Apr 30, 2022

From Buddhist Practice to Malpractice w/Dan Lawton

IndoctriNation Show: In this second half of their two-part conversation, Dan Lawton explains the unique way western Buddhism intermingles with science, academia, and government by presenting mindfulness practices as secular and rational despite its religious claims and dogmatic history. Together Rachel and Dan break down the defensiveness of the mindfulness communities, pointing out the common reactions people have when their faith is questioned. 

CultNEWS101 Articles: 4/29/2022 (Event, Fernando Karadima, Nature Boy, Legal, Hillsong, Podcast, Mindfulness)

Event, Fernando Karadima, Nature Boy, Legal, Hillsong, Podcast, Mindfulness

The present talk reflects on my experience of 30 year being a follower of former Roman Catholic priest Fernando Karadima. I will share a brief journey of my personal experience about being captured and reborn after 30 years of abuse. The presentation combines my actual life experience with the most recent definition of spiritual abuse and the key characteristics of it. I will confront life experience with academic concepts that bring light to both experience and concepts.

11Alive: Police reports offer new details on arrest of alleged DeKalb cult leader 'Nature Boy'
"Eligio Bishop, the alleged cult leader known as "Nature Boy" was arrested after a former member of the cult who identified herself as his girlfriend said he posted revenge porn "because she left him."

That and several other details about the case of Bishop, who has allegedly led more than a dozen followers in the "Carbon Nation" cult as well as spread his influence with a robust social media following in the tens of thousands, are revealed in police reports released to 11Alive on Wednesday.

According to the reports, the woman told police that "she had joined a sex cult in which her boyfriend is the leader" and that "she did live together with Mr. Bishop and he has posted sexually explicit videos of her and him without her consent on Twitter."

She said he had posted four videos "without her consent and wants to press charges."

Bishop, she added, had directed "other women/girlfriends to hit her, which led her to escape."

That contact with police, on March 30, led to an investigation that resulted in Bishop's arrest on April 14."

Bobbie Houston sacked over the failures of her husband.

"Two weeks after Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston resigned in disgrace, his wife Bobbie had been dismissed by Hillsong.

Brian Houston, who co-founded Hillsong with his wife in 1983, resigned as global senior pastor on March 21, less than a week after the board of Hillsong Church revealed that he had sent inappropriate text messages to a staff member and spent time with another woman in a hotel room during a Hillsong Conference.

However, the status of Houston's wife, Bobbie, who started Hillsong Church along with Brian, has remained a mystery. Brian and Bobbie had acted as joint leaders of Hillsong; however, Bobbie did not resign at the same time as Brian.

And why should she? What has she done wrong? If anything, she is the innocent victim of her own husband's antics."

" ... It certainly appears that Bobbie intended to carry on with her ministry despite her husband's disgrace. However, Hillsong Church, it seems, has decided to 'call time' on her ministry career. On Saturday, the Hillsong board sent a message to church members that referred to the news that Bobbie Houston was leaving the church but failed to mention that it was a forced redundancy rather than a voluntary

"Dan Lawton is a mindfulness instructor and writer, with a specific interest in the adverse effects of meditation practice. Dan is a certified instructor in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) through Brown University and spent four years teaching meditation in New Orleans.

Dan spent a decade practicing meditation, primarily in the Vipassana and Western Insight traditions and completed roughly 15 silent retreats. He now mentors other meditators struggling with adverse experiences through the organization, Cheetah House. Before teaching meditation, Dan worked as a newspaper reporter in California and Louisiana."

" ... In this first half of their two-part conversation, Dan provides some cultural and historical background on the Vipassana and Western Insight traditions explaining how these practices changed as they reached the west in the 1950s. Dan goes on to share with Rachel the details of experiencing what he calls non-referential terror as a result of intense meditation practice. Together they discuss the findings of Dan's deep examination of the structures that led to his previously inexplicable emotional terror.

Before You Go: Rachel gives insights into the response from the meditation community that Daniel and previous guest Dr. Britton have elicited and explains the relationship between meditation and executive functioning skills in the brain."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery



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.

CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.





Cults101.org resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

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.

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

Meet Eva Frank: The First Jewish Female Messiah

Eva Frank
Was this revered female figurehead an empowered leader or a tragic victim in her father's wake?

Shira Telushkin
April 27, 2022

We know very little detail about Eva Frank in her own words. There is her father's portrayal of a dream she had, in which an old man from heaven soothes her anxiety about being the representation of the divine Messiah on Earth. There are descriptions by pilgrims and visitors of her court in Offenbach, Germany, where she listened to confessions and passed judgment on followers in the 1790s, often instructing them to be lashed for their sins. Few of these texts quote her directly. In 1800, there is her request to Jewish communities to convert to Christianity and take up the Frankist cause, written in red ink and sent to hundreds of Jewish towns scattered across eastern Europe. There are her letters soliciting supporters for money and merchants for loans. We know from these letters that she was mostly supported by followers of her father, she was accustomed to luxury, and she died in tremendous debt in 1816. We know she was venerated as the Messiah into the 20th century, where followers still carried her image, a small portrait of their holy female saint, the incarnated divine presence on Earth. We know that US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis had such a portrait, given to him by his mother, descended from a prominent line of Jews who continued to revere Eva Frank.

