By Mallory Miller

Austin, Texas — Sophomore college student Sabrina Smith was recruited at University of Texas to join a Korean Christian group often called a “cult” under the impression it was just an innocent bible study. Stephanie Hsu, a member of the group, ‘Jesus Morning Star,’ grabbed Smith’s attention as she was walking across campus to class in April 2013. Hsu asked her if she’d be interested in doing a one-on-one bible study.

“I was already a part of a group bible study, but I thought it would be cool to learn the bible more closely one-on-one,” said Smith. “She got my information, emailed me and then we got started.”

Smith, who joined the bible study in April 2013, was simply trying to find a new way to seek God. However, she quit five months later after discovering she was being indoctrinated to believe that ex-fugitive criminal Jeong Myung-seok (aka Joshua Jung, Joshua Lee and Pastor Joshua), who’s also portrayed in the media as “heaven’s rapist,” is the second living messiah on Earth.

Jeong Myeong-seok is the founder of Jesus Morning Star religious organization, also known as Global Association of Culture and Peace, JMS, Setsuri, the Bright Smile Movement, and Providence Gospel. His followers call him “Seonseng Nim,” the Korean word for “teacher.” Jesus Morning Star has spread globally, predominantly through university recruitment at campuses such as the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Osaka University, and National Taiwan University. There are 240 branches of the church in Korea alone with over 150,000 followers.

Myeong-seok, a former member of the Unification Church founded by now deceased Rev. Sun Myung Moon, started the JMS group in the 1970s based upon some of the teachings of the Unification Church, such as its purification rituals. However, in JMS the purification rituals require women to have sex with the “second messiah,” whom Myeong-seok claims to be, in order to enter heaven and to purify themselves from the original sin which cast Eve out from the Garden of Paradise

“They don’t make those teachings public of course, but the signs are all there,” said Peter Daley, a cult watcher, who spends time spreading awareness about JMS and other controversial Asian groups called “cults” through the Internet.

Myeong-seok was officially charged with rape in 2001, after leaving South Korea in 1999. He left South Korea after it was broadcast on national television that he had committed the crime of rape. This was also reported by newspapers in Asia. He was arrested in Hong Kong in 2003, but fled again after an extradition hearing. Myeong-seok was finally caught and jailed with a 10-year sentence in February 2009. He is still serving his sentence currently in South Korea. Since his arrest was publicized more than 100 women have claimed they were raped or sexually abused by Myeong-seok during purification rituals.

JMS was particularly mindful of the way they lured Smith into the bible study. They started it out by teaching her interpretations of parables in the bible.

“It was something I was used to because I am a member of a Christian nondenominational church,” said Smith. “Each bible lesson was really insightful. They explained parables with logical interpretations.”

In Texas as Sabrina Smith advanced deeper into the bible study, her JMS teacher Stephanie Hsu discretely introduced the JMS peculiar practices to Smith. She convinced Smith to wake up to pray and listen to proverbs written by Myeong-seok every morning at 4:00 AM, referred to as the “spiritual hour.” Hsu also used guilt as a tool to get Smith to follow JMS. According to Smith, Hsu would say things like, “God will not listen to you if you don’t pray at this hour.”

Smith did wake up and pray as Hsu instructed, but she didn’t stay with the practice long because “towards the end it all started getting really fishy,” she said.

There were indicators that convinced Smith that JMS was a “cult” organization. Hsu instructed Smith that she must keep the early Morning Prayer practice a secret. Hsu invited Smith to model in JMS fashion shows, also telling the young woman that she could write personal letters to their “teacher” and offered to bring Smith to Asia as long as she didn’t tell her parents.

Smith’s gut instinct told her something wasn’t right, so she began to research on the organization. Soon she came across Daley’s website jmscult.com and contacted him for more information about the cult. Shortly after finding that site, she told Hsu she would not continue the bible study.

Daley recalled his first introduction to the JMS cult when he was living in South Korea. One of his friends invited him to go hiking in Wolmyong Dong, the “spiritual” base of the JMS cult.

Daley accepted the invitation only to find himself stuck at an all-night festival at Wolmyong Dong.

“I remember being struck by the fact that well over 80 percent of the 2,000 strong crowd were female university students,” said Daley. “Furthermore, the leader’s brother was constantly surrounded by an entourage of women that looked like they had just stepped out of a fashion magazine.”

Followers at the festival asked Daley throughout the night if he was studying the bible and if he knew “Seonseng Nim.” Daley, assuming this character would be present at the festival, asked around to get more information about him. He received replies like “he’s evangelizing in America” and “God called him to preach to the world and he’s in Asia spreading the Gospel.”

“The Beatlemania-like response from all those young girls and models when the face of the absent Jeong was shown on a giant screen at 1:00 AM was proof enough to me that this was at the very least some kind of personality cult,” said Daley.

Many followers to this day refuse to admit Myeong-seok committed the crimes he is in jail for or try to somehow justify his conviction and incarceration.

“Jesus was persecuted too,” said Karen Liu, a current member of the JMS cult who has been seen recruiting at Santa Clara University campus.

“If Jeong isn’t a serial rapist who is using religion as a tool and cloak to rape, then he sure created an organization that makes him look like one,” says Peter Daley.

With Myeong-seok in jail, female members are safe for now from potential rape by “the teacher;” however, “the emotional damage involvement in such a high-pressure group even for a short time should not be ignored or underestimated,” Daley said.

