Aug 23, 2022

Obituary: Professor of the Social Sciences

Longtime Baylor University professor Rodney Stark passed away at his home in Woodway, Texas, on July 21, 2022. One of the world’s preeminent figures in the sociology of religion, in 2004 Stark joined the faculty of Baylor as Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences. In 2005, he agreed to become co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) with Byron Johnson.

Stark grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, and began his career as a newspaper reporter. Following a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. He left Berkeley to become Professor of Sociology and of Comparative Religion at the University of Washington, where he taught for 32 years before retiring in 2003.

Stark was a prolific and pioneering scholar and is widely considered a father of the modern field of the sociology of religion. He published 40 books and more than 150 scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as prejudice, crime, suicide, and city life in ancient Rome. However, the greater part of his research and writing was on religion. It is what he was most known for and what he will be remembered for.

Stark was a past president of both the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. He also won a number of national and international awards for distinguished scholarship. He twice won the Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, for The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation (1985) and for The Churching of America 1776–1990 (1992). His most celebrated book, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (1997), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

While at Baylor, in 2006 Stark became the founding editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal for Research on Religion(IJRR), published by ISR. The final publication of his career appeared in the journal in 2022, co-authored with several Baylor colleagues, and used national population data to debunk the prevailing narrative that religion in the U.S. is on the decline.

Stark’s move to Baylor, following his earlier retirement from Washington, surprised many people because, as he noted on many occasions, he did not like universities. But he accepted the opportunity to join Baylor not because the world needed another great university, but because he felt the world needed a great university that was Christian. His decision to accept Johnson’s invitation was a bellwether of the rise of ISR as the academic world’s leading institute for social, historical, and policy-related research on religion. Throughout his career, he trained many of the leading social scientists of religion, including Baylor’s Paul Froese, all of whom revere him and are perpetuating his legacy.

Aug 21, 2022




Click Here To Sign Up For Updates


Each webinar will consist of 3, 1 hour long parts. The first 45 minutes of each part will be the presentation and will be followed by 15 minutes of Q&A.

Webinar #1: For Former Members (September, Thursdays, 6-7 PM, PST)

  • Part 1: The aftereffects, what to expect now that you're out (Sept. 8th)
  • Part 2: How to heal, survive, and thrive (Sept. 15th)
  • Part 3: Sharing your experience, how to explain it to others and find support (Sept. 22nd)

Webinar #2: For the Families and Friends of Current or Former Members (October, Thursdays, 6-7 PM, PST)

  • Part 1: How to help your loved one with and talk to them about their experiences (Oct. 6th)
  • Part 2: How to intervene without pushing away your loved one (Oct. 13th)
  • Part 3: How to find your own support throughout this process (Oct. 20th)


Tickets for all 3 parts of either webinar can be purchased for $150 in total, or tickets to both webinars can be bought together for $250.

Purchase Tickets

Aug 6, 2022

ExMISA​: Gregorian Bivolaru, MISA exposed

​From website about:

"​We are a group of former MISA followers.​ Our own experience in this cult and the testimonies of MISA victims worldwide have allowed us to connect the dots, to put together many pieces of the "MISA puzzle".

Our aim is to present to the general public the testimonies of victims around the world, the hidden face of MISA, to expose its sectarian nature, its direct or indirect, visible or invisible ramifications.

An important objective of our work is to warn potential victims of the danger they are exposing themselves to by contacting or joining this movement.

The blog is an investigative journalism project whose main objective is to bring to light some of the irregularities within MISA that it tries to hide from the public eye.

We regularly and constantly look for "leaks" not only through the media and online press, but especially through "client material": conferences, brochures, articles or announcements made public by MISA itself, its branches, its representatives, etc.​"​

Germans sceptical about TM movement around David Lynch

​"​David Lynch, american filmmaker and strong proponent of the Transcendental Meditation Movement, visits Berlin, Germany as a part of his European TM-Tour in order to present a new education system. The German Raja joins him on the stage and presents his plans to build a "University of invincibility“ on the "devils mountain“ in Berlin, with the ultimate goal to make Germany invincible."

