjoying would later be used to turn them against each other.
    Instead they were told about the remarkable Reverend Jones, a self-professed
    social visionary and prophet who apparently could heal the sick and
    predict the future. Jim Jones did everything within his power to perpetuate
    that myth: fraudulent psychic-healing demonstrations using rotting
    animal organs as phony tumors; searching through members' garbage
    for information to reveal in fake psychic readings; drugging his followers
    to make it appear as though he were actually raising the dead. Even
    Jeannie Mills [a high-level insider] who later told me she knowingly
    assisted Jones in his faked demonstrations, said she did so because
    she believed she was helping him conserve his real supernatural powers
    for more important matters.
    Critical levels of sleep deprivation can masquerade as noble dedication.
    A total lack of adequate nutrition can seem acceptable when presented
    as a reasonable sacrifice for a worthy cause. Combining the two for
    any length of time will inevitably break down the ability to make
    rational judgments and weaken the psychological resistance of anyone.
    So can the not-infrequent practice of putting drugs in the members'
    food. The old self, the one that previously felt lonely and lacking
    in a sense of purpose, is gradually overcome by a new sense of self
    inextricably linked with the feeling of expansiveness associated with
    originally joining the cult and becoming intrigued with its leaders.
    Belonging to the group gradually becomes more important than anything
    else. When applied in various combinations, fear of being rejected,
    of doing or saying something wrong that will blow the whole illusion
    wide open; being punished and degraded, subjected to physical threats,
    unprovoked violence, and sexual abuse; fear of never amounting to
    anything; and the fear of returning to an old self associated almost
    exclusively with feelings of loneliness and a lack of meaning will
    confuse almost anyone. Patricia Hearst knows all about it. So did
    all the members of the Peoples Temple.
    Once thrown off balance (in the exclusive company of other people
    who already believe it) and being shown evidence that supports the
    conclusion, it is not difficult to become convinced that you have
    actually met the Living God. In the glazed and pallid stupor associated
    with achieving that confused and dangerous state of mind, almost any
    conceivable act of self-sacrifice, self-degradation, and cruelty can
    become possible.
    The truth of that realization was brought home to me by one survivor,
    who, finding himself surrounded by rifles, was told he could take
    the poison quietly or they would stick it in his veins or blow his
    brains out. He didn't resist. Instead, he raised his cup and toasted
    those dying around him without drinking. Then he walked around the
    compound shaking hands until he'd worked his way to the edge of the
    jungle, where he ran and hid until he felt certain it had to be over.
    ``Why did you follow Jim Jones?'' I asked him.
    ``Because I believed he was God,'' he answered. ``We all believed
    he was God.''
    The fact that some members held guns on the others and handled the
    syringes meant that what occurred in Jonestown was not only a mass
    suicide but also a mass murder. According to the witnesses, more than
    one member was physically restrained while being poisoned. A little
    girl kept spitting out the poison until they held her mouth closed
    and forced her to swallow it--276 children do not calmly kill themselves
    just because someone who claims to be God tells them to. All 912 Peoples
    Temple members did not die easily.
    It should also be remembered that Jones never took the poison he gave
    to his followers but was shot by someone else during the final death
    scene in Jonestown. He created a false reality around himself in which
    the denial of his own mortality must have made his own demise seem
    inconceivable. The fact that he had millions of dollars in foreign
    bank accounts and had often alluded to starting over elsewhere led
    [some] to speculate that he planned to escape the holocaust but was
    murdered by one of his guards or mistresses.
    Most of us don't think of ourselves as the kind of person who could
    ever possibly become embroiled in a cult like the Peoples Temple.
    We are not at all correct in that assumption. Given an unfortunate
    turn of fate that leads to a moment of weakness, or a momentary lapse
    in judgment that expands into a shift in our perception, nearly any
    of us could find ourselves taking the cyanide in Jonestown--if not
    passing out the poison to other people.
    People end up joining cults when events lead them to search for a
    deeper sense of belonging and for something more meaningful in their
    lives. They do so because they happen to be in the wrong place at
    the wrong time and are ripe for exploitation. They do so because they
    find themselves getting caught in the claws of a parasite before they
    realize what is happening to them.
    Those who join cults don't do so with the intention of demeaning
    themselves or torturing children. They join in the hope of creating a
    better world, and because they believe in a lie, or a series of lies,
    in the same way that the rest of us sometimes find ourselves falling
    in love with the wrong person or allowing ourselves to be manipulated.
    The only real difference between them and us is the extent to which
    they are led to carry those same sorts of feelings to extremes.
    Psychology Today, Keith Harrary, Mar/Apr 1992~ [Editor's note: The
    author was director of counseling at a halfway house for cult
    defectors founded by two Peoples Temples expatriates (who were later
    MY FATHER'S GURU: A Journey Through Spirituality and Disillusion,
    by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.
