Nov 19, 1997

"Secret Lives: L. Ron Hubbard" preview

Independent on Sunday Magazine Supplement (previews following week's TV), November 19, 1997
Television - Overview

The "Church" of Scientology hasn't half been kicking up a fuss about tonight's Secret Lives (9-10pm C4). Maybe that's because its founder, science-fiction novelist L Ron Hubbard, is portrayed here as, not a great spiritual leader now passed on to "research the next level", but a once-talented writer who completely lost the plot, conned thousands of people into buying his pseudo-religious soul-cleansing packages, and finally degenerated into mental cruelty, child abuse and madness. No offence, Mr Travolta........

http://cosmedia.freewinds.be/media/articles/ios191197.html

Oct 20, 1997

Why We Love Gurus

They seduce us by telling us what we want to hear: we're wonderful and we'll live forever. What's wrong with that? Plenty.

Newsweek Magazine
October 20, 1997
By Wendy Kaminer

Trance channeler Kevin Ryerson is describing the hierarchy of spiritual guides. I have signed up for a lecture and a workshop with that the Saints are a step below Ascending Masters, who are below angels and Archangels. People listen intently, in the belief, I guess, that they're receiving information. "Where do gurus fit in?" someone asks. Gurus are teachers, Ryerson responds; then he; quotes Oprah Winfrey, who reportedly said that gurus are here "not tot teach us about their divinity but to teach us about our own."
I still haven't sensed any divinity within myself or anyone else, but the pop-guru business is certainly flourishing. And I think Oprah (if she said that) understands the guru's appeal. He, or she, does sometimes demand a show of humility from the acolyte and a stab at purifying confession: the Promise Keepers will reclaim their power after they admit their sins. But gurus—and they hate to be called that—always confirm our essential godliness. They lead by flattery. "Most women I know are priestesses and healers ... We are all of us sisters of a mysterious order," Marianne Williamson writes, inviting readers to identify with her. The most powerful charismatics are those who simultaneously invite identification and idolatry. Then, if they are divine, so are we.
Indeed, the measure of our psychic or spiritual superiority is usually our openness to the guru's teachings. Consumers of the New Age are assured that they represent the spiritual avant-garde who will lead us into the next millennium. By studying "The Celestine Prophecy," you become "part of the evolutionary process," best-selling author James Redfield confirms.
The guru offers us the opportunity to become leaders of our culture by becoming followers of his teachings. They frequently renounce any special authority or desire to lead, but that is merely a matter of form. The American personal-development tradition demands a nod toward egalitarianism. Gurus may welcome us initially as fellow travelers on a path to enlightenment, but we walk several paces behind. They are paid to talk while we pay to listen. In fact, gurus presume a great deal of authoritative, personal knowledge: they unabashedly explain the mysteries of the universe. I've heard "Creation theologist" Matthew Fox expound on the science of angels. They move at the speed of light, like photons, he said. No one questioned his assertions. Most of these teachers are hostile to challenges. I have rarely seen an expert leave much time for questions after a talk. When audience participation is allowed, I've never heard anyone ask a probing critical question. When I've respectfully argued with the experts or, Goddess forbid, corrected them, they have reacted with angry surprise.
The skeptic's resistance to the guru's truth is usually attributed to fear, defensiveness and a reliance on intellect over emotion; we should trust our hearts and not our heads. We're encouraged to trust our dreams and longings for transcendence as well. If you imagine a past life, you've probably lived one. Psychiatrist John Mack suggests that we take stories of UFO abductions seriously if they are "felt to be real" by the self-described abductees.
Gurus often tell us exactly what we want to hear. "There is no death." That is the primary message of spirituality gurus. Better yet, this relief from fear of death is easily obtained. The spiritual peace and enlightenment offered by pop gurus doesn't require a lifetime of discipline. It requires only that you suspend your critical judgment, attend their lectures and workshops and buy their books or tapes.
What's wrong with a phenomenon that brings comfort to so many people? That's a bit like asking what's wrong with a lobotomy, a steady diet of happy pills. The rise of charismatic authority figures is always disconcerting, especially when they malign rationalism and exhort us to abandon critical thinking in order to realize spiritual growth. Pop gurus prey on existential anxieties and thrive when our fear of being alone and mortal in an indifferent universe is stronger than our judgment. No one who seeks worship, however covertly, deserves respect. Argue with them, please.

