Feb 27, 2014

Cults, Psychological Manipulation and Society: International Perspectives — An Overview

Michael D. Langone

This article was originally presented as a paper at the AFF (American Family Foundation) Annual Conference held at St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota, on 14 May 1999 by Dr Michael D. Langone, Executive Director of the AFF and editor of the Cultic Studies Journal.

This conference's title, 'Cults, Psychological Manipulation, and Society: International Perspectives', is significant because cults and related groups have aroused significant concern around the world. I am aware of organisations concerned about cults in the following countries: USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Greece, Russia, Malta, Israel, Japan and Australia. There are probably some of which I am not aware. The concern tends to focus on, though not be limited to, issues related to psychological manipulation and its impact on society. Concerns generate much confusion and disputation, in large part because people define the term 'cult' in different ways.

TM-Free Blog: TM Marketing Timeline

TM-Free Blog: TM Marketing Timeline: Guest contributor Michael H. Jackson has written this thought-provoking article for TM-Free Blog.  Thanks, Michael! -----------------------...

Holy Tradition


Whether pure or impure, whether purity or impurity is permeating everywhere, whoever opens himself to the expanded vision of unbounded awareness gains inner and outer purity.


To LORD NARAYANA, to lotus-born BRAHMA the Creator, to VASHISHTHA to SHAKTI and his son, PARASHAR, 
To VYASA, to SHUKADEVA, to the great GAUDAPADA, to GOVINDA, ruler among the yogis, to his disciple,
And TROTAKACHARYA and VARTIKA-KARA, to others, to the tradition of our Masters, I bow down.

To the abode of the wisdom of the SHRUTIS, SMRITIS and PURANAS, to the abode of kindness, to the personified glory of the LORD, to SHANKARA, emancipator of the world, I bow down.
To SHANKARACHARYA, the redeemer, hailed as KRISHNA and BADARAYANA, to the commentator of the BRAHMA SUTRAS, I bow down.

To the glory of the Lord I bow down again and again, at whose door the whole galaxy of gods pray for perfection day and night.

Adorned with immeasurable glory, preceptor of the whole world, having bowed down to Him we gain fulfillment.

Skilled in dispelling the cloud of ignorance of the people, the gentle emancipator, BRAHMANANDA SARASVATI, the supreme teacher, full of brilliance, Him I bring to my awareness.

Subject: TM Dissenter's FAQ

Subject: TM Dissenter's FAQ

Part 1 - An Overview:  The Transcendental Meditation Program
Part 2 - The TM and TM-Sidhi programs, mantras and techniques
Part 3 - Maharishi Ayur-Veda
Part 4 - Other Research on the TM Program
Part 5 - The Transcendental Meditation Ex-Members Support Group (TM-EX)
Part 6 - Footnotes

Maintained by Mike Doughney, mike@access.digex.net
Last modified 8/31/94.  This and other documents can be found in the
TM Dissenter's Archive:  ftp.digex.net:/pub/access/tm-dissent
Submissions and comments may be mailed anonymously to

WARNING:  The following document contains mantras as taught in the TM
and TM-Sidhi program (in parts 2 and 3).  Meditators may wish to
consider whether or not they care to see their mantra in print before
proceeding to read.

Feb 26, 2014

When Organized Religion Becomes a Cult

Eliyahu Federman

Sept. 27, 2003
The distinction between cult and religion lies squarely in how those leaving or those wanting to leave are treated.

Diane Benscoter tells her harrowing story of leaving the "Moonie" cult. In highlighting the dangers of cults, Benscoter uses clear examples like David Koresh, Jonestown, suicide bombers, the Westboro Baptist Church, but often the line between conventional religion and cult is not so clearly defined.

Cults claim exclusivity, are highly secretive, and authoritarian. To many of my atheist friends, religion fits the bill. What distinguishes religion from cults is the ability to question without being shunned and ability to reject dogmatic tenets without being shunned.

Many religions make exclusive claims to truth. There is nothing wrong with that. Many systems of philosophy do the same. Kantianism's categorical truths are, for example, incompatible with utilitarianisms balancing of harm and good.

Feb 25, 2014

Former Yahweh followers speak out

Atlantic City Press, March 6, 2005
By Andrew Johnson, Staff Writer

For bitter irony, Diane McCafferty's story ranks high. She claims that what seemed at the time a harmless Bible study contributed to her first husband's death at 41. Almost as bad, she says, it is now costing her a relationship with her oldest daughter, and keeping her from knowing her granddaughter. "I've seen her once," she says of granddaughter Hannah. "The day she was born."

McCafferty's daughter Jennifer is in the Restored Israel of Yahweh, a Hamilton Township religious sect that was started three decades ago.

Senior member Kevin McKee said recently by phone that his group is about a "beautiful reading of the Scriptures" - nothing more, nothing less. He says that the media, particularly this newspaper, has painted a falsely sinister picture of the group over the years.

Five former members of the group who sat down for an interview at The Press of Atlantic City's newsroom this week disagreed. All said the group had broken apart families, dividing those who were still in the group and those who had left it. All said they had experienced deep pain because of their involvement with the group, which they never considered when joining a Christian sect.

"After this (speaking with The Press), she'll probably never speak to me," McCafferty says about her daughter. But she doesn't know what else to do, she says.

McCafferty wants her daughter to leave the group. But her daughter won't talk to her. Their relationship was severed when McCafferty left the group after 23 years in 1996.