The legacy of Eva Frank is almost as complicated as her own life, which wound through Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and secular communities in a dazzling cross-section of mysticism that attracted followers and spinoffs from nearly every corner of the Ottoman Empire and Polish world, dovetailing with the unfolding Enlightenment. It is the story of one woman given a mantle she might not have been born to bear, and the uneasy way worship of the divine feminine in 1700s Europe affirmed both women's power and passivity, working in unexpected ways alongside Enlightenment calls for women's emancipations and greater political leadership and educational access. With such a captivating and nuanced history, how can it be that we know so little about the only woman to have been worshipped as a Messiah in modern history?

Eva Frank was born in 1756, in modern-day Ukraine, to Jacob and Hannah Frank, along with their existing children. Jacob had been raised in a family staunchly committed to the radical teachings of Shabtai Tzvi, the Jewish messianic claimant who died in 1676 after ultimately converting to Islam, and whose widely embraced prophecies and antinomian preaching—which specifically called for overturning Jewish law—nearly upended European Jewry. Around 1751, five years before Eva's birth, Jacob proclaimed that he was Shabtai Tzvi's successor on Earth. Building on Jewish mystical teachings and Shabtai Tzvi's legacy, he fashioned himself as the Messiah on earth who had come to teach a new way of religious life that would bring the Messianic era. He quickly attracted thousands of followers, known as "Frankists", and reportedly took the antinomian embrace of holy subversion even further than Shabtai Tzvi, hosting intricate rituals that overthrew the taboos of incest, menstruation, and adultery, often with the aid of sacred objects, including Torah scrolls. Though there is ongoing debate about the extent of such rituals in practice, as opposed to simply wild rumors, scholars Cristina Ciucu and Regan Kramer argue in their article published in Clio. Women, Gender, History that such ideology was markedly more extreme in Frankist practice than that of prior leaders and took a specific focus on the display of feminine sensuality.

In 1756, local Jewish authorities excommunicated Jacob and his followers for these transgressive rituals and beliefs, and he responded by converting to Catholicism, along with three thousand believers. It was during this transition that Eva, who had been named Rachel at birth in honor of Jacob's mother, was baptized with her new name. At this point, Jacob began to integrate Jewish and Christian beliefs more boldly into his theology. Soon after, however, local Catholic authorities imprisoned Jacob on charges of false conversion, noting that his followers continued to worship him as a divine presence and refused to marry outside their own community. Jacob was kept in a monastery in Częstochowa, where he continued to receive visits from admirers and develop his own ideas about mysticism, redemption, and feminine sexual power. Eva stayed with her father throughout the thirteen years of his imprisonment, along with her mother Hannah, and grew close to him. Their bond was reinforced when, later, Eva refused to leave during a Russian siege of the city, which kept even his staunchest followers outside the gates. Częstochowa was a city rich in Marian worship, as the home of the venerated Black Mary icon, and that influence is likely one reason (along with his new embrace of Catholicism as an important element in his own theology) that Jacob began to write more avidly than ever before about the feminine identity of the Messiah, focusing specifically on his wife as the divine representation on Earth.

In 1770, following the death of his wife, Jacob refocused his divine feminine decrees on nearly 16-year-old Eva. He declared her to be the Messiah and the reincarnation of both the Virgin Mary and the Shekhinah, the divine presence on Earth, interpreted as feminine in Jewish mysticism. Though there was some incredulity at the idea of a female Messiah among his followers, Jacob admonished them to accept this unprecedented belief, and, by and large, they did. Eva became widely known as "the Lady" or "the Virgin". Portraits of her were distributed among Frankists in the area, similar to the small portraits of the Virgin Mary carried by Christian worshippers, though she was depicted unconventionally in a stylish outfit with a noticeably scooped neckline. Jacob established Eva as a central figure of worship among his followers and encouraged her to hear confessions and administer punishments for sins. When Jacob died in 1791, Eva moved to Offenbach, Germany, with two of her brothers, where they strived to continue their father's work and continue her role as the Messianic divine figurehead of the movement. There, she continued to receive visitors, offer confession, and maintain support. In 1803, the Offenbach court was disbanded for unclear reasons, and Eva moved back to Poland, where she continued to function in her Messianic role to an increasingly diminished and diverse group of followers, before her own death in 1816. After her death, the baptized Frankists largely assimilated into Christian culture while the Jewish ones lingered on in clandestine meetings until eventually petering out. By early 19th century, the Frankists were seen as a group similar to the freemasons and other vaguely secular, secret, ritual-based societies that ran rampant in this era, with their Jewish origins largely lost, though pockets of support for Jacob and Eva Frank lingered across all of these communities in Poland and beyond for at least a century after her death.

