Jun 27, 2019

New Book 'Traumatized By Religious Abuse' Exposes the Trauma and Spiritual Crisis Survivors of Religious Abuse Experience

Connie A. Baker, MA, LPC announces the release of her highly acclaimed new book ‘Traumatized by Religious Abuse: Courage, Hope and Freedom for Survivors - Discover the Cultures and Systems of Religious Abuse and Reclaim Your Personal Power‘, Luminare Press.

“The #metoo and #churchtoo movements are creating conversations in popular culture as we become more aware of abuse and misused power within religious institutions. Traumatic wounds suffered in a place that should represent safety, security, and comfort can be some of the most confusing wounds of all,” Baker says.
‘Traumatized by Religious Abuse: Courage, Hope and Freedom for Survivors-Discover the Cultures and Systems of Religious Abuse and Reclaim Your Personal Power’ is a comprehensive resource for those who have experienced religious abuse, be it psychological, verbal, sexual or financial. With authenticity, openness, and careful consideration of many different faith traditions, Connie provides a path to hope and healing.

In ‘Traumatized by Religious Abuse’, the author answers the following questions: 

How does abuse happen in religious institutions?

What is unique about religious abuse?

How are power and control used in religious abuse?

What are the hallmark characteristics of abusive leaders and abusive religious cultures?

What are the implicit and subtle messages used by abusers?

What are the emotional, mental and existential damages after abuse?

How can a survivor recover and heal?

Connie A Baker covers in depth how religious ideas are often used to manipulate followers and how fear, shame, guilt and superstition can be leveraged for control. She points out that spiritual and religious abuse is not confined to any one type of religion or cult. This dynamic of abusive behavior can be found in many types of spiritual communities.

She writes from the perspective of a professional therapist who teaches and counsels survivors, and from her own perspective from being a survivor of religious abuse. “When I went through horrible religious abuse back in 1990, I was completely confused and without resources to get clarity and healing. I never want anyone to go through what I did after abuse. This is the book I needed back then and didn’t have.”

About Connie Baker 
Connie A Baker, MA LPC, is a licensed professional counselor with a Master of Arts in Counseling. She is a clinical supervisor, Masters Level University instructor, conference speaker and seminar teacher. She is a trauma recovery specialist, trained life coach, and the author of her new book, ‘Traumatized by Religious Abuse: Courage, Hope and Healing for Survivors. This acclaimed book is the culmination of her own story and years of experience as a therapist. The book is now available at retail outlets and on Amazon.com

Connie is sought after for guidance, radio and television interviews, and contributions to magazines for support and education about religious abuse and trauma recovery. 
Connie lives in Portland, OR with her husband, JR. They have 3 grown children and 1 grandson. 
For media inquiries contact Diane Dennis with Inspired Media at info(at)inspiredmc(dot)com


Jun 26, 2019



Jun 24, 2019

What's to become of NXIVM?

Keith Raniere
After Keith Raniere's conviction, shuttered organization faces uncertain future

Robert Gavin
Albany Times Union
June 22, 2019

NEW YORK — As NXIVM leader Keith Raniere faces life in prison for sex trafficking, forced labor and racketeering, the Capital Region-based organization he commanded for two decades remains shuttered.

A federal jury's quick conviction of Raniere, 58, on all criminal counts and racketeering acts Wednesday was a resounding repudiation of the purported self-help guru known within NXIVM as "Vanguard." According to one prosecution witness, it could also prove to be a knockout punch for the business that was built on his teachings.

"I don't expect to see NXIVM continuing in any meaningful way," said Rick Ross, head of the New Jersey-based Cult Education Institute and a longtime foe of Raniere. NXIVM pursued Ross in an unsuccessful 14-year legal battle that he described on the stand in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn earlier this month.

Although NXIVM was never charged in the federal prosecution, the purported self-improvement business must now contend with not only the loss of Raniere but the guilty pleas of its operations director and Seagram's heiress Clare Bronfman, president Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman — who testified at Raniere's trial — and longtime NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell. All four women, along with NXIVM member and TV actress Allison Mack, pleaded guilty to federal felony charges in March and April.

"I have heard that there are splinter groups that are getting together that are extolling the philosophy of 'rational inquiry' as laid out by Keith Raniere," Ross said. "Are there people getting together? Yes. ... But they have no charismatic leader, they have no meaningful assets, they have no meaningful cash flow. I think that NXIVM will dissipate. I don't think that anyone will step into the ... power vacuum and reinstitute the group, and unite the group factions or people that are left in the residue of what's happened."

Michael Sullivan, a Boston-based attorney for NXIVM, said in a brief interview Friday that the business remains intact. "It's an entity, a legal entity," he said.

But Sullivan — a former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts from 2001-2009 — declined to say anything about its current leadership structure, including who might remain on its executive board.

In an April court filing in the federal case against Raniere, Sullivan stated that, "As far as I am aware Nancy Salzman has not resigned her role as President of NXIVM Corp., but is taking no active role in its management at this time."

The same April filing said that Bronfman, Lauren Salzman and Omar Boone were the sole remaining members of an executive board that had experienced the resignations of three other members since the beginning of 2018. Raniere was arrested in Mexico in March 2018 and extradited to the U.S. (Attorneys for Bronfman and Nancy and Lauren Salzman did not respond to emails seeking comment.)

NXIVM announced it was suspending its operations a year ago. Sullivan asserted in the filing that while it had suspended its training programs, day-to-day business functions had continued.

"The Corporation has not been dissolved, and is not defunct; rather, it continues to meet its obligations," Sullivan stated. "Nor am I aware that it is a bankrupt entity."

In the two months since then, however, Nancy Salzman agreed to forfeit more than $515,000 seized during March 2018 FBI searches of NXIVM-linked properties in Knox Woods, the leafy Halfmoon neighborhood where Raniere and almost two dozen of the group's members lived.

Salzman also handed over the title to properties on Hale Drive and Generals Way in Halfmoon, and the buildings that comprised NXIVM's main corporate offices on New Karner Road in Colonie. (Lauren Salzman's forfeiture order references the same cash and properties.) Nancy Salzman also relinquished a Steinway piano seized from her Halfmoon home.

A forfeiture order for Bronfman filed last week confirmed that she was required to pay $6 million to the government by June 18.