Federal prosecutors, in a tax-evasion case last year involving three members, characterized the Restored Israel of Yahweh as a cult.

On April 1, McKee, 47, Joseph Donato, 46, and his wife, Inge Donato, 44, will likely face two years in prison for tax evasion, failure to file taxes and conspiracy to defraud the government in U.S. District Court in Camden.

McKee disputed the characterization of a cult in the courtroom. "I can show you the houses," said McKee, noting that members' homes looked nothing like a compound.

Whatever it is, the group started as a Bible study class held on Pine Avenue in McKee City 32 years ago. What it evolved into was an exclusive religious community in which children attend school among other group members, separated from non-Yahwehans.

Nicole Czechowski, a former member, is convinced the group is a cult. Because she believed the group was harmful, at least to members themselves, she reported the group to an Internal Revenue Service investigator in 1999. The group, on its own Web site, says it does not pay federal taxes because it does not support war.

"Joe and Inge were my best friends, and I'm responsible for them going to jail," Czechowski says of the likely possibility her former friends will now go to prison. "But maybe it's better than losing your mind," she says.

A sense of extreme isolation and group pressure is what makes a cult, according to a group that studies sects, the International Cultic Studies Association. Czechowski, of Mount Laurel, says the isolationist mindset, and why it's bad, is hard to fathom unless you experience it first-hand.

For Czechowski, it took her 13 years, until she saw TV images of death and destruction from Waco, Texas, in 1993, to have it hit home.

"Oh my god, I'm in a cult," she says she recalls thinking as she watched the 51-day Branch Davidian stand-off.

She left the group the same year.

Debbie Czechowski, 48, is Nicole's sister-in-law. She believed she was in a cult, she says, even before 1993, but decided the time to leave was with her brother Kevin and Nicole. She says the effect of leaving the group was traumatic. "I was a 35-year-old woman and I was scared I was going to do something wrong," she says.

According to the former members interviewed by The Press, their involvement with the Restored Israel of Yahweh didn't start out with acrimony. It started with happiness.

McCafferty, who lived in Somers Point at the time, says she attended some of the first local Bible classes in 1973. Her then-husband, Jim, brought her. The 52-year-old Bridgeton woman says the group's original message was very much in step with what had been happening in the 1960s. It was based on Christianity and living a thoughtful life, she says. "Who wouldn't want a peaceful world?"

Those peaceful thoughts didn't last.

McCafferty says she soon learned that following the group's desires could have devastating consequences.

One rule of the group was that you didn't see doctors or go to hospitals, she says. If you were sick, it meant that you were not right with Yahweh. She says her husband was told exactly that. "He wasn't good enough, he wasn't strong enough."

McCafferty says Jim complained of heart disease symptoms, but wanted to remain faithful to the group's beliefs. "I can remember him crying on the bed, saying 'What's the matter with me, am I wicked?'" She says her husband dropped dead one day.

McCafferty blames herself for her husband's death as much as anyone, but says she and her husband were brainwashed.

McCafferty says she suffered a near nervous breakdown after her husband's death, and admits she became a bad mother to her four children. She says she simply lost control of her life. McCafferty blames herself for her oldest Jennifer, staying in the group.

In a way, McCafferty says, she understood why Jennifer stayed. She was 21 when she joined the group. Jennifer was also in her early 20s when McCafferty left.

Debbie Czechowski has two nieces in their early 20s, who stayed behind in the group. Like McCafferty, she does not talk to them.

The group believes that Yahweh - a Hebrew name for God - will destroy the Earth and set up a Holy Kingdom of saved souls, the Restored Israel of Yahweh. About 25 members attended December's trial in Camden.

Over the last 30 years, the group has avoided serious trouble, save the most recent conviction.

In the last three decades, the group has prepared for their new kingdom by building houses on and near Third Avenue in the remote Weymouth section of Hamilton Township. What McKee told the jury in December is correct. The group's houses look nothing like the cultlike "compound" prosecutors described to jurors. They are ordinary houses. According to former member Dave Moran, there are six houses, although there were originally plans for 42. The future kingdom was referred to as "The 42," he says.

At least 50 people have left the group in the last 12 years, according to Czechowski.

The houses are key to understanding why there is so much disenchantment experienced by some group members, Czechowski says.

The houses reflect the mental pressure placed on members to stay in good standing with the group, she says. If you pleased group founder Leo Volpe, and did everything he and his partner Esther asked of you, you were promised a house in the kingdom. Czechowski, like many, never got a house.

The ones who did are: the Donatos and McKee, whose business McKee Donato Construction Co. built the houses. The Tamuts, Virginia and Claire, also have houses. The Tamuts are the family of Esther McKee, the current wife of McKee.

Not everyone left because of the way the group operated. Others found fault with the group's beliefs.

At the December trial, current Atlantic City Rescue Mission CEO Bill Southery said he left the group because he no longer believed what group founder Volpe said.

Volpe died in 2000 at the age of 83. The Atlantic City native claimed to be the prophet Jeremiah. He claimed he would live forever and lead the new restored kingdom in Weymouth.

Moran, who left the group in 2002, says the group in recent years modified its beliefs to make sense of Volpe's death. Volpe is now watching over them in Heaven, and was too pure for this world, but is still Jeremiah, the group now believes.

Of the five members who spoke with The Press, Moran says he was the only one kicked out by the group, and did not leave. The reason he was kicked out, Moran says, is that others in the group didn't think he would stand up to the IRS enough during their investigation.

