May 14, 2021

Cult leader and murder convict Ruben Ecleo Jr. dies

Cult leader and former lawmaker Ruben Ecleo Jr. was arrested in San Fernando, Pampanga in August 2020 for earlier convictions for graft and his wife's slay. ABS-CBN News/File
ABS-CBN News
May 13 2021

MANILA (UPDATE) - Convicted murderer and cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. died Thursday afternoon due to cardiopulmonary arrest, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) said. He was 61.

BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said the former Dinagat Islands representative died at 12:20 p.m. at the New Bilibid Prison Hospital. He said the convict's relatives have been informed about his death.

Ecleo had just recovered from COVID-19 a week ago. He also had obstructive jaundice and kidney disease secondary to obstructive uropathy, according to the BuCor spokesperson.

“Last week ay confined siya sa Dr. Sabili General Hospital, Taguig City pero naka-recover siya at ibinalik sa Bilibid. This time ay na-cardiac arrest siya," he told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

(Last week he was confined at the Dr. Sabili General Hospital, Taguig City but he recovered and was returned to Bilibid. This time he had cardiac arrest.)

Considered as the country's most wanted man for years, Ecleo was arrested in late July last year and transferred to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City in August for earlier criminal convictions.

Ecleo was the former supreme leader of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), which was founded by his father in 1965.

He was convicted of graft in 2006 for the anomalous construction of a public market and town hall, and repairs of his cult's building in San Jose, Dinagat Islands when he was mayor there in the early '90s. He was sentenced to 31 years for this crime.

He was dropped from the rolls of the House of Representatives in 2012 for his 2006 graft conviction.

In the same year, Ecleo was sentenced to life imprisonment for the slay of his wife in Cebu City in 2002. He strangled his wife to death in their home and dumped her at a ravine in Dalaguete town south of the city. Her body was found three days later.

— report from Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News

https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/05/13/21/ruben-ecleo-jr-cult-leader-dies-bilibid

Meet the sociologist who left his Chabad community and wrote a pathbreaking study of ex-Hasidim

Schneur Zalman Newfield
Jordan Kutzik
Forward
May 13, 2021

When Schneur Zalman Newfield studied at Chabad yeshivas, everyone thought he was a pious young man who had little knowledge of the outside world. They couldn’t have imagined that Newfield had secretly assembled a stash of contraband books - modern Yiddish literature, science and history texts and even Russian novels - which he feared would lead to his expulsion.

The scenario might sound like something you’d read in the memoirs of a Jewish intellectual raised before the Russian revolution. But Schneur Zalman Newfield is still in his 30s. Born in Brooklyn in 1982 and brought up in the Lubavitch bastion of Crown Heights, today he is an assistant professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College who specializes in the sociology of religious communities. His monograph, “Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism,” is the first sizable scholarly study of ex-Hasidic Jews by someone who has left a Hasidic community.

Like many Lubavitch Hasidim, Newfield’s parents are baalei-tshuva or Jews who became religious later in life. His father, Shlomo, is a dermatologist who graduated from Columbia and earned his medical degree from Harvard. His mother, Basha, went to Queens College. Despite his parents’ academic backgrounds, they sent him to religious schools and yeshivas where no secular studies were taught. Although he spoke English at home, he could read only Yiddish and Hebrew.

A trip to the post office would launch a sequence of events that altered Newfield’s path in life. When he was 14, his father took him to apply for a passport. As he was unable to read or write in English, Newfield’s father filled out the paperwork for him, but the post office worker wouldn’t allow someone else to sign it. Newfield’s father showed him how to write his name and had him practice several times until he could do it himself. Realizing he was limited by his illiteracy in English, Newfield decided to learn how to read and write in his mother tongue.

His uncle, Jeff Janus, to whom he would later dedicate his book, “Degrees of Separation,” tutored him in writing and gave him elementary English primers. Within a few years, Newfield graduated to more sophisticated material, devouring classics such as Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” and what he described to me only half-jokingly as “goyishe bikher” (gentile books) - masterworks of Yiddish literature by Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

“The more secular literature and history I read, the more interested I became in learning further,” Newfield said. “I had a thirst to learn about the outside world and others’ beliefs.”

Before Newfield was 23, he had seen more of the world than most Americans. Besides attending yeshivas in Miami, Chicago, Morristown (New Jersey), Crown Heights and Buenos Aires, he had spent a summer as a shaliach, or religious emissary, in Singapore and visited Russia, Paraguay, Australia and Vietnam.

“But I was always in spaces where the ‘Lubavitch bubble’ was dominant,” he noted.

Like most of the 74 ex-Hasidim Newfield interviewed, no one event led him to leave his community. Ideas he encountered in books played a role, as did the death of the movement’s charismatic Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whom Lubavitchers saw as a likely Messiah. In Singapore he befriended Rabbi Dr. Rachel Safman, a professor of sociology who stirred his interest in the social sciences. After earning his GED at 21, Newfield attended Brooklyn College and earned a PhD from NYU. Reading sociological studies of “religious exiters,” Newfield notes in “Degrees of Separation,” “stopped me in my tracks and ultimately led to this book.”

In “Degrees of Separation,” which compares the experiences of Lubavitch and Satmar “exiters,” Newfield argues that even when those raised Hasidic leave the community physically, mentally they can never make a complete break from it. The values, beliefs and habits with which they were raised continue to color every aspect of their lives, from how they understand human relations to mundane actions like how they tie their shoes. Newfield notes that ultimately ex-Hasidim live in an “in-between state” even years after leaving.

Coming from the community he was studying presented Newfield with both advantages and challenges. Newfield’s fluency in Yiddish and familiarity with Hasidic life proved invaluable for his research. However, he had to be careful not to project his own experiences onto his interviewees. In some cases, his Chabad background may have made his Lubavitch informants hesitant to divulge certain sensitive details, especially those involving sexual abuse.

One striking aspect of Newfield’s research is his examination of the different measures the Satmar and Lubavitch communities take to prevent members from leaving. While Satmar Hasidim aim to isolate themselves, building exclusively Satmar towns like Kiryas Joel, Lubavitch Hasidim live in what Newfield terms the “Lubavitch bubble” or “Global Lubavitch.” Far from being insular, they have regular contact with less religious Jews because of the community’s outreach work. That doesn’t mean, however, that Lubavitch Hasidim necessarily accept a child’s decision to leave the community.

One informant, Dina, the daughter of Chabad emissaries, told Newfield that her parents are accepting of all Jews, secular or religious. Yet, her own decision to leave the community was beyond the pale for them.