Judge blasts millionaire Calgary heiress for using fake law in attempt to get condo for free

'Her activities are not those of some misinformed and confused person.... Ms. Anderson is an unrepentant, disruptive, greedy, uncooperative, abusive scofflaw'

Tom Blackwell
Windsor Star
August 5, 2022

The Calgary condo case is the latest chapter in the court system’s running battle against litigants who cite bizarre, made-up legal principles to try to elude justice.

Sandra Ann Anderson is not exactly poor. The Calgary native recently came into a “multi-million-dollar” inheritance from her father.

But she still refused to repay the $160,000 owing on her condo mortgage, insisting Canadian laws did not apply to her.

Anderson earlier evoked similar “pseudo-law” concepts to counter fines for smuggling high-priced horses across the border from the U.S.

But his week an Alberta judge lowered the boom, calling the heiress a greedy, abusive “litigation terrorist,” handing the condominium over to the Royal Bank in a foreclosure case and severely restricting her access to the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Anderson, meanwhile, told the judge she’s moved to California, despite being wanted on several criminal charges in Canada.

“Ms. Anderson is … not a destitute, desperate person,” noted Associate Chief Justice John Rooke in his scathing, 16-page judgment. “Her activities are not those of some misinformed and confused person, stumbling through a complex, inscrutable apparatus…. Ms. Anderson is an unrepentant, disruptive, greedy, uncooperative, abusive scofflaw.”

People following ideas like the “sovereign citizen” and “freeman of the land” movements are appearing in courts throughout Canada but Alberta seems to be the “epicentre,” says one lawyer.

On Facebook, Jacquie Phoenix, aka Jacquie Robinson, refers to the COVID-19 pandemic as “nonsense,” and has posted videos promoting QAnon-type conspiracy theories.

Alberta judge bars 'pseudo law' advocate who claims Magna Carta puts her outside court's authority

It’s the latest chapter in the court system’s running battle against litigants who cite bizarre, made-up legal principles to try to elude justice.

Past cases have involved a relatively broad range of individuals, said Richard Warman, an Ottawa lawyer and online-extremism expert who tracks the “not-law” phenomenon. But this case seems exceptional, he said, because the culprit is among society’s most affluent.

“What you have is a member of the one per cent gone berserk,” Warman said Thursday. “You have people who are exceptionally wealthy and privileged … who don’t just have it all, they want the rest.”

Anderson, though, appeared unswayed by the legal smack-down, telling the National Post in a brief email exchange that she and others like her are victims of injustice as they try “to hold corrupt government agents accountable.”

She referred to the judge by a pejorative nickname and accused him of perpetrating “commercial fraud and swindles” against litigants who use tactics like hers.

The term pseudo law or “Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments (OPCA)” refers to various sets of ideas and rules that are stated in legal jargon and purport to override real statutes and jurisprudence, but have no basis in actual law. They’re often used to try to avoid legal obligations like paying taxes, obeying court orders or answering criminal charges.

The phenomenon includes the “sovereign citizen” and “freeman of the land” movements, the “strawman theory” and a group that claims a section of the Magna Carta that’s been defunct for 1,000 years renders all laws in Commonwealth countries invalid.

What you have is a member of the one per cent gone berserk

A sovereign-law follower killed a tax-court judge and two other people in Ottawa in 2007.

Although Rooke did not identify Anderson’s wealthy father, a Sandra Anderson is one of the children of the late J.C. Anderson, a giant in the Alberta oil industry who sold his exploration company in 2001 for $5.3 billion before dying in 2015. His daughter Sandra was an accomplished show jumper, winning a silver medal for Canada at the 1991 Pan-Am Games.

Before the case was decided this week, the litigant Sandra Anderson was caught repeatedly trying to smuggle horses into Canada without paying the appropriate duties or taxes. She had purchased one for about $120,000, but initially told a border officer her only U.S. purchase was “six beers.” After paying fines to Canada Border Services Agency to retrieve animals the agency had seized, she sued various government entities.

In the pseudo-law documents she filed, Anderson said she would essentially take over court infrastructure and act as prosecutor and judge of the federal “trespassers,” Rooke noted. The action was struck down and the woman ordered to pay the government’s costs.

The judge documented how she follows closely the example of a sovereign-law guru in the U.S., Carl Lentz. Among other tactics, she employs the “strawman” theory, claiming she is not really Sandra Ann Anderson — who holds the condo mortgage — but other personas, such as WOMAN SANDRA OF THE ANDERSON FAMILY and sandra-ann:woman.