NXIVM's leaders also managed a network of corporate entities, many of them organized around Raniere's teachings or other business ventures. A letter to the court from Sullivan filed in early April noted that he had been retained to represent NXIVM as well as a dozen other entities whose operations were discussed during the trial, including NXIVM Mexico, JNESS LLC (another women's group organized by NXIVM), Society of Protectors LLC (a men's group) and more. Sullivan's letter noted that he was uncertain about their organizational structure.

Sullivan went on to identify nine other entities he had been asked to represent in relation to the case, though he was waiting for confirmation from the executor of the estate of Pamela Cafritz, a NXIVM leader and Raniere confidant who died of cancer in 2016.

During the trial, a huge trove of digital evidence — texts, emails, audio recordings and videos — lifted the veil on Raniere's secret "master/slave" group, which was known as The Vow and later as Dominus Obsequious Sororium or DOS, which translates from Latin as "Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions."

The evidence showed Raniere served as "Grand Master" over a pyramid structure of "slaves," including women who were physically branded with his initials in a ceremony that involved the use of a cauterizing pen.

The trial exposed actions by Raniere that even his lead attorney Marc Agnifilo, speaking after the verdict, said could be viewed as "repulsive" — including demanding his DOS slaves subsist on 500-calorie-a-day diets; having sex with girls as young as 15; and making his female followers provide him with sexually explicit images as "collateral" to guarantee their loyalty.

Others have remained loyal to Raniere.

At least eight loyalists showed up in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to watch the closing arguments in his trial. Former members of NXIVM who attended the proceedings have told the Times Union they strongly believe there are still diehard Raniere supporters who continue to live in the Capital Region. Others believe NXIVM maintains a small presence in Brooklyn, where Raniere remained in custody since his March 2018 arrest in Mexico.

Marc Elliot, an inspirational speaker who credits Raniere's teachings with helping him overcome Tourette syndrome, recently announced his next speaking topic will be "Who's Next?: The Rise of Character Assassination and Loss of Human Decency," which refers to his belief that NXIVM was unfairly targeted as a "sex cult" by the media and "hate" blogs.

"These media sources have caused prejudice and hate directed toward (Elliot) and his friends, damaging their reputations and ability to function in society," Elliot's website recently stated. "This has become the next and current challenge to overcome in his life."

That copy appears to have been scrubbed from Elliot's website in recent days, and the reservation page for a speech planned for Wednesday in Manhattan is no longer active. Elliot did not respond to requests for comment.

NXIVM has maintained a presence in Mexico. Loreta Garza, who was identified at trial as a member of Raniere's inner circle and a "first-line" slave in DOS, has run Rainbow Cultural Garden, a international chain of schools built on Raniere's teachings that claimed to in immerse children in nine languages at once. Rosa Laura Junco, the daughter of a media mogul in Mexico, was according to testimony another first-line DOS slave.

Two former NXIVM board members, Emiliano Salinas — the son of former Mexico president Carlos Salinas de Gortari — and his business partner Alejandro "Alex" Betancourt, publicly distanced themselves from Raniere after his arrest.

The months ahead will bring a series of court appearances by NXIVM's leaders.

Nancy Salzman pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy; her daughter and Mack to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy; Russell pleaded guilty to visa fraud.

Bronfman, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification documents, will be sentenced on Sept. 25. It's the same day Raniere will learn his punishment.

He faces up to life in prison.

Ross, who has studied cults for more than three decades, said Raniere's followers are unlikely to reconstitute.

"When an organization is defined by a charismatic leader who is the driving force of the group, and it's essentially a personality-driven group, when the leader dies or is incarcerated it's like the hub dropping out of a wheel," Ross said. "The wheel begins to collapse."

Casey Seiler contributed to this report.


The Polygamist Who Allegedly Scammed the U.S. Out of a Half-Billion Dollars

Kingston is a member of the Order, the largest Mormon polygamist clan in the U.S.
Jesse Hyde and David Voreacos
June 24, 2019

On the afternoon of Aug. 23, 2018, federal agents fanned out across the Salt Lake City airport. They were looking for Jacob Kingston. He was 42, with short, dark hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. According to the IRS, Kingston had defrauded the U.S. government of more than a half-billion dollars, and now he was fleeing to Turkey. The agents feared that if he boarded KLM flight 6026, he'd never come back.

Kingston is a member of the Order, the largest Mormon polygamist clan in the U.S. Authorities call it an organized crime group. Concentrated in Salt Lake City, its 10,000 members control more than 100 businesses in the West, including a casino in Southern California and a cattle ranch on the Nevada border. Closer to home, it runs a tactical arms company that specializes in semiautomatic weapons.

The government had spent years investigating Kingston and a company he ran called Washakie Renewable Energy LLC, the most successful in the Order's portfolio. At a plant along the Utah-Idaho border, Washakie made biodiesel that it shipped out on rail cars, but the bulk of its profits came from $1-per-gallon tax credits that the IRS administered. The credits—cash from the government, basically—had made Kingston wealthy. He sat in a suite at Utah Jazz basketball games, hobnobbed with state power brokers, and moved one of his wives, Sally, into a mansion in a leafy Salt Lake suburb.

For more than a year, the government had also been probing Kingston's ties to a man named Lev Dermen. An Armenian immigrant, Dermen sat atop a small oil and gas empire in Southern California with a string of gas stations and truck stops. The feds suspected that Kingston had been running a sophisticated scam for years with Dermen's help. Evidence that the Environmental Protection Agency obtained suggested that Washakie's plant didn't produce the type of biodiesels eligible for tax credits. Yet the company had claimed more than $500 million in credits by allegedly falsifying records, sending diluted loads or tanks of water to co-conspirators, and recirculating the vegetable and animal fats and used cooking oil needed to make biodiesel on ships that shuttled from Panama to Houston. The government also accused Washakie of laundering $134 million to Turkey.

At the airport, the agents grew anxious as they saw Sally and her family arrive, according to a source close to the investigation, court records, and an interview with a former Order member. The family split up, entering different security lines. But Kingston was nowhere in sight. Authorities had long feared that he had a mole; more than two years earlier, he'd been tipped off to a raid on his home and business.

Now it seemed he'd slipped through their hands.

Early Mormons lived the principle of plural marriage as part of their religion, but the practice has been illegal in the state since 1890, driving the fundamentalist sects that keep it alive underground.

Many of these clans, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (made famous in Jon Krakauer's book Under the Banner of Heaven) have scattered to the red rock deserts of southern Utah, where they live in isolation in sprawling, dilapidated compounds. The Order is one of the few that stayed in the Salt Lake Valley. For this story, Bloomberg Businessweek talked to 10 former and current Order members, who asked for anonymity to avoid being cut off from family still in the group.