    The guru of the title was Paul Brunton, the author of many popular
    books about Indian mysticism, with titles such as ``The Hidden
    Teaching Beyond Yoga'' and ``The Spiritual Crisis of Man.'' For much
    of Jeffrey Masson's childhood and adolescence, Brunton lived with the
    Masson family. Since Masson's father revered Brunton, and was proud to
    be one of the guru's few close disciples, it is hardly surprising that
    Jeffrey Masson believed in him too. Brunton's influence accounts for
    Masson's choosing to study Sanskrit at Harvard, a subject that he
    later taught in Toronto. But Harvard also helped him to become
    skeptical and critical, and brought about his final disillusion with
    Brunton.  As Masson acknowledges, the pattern of attachment to a guru
    followed by disillusion was repeated when he turned from Sanskrit to
    psychoanalysis.  I still think that Masson's well-known critique of
    Freud, ``The Assault on Truth,'' is misguided and unfair, but this
    fascinating account of his own childhood and adolescence provides a
    partial explanation for the intemperance of that attack.
    Brunton (1989-1981) believed in reincarnation, and convinced his
    followers that many previous lives had endowed him with special
    wisdom. He also claimed that, like Jesus Christ, he had descended to
    Earth from a realm inhabited by superior beings. At night, he could
    travel anywhere in his astral body. Meditation, he said, could lead to
    higher wisdom and spiritual knowledge, but physical desires had to be
    overcome if the spirit was to flourish. Vegetarianism, long periods of
    fasting and abstention from sex would help the disciple's progress
    along ``the Path'' to enlightenment. Like many gurus, Brunton did not
    always abide by his own prescriptions, since he married four times and
    fathered a son. It is also characteristic that he lived off his
    disciples, who were please to support him financially and to offer him
    accommodation.  Brunton had no higher education, although he claimed a
    Spiritual leaders usually have enemies, and it is no surprise that
    Brunton claimed that unseen malignant forces surrounded him and daily
    attacked him. Sometimes these evil spirits manifested themselves in
    communists who would have destroyed him if he had not been protected
    by a higher power who was using him to write the books he wrote.
    Brunton predicted a Third World War on the grounds that civilization
    was ``sex-ridden.'' As a result of this prediction, a number of
    Brunton's disciples, including the Massons, moved to South America,
    often incurring considerable financial loss by so doing.  Before
    transferring to Harvard, Jeffrey Masson attended the University of
    Montevideo in Uruguay.
    As every psychiatrist will recognize, Brunton's beliefs about himself
    and the world constitute a paranoid delusional system. Mental hospitals
    contain many patients holding closely similar beliefs that are labeled
    delusions because they are impervious to reason and obviously fantastic.
    So how do gurus like Brunton survive? The ordinary paranoid psychotic
    usually gets into trouble because his delusions cannot be shared and
    therefore isolate him socially. Eventually he usually engages in some
    form of bizarre or antisocial behavior that causes him to be deemed
    mentally ill. But if he can share his beliefs, the picture is entirely
    Gurus like Brunton survive in the community because they succeed in
    imposing their delusion on others through their writings and teaching.
    So long as they retain disciples, they can function socially and
    continue to find support for the delusion of possessing special powers
    that has become necessary to maintain their self-esteem. We may marvel
    at the gullibility of Masson's father, but we are none of us immune to
    taking on irrational beliefs, especially if social circumstances
    become chaotic or hopeless. What we don't know is why some people feel
    a strong need for gurus even when life if good, while others remain
    entirely unimpressed. Brunton was a harmless guru compared with Jim
    Jones or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. But, as I'm sure Jeffrey Masson would
    agree, all gurus eventually turn out to have feet of clay.  The
    Washington Post, Anthony Storr, February 19, 1993~
    [The reviewer is a psychiatrist and fellow of the Royal College of
    Physicians. His most recent book is ``Music and the Mind.'']
    The TM-EX Newsletter is published by the Transcendental Meditation
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    For inquiries: P.O. Box 7565, Arlington, VA 22207, (202) 728-7580, FAX
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    Natural Law: The Politics of Science
    The Natural Law Party (NLP) in Victoria actually recieved 29,594 votes
    for the Legislative Assembly out of 2,353,894 votes counted. This
    contrasts with 92,703 for the growingly popular Informal party. Scientific
    testing puts this at around 1.2%. In the Legislative Council, the
    NLP figure was 13,708 from the 2,350,249 votes counted. Informal recieved
    a little more at 13,881. This puts the NLP percentage under 0.6%.
    Dr. Byron Rigby stood for the seat of Coburg and scored 652 votes
    out of a possible 26,883 (2.4%). Informal came in with 1619. The Skeptic
    [Australia], Adam Joseph, Summer 1992~
    [Editor's Note: 32 candidates ran for the Natural Law Party.]
    An MIU Graduate Speaks Out:
    Thoughts on Natural Law as displayed by the followers of Maharishi
    Mahesh Yogi.
    I was recently on  a speaking tour of Australia. I quickly appreciated
    the cleanliness of Australian cities. My home is in Philadelphia,
    which is often referred to as ``Filth-a-dephia.''
    Melbourne is vibrant with the arts.  One of the  arts festivals I
    attended was there was the Moomba -- an eclectic festival of wandering
    street performers, performances and bands.
    As I strolled the streets, appreciating the artists, vendors and Australian
    culture,  I passed Melbourne's Central Train Station. I was greeted
    by trash blowing on the sidewalks and street. As I looked to see the
    source of the trash, I was confronted by the sight of a team of American
    ``Thousand-Headed-Purusha'' frenetically handing out NLP promotional
    literature. I reflected on how many times I had been in the mad TM
    It certainly is ironic that the promoters of ``Life in Accord with
    Natural Law''  would be so blinded by their fervor to spread the NLP
    word, only to be oblivious  to the trash and filth they left behind.