What do we make of Eva Frank? Her strange legacy is often caught between those eager to embrace her as a trailblazing icon of female religious authority, and those convinced she was a tragic victim in her father's abusive schemes for sex and power, as read into his Messianic claims and teachings about unconventional, socially transgressive sexual acts as means to hurry along the new Messianic era. Each has evidence in their corner. The emphasis on taboo sexual relations and female sensuality within Frankist theology make it difficult to definitively rule out a physical relationship with her father, though by all accounts Eva never married and her status as a holy Virgin remained central to her identity until her death. She is consistently referred to as the Virgin in Frankist writings, compared to the Virgin Mary and other religious Christian saints celebrated for their perpetual virginity. No physical relationship between Jacob and Eva is ever mentioned in any of the writings of Jacob himself or his followers. Though Eva is referred to as Jacob's divine female companion in his own writings, her own religious identity was fashioned on the cult of Mary, which already promoted a divine female counterpart that was not a sexual partner, but a mother. The Frankists, possibly borrowing from Christian monastic culture, referred to one another as brothers and sisters, further extending the categories of non-sexual associations between male and female members. In Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, 1666 – 1816, one of the most recent books on the topic, scholar Ada Rapoport-Albert is much more skeptical about the pervasiveness of incest and ritualistic orgies within the movement. In general, the transgressive sexual element of Frankist practice has been most fervently emphasized by traditional Jewish voices who see the entire offshoot as heretical and subversive. There was indeed a strange culture of purity and ritualized sexuality prevalent in Offenbach, and it is far more likely that Eva occupied a place of confirmed celibacy while other women engaged in ritualistic sexual practices, though this hardly addresses the full question of her own agency in the matter.

Another way to consider how Eva should be understood is to reflect on the role of women in Frankist circles more generally. Scholars Ada Rapoport-Albert and Cesar Merchan Hamann shed some light on this question through an intriguing analysis of a Frankist manuscript dated to 1800, written by a follower of Jacob Frank and used by Gershom Scholem, one of the most influential scholars of Jewish mysticism, to advocate the view of a progressive embrace of female authority within Frankist belief. In their analysis, however, Ada Rapoport-Albert and Cesar Merchan Hamann caution against simply adopting Eva Frank as an empowered religious figure, or the text as evidence of broad female emancipation in the movement. Through a thorough rebuttal of Scholem's argument, they argue there is little evidence to suggest the Frankist beliefs about the divine feminine were synonymous with those of female emancipation within Enlightenment thought. Though there is some shared interest in reshaping beliefs about the role of women in their relative contexts, it is too simple to view the example of Eva Frank and the embrace of divine femininity as evidence of the influence of the Enlightenment on the movement, or even mutual influence between the two movements.

Nonetheless, the analysis of this Frankist manuscript draws out important elements of Frankist beliefs about women, and why their theology believes the Messiah is a woman. The problem with casting Eva's ascendency to divine Messiah as evidence of the adoption of female emancipation as a Frankist value is that, far from advocating for political and education reforms for women (a core focus of Enlightenment activists), the Frankist text used for evidence here is much more focused on freeing the sexual impulse within both men and women. As Rapoport-Albert and Hamann demonstrate, the author describes the need for the female sexual impulse to be "release from captivity—understood in the sense of 'shame', 'modesty', or in other words, the constraints of conventional sexual morality" so that the coming Messianic era can dawn, a breakthrough only possible "with the emergence of the Messianic 'virgin' or 'maiden' who he believes is embodied in the figure of Eva Frank." The societal repression of female sexuality is, the unnamed Frankist writer believes, a suppression of the creative vitality of women which, when expressed, will revitalize the male sexual impulse, a development which will ultimately allow the hidden, repressed female Messiah to emerge in her full glory and thus usher in the era of Messianic redemption. She need only be seduced, encouraged to overcome her feminine shyness, and aroused to action to reveal herself. The text itself repeatedly emphasizes the desire of women to be cherished, noting how, "the whole essence of woman is to be loved, kissed, etc.," and how society keeps the female Messiah hidden by condemning the feminine expression of sexual desire. The theological ramifications are tremendous, because, the author continues to his reader

You will be well aware that the personification of shekhina, from now on better called the Holy Virgin, the betulah, is the gateway to God and to all divine treasures. All capacity for Him is in her; all the keys to His treasures are with here; everything apparent, manifest, and revealed in the world is to be revealed through her; she is the first step and the gateway; she is also the true sensuality for God, just as every good wife is her husband's sensuality.

Though Scholem sees in this text evidence of female empowerment, it is hard not to read instead a rendering in which Eva Frank personifies a divine force that is worshipped but passive, merely a gateway to divine powers higher up the ladder. Jacob Frank, in his own writings, describes this feminine divine presence on Earth as "the gateway to God, and only through her is it possible to read God and grasp him." In this understanding, the female divinity remains little more than an icon to be worshipped, with no activated leadership requiring her to speak, think, or act. She is passive, her power limited to the fact of her existence.

This divine conception within Frankist thought is hard to square entirely with the role of Eva Frank in the court at Offenbach, where she pronounced judgements on her followers and meted out punishment and, we know, occasionally refused to see devotees she deemed insufficiently holy to stand in her presence. But it is also hard to know how much authority she actually had, beyond her venerated status. We know little of how women more broadly functioned in Frankist communities, and how they understood their own relationship to her.