Kingston's great-uncle Elden founded the Order at the height of the Great Depression. With a strong jaw, broad shoulders, and a shock of white hair, Elden claimed to be the "one mighty and strong" predicted by Mormon founder Joseph Smith who, "holding the scepter of power in his hand," would "set in order the House of God."

Convinced the Mormon Church had lost its divine authority in renouncing polygamy, Elden persuaded three other families to join him in establishing a sect to restore the kingdom of God. They would live as early Mormons had, observing the law of consecration, signing over all property and future earnings to the Order. They sold their possessions, dressed in blue overalls, and lived out of canvas tents in a town north of Salt Lake. They called it the Home Place.

When Elden died in 1948, his brother Ortell became prophet, and the clan grew in size and wealth. Ortell emphasized a doctrine called bleeding the beast. He taught the clan's women to descend upon state welfare offices with their children and claim to be destitute single mothers, a scheme that would qualify them for welfare programs such as food stamps. (In 1983, Ortell paid the state $250,000 to settle welfare fraud allegations, though he never admitted guilt.)

Authorities have alleged that Order members hired accountants to hide profits to avoid taxes; ignored environmental and safety regulations, including at their now-shuttered coal mine in central Utah; and armed themselves, swearing fealty to the prophet above any other man. "I strongly believe they are an organized crime family," says former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. (The Kingston clan, which publicly calls itself the Davis County Cooperative Society Inc., has long denied breaking any laws. In response to the Washakie charges, it told CBS in May that it "condemns in the strongest terms fraudulent business practices and stresses that this behavior goes completely against our beliefs and principles.")

To protect the family, the Order abided by certain practices. Children were taught never to talk to outsiders beyond what was necessary. Members avoided banks, which they didn't trust, and doctors, who could ask for birth certificates or other medical records that would expose the group's lifestyle. They handled their affairs internally instead of going to the police.

By the time Kingston was born in 1976, his uncle Paul was the prophet, and his father, Daniel, was the unofficial No. 2. Kingston's early life was governed by Order rules known as ABC standards, with an edict for every letter in the alphabet. Two commandments took precedence. One was the rule for "I," pertaining to "Incomings," which was a modern interpretation of the law of consecration: Kingston would only work for an Order business, and any money he made would be turned over to the church to build the kingdom of God. This law applied to everyone. Girls and boys as young as 7 worked at the clan's grocery store or answered phones at the Order's law office, where Paul often worked. Everyone was paid in scrip, a form of credit that was only redeemable at Order stores. "If the Order doesn't have it," the clan taught, "we don't need it."

The other was the rule for "O," corresponding to "Obedience," which was otherwise known as the law of one above another. Everyone answered to someone—first a father, then up the line to the Numbered Men who ran the Order's businesses. Paul had the final say in everything, from where you worked to whom you married to what house you lived in.

Kingston's second wife, Julianna Johnson, says that, as a boy, he was quiet and a bit aloof. In the clan's unofficial caste system, Kingston is near the top; he's a direct descendant of the group's second prophet, which connects his bloodline directly to Jesus, she says. While he spent time as a kid doing manual labor at the Order's ranch and coal mine, Kingston knew that good Order jobs awaited him, as did college.

The two married when she was 15. The relationship lasted five years, but Johnson says she and Kingston rarely saw each other. For a time she lived at a coal yard that the Order owned in Salt Lake and, later, at a clan-run hotel. She remembers Kingston spending most of his time with Sally, only showing up now and then after midnight. "It was a strange relationship. It wasn't even very physical. He was very immature, like joking and teasing," Johnson says.

By the late '90s, the Order had transformed itself from a small group of families eking out an existence on a communal farm into a conglomerate worth about $150 million, according to a 1998 estimate by Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn. Trucks from its A-1 garbage disposal company were ubiquitous in the Salt Lake Valley, as were signs for its commercial real estate firm, Arrow. The clan opened pawnshops, burger joints, and trailer parks and bought more property in neighboring states.

In 2006, not long after Johnson and Kingston split up, Kingston graduated from the University of Utah with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Former Order members say it was about that time that he and his father started talking about building a biodiesel plant on a ranch near Plymouth, Utah, on the Idaho border. Just a year before, Congress had created the Renewable Fuel Standard, which was designed to reduce reliance on foreign oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The law mandated that refiners such as Valero Energy Corp. or Exxon Mobil Corp. blend into their products at least 4 billion gallons of renewable fuels, like ethanol and biodiesel, with the number jumping to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.

What was then known as Washakie Ranch was in a perfect spot. Situated at the base of a rugged mountain range, it sat next to a rail line, which would be ideal for shipping in the raw products needed to create biodiesel and shipping out tankers filled with it. "We felt like we were building something that would contribute to the kingdom of God," says a former Order member who helped build the plant.

By 2011, Washakie Renewable Energy billed itself as one of the largest producers of biodiesel in the western U.S. The Order had long operated in the shadows, but Kingston began breaking from tradition. Washakie became a main sponsor of the Jazz, and it paid for ads that ran before movies at an area theater chain. The company also started contributing to local politicians. "It made the prophet uncomfortable, because he didn't like to draw attention to the Order, but it was seen as a necessary cost of business," says another former member. "And Washakie was making a lot of money for the family."

Kingston broke from Order tradition in another way. For decades the family had done business with only blood relatives, even avoiding working with other polygamists. But he partnered with outsiders, and in early 2011 he met Dermen at a conference in Las Vegas, says a source familiar with the investigation.

Dermen ran a biodiesel producer called Noil Energy Group Inc. The two became close, according to the government. At a court hearing, IRS special agent Tyler Hatcher said that Kingston "couldn't make a decision without checking in with Mr. Dermen first."

They were an odd couple. While Kingston grew up in rural Utah and Nevada, Dermen fled Armenia with his parents and older brother when he was 14, settling in Los Angeles. He dropped out of Hollywood High School in 10th grade to work at the family gas station, saving up until he could lease his own pump. He soon owned three stations.

Dermen drove in armored vehicles and traveled with security. His lawyer, Mark Geragos, said in court filings that his client had reason to fear for his safety: In July 2016 a gunman ambushed a car that Dermen's son was in, thinking Derman was the passenger; Dermen's son wasn't hit, but the driver was shot five times (he survived). A biodiesel trader who met Dermen the year before says he carried himself with a slightly menacing air. He wore blue alligator shoes, a blue alligator belt, and designer jeans. The clothing "didn't look like it fit on the guy. It looked like he was playing the part of the big shot," says the trader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Dermen told the trader to call him the Lion (lev in Russian). It was a request he made frequently. Then he suggested that they walk to lunch. "It was like straight out of The Godfather," the trader says. "The table was waiting, everybody had to kiss his alligator shoes."