She claimed her mortgage with RBC was not valid because it had no “wet-ink signature,” and filed a document saying Rooke and Alberta Finance Minister Tyler Shandro were personally responsible for her debts. Anderson also claimed a British bank had paid off the mortgage with a voucher signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the ruling said.

Her disruptive, abusive behaviour during hearings has had her thrown out of court and muted on teleconference calls repeatedly. Meanwhile, it appears she has “absconded Canada” to avoid arrest on her criminal charges, which range from impaired driving and fraud to carrying fireworks on a plane and forging COVID test results, Rooke said.

The judge said it would be a “farce” to let the foreclosure proceedings drag on any longer amid Anderson’s disruptive, threatening behaviour and ordered the condo turned over to the bank immediately.

The Alberta court, and Rooke specifically, have been a standout in dealing with the persistent, international fake-law problem, said Warman.

“They are, to the best of my knowledge, the leading court of the world in dealing with the issue in a really organized and deliberate manner.”


CultNEWS101 Articles: 8/6-7/2022 (Special Event: Discussion on reproductive coercion and cults)

With the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, this is not only a timely but a critical subject area to explore with a population that is often stigmatized and in need of support and recovery resources.

 The Details:

Date: 12 pm - 2 pm Pacific Time, Sunday, August 7th, 2022
Format: Free zoom webinar, open to all!
The first segment of this webinar will be a presentation of research conducted by Ashlen Hilliard in fulfillment of the MSc Psychology of Coercive Control Program 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,
Ashlen's research is the first exploratory analysis of the complex experiences of individuals who have experienced reproductive coercion while under the influence of a cultic or destructive group setting. Her research fills an identifiable gap in the literature by specifically studying how reproductive coercion manifests in destructive group settings, which has only been anecdotally alluded to from survivor accounts.
Following the presentation of Ashlen's research findings, an opportunity for Q&A will be available. We understand that this can be a difficult topic, and we are grateful that therapist Doni Whitsett, PhD, LCSW, MFT will be joining Ashlen Hilliard as a discussant for the Q&A session.
Have any questions? Feel free to email Ashlen at

Presenter Information:
Ashlen Hilliard is a cult intervention specialist helping families with loved ones in cultic or high-control groups or relationships and is the face behind People Leave Cults. She completed her MSc in the Psychology of Coercive Control in early 2022 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. Ashlen has previous experience working for multiple non-profit settings in the field of cult recovery. Most recently, this has included working as Director of Events for the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). During that time, she facilitated workshops, webinars, and conferences for those in touch with multiple aspects of the cult phenomenon including therapists, former members, legal professionals, media representatives, academics, and others. Previous to her work with ICSA, she also worked as a case manager in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the non-profit Holding Out Help, where she was involved in the front lines of helping individuals leaving diverse polygamist communities out West. She currently enjoys living in Portland, Oregon where she is a volunteer co-organizer of the Spiritual Abuse Forum for Education (SAFE) Meetup for those who have left or are considering leaving high-demand religious groups in the local community.
Doni Whitsett, PhD, LCSW, MFT, is a Fulbright scholar and a Clinical Professor Emerita of Social Work at the University of Southern California where she taught courses focused on neurobiology, trauma, mental health, and sexuality for over 25 years. As a psychotherapist in private practice she has been working with cult-involved clients and their families for almost 4 decades. She has presented to professional audiences both nationally and internationally in Australia, Canada, France, Poland, and Spain. Published articles focus on neurobiological implications of cult involvement and families and cults (co-authored with Dr. Stephen Kent). Her latest publications include chapters on "A modern psychodynamic approach to working with 1st generation cult survivors" and "Global violence of women in cults." As an AASECT certified sex therapist, Dr. Whitsett was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Scholarship in 2016 to study, teach, and do research on sexuality in China.; (323) 907-2400.

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources.




Instagram 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

CultNEWS101 Articles: 8/3/2022 (Exorcism, Church of Scientology, Legal First Amendment, Neo-Nazi)

Exorcism, Church of Scientology, Legal First Amendment, Neo-Nazi
" ... While exorcism is practiced in the majority of the world's cultures, in the Western imagination it is most associated with Catholicism. That association has been either an asset or a liability to the church at various periods throughout history.