    They had their mission and living in harmony with the city of Melbourne
    was not their program.
    I picked up the Natural Law Party promo from the street and mused at
    the number of candidates that were running in the March '93 election:
    126. Even Bevan Morris is running for office in the city of Boothbay,
    in South Australia. But wait--Bevan is the President of MIU, the head
    of the NLP in the US, leader of the NLP for Australia, and a candidate
    in Australia.
    Mmm, could there be a conflict of interest?  Not to worry.   Bevan
    received only 1456 votes out of 85,032.
    Chris Wells (formerly at MIU) gained 1574 out of a possible 83,723
    votes for the seat at Barker.   Cathy Knoles, (an American) the former
    TM National Leader of Australia received 1297 votes out of 77,879
    for the seat at Warringah, NSW. The NLP promotional literature labels
    Cathy as ``spokeswoman for the Environment.'' 
    Others did not fare as well: Jennie Benjamin received 179 votes out
    of 74,024 for the city of Perth, WA. Dr. Roger Fay received 279 out
    of 73679 for the seat at Macquarie, NSW.
    All of the candidates lost their deposits as the result of not obtaining
    the minimum required votes.
    I think there should be election laws in the US that prevent foreign
    political parties from entering into US elections.  Other countries
    should do the same.  Patrick Ryan, Philadelphia, PA~
    A Visit to the Shankaracharya, Part V
    [Editor's Note: The following transcript is taken directly from the
    taped conversations between Robert Kropinski, a former TM teacher
    and follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and Shree Shankaracharya Swaroopanand
    Saraswati, a pre-eminent disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (Guru
    Dev), who is considered Mahesh Yogi's Spiritual Master.]
    Q: We have heard that Mahesh Yogi instructs mantras himself, and some
    people believe in him as their teacher. He is a kaaystha (lower caste,
    not a Brahmin) by birth. Do you think it is appropriate for him to
    instruct like this?
    Shankaracharya: My first information was that he used to place a picture
    of Guru Dev behind him, that during initiation he would have people
    worship it and then he would give out mantras. I have met many persons,
    who, in reality, had their mantras from Mahesh, but they consider
    themselves to be disciple of Brahmaleen Jagadguru Shankaracharya Brahmanand
    Saraswati (Guru Dev). But, no matter whom they consider their teacher,
    the fact of the matter is that a person who gives a mantra is to be
    considered the real Guru (dispeller of darkness, Spiritual Master).
    If Mahesh thinks that he is backed by Shankaracharya, then what is
    proper on his part is to tell people to take initiation from Shankaracharya.
    Q: Lord, Mahesh Yogi considers Vishnu Devanand Saraswati as
    Shankaracharya of the Jyotish peeth.  As far as I know he was not
    consecrated according to Vedic ritual.  Also, Mahesh is reported to
    pay his monthly expenses?
    Shankaracharya: I do not have any evidence of his giving money. This,
    however, is certain, that he, Vishnu Devanand does not have offerings
    which are enough for his living. Therefore, it seems that he gets
    income from outside. Moreover, he calls Mahesh Yogi as puujya
    (revered), as Maharishi (great seer) and stands up on his arrival,
    these are all things which indicate that he is dependent on him for
    money. So far as the question of Shankaracharya is concerned, only he
    is made Shankaracharya who has all the qualities of Mahaanushasan
    (great discipline).  According to Mahaanushasan, Shankaracharya is he
    who has conquered his senses, knows all the other scriptures. Only
    such a person, who has all these qualities should sit on the seat of
    Shankaracharya.  In case a wrong person is found to be occupying that
    seat, he should be dethroned. As far as I know, the scholars from
    Baneras had held him unable for this seat. Even after that statement,
    he has not acquired any competency.
    Again, the so-called will of the deceased Guru Dev prescribes the
    name of Dvarikeshanand Saraswati as the second person, not him. It
    is written in that will (of Guru Dev) that this is clearly my order,
    that so far as Dvarikeshanand Shastri is alive, there is no one who
    has the right to make anyone else succeed to that seat unless Dvarkishanand
    becomes mentally incompetent or else relinquishes the seat himself.
    Depriving him of his seat is disobedience of the teacher's order.
    Therefore, neither according to the Mahaanushasan, nor according to
    the will of Shankaracharya (Guru Dev), is he (Vishnu Devanand) the
    rightful successor.
    When a Sammelan (conference) of all the four seats was called, he
    (Vishnu Devanand) was not invited there as one presiding over the
    Jyotish Peeth. Moreover, no other Shankaracharya of any seat allows
    him to sit next to him.
    He knows that in the days ahead he will be exposed. Before that moment
    arrives, he wants to make sure that he will not have financial difficulty
    in life. He created on Shankaracharya here. There is Shantinand sitting
    there (pointing to Shantinand sitting on the stage). They, Shantinand
    and Vishnu Devanand have no influence on the public. They are raised
    by Mahesh's money. They just sing his glory.