In August 2017, a joint Los Angeles Police Department-Homeland Security task force investigating Dermen for alleged biodiesel fraud of his own raided his homes and businesses and seized potential evidence, including his $1.7 million Bugatti Veyron. He eventually got his property back, and the case was closed, says the source close to the investigation.

The Renewable Fuel Standard initiative put billions of gallons of biodiesel into the marketplace, but it was also a magnet for cons. Around the time of Dermen's meeting with the biodiesel trader, the EPA had begun investigating whether Washakie was running an illegal operation.

Part of the problem with the program was enforcement. In its early years, registering with the EPA to claim tax credits didn't even require an inspection. One fraudster in Ohio signed up with pictures of a biodiesel plant that he found online. The EPA also did little to ensure that plants were producing as many gallons as they claimed or testing the quality of the product. "It was a 'buyer beware' program," says Doug Parker, the former head of the agency's criminal investigations unit. "It was up to the fuel producers to make sure the biofuels they were buying were up to standards."

Prosecutors allege that Washakie joined other biodiesel producers in a complex fraud. It worked like this: EPA rules dictate that companies such as Washakie can make a pure biodiesel (B100) or buy it and cut it with petroleum (B99). For every gallon of pure product that Washakie made, it could earn at least an additional $2: $1 via a credit and $1 or more for the RIN, or renewable identification number that correlates to that batch. Refiners who fall short of blending the minimum biodiesel into their products can buy RINs as an alternative way to comply with the standard. (Ethanol RINs generally remain affixed to their respective gallons, but the EPA allows biodiesel makers to strip RINs off their product and sell them as tradable credits.)

The question is whether Washakie ever produced or bought B100. The government says it often didn't, instead buying millions of gallons of B99 and falsifying paperwork to make it appear that it was producing the purer variety. Prosecutors say the company hired barges to move B99 from Houston to Panama and back to Houston; it was then transported and sold to Washakie as B100. A former worker says Washakie was fudging paperwork to make it look like it was producing biodiesel. Kingston's lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, says, "We took credits appropriately on the type and amount of biodiesel that was created."

In 2015 the EPA claimed that Washakie generated 7 million false RINs for biodiesel it purportedly produced five years earlier. The company paid $3 million to settle the civil case without admitting wrongdoing. The next year, Washakie applied for $644 million in false credits that it never received, prosecutors charge.

Still, as more than $500 million in credits rolled in, Kingston began distancing himself from Order leadership, former members say. He told business partners that he wasn't a polygamist, even though he'd recently taken another wife. Ortell, the second prophet, had prided himself on his frugality, living in a dilapidated shack and bragging that he'd worn the same black shirt every day for a year. Paul wore secondhand suits and kept his office on a grimy downtown side street. But Kingston liked nice cars—a former member recalls him showing up to a family barbecue in a yellow sports car—and didn't mind spending money on frivolous things, such as gambling in Las Vegas.

Kingston's justification was that if Washakie wanted to play in the big leagues, he had to look the part. He was no longer turning over all of his profits to the church. Washakie was ordering tens of millions of dollars' worth of biodiesel in a single shipment, and it needed more control over its cash than typical Order businesses, which pooled their money for general use. He bought a $4.5 million mansion in Sandy, Utah, and a $1 million home in Salt Lake, around which he promptly built a wall.

Kingston was becoming an international man of business. Now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he diversified his portfolio, becoming a partner in a chemical company in Turkey and buying a palm oil plant in Kuala Lumpur. Prosecutors allege he used an office at a villa on the Bosporus in Istanbul, where he kept a Mercedes-Benz S-Class in a garage he shared with Dermen. Back home, Kingston bragged that he was friendly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; a former Order member told prosecutors that Kingston had a cellphone video showing a police escort from the airport. Kingston felt so at home in Turkey, he married off one of his sons there, flying in an entourage of family members. The former Order member says there were rumors that he was thinking of buying an island near Turkey where the clan could move if necessary.

Early on the morning of Feb. 10, 2016, IRS, EPA, and Homeland Security agents raided Kingston's Sandy mansion, rustling him and Sally out of bed. Kingston would later describe the raid in a court hearing as a "full tactical seizure" during which he and his family were awoken and held at gunpoint.

Across town, agents raided Kingston's offices, searching for tax and accounting records, bank statements, and other Washakie-related documentation. What they found instead were empty bookshelves and scrubbed hard drives. The clan had been tipped off before the raid by someone inside the government, former members say. One says that children had been sent to the offices to destroy records and that boxes of documents were hidden in members' homes.

In California, Dermen was running into his own problems. Prosecutors were looking at a series of suspicious wire transfers that Kingston and Dermen made to Turkey. Kingston once wired $9 million to a company he owned there—and within about a week, that $9 million was wired to a U.S. company that Dermen ran.

The botched raid on Order businesses did little to slow the government's investigation of Washakie. Kingston knew the government was talking to cooperating witnesses and gathering evidence. The penalty for tax fraud could be severe. By 2017 more than 30 people had been accused of defrauding the IRS in biodiesel tax credit scams. Most had been sentenced to prison, including one person who got 20 years.

In January 2017, the government began closing in. It had flipped a Kingston and Dermen associate named Santiago Garcia-Gutierrez. Dermen had introduced Garcia to Kingston, and for a time he worked for Washakie, until he was fired for embezzlement, according to court filings. He would later tell law enforcement that part of his job at Washakie was to give money and favors to Utah politicians.

Kingston agreed to meet with Garcia, who promised him he could make the case disappear. They met at the Grand America Hotel, the largest and most opulent in Salt Lake. Garcia, who was working as a government informant to avoid charges connected to reentering the country illegally, told Kingston he could pay off the judges and prosecutors investigating Washakie. Going forward, they agreed to speak in code via text, referring to a Department of Justice official that Garcia said he could bribe as Commissioner Gordon. Kingston would be Batman.

A few weeks later, according to texts that the IRS retrieved from Garcia's phone, Kingston told him about a witness in Miami who was cooperating with the government. He asked Garcia if he could get an enforcer to scare the witness. "Ring the bell of the bird in Miami," Kingston texted, according to court filings. (Garcia's lawyer, Victor Sherman, says, "If called as a witness in this case, he will tell the truth and lay out all the facts.")