Newfield explained that the contradiction stems from the fact that a non-Lubavitch Jew who visits Crown Heights or Chabad outposts elsewhere is thought of as “a child who was born among the gentiles.” Therefore he can’t be blamed for not knowing better.

“But if an ‘eygene’, an ‘undzere’ [both terms mean roughly ‘one of our own’], wants to leave, it’s a real problem,” Newfield said. “How can it be that people who saw the light, who know the beauty and warmth of the Hasidic lifestyle, how can they decide that they want to live a non-Orthodox lifestyle? It’s an existential threat and they have to be isolated and handled in some way so as not to contaminate the community.”

No matter how harsh the response to Lubavitch “exiters,” it’s often mild compared to what Satmar “exiters” face.

“The threat of kicking children out of a Lubavitch yeshiva because of the parents’ violations is unheard of,” Newfield said. Satmar Hasidim, however, do try to curb their neighbors’ behaviors with the threat of expulsion. A woman who begins wearing less conservative clothing or a man who trims his beard too much may be warned that if they don’t change their ways their children will be expelled from the community’s religious schools.

“The schools work in cahoots,” Newfield said. “If the kids are kicked out of one school, other schools won’t accept them. If the parents want their kids to go to Hasidic schools, they will have to move. It’s a way of kicking a family out of the community even if it’s not articulated that way.”

In divorce cases, the community frequently raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure that “exiters” don’t get full custody of their children.

The mother of one of his subjects, Mrs. Grossbaum, told Newfield that the community is not “democratic” enough to accept a mother’s decision to leave the community and take her child with her. If such a case ends up in court, Mrs. Grossbaum said, a secular judge won’t accept the explanation that the father and his community are fighting for the child’s future. Instead, Grossbaum added, the best option for the community is for someone to testify that the “exiter” has mental-health issues and the children therefore cannot live with her.

For many community members, this isn’t perjury—leaving the community is considered a sign of mental illness. And if an “exiter” is deemed sane, it’s often assumed he comes from a broken home or has suffered sexual abuse. While five of Newfield’s subjects did report having been sexually abused, most did not cite it as their primary reason for leaving.

Despite the retaliation some community leavers face, Newfield told me that nearly all of the 74 ex-Hasidim he interviewed remain in contact with their families.

“There’s a widespread misconception that Hasidim excommunicate or shun those who leave and cut off all communication,” Newfield said. “That’s not the case at all. Most families maintain ties.”

Newfield himself is close with his parents and siblings.
Authors
Jordan Kutzik

Jordan Kutzik is the deputy editor of the Yiddish Forward. Contact him at kutzik@forward.com.



https://forward.com/culture/469508/meet-the-sociologist-who-left-his-chabad-community-and-wrote-a/

May 13, 2021

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How the Model of Money Laundering Can Help Us Understand Abuse within 3HO

Philip Deslippe
Sacred Matters
MAY 2, 2021


In April 2016, an elderly woman in China was photographed kneeling and burning incense before a statue that she assumed was the deified third-century general Guan Yu, but was actually of Garen, a character from the video game League of Legends being used to promote a local internet café. Nine months later, a Brazilian grandmother learned that the statue of Saint Anthony of Padua that she prayed to every night for years was actually of the elvish Lord Elrond from a movie adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Both of these stories went viral as humorous and harmless cases of misplaced devotion, and many online commentators offered responses to them that were both kind and non-dogmatic. If someone was sincere in their devotion, they argued, does it really matter if the object of that devotion was not exactly what it was supposed to be? A much more serious and profound shift occurs in the wake of revelations of abuse within a spiritual community. To learn that a religious or spiritual authority abused those under their care is an acute violation of trust with few parallels.

Revelations of sexual abuse have emerged in a wide range of religious communities—Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist—but seem to be especially rife within the yoga world which has seen scandals involving sexual assault and misconduct involving leading figures including, but not limited to, Krishna Pattabhi Jois, Amrit Desai, Kausthub Desikachar, Swami Rama, Swami Satchidananda, Bikram Choudhury, and Swami Vishnudevananda. The question of which prominent yoga teachers have been involved in scandals of abuse and misconduct seems to have given way to a new question that is both hyperbolic and yet all too realistic: which prominent yoga teacher has not been involved in scandals of abuse and misconduct?

Within this ignoble list is the late Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004). Born Harbhajan Singh Puri in modern-day Pakistan, Yogi Bhajan was a former customs officer at New Delhi’s Palim Airport before coming to Los Angeles via Canada in late-1968. He found an eager audience of young spiritual seekers and began teaching them a form of yoga he called Kundalini Yoga that he claimed was ancient and previously secret. His students spread his yoga throughout the United States and Europe, lived communally in ashrams, founded businesses, and started converting to Sikhism. By the time of his death in 2004, the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization or 3HO that he founded 35 years earlier had become an umbrella over a vast and unique empire of New Age spirituality and yoga, Sikhism, and capitalist enterprises that included companies like Yogi Tea and Akal Security.

Controversy and criticism shadowed Yogi Bhajan from his arrival in the United States. During the late-Sixties, talk of his abuse and misconduct spread by word-of-mouth among former students. In the late-Seventies, a book-length criticism of Yogi Bhajan titled Sikhism and Tantric Yoga was published at the same time an article in Time Magazine criticized his “synthetic Sikhism.” The Eighties and Nineties saw numerous lawsuits against Yogi Bhajan for sexual and psychological abuse and the arrest of numerous members of 3HO for a host of criminal activities, all of which were reported in newspapers. For several decades now, there have been online forums for ex-members of 3HO that have hosted discussions of the misdeeds of Yogi Bhajan and abuse within 3HO boarding schools at length and in great detail.

In early-2020, a self-published memoir by one of Yogi Bhajan’s former personal secretaries, Pamela Dyson (known as Premka in 3HO), was released and recounted her abusive sexual relationship with him. A social media page initially dedicated to promoting and discussing the memoir quickly became a forum for several other women to tell their own stories of abuse at the hands of Yogi Bhajan. Zoom meetings within 3HO were inundated with second-generation members telling their own stories of abuse by Yogi Bhajan and within 3HO institutions. An investigative report was commissioned by the Siri Singh Sahib Corporation, and its findings released in August concluded that “more likely than not” Yogi Bhajan repeatedly carried out a wide range of abuses for decades including rape, sexual harassment, and grooming of underage women.