Moran describes his new life as difficult but easier than the one he spent 25 years living. That, he says, was: "One foot after another, hoping you don't fall off a cliff."

To e-mail Andrew Johnson at The Press: AJohnson@pressofac.com

Feb 21, 2014

God Willing, a film about Jim Roberts Brotherhood

GOD WILLING is a powerful exploration of a 35-year-old American religious sect known as “The Church” or “The Brotherhood.” It also outlines the struggles of families whose children turn away from them to become “Brothers” and “Sisters” in the group, renouncing their past lives and the world – often, without ever turning back.

This documentary offers an inside look at the group, offering searing testimonials from both family members and former members of The Church.  The film details the appeal of Roberts’ message to the sincere spiritual needs of young people, and the struggle that some of them face with fellow members and themselves when they find little more comfort in the fold than they had in their previous lives.  It also grippingly presents the anguish of parents and other loved ones who grapple with the urge to pursue and rescue their children, and the psychological, emotional and tactical impediments that so often get in the way of reconciliation.  Extensive surveillance footage of Brothers and Sisters and rare, candid on-camera encounters further enhance this examination of families torn asunder, belief systems at war, and the perilous balance of futility and hope.
Founded in 1971 by shadowy messianic figure Jim Roberts, the group has survived for decades as a separatist society that preaches a strict path to salvation, proselytizes for new members, adheres to strict ascetic values, subsists on discarded food and refuse, and shuttles its members from town to town, often on the run from concerned parents and family members who try to see or communicate with their children.

Combatants in Cult War Attempt Reconciliation / Peacemaking conference is held near Seattle

Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer Monday, May 1, 2000
Seattle -- They're calling it the "Camp David of the cult wars."
Leaders from both factions in the decades-long dispute over danger posed by new religious movements came together over the weekend at a woodsy retreat center on the shores of Puget Sound.
There were a few screaming matches, and a bit of the old backbiting and rumormongering, but it was a largely peaceful gathering of defectors, devotees, heartbroken families and assorted cult experts.
"We've reached the point where we're no longer throwing bricks," said  J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, and someone long labeled as an "apologist" by leaders of the "alarmist" anti-cult movement.
Melton was among those attending a weekend conference at the Dumas Bay Centre south of Seattle, sponsored by the American Family Foundation and titled "Cults and the Millennium."

Feb 20, 2014

Income-Tax Officer. Versus S. R. M. Foundation Of India

Income-Tax Officer. Versus S. R. M. Foundation Of India. – Income Tax – ITAT DELHI-A – Tri – Exemption, Income Of Educational Institution – 1987 (4) TMI 109 – ITAT DELHI-A – ITD 021, 598, TTJ 030, 283, – - – Dated:- 14-4-1987 – 

Member(s) : K. C. SRIVASTAVA., V. P. ELHENCE. ORDER Per Shri V. P. Elhence, Judicial Member-These eight appeals, filed by the department, arise out of the orders of the learned Commissioner of Income-tax (Appeals) IX, New Delhi for the A. Y. 1974-75 – 1976-77 and 1978-79 -1982-83. There is no appeal for the A. Y. 1977-78. 2. 

David Wants to Fly

View on LinkTV

To meet master film director David Lynch in person and talk to him about filmmaking! A dream come true for young David Sieveking, who first finds himself sitting face-to-face with his idol in spring 2006.

The meeting takes place on the periphery of a workshop in the USA where Lynch is giving a talk on the sources of creativity. Paramount among them is transcendental meditation (TM), a technique the cult filmmaker has reputedly practiced daily for over thirty years. But he had never before spoken about it in public. Could TM be the mystery behind Lynch's dark, inscrutable films?

Although the location of the workshop -- the Maharishi University of Enlightenment in Iowa -- does strike David, the young filmmaker from Berlin, as somewhat strange, it is also mysterious and fascinating. Maharishi? Wasn't that the legendary 1960s guru -- guiding light of the hippie movement, savior of the western world and personal spiritual tutor of the Beatles? An entirely new chapter in the life of David Sieveking has begun. Fairfield, Iowa is a new world where everything seems possible -- even flying, without the aid of any machinery!

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation, promised creativity, health, professional success, world peace and no less than "heaven on earth". David Sieveking decides to take the personal advice of the great David Lynch and begins to practice TM himself. Even master film directors start as novices, after all. And the best thing about it: TM is easy to do. Not cheap, but easy!

Funded by donations Maharishi and his followers built up an unparalleled global enterprise with the global headquarters in the Netherlands; a world peace center in India; a clandestine "TM world government" in the Swiss Alps; over 20 "Invincible Universities" have been founded and there are obscure gated camps dedicated to "yogic flying". For the second time, David Sieveking discovers a whole new world.

The more research the young filmmaker does, the more discrepancies surface. Suddenly TM apostates start contacting him, former high-ups in the organization who claime to have been ruined by the Maharishi -- financially as well as psychologically. Should he believe them? Is TM just a cynical money machine after all, as critics maintain, or a guru sect gone haywire?

Throughout the odyssey that follows, David Sieveking never loses the sly sense of humor that gives this surprising film its strength, elegance and ambiguous charm.

David Wants to Fly (DVD)

David Wants to Fly (DVD)
Review by By Askolnick

Eager to make dark films like director David Lynch, the wet-nosed German film maker David Sieveking wanted to "fly" in his idol's footsteps. This desire took him on an amazing trip down the rabbit hole of Transcendental Mediation, where the followers of their late-guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi are working -- and bouncing -- their butts off to build the Heaven on Earth promised them by the "giggling guru" of Beatles fame.