One should not overlook, of course, that the religious participation of women in these antinomian communities was radically expanded, and it is possibly one reason the claims of sexual perversion were so quick to stick. Many movements throughout history with more equitable female participation have faced accusations of sexual perversion, especially at times when women rarely socialized outside the home, leading many to assume their presence in public rituals or socially among men could only have a sexual basis. From his earliest leadership claims, Shabtai Tzvi allowed women to participate in public worship in ways that would remain prohibited in mainstream Jewish communities for another three hundred years. As Rapoport-Albert and Hamann note, Shabtai Tzvi's strident focus on the desire to liberate women from masculine domination was noteworthy, and persisted among his followers, who were known as Sabbateans. "Sabbatianisnism's promotion of women to positions of prophetic and even messianic-divine authority…was a unique feature of the movement…and persisted in one form or another throughout its history, culminating in the veneration in Frankist circles of Eva Frank as the female Messiah and the living incarnation of the divine sefirah Malkhut," they write, using a different term in Jewish mysticism for the Shekihina. In fact, Rapoport-Albert believes it was the female liberation inherent in this movement that rendered the emerging Jewish mystical tradition of Hasidism particularly hostile to female religious authority and leadership. The desire to liberate the sexual impulse undoubtedly led to abuse, and to the odd perversion of women as objects, and yet this was also the most dramatic break from Jewish traditions of sidelining female religious participation, allowing new possibilities to unfold and manifest.

Despite her fascinating role in 18th century religious life, Eva Frank has long been considered little more than a footnote to the legacy of her charismatic father. When she is mentioned, it is often due to the novelty of calling her the first (and only) female Jewish Messiah, though the term stretches the definition of Jewish identity almost to a breaking point. This is a puzzling development. Scholar Abraham Duker makes a convincing case in his article published in Jewish Social Studies that Eva had come to personify, and outlive, the movement her father had started. Citing numerous examples of continued veneration in the 1850s and beyond, in addition to strong consensus that it was her death in 1816, not her father's death in 1791, which forced the movement into decline, Duker's research suggests that Eva had become the central focus of divine worship among the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and other Frankist followers in the century following her death.

While she seems to have lacked the force of vision and leadership power that defined her father's legacy, there is every reason to think she had embraced her role among the community, by the end of her life, as a figure of divine significance and Messianic authority. In turn, as the extreme aspects of her father's writings faded from memory, her followers in subsequent decades would keep her portrait close, seeing her as a misunderstood figure who had come to Earth with the promise of divine redemption, and was thwarted by traditional religious leadership's fear of female ascendency. This acceptance, by a community which had initially believed they were following a male messiah, is noteworthy and extremely dramatic, and there is every reason to see Eva as an unprecedented religious figure in her own right. However one views her, she deserves a place among the strange, evolving story of religious life in the 18th century, when so much changed, and so much remained the same.


JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students. JSTOR Daily readers can access the original research behind our articles for free on JSTOR.

A female Messiah? Jewish mysticism and messianism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

By: Cristina Ciucu and Regan Kramer

Clio. Women, Gender, History, No. 44, Judaism: Gender and Religion (2016), pp. 63-93

Editions Belin

'Something for the Female Sex': A Call for the Liberation of Women, and the Release of the Female Libido from the 'Shackles of Shame', in an Anonymous Frankist Manuscript from Prague c. 1800

By: Ada Rapoport-Albert and Cesar Merchan Hamann

Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought / מחקרי ירושלים במחשבת ישראל, כרך כא‎, Gershom Scholem (1897-1982): In memoriam: Volume Two / ספר זיכרון לגרשם שלום. במלאת עשרים וחמש שנים לפטירתו – כרך שני‎ (תשס"ז), pp. 77*-135*

Mandel Institute for Jewish Studies / המכון למדעי היהדות ע"ש מנדל

Polish Frankism's Duration: From Cabbalistic Judaism to Roman Catholicism and from Jewishness to Polishness: A Preliminary Investigation

By: Abraham G. Duker
Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Oct., 1963), pp. 287-333
Indiana University Press


How 'Under the Banner of Heaven' Took On Murder and the Mormon Church

A new FX mini-series adapts the investigative book by Jon Krakauer. He and the creator, Dustin Lance Black, talked about their efforts to get at the truth.
A new FX mini-series adapts the investigative book by Jon Krakauer. He and the creator, Dustin Lance Black, talked about their efforts to get at the truth.

Austin Considine
New York Times
April 27, 2022

Dustin Lance Black still gets emotional when he talks about the time he left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, around three decades ago. It was hard, he said, because he loved the church. But his Mormon father had run off to marry his own first cousin, leaving behind a wife and three children. And when his stepfather became physically violent, local church leaders circled the wagons and told his mother, who was paralyzed from polio, to leave the police out of it.

So he had questions. And eventually, doubts.

He also still recalls when he first read “Under the Banner of Heaven” (2003), a book of investigative journalism by Jon Krakauer that is now the basis of an FX mini-series on Hulu, which Black created. Black had come out as gay by then and was trying to make it as a young screenwriter. “Banner” shined a clarifying light into corners of church practice and history that had always been hidden to him.

“It felt so true to me and then had all of these layers that I hadn’t yet examined about my childhood faith — my family’s faith still — and how I had grown up in it,” Black, 47, said in a three-way video call earlier this month. “It was formative for me.”

Krakauer, who was also on the call, had just seen the first several episodes of Black’s series, which debuts on Thursday. His knowledge of Black’s script was minimal; he had no official role in the series. He could tell, he said, that the show’s depictions of how church leaders encouraged women to stay in abusive relationships was rooted in experience.

“That stuff is such a powerful part of the show, and it clearly comes from your personal experience,” Krakauer told him. “I mean, it really informs it.”