    Q: Mahesh Yogi claims that he preaches yoga according to the instruction
    of his Guru. The truth of the matter, however, is that Guru Dev never
    asked anyone who is not a Brahmin by birth to go and spread his teachings.
    What is your opinion?
    Shankaracharya: This is true. In reality, preaching, initiating, guiding
    people engaged in spiritual pursuits, is the duty of those who are
    born in a Brahmin family. If he is a follower of Sanatan Dharma (the
    Hindu religion), he should not do what he is doing. This is against
    the orders of his Guru. Moreover, making others write puujya (revered),
    calling himself Maharishi (a great seer) is totally inappropriate.
    No assembly of saints has either conferred upon him a title of Maharishi
    nor has announced him puujya.
    In the ashram he was doing the work of typing and writing and translation.
    Then he became a sadhu. However, he has never practiced yoga.
    It is said that Guru Dev was given poison. Who gave that poison we
    don't know but we know that there was poison in his body. When Guru
    Dev's body became unwell, then we wanted him to go to Kashi to rest.
    But he (Mahesh) removed him from that trip forcibly and took him to
    speak in Calcutta. There he died.
    After that, this man spread his net. He went abroad. First to Singapore.
    The expatriate Indians there, thinking that he is the disciple of
    Shankaracharya, received him well and got him a ticket for the United
    States. After going to America, he brought the Beatles back here.
    It was rumored that he did inappropriate things with them and that's
    why they left him and went away.
    He later opened many camps and pretended that he could teach people
    to read minds and levitate. No one, however, succeeded in learning
    the things he promised. He himself does not know or practice yoga.
    He does not know anything about those things.  Robert Kropinski, 1985~
    The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
    (CSICOP) awarded their Responsibility in Journalism Award to Andrew
    Skolnick, associate editor of Medical News at the Journal of the American
    Medical Association (JAMA) on October 17, 1992:
    The support that this award represents, from this unique committee--a
    committee of champions for free scientific inquiry, academic integrity,
    and the rule of reason--comes at a critical time. Like a growing number
    of others who have spoken critically of litigious parties, I have
    become the target of a multimillion dollar lawsuit for writing the
    article that CSICOP honors tonight. I and my editor, Dr. George Lundberg,
    are being sued for almost $200 million--plus legal expenses.
    The article that CSICOP has chosen to honor this year has earned a
    few other kudos. Earlier this year, the Columbia Journalism Review
    awarded JAMA one of its coveted laurels for having the guts and integrity
    to publish this expose in order to correct a previous mistake. This
    mistake occurred when JAMA unknowingly published a report that promoted
    Maharishi Ayur-Veda products marketed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
    and his Transcendental Meditation movement.
    The National Council Against Health Fraud has called this article
    ``one of the best exposes we have ever seen of a pseudomedical system''
    and said it is ``a classic in the literature of consumer health education,
    and is must reading.''
    The article also was one of the five semifinalists to be judged for
    this year's National Association of Science Writers' Science in Society
    Last, but not least, the article was rated ``gutter journalism'' in
    a press release from the American Association for Ayurvedic Medicine,
    one of the parties that is suing me and my editor.
    While opinion and truthful statements are almost always protected
    from a successful lawsuit in the United States, such speech does not
    appear to be protected from harassing lawsuits that are brought to
    punish critics and to intimidate others who would speak out.
    More and more now, opinion and truthful speech are being fought with
    ``SLAPP suits''--SLAPP is an acronym for `Strategic Lawsuits Against
    Public Participation.' These frivolous and harassing suits are being
    brought by powerful groups with deep pockets. Their intentions are
    not to recover damages, but to stifle, to silence public criticism.
    SLAPP suits are brought with little expectation of winning. Those who
    bring SLAPP suits win no matter how the case is decided. Their rewards
    are virtually guaranteed from the start, for the suit ties up
    defendants, drains their energies and finances, and psychology
    punishes them for having spoken out. At the same time, it warns others
    what they could face if they dare to enter the public debate.I think
    it is an outrage that in this free land, people have to risk financial
    ruin in order to speak their minds. I think it is outrageous that many
    publications in this land of liberty are not willing to publish
    articles that are critical of SLAPP-happy individuals and groups.  And
    I think it's outrageous that a journalist in the United States is
    prevented from discussing his work at an awards ceremony for that
    Statement from The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Higher Education
    Coordinating Council, Boston:
    Regarding the status of the Maharishi International Institute of Vedic
    Science (MIIVS), MIIVS has petitioned the Higher Education Coordinating
    Council, through the Secretary of State's Office, to ament its Charter
    for authority to grant the Master of Science in Ayurveda and Master
    of Science in Vedic Science. The institution also requested a change
    of name from Maharishi International Institute of Vedic Science to
    Maharishi Vedic College.
    The application is presently under review by the Higher Education
    Coordinating Council. A team visit to evaluate the proposed programs
    is tenatively set for Spring 1993.
    The regional association of the New England Association of Schools
    and Colleges will not accredit an institution until it has acquired
    degree-granting authority. Therefore, the institution is not regionally
    accredited.  February 9, 1993, Diane Van der Meer~
    Breaking Camp: Rantoul adjusting to losing Chanute
    For four years, [Rantoul, IL], a village of 18,000 has been preparing
    to make its giant move, from an economy based on Chanute [Air Force
    Base] to one that must try to survive without the base it grew up
    So far, more than 60 companies have expressed interest in buying or
    leasing buildings on the base, which hugs the south edge of Rantoul.