Update: SBS2 Australia recently broadcast a report about the Jeong group featuring former members, which is now online at YouTube.

By Gina Catena

ABC’s KTVO-TV in Iowa March 11, 2014 reported on a “Pandit Riot” that took place at the gate to Vedic City’s pandit compound after TM officials arrived with sheriff support at 0600. They planned to remove one of the compound’s leaders for unspecified disciplinary action and possible return to India.

According to the televised report, dozens of the Indian men who receive $50 monthly stipend (with $150 presumably sent to families in India) surrounded the sheriff’s vehicle, threw rocks and broke a squad car light. The sheriff called for other law reinforcements from Wapello County for support.

The Global Country of World Peace or Vedic City authorities must have suspected some unrest to justify requesting sheriff support to escort this pandit leader away.

The pandits protested their leader’s departure. Law enforcement officials could not understand words that were shouted in Hindi. News reports do not mention any attempt by law enforcement to understand the pandits.

News reports do not address (lack of) a Hindi interpreter. There is no mention if the shouting men were later provided an objective interpreter or offered impartial legal representation.

Credit goes to the sheriff who avoided escalating an altercation by successfully backing his vehicle away through the unarmed crowd. The sheriff’s office did not press charges since no one knows who assaulted the vehicle. Vedic City agreed to cover costs for the sheriff’s auto repairs.

The sheriff expressed incredulity that these men “held no respect for the law” when they mobbed his vehicle.

The pandits were escorted back inside their square mile of fenced compound.

TMFree previously posted concerns about the pandits’ captivity in a previous three part series that can be read by clicking here.

The recent “riot” might be a desperate attempt by these caged men to communicate to the outside world.

One woman interviewed for the televised report stated that these pandits WANT to stay impounded together, rather than return to their family squalor in India. However, if the pandits want to stay impounded, why did 163 of them escape within the last year? Their absence was not reported by the sponsoring TM organization that holds their passports.

Al Jazeera’s review of January 27, 2104 “Indian Vedic students go ‘missing’ in the US” can be read by clicking here.

Vedi City’s pandit situation resembles this animated United Nations’ video about modern human slavery.

These young pandits receive slave wages of room and board plus $50 / month. $150 per pandit is supposedly sent to their families in India. They may spend their $50 at small store in their compound. They rarely leave the compound. Their “job” is to inspire donations from TM True Believers for mystical chants that TM leaders promise will assure good weather, economic prosperity and world peace. For video clips, click here.

If these men want greater rights, they could be desperate enough to vie for attention from law enforcement.

Raja John Hagelin, Maharishi’s Raja of North America (aka Dr. John Hagelin in the films “What the Bleep Do We Know” and “The Secret”) Bill Goldstein, spokesman of The Global Country of World Peace, and John Revolinski, an administrator for the pandit campus, said the majority of these pandits began living in TM’s pandit compounds as children. This sounds suspiciously like child trafficking.  See “Students inquire about pandits during forum” by clicking here.

Revolinski referred to the pandits’ group dynamics. He did not discuss the group dynamics of the larger community which colluded to keep these men inside a fenced compound.

Some reports state the pandits have R-1 Visas. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Web Site defines R-1 visas here.  A key excerpt below:

“An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the United States temporarily to be employed at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week) by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation…To qualify, the foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least 2 years immediately before the filing of the petition.”

Forgive our confusion. For decades the TM Movement stated they are a non-religious organization. The TM Movement used this non-religious argument to infiltrate public schools and the American Veteran’s administration through the David Lynch Foundation.

Yet, the pandits received visas to work for an “organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination in the United States.”

TMFree addressed religious aspects of TM many times, for example “Is it a religion, or a dessert topping?”  and “Still “not a religion”: Video of puja, the religious ritual central to TM Initiation”.

Vedic City issued a TM-speak statement on March 11, 2014 which can be read here, and stated that :

“A very harmonious meeting was held with the entire Pandit group immediately after the incident to discuss what transpired. An internal review of the situation is being conducted with an aim to avoid any such repeat incidents in the future.”

No investigator had contact with the pandits. Will an outsider speak directly to these men?

How can law enforcement assist the containment of voiceless innocents inside an isolated compound?

Some reports said these men were promised an education and job training. Does chanting for a net of $50 monthly equal a career?

Pandits are human beings whose concerns should be heard. These are not the mute Orca whales whose captivity in San Diego SeaWorld garners press attention through animal activists.

An objective legal investigation into this should be initiated by people outside of Jefferson County, Iowa. Authorities of southeast Iowa already demonstrated both lack of objectivity and collusion with Vedic City through seven years of silence about these men confined to one square mile in a cornfield.

The pandits may have learned that drama attracts attention after fire fighters responded to a small fire in a pandit mobile home on November 8 2013, as reported here.

Another fire on March 3, 2014 was reported here.

If these men are desperately calling for help, they might be succeeding.

The Cult Education Institute (CEI) formerly known as the Ross Institute of New Jersey, has launched a completely redeveloped modern database.

The CEI archives includes more than 36,000 articles and documents in an online library organized through hundreds of subsections by group or topic of interest. There is also a virtual library listing relevant books in association with Amazon.com and one of the largest link collections now online about groups called “cults.”

The CEI site was first launched in 1996 and has grown from a modest website to one of the largest archives about destructive cults, controversial groups and movements accessible through the Internet.