Denying, Rejecting, and Calculating the Harm within 3HO

Over the last year and a half, the widespread revelations of abuse and misconduct by Yogi Bhajan have created three main groups of members and ex-members of 3HO. The first group could be described as double-downers: those who have denied or dismissed claims of abuse and reaffirmed their beliefs in their late spiritual leader. They drew their reasoning from 3HO teachings and Yogi Bhajan’s lectures as they discredited those making accusations against Yogi Bhajan as “slanderers” and placed Yogi Bhajan beyond comprehension or reproach. The report by An Olive Branch included quotes from some of these supporters who claimed that Yogi Bhajan was “a divine master… like Christ or the Buddha” and “operating from a different level of consciousness.”

At the other end are those who completely rejected 3HO and Yogi Bhajan after becoming aware of abuse and misconduct. Many stopped teaching or practicing Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini Yoga altogether, and some dramatically filmed themselves burning their old yoga manuals and pictures of their former late teacher. Some not only rejected Bhajan and 3HO but saw their identities as Sikhs as being entangled with an indefensible teacher and organization, and so they cut their hair, let go of the 3HO version of Sikh dress or bana, and changed their surnames from “Khalsa” to those of their birth families.

In-between these two extremes are those who engage in what I have called “harm calculus,” a process by which members and ex-members of a spiritual community try to assign value to the harm done by a spiritual teacher or within a spiritual community and measure it against the perceived good created by that teacher and/or community. Most often, harm calculus is used to provide a rationale for members or the community at large to move forward and continue much of what they had previously done, but in a way that can encompass new revelations of abuse and misconduct while still remaining acceptable to the individual or organization.

For those involved with 3HO, the main calculations of harm have been done to continue the practice and teaching of Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini Yoga. With lucrative teacher training programs, along with organizations and individual careers dedicated to this particular form of yoga, there has been a pragmatic financial incentive to keep the yoga going. Yogi Bhajan’s once central role has been minimized, and individual teachings and 3HO organizations like the Kundalini Research Institute have instead centered the personal experiences of Kundalini Yoga practitioners, the pragmatic benefits and alleged scientific validity of the yoga, and foregrounded people of color and social justice issues in what some have termed “woke-washing.”

These three main perspectives of former and current members all rely on seeing Yogi Bhajan and 3HO in absolute terms. For double-downers who reject all claims of abuse, Yogi Bhajan and 3HO are unsullied and unambiguously good. For those who reject Yogi Bhajan, his teachings, and the organization he founded, it is all a “cult” or “con,” and an association with any of it is problematic.

Those who engage in harm calculus divide up Yogi Bhajan and 3HO into aspects that are discreetly good and bad. Yogi Bhajan was bad, but the yoga he taught or the conversions to Sikhi that he inspired were good. There were bad actors or elements, but they were limited in number or isolated to particular parts of the organization (such as an “inner circle”) and should be considered separate from what was good or from those with sincere intentions. But a close inspection of Yogi Bhajan’s teachings alongside his abuse and misconduct shows that his teachings were often inseparable from his misconduct and that his teachings often facilitated the abuse and misconduct.

One example of how intertwined these two elements are is Yogi Bhajan’s teaching that when a woman is pregnant the soul of the child enters the womb on the 120th day after conception. Within 3HO it has become a custom to celebrate the expecting mother on this day, although the origins of this concept and practice are described in vague terms as “ancient” or “yogic,” there are no parallels to it beyond Yogi Bhajan. The other part of the concept, that before the 120th day there is no significance to abortion because the fetus is simply “a piece of flesh” and the mother “can do whatever you like,” makes sense in light of what was revealed in the report by An Olive Branch: that Yogi Bhajan would force women he had impregnated to have abortions and would exercise “control over procreation” with other female followers.

Another example is with Yogi Bhajan’s claimed titles. In 2012, I wrote an article for the academic journal Sikh Formations about the creation of Yogi Bhajan’s yoga that suggested, with corresponding evidence and documentation, that his claims to being a Sikh religious authority, yoga master, and singular holder of a tantric lineage were spurious. Within a conclusion that was perhaps too conciliatory, I suggested that maybe the experience of practitioners was “the most honest and fruitful vantage from which to view” Kundalini Yoga and that individual experience could exist alongside Yogi Bhajan’s spurious claims.

As the statements from survivors posted online and included in the report by An Olive Branch make clear, these titles were not simply ornamental but played a critical role in Yogi Bhajan’s abusive and criminal behavior. Many felt obligated to obey the religious authority of the “Siri Singh Sahib,” thought that they could not understand the motives of an enlightened “Master of Kundalini Yoga,” or were enticed with the possibility that he would pass the mantle of “Mahan Tantric” on to them.

Neither of these three positions—the double-downers, those who reject 3HO and Yogi Bhajan completely, or those engaging in harm calculus—can fully encompass the complexity of 3HO or the systemic nature of the abuse carried out by Yogi Bhajan who used businesses, schools, spiritual teachings, and the power of his students’ personal lives, in matters of marriage and child-rearing to dress and personal hygiene, to facilitate his grooming, exploitation, and abuse.

Even more confusing is how in the light of revealed abuse, the reality of Yogi Bhajan and 3HO seems to have been completely opposite of their portrayal to students and the public. Yogi Bhajan offered himself to his students as helping provide guidance away from a decadent American society which one student described in the September 1977 issue of Sikh Dharma Brotherhood as consisting of “political, social, and economic corruption, sexual orgies, promiscuity, (and) de-humanization… where money and sex are two triumphant gods.” Each one of these claims could be applied to Yogi Bhajan.

Money Laundering

To see the abuse carried out by Yogi Bhajan as an aberration within a legitimate religious system would misread how that abuse was carried out in ways, unlike a religious system. To see the abuse as simply part of a larger con or to fall back into standard descriptions of 3HO as “a cult” is also a misreading of how 3HO operated, and the pointing towards “brainwashing” allows many who were complicit in abuse to avoid basic responsibility for the abuse that occurred.

Although unusual, I would suggest that one comparative model that can describe abuse within 3HO is money laundering, and in particular, the role of front businesses in money laundering operations. Money laundering is the solution to a problem that many criminal operations face regarding the money they generate. They are unable to openly declare the source of their revenue or pay taxes on it, and so spending money carries the risk of exposing the illegality of what they do or opening them to prosecution for tax evasion.