Growing concerned, prosecutors sent IRS agents to provide 24-hour security to the Miami witness. They also worried that Kingston and Dermen were about to go on the run: The pair had conspired to wire more than $134 million to Turkey, where Kingston's investments included a company that assumed nonperforming mortgage loans. It also appeared that the pair owned businesses and property together, according to prosecutors. If they made it to Turkey, extradition was unlikely. On Aug. 20, 2018, Kingston bought airline tickets for himself, Sally, and four other family members on Travelocity.

When his family showed up at the airport three days later without him, agents watched them at the gate. One former member says Sally and several family members, including Kingston's son and his son's wife, boarded the flight. But Kingston was nowhere in sight, and a frantic search ensued. Then a voice came over the plane's intercom. Kingston had been taken into custody. Any family members on board needed to disembark. The source close to the investigation says that Kingston was apprehended on a sky bridge, getting off a flight from Houston and on his way to the KLM gate.

Later that day, agents took Dermen into custody in L.A.

Last April, Kingston and Dermen appeared in a courtroom in downtown Salt Lake with Kingston's brother Isaiah, who's also been indicted, for a pretrial hearing. They wore prison jumpsuits. Kingston nodded to Sally and his mother, Rachel.

Isaiah's wife, who recently gave birth to the couple's eighth child, had dressed their kids in their Sunday best—white dress shirts and black pants for the boys, dresses for the girls. Isaiah made eye contact with his kids, smiling warmly whenever they looked at him.

Earlier this year prosecutors offered to resolve the case against Kingston by offering a deal that required him to plead guilty and testify against the family, say two people knowledgeable about the matter. He declined and intends to go to trial, they say.

The proceedings are scheduled to begin on July 29 and last 10 weeks. Kingston and Isaiah face charges related to filing false claims for fuel tax credits, conspiring to obstruct justice, and witness tampering. Those two, as well as Sally, Rachel, and Dermen, are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. All five have pleaded not guilty. Dermen has asked to be tried separately from the Kingstons; Geragos has argued that his client had nothing to do with the Order and wasn't in on the alleged biodiesel scam.

Prosecutors say the case is by far the biggest biodiesel fraud in U.S. history and that Washakie's tentacles ran throughout the country. They plan to show that the Kingstons were in cahoots with biodiesel producers from Florida to Ohio. Kingston attorney Agnifilo says, "The charges are misguided and stem from cooperators who themselves engaged in illegal conduct and are now implicating Jacob Kingston to secure their own freedom." Sally's lawyer declined to comment, and Isaiah's and Rachel's lawyers didn't return calls for comment.

On June 17, Kingston's lawyers asked the judge to bar mention of the Davis County Cooperative Society, the Order, or polygamy. They wrote in a court filing that these references could inflame jurors, "considering how emotionally and politically charged the issue of polygamy is and has been in Utah."

Meanwhile, the government is worried about witness safety. At an August hearing, prosecutor Leslie Goemaat said bricks had been thrown at the house of one. At the April hearing, prosecutor Rich Rolwing said some witnesses still expressed concern for their well-being. Others said they feared that Dermen will retaliate.

Order members who've agreed to testify are afraid that doing so will result in excommunication. The clan has "more leverage on their members than the typical person," says the source familiar with the investigation. "They're not just holding the person's life in their hands. They're holding their salvation and eternal life in their hands."

One Order member says that the group is praying for Kingston and Isaiah; it's long been persecuted for its way of life by the mainstream Mormon power structure that runs the state, and this trial is no different. Regardless of what happens with the case, the clan believes, the work of God won't be slowed, and his kingdom on Earth will be restored.


Leader of La Luz del Mundo megachurch pleads not guilty to sex abuse counts

Naason Joaquin Garcia, the leader of fundamentalist Mexico-based church La Luz del Mundo listens to a court appointed translator in Los Angeles County Superior Court
Los Angeles Times
June 21, 2019

Naason Joaquin Garcia, the leader of La Luz del Mundo megachurch, pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple counts of sex abuse at an arraignment and bail review hearing.

The other detained co-defendants in the case, Alondra Ocampo, 36, and Susana Medina Oaxaca, 24, also entered not guilty pleas in Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles.

Both of them are affiliated with La Luz del Mundo and with Garcia and another defendant are alleged to have committed 26 felonies in L.A. County between 2015 and 2018, including human trafficking, production of child pornography and forcible rape of a minor. The other defendant, Azalea Rangel Melendez, is still at large.

Judge Teresa Sullivan decided not to make immediate changes to Garcia’s and Ocampo’s bail, which are set at $50 million and $25 million, respectively, saying that there appears to still be “ongoing investigation” into alleged criminal activity pertaining to the defendants. She reduced Oaxaca’s bail from $5 million to $150,000 and said she would be detained under house arrest after posting it..

At the hearing, state Deputy Atty. Gen. Amanda Plisner said that about 60 digital devices, including cellular phones, had been seized in the criminal investigation and that prosecutors are still in the process of reviewing those devices. But based on the information they acquired so far, she said it appears the allegations against the defendants are “much broader in scope” than the original criminal complaint indicates.

“There is this ongoing, institutional, multi-generational abuse going on,” she said.

Since charges were filed in early June by California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, church officials have mounted an aggressive and public defense of their leader — calling the allegations false. Many of Garcia’s followers continue to support their leader.

In a statement attached to a bail motion filed by Garcia’s attorneys, the church’s Council of Bishops reaffirmed “our complete moral support and belief in the innocence of the Apostle.”

The case will return to court on July 15 for further bail review.


Jun 23, 2019


The Ambash wives posing in front of the Knesset
JUNE 23, 2019

Ambash, a known polygamist, has 6 wives and 15 children, who despite reports of sadistic abuse, rape and violence, have never denounced him and in 2018 demanded a conjugal visit.

The wives of Daniel Ambash announced on Sunday they will create a new political party that will run for Knesset under the name "Kama," vowing to fight for promoting the status of the individual.

Daniel Ambash was sentenced to 26 years in prison in 2013 for sexual abuse and the detention of women and minors under conditions of slavery in Jerusalem area and in Tiberias.

Ambash, a known polygamist, has 6 wives and 15 children, who despite reports of sadistic abuse, rape and violence, have never denounced him and in 2018 demanded a conjugal visit.