Black paused. “I don’t think those experiences are particular to me at all,” he said. “I saw it happening time and again, and sometimes it would work out just fine. But too often it didn’t. And most often, I saw that it was the women in the church that were suffering most.”

Exhibit A: Brenda Lafferty (played in the series by Daisy Edgar-Jones), a church member who in 1984 had her throat cut, along with that of her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, by a 10-inch boning knife. The killers eventually were revealed to be two of Brenda’s brothers-in-law, fundamentalists who said they were carrying out God’s will — an act of so-called blood atonement for being what the brothers deemed “children of perdition.” As the man who wielded the knife told Krakauer, with no visible remorse, “You don’t want to offend Him by refusing to do His work.”

The murders shocked the small town of American Fork, Utah, where they happened, about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. They also shocked the church at large. Years later, however, many aspects of the killings remained obscure, and Krakauer wanted to know how that murderer could “kill a blameless woman and her baby so viciously without the barest flicker of emotion,” as he wrote. “Whence did he derive the moral justification?”

Those questions became the engine of his book, which looks deep into the church’s founding and early principles, including its history of polygamy and racism — and of violence, both by and against early members. The book drew intense criticism from church leaders, who in an official response called it “a decidedly one-sided and negative view of Mormon history.” (Krakauer admitted to a few minor factual errors but rebutted the broader criticisms point-by-point in an appendix to later editions.) Based on the unsparing depictions in the five episodes made available to journalists in advance, the series might inspire similar condemnation.

Black seems prepared. No stranger to complex or controversial subjects — he wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for “Milk,” about the pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk, and was a writer for the HBO series about a polygamist family, “Big Love” — Black has made the Lafferty murders the heart of his series. An investigation by two fictional detectives, one of whom, Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield), is a church member, provides the central narrative device by which Black unpacks big questions of history, faith and dogma.

Given the threats Krakauer said he still received, I asked Black if he was worried.

“I expect that almost anything I do is going to garner some death threats,” he said, adding: “I’m certainly not going to let it change my decision-making process.”

Black and Krakauer spoke for over an hour — Black from Los Angeles, Krakauer from his home in Boulder, Colo. — about the book and the adaptation, and about why truth, however difficult, is the ultimate kindness. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.


Jon, did you find that the accounts of Mormon history in the series held up vis-à-vis your own research?

JON KRAKAUER The history is absolutely accurate. You have to remember that this church until 2014, refused to acknowledge publicly that Joseph Smith [the church’s founder] had more than one wife. The church is going to say, “Blood atonement is nowhere; you’ll never find that term in any of our doctrine,” and they’re right. Except that numerous Mormon leaders have referred to blood atonement, and say how necessary it is. So it’s there, and Lance got that right.

I remember feeling when I read the book that it certainly wasn’t intended to be comfortable reading for Mormons.


And I don’t think the series is intended to be comfortable viewing. But it does seem, Lance, that you take pains to show another side of Mormonism in a thoughtful and touching way. How intentional was that?

DUSTIN LANCE BLACK I think I took a different view of the book, and I bet a lot of Mormons did as well. The P.R. department of the Mormon Church has their response. But there are many Mormons who, I would be willing to bet, read Jon’s book and had that lightning strike to their heart of, “I’m going to listen to my doubt for a minute.” That hurt is uncomfortable, but it’s a growing pain. So I bet more people than not found some comfort in the relief of confusion. Because so much of what’s in there, we just aren’t taught. It’s not that it’s even debated; you’ve just never heard it before.

To me, the television series attempts to do the same. We now just have flesh and blood people standing in for the reader, which is why I wanted one [detective] to be Mormon and one [played by Gil Birmingham] to be an outsider.

You grew up closeted, which must have made you feel like a bit of an outsider given the church’s prohibition against gay “sexual relations.”

BLACK I didn’t blame the church for that. I thought there was something wrong with me, and I believed that till far too old an age. And I would suppress it. When I watch “The Book of Mormon,” the musical, and they get to the light switch song [“Turn It Off”], I’m like, that was me until my early 20s. Turn it off like a light switch.

I’ve done a lot of L.G.B.T. stuff, and I appreciate you asking that. But that’s not where this comes from. This comes from my belief that gender ought not determine destiny. And that flies directly in the face of this faith and frankly, most others. So this has more to do with watching my mother and her sisters in our ward be treated as second-class human beings.

KRAKAUER Lance, before you came on [the call], I brought up the church’s attempt in 2003 to preemptively discredit my book. And I was saying, “Wow, you know, if my book pissed them off, this is going to really piss them off.” And I wonder if you’ve given thought about how you intend to counter the campaign to smear the show and paint it as something it’s not. The show is subtle and nuanced. They’re going to say it’s this reductionist attack, that Lance hates the church and hates Mormons. It’s coming.

BLACK I don’t doubt the Mormon Church will try to pick this apart. So all I can do is to make sure I am doing my homework. This isn’t my story. My experience has brought me to it; it probably helped me understand where to look. But this isn’t a projection of my experiences or my opinions onto the screen.

Will the church find faults here or there? Perhaps, and we could debate that. But I can tell you, we have worked diligently to get this as right as humanly possible. And we have many active Mormons contributing to this show. I’ve heard from Mormon historians, and, surprisingly, there are many who are grateful that we’re going to set some of this record straight because they have been having to tie themselves into pretzel-like knots to explain their faith for far too long. And I think part of this is: Let the sun shine in, and maybe at the end of the day, there is some piece of this faith that’s worth salvaging.