In simple terms, money laundering is the process of concealing the source of illicitly gained money and rendering it legitimate. This is usually done through a three-step process of placement (moving illicit money into a lawful financial system), layering (combining illicit and lawful funds), and integration (reintroducing the combined illicit and lawful funds into a legitimate asset or financial system). A central component to all three steps of money laundering is a front business, or a legal operation that illicit money can be put into and that then facilitates the layering and integration of that money.

A simple example of money laundering would be a drug dealer who uses the money gained through drugs to purchase a pizzeria. By using (and inflating) the revenue generated by the pizzeria, the drug dealer has a legitimate reason for their wealth, can pay taxes on that money, and is free to openly spend it.

According to interviews I conducted with two of his first hosts in Los Angeles, Yogi Bhajan arrived in the United States not on a spiritual mission, but with hopes of starting an import-export business and avoiding a woman he impregnated in Canada. From Dyson’s memoir, we know that he was sexually assaulting women from the very beginning of his time as a yoga instructor. It is not difficult to see his actions, combined with his constructed claims to be a yoga master, as a form of placement: an abuser finding a role that facilitated and obscured that abuse like a criminal moves money into a legitimate business.

The constant claiming of titles by Yogi Bhajan, his defining of his own unique role as a spiritual leader and strict, incomprehensible “Saturn teacher,” and the endless photo-ops and association with various religious and political leaders could all be seen as a form of layering that allowed for a respectable religious cover to his person and behavior. Integration would occur as Yogi Bhajan used his position and the infrastructure of 3HO to engage in abuse and misconduct, both in private and in the open. Through the systems he established, Yogi Bhajan could wear floor-length mink coats and gaudy jewelry and be seen as spiritual, not corrupt, or scream at and kick students and be seen as wise and compassionate, but not angry and abusive.

It is common to joke that businesses that are run down, have few customers, and have little visible revenue are fronts for money laundering. However, the more viable a front business is, the more efficiently it can facilitate the laundering of money and provide cover to the criminal operation behind it. The legitimate support the illegitimate in money laundering; the two are not opposed to each other.

While there were certainly people within 3HO who knew of Yogi Bhajan’s abuse and misconduct, and some who actively aided it, the systems that facilitated that abuse would not have been possible without also having members believe in them. The summer camps for women that provided Yogi Bhajan a venue for grooming and abuse, for example, could only happen with a majority of attendees believing that they were doing something good and spiritual by attending, and encouraging others to join them. This is perhaps one of the most complicated and difficult elements of unraveling the abuse and misconduct of Yogi Bhajan and 3HO: that the sincere beliefs and practices of many within 3HO were also helping to fund, facilitate, and protect crime and abuse. Naivety and complicity easily co-existed.

When I first read about the efforts to groom a child of ten and then sixteen years old through shopping sprees and Chanel dresses, I immediately wondered where that money came from, and if some of it came from the ten percent of their income that Yogi Bhajan’s students dutifully offered to him and his organization as “Dasvandh,” a twisting of the traditional Sikh practice of literally giving “a tenth part” of one’s earnings to charity and the community. Similarly, the Los Angeles-based Guru Ram Das Enterprises, one of 3HO’s “dharmic” businesses that were staffed by low-paid students and later acknowledged by numerous former employees as a fraudulent telemarketing boiler room, was used to maintain a slush fund for entertaining guests and providing services for Yogi Bhajan and his personal secretaries.

There were pragmatic reasons why some of those who suffered abuse by Yogi Bhajan and within 3HO did not leave. Many had their families, friends, jobs, as well as their spiritual aspirations tied up with the group, and members of the second generation of 3HO who were born and raised in the group, and were often children when they were abused, lacked the basic resources and autonomy needed to get out. One common barrier throughout Yogi Bhajan’s life and after his death was the wall of denial survivors faced from family and community members who refused to believe that such things were possible or enfolded them back into Yogi Bhajan’s teachings like so many “bounded choices.” Sincere belief surrounded and protected Yogi Bhajan like so many of the students he placed on his personal security detail.

Conclusion

In a 2016 piece for Religion Dispatches, Professor Andrea Jain cautioned against calling the settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bikram Choudhury (among several other claims and lawsuits of rape and sexual harassment against him) another “guru scandal.” According to Jain, “corruption is found in all forms of authoritarianism” and “the assumption that corruption is somehow inherent in (the guru) model betrays an orientalist stereotype of South Asians, their religions, and other cultural products as despotic in contrast to white, so-called democratic religions or cultures.” The consistent inclusion of non-South Asians within “guru scandals” in the United States for over a century—from William Latson and Pierre Bernard in the 1910s to Jon Friend, Manouso Manos, and Ruth Lauer-Manenti in recent years—shows that the responses are not entirely reducible to simple racist, xenophobic, or orientalist views towards South Asia.

One example cited by Jain of the erroneous assumption that the “guru model” is problematic for its inherently undemocratic tendencies” was the 1993 book The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. I interviewed Kramer and Alstad in 2011. In the course of our hour-long conversation, they discussed how the premise of The Guru Papers was not just a matter of abstract theorizing or stereotyping, but was built upon a large number of testimonies they had received from friends and informants who had directly experienced abuse from various spiritual teachers, including Yogi Bhajan.

Kramer and Alstad did not simply rail against fraudulent spiritual leaders, nor was their thesis only that the type of unrestrained spiritual leadership held by gurus in the West was an extreme and emblematic form of authoritarianism. They argued that gurus held a uniquely unrestricted form of power that was reinforced by the assumption that they were “totally immune from the corruptions of power.”

I was quoted for an article in Los Angeles Magazine that Yogi Bhajan “will be remembered like a Harvey Weinstein or a Jerry Sandusky of yoga,” but there is something distinct about the revelations of abuse carried out by Yogi Bhajan. Few people laud the merits of the films produced by Weinstein or the coaching of Sandusky isolated from their criminal behavior or attempt to justify their actions. Who would dare suggest that Harvey Weinstein was attempting to make Salma Hayek a better actress through his abuse, or that Jerry Sandusky was a different person as an abuser than as a coach? But that absurdity is common with those who continue to espouse the yoga taught by Yogi Bhajan.

The abuse carried out by spiritual leaders such as Yogi Bhajan is exploitation done by someone who by their ability to define their actions can constantly claim abuse and misconduct to be something other than what it is: mistreatment as affection, abuse as upliftment, or suffering in the real world as a fulfillment of unseen karma. Some of the scholars who studied 3HO in its earliest years noted what I would come to learn through hundreds of conversations and formal interviews in a dozen years within 3HO and another dozen years studying it from the outside: that an inordinate percentage of people chose to enter 3HO and not some other path in life because they wanted to escape or heal from previous abuse and trauma. In a cruel irony, the dysfunctional childhood home, the rage-filled alcoholic parent, or the sexual abuser were replicated in the 3HO lifestyle or the person of Yogi Bhajan.