There are also other sites online included under the CEI umbrella such as the Cult News Network, Cult News and the CEI message board. Taken together the CEI Web presence offers the general public a free interactive resource for research and study, which broadly encourages the sharing and networking of information for those concerned about cults and related topics of interest.

CEI is a nonprofit educational charity and a member of both the American Library Association and the New Jersey Library Association.

 

The Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups, and Movements has officially changed its name to The Cult Education Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements.

The new domain name entry point and gateway to the Internet archives of the institute is now culteducation.com.

The Cult Education Institute archives is a library of information about destructive cults, controversial groups and movements, which was initially launched in 1996 and has continued to be under construction and expansion for the past 17 years.

The public message board attached to the The Cult Education Institute is now accessible through the domain name culteducation.com. More than 100,000 entries from the former members of destructive cults, controversial groups and movements and others concerned has accumulated at the board over the past decade. The message board content continues to grow daily and it serves as a free speech zone for those who wish to share their insights and concerns about the topics listed.

The blog Cult News will continue with the same domain name cultnews.com.

The Cult News Network, a link sharing site for networking breaking news stories about cults and related topics, will also continue using the same domain name cultnews.net.

A new Web site design for The Cult Education Institute is now being developed and will reflect many improvements. All the same documents, news reports and information will continue to be archived within The Cult Education Institute library.

During development the old site will remain intact, which includes all the accumulated information and material and the attached message board, but it will only be accessible through the new domain name entry point of culteducation.com.

The general email address for the site will also change from info@rickross.com to info@culteducation.com.

Likewise the email address for Rick Ross will change from rickross@rickross.com to rickross@culteducation.com

The Cult Education Institute is an educational nonprofit corporation with 501 (c) (3) charitable status granted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States and is also an institutional member of both the New Jersey Library Association and the American Library Association.

The domain name rickross.com is now for sale at the GoDaddy Auction Domain Name Aftermarket Web site.

de6f437ee1dda7161652cdaefd82d04d.jpgrickross.com was originally purchased in 1996 and is owned by well-known cult expert and intervention specialist Rick Ross (photo above right). The Web site known as rickross.com was launched in 1996 and is a primary resource on the World Wide Web for information about destructive cults, controversial groups and movements. In 2001 the site officially became known as the Rick A. Ross Institute for Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements (RI) and was granted nonprofit, tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) charitable status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States.

RI is devoted to public education and is an institutional member of the New Jersey Library Association.

rickross.com today is the gateway to a vast archive that has been under continuous construction for 17 years. This ever expanding online library includes thousands of individual documents, articles, reports and studies divided into hundreds of subsections by topic such as Scientology, Landmark Education and “brainwashing.”

A wealth of information is contained within the public message board attached to the RI Web site, which has more than 100,000 entries. The posts at this open forum board include comments from former cult members, affected families and others concerned.

Alexa, the Web information company, currently ranks the RI Web site 73,703 globally and 24,316 in the United States on World Wide Web based upon its traffic. More than 3,000 Web sites link to RI according to Alexa.

After some consideration RI has decided that the domain name entry point of the Web site will be changed. Due to this decision rickross.com is now for sale. Also included and conveyed to the purchaser of rickross.com will be four additional domains; rickross.net, rickross.org, rick-ross.net and rick-ross.org.

Note: The sale of the domain name rickross.com is for the domain name only and does not include any portion or part of the Web site archives. Everything within the Web site archives will remain intact and nothing will change. This includes the main archives and message board contents. The buyer of the domain name rickross.com will only purchase and have access to the domain name and nothing else. What is now known as rickross.com will become culteducation.com. This will be a domain name change and nothing more. This will of course involve a change in all relevant link addresses within the archives and message board and this will temporarily affect search results as the various search engines note the change in link addresses.Eventually all the contents of the Web site archives and message board entries will once again become evident and appear within searches with the new domain name prefix.

Cult interventionist and professional counselor Steven Hassan is the focus of a recently released video produced by the World Missionary Society Church of God (WMSCOG). The online video is critical of Hassan and it quotes both a CultNews critique of his latest book and comments posted at the message board within the Ross Institute of New Jersey (RI) Web site.

Hassan runs a for-profit corporation called “Freedom of Mind” and is a licensed counselor in Massachusetts.  Apparently WMSCOG sees Hassan as an adversary largely due to his intervention activities and ties to some former members of WMSCOG.

220px-steven_hassan_headshot_02.jpgFans of Steven Hassan have frantically contacted the author of the book review and RI to share their dismay. They are concerned that criticism of Hassan is accessible through the Internet, which can therefore potentially be quoted by anyone.

However, despite the dismay and demands nothing will be deleted or censored at this blog or within the RI database. No one is above criticism and simply because a purported “cult” has quoted critical material doesn’t mean that information must be purged from the Web.

Apparently Hassan’s fans also have a history of “information control” at Wikipedia.

Steve Hassan warns about what he calls “mind control the BITE model.” Ironically, the “I” in BITE stands for an effort to control information.

RI has a history of protecting critical information about groups and/or leaders and has repeatedly resisted attempts to censor its database.  Five frivolous lawsuits have been filed against RI and/or Rick Ross in various harassment efforts. Nothing has ever been taken down as a result of such litigation. All the lawsuits were dismissed, though some claims are still pending regarding a single lawsuit associated with a group called NXIVM (pronounced nexium).