So much of the book is about secrets and the lengths people take to protect them. Did you ever feel threatened before or after the publication?

KRAKAUER Not by the L.D.S. church. As far as the F.L.D.S. church [the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a sect whose members practice polygamy], yeah. To this day, Warren Jeffs, from his prison cell in Texas, still instructs all of his followers — and there’s more than 10,000 — to pray for my destruction every Saturday. [Jeffs, an F.L.D.S. leader who was convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting underage girls, declined to comment for this article.] So, you know, that’s given me pause.

Do you worry about receiving similar threats, Lance?

BLACK You know, if it’s not life or death, if you’re not risking some part of yourself to try and shine light and maybe even move the needle, what the hell are you doing? I don’t want to get out of bed unless I think I’m cracking something open that’s needed to be cracked open for some time. I’m just not motivated enough to write — I think Jon and I share this — because I love the research, but I am pained by the writing. So I’m not going to do it if it’s just to entertain. I wish I could because I would have a lot more money!

Austin Considine is The Times's assistant TV editor.


ICSA Annual Conference: Cultic behaviour in the Church of England. A case Study

ICSA Annual Conference: The Church of England and its attempts to confront cultic and abusive forces in its conservative wing. Recent developments 2019 - 2022.
ICSA Annual Conference: Cultic behaviour in the Church of England. A case Study

Stephen Parsons; Sunday, June 26, 2022; 12:00 PM-12:50 PM

The Church of England like many churches around the world has been facing an avalanche of sexual abuse stories in recent years. My paper is not to focus on the sensationalist side of these stories but rather to look at the way that some of these accounts have distinctive cultic elements. Strong personalities like Jonathan Fletcher and John Smyth have operated within Anglican evangelical networks, using conservative theology and charismatic personalities to captivate and, at the same time, risk harm to many privileged young men. These attended summer camps and came under the spell of their mesmeric preaching. Some of the homoerotic abusive behaviour which took place has now been extensively documented by various reports. Much soul-searching has been taking place among many church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. He knew personally, in the 70s, some of the key personalities involved in the summer camps at the heart of the abuse. He also became a leader while still at university. The paper proposed will be summarising this developing story up till June 2022. It will also show how the wider Church of England is waking up to the force of cultic methods which have been operating in its midst for decades. The paper will hopefully assist individuals to see how main-stream churches like the Church of England can be led astray by cultic dynamics which can be harmful and abusive to those caught up in them.

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Stephen Parsons
Stephen Parsons
Stephen Parsonsis a retired Anglican priest living near Carlisle, England. His interest in cultic and high demand religious groups goes back to the 80s when he researched material for a book on Christian healing. He realised that among practitioners of spiritual healing there were some whose healing practice was abusive and exploited the vulnerability of the sick. This led eventually to a study of abusive Christianity, Ungodly Fear, which collected and interpreted stories of individuals who had joined certain fundamentalist Christian groups in the UK but suffered in the encounter. Since the book appeared in 2000, and especially since retirement in 2010, he has been reading widely in the areas of social psychology and psychoanalytic theory to understand this phenomenon of abuse within certain churches. He runs a blog, www.survivingchurch.org which attempts to set out the fruits of this study and reflection. The blog is also a forum for discussion and support for those meeting the abusive side of a religious group. He hopes to continue this task of holding up a mirror to church institutions. They sometimes become abusive in a variety of ways, sometimes without understanding the processes and without any insight into what is going on.

Western Australia checks records for Esther Foundation referrals


The Western Australian health department is checking records dating back to the 90s to determine if it referred any women to a private rehab facility at the centre of mistreatment and abuse allegations. Dozens of women have complained about the Esther foundation, alleging they were denied psychological or psychiatric care from qualified medical specialists, and instead received 'treatment' to exorcise their demons.

CultNEWS101 Articles: 4/30-5/1/2022 (Event, Cult Recovery, Esther House, Australia, Troubled Teen Industry)

Event, Cult Recovery, Esther House, Australia, Troubled Teen Industry

Colleen Russell; Sunday, June 26, 2022; 3:00 PM-3:50 PM

"I've had individual therapy, but after attending my first workshop I realize that what I need now is learning from the group of former members." "By having compassion for others in the workshop, hearing their stories, I'm gaining compassion for myself." "I wasn't aware until listening to others in the workshop and reading the educational material you provide, how many relationships I've been involved in that have been coercive." "It's a relief in these workshops that we're not passively listening to an 'expert'."

The purpose of these workshops/support sessions is to help participants gain insight about what happened to them, learn how others have responded to similar situations, and find new ways of coping in healthier relationships and situations. This includes expressing themselves with others who understand, gaining mutual support and acknowledgement, learning how to navigate through symptoms effectively, and deepening awareness of coercive control and influence. It is not a therapy group. Participation is limited to 10 - 15 each two hour session, via Zoom, with "regulars" attending and getting to know each other.

I will explain how the workshop helps survivors with their recovery and growth, topics they have wanted to explore, examples of resources, and what I've learned from working with this population that is continually forming my approach.

In disconfirming inaccurate, self-limiting beliefs from thought reform and abusive families and relationships, one benefits from attitudes and environments that counter the oppressive demands of coercive groups and relationships. The workshop is one way to assist in this regard.