The sense of confusion and betrayal by many of these people has been shared by other current and former members of 3HO as the abuse and misconduct of Yogi Bhajan has been further revealed over the past year. The gulf between the outward claims of Yogi Bhajan and the reality of his behavior, and the complicated ways in which his organization and the sincere intentions of various members aided his abuse would seem to have few parallels, but it is not unlike learning that a business was actually a front used to launder money for a criminal.


Philip Deslippe is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has written articles for academic journals including Amerasia and the Journal of Yoga Studies, and pieces for popular outlets including Tricycle, Yoga Journal, and Scroll.in.

https://sacredmattersmagazine.com/how-the-model-of-money-laundering-can-help-us-understand-abuse-within-3ho/

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/13/2021

Mother of God, Orthodox Women, Germany, Anti-vaccination, Anti-Semitism, Podcast

Washington Post: She told followers she was 'Mother God.' Her mummified body was found wrapped in Christmas lights.
"Amy Carlson's body was mummified in a sleeping bag and wrapped in a cloth adorned with Christmas lights when Colorado sheriff's deputies found her last week. Glittered makeup decorated her face and around her eyes, according to law enforcement.

"The mummified remains appeared to be set up in some type of shrine," police said in an affidavit.

That shrine was allegedly erected by Carlson's followers in her religious group "Love Has Won," which some officials and former members have described as a cult. Carlson, 45, claimed she was "Mother God," 19 billion years old, a reincarnation of Jesus and could heal people of cancer "with the power of love," she said on "Dr. Phil" last year."
"Chava Herman Sharabani has been trying to obtain a get—or a divorce, according to Orthodox Jewish religious law—from her ex-husband, Naftali Sharabani, for 10 and a half years. The 30-year-old teacher lives in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn with her two children, and her marriage, as she describes it, was not a happy one. Herman Sharabani had been legally separated for a decade, but the get from the beth din, or the Jewish religious court, had been delayed.

According to tradition, it is the husband who initiates the process of issuing the get. Sharabani had left the family a decade earlier, according to Herman Sharabani and her lawyers, but she says he still refused to grant her a get. (Representatives for Naftali Sharabani did not respond to Vogue's request for comment.)

"Here I was for 10 and a half years, running after people, asking 'Can you help me? Is there anything to do?'" says Herman Sharbani. "And they're always like, 'I don't know. Call me in a week.'"

Chava Herman Sharabani has been waiting for her to get a religious divorce document, for 10 and a half years.

The process rendered Herman Sharabani an agunah, a woman who is trapped in a dead marriage, according to orthodox Jewish custom. (In Hebrew, the word is literally defined as "anchored" or "chained.") Without a get, an agunah woman cannot remarry or even date. "It was just a constant banging my head on the wall," says Herman Sharbani.

On Instagram, Herman Sharabani happened to see a DM conversation between the popular Jewish singer Dalia Oziel and a woman named Rifka Meyer, who runs a prominent sheitel (wig) salon in London. Meyer described how she had fought for a get for almost 10 years and only spoke out about her struggle recently. (Meyer received her get in September of 2020.) Seeing this conversation out in the open inspired Herman Sharabani."
"Last year, I felt lucky to be an American in Germany. The government carried out a comprehensive public-health response, and for the most part, people wore masks in public. More recently, COVID-19 cases have surged here, with new infections reaching a single-day zenith in late March. Germany has lagged behind the United States and the United Kingdom in vaccination efforts, and German public-health regulators have restricted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60, after seven cases of rare cerebral blood clots. Key public-health measures, particularly lockdowns and vaccination, have been divisive. Among some people, even the magnitude of the virus's infectious threat has been in question.

Over the past year, Germany's sprawling anti-lockdown movement has brought together a disquieting alliance of ordinary citizens, both left- and right-leaning, and extremists who see the pandemic response as part of a wider conspiracy. In August, nearly 40,000 protesters gathered in my neighborhood to oppose the government's public-health measures, including the closure of stores and mask mandates. It was unnerving to hear German chants of "Fascism in the guise of health" from my window, and all the more given that the same day, a subgroup of those protesters charged Parliament. In a moment presaging the U.S. Capitol insurrection, 400 German protesters, including a group carrying the Reichsflagge, emblematic of the Nazi regime, rushed past police and reached the building's stairs. Germany is riddled with QAnon adherents, some of whom are anti-vaccination, and some people are using this pandemic to articulate their anti-Semitic beliefs. They might deny COVID-19 exists, then play it down, and eventually blame 5G and Jewish people for the pandemic. In Bavaria, vaccine skeptics now use messages such as "Vaccination makes you free," an allusion to "Work makes you free," a horrific maxim of Nazi concentration camps.

Like the United States, Germany has a thriving anti-vaccination movement, and here it has encompassed conspiracy theorists, left-leaning spiritualists, and the far right. These last ties are the most troubling. In German-speaking lands, anti-science sentiment, right-wing politics, and racism have been entwined since even before Jews were accused of spreading the bubonic plague in the 14th century. These movements illustrate a grim truth: In both the past and the present, anti-science sentiments are inextricably tangled with racial prejudice.

Anti-vaccine movements are as old as vaccines, the scholar Jonathan M. Berman notes in his book, Anti-vaxxers, and what is striking, according to the author, is that early opponents at the turn of the 18th century believed that vaccination was "a foreign assault on traditional order." But beliefs linking anti-science sentiment and anti-Semitism were already deeply set. During the plague outbreak of 1712 and 1713, for instance, the city of Hamburg initiated public-health measures including forbidding Jews from entering or leaving the city, Philipp Osten, the director of Hamburg's Institute for History and Ethics of Medicine, told me. By the time cholera emerged in the 19th century, sickening thousands of people in the city within a matter of months, these antiquated ideas had taken on a new form.

Because this new disease was poorly understood, doctors, scientists, and laypeople promulgated competing theories about its spread. Some physicians blamed cholera on alcohol consumption, others on sadness or fear. Self-published pamphlets circulated misinformation much as social-media posts do today, and the public's understanding of the disease was capacious, in many cases reflecting people's anxieties. These ideas might have been innocuous enough on their own, but consummated through social movements and disinformation, they often posed a threat to people's lives. As the historian Richard J. Evans has noted in Death in Hamburg, some Germans blamed the spread of cholera on Jews. These sentiments then extended to other epidemics, and to the vaccination movement. By the middle of the 19th century, anti-Semitic propaganda leaflets were being written against smallpox vaccination.