Like Alice's encounters with the ludicrous characters of Wonderland, who recite the ridiculous in ways that oddly seem to make sense, the young film director and star encounters a lot of characters who say and believe as many truly absurd things as they can possibly fit into a day.

It's hard not to laugh watching young, athletic students at Maharishi University of Management compete for awards for hopping the highest and or longest distance across foam mats -- believing that they're actually flying through the air, empowered by enlightenment gained through the practice of TM's more advanced meditation technique called TM-Sidhi (which costs another $5000 to learn above the $2500 for the basic technique that won't get you airborne). It's even funnier watching a TM apologist explain why the aged guru -- who has obtained the highest level of enlightenment needed to hover and fly like a bird -- won't publicly demonstrate "yogic flying." Maharishi is too humble a man to show off his powers, P.T. Barnum explains.

I'm just sorry Mr. Sieveking missed a golden opportunity for another enlightening laugh. Bevan Morris, a real heavy weight in the TM empire, is well, a real heavy weight. He appears many times in Mr. Sieveking's superb documentary. I would have loved to see Mr. Morris decline an invitation to demonstrate the TM-Sidhi meditation technique -- which he and other TM leaders claim is essential for bringing peace and prosperity to all nations. Alas, the only people who demonstrate yogic flying by bouncing on their backsides with legs crossed in a lotus position, are thin, athletic young men. It is doubtful that the bountiful Bevin Morris can even cross his legs in the lotus position, let alone "lift off the ground with effortless thought."

Yoga Group Accused Of Coercion, Sex Assault

WBZ 38
Beth Germano
Jun 11, 2009

BOSTON (WBZ) Dahn Yoga and its founder, Ilchi Lee, are named in a lawsuit.

Dahn Yoga claims it can give you physical and spiritual enlightenment. 

Across the United States it operates 130 healing centers, 600 globally boasting more than a million followers. 

But now a class action suit has been filed against the organization by 26 former members who claim they were subjected to "psychological manipulation." 

Nine of the plaintiffs are from Massachusetts where eight centers are run. 

Jade Harrelson and Liza Miller are attractive, young women who say they were also idealistic enough to join Dahn. 

"I feel I have some sort of mission to help people on this earth," Miller told WBZ-TV. 


But soon she and Harrelson say they were coerced into devoting their lives to Dahn, isolated from family and friends. 

They claim the mission to heal the earth quickly turned into something else, bringing more money into Dahn. 

Workshops and retreats began to cost tens of thousands of dollars as they say they felt pressure to delve deeper into the organization and become Dahn masters themselves. 

"If you didn't take a workshop then your spirit would somehow suffer," said Harrelson. 

Liza Miller says she was even asked by an instructor to withdraw a 25,000 loan after attending a retreat in Arizona. 

"She said to me do you want to grow a lot or grow a little? I'm thinking a lot." 

They admit it was all to live up to the Korean founder and spiritual leader Ilchi Lee, who claims he can teach humans to increase their brain power. 

Harrelson says they couldn't work hard enough to train and recruit. 

"We were tired all the time, but we kept going. We have to work harder, we have to complete the vision," she said. 

The lawsuit claims the members were subjected to "thought reform, coercive persuasion and undue influence." 

Asked whether she believes this is a cult, Harrelson told WBZ-TV, "I think cult is a subjective word. I'd say with one hundred percent certainty this was a very destructive group." 


In fact, Harrelson has another story to tell. She believes she was being groomed for Lee, summoned to Korea to work alongside him, and claiming she was forced to have sex with the leader. That was the turning point for her after four years. 

"I think he is very arrogant and protected by a lot of people. That's why I can't be quiet about this," she said. 

It's a healing movement they claim left them with nothing but pain. 

"It was more for an unsavory man's pocket," said Miller. 

The women say they are deeply in debt, a now daily reminder of what they call the power of persuasion. A hearing on the suit has not yet been set.


Theosophy and Culture: Nicholas Roerich

Anita Stasulane

Interreligious and Intercultural Investigations Series, Volume 8, 2005. Gregorian Research Centre on Cultures and Religions. (Editrice Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, Piazza della Pilotta, 35 – 00187, Roma, Italia. Email: editricepugpib-gi@biblico.it.) ISBN 88-7839-035-6 (trade paperback) $25.00. 336 pages.

Reviewed by Joseph P. Szimhart

If you look at an American one-dollar bill, you will find a pyramid with an “eye” on top. The Great Pyramid is often associated with Freemasonry, and many of the American founding fathers were Freemasons. The symbol comes from the Great Seal of the United States designed in 1782 by Charles Thompson. In 1934 the Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace convinced Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau to place it on the dollar. It appeared in 1935. Morgenthau did not know at the time that Wallace made the suggestion at the behest of his guru Nicholas Roerich. To Roerich, the eye represented the gaze of mahatmas, or super-evolved beings that guide the affairs and spiritual evolution of humanity. Roerich (d 1947) and his wife Helena (d 1955) followed the Theosophy teachings of the colorful 19th century occultist, Helena P. Blavatsky (1831–1891). By 1925, the Roerichs had established a new theosophical group called Agni Yoga in New York and London, and later in Latvia, Russia, and India. Like Blavatsky, the Roerichs believed that mahatmas had chosen them as messengers to an elite core of mankind.