ABC News: Esther Foundation enters voluntary administration amidst claims of mistreatment and abuse
"A Perth-based Christian rehab facility is now under investigation, over allegations of mistreatment and abuse by former residents. The move has sparked questions about whether the federal and state governments did their homework before allocating millions of dollars in grants. Esther Foundation has also announced that it will be going into voluntary administration."

"Official statements, news releases and the recollections of a former premier show how multiple West Australian governments funded, supported and celebrated a Christian rehab facility that is now the focus of a parliamentary investigation into allegations of psychological and sexual abuse and inappropriate treatment."

"The Esther Foundation, a Christian-based residential rehabilitation centre in Perth, says it will cooperate with any criminal investigation after a growing number of women have spoken out about allegations of psychological abuse and inappropriate treatment at the facility.

Key points:
• Esther House has issued an apology to former residents for any "hurt" or "abuse" they might have experienced while living at the Perth rehabilitation centre
• Former residents have come forward with claims of psychological abuse and inappropriate treatment
• The centre has parted ways with the former managing director and founder

Former residents of the centre this week told the ABC that the program treated their mental health and addictions by attempting to "exorcise demons". One woman said she was not allowed to speak for two months.

The women say they did not receive any psychological or psychiatric care from a qualified medical specialist during their time at the residential centre for young women from crisis backgrounds, which claims to provide counselling for issues including addictions, sexual abuse and mental health."

Crikey: 'I witnessed truly appalling things': a letter from a former resident of Esther House

"I first became a participant of Esther House when I was just 14 years old, after a family breakdown. Immediately I was told I was unable to contact any of my family, my friends or anyone in my support network. I had to immediately surrender my wallet and mobile phone. If I needed anything I'd have to wait for a "worker" on a designated shopping trip, who would stand with my wallet in a zip-lock bag and pay for me. Even if I needed something as simple as tampons. 

Claire Crawford went to hell and back at Esther House. Why isn't it shut down?

"Over the next two and half years, I would be completely stripped of anything that would have given me an outer perspective and individuality from the program. I would be denied an education, despite the ages of 14 to 17 being some of the most important schooling years for a young person. Without that foundation it has really limited my career paths as a now almost 30-year-old adult. It's something that still brings me a lot of shame, that my highest level of education is Year 9. 

Immediately upon entering the program, the idea of a Christian God is thrust upon you, whether you're a willing and open participant or not. If any answer you give during any type of "group therapy" is not centred around God, it's not an appropriate answer. If you don't accept the idea of a Christian God then you are labelled as rebellious, spiteful, angry and dangerous."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery



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.

CultNEWS101.com news, links, resources.





Cults101.org resources about cults, cultic groups, abusive relationships, movements, religions, political organizations and related topics.

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.

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

Profile: Ashlen Hilliard

Ashlen Hilliard
Ashlen Hilliard (she/her) is Director of Events for the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) and a volunteer co-organizer of SAFE, the Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education (SAFE) in Portland, Oregon. She also serves as a thought reform consultant helping families with loved ones in cultic or high-control groups or relationships.

Ashlen recently completed her MSc in the Psychology of Coercive Control and conducted research on the relationship between reproductive coercion, psychologically abusive environments, and the extent of group identity in a sample of those who have left cultic groups.

Prior to ICSA, Ashlen helped individuals leaving diverse polygamist communities gain independence while working as a case manager in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Ashlen is featured in Season 3 of the BET+ Original Series: American Gangster: Trap Queens. She has presented at multiple ICSA conferences and webinars on a variety of topics, interviewed on several podcasts, as well as published an article for ICSA Today 10.2 / 2019 on, "The Genesis, Text, and Implications of Utah House Bill 214: Office for Victims of Crime Amendments".

Ashlen can be contacted at ashlen.hilliard.wordpress@gmail.com or via Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/ashlen-hilliard/

8 arrested in Spain for running a 'cult-like' crypto trading academy scam targeting young people

Spanish police have arrested eight people in relation to an online crypto trading academy that they have described as a 'pyramid scheme'. 

Jaime Velazque
April 29, 2022
Lorena’s daughter was just 17 when she joined the IM Academy, an online trading course that promised to bring her wealth and success by training her in foreign exchange and cryptocurrency investing.

But like hundreds of other young people in Europe, Lorena’s daughter ended up being sucked into what Spanish investigators are now calling a pyramid scheme.

According to María Fernández, the Spanish National Police Spokesperson, leaders of the organisation used cult-like techniques to persuade youngsters to cut ties with their families and focus only on the organisation.

Finland to sell confiscated Bitcoin worth €75 million to support Ukraine's war effort
The group’s leaders would lure young people by bragging about their luxury lifestyles allegedly achieved as a result of changing their mindset towards a success-led mentality.

Instead of hosting training materials related to financial learning, the IM Academy is merely a collection of motivational videos.

Unable to pay for their fees to stay at the Academy, students would then be offered money to bring new members into the organisation. The more people an individual recruited, the more money they would make.

A former middle-rank member told Euronews that he recruited up to 30 people and would spend 14 hours a day "evangelising" his group and trying to register new members.

It took him two years to realise he was being used as an instrument of a pyramid scheme.

Almost all the IM Academy members are victims of coercive persuasion.