When cholera reemerged with full force in Hamburg in the late 19th century, local officials—following the advice of the scientists Robert Koch and Max von Pettenkofer—proposed a bill of public-health regulations such as school closures, disinfection of waterways, and quarantine. This led to a national uproar among constituents who saw state-enforced health measures as a threat to the German economy—and this time an ad hoc coalition joined together to oppose such measures. The German National Economic Association argued that the bill interfered with economic trade and personal freedom. But the opposition was as much about ethnicity as economics.

Denying the need for public-health measures, including vaccination, slipped into tacitly implying that the disease would carry off the Jewish and the poor. Sometimes the calculation was explicit. A monthly magazine distributed by the German physician Gustav Jäger argued that the cholera epidemic would remove "weaklings" from the "better classes" of society. These words were code for the poor and for ethnic minorities, and not only do they link contagion to ableism, but they deny members of ethnic minority groups their humanity."

"When discussing the difference between nature and nurture (and the connection between the two), we have to acknowledge the ways in which human beings are hyper-wired for social relationships. This idea really comes to life when we discuss the subject of cults. In this episode your host Leslie sits down with cult expert and survivor Dr. Janja Lalich to talk about who gets into cults, and how."

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7 people charged after mummified body of spiritual leader found in Colorado home

7 people charged after mummified body of spiritual leader found in Colorado home
KTLA
Associated Press
May 12, 2021

Prosecutors have charged seven people after the mummified body of the leader of a spiritual group called Love Has Won was found decorated with Christmas lights and glitter in what appeared to be a shrine in a southern Colorado home.

Amy Carlson, 45, who was known as “Mother God” by her followers, was found dead in a home in the tiny, rural town of Moffat on April 28, according to arrest affidavits. Each of the defendants is facing charges related to tampering with or abusing a corpse as well as child abuse.

They appeared in court virtually Wednesday to be advised of the charges, which were filed May 6. A coroner’s office has not said how or when Carlson died.

One of Carlson’s followers, who has not been charged, told investigators that he took in the group because they needed a place to stay, and he found the body in a back bedroom when he returned home from a trip to Denver. He called police and said he believed the group had brought Carlson’s body to his home from California.

“The mummified remains appeared to be set up in some type of shrine” and “have what appears to be glitter type makeup on around the eyes,” according to the affidavits. Investigators searched an SUV on the property and said the backseat was laid down in a position “consistent with someone transporting the mummified remains.”

Two children — a 13-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy — were in the home at the time, which presumably led to the child abuse charges. The follower who reported the body also told investigators that he was prevented from leaving the home with his son, prompting a false imprisonment charge against one of the defendants.

According to the affidavits, the sheriff’s office has received “many complaints” from families across the country saying Love Has Won is brainwashing people and stealing their money.

Carlson’s followers believe she communicated with angels and that she was leading them to a great awakening, The Denver Post has reported. The group, which established itself in southern Colorado in 2018, offers “spiritual intuitive ascension sessions” and sells spiritual healing products online.


https://ktla.com/news/nationworld/7-people-charged-after-mummified-body-of-spiritual-leader-found-in-colorado-home/

US hits China and others for repressing religious freedom

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a news conference to announce the annual International Religious Freedom Report at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
MATTHEW LEE
AP
May 12, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Wednesday took aim at China and a number of other countries for repressing religious freedom as it forges ahead with its aim of restoring human rights as a primary focus of American foreign policy.

The condemnation was similar to that lodged by the Trump administration, which had been criticized for prioritizing religious freedom over other rights, and reflected continuity in the U.S. position that China’s crackdown on Muslims and other religious minorities in western Xinjiang constitutes “genocide.” Yet, a senior official said religious freedom is just one element in the administration’s broader human rights strategy.

Much as his predecessor did, Secretary of State Antony Blinken used the release of the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report to lambaste China for severe restrictions on its citizens’ ability to worship freely. He also announced a travel ban on a former senior Chinese official the U.S. accuses of persecuting members of the Falun Gong religious sect.

“China broadly criminalizes religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups,” Blinken told reporters as he unveiled the report for the calendar year 2020.

The report itself said Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners in China all suffer from “severe societal discrimination in employment, housing, and business opportunities.”

While Blinken did not spare China from criticism, his remarks were less extensive than those of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during previous religious freedom events. Pompeo was particularly harsh in his condemnation of China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and other religious minorities, often devoting entire speeches to the subject.

In his comments, Blinken also lashed out at abuses of religious freedom in Iran, Myanmar, Russia. Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, all of which were identified in the report as offenders.

Daniel Nadel, a top official in the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, said Wednesday’s report did not represent a shift in the way the U.S. views human rights but rather a recognition that religious rights are equally as important as political rights.

“It’s not a departure, certainly, from any prior concept, but it’s a clarification, because Secretary Pompeo did express his view that there was perhaps a hierarchy of rights concept. And that’s a view that this administration does depart from,” Nadel said.

https://apnews.com/article/china-religion-government-and-politics-688d180b0aa0fed541f00ef446af29f1





Messiah Foundation International

"Messiah Foundation International (Urdu: مہدی فاونڈیشن انٹرنیشنل‎) (or MFI) is a spiritual organisation formally established in 2002 to promote the Goharian Philosophy of Divine Love. MFI is the successor of RAGS International, a spiritual organisation founded by Pakistani spiritual leader Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi in 1980. The organisation claims to be a syncretic fulfilment of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu prophecy, with Shahi depicted as the messianic figure of many religions, given the title of Mehdi, Messiah, and Kalki Avatar as well as the generic "Awaited One" prophesied by other religions.

Adherents propose to promote the reduction of hatred, promotion of divine love and world peace, and raise awareness of miraculous images of spiritual figures they claim are on the face of such objects as the moon, sun, and the Black Stone in Mecca. According to MFI, these images were put on these locations by God. The MFI purports that Gohar Shahi's image on the moon has spoken to people in different languages and rendered spiritual grace to those searching for divine love. They declare that the titles of the Messiah, Kalki Avatar and Imam Mehdi are different titles for one personality, whom they depict as Shahi. Members of the MFI refer to themselves as Goharians, due to their affiliation with Shahi."

LeaderRiaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi (Founder)[1][2][3]
Key people
Younus AlGohar (Co-founder and CEO), Farah Naz (Guardian of MFI)
AffiliationsKalki Avatar FoundationMehdi Foundation InternationalInterfaith Institute of Divine Love
Websitehttp://www.goharshahi.gs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah_Foundation_International

May 11, 2021

Federal agents probe Hindu sect for using forced labor to build New Jersey temple

JOSEPH CHOI
The Hill
May 11, 2021


Federal agents on Tuesday visited a Hindu temple in New Jersey after workers alleged they were lured to work there and confined to the premise, forced to perform work for the equivalent of about $1 an hour.

The New York Times reports that lawyers representing the workers on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in which they accuse the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha Hindu sect known as BAPS of exploiting hundreds of low-caste men in the construction project. The Times notes that most of the workers are Dalits, who belong to India's lowest caste.

"The FBI is there on court authorized law enforcement activity. No further comment," FBI spokeswoman Doreen Holder told local station New Jersey 101.5 in a statement.

The laborers lived in trailers hidden from view. They were brought to the U.S. through religious R-1 visas and made to appear as though they were volunteers, the lawsuit claims. The workers believed they would be given standard jobs with plenty of time off.

Instead, the workers were made to perform manual labor for up to 13 hours a day operating heavy machinery, digging ditches and shoveling snow. They were paid roughly $450 a month.

Their passports were confiscated and they were confined to fenced-in areas, according to the lawsuit, and they were forbidden from speaking with visitors.

"They thought they would have a good job and see America. They didn't think they would be treated like animals, or like machines that aren't going to get sick," New Jersey immigration lawyer Swati Sawant told the Times.

One of the laborers died last fall, the Times reports. One of the other workers who has since returned to India, Mukesh Kumar, told the newspaper that this death is what prompted him to come forward.

"We said, 'We don't want to die like that,' " Kumar said.

BAPS has close ties to India's ruling party and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Times notes.

Kanu Patel, the chief executive of BAPS, told the Times, "I respectfully disagree with the wage claim."

Spokesperson for BAPS Lenin Joshi also shot back at the claims, telling the Times that the men performed complicated work putting together specially-carved stones from India.

"They have to be fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. In that process, we need specialized artisans," Joshi said. "We are naturally shaken by this turn of events and are sure that once the full facts come out, we will be able to provide answers and show that these accusations and allegations are without merit."

https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/552899-federal-agents-probe-hindu-sect-for-using-forced-labor-to-build-new

"Spellbound" The Magician and the Maharishi

 


Man Alive
CBC
November 2, 1992

May 10, 2021

Former Dance School Comptroller Pleads Guilty in $1.5 Million Fraud


The former official, Sophia Kim, was a comptroller of the Kirov Academy of Ballet, a school founded in 1990 by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Rebecca J. Ritzel
NY Times 
May 9, 2021

A Maryland woman who gambled away nearly $1.5 million in funds from the elite dance school where she served as comptroller pleaded guilty to fraud in U.S. District Court in Washington on Thursday.

The plea represents the second time in eight years that the woman, Sophia Kim, has been successfully prosecuted on charges related to stealing from dance organizations with ties to the Unification Church.

Ms. Kim, 60, was hired in 2017 to serve as comptroller of the Kirov Academy of Ballet, a school founded in 1990 by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon to promote what he called “the heavenly art of dance” and be a creative outlet for his daughter-in-law, a former member of the Washington Ballet.

At its peak in the early 2000s, the school turned out nearly a dozen top ballet dancers each year, some of them now principals at the American Ballet Theater, the National Ballet of Canada and other leading companies.

According to an affidavit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ms. Kim gambled with funds she was overseeing as the academy’s comptroller. Over nine months in 2018, investigators say, Ms. Kim wrote checks to herself and used her academy bank card 120 times to withdraw cash and pay off losses at the MGM Grand Casino near her home in Temple Hills, Md.

When the school discovered the missing funds, it reported Ms. Kim to the F.B.I., and she was arrested at the casino in November 2019.

“Kim treated her company’s funds as her own personal bank account,” Timothy Thibault, acting special agent in charge of the criminal division at the F.B.I.’s Washington field office, said in a statement announcing the guilty plea.

Last year, Ms. Kim said in an interview that she had never intended for her gambling to hurt the academy.

Ms. Kim joined the Unification Church as a teenager in South Korea, immigrated to the United States and married a church lawyer. They settled in Northern Virginia, and after raising three children, Ms. Kim was hired as a bookkeeper at the Kirov. She later moved to the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, a church-affiliated nonprofit group that funneled money to the Kirov and other organizations.

In 2013, Ms. Kim, also known as Sookyeong Kim Sebold, was found guilty of embezzling money from the foundation, most of it lost at New Jersey casinos. She served two years in jail. Upon her release, Ms. Kim was hired as the academy’s comptroller, a decision the school has not discussed. On Friday, academy officials did not respond to a request for comment regarding Ms. Kim’s plea.

Now a music school as well as a dance academy, the Kirov has its headquarters at a former monastery near Catholic University in Washington.

The acting U.S. District Attorney Channing D. Phillips said, “We have no tolerance for offenders raiding the coffers of the businesses and institutions that make our District great.”

The fraud charge carries a statutory penalty of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $3 million. Ms. Kim’s sentencing is scheduled for September.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/07/arts/dance/kirov-academy-embezzlement.html

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/10/2021

Love Has One, Scientology, Australia, Gwyneth PaltrowBlueface,  IndoctriNation Podcast, AA, Narcissists

Meaww: Carlson? Decayed corpse of 'Love Has Won' cult leader found in Colorado, group arrested
"The remains of the so-called cult's group leader were found in their Colorado headquarters, a mobile home. Members in custody were charged with child abuse and tampering with deceased human remains, however, no foul play is suspected.

"Described as a bizarre spiritual cult group, the leader of 'Love Has Won' was found dead in Colorado. The remains were extremely decayed and an investigation into the same resulted in the arrest of the group members. The remains were found in a mobile home in Casada Park, west of Crestone.

The police found the body after receiving a tip from a member who had revealed that the body of the woman, who is a self-proclaimed "divine being", was transported to Colorado from across the country. The connection between the leader's death and the group in Colorado was first reported by Be Scofield. This group that had quarantined in Kauai has been labeled as a cult by a law enforcement officer. They claim however that they are a religion."