KAMINER is the author of "I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional," among other books, and is a commentator on National Public Radio.

Aug 7, 1997

Church labeled "cult" raises local concerns

Fundamentalist group planning B-CS congregation says it is following God's word

John Kirsch
The Eagle
August 7, 1997

Lured by the prospect of gaining converts at Texas A&M University, a church group that's been branded a cult by critics and banned from college campuses around the nation is planning to set up a church in the Bryan-College Station area.
"We want to get down there as soon as we can," said Randy Moon, an evangelist with the Dallas-Fort Worth Church of Christ Jesus, an affiliate of the International Church of Christ.

Organizers plan to meet in College Station on August 17.

Launched in 1979 in Boston as an offshoot of the conventional Churches of Christ, the International Church of Christ has grown into a group that claims 50,000 believers in its fundamentalist views.

High-pressure proselytizing by the church's local affiliates, particularly of sometimes lonely and vulnerable young people, has sparked opposition from former members who complain the church tried to control their lives.

Nothing that the church has been branded a cult by experts who say it uses mind-control techniques to keep members within the fold, the Rev Michael Sis, director of St Mary's Catholic Center in College Station, said a local affiliate of such a group raises serious concerns that transcend denominational differences.

"This group has been mentioned consistently...as a problematical mind-control group," Sis said. "We can as a community identify them as a high-pressure group and a mind-control group. We can be aware that they are internationally problematic. We can warn young people about the characteristics of such groups and we can help people avoid being lured into them."

Moon declined to extensively discuss the question of whether the church is a cult, saying, "Who defines that word and what does it really mean?"

Moon made no apologies for the church's Bible-based fundamentalist views, saying that the International Church of Christ continues to demand obedience to God's word at a time when other churches are ordaining gay clergy and taking other steps he considers questionable.

"The difference between a lot of churches out there and the International Church of Christ is whatever Jesus taught is non-negotiable," he said. "So not only do we teach it because that's what the Bible says, like Jesus we expect each other to live it out."

Moon said no decision has been made on whether the Bryan-College Station church will seek to get an affiliated student Bible club recognized as an officially sanctioned campus group at A&M or Blinn College.

University officials declined to comment.

Church of Christ Bible clubs have been banned at Boston University, Marquette University in Milwaukee, the University of Southern California, Northeastern University in Boston and Vanderbilt University in Nashvillem according to a report in the Miami Herald.

Critics of the church say that young people living in large cities or on big college campuses are often vulnerable to the church's promise of instant friends and acceptance, a tactic known as "love bombing".

That approach proved alluring to 23-year-old Kimberly Davis, who left her home in Washington state recently to become a nanny in the Dallas area.

Looking for a sense of connection and friendship, she joined the Dallas-Fort Worth Church of Christ Jesus but felt trapped when church officials tried to control who she could date and to interfere in her decision to buy a house.

"You're not supposed to live with anybody that's not with the church," she said. "You're not supposed to date anybody that's not with the church. It bothers me that somebody else is making decisions for your life or trying to coerce you."

As the Bryan-College Station church gets organized, Davis advised Texas A&M and Blinn College students to be wary of International Church of Christ recruiters. "Keep your eyes wide open and be very aware because they play on your emotions," she said.

Moon said the church is interested in the entire Bryan-College Station area, not just A&M. "You've got a city of 125,000 there... Those are people who are just as important as the students," he said.

Local churches such as the one in Dallas-Fort Worth don't include International Church of Christ in their names. Moon said the explanation is simple and is unrelated to negative publicity about the international church. "Wherever our churches are, they try to identify locally," he said. "We've got people in our churches who go to school there and they want a sister church there. That's a big part of it."