For most of the 20th century, exorcism was incredibly rare in Western nations and often regarded with embarrassment by Catholic authorities. After William Friedkin's film "The Exorcist" came out in 1973, Juan Cortez, a Jesuit priest and psychology professor at Georgetown University, told Newsweek that he did not believe demons exist.

Today, the Catholic Church has reversed its attitude about discussing exorcism almost completely. In 1991, church authorities allowed an exorcism to be televised for the ABC show "20/20." Father Richard P. McBrien, who appeared on "Nightline" to question the wisdom of this decision, told The Catholic Courier that exorcism was being presented this way to advance a political agenda, not to save souls. He stated:

"The real objective of that project, I submit, was to help bring back that old-time religion, when everyone, women especially, knew their place, when Catholics obeyed without question every directive from on high, and when there was never any question that the Catholic Church was the one true church with all the answers to all the important questions we have about life, both here and hereafter."

As a religious studies scholar who writes about exorcism from a historical perspective, I believe the church's changing stance on exorcism has little to do with our culture's understanding of mental illness or other scientific advances and more to do with competing visions of the church as described by McBrien."
The Hollywood-friendly church says its "religious arbitration" system—rather than civil courts—should apply to ex-members who say they were sexually assaulted by actor Danny Masterson. It hopes the Supreme Court agrees.

"The Church of Scientology is no stranger to the American legal system. Its decades-long battle to obtain tax-exempt status is perhaps the most famous in the history of the Internal Revenue Service. The Justice Department indicted some of its top members in the 1970s for a wide-ranging plot to infiltrate the federal government. The church's reputation for litigiousness is so strong that HBO hired at least 160 lawyers when it agreed to make a documentary on Scientology in 2014.

Last week, the church asked the Supreme Court to help move a dispute out of the legal system and into the church's own. At issue is whether the Church of Scientology can compel ex-members who accused it of misconduct into a religious arbitration process that it supervises. A California appeals court said no earlier this year, concluding that such compulsion would violate the ex-members' First Amendment rights. The church claimed that the ruling infringed upon the church's ability to organize and discipline its congregants—a Gordian knot of religious-freedom claims that the justices may soon decide whether to cut.

The case, Superior Court v. Bixler, began after a group of women sued the Church of Scientology in 2019. The women, who were former Scientologists, told the Los Angeles Police Department during the #MeToo movement's emergence a few years ago that they had been sexually assaulted by Danny Masterson, an actor and fellow Scientologist. Shortly after they reported Masterson to police, the women said, they faced a barrage of harassment and abuse, including surveillance, hacking attempts, wiretaps, property damage, attempted arson, threatening phone calls, pet killings, and more."

" ... Chrissie Carnell Bixler, the named plaintiff, and two other women in the lawsuit claimed that the church targeted them in retaliation for going public with their allegations against Masterson. They cited past instances where Scientologists had harassed their perceived foes and critics under the church's "Fair Game" policy. In court filings, the church denied any wrongdoing and claimed that L. Ron Hubbard, the movement's founder, had suppressed Fair Game in 1968.

To quash the lawsuit, the church invoked legal agreements signed by the plaintiffs when they were members in which they agreed to use religious arbitration instead of the civil legal process. The contracts vary slightly in language but they contain two key provisions at the heart of the dispute. First, the plaintiffs gave up the right to sue or seek legal redress against the Church of Scientology in perpetuity. One of the plaintiffs signed an earlier and possibly more limited version of this waiver, while the other three signed later versions that cover the church itself, its satellite organizations, and its employees. Second, the plaintiffs agreed that the arbitrators themselves "shall be Scientologists in good standing with the Mother Church," which could undermine the process's impartiality.

Religious arbitration isn't unique to Scientology. Some synagogues, for example, require new members to accept the jurisdiction of a rabbinical court for spiritual disputes. Christian denominations often have their own internal ecclesiastical processes, ranging from the Roman Catholic Church's system of canon law to the boards and panels used by Protestant churches for internal discipline. Islam's body of religious law known as Shariah plays a similar role in Muslim communities. While Scientology's use of religious arbitration may be more sweeping and aggressive than in other faiths, it is legally similar enough that a coalition of religious groups sided with them in the lower courts.