Former cult deprogrammer Steve Hassan has a long history of borrowing upon the ideas of others for his writings without proper attribution and charging exorbitant fees for his services. In recent years his fees have ranged from $2,500.00 to $5,000.00 per day. He also promotes “team” interventions, which consists of former cult members and other professionals assisting him before, during and/or after an intervention effort. The other team members charge additional fees and expenses. All of this means that hiring Mr. Hassan can be a very expensive proposition. Some families have mortgaged their homes and/or raided 401k retirement accounts to pay the bill.

RI has received repeated complaints about Mr. Hassan. Families have said that his approach has failed and/or produced questionable results at great expense.  

CultNews and the Ross Institute certainly do not endorse or support in any way, shape or form WMSCOG. But as the old adage goes “even a broken clock is right twice a day.” In this context WMSCOG has correctly quoted the cited material, which raises meaningful questions concerning Steve Hassan’s books, methodology and fees.

RI does not endorse or recommend Steven Hassan and does not list his books through the reading list at its database.

WMSCOG is included as a controversial group within the RI database.

WMSCOG certainly bears more than a faint resemblance to another Korean organization known as the Unification Church founded by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, which has been called a “cult.” Interestingly, instead of a male “messiah” WMSCOG has a female leader they often call “mother,” who seems to wield dictatorial power over the group with little if any meaningful accountability. Rev. Moon who occupied a similar position of authority was often called “father” by his followers.

RI has received many complaints about WMSCOG from families, former members and others concerned. Many of the “warning signs” attributed to a potentially unsafe group or leader appear to apply to WMSCOG.

 Update: The Ross Institute  does not recommend Steve Hassan see this disclaimer.

By Linda Rogers

The family of a 27-year-old British Army officer who died of cancer in November (2012) have called for an investigation into the brainwashing tactics of a group who claimed they could cure her cancer.  Leaders of Innersound, who have a clinic in London and are recognized as a cult by UK experts,  dissuaded Naima Mohamed from having the chemotherapy that could have saved her life. Innersound ‘masters’ claimed she would recover from their meditation and therapy alone,  and that chemotherapy was poison. 

The Sandhurst-trained officer rejected chemotherapy and all other NHS treatments in January 2011. She handed over more than £15k to Innersound, but then the cancer spread to her sternum and lungs. Naima was told  in July last year by hospital doctors her family persuaded her to see that she had around two years to live, but she died in a hospice near her family in Poole just four months later. 

Naima’s Moroccan-born father Ben Mohamed, 68, wept as he told last week “Naima was totally under the spell of those so called masters, and she kept saying they knew how to cure her, that she would be OK.  There needs to be an investigation into what they are doing. They are telling very sick people they can cure them and it’s just rubbish.  It’s just a shame my daughter didn’t realize this sooner, when she could have had life saving treatment. They made her believe chemotherapy was poison that would harm her body not cure it.  At the end of her life Naima said to me ‘I’m so sorry dad. I was wrong’.  Something needs to happen to stop them doing this to others.” Naima’s distraught mother Saida has been staying with relatives in France since the funeral on 18th November. 

Naima’s grandfather Thomas Philips, a British man who was in the Navy said “I too would like to see an investigation.  Naima kept taking me to the clinic, convinced their massages would cure my arthritis and heart trouble.  They encourage clients to bring relatives for treatments.  It wasn’t magical or miraculous, just expensive massage,  and  Naima was very struck with them.  I suppose she was brainwashed, but it was hard to reach that conclusion there as the masters all seemed so genuine and kind.  Naima kept saying ‘they are taking the badness out of me granddad, and you have to believe it.’” Mr Philips says Innersound were ‘bleeding Naima dry’ and she often asked him for loans to pay for her treatments. 

master_oh.jpgThe Innersound Foundation, just off Harley Street and formerly known as Ki Health, told Naima that their Master Oh (photo left) had cured himself of cancer and said he could cure hers. The enrobed South Korean leader said she would recover through ‘ancestral healing’ which gets rid of ancestors’ ‘bad energy’ to heal their troubled successors living in the present. 

A 32 year old management consultant who was seeing Innersound masters at the same time as Naima for bowel disease, who can’t be named in this article for legal reasons, has pledged to sign an affidavit to swear by what he witnessed.  He said ” I saw masters tell Naima she didn’t need chemotherapy.  Master Oh said he had cured himself of stomach cancer, and that  he would help to cure her.  Another master claimed she was healed of breast cancer, and Naima could be healed too. Master Oh also told many others in my presence he could cure them of  different illnesses.”

Anti-cult expert Graham Baldwin, who runs the Catalyst charity which helps victims of cults and their families, said “This group prey on vulnerable, desperate people to abuse them financially and mentally.  Any organization which suggest  a girl with cancer should stop chemotherapy is not doing what could be expected of any charity.  Innersound are never going to improve anyone’s chances of recovering from a terminal illness.  They should lose their charitable status, and police need to investigate them under the 1939 Cancer Act which forbids false claims for cancer cures.”

Naima, who grew up in Winchester,  paid £9,000 for ancestral healing and parted with another £7,000 for other oriental therapies including meditation, chanting and to pay for for elaborate ceremonies.  Patients are made to belch and hiss in the belief this will get rid of the ‘bad energy’ that is making them sick. 

Naima originally contacted Innersound for spiritual enlightenment after hearing about them from a fellow soldier, and was diagnosed with breast cancer the following year. Her close friend Dulcie Fernandez said   “Naima is very sorry that she ever went to Innersound and she would want it known that their treatments don’t work.”