Jun 12, 1997

Ramtha Is Solely Knight's, Court Says

June 12, 1997
AP

VIENNA, Austria - The Austrian Supreme Court has ruled that spiritualist J.Z. Knight is the only person allowed to channel Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old warrior she says communicates through her.

The ruling means an end to the five-year career of Ramtha's German-speaking channeler, Julie Ravel.

The ruling, which followed a years-long international legal battle, was made April 22, court spokesman Heinz Klinger said today.

Attorneys received official word only recently.

Knight said she was overjoyed. "I didn't want the German-speaking people of Europe to be misled by someone who, under the name of Ramtha, was distorting his teachings and in some cases teaching things that were directly opposite of his teachings," she said in a news release from Ramtha's School of Enlightenment in Yelm, Thurston County.

"It is up to me to keep the teachings pure and uncorrupted and I take my job quite seriously, as you can see."

According to Knight, this enlightened leader from the lost continent of Atlantis first appeared to her 20 years ago in her kitchen, "bringing the message that God is within," her news release said. Then a housewife in Tacoma, Knight has parlayed her vision into the school - a mansion on a 40-acre ranch - with a following of 3,000 people in 23 countries.

Ravel contends the transcendental gentleman showed up five years ago in her crystal shop in Berlin, Germany, and selected her as his new mouthpiece. She says Knight had gotten "hung up" during channeling and become "unusable" as a medium for Ramtha.

The dispute reached the Austrian courts when Ravel settled in a castle in the village of Rannariedl in Upper Austria with her followers, who call themselves Light Oasis.

Spokesman Klinger said the court issued a cease-and-desist order. The ruling "is valid only inside Austria; it does not apply beyond," he said.

Ravel was also ordered to pay 10,000 Austrian schilling - about $800 - to Knight. Knight's Austrian lawyer, Johannes Hintermayr, was quoted as saying he reserved the right to sue Ravel for damages "in the millions."

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19970612&slug=2544252

May 31, 1997

Patrick L. Ryan: Achievement Award (1997)


May 30 and May 31, 1997 – Philadelphia

The American Family Foundation (publisher of The Cult Observer) recently recognized, with its 1997 Achievement Award, AFF volunteer Patrick Ryan, who has devoted hundreds of hours designing and updating AFF's prize-winning Internet Web site.

This attractive and user-friendly Web site has enabled tens of thousands of people, including important representatives of the media, to become aware of AFF's extensive resources. The site positions AFF to take advantage of the major role the Internet will play in the accumulation and distribution of information in the years to come.

Mr. Ryan's creative ideas about how to use modern technology to better manage information have been and will continue to be of immense value to AFF and the people it serves. AFF deeply appreciates the special skills, creativity, energy, and dedication that Mr. Ryan - who is the first graduate of the Maharishi International University to receive the AFF achievement award - has brought to this and other vital AFF projects.

Mar 1, 1997

Village unites to gazump Scientologists

MARTIN WAINWRIGHT
The Guardian
March 1, 1997

'Not in my back yard'. Martin Wainwright on how a community mobilised to resist a drug rehabilitation centre being opened near a school

THAT formidable fighting force, the English village, flexed its muscles yesterday to gazump a Scientology plan to open a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre next to the local primary school.

Residents in Burton Leonard, near Ripon in North Yorkshire, raised over £175,000 in three days to outbid the proposed centre at the former Crown Inn, a stagecoaching pub converted to a nursing home. Traditional figures of the modern British countryside, including a former Bank of England official and a retired chief constable, sidelined the ancient rural fund-raising arts of jumble-selling and whist drives. Instead, plans for second holidays and four-wheel-drive vehicles were put on hold as straightforward offers of cash poured in. "There's a tremendous spirit here - I'm so proud of living in this village," said Gerlinde Godber of Burton Leonard's solitary shop. "We're not talking about 'nimbyism' - the Not In My Back Yard approach. We're all sympathetic to people with drug problems. But this scheme, right in the middle of our village and across the road from the school, isn't the place."