    Some of the best possibilities, like a coveted United Airlines maintenance
    facility that would have provided 5,000 jobs, have fallen through.
    Other proposals, like one to turn the base into a giant transcendental
    meditation school, appear to be collapsing, with the village's blessing.
    Chicago Tribune, Laurie Goering, February 15, 1993
    [Editor's note: For more on TM's proposed move to Rantoul, IL, see
    `Healing' vs. `Curing': A Look at New Age Treatments
    In this [PBS-TV] series [``Healing and the Mind''] broadcast journalist
    Bill Moyers has dived head-first into the world of body-mind medicine,
    the concept that thoughts and emotions can have an impact on physical
    status. But the borders between the mainstream and the new age are
    blurry in the world of healing, and this series shed very little light
    on where reality ends and ``magic'' begins.
    William Jarvis, professor of preventive medicine at Loma Linda University
    Medical Center in California and president of the National Council
    Against Health Fraud, said that the summary of the series he saw makes
    it, ``seem like it is an extremely naive exploration into the field.''
    ``This is something I study and teach about,'' Jarvis says, ``and
    I think you get a lot of false portrayals of regular medicine. You
    get the impression that conventional medicine doesn't think the mind
    is important.'' He agrees that some of the ``art'' of medicine has
    been lost in the era of high technology and costs and too little time
    spent with patients. ``There's no question that we need more humaneness
    in medicine and we need to tap into people's psychological resources.''
    The series skips around, sometimes examining the emotional support for
    patients provided by a few unusual hospitals, at other times
    eavesdropping on some cancer support groups. These last provide some
    wrenching insights into agony and despair. Physician and author Dean
    Ornish's stringent approach to heart disease via diet, exercise and
    meditation is touched on, but so is a brain operation with mostly
    acupuncture as an anesthetic.
    To its credit, the series only occasionally lapses into what Jarvis
    sees as the mystic aspects of alternative medicine. But he worries
    that ``because the desperate are out there, charlatans and quacks
    will rush in and salute the series'' as confirmation of their own
    beliefs and techniques, ``while skeptics like me will pan it.''
    ``What they don't say,'' Jarvis said,'' is that the `true believers'
    and the charlatans don't really help the desperate beyond giving them
    attention. Massage feels great, but what does it do inside? Herbal
    remedies can have natural stimulants and tranquilizers, but people
    think something special is going on inside their bodies. The old snake-oil
    salesmen used to lace their potion with opium or alcohol, and people
    liked that, too.''
    Jarvis believes meditation is fine but no better than learning how
    to relax under the supervision of psychiatrists or psychologists.
    ``But meditation is mystical, while the other is mundane,'' he said.
    ``[The series] offers a lot of opportunity for the exploitation of
    the desperate,'' despite periodic disclaimers.  The Washington Post,
    Sandy Rovner, February 16, 1993~
    Cults in the News
    Cults Hook AIDS Patients Cults, sects, and fringe religious groups are
    finding that there's money to be made and members to be recruited from
    the large and growing population of AIDS patients. Among the most
    egregious examples: The Transcendental Meditation (TM) cult of
    Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is selling a variety of Indian folk medicines as
    a replacement for the modern medicine it recommends stopping;
    representatives of a group known as Morningland promise an AIDS cure
    via the healing touch of its leader; and Insight, a New Age
    organization, is hyping its book, ``You Can't Afford the Luxury of a
    Negative Thought: A Book for People With Any Life-Threatening
    Illness--Including Life.''
    Many desperate people with AIDS are being lured into becoming members
    of such groups and into paying for useless `cures.' Physicians treating
    people with AIDS should not be surprised if their patients ask them
    about these and other such groups and should be prepared to carefully
    respond to the questions.  Oncology Times, AIDS News, October 1992~
    Father Cleared of Plotting to Kidnap du Pont Heir  Philadelphia businessman
    Edgar Newbold Smith was acquitted yesterday of conspiring to kidnap
    his son, a du Pont heir, in hope of breaking his devotion to the organization
    led by political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr.
    The three-week trial was described as the only federal case in which
    a father has been charged with kidnapping for attempting to extricate
    a son or daughter from a political or religious group.
    Though members of various political and religious interest groups
    used the courthouse as a stage to speak out against anti-cult groups
    determined to steal their followers, the trial served largely as a
    battleground for the Smith family.
    In the mid-1980s, shortly after Lewis Smith lent the LaRouche group
    more than $200,000, his father and other family members persuaded
    a Philadelphia judge to rule that Lewis Smith was mentally unable
    to maintain his own finances. An appellate court later upheld the
    ruling, saying in part that the trial court properly found that Lewis
    Smith was ``liable to dissipate his assets and become victim of designing
    In the current case, Newbold Smith said during his testimony that
    he had hired [Galen] Kelly, [a self-described deprogrammer] and paid
    him as much as $35,000 in recent years to track his son, saying ``that's
    the only way I could learn how he was.''  The Washington Post, Robert
    F. Howe, January 1, 1993~
    Biosphere 2: The True Story. Science or Science Fiction, Ecobusiness
    or Amusement Park?  There's a weariness on the faces of the eight
    men and women who were enclosed in Biosphere 2 in September 1991 for
    a two-year stay in their brave new world. Supposedly untouched by
    the world outside, they are raising their own food and recycling their
    air, water and wastes to gain a greater understanding of the Earth's
    balance of nature, while developing the technology that will allow
    humans to create space colonies.