"The State of Israel, which defines itself as the only democracy in the Middle East and boasts of statements about enlightenment, is thousands of light years away from these superlatives," said Aderet Ambash, the party's chairwoman.

"The state intereferes with the citizen's life more and more. When we are elected, we will introduce a series of laws and changes that will define the rights of the individual and the intervention of the state in his life, Aderet explained.

Aderet concluded by explaining that "We decided to establish a women's party without having the intention of depriving men of their rights. We are women who chose the Torah as a way of life and believe in values ​​of liberalism and freedom of the individual by virtue of the belief in "free choice.""


Jun 22, 2019

Yoga’s share in the multi-billion dollar fitness industry

JUNE 21, 2019

Yoga’s share in the fitness industry is huge – Yoga classes, Yoga apparel and accessories, and Yoga retreats, altogether make Yoga an $80 billion industry.

What was practiced by holy men in India to experience untethered spiritual awakening has traveled across the world, far and wide and has become a ubiquitous phenomenon. Yoga’s share in the fitness industry becomes apparent in the sheer number of yoga practitioners around the world. According to a 2016 research by Yoga Alliance, there are 300 million Yoga practitioners around the world with 36 million practitioners in the US alone. Yoga Alliance also noted that in 2016, there were more than 6000 Yoga studios in the US.

People pursue Yoga for different reasons- fitness, wellness or therapeutic. The esoteric practice of Yoga, which focuses on the harmony of the mind, body, and spirit however, remains to be carried forward by a handful of yogis. With the evolution of yoga, the focus of yoga for fitness and wellness has become more important than the spiritual aspect. This trend has ignited the modern practice of Yoga that also borrows teachings from other fitness styles such as Pilates and Barre.  Either way, Yoga’s share in the fitness industry – complete with yoga studios, yoga clothing and accessories, and yoga retreats, is surging and all kinds of yoga – power, Vinyasa, hot, cold and even beer yoga and goat yoga, is booming. A study showed that around $80 billion is spent on Yoga worldwide. The annual spending on yoga classes, clothing, and equipment is more than $16 billion.

Market research firm Technavio noted that the yoga mat business is expected to reach $14 billion in 2020. The US is the largest market for Yoga wear with estimated revenues of $27 billion a year and growing at 20%. The active bottoms and leggings market alone is reported to be $1billion industry according to NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen. Lululemon– the industry leader in Yoga clothing sold its first pair of Yoga leggings in 1998. Years later, Yoga leggings have found a place in almost every woman’s closet, even for women who haven’t tried Yoga. There was a time when Yoga leggings replaced jeans. In fact, in 2017, the US import for women’s knit pants surpassed that of jeans. The activewear industry has tried different tricks - anti-wrinkle, anti-stink, nylon-micro fiber, and other innovations to tap the surging activewear and Yoga wear industry.

India – the Yoga capital of the world

India is where Yoga originated. Over half of the 300 million Yoga practitioners of the world are of the Indian origin. Prime Minister of India re-branded Yoga by convincing the UN General Assembly to declare 21st June as the International Yoga Day. On this day, thousands across the word roll out their mats and practice yoga.

India and specifically Rishikesh is known as the Yoga capital of the world. According to Yogic lores, Hindu deity Lord Shiva was the first Yogi who practiced Yoga in the foothills of the Himalayas in Rishikesh. So, how did Yoga that was once practiced in dark caverns to seek divinity become a worldwide phenomenon?

A lot of credit can be given to Swami Vivekananda who is considered to be the first Indian to take Yoga to America. He wrote several books on Yoga, including the Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. Popularly addressed as the traveling monk, Swami Vivekananda traveled from Calcutta to the west in the 1800s, spreading and educating the west about Yoga.  He spoke about India and Hinduism at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, before embarking on an influential lecture tour in the States.

Later, several other monks and Yogis traveled across Europe and America and. The love affair with the East was born and so emanated the desire to experience the deep spiritualism that Yoga offers, among scores of people. In 1920, Paramhansa Yogananda traveled across the US imparting knowledge about Kriya Yoga and Yoga for spiritualism. He wrote several books, some of which are deemed as priceless pieces in Yogic education, including titles like “The journey to self-realization” and “Autobiography of a Yogi.”

Eventually, a steady flow of westerners voyaged to the East to learn Yoga in the many ashrams of India. The Beatles visit to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh in 1968 drew greater international attention towards Indian spiritualism and Yoga.


Fortune teller known as Psychic Jasmine accused of defrauding client of $200K

Chris Fox
June 20, 2019

A fortunate teller who used the pseudonym “Psychic Jasmine” is facing charges after she allegedly defrauded a client of approximately $200,000, Halton police say.

Police allege that the suspect advertised her services online and sometimes operated out of a storefront on Lakeshore Road in Oakville.

They say that the suspect defrauded one client of $200,000 by “preying upon their vulnerable situation” but left Oakville and relocated to Edmonton shortly after the alleged crime was reported to police in December, 2017.
Halton police say that the suspect was subsequently arrested and charged in Edmonton in connection with similar offences that occurred in that city.

On June 14, Halton Regional Police detectives went to Edmonton to take the suspect into custody.

Cynthia Burt, who went by the alias Jasmine Burt, is charged with one count of fraud over $5,000 and one count of harassing phone calls in connection with the Oakville investigation.

Halton police say that they believe there could be additional victims in the GTA who have not yet come forward.


Kingston doesn't want talk of polygamy or 'The Order' brought up at his trial


FÒX 13 News

JUNE 21, 2019, BY 

SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for Washakie Renewable Energy CEO Jacob Kingston are asking a federal judge to block government lawyers from bringing up talk of his church or polygamy at his upcoming trial.

In a motion recently filed in court and obtained by FOX 13, Kingston’s attorneys seek to bar the federal government from mentioning the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as “The Order.” They also seek to prohibit any mention of polygamy, which is practiced by some members of the fundamentalist Mormon group.

“Even assuming the polygamy evidence was relevant (which it is not), the risk of prejudice is even greater in this case considering how emotionally and politically charged the issue of polygamy is and has been in Utah. Accordingly, this Court should exclude any polygamy references by the government or its witnesses at trial,” attorneys Marc Agnifilio and Wally Bugden wrote.

Kingston, his wife, Sally; his mother, Rachel; his brother, Isaiah; and businessman Lev Dermen are all charged in what federal prosecutors have alleged is a massive scheme to bilk the IRS out of a billion dollars in renewable fuel tax credits. The case stems from a 2016 raid by the IRS on businesses and properties linked to the Kingston polygamous family. Civil lawsuits involving Washakie Renewable Energy have claimed the company produced no biofuels.