I met Naima at her lodgings in London in July.  She said  “I was given the firm impression by the masters that chemotherapy wasn’t going to work for me.  They told me this, and they seemed so knowledgeable, so genuine and compassionate I believed them.  I’m a soldier, a professional, and I am not a gullible person, but they influenced me at a time when I was highly vulnerable, promising me life-saving things I desperately wanted to believe. I wish now that I hadn’t.” 

Cult expert lawyer Claire Kirby helped Naima last year get a £12k refund from Innersound, who say they repaid the money out of compassion and accept no liability for Naima’s  then failing heath.

Kirby claimed Innersound used ‘undue influence’ to extract monies, by befriending Naima and winning her confidence.  In a letter to them she says “…(our client) was encouraged to trust and revere the masters and to believe in the teachings of Innersound including that the treatments and trainings had an excellent success rate of getting people with cancer better again.  Master Oh stated that our client did not need chemotherapy,  and that if she committed herself to the program could heal herself of cancer.’ 

Innersound’s therapies use techniques derived from those used by a South Korean couple jailed in 2000 for conning their followers out of £44 million.  Mo Haeng Yong and Park Gui Dal were imprisoned in Seoul for 8 and  5 years respectively. Innersound deny associations with the couple, although they  have visited them in the UK. 

Ki Health were forced to change their name to Innersound after being exposed by a British newspaper in 2008. They now are alls using the name Qi Wellness. Frequent name-changing is routine among cults who want to distance themselves from negative publicity and law enforcement.  The UK anti-cult movement is lobbying the Charity Commission for it to withdraw Innersound’s charitable status.

It appears that purported Albany, New York “cult” leader Keith Raniere (photo below), known to his followers as “Vanguard”, may be re-branding his business again.

628×471.jpgRaniere, a failed multi-level marketing guru, now runs a large group awareness training (LGAT) company. First his business was called Executive Success Programs (ESP), then NXIVM (pronounced nexium) and now it seems the latest name being used is “Ethilogia“.

The Ethilogia Web site claims it’s “the path of the ethicist” and teaches “value based decision making”.

However, in a 2003 article titled “Cult of Personality” Forbes Magazine described Keith Raniere as the “world’s strangest executive coach” and quoted one of his former clients who labeled his company a “cult”.

This year reporter James Odato of the Albany Times-Union won an Associated Press award for his investigative series “Secrets of NXIVM” exposing the seamy side of Raniere’s life and business.

The Ehtilogia Web site states, “At the core of this course of study is a patent-pending technology called Rational Inquiry”. This “technology” is described as a process of “emotional training” that affects “decision making” accomplished through “inner breakthroughs”, which are “like working out in an “emotional” gym.” The site says, “Achievements are possible because the very foundation of a person’s human experience”one’s belief system”will be completed and integrated.”

Interestingly, what the new Ethilogia Web site doesn’t mention is Keith Raniere, despite the fact that he is the creator of Rational Inquiry. At Raniere’s personal Web site associated with NXIVM he is credited as the “creator” of the Rational Inquiry as well as proclaimed a “Scientist, mathematician, philosopher, entrepreneur, educator, inventor and author”. It was apparently in his role as “philosopher” that Raniere put together the belief system Rational Inquiry, which is the basis for both NXIVM and Ethilogia.

The Albany Times Union reported, “Many of the terms within NXIVM are similar to those in the Church of Scientology, a religious movement that has been called a cult ” a label the Church of Scientology denies. As with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Raniere’s ideas are labeled ‘technology.’ Those who are seen as disloyal to the group are dubbed ‘suppressives’ and students move up a ladder of coursework meant to make them more successful in life and work. Long, involved sessions of guidance are called ‘intensives.’” It was also reported that Raniere’s “interest in philosophy traces to author Ayn Rand, particularly from her novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’.”

But despite what seems like Mr. Raniere’s substantial borrowings from other sources the Ethilogia Web site nevertheless says that Rational Inquiry is “a unique, patent-pending technology and body of knowledge”.

Browsing through the Ethilogia Web site you will see photographs of famous folks with corresponding stories and/or quotes. The list of featured historic icons includes Steve Jobs, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey and Olympian Wilma Rudolph. None of these people were ever actually students of Rational Inquiry or Keith Raniere. And other than Oprah Winfrey, all of these iconic figures are dead and therefore must remain silent concerning the questionable use and association of their name and image to promote Mr. Raniere’s latest business scheme.

The “team” of “coaches” touted by Ethilogia is rather telling and includes names with ties to NXIVM such as Melissa Rodriguez, Ivan Lucas, Danny Trumann and Phillip Lamport.

According to its Web site Ethilogia “is a practical emotional training program that provides the foundation necessary to acquire and build the skills for success.”

However, if you take the time to Google either NXIVM and/or Keith Raniere you will quickly understand why neither name appears at the new Web site. Raniere and NXIVM have a deeply troubled history of bad press, complaints and litigation.

Respected psychologist and court expert Paul Martin wrote two papers explaining his concerns about Raniere’s brand of executive training. Click here to read Martin’s comparison of that training to the criteria used to determine if a “thought reform” program is in use. Thought reform is more commonly called “brainwashing”. Click here to read Martin’s critical analysis of Raniere’s ESP program.