Roerich died the year I was born, so by the time I encountered his art and Agni Yoga teachings in 1975, his legacy had faded considerably in America. For example, as late as the mid-1980s, Agni Yoga did not make it into an impressive list of new religious movements established by the Institute for the Study of American Religion. Roerich’s greatest achievement in America was, through President Franklin Roosevelt, to have 21 nations in the Pan-American Union sign the Peace Pact, also known as the Roerich Pact, in 1935. The Pact was intended to preserve cultural creativity in hospitals, museums, and significant religious sites in time of war. For his effort, Roerich was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize; he did not win.

In a way, Roerich, who was an accomplished artist, and his wife Helena, who “transmitted” the Agni Yoga spiritual teachings, were my favored gurus from 1975 to 1982. I mention this because I gained an intimate insight into their work, history, and devotees. I met with the last two directors (both gracious individuals) of the Roerich Museum in New York many times. I also had occasion to study several offshoot groups that used the Agni Yoga teachings in their core doctrine. The largest of these was the Church Universal and Triumphant cult that used Roerich art images and teaching without permission from the Agni Yoga Society. The second largest of these groups in America was the Aquarian Educational Group founded by Torkum Saraydarian.

All this brings me to Theosophy and Culture: Nicholas Roerich, published last year by a Roman Catholic press associated with the Vatican. Why, I asked, would the Catholic Church bother to publish an extensive study on a new religious group rarely even mentioned by religious scholars in America? My answer came when I discovered through Internet resources that the author had written this study initially in 1997 as a student dissertation (under the direction of Dr. Michael Fuss) to address the phenomenal growth of the “Rerikh societies and groups” throughout the Russian Federation since the late 1980s. According to the author Anita Stasulane, a religious scholar from Latvia, the Roerich teachings have “captivated the minds of millions” in the former Soviet Union.

Anita Stasulane has done a remarkably even-handed job delineating essential aspects of the Roerich approach to theosophy and culture at large. I can hardly imagine how someone not familiar with Helena Blavatsky might appreciate this study, but it contains just enough essential information to give most readers a good grounding to understand Roerich in context. The text is heavily footnoted with a majority of Russian-language references. Some of the text is in French, especially when it quotes René Guénon, an esoteric scholar who was critical of Blavatsky’s writings and claims. In that regard, the study would better suit the religious scholar or a student familiar with languages than the average American reader.

Stasulane points out that the “Rerikh” groups “differ enormously throughout the world but they fulfill the longing in atheist Soviet society for something that is simultaneously highly intellectual, scientific and mystical.” [i] Prior to the Bolshevik takeover, Russian seekers were already imbued with what later became the New Age explosion of beliefs in America in the decades after 1960. That explosion includes astrology, Theosophy, occultism, vegetarianism, Buddhism, Indian religions and yoga, and messianic expectations. It is no surprise, therefore, that a significant portion of post-Soviet seeker society has embraced the culture’s native mystics in Blavatsky and the Roerichs. It is important to remember that Agni Yoga per se, as offered by the Agni Yoga Society, has sustained a rather benign history for the past half century. Stasulane states:

Totalitarian sects pass away like illnesses, but the Rerikh movement is alive and well all over Russia, even after accusations in the press that the Rerikhs collaborated with the NKVD [communist secret police], and even after the Russian Orthodox Church has anathematized it.[ii]

The author quotes extensively from primary source texts of Agni Yoga and the two volumes of published Letters of Helena Roerich to define for the reader exactly what the Roerichs teach and believe. Stasulane demonstrates that the Roerichs teach that the great religions, including Christianity and Indian religions, have distorted the pure teachings of their founding prophets. With Agni Yoga, or the “Teaching,” the Roerichs viewed themselves as emissaries of the master Morya and other mahatmas who will draw enlightened seekers toward the one Truth or Ancient Wisdom. Despite the Roerichs claims to “the highest” spirituality, Stasulane shows that the Russian couple defines or reduces religion, whether Buddhist or any other, to a version of “Blavatskaya’s” theosophy. The latter’s genius was to apply a spiritual form of evolutionary theory to human destiny supported by stringing together a myriad of 19th century occult teachings. The result in both Theosophy and Agni Yoga, as the author demonstrates, is a highly suggestive, vague notion that we are destined to return to the impersonal Source of being after efforts in many incarnations. The real, unvarnished Truth is thus hidden, or occulted, from the uninitiated or ignorant.

With the richness of thought and lofty efforts of the Roerich agenda for humanity, Stasulane’s study should impress any reader. She shows that, among theosophists, Nicholas Roerich stands out mightily as a particularly accomplished artist and teacher. In the end, she writes that Roerich in 1926 visited and approached the Kremlin with his blessings for the communist regime. The author does not mention this, but Roerich did praise Lenin at the time as a “mahatma” on the order of his Morya. In the author’s opinion, Roerich believed that Theosophy, as a “theosophocracy,” would be the proper route for the people in a “New Russia.”

[i] Religion, State and Society, Vol. 28, No. 1/2000, 134-148 (www.vatican.va).

[ii] Ibid.

Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups

Michael Langone, Ph.D.

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.

Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.

 The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

 Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
 Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
 The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
 The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
 The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
 The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
 The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
 The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt iin order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
 Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
 The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
 The group is preoccupied with making money.
 Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
 Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
 The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.


Feb 19, 2014

Faith-Healing Parents Jailed After Second Child’s Death

Eliana Dockterman @edockterman
Feb. 19, 2014

Matt Rourke—AP Catherine Schaible walks from the criminal justice center Feb. 19, 2014, in Philadelphia.Two young children died after parents refused to treat them with medicine

A Pennsylvania mother and father who believe in faith-healing were sent to jail Wednesday for causing the death of their young, sick child by refusing to take him to the doctor. It was the second of Herbert and Catherine Schaible’s children to die under their care.