The Davis County Cooperative Society recently went to a federal appeals court to block the use of documents seized by federal authorities in that raid.

Judge Jill Parrish has scheduled a hearing next week on Kingston’s motion to block mention of the church or polygamy. The Kingstons and Dermen are slated to go on trial beginning at the end of July.


Nxivm Scam Is Dead, but 'Brainwashing' Pseudoscience Lives On

 James T. Richardson


Jun 21, 2019,

This history clearly shows why most courts in the United States are reticent to accept brainwashing theories today. The science underlying such claims is faulty, and courts have realized that accepting such claims undercuts the very basis of the legal system, which is that individuals are responsible for their own actions.

It took less than a day for a jury to find Nxivm founder Keith Laniere guilty of all charges, including racketeering and sex trafficking. While it appears from reports that both the “cult experts” and the Nxivm victims who testified at the trial abstained from using the term “brainwashing” in their testimonies, news coverage of Nxivm and the trial has frequently alleged that “brainwashing” was somehow involved.

On June 14, the day that the subhead of a New York Times article asserted that, “Former Nxivm members testified they were brainwashed into being branded and assigned to have sex with him,” Kevin D. Williamson of the National Review published a short post titled, “There Is No Such Thing as ‘Brainwashing,’” in which he pointed out that the concept has “no scientific basis” and is generally regarded as “pseudoscience.” What his post does not mention, however, is that a long struggle between scholars culminated in the conclusion that the “brainwashing” thesis is unscientific and therefore is generally not admissible in trial testimony.     

In a 2018 Vice article flagged in Williamson’s post, author Sarah Berman lamented the fact that many juries had rejected so-called brainwashing testimony, but that portrayal is a serious misrepresentation of developments in this interesting legal arena. The piece is replete with claims that are not factual, including attempts to blame juries when in fact key decisions have been made by judges who disallow juries to even hear such testimony because it’s so biased. The general public from whence juries are selected has not soured on “brainwashing” testimony, but the court systems have come to understand the problematic nature of it. Why and how this situation has evolved is worth a corrective recounting.

“Brainwashing,” as Williamson notes, is a pseudo-scientific concept that has been used for decades as a social weapon against unpopular groups and causes since a CIA operative, Edward Hunter, first used it in the 1950s. His writings were an effort to convince America that some powerful and heretofore unknown and horrific techniques were being used against citizens in China with the takeover by the Chinese Communist Party. That was not true, and what happened there, and with a few GIs in Korea who refused to be repatriated for a time after the Korean War ended, is easily explicable using well-known concepts and processes from sociology and social psychology. No magical black box of “brainwashing” is needed.

It took a while for courts and judges to realize that those opposing new religions were duping them, and problematic brainwashing testimony did prevail at the trial court level in some early cases. However, most of those victories turned out to be hollow ones, as appeal courts overturned verdicts based on such flimsy and prejudicial evidence. Indeed, it’s ironic that in her piece Berman focused on clinical psychologist Margaret Singer (1921-2003), who testified in over 40 cases promoting brainwashing theories because she contributed directly to the demise of brainwashing-based evidence in courts in the United States. Singer’s efforts in two important federal cases in which she either tried to, or did, testify led directly to “brainwashing” testimony being disallowed in court cases in the federal system, and those two decisions were influential in deterring use of such testimony in state court cases as well.

The first is a civil case, Robert Kropinski v. World Plan Executive Council et al (1988), brought by some former members against Transcendental Meditation and its leaders claiming fraud. Singer testified for the plaintiffs, which resulted in a victory, including a modest monetary award. However, the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned it ordered a new trial. In that 1991 trial, Singer’s testimony was disallowed because it did not meet the evidentiary standard of testimony being generally accepted in relevant disciplines.

Then, in a key criminal case, United States v. Fishman (1990), Singer and sociologist Richard Ofshe, the two strongest proponents of “brainwashing” theories in legal actions, were seeking to testify on behalf of Stephen Fishman, who was charged with mail fraud. Fishman had been a member of the Church of Scientology and claimed he was “brainwashed” into committing certain acts. The judge in the case reviewed expert statements, especially one by psychologist Dick Anthony (who had also consulted in the Kropinski case and others), and then disallowed such testimony on the ground that it was not generally accepted within the relevant disciplines.


Note that brainwashing-based testimony was disallowed in both a civil and a criminal trial in the federal court system. Following those losses, the American Psychological Association, the largest professional organization of psychologists, also rebuffed Singer’s efforts on behalf of brainwashing. She instigated and headed a special task force of the APA to investigate brainwashing-based claims. When the report was submitted and reviewed by the APA, it was soundly rejected, with directions that the report was not to be cited as support for any such theories. The report, and the APA decision rejecting it, have been cited in subsequent court cases, contributing to the demise of such testimony in court cases.

Singer’s credibility was also brought into question by other related actions she and Ofshe took against a group of sociology, psychology, and religious studies scholars who disagreed with their efforts to promote brainwashing theories in courts. They sued a group of scholars (including this writer) in federal court in New York for allegedly violating federal racketeering statutes (RICO) as we used the mail and phones to discuss how to counter their efforts to promote pseudo-scientific theories in court. That suit was eventually dismissed but not before causing considerable trouble and expense for those scholars. Singer and Ofshe then refiled the suit in California state court as a libel action, but that too was eventually dismissed, and Singer and Ofshe were ordered to pay the costs incurred for those being sued.

This history clearly shows why most courts in the United States are reticent to accept such theories today. The science underlying such claims is faulty, and courts have realized that accepting such claims undercuts the very basis of the legal system, which is that individuals are responsible for their own actions. Brainwashing-based claims have too often been used as an excuse to explain what is better described as poor decisions on the part of those using such claims to justify their actions.

Certainly those promoting brainwashing-based theories in court will continue to make such efforts and to change the language they use to get these notions accepted by the courts. And they may have occasional successes, given the strong anti-cult biases that exist in the populace and even among some judges. But the fact remains that brainwashing and related terms like “mind control” are pseudo-scientific concepts that are more of an “account” developed to justify previous actions now considered to be ill-advised. Brainwashing-based accounts may serve well to justify decisions now thought to be bad ones to friends and family, but courts should continue to treat them as scientifically invalid concepts.