In response, the plaintiffs urged the court to throw out the contracts. A California judge declined to do so and upheld the arbitration agreements, but the California Court of Appeals overturned the ruling on appeal in January. The appeals court concluded that enforcing the contract would violate the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights to change their religious beliefs. "In effect, Scientology suggests that one of the prices of joining its religion (or obtaining a single religious service) is eternal submission to a religious forum—a sub silencio waiver of petitioners' constitutional right to extricate themselves from the faith," the court wrote. "The Constitution forbids a price that high."

The court of appeals' ruling was unusual from a procedural point of view. For one, constitutional rights like those protected by the First Amendment typically constrain the government's power and not that of private entities. The Church of Scientology is obviously not a government agency, and so the First Amendment's protections for religious freedom do not generally bind it. But the lower court concluded that enforcing the contract through the judicial system could qualify as state action in this context. (That is also why the case title says "Superior Court" instead of "the Church of Scientology.")"
While tasked with protecting the nation, Matthew Belanger was plotting a killing spree against minorities and to rape "white women to increase the production of white children," according to federal prosecutors

"Federal prosecutors say a former U.S. Marine plotted mass murder and sexual assault to "decrease the number of minority residents" in the United States as part of his membership in a far-right neo-Nazi group, "Rapekrieg."

Matthew Belanger was arrested on June 10 in New York and charged with making false statements to a federal firearms licensee in order to make straw purchases of an assault rifle and handgun. Belanger pleaded not guilty to the firearms charges during an arraignment hearing on Monday.

In a July 14 court memo, federal prosecutors say that while a Marine, Belanger plotted far more serious crimes as part of the neo-Nazi group. The memo says Belanger trained with airsoft guns in the woods of Long Island as part of a plot to attack the "Zionist Order of Governments." The memo also says Belanger was the subject of an FBI Joint Terrorism Taskforce investigation into allegedly plotting to "engage in widespread homicide and sexual assault." Much of Belanger's ideology and plotting, the memo says, is based around a desire to lessen the number of nonwhite Americans and to rape 'white women to increase the production of white children.'"

" ... In October 2020, Marine Corps officials and the FBI searched Belanger's Marine Corps barracks housing and his electronic devices. They found "1,950 images, videos and documents related to white power groups, Nazi literature, brutality towards the Jewish community, brutality towards women, rape, mass murderers," along with "violent uncensored executions and/or rape" and "previous mass murderers such as Dylan Roof."

Belanger is currently detained at a federal detention center in Honolulu. He has not been charged with crimes related to his alleged membership in Rapekrieg, but a federal judge sided with prosecutors who argued that Belanger should be held in pretrial detention, citing his extremist beliefs and calling his alleged plots "both a danger to the community and a risk of non-appearance."

News, Education, Intervention, Recovery to help families and friends understand and effectively respond to the complexity of a loved one's cult involvement. assists group members and their families make the sometimes difficult transition from coercion to renewed individual choice. news, links, resources.




Instagram 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

Five Ways Estrangement Does Lifelong Damage

Some relationships are too toxic to sustain, but cutoffs may hurt well-being. 

Davia Sills
Psychology Today
August 5, 2022 


• Cutoffs can ripple through one's life and identity, producing a unique form of grief as the estranged mourn the living. 

• The estranged often have a lingering difficulty adjusting to, accepting, and making sense of their losses. 

• The estranged often suffer a loss of self-esteem and trust, which may play out in other relationships and ultimately compromise well-being.

Family estrangement causes ripples through one’s life and identity. The experience creates a uniquely devastating form of grief in which an estranged family member often mourns the living. 

The ambiguity of estrangement and the chronic hope (or dread) of encountering the estranged family member often exacerbate feelings of longing, anxiety, and anger. Those who are cut off often have a lingering difficulty adjusting to, accepting, and making sense of the loss, even when they have an otherwise fulfilling life. Those who choose to end a family relationship and consider it irrevocable may find that feelings of loss and regret accompany the decision. 

Social-work researcher Kyle Agllias, one of the foremost experts on the subject, writes in her groundbreaking book, Family Estrangement: A Matter of Perspective, that estrangement is particularly difficult to accept because it has no predictable or predetermined outcomes nor an identifiable end point. “The death of a family member,” she explains, “does not impact self-esteem or sense of self-worth the way estrangement does.” 