    Ex-employees contend John Allen, Margret Augustine [the project's
    founders] and their closest associates have created a twisted environment
    where control and power are everything, where honesty is a virtue
    only when it meets their needs, where dissent is systematically crushed
    and where the public trust is held in as high regard as at a used
    car lot.
    Allen was reportedly preparing the group for a massive human evolutionary
    leap. Western civilization, historian Lawrence Veysey quotes him as
    saying, is dead. ``We are probing into its ruins to take whatever
    is useful for the building of a new civilization to replace it,''
    Allen told the historian.
    That civilization wouldn't take root on Earth, but on Mars, where
    a group of up to 80 people would found a colony in the foreseeable
    future, made up of super men and women, people with the highest intellect
    and scientific sensitivity. Their Martian-born descendants would undergo
    tremendous evolutionary changes away from the poison of Western civilization,
    eventually meeting and mingling with intelligent life forms from other
    parts of the universe.  
    Like many communes of the time, this one might have collapsed from
    the weight of its own absurdity, but in 1974, it received a burst of
    new energy, not to mention the money to fund its quest for
    enlightenment: Billionaire Ed Bass met the group.
    With Bass's backing, Allen's group embarked on projects around the
    world, including an environmental conference center in France, a hotel
    in Nepal, a replica of a Chines junk that sails the world doing undersea
    research, and the Institute of Ecotechnics, a nonaccredited diploma
    mill and think tank in London that has showered many of Biosphere
    2's principals with degrees.
    ``They believe they are as much evolved over the rest of humanity
    as the rest of us are above apes,'' filmmaker Lou Hawthorne says.
    To be fair, allegation of cultish behavior can spur incredibly
    sensational stories about Biosphere 2 that have little to do with the
    project's scientific value. But they do have everything to do with how
    that scientific value has been managed and presented. It demonstrates
    a group that was eminently self-important, interested more in
    self-aggrandizement and promoting their curious philosophies than in
    the environment.  The group's slavish devotion to Allen, indicates a
    deeper commitment to pleasing a leader than objective scientific
    inquiry. A look at their history, too, illustrates paranoia of outside
    scrutiny, hardly a virtue in the peer-review world of science.
    Buzzworm: The Environmental Journal, Michael O'Keeffe, Nov/Dec 1992
    Scientists Resign From Biosphere Oversight Panel  An independent committee
    of scientists set up to help oversee a controversial Biosphere II
    ``space habitat'' experiment in Arizona has resigned, frustrated by
    lack of cooperation, members said yesterday.
    The 10 scientists, who oversaw the scientific integrity of the two-year
    experiment, resigned February 5 during a meeting at the Smithsonian
    ``They [the operators of Biosphere II] weren't listening to us,''
    the member said. Newsday, February 7, 1992~
    Suggested Readings
    Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention How To Respond to Cult-Affected
    Loved Ones, by Carol Giambalvo.   Published by the American Family
    Foundation, the leading professional organization devoted to cultic
    studies, this important new book, with an introduction by Dr. Michael
    Langone, provides practical information for families concerned about
    a cult-involved relative. It describes the process of exit counseling,
    a voluntary approach to helping cultists makes informed decisions
    about their group affiliation. Exit counseling is the most effective
    alternative to the controversial process of deprogramming, which involves
    Combatting Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan.  MUST reading for
    anyone who has been touched by cult phenomena.  A former Moonie tells
    his story.
    Zillions: Consuper Reports for Kids, P.O. Box 54861, Boulder, CO 80322
    Kids learn critical thinking by evaluating popular culture and
    advertising aimed at them.
    TM and Cult Mania, by M.A. Persinger, Ph.D.  An in-depth investigation
    into the claims of TM, hypnosis and research.  [Available from TM-EX]
    Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. An in-depth exploration
    into the commonalities of traumatic experience and the process of
    healing. [See review, Summer 92]
    Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, by  R.J. Lifton, M.D.
    A classic textbook and case study on victims of thought reform and
    the elements of thought reform programs. [See excerpt, Winter 92]
    Heaven on Earth: Dispatches From America's Spiritual Frontier, by
    Michael D'Antonio.  A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter visits America's
    spiritual communities including MIU, Fairfield, Iowa.  [See review,
    Spring 92]
    Cultic Studies Journal: Psychological Manipulation and Society. A
    refereed semi-annual journal published by the American Family Foundation
    (AFF), P.O. Box 2265, Bonita Springs, FL 33959. The CSJ seeks to advance
    the understanding of cultic practices and their relation to society,
    including broad social and cultural implications as well as effects
    on individuals and families. [See ``The Use of TM to Promote Social
    Progress in Israel, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1986]
    Cult Awareness Network (CAN) News, 2421 West Pratt Blvd., Suite 1173,
    Chicago, IL 60645, (312) 267-7777.   Founded to educate the public
    about the harmful effects of mind control as used by destructive cults.