Jun 21, 2019

Self-Proclaimed 'Sinful Messiah' Sexually Abused Dozens While Leading Polygamist Doomsday Cult

People Magazine Investigates: Cults: The Sinful Messiah airs on Investigation Discovery on Monday, June 24, at 8 p.m. ET.

Chris Harris
June 21, 2019

For three decades, a man who was born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn led an apocalyptic polygamist cult in Connecticut with hundreds of followers who helped him build an ill-fated multimillion-dollar real estate empire.

A convert to Christianity, bearded Brother Julius Schacknow declared himself the second coming of Jesus in 1971, and subsequently used these claims to beguile his female followers into sexual liaisons, calling the carnal acts “God’s work.”

Before his death in 1996 at the age of 71, Schacknow was the father of five, the husband to seven, and had shattered the lives of dozens of his acolytes — many of whom lodged sexual assault allegations against him.

Schacknow’s unlikely rise to power, punctuated by the murder and dismemberment of his faithful “chief apostle,” is the focus of the next episode of People Magazine Investigates: Cults: The Sinful Messiah, which airs on Investigation Discovery on Monday, June 24, at 8 p.m. ET.

Based in the Connecticut suburbs, Schacknow’s group was known as The Work.

According to former members, Schacknow arranged marriages between many of his followers, and systematically brainwashed members into believing they had to sever their relationships with those outside the insular group.
Slave labor was pervasive in The Work.

Having sex with the “Sinful Messiah,” Schacknow preached, was the only way one could achieve eternal salvation.

He’s said to have preyed on all of the women within his secretive sect, and Schacknow was even accused by a stepdaughter of sexual molestation: She alleged it started when she was 11 and didn’t stop until she was 18.

Brother Julius’ closest confidants were married couple Paul and Joanne Sweetman, who assumed control over the group soon after his death. In 2004, Paul vanished — allegedly murdered and dismembered by two longtime members of The Work.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

It wouldn’t be until 2014 that police would find one of Sweetman’s leg bones buried at a golf course. Four years later, Rudy Hannon, 72, and Sorek Minery, 42, were charged with the killing.

Both have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
Their lawyers were unavailable for comment.

Court records indicate that Minery told police that, in the months leading up to the killing, Hannon tried convincing him Sweetman “needed to be killed because he was hurting his wife, Joanne Sweetman, and that God would have wanted them to kill Sweetman.”

People Magazine Investigates: Cults: The Sinful Messiah airs on Investigation Discovery on Monday, June 24, at 8 p.m. ET.


Blue Bulletin Campaign

Homeland Security: Blue Campaign is a national public awareness campaign, to recognize the indicators of human rafficking

Blue Campaign is a national public awareness campaign, designed to educate the public, law enforcement and other industry partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking, and how to appropriately respond to possible cases. Blue Campaign works closely with DHS Components to create general awareness training and materials for law enforcement and others to increase detection of human trafficking, and to identify victims.

Located within the Office of Partnership and Engagement, Blue Campaign leverages partnerships with the private sector, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), law enforcement and state/local authorities to maximize national public engagement on anti-human trafficking efforts. Blue Campaign’s educational awareness objectives consists of two foundational elements, prevention of human trafficking and protection of exploited persons.

To report suspected human trafficking: 1-866-347-2423

To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline:

or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

The guru who introduced Transcendental Meditation to the west died on 5 February aged 91. He's remembered by the renowned spiritual writer, a close friend for more than 20 years

Deepak Chopra
The Guardian
Dec 13, 2008

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

The guru who introduced Transcendental Meditation to the west died on 5 February aged 91. He's remembered by the renowned spiritual writer, a close friend for more than 20 years

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi started out as one kind of cultural curiosity - a lone Hindu monk who aimed to teach meditation to the world - and ended up as a different kind of cultural curiosity: the one-time guru to the Beatles. He came remarkably close to fulfilling his original intent. Millions of westerners learned Transcendental Meditation (TM), and a new word, 'mantra', was added to the English language. He survived long after the departure of the Fab Four, who decamped almost as soon as they sniffed the thin air of Maharishi's Himalayan retreat (excluding George Harrison, who turned into a genuine seeker and quiet ally).

Maharishi owed his survival to two things. He was sincerely a guru, a 'dispeller of darkness', who had the good of the world at heart, despite the wags who turned TM into the McDonald's of meditation and the caricatures that morphed his white-bearded image into a pop cliché. Sincerity would have served him little if Maharishi hadn't also been a gifted teacher of India's ancient tradition of Vedanta. Many visitors who came to gawk went away moved by both qualities.

Beginning in the mid-Eighties, I had the opportunity to know Maharishi as a friend. Whenever my medical practice permitted, I joined his inner circle. It wasn't necessary to be reverent in his presence. He made a point of not being seen as a religious figure but as a teacher of consciousness. Of the many memories I could offer, here is the most intense ... Maharishi had fallen mysteriously and gravely ill on a visit to India in 1991. My father, a prominent cardiologist in New Delhi, ordered him to be rushed to England for emergency care. Soon, I was standing outside the London Heart Hospital, watching an ambulance navigate the snarled traffic, sirens wailing.

Just before it arrived on the hospital's doorstep, one of the accompanying doctors ran up with the news that Maharishi had suddenly died. I rushed to the ambulance, picking up Maharishi's body - he was frail and light by this time - and carrying him in my arms through London traffic.

I laid him on the floor inside the hospital's doors and called for a cardio assist. Within minutes he was revived and rushed to intensive care on a respirator and fitted with a pacemaker that took over his heartbeat.

I became his primary caretaker during this crisis, tending to him personally at a private home outside London. It quickly became apparent that he was totally indifferent to his illness, and there was an astonishingly rapid recovery. The hospital expected lasting health problems, but there were apparently none. Within a few months Maharishi was back to his round-the-clock schedule - he rarely slept more than three or four hours a night. When I approached him one day to remind him to take his medications, he gave me a penetrating look. In it I read a message: 'Do you really think I am this body?' For me, that was a startling moment, a clue about what higher consciousness may actually be like.

As he saw himself, Maharishi knew that he had come tantalisingly close to changing the world, as close as any non-politician can who doesn't wage war. He held that humanity could be saved from destruction only by raising collective consciousness. In that sense he was the first person to talk about tipping points and critical mass. If enough people meditated and turned into peaceful citizens of the world, Maharishi believed, walls of ignorance and hatred would fall as decisively as the Berlin Wall. This was his core teaching in the post-Beatles phase of his long career before he died peacefully in seclusion in Holland, at the age of about 91, his following much shrunken, his optimism still intact.