SMH: OPINION, The peculiar experience of being targeted by Scientology
"A month ago, I wrote an investigation in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald that looked into how Scientology shifted tens of millions of dollars into Australia's tax and scrutiny-friendly jurisdiction. It showed how Scientology held extensive assets here for both Australia and the UK and examined its extraordinary wealth against its dwindling number of adherents.

Since then, it's fair to say I've been inundated by blowback. Some of it is so absurd I've laughed out loud.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he has been paid to put out his smear camping (sic) on behalf of top psychs and big pharma," another account wrote.
So let me confirm: I'm not working for Vladimir Putin and I am not a paid agent for anyone other than The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, where I've worked for the past 15 years.
Other material has been less laughable. A Scientology organisation called STAND accused me of inciting genocide, of being a bigot akin to an anti-Semite or Islamophobe and of being the "proud new face of hate in Australia".

One Scientologist wrote of me: "Could it be the dark side of his Germanic DNA gave rise to such bigoted and false claims?"
That would be news to my family, who suffered through Nazi invasion and occupation in Europe in the 1940s."

The Guardian: Gwyneth's Ark: sailing towards wellness but never quite getting there
"If you want to get rich, you start a religion." This was the reported opinion of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, who in 1967 bought the first in what was to become a fleet of cruise ships. According to various whistleblower accounts, longtime devotees were finally initiated into the innermost secrets of Scientology on board one of these vessels, having spent years passing through various confected levels and parting with incremental payments totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars. This was where you found out about Xenu, among more weapons-grade lunacy, the galactic tyrant who 75bn years ago exiled multiple individuals to Earth in special craft that weirdly looked exactly like DC10s, then imprisoned them in mountains before blowing them up with hydrogen bombs and brainwashing them with a huge 3D film. My theory has always been that they told you this stuff at sea to reinforce the notion that you were now in too deep to get off the boat, both literally and metaphorically.

So, yes: it's no real surprise to learn this week that turbocapitalist fanny egg pedlar Gwyneth Paltrow has got into the cruise business. Face it, there's never been a better time, with the possible exception of 13 minutes after the end of the Black Death.

As it turns out, Gwyneth had announced a cruise as part of her Goop brand over a year ago but was forced to hit pause with the advent of The Great Unpleasantness. But there was obviously no way a deadly pandemic was going to sink Gwyneth's latest big idea for long. Indeed, you wouldn't even fancy an iceberg's chances against a Goop cruise.

Anyway, madam has partnered with Celebrity Cruises, and will become the brand's new "wellbeing adviser". "I'll be behind the scenes, working on some special projects," explained Gwyneth with the air of someone who would rather die than mingle front-of-house with whichever dreary civilians actually go on these things. "My team @goop is curating programming and fitness kits to add to Celebrity's wellness the [sic] experience."

Ah, there it is: wellness. "Wellness" is part of a class of words unified by the fact that only the most dreadful bores on Earth know what they mean. See also "neoliberalism". Celebrity Cruises itself adds that the fitness kits will enhance "self-care and collective wellbeing", with Gwyneth's role expected to focus on "wellness programming" and something called the "Women in Wellness initiative".

Along with Goop's £1,000-a-day health summits, it all marks a move towards more organised forms of wellness religion by Gwyneth. "She's not necessarily discovering new things," Goop's former content director once breathed reverentially, "but she's bringing ancient things into the mainstream." Mainstream life expectancy in the ancient times was about 32, but whatever floats your cruise ship, of course.

Certainly, Paltrow has often described setting up Goop as "a calling". Without wishing to come off as Joan of Snark, though, you have to wonder what sort of company much of her activity places her in, however she might hate to admit it. A few years ago, the business publication Quartz produced a fascinating article revealing how large numbers of the exact same products were sold on both Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop and Alex Jones's Infowars outlet, only with different packaging. (To refresh your memory chakra, Jones is the far-right wing nut and conspiracy theorist who believes the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, among myriad other grotesqueries.) A supplement called Bacopa is marketed on Goop as part of a pack branded Why Am I So Effing Tired, and promises to "rebalance an over-taxed system". Over on Infowars, Bacopa features in Jones's signature Brain Force pills, pushed on the premise that "Top scientists and researchers agree: we are being hit by toxic weapons in the food and water supply that are making us fat, sick, and stupid."

Not quite the words Gwyneth would ever use – and yet, how they lurk beneath the surface of a $250m-plus empire that unavoidably implies the path to happiness is via intense consumerism. It's also very much an iterated journey – you buy the vagina egg for one problem, which gives you back pain, so you buy the FasciaBlaster, which gives you bruising, so you buy the homeopathic arnica montana. And so on and so on, forever course-correcting towards wellness but never quite attaining its shores. It's possible to see your life in this church as a cascade of highly priced non-solutions, each purchase flowing from the problems caused by the previous one. How does it end? I guess by then you're an old lady and you swallow a horse. And end up dead, of course.

It goes without saying that Paltrow is not short of believers. Whether Gwyneth's pushing post-Covid quackery or recommending something called "whole body vibration" as a treatment for multiple sclerosis, there is something powerfully religious about the brand she has created in her own image."

Daily Beast: The hip hop star's been compared to R. Kelly and called a "cult leader" for allegedly pressuring the women of his 'Blue Girls Club' to brawl, strip, and get a tattoo or go home.
" ... 24-year-old Blueface saw ... potential: to house an entire show on OnlyFans. The poorly produced content never garnered too much attention outside his fan base until this week, when some social media users went so far as to liken him to R. Kelly after a portion of the latest episode was leaked outside the site.
"Ready to get tatted?" Blueface asks a room of sleeping women that he had flown out to his $1.3 million home in the quiet Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth in early April. The cameraman pans around the room showing unmade bunk beds and clothes strewn around. "Tattoo or go home, which one is it?" he asks."

"If it's negative, it's a lie" w/ Erin and Rachel Alder. In the second part of this 3-part story, the Alders detail some of the most heart-wrenching experiences they endured during their time in the group and explain the painful lessons they learned while trying to overcome tragedy. 
Rachel Bernstein without condemning AA itself, Bernstein acknowledges the dangers of this kind that AA's program can pose for some people. 

IndoctriNation Podcast:  Rachel reveals a few red flags that are common patterns of narcissists.


News, Education, Intervention, Recovery


CultEducationEvents.com

CultMediation.com   

Intervention101.com to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement.

CultRecovery101.com assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice.

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Please forward articles that you think we should add to cultintervention@gmail.com.


Thanks