Some people that have attended Raniere’s training programs have found it less than a “success” and sought subsequent psychiatric help. Forbes reported, “After sleepless nights and 17-hour days of workshops, a 28-year-old woman from a prominent Mexican family says she began to have hallucinations and had a mental breakdown at her hotel near Albany. She went to a hospital and required psychiatric treatment. Her psychiatrist, Carlos Rueda, says in the last three years he has treated two others who have taken the class; one had a psychotic episode.”

Kristin Snyder, a young woman that attended ESP programs, walked out of a training session and committed suicide. Snyder left a note that said, “I attended a course called Executive Success Programs based out of Anchorage, AK, and Albany, NY. I was brainwashed and my emotional center of the brain was killed/turned off. I still have feeling in my external skin, but my internal organs are rotting. Please contact my parents … if you find me or this note. I am sorry life; I didn’t know I was already dead. May we persist into the future.” Click here to read the news report regarding the Snyder suicide.

Keith Raniere may use various names for his business concerns, but the game always appears to be the same.

By Gina Catena

The TM Organization focuses upon FUNDRAISING for Pandits, while promising magic. Despite TM’s assertion, there is no evidence that Pandits’ impact global harmony. After years of fundraising for world peace through chanting Pandits, neither Maharishi’s Global Country of World Peace nor other TM nonprofits disclose finances related to these captive Indians.

orig_00036.jpgIn a recent TM Organization announcement, Raja (Dr.) John Hagelin encourages donations to support an 11-day national Yagya (prayer ceremony) to begin on September 19, 2012. The final date for payment for this particular yagya was to be September 13. For of a mere $1,250, a donor could designate someone to be named during the performance.

The message flatters donors for TM Pandits’ prayer ceremonies, “As a direct result of the generosity and vision of our donors, the Maharishi National Yagya program has grown into a powerful force for America.”

Hagelin credits the Pandits’ Yagyas with Iowa’s summer rains, and for redirecting this summer’s Hurricane Isaac :

“A few people have asked about Isaac. Originally forecast to be a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, it only reached Category 1. While the storm produced flooding in some of the most vulnerable areas, the City of New Orleans was largely spared.”

“The rain’s subsequent northward march provided welcome relief to some of the most drought-stricken areas of the country. When national invincibility is more firmly established, we can anticipate even greater protection against national disasters.”

Some True Believers continue to donate to these campaigns, otherwise why would the TM Movement continue to send such messages?

Deemed-scientific correlation between the Pandits and selective good news is as logical as Laurie’s (of TMFree) correlation that 99% of murderers begin their life drinking milk; thus milk leads to murdering.

Hagelin’s message continues, “We are on the verge of realizing Maharishi’s desire of 30 years. The generosity of our donors has brought us to this place. With your support, we will soon have the Super Radiance community we have worked so hard to build.”

Hagelin updates about plans to grow Pandit population  :

“  * 556 Pandits now have passports, and 541 have completed their visa applications.
   * The first phase of the kitchen expansion to accommodate the new Pandits has been completed, and the next phase is well underway.
   * More than 1/3 of the funds needed to bring all 556 Pandits to the U.S. has been raised.
   * The arrival of these Pandits will secure the daily Super Radiance numbers in Fairfield and Maharishi Vedic City at more than 2,000. Closing in on the Goal”

Another recent fundraising email from Stan Crowe earlier this summer declared,“a special 11-day National Yagya performance beginning on Guru Purnima, July 3. We chose this date to honor our beloved Maharishi on this most auspicious day, the day of the Guru. The Yagya will also coincide with America’s Independence Day, July 4.”

Having failed to create a permanent community of 2000 people practicing Maharishi’s TM-Sidhi program twice daily in MUM’s golden domes, In 2001 Maharishi decided to offer donors the opportunity to sponsor others to meditate for them. The sponsorship concept already existed on a smaller scale in the TM Movement. It used to be common practice for those with less funds to seek sponsorships, often arranged as tax deductible donations, to attend advanced TM courses. Wealthy TMers also often sponsored the celibate participants on the Purusha  or Mother Divine programs for tax deductions, personal glory, and good karma.

Since 1979′s first “World Peace Assembly” in Amherst Massachusetts, Maharishi and the TM Movement promoted the idea that a small percentage of the population could influence world peace, weather, crime and the economy through group meditation. This would create “The Maharishi Effect” to bring heaven on earth, or so Maharishi and the organization’s retroactive selective studies claimed.

As Sudarsha suggested in a private message, this goal is as scientific as shooting a blank wall, then drawing a target circle around the spot you hit.

The goal of changing the world was and is used to inspire, or pressure, TM-Sidhi practitioners to devote their lives and funds to Maharishi’s plans. This also feeds the narcissism of people who would believe their thoughts alone are powerful enough to influence government decisions and weather patterns.

Since that course in 1979 (Yes, I was there) Maharishi and his minions such as Bevan Morris, John Hagelin and others have long  threatened Maharishi’s followers with global warfare and other calamities unless a core group of at least 2000 people practiced Maharishi’s TM-Sidhi Program together twice daily.

For example, in 1979 Bevan Morris pulled me aside for a private audience in a small dark room, saying someone had reported me to him for not attending Program as prescribed. Bevan said that I personally would be responsible for bringing WWIII or economic collapse to the world because I did not fully participate in “Program” many hours daily. In response I said that motherhood and supporting my family took precedence over group meditations, that my family is my Program. I told Bevan that Maharishi did not have children, so he didn’t understand families. Bevan excused me, seemingly without officially black-listing me. Others tell similar stories of intimidation and threats for their non-participation in program, or if they requested permission to leave.