    CAN confines its concerns to unethical or illegal practices, and passes
    no judgment on doctrine or beliefs.
    How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday
    Life, by Thomas Gilovich.  An investigation of how even highly educated
    people become convinced of the validity of questionable or demonstrably
    false beliefs about the world, and the unfortunate impact of these
    Skeptical Inquirer, Box 229, Buffalo, NY 14215. Journal of the Committee
    for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which
    attempts to encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and
    fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view.
    [See Winter 1983-84, ``An investigation of the effects of TM on the
    NCAHF Newsletter (National Council Against Health Fraud), P.O. Box
    1276, Loma Linda, CA 92354. To aid in activism against health fraud,
    misinformation and quackery.
    Influence: The New Psychology of Modern Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini,
    Ph.D.  A landmark publication in furthering our understanding of the
    persuasion process.
    Now Available From TM-EX
    Reprints--including early TM studies, journal research and news articles.
    Investigative reports from BBC, CBC and other news media available
    on audiotape.  Write for a complete list.~

    Deprogramming, Exit Counseling, and Ethics: Clarifying the Confusion

    Langone, Michael D., Ph.D., and Martin, Paul, Ph.D., “Deprogramming, Exit Counseling, and Ethics: Clarifying the Confusion,” Christian Research Journal, Winter 1993
    In the late 1960s and early 1970s increasing numbers of parents began to observe and report striking and frightening changes in their young-adult children. Formerly serious, high-achieving, well-adjusted students would suddenly drop out of school, shun their families and friends, and devote themselves completely to unusual groups that parents and others quickly identified as cults. In many cases, parents also worried about their children’s physical well-being because of the groups’ dietary, health, work, or sexual practices. Although evangelical parents obtained some information focused on doctrinal and historical issues from organizations such as the Christian Research Institute, parents who did not identify with evangelicalism had nowhere to turn and usually worried alone for long periods of time. Gradually, they began to find and help each other.

    Occasionally, these individuals would find a mental health professional or clergyman who sincerely listened to their concerns. Parents would usually voice such observations as: “That’s not my kid;” “He talks like a robot, as though he were programmed;” “She was fine, but now she seems like a different person.” Soon, these parents and professionals realized that they were observing a process akin to what was popularly known as brainwashing. But they didn’t know what to do. Their children wouldn’t listen, or their responses to all questions and complaints seemed programmed. They sometimes succeeded in persuading their children to leave the groups, and the term “deprogramming” was used to describe the process of countering the cults’ “programming.” Partly because of these successes, the cults’ antagonism toward parents hardened. Parents found they could no longer gain access to their children.

    Seeing no other options, some parents—with the help of former cult members—began to take their adult children off the street, bring them to secure places, and detain them there until they had listened to a detailed critique of the cultic group. Frequently, these encounters lasted three days or more. But the process usually worked. Hundreds of cult members renounced their cults. In time, the term “deprogramming” came to be associated with this initially coercive process, even though originally “deprogramming” did not imply coercion. Soon, a network of deprogrammers developed, with some even earning their living as deprogrammers. Although most parents were ethically and emotionally conflicted over the deprogramming process, it seemed at the time to be their only option in a desperate situation. Hundreds of these parents felt as though deprogramming had brought their children back to life. The ex-members felt that they had been liberated from a psychological prison.

    Because deprogramming had come to be associated with coercion and confinement and because it so often worked (about two-thirds of the time), it caused quite a controversy. Cults railed against it, in large part because it was effective in persuading their members to leave. But even some cult critics denounced it on legal and ethical grounds. Others additionally felt that a more sophisticated understanding of cults opened up alternatives to deprogramming. These persons—some of whom were helping professionals or clergy—believed that parents tended to let their emotions dominate their actions. They began to help parents with their distress and help them communicate more effectively, so that they would be able to persuade their children to speak with someone knowledgeable about cults. The term “voluntary deprogramming” came to be associated with this process. It soon became clear, however, the adjective “voluntary” did not remove the negative connotation “deprogramming” had acquired. Gradually, the term “exit counseling” replaced “voluntary deprogramming.” (Some exit counselors prefer the term “cult education consultant,” but that term has not yet caught on.) Today, there are many exit counselings and few deprogrammings.

    Exit counseling refers to a voluntary, intensive, time-limited, contractual educational process that emphasizes the respectful sharing of information with cultists. Because some persons who perform deprogrammings like to call themselves "exit counselors," the two terms are sometimes confused. A recent [Christian Research] Journal article on “exit counseling” angered many exit counselors in large part because it failed to stress the distinctions between exit counseling and deprogramming.