“You’ve killed two of your children…not God, not your church, not religious devotion — you,” Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner told the couple, as he sentenced them to between three and a half and seven years behind bars. The Schaibles pled no contest to third-degree murder in their eight-month-old son Brandon’s death last year from pneumonia.

The Schaibles lost a first child in 2009, a two-year-old who died from pneumonia. They were sentenced to ten years probation for involuntary manslaughter for that death. Part of their probation stated that they must seek medical care if another one of their children became sick.

Herbert Schaible told police last year that medicine violates their religious beliefs. “We believe in divine healing, the Jesus shed blood for our healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil’s power,” he said.

The couple belongs to a small Pentacostal community. They have seven surviving children.


Feb 14, 2014

Leo J. Ryan 'Distinguished Service Award' (1999)

February 13, 1999 
Leo J. Ryan National Conference, Stamford, CT

To Patrick Ryan "For his dedication and hard work toward the creation on the AFF Website."

Leo J. Ryan Award, named in honor of Congressman Leo J. Ryan, who was assassinated November 18, 1978, in Guyana by members of the People's Temple cult led by Jim Jones.

Feb 13, 2014

EX PARTE SARASWATI, Tex: Court of Appeals, 3rd Dist. 2009

Nos. 03-08-00767-CR, 03-08-00768-CR
Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin.
Filed: June 24, 2009.
J. WOODFIN JONES, Chief Justice.
Appellant Prakashandand Saraswati is awaiting trial on two indictments, each accusing him of ten counts of indecency with a child by contact.