The loss is especially acute for siblings. Brothers and sisters are our earliest, closest companions, instilling important social qualities—tolerance, generosity, loyalty—that eventually affect every subsequent relationship, from friends and colleagues to lovers and partners. Siblings typically spend more time together than with anyone else; for the fortunate, the relationship endures for decades, outlasting friendships, marriages, and parents. Losing what should have been a lifelong bond built on shared history is a sad, continuing deprivation. 

In a survey I conducted for my book Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation, respondents discussed how the ongoing nature of estrangement defined their lives.

1. Trust
The estranged often feel they can’t trust anyone, damaging their ability to fully engage in relationships. Several respondents described struggling with trust:

ences with family members who cut me out of their lives.
I have major trust issues with everyone now. I worry that those I care about will suddenly leave me with no explanation.
When a friend distances themselves from me for a good reason (a crisis where they need to be alone), I get triggered and panicked. I feel like I am being taken for granted as I did with my family.
Author Agllias reports that estrangement-related trust issues can wreak such psychological havoc as emotional withdrawal, defensive posturing, people-pleasing behaviors, and overeager development of close but unsustainable relationships, possibly even leading to abuse.

2. Friendships
Without the ability to trust, developing friendships can be especially challenging. Worse, the estranged—especially those who initiated the cutoff—often feel judged and stigmatized when others have advised them to “forget about” the sibling or “move on.” Some become needy and reliant on family and friends, imposing emotional demands and overblown expectations that can strain and even destroy relationships. “The estranged might feel a need to hold on tightly to non-estranged relationships for fear of losing them too,” Agllias explains.

3. Self-esteem
One woman reported constantly questioning herself. She is socially reserved, feeling that if her own sister won’t have a relationship with her, why would a mere acquaintance have any interest? She says she finds herself alone and isolated.

When a sibling terminates a relationship, the shunned sibling typically feels responsible for the breach. The loss leaves a gnawing sense of unlovability and lack of self-worth—typical of people who have been ostracized. Studies have revealed that pain is the initial reaction to any kind of ostracism, says Dr. Kipling D. Williams, a distinguished professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University who studies the subject. “Ostracism,” he explains, “then instigates actions aimed at recovering thwarted needs of belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful existence.”

4. Family
Estrangement often places family members in the discomfiting and frequently impossible position of having to choose sides. The situation can become so polarizing as to incite a familial civil war. The estranged may aggressively recruit and lobby non-aligned family members, perhaps resorting to bullying, accusations, and attacks. The estranged may demand loyalty or threaten to ostracize family members who refuse to take their side.

My own mother felt caught between my brother and me when we were estranged. Here’s how she recalls it:

It was always in the back of my mind—I have a son and daughter who have nothing to do with each other. I was always thinking, What can I do? How can we get together? How can I get my family back? I felt hurt and embarrassed that my children didn’t have anything to do with each other. I never talked to anyone about it. I felt ashamed, so I carried the pain alone.

At times, I was furious about the situation: I would get invited to a family party that excluded one of my children. I never knew what to do—Should I attend or not? Should I insist that I will only go to an event if both my children are invited? Whatever choice I made, I was going to hurt one of my children.

5. Rumination

One of the most debilitating consequences of estrangement is the thought pattern of rumination: rehashing the same thoughts over and over, even when those thoughts breed sadness or negativity. Many rejected siblings—even some who chose to terminate the relationship—find themselves constantly mulling: “What did I do? What was my role in the cutoff? Can I fix this?” The mind is desperately trying to create meaning around an experience that may not have a good explanation. Rumination can be crippling, and over-sharing its bitter thoughts can drive people away.

Some relationships are simply too toxic to sustain. Still, there’s no denying that cutoffs harm well-being and hurt other relationships. Awareness helps to guard against the long reach and lasting damage of estrangement.