    These distinctions, however, are important. Deprogramming entails coercion and confinement. In exit counseling the cultist is free to leave at any time. Deprogramming typically costs $10,000 or more mainly because of the expense of a security team. Exit counseling typically costs $2,000 to $4,000, including expenses, for a three-to-five day intervention, although cases requiring extensive research of little-known groups can cost much more. Deprogramming, especially when it fails, entails considerable legal and psychological risk (e.g., a permanent alienation of the cultist from his or her family). The psychological and legal risks in exit counseling are much smaller. Although deprogrammers prepare families for the process, exit counselors tend to work more closely with families and expect them to contribute more to the process; that is, exit counseling requires that families establish a reasonable and respectful level of communication with their loved one before the exit counseling proper can begin. Because they rely on coercion, which is generally viewed as unethical, deprogrammers’ critiques of the unethical practices of cults will tend to have less credibility with cultists than the critiques of exit counselors. Neither the authors, the organizations for which they work, nor the publisher of this journal endorse involuntary deprogramming.

    Ethical concerns obviously are much greater with regard to deprogramming than exit counseling. Deprogramming advocates maintain that its coercive aspect is a regrettable but necessary step in freeing people from evil groups. They point out that the law has long recognized that competing rights and needs can sometimes produce situations wherein an undesirable action might be necessary to prevent something worse. This has often been called the “necessity” or “choice of evils” defense. An example would be running a red light in order to get a bleeding person to a hospital. Running the red light is a legal violation, but in such an emergency it would likely be deemed to have mitigating circumstances. Obviously, with regard to deprogramming the central question is whether the evil to be countered is terrible enough to mitigate the culpability of the coercion.

    Determining the ethical defensibility of a particular deprogramming is not always simple. Generally speaking the most sensible cases will involve minor children, especially when the cult prevents parents from seeing or communicating with their child. With regard to adults in cults, a reasonable likelihood of imminent danger to the life of the cultist is probably a critical factor in ethically defending a deprogramming. Imminent danger, however, may not always be a sufficient justification of deprogramming because other interventions may be reasonable to pursue (e.g., obtaining a court order to remove the endangered person from the group).

    Whether a particular judge or jury will accept the necessity defense for a deprogramming is a matter that is independent of, though related to, the ethical defensibility of the deprogramming. A parent, for example, may believe that his or her child is in imminent danger, that an exit counseling is not possible, and that there is not sufficient time to obtain a court order. The parent’s opinion may be sufficiently reasonable, based on the facts of the case, to be ethically defensible. However, a judge might reject the necessity defense because he or she believes that there had indeed been time to obtain a court order, or that it was reasonable to first attempt an exit counseling. The judgment of the legal system determines the acceptability of a necessity defense, regardless of the ethical defensibility of a particular deprogramming, although the more ethically defensible a deprogramming is the more acceptable is the necessity defense likely to be.

    Historically speaking, when deprogrammings have resulted in lawsuits or criminal charges, judges and juries have in many cases decided in favor of parents and deprogrammers. In other cases courts have exonerated the parents but held the deprogrammers liable. Occasionally, both parents and deprogrammers have been held liable. Although there have been attempts to pass laws that would essentially sanction deprogrammings in advance, these attempts have failed repeatedly, in large part because many believe that such laws would create more serious problems than they would solve. Thus, the ethics and legality of deprogramming have been and continue to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    In order to evaluate the ethical and legal implications of intervening on behalf of a loved one, we suggest that families consider the following questions:

    1. Is the family’s decision based primarily on the welfare of the cultist, rather than entirely on their own psychological needs?
    2. Do they have adequate information to conclude that their loved one is indeed imperiled by a cultic group and that an intervention is warranted? Have they consulted with experts, including legal experts, if warranted? Before they implore their loved one to make an informed decision about cult affiliation, they ought to make sure they have made an informed decision about intervention.
    3. Have parents contemplating an ethically defensible deprogramming carefully considered whether there are any less restrictive options with a reasonably good chance of eliminating the imminent danger? The greater the danger and the lower the probability of success of less restrictive alternatives, the more ethically defensible will be the deprogramming.
    4. In the case of deprogramming, is the family’s decision sufficiently well informed that they would be emotionally and intellectually able to defend it in court if need be? Families should remember that they may have to demonstrate that the deprogramming was necessary, not merely that the cult is harmful. Because not all jurisdictions and judges will accept the necessity defense, parents and/or deprogrammers may be charged with a crime regardless of the apparent “necessity” of the deprogramming.
    5. Have they carefully checked on the competence and integrity of those who may conduct the intervention? Although many helpers are ethical and competent, we have heard reports indicating that some have exploited vulnerable families and/or may not be as competent as they claim, at least with regard to certain cases. If families fail to investigate a prospective helper, they may be led to participate in an unethical and possibly illegal and ineffective intervention.
    6. Ethical helpers will not rush families to a decision (whether for deprogramming or exit counseling) merely because it meets the financial or emotional needs of the helper. Most deprogrammers and exit counselors work hard to help cult members make informed decisions about their group affiliations. Some, unfortunately, do not pay as much attention to their ethical obligation to make sure that the families with whom they work have made truly informed decisions. If they did, there would, in our opinion, be even fewer deprogrammings than currently occur.

    Dr. Langone is executive director of the International Cultic Studies Association (formerly The American Family Foundation [publisher of The Cult Observer]. Dr. Martin is director of the Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center [and Chairman of the American Family Foundation’s Victim Assistance Committee].

    This article first appeared in the Winter 1993 issue of the Christian Research Journal, P.O. Box 500, San Juan Capistrano, California 92693.