[1] Appellant applied for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge a condition of his bail bonds. The writ issued and, after a hearing, relief was denied. This appeal followed.
Appellant is a prominent Hindu spiritual master and teacher. He is the leader of JKP-Barsana Dham, a movement within the Hindu faith with a world-wide membership. The North American headquarters for this movement is the Barsana Dham community in Hays County, site of a temple, appellant's residence, and the residences of a number of appellant's followers. It is also the location where the alleged criminal acts took place. As a condition of his release, appellant's bail bonds require that he not physically enter the Barsana Dham property at any time.
[2] Appellant urges that this condition violates both the statutes governing pretrial bail and his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. BACKGROUND
The indictments were filed on April 2, 2008, and we infer from the record that appellant's bail was initially set at $500,000 in each cause. On April 16, the district court increased appellant's bail to $1,000,000 in each cause and ordered, as a condition of bond, that appellant surrender his passport.
[3] On April 25, 2008, the State filed a motion to impose two additional bond conditions: (1) that appellant have no contact with persons under the age of eighteen, and (2) that appellant remain at least 200 yards from the Barsana Dham property. On the same date, appellant moved to reduce his bail to $500,000 in each cause. Both motions were granted. In orders signed on April 25, the district court reduced bail in each cause to $500,000 and conditioned any bond on appellant having no unsupervised contact with children under the age of seventeen, surrendering his passport, and remaining at least 200 yards from Barsana Dham. As an exception to the third condition, the order permitted appellant to go to Barsana Dham for religious activities on the weekend of April 26, 2008. On April 28, the court modified the order to permit appellant to go to Barsana Dham for religious activities through May 2, 2008. Bonds incorporating the court's conditions were posted on April 26.
On April 30, 2008, appellant filed a motion to amend the conditions of his bonds to permit the return of his passport and to allow him to return to Barsana Dham. A hearing on this motion was held on May 14. At the hearing, appellant's counsel told the court, "We'd like to focus on the returning of the passport and travel to India as a change in conditions." Appellant offered evidence regarding his prominence in the Hindu community and the importance of his being allowed to officiate at events in India during the next several months. A member of the Barsana Dham community, Peter Spiegel, testified that he was able and willing to pledge $10,000,000 if the court would permit appellant to travel to India. Following a recess during which it appears that there was an unreported conference involving the court and counsel for both parties, the court announced, "[J]ust for the record, the passport will be returned with the additional conditions that you have agreed on, including the new bond." Appellant's counsel responded, "That's correct, Your Honor."
The agreement reached by the parties on May 14 was incorporated into a document styled "agreed additional stipulations and conditions of bond" that was filed on May 16, 2008. The written agreement stated that: (1) appellant "acknowledges the receipt from the State of his United States passport"; (2) Spiegel agrees to be "the guarantor of a $10,000,000 personal bond that shall be given"; and (3) appellant "acknowledges and agrees that he shall not physically enter the Barsana Dham property in Hays County at any time." The agreement was signed by appellant, appellant's counsel, Spiegel, and counsel for the State. On May 14 and June 20, the district court signed orders amending the conditions of appellant's bonds to incorporate the agreement. Appellant subsequently posted a $1,000,000 bail bond in cause number CR08272 and a $10,000,000 personal bond guaranteed by Spiegel in cause number CR08273. Both bonds incorporate by reference the conditions ordered by the district court on April 25 and May 14.
On August 13, 2008, appellant filed another motion to modify the conditions of his release. In the motion, appellant described the ongoing schedule of religious activities at Barsana Dham and appellant's role in them. The motion reminded the court that the alleged offenses occurred over ten years ago and that the complainants no longer live in Texas, and it stated that no one under the age of eighteen currently resides at Barsana Dham. The motion asked that appellant be permitted to return to Barsana Dham to live, practice his religion, and associate with the adults living there.
A hearing on this motion was held on August 20, 2008. Witnesses testified to the significant role appellant plays in the religious life of Barsana Dham. Evidence was also offered regarding appellant's living arrangements at Barsana Dham, and witnesses confirmed that no minors were currently living there. At the conclusion of the hearing, the August 13 motion to modify the conditions of appellant's bonds was overruled.
Appellant filed his habeas corpus applications on September 29, 2008. In each, he complained that he was being unlawfully restrained by the condition of his bonds excluding him from Barsana Dham. He urged that the condition violates his First Amendment freedoms of religion and association, is excessive within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment, does not serve to ensure his appearance for trial, and is not reasonably related to the safety of either the alleged victims or of the community as a whole. Appellant asked that the bond conditions be modified to grant him continuing access to Barsana Dham, subject to the requirement that he have no unsupervised contact with minors. The State filed a written answer opposing the grant of relief on several grounds. On November 24, the district court signed an order denying the requested relief and filed written findings of fact and conclusions of law.
The State asserts that the Court should dismiss this appeal for want of jurisdiction, reasoning that appellant is essentially appealing the overruling of his August 13 motion to modify the conditions of his bonds. In general, no appeal can be taken from an interlocutory order on a motion to alter the terms of pretrial bail. See Ex parte Shumake, 953 S.W.2d 842, 844-46 (Tex. App.-Austin 1997, no pet.). On the other hand, courts of appeals have jurisdiction to hear appeals from the denial of relief in habeas corpus proceedings. See Ex parte Hargett, 819 S.W.2d 866, 869 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). The State argues that appellant should not be permitted to "bootstrap" an appeal from an otherwise nonappealable interlocutory order by filing a habeas corpus application making the same legal and factual allegations.
The use of habeas corpus to challenge the amount or conditions of pretrial bail is an accepted part of Texas criminal procedure, in part because the denial of habeas corpus relief may be appealed before trial on the merits. See 41 George E. Dix & Robert O. Dawson, Texas Practice: Criminal Practice and Procedure § 16.121 (2d ed. 2001). The use of habeas corpus for this purpose is authorized by both statute and rule. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 11.24 (West 2005) (person committed to custody for failing to enter into bond is entitled to writ of habeas corpus); id. art. 11.64 (chapter eleven applies to use of habeas corpus for admission of prisoners to bail); Tex. R. App. P. 31.1-31.7 (appeals in habeas corpus, bail, and extradition proceedings). There is no dispute that appellant is restrained in his liberty by reason of the conditions of his bail, that appellant challenged this restraint in his habeas corpus application, or that the district court denied the requested relief on the merits. The State's motions to dismiss the appeals for want of jurisdiction are overruled.
Alternatively, the State urges that appellant's challenge to the bond condition that he not enter Barsana Dham was procedurally defaulted. The State argues that appellant waived or forfeited his right to complain of this condition by failing to timely object when the condition was first imposed by the court. Moreover, the State argues that appellant was estopped from complaining of the condition in his habeas corpus application because he expressly agreed to the condition in the district court.
The district court granted the State's April 25, 2008, motion to bar appellant from Barsana Dham on the day the motion was filed and, so far as the record reflects, without first conducting a hearing. Under the circumstances, appellant cannot be faulted for failing to voice an objection to the condition at that time. However, after moving on April 30 to have this condition set aside, appellant effectively abandoned his objection to the condition at the May 14 hearing. At that hearing, appellant chose to focus entirely on his request to have his passport returned in order to travel to India. Most significantly, appellant and his counsel reached an agreement with the State, adopted by the district court at the conclusion of the hearing, under which appellant's passport was returned, the $10,000,000 personal bond was agreed to, and appellant agreed in writing to the condition that he "shall not physically enter the Barsana Dham property in Hays County at any time."
[4] Thereafter, appellant posted bond and voiced no further complaint regarding the condition at issue until August 13, when he filed another motion to modify the conditions of his bonds.
In his brief, appellant argues that a habeas corpus petition challenging the legality of one's restraint or confinement can be filed at any time. This may be true, but it does not answer the State's argument that appellant, by agreeing to the condition that he not return to Barsana Dham, waived or is estopped from asserting his contention that the condition is unlawful. At oral argument, appellant argued that the code of criminal procedure permits the reconsideration of the terms of a bail bond at any time in order to allow for a change in circumstances. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 17.09, § 3 (West Supp. 2008). But appellant did not allege in his habeas corpus application that there had been any material change in circumstances since the May 14 hearing. To the contrary, the arguments appellant now makes against the condition barring him from Barsana Dham echo the arguments he made against the condition in his April 30 motion to amend, before he ultimately agreed to the condition. Appellant's inability to return to Barsana Dham was no less a hindrance to his ability to practice his religion or associate with his followers in May than it was in August, or than it is today.
A party may be estopped from asserting a claim that is inconsistent with that party's prior conduct. Arroyo v. State, 117 S.W.3d 795, 798 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003). The terms of appellant's bail bonds, including the condition that he not enter the Barsana Dham property at any time, were negotiated by appellant's counsel at the May 14 hearing and memorialized in the May 16 written stipulation and agreement. There is no allegation that appellant did not understand the agreed conditions of his bond or that appellant's acceptance of those conditions was involuntary. Even if a material change of circumstances would permit appellant to challenge the previously agreed-to conditions, he has not alleged changed circumstances. Having negotiated the terms and conditions of his present bonds, appellant is estopped from complaining that those conditions are unlawful. See Ex parte Shoe, 137 S.W.3d 100, 102 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2004, no pet.).
The order denying relief in these causes is affirmed.
[1] The indictment in cause number CR08272 alleges that appellant touched the breasts of the complainant, S.R., on ten occasions between September 1, 1993, and January 15, 1994. The indictment in cause number CR08273 alleges that appellant touched the breasts of the complainant, V.T., on ten occasions between September 1, 1995, and January 15, 1996. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 21.11(a)(1), (c)(1) (West 2003).
[2] The record reflects appellant is presently living in a house a short distance from Barsana Dham.
[3] Appellant is a United States citizen and holds a United States passport.
[4] Appellant asserts in his brief that his counsel at the hearing, during an in-chambers conference, reserved the right to challenge this condition following appellant's return to the United States from India. The State denies this and, in any case, appellant concedes that there is no support for this assertion in the record.