Audrey Wilson, whose 74-year-old husband, Maurice, is the oldest resident to be born in the village said: "We are a small village and we are very vulnerable to these things - it's something we just don't want here for the safety of our children.

"We pay a lot of money for the peace and tranquillity, and for the privilege of living here, and I don't think anyone could convince us that there would be no difference to this village with recovering alcoholics and drug addicts walking round."

The 473 residents were particularly alarmed by the proposed centre's ties with Scientology. Two disillusioned ex-members of the controversial American movement, now living in Harrogate, told friends in Burton Leonard about the links and possible consequences of a village base for the organisation.

The Church of Scientology's British headquarters in East Grinstead, Sussex, said last night: "The training service is one of our sections - it uses a tried and tested treatment for getting people away from drugs."

The service's organiser, Kenneth Eckersley said: "As a charity, we are not in the business of frightening old ladies or young mothers. There is absolutely nothing to fear."

But villagers were unconvinced, including mother-of-two Jo Gloag, who joined with her chartered surveyor husband to borrow money for the rapidly formed, communal Burton Leonard management consortium. The limited company was set up between last Sunday and Thesday, advised by residents like Denis Muldoon, who left the Bank of England to become a consultant on trade with China.

"The speed with which the cash was raised reflects the anxiety of all the people living here", he said, "plus the tremendous community spirit."

His neighbour, David Mellor, former head of South Wales Police agreed. "We were going to replace our Isuzu Trooper four-wheel drive and renovate the garden, but this is more important."

The charity may now ask villagers for costs after the communal bid was accepted yesterday afternoon by the building's owner, Rosemary Swann, amid celebrations at Burton Leonard's two remaining pubs, the Hare and Hounds and the Royal Oak. The Burton Leonard management consortium will offer the Crown to carefully vetted applicants - which may further test the denials of nimbyism.

http://cosmedia.freewinds.be/media/articles/grn010397.html

Village unites to gazump Scientologists

MARTIN WAINWRIGHT
The Guardian
March 1, 1997

'Not in my back yard'. Martin Wainwright on how a community mobilised to resist a drug rehabilitation centre being opened near a school

THAT formidable fighting force, the English village, flexed its muscles yesterday to gazump a Scientology plan to open a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre next to the local primary school.

Residents in Burton Leonard, near Ripon in North Yorkshire, raised over £175,000 in three days to outbid the proposed centre at the former Crown Inn, a stagecoaching pub converted to a nursing home. Traditional figures of the modern British countryside, including a former Bank of England official and a retired chief constable, sidelined the ancient rural fund-raising arts of jumble-selling and whist drives. Instead, plans for second holidays and four-wheel-drive vehicles were put on hold as straightforward offers of cash poured in. "There's a tremendous spirit here - I'm so proud of living in this village," said Gerlinde Godber of Burton Leonard's solitary shop. "We're not talking about 'nimbyism' - the Not In My Back Yard approach. We're all sympathetic to people with drug problems. But this scheme, right in the middle of our village and across the road from the school, isn't the place."

Audrey Wilson, whose 74-year-old husband, Maurice, is the oldest resident to be born in the village said: "We are a small village and we are very vulnerable to these things - it's something we just don't want here for the safety of our children.

"We pay a lot of money for the peace and tranquillity, and for the privilege of living here, and I don't think anyone could convince us that there would be no difference to this village with recovering alcoholics and drug addicts walking round."

The 473 residents were particularly alarmed by the proposed centre's ties with Scientology. Two disillusioned ex-members of the controversial American movement, now living in Harrogate, told friends in Burton Leonard about the links and possible consequences of a village base for the organisation.

The Church of Scientology's British headquarters in East Grinstead, Sussex, said last night: "The training service is one of our sections - it uses a tried and tested treatment for getting people away from drugs."

The service's organiser, Kenneth Eckersley said: "As a charity, we are not in the business of frightening old ladies or young mothers. There is absolutely nothing to fear."