Agllias, Kylie (2017) Family Estrangement: A Matter of Perspective (New York: Routledge)

Williams, Kip, “Kip Williams Media Contact Overview,” January 29, 2020, Social Psychology Network,

Aug 1, 2022

Disabled Army Vet Persuades VA to Abort $8 Million David Lynch Foundation Study on Transcendental Meditation and PTSD

TM Deception
August 01, 2022

His Royal Majesty Maharaja Adhiraj Rajaraam, AKA Tony Nader, first ruler of TM's Global Country of World Peace

Lynch Foundation President, David Lynch, with His Majesty Raja Emmanuel Schiffigens bringing invincibility to Germany

Udovich's assertion that TM is a religious practice is supported by a federal court ruling that its required "Puja" ceremony violates the Establishment Clause.

LOS ANGELES, CA, UNITED STATES, August 1, 2022 / -- In June of this year, the Veterans Administration (VA) terminated a study on Transcendental Meditation (TM) funded by the David Lynch Foundation, a leading proponent of the practice in the US. The decision came after disabled Army Veteran Steve Udovich revealed numerous concerns with the study and the practice of TM via a letter to the VA Office of General Counsel. The VA's action derailed the Lynch Foundation's plans to access Veterans through the VA healthcare system.

Udovich's TM Experience and Response
Udovich, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Iraq War Veteran, was introduced to TM when he attended a non-VA affiliated retreat for Veterans with PTSD. Learning TM—a mandatory part of the retreat—entailed a Hindu worship ceremony, the Puja. While performing the ritual, the TM instructor makes 16 offerings with candles, incense, fruit, flowers, and a white cloth while repeatedly bowing before an altar, the centerpiece of which is a photo of Guru Dev, a long-deceased Hindu spiritual leader. The TM instructor chants the Puja in Sanskrit, a language commonly used in Hindu religious ceremonies.

Emotionally distressed for feeling he'd failed a test of his Christian faith by complying with the ceremony, Udovich says, "I asked for an English translation of the Puja because I wanted to know what I had participated in. But I was stonewalled; the program's executive and staff repeatedly deflected and provided misleading information."

Subsequently educating himself about TM, Udovich says, "I learned that deception is a big part of the TM process. Because they want government funding to pay for TM, they can't be honest about what they believe and what they're doing. And, because they have to hide the Hindu religious basis of the practice, they can't provide full disclosure or informed consent." Overall, he believed the retreat program was doing "some good work," but "their devotion to TM is misguided because the practice is not compatible for any Christian, Muslim, or Jewish veteran who's serious about their faith."

Udovich's assertion that TM is a religious practice is well documented in books and articles by TM teachers who have left the practice. Additionally, a federal court decision in 1978 ruled that the TM Puja ceremony was a religious practice and ordered the immediate cessation of all TM programs in New Jersey's public schools. (See Malnak v. Yogi, U.S. Court, New Jersey,1978)

Learning that the David Lynch Foundation was self-funding an $8-million study of TM in the VA as a possible treatment for PTSD prompted Udovich's 8-page letter to the VA Office of General Counsel, citing potential violations of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, VA policies related to the protection of human subjects, and the VA Patient Bill of Rights. Also, Udovich suggested that the secrecy surrounding the Puja would make it difficult for the VA to obtain fully informed consent from study participants.

A letter from the San Diego VA Healthcare System Director informed Udovich that the study was canceled. He also received word from the Network Director of the VA's Institutional Review Board, which oversees all VA studies, confirming the study had been withdrawn and would not be resubmitted to the VA. "It speaks volumes about how problematic the study was if a disabled vet could derail it with a letter to the VA Office of General Counsel," says Udovich.

Udovich believes some organizations will continue to push TM as a treatment for Veterans with PTSD, and his mission to inform his fellow veterans about it is just beginning. But he's confident that the David Lynch Foundation's plan to teach TM to a half-million veterans at VA facilities across the country has been thwarted. Udovich says, "They saw my fellow Iraq and Afghanistan Vets with PTSD as recruits. Now they have to look elsewhere; they won't be pushing TM on unsuspecting vets in the VA system."

Aryeh Siegel, MSW, MPH, taught Transcendental Meditation and Directed TM's Institute for Social Rehabilitation for five years in the mid-1970s. He is the author of Transcendental Deception: Behind the TM curtain-bogus science, hidden agendas, and David Lynch's campaign to push a million public school kids into Transcendental Meditation while falsely claiming it is not a religion (Janreg Press, 2018).