In the early 1980′s Maharishi claimed that donations to support participants on the celibate Purusha and Mother Divine programs would bring financial prosperity, health and speed enlightenment for donors. In fact, my (then)husband wanted us to tithe 10% of our income to support his former girlfriend on the Mother Divine course. They had attended and graduated together in 1981 from Maharishi International University. She was a sweet young woman, who vigilantly ‘put her attention’ on my husband’s business daily and wrote us newsy letters about Maharishi’s latest inspirations. The young woman’s prolonged meditations did not enhance our economic status. My (then) husband often blamed his business problems on the bad karma that I brought to his business because I did not attend “Program” (6-8 hours) daily. This was a prevalent community attitude at that time.


Per their own counts, the TM Movement repeatedly fails to realize the mystical 2000 meditator/Sidhas for twice-daily Program attendance. Other TMers must be making similar choices about responsibilities,  personal and family needs, thereby decreasing Program attendance.


To solve this problem, Maharishi came up with the  brilliant idea of raising funds to import professional meditators from India. This idea was proposed as early as November 2001.

Note : Maharishi’s idea is FUNDRAISING for Pandits, not to really improve the world through mystical practices.

In January 2002, after coming out of his annual silent retreat to begin the new year, Maharishi proposed that for a mere $250 Million, the world’s problems could be solved by establishing a permanent community with 10,000 Pandits. 

Maharishi’s fundraising scheme to support a group of meditating Pandits provided, then and now, a means for TM’s wealthy donors to assure spiritual good karma, enlightenment or entry to heaven by donating large sums of money for others meditate in their stead.

This is remarkably similar to the Medieval Catholicism when noblemen paid servants to make spiritual pilgrimages for them, thereby gleaning heavenly accolades for both the nobleman and the pauper who made the pilgrimage.

I doubt the Movement will attain the 2000 which they claim necessary for a Super Radiance effect. This dream is an eternal carrot-on-a-stick, never to be achieved. After all, the Movement would lose credibility with its followers if 2000 Pandits meditate twice daily, and the world inevitably continues with political travails, natural disasters, environmental carcinogens and economic vicissitudes.

Being a practical Guru, Maharishi established nonprofit corporations so that donors could receive tax deductions while profiting their Guru. Despite public perception, a “nonprofit” organization does not have to meet any ethical qualifications. The primary difference between a nonprofit corporation vs a for-profit is the stated purpose of the organization, how funds are dispersed and taxed. Nonprofits are allowed to generate revenue surpluses (er, that would be synonymous with profit’).

Using threats of global collapse to fear-monger for Pandit donations in October, 2003, a national conference call quoted (still living) Maharishi “‘The world would not completely end, there will be a few people left…You don’t know how fast the destruction is approaching. Do it, go fast… ‘Don’t wait until tomorrow when the whole thing collapses. If you don’t prevent this, don’t blame us.’”

In 2003, the Program “8000 Now” was created to fundraise for a Pandit program. Their website cleverly does not initially reveal their true intentions, until one clicks about on various links.

TMFree readers may enjoy videos on the  “National Yagya Program” website. Among highlights, see Raja Dr. John Hagelin explain how important it is to “engage the power of natural law at a very deep level” through the performance of Yagyas to help Japan after their tsunami and nuclear crisis. Japan’s Raja also reads aloud a letter of gratitude for Pandits he credits with helping Japan.. 

In his documentary film David Wants to FlyDavid Seiveking interviews Earl Kaplan. Earl admits that he is not proud of his former TM-alliance and donations exceeding $150million to Maharishi. Earl also says he asked Maharishi about the promised Pandits; despite Earl’s large donation for this purpose, none had been gathered together. Earl says that Maharishi told him “I don’t know if it will work.” In his former brainwashed state, Earl was shocked that his Guru had been recruiting for a cause that he was not sure would work. Earl, his twin brother David, and their wives then left the Movement.

5panditsupporters.jpegIn late October 2006, shortly after Howard Settle granted $600 per person monthly scholarship to hire pandits, up to one million dollars monthly, an initial group of Pandits arrived from India.  The Movement announced “A permanent group of 1,000 Maharishi Pandits has been established in America”. Photos here show TM Movement dignitaries  (note their requisite beige/gold themed suits) greeting Pandits at the airport, and chatting at the Pandits’ welcome dinner.

Ostensibly, there are plans to bring enough Pandits for a permanent group creating a global Maharishi Effect of world peace, balanced economy, wealth, good weather, lush agriculture, and enlightenment for all!4panditdinner.jpeg

The Pandits are hired to save the world by meditating en masse.

For obscure reasons, the Movement still fails to have the requisite number of Pandits together. Looks like stalling tactics to me, to keep donations flowing.

For those with special needs and the ability to make tax deductible donations, the Organization states Pandits can customize mystical Yagya ceremonies for special purposes. Even my late-father had purchased several custom Yagyas for himself.

Lacking foresight, when the first Pandits arrived to Iowa in autumn of 2006, they lacked proper clothing for Iowa’s subzero winters. Local meditators in Fairfield and Vedic City created a coat drive to garner winter wear so these thin Indian men could survive their first subzero winter. Many Pandits had arrived from India to the United States with only simple kurtas and shawls.