But villagers were unconvinced, including mother-of-two Jo Gloag, who joined with her chartered surveyor husband to borrow money for the rapidly formed, communal Burton Leonard management consortium. The limited company was set up between last Sunday and Thesday, advised by residents like Denis Muldoon, who left the Bank of England to become a consultant on trade with China.

"The speed with which the cash was raised reflects the anxiety of all the people living here", he said, "plus the tremendous community spirit."

His neighbour, David Mellor, former head of South Wales Police agreed. "We were going to replace our Isuzu Trooper four-wheel drive and renovate the garden, but this is more important."

The charity may now ask villagers for costs after the communal bid was accepted yesterday afternoon by the building's owner, Rosemary Swann, amid celebrations at Burton Leonard's two remaining pubs, the Hare and Hounds and the Royal Oak. The Burton Leonard management consortium will offer the Crown to carefully vetted applicants - which may further test the denials of nimbyism.

This archive is presented in the public interest for research purposes

http://cosmedia.freewinds.be/media/articles/grn010397.html

Jan 1, 1997

Book Review: Daughters of the Goddess


Book Review: Daughters of the Goddess: The Women Saints of India. Linda Johnsen. Yes International, St. Paul, MN, 1994, 128 pages.

The myths of India are rife with female goddesses both terrifying and placid. From the blood-filled mouth of Durga to the generous beneficence of Lakshmi, the varieties of religious experience are conveyed through graphic images. In Linda Johnsen's naïve treatise on women "saints" in India, we get a true believer's take on a few individuals who have become well known in today's spiritual marketplace. Goddess worship is embraced by many "New Age" Westerners as the cutting edge of millennial spirituality; yet, it often ignores the ancient traditions of the East. Those Westerners, both male and female, who idealize their teacher's status as divine risk getting caught up in a culture they neither understand nor have fully explored. It is often the exotic or eccentric that gets mistaken for the Divine.

Much of what is laid out in the early part of the book are anecdotes and stories handed down by teachers to convey the difficulties that women have had to confront in a culture where roles were, and to a great extent still are, defined by men. Where those individuals triumphed over the disapproval of the society around them, it is a testament to their courage and determination to realize their spiritual goals at all cost. Unfortunately, Johnsen gives credence to some individuals who represent a "tradition" with a controversial history. A case in point is the group led by Gurumayi Chidvilasanada, Sidha Yoga, founded by Swami Muktananda, who reportedly took advantage of young female disciples while acting as guru and spiritual teacher. Muktananda is revered to this day by Gurumayi and her many followers.

In contrast, it was refreshing to read of Anandi Ma's exhortation to test the teacher "a thousand times"; yet, "Once you have accepted no questions to be asked. Then you follow." In the environment around the teacher, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to express one's concern without being ostracized. This leads many to "jump into" a group they hope has all the answers without looking critically at the history and qualifications of the teacher.

Among others whom Johnsen has confidently proclaimed saints is Ammachi, a simple woman who speaks no English, yet has thousands of Western devotees. Her elementary charm and emotional singing at first glimpse seem innocent enough. Yet, controversy has swirled around her in India, where questions about the management of an orphanage she founded raise concern about the integrity of her mission. Also described is Maya Amma, an avadhut, or unconventional sage, whose age is estimated at 80 years, and who "does not bother about any of the material concerns of the rest of us, including clothing." She roams Southern India with a pack of half-wild dogs. To the faithful, this is a sign of her commitment to a life of nonattachment. Unfortunately, such behavior on the part of gurus along with the devotional and unquestioning attitudes of some followers leaves me concerned for those individuals impressed by the "exciting atmosphere" created around these individuals.

Johnsen is a good storyteller who engages the reader in her fascination with the people and culture of India. What I found lacking is a healthy dose of skepticism and balance. Giving oneself over to any "saint"--male or female--carries with it certain risks, and each group should be thoroughly researched. Johnsen's work can be only a part of that research.

Joseph Kelly
Thought Reform Consultant
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
       
Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1997