As such, more than 60 families are now receiving counselling from RedUne, an association specialising in cults and sectarianism.

"Those who promote these kinds of groups have a playbook on how to capture and groom recruits," Juantxo Domínguez, the president of the organisation, said.

"You don’t realise where you are headed, because you have a need, you have a vulnerability".

Apr 29, 2022

In bid for freedom, notorious NXIVM sex cult leader claims to have proof of FBI evidence tampering

Nate Gartrell
The Mercury News
April 28, 2022

NEW YORK — Two years after he was convicted and sentenced to more than a century in federal prison for his leadership of an abusive sex cult known as NXIVM, Keith Raniere is moving for a new trial on the grounds that federal investigators forged a digital image to make it appear to be child pornography.

In a motion filed Thursday, attorneys for Raniere accused FBI agents of backdating a picture of a woman Raniere dated to appear as though it was taken in 2005, when the woman was underage. The photograph was presented as evidence Raniere possessed child pornography, which Raniere was ultimately convicted of, among other federal sex crimes.

The motion, filed by California-based attorney Joseph Tully on Raniere’s behalf, accuses federal investigators of improperly accessing the digital file after it had been seized during the service of a search warrant at Raniere’s Albany, New York, home. The motion argues that the evidence “would have resulted in a different result at trial,” and that the findings are backed up by three forensics experts, including a retired FBI agent.

“The backup folder where the contraband photographs were placed has all the hallmarks of fraud,” Tully wrote. “The dates and folder names on the WD HDD containing the alleged contraband photographs were manually altered to look autogenerated in a manner that comported with the government’s narrative.”

Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison and ordered to pay a whopping $3.4 million in restitution for crimes that included sex trafficking, child pornography possession, forced labor trafficking, identity theft, and multiple counts of conspiracy. It all centered on NXIVM, a cult and advertising company Raniere founded based in Albany, New York.

Dozens of victims were identified throughout the lengthy federal investigation.

Victims testifed at Raniere’s 2019 trial about the cult’s torturous undertakings, that included members being brainwashed, forced to take on a “slave” role, submit to brandings, undergo extreme dietary restrictions and document their food intake, and hand over embarrassing material as “collateral.” New members were admitted through a bizarre ritual where they were forced to read a script while nude.

Elisabeth Moss Speaks Out on Scientology, From 'Handmaid's Tale' Criticism to Profane Emmys Speech

Zack Sharf
April 29, 2022
Elisabeth Moss addressed her religious ties to the Church of Scientology in more detail than usual during an interview with The New Yorker. The “Mad Men” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” actor has been a Scientologist since before she was a teenager but has rarely spoken about her relationship to the group in press interviews.
“I don’t want to come off as being cagey,” Moss said when the topic of Scientology was first brought up. “If you and I met, just hanging out as friends, I’m, like, an open book about it. [But] I don’t want people to be distracted by something when they’re watching me. I want them to be seeing the character. I feel like, when actors reveal too much of their lives, I’m sometimes watching something and I’m going, ‘Oh, I know that she just broke up with that person,’ or, ‘I know that she loves to do hot yoga,’ or whatever it is.”
Moss’ fans have long had to reconcile her award-winning gifts as an actor with her involvement in Scientology, especially because “The Handmaid’s Tale” casts her as a feminist warrior fighting back against an oppressive and cultish government. The clash between “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Scientology has led to criticism against Moss. When The New Yorker writer Michael Schulman brought up that some fans are “distracted” by her Scientology ties, she responded, “People can obviously hold in their mind whatever they want to, and I can’t control that. If it’s not that, it’s going to be something else.”
“It’s not really a closed-off religion,” Moss said of Scientology. “It’s a place that is very open to, like, welcoming in somebody who wants to learn more about it. I think that’s the thing that is probably the most misunderstood.”
Moss credited Scientology for making her a skilled communicator growing up and encouraged people “to find out for themselves” if they have questions about the group. The actor added, “I’ve certainly been guilty of reading an article or watching something and taking that as gospel. And obviously something like religious freedom and resistance against a theocracy is very important to me.”
Moss also addressed two incidents in which her Scientology faith and Hollywood collided. The first was at the 2017 Television Critics Association Awards. Moss was in attendance as a nominee for “The Handmaid’s Tale” when Scientology defector Leah Remini won an award for her anti-Scientology documentary series. Reports surfaced that Moss left the room during Remini’s speech, but the actor said, “I went to the bathroom. I wish it was more exciting than that.”
“I have never received any request to talk to her,” Moss added about Remini’s claim that the group encourages Moss not to speak with her. “So there hasn’t been an opportunity for her to say that. I don’t know her that well, so it’s not like we were friends.”
The second incident was when Moss won her Emmy for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” During her acceptance speech, Moss thanked her mother for teaching her “that you can be kind and a fucking badass.” A former Scientologist told The Hollywood Reporter afterwards that cursing is one way members communicate “down the tone scale” to average people.
“That pissed me off,” Moss said about the THR report. “That was a really, really big moment for me, and it was a big moment for my mom and me. My mom, who has supported me through the years and been such an incredible mother to both me and my brother. And to tell a lie like that, about that — I didn’t deserve that, and it was wrong.”
Head over to The New Yorker’s website to read Moss’ profile in  its entirety.