Only 5% pandits missing: Maharishi vedic university

Times of India
January 28, 2014

WASHINGTON: The Iowa-based institutions of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi have said about only five per cent of the 2,600 vedic pandits, who were brought to the US from north Indian villages, have gone missing in recent years.

"Each of these cases the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been informed about vedic pandits leaving their United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and State Department approved programme at its Iowa campus," said William Goldstein, Dean of Global Development and General Counsel to the Maharishi University of Management.

"Only a small number of the over 2,600 pandits, about five per cent, who have come on this unprecedented vedic programme to the US have gone AWOL (absent without leave)," Goldstein said in an email.

"For the first four years of this programme, it was a very small number. In recent months this number has been unfortunately increasing," he said.

He alleged that they appear to have been induced by individuals providing false and bad information of high earnings, or by unscrupulous employers taking advantage of them.

He also denied allegations of mistreatment of the priests, including giving them low wages.

In an investigative report, Chicago-based ethnic weekly newspaper Hi India alleged that 163 vedic pandits brought to the US lived in pathetic conditions and were paid less than 75 cents an hour.

Goldstein claimed that these pandits come to the US under R-1 visas and thus are not subject to the minimum wage rules.

"They are on R-1 visas. They are not in possession of a visa to be day labourers nor are they equipped to be such. Their visa only entitles them, and they are solely qualified to engage in, their spiritual vocation of meditation and vedic performances," he said.

"They are not subject to minimum wage laws in this spiritual or ministerial vocation, like monks in a monastery," said the official from Maharishi University of Management. The Iowa campus has been specifically inspected and approved for this precise purpose by USCIS, for use as a site for R-1 pandits," he said.

Denying allegations that pandits brought to the US are underage, he said, "No pandit has ever come on the programme under 18 years of age."

He said that it has been agreed with the pandits that of the USD 200 per month base cash compensation, USD 150 will be transmitted to their families in India.

All the pandits, contrary to the allegations, reside in modern, fully heated and air-conditioned comfortable modular homes, with an indoor and outdoor athletic facility and a large organic vegetarian kitchen and cafeteria, along with their meditation halls, classrooms, and Vedic performance halls, he said.

Feb 12, 2014

Maharishi schools group Chief granted bail in rape charges

January 31, 2014
Indore News

Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh High Court has granted bail to Girish Chandra Varma, chairman of Maharishi Vidya Mandir schools group on personal surety of Rs 50000.

He was arrested on December 29 following charges that he sexually exploited and threatened a school teacher.

According to his counsel Manish Datt, police arrested and put Verma behind the bars based on complaint which was not substantiated with evidence and hence, urged the court to grant him bail.

He also said the allegation well over a decade and the action of the police also amounted to violation of Verma’s fundamental right.

The bench of Justice N K Gupta accepted the submissions and ordered Verma to be released.

The complainant has alleged that she was repeatedly molested by Varma for the past several years. She alleged that the accused used to insist her husband to take her along on tours to other cities and countries. Each time, adjoining rooms would be booked in a five star hotel.

Varma would then send her husband away on the pretext of some errands and rape her. She said that she did not protest earlier fearing social ostracism, but when it became too much for her to take; she shared her ordeal with her husband and decided to file a complaint.

Acid attack on woman who accused Maharishi Girish Verma of rape

Mamta Mishra
February 8, 2014
In Indore News

Bhopal: Two motorcycle-borne youths threw acid at the woman who had lodged rape case against Girish Varma, chancellor Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic Vishwavidyalaya. The woman escaped unhurt with just minor burns as the bottle grazed past her, with a few drops falling on her feet.

The incident occurred at the woman’s house near Barkatullah University on Friday. The youths came to the house and asked the woman if it was Nikhil Homes. When the woman replied in affirmative, one of them hurled the bottle containing acid. Luckily, the acid didn’t fall on her.

“The bottle hit the kitchen wall and there was a big sound. The acid sprinkled on her hands and feet. It was too concenrated and kept boiling on the floor for sometime and even utensils got blackened later,” said her husband. “We informed the police and a case was registered against the youths,” he said.

The youths had escaped soon after the attack. The police officials reached the spot. Also, the forensic experts went to the house and collected samples from the spot. “The incident had occurred after my wife received a threatening call on Thursday night,” he further added. “I shudder to think what would have happened had the bottle hit her directly.”

“The caller told her to withdraw her charges and stop pursuing the case against Girish Varma. He said that if the case is not withdrawn, there will be serious consequences,” he said.