Jan 16, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 1/16/2020

Event, Coercive Control, Shambhala Mountain Center, Video, Sexual Abuse, Ram Dass, Mormon, Legal, Bentinho Massaro

Earn 6 CE hours and learn how we can heal and protect our communities. Join host Debby Schriver and Steve Eichel, Dylesia Barner, Lorna Goldberg, Alsandria R., Bill Goldberg, and Ragan Schriver in a day of learning and discussion tailored to professionals who serve our communities—counselors, law enforcement officials, social workers, legal professionals.

DATE: February 22, 2020
TIME: 8:30am–4:30pm
LOCATION: Tennessee State Museum, 1000 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Nashville, TN 37208
SPONSORS: The University of Tennessee College of Social Work, The International Cultic Studies Association

"For months, Chapman News has been investigating an interterm travel course at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado. Today we bring you a special report that raises questions about student safety."

Matthew Remski: Quotes from Ram Dass That Fit the Pattern of Spiritualizing Sexual Abuse in Yoga
" ... Dass has an entire chapter in the book called "Krishna Play" (loc. 4661). Here's how he introduces it:

IT SEEMS AT ONCE surprising and obvious to note that Maharajji was quite different in the quality of his relationship with men and with women. With men he hung out and gossiped, scolded, and guided—as friend, father, and sage. With the women, on the other hand, in addition to those roles, he seemed frequently to assume roles like that of Krishna, as child and playmate and lover. Such play on Maharajji's part of course created some consternation and confusion among devotees and also grounds for criticism on the part of people who did not like or trust Maharajji. But for the women devotees who were directly involved with Maharajji in this way, his actions served as a catalyst to catapult them to God."

"The wife of an Oregon man serving a 15-year prison sentence for sexually abusing the couple's daughter has filed a $9.5 million lawsuit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, saying a clergy member violated a promise of confidentiality by reporting her husband to authorities.

The husband told a local church panel about the molestation in 2016 to "repent for his sins" under the eyes of God and to seek spiritual healing "to bring peace within his life and family," the lawsuit says. Instead, he was arrested and charged in 2017 and convicted in 2018 of four counts of second-degree sexual abuse."

"'Spiritual influencers' are flourishing online. Their model is built on recruiting eager followers – but what happens when they attract vulnerable people?"
"Towards the end of 2017, Bentinho Massaro, a 29-year-old self-styled spiritual teacher with a considerable online following, chose the town of Sedona, Arizona, as the location for a 12-day-long spiritual bootcamp. Among the red sandstone cliffs that rise like temples from the desert floor, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Dutchman offered to guide his most dedicated adherents towards communion with a higher life force, or in his words, "the absolute truth of the one infinite creator".

For those who could afford the $1,199 ticket, this would be achieved through group meditation, self-inquiry and grape juice cleanse fasting. For those who couldn't, enlightenment would be available for a reduced price online via livestream.

Over the preceding seven years, Bentinho had built a near half-million-strong following on the internet. On YouTube (86,000 subscribers), he uploaded lengthy "third eye power" meditations to help followers "activate their pineal gland". On Facebook (300,000 followers), he offered advice on how to maintain intimate and empowering relationships. His Instagram feed (32,000 followers) rendered a "super accelerated" lifestyle of adventure sports, international travel and cigar smoking.

The Sedona Experiment II, as the retreat was called, was set to be an intense distillation of Bentinho's most profound teachings. But a few days before the retreat started, an independent journalist named Be Scofield self-published an article on Medium claiming that Bentinho was using his social media nous to foster a cult-like following. His content, she alleged, encouraged devotees to abandon critical thinking and embrace Bentinho as a God-like figure.

This was not the first time Bentinho had come under scrutiny. Some detractors occasionally accused him of using his platforms to hook vulnerable seekers into endless engagement and blind support. And he did peddle some fringe ideas, like his plan to build a fully enlightened society by 2035, or his belief that he vibrated at a higher frequency than other humans. But for the most part, his followers consumed his content with relish. Though most had never met Bentinho in person, he became a daily, intimate presence in their lives. He was their spiritual influencer and they were his devotional fandom.

The 12-day Sedona retreat started on 4 December 2017. Around halfway through, tragedy struck. A longtime devotee was found in a river at the bottom of a ravine, a few miles from where the retreat was taking place. A suicide note was found in his Toyota, parked 225ft above, beside an overhanging bridge.

As news spread, Bentinho's well-crafted online image began to unravel. Was it possible, some of his most loyal followers began to ask, that Bentinho was the digital incarnation of the manipulative guru, his powers amplified by the vortex-like suck of social media?"

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Selection of articles for CultNEWS101 does not mean that Patrick Ryan or Joseph Kelly agree with the content. We provide information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue.

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