One year after their arrival, Maharishi approved the provision of winter coats in October 2007, for the Pandits. Separate fundraising efforts were conducted to purchase these coats, 

Interestingly, Vedic City has an identity crisis about their Pandits.

Official Vedic City maps, provided by The Raj Spa’s receptionist, do not identify the location of this fenced, guarded compound. Still, it’s easy enough to find. Just drive north in front of The Raj along Jasmine Ave., turn left, west, at 170th street at toward their touted luxury Rukmapura Park Hotel. The fenced Pandit compound is almost directly across 170th street from the hotel’s gravel driveway, conveniently outside the   official grid of Vedic City’s Master Plan, at the intersection of 170th Street and  “Invincible America Ave.” 

While not listed among Vedic City’s attractions, a small image of meditating Pandits appears in the upper banner of Vedic City’s website.

Vedic City wants tax benefits for the Pandits, according to a February 2011 story from Iowa’s Heartland Connection, channel 3 KTVO posted on February 17th “Can Census Make 1000 Iowans Disappear? ” 

Vedic City officials claim the US Census miscounted their residents, neglecting to include over one thousand residents of the pandit compound at 1675 Invincible America Drive. According to the 2001 Boundary and Annexation Survey file, the Pandit compound lies within Vedic City’s boundaries.
  
Are the Pandits actually Iowans as claimed by KTVO news? Are they legal residents of Vedic City, Iowa and the USA? Are they guests, or students? Only their US State Department Visas know for sure. 

As expected by anyone familiar with the TM Movement, Vedic City claims or disavows the Pandit presence according to what is most advantageous at any given moment. 

“Funnily enough” (one of Maharishi’s phrases), 2010 tax returns for only one fundraising arm for the pandit and yagya donations can be viewed here – 2010 Exempt Organization Tax Return “Brahmananda Saraswati Foundation”. And an overview of the financial status of Maharishi’s Global Country of World Peace can be viewed here.

Transcendental Meditation Organizations keep separate legal and financial structures. Readers can glean a glimmer of this global organization by clicking on a few links and drop down menus on this site for Maharishi’s Global Country or here for Peace Initiative Projects.

On a human note – One wonders if the fenced Pandits know their rights as foreign nationals within the United States. Human rights agencies queried in Chicago and elsewhere require a complaint filed by one of the Pandits themselves to initiate an investigation about unlawful restraint, confinement, or anything else. 

How would an imprisoned person, with neither English language fluency nor outside access, inquire for assistance or file a complaint?

Note: Gina Catena co-moderates a blog about TM Movement and TM recovery : TMFree.blogspot.com
Gina’s personal blog : comingtolifestories.com

By Gina Catena

Oprah Winfrey’s televised visit to Maharishi Vedic City’s [Transcendental Meditation (TM)] pandit compound provided an opportune excuse for a drive to the pandit compound during my recent visit to Fairfield, Iowa.

Oprah’s pandit visit is summarized in this short video clip.

As I drive north of Fairfield on Highway One, in less than one mile I follow the highway’s directional arrow left on Airport Rd toward Maharishi Vedic City.

dscn0605.JPGFollowing the arrow due west 2 miles on Airport Rd / 180th Street, I drive through open farmland and pass a few vedic houses, identifiable by uniform east facing entrances with strange roof ornaments, and Fairfield’s small airport where Fairfield’s TM-wealthy house private airplanes and a leer jet or two. Two miles west of Highway One’s turn off, I arrive at an empty country intersection for Jasmine Ave, the beginning of Vedic City.

Turning right, or north, onto Jasmine Ave I pass the turn to a few residences and the flagged Capital building for the Global Country of World Peace whose annual revenue, as a registered non profit agency, is in the range of $19 million,

And the entry sign for Maharishi Vedic Observatory, enhanced with bullet holes to document the sign’s dual purpose for both vedic marker and target practice.

I stop briefly at Vedic City’s central information desk in The Raj spa which features costly Maharishi Ayurvedic treatments (more about visiting the “Observatory” and “The Raj” in another essay).

Exiting the Raj’s tree-lined entry drive,I return to two-lane Jasmine Ave heading north as I pass farmland to my right and a few “Vedic” buildings on the left.

I turn left, or west, onto 170th Avenue’s country road along Vedic City’s perimeter. After passing a few Vedic housing developments that are evidently slow on sales, I arrive to the lauded luxury Rukmapura Park Hotel‘s gravel entry.

Almost directly across from the most elegant hotel of Fairfield or Vedic City lies the fenced “Invincible America Campus”, or pandit compound, with rows of white prefabricated buildings capped with golden ornaments, called kalashes, to maximize each building’s spiritual energy.

dscn0600.JPGAn uniformed visitor could possibly mistake the pandit compound for an agri-business, but not for long.

“Women are not allowed past that fence. Actually, no one is allowed unless they have special permission and an escort. You can stand at the edge of this fence to take photos.” The friendly guard informs me from the simple wooden guardshack at the entrance to Vedic City’s pandit compound only a few miles north of Jefferson County’s courthouse in Fairfield, Iowa.

The guard sits alone or with one other at the fenced compound’s gate, surrounded by otherwise open farmland and a large torquoise sky. Maybe the job is boring or perhaps he enjoys sitting in the quiet countryside and reading.

I’m relieved that the friendly guard in khakis, a light plaid shirt and clip-on security badge is happy to chat. I hope this essay does not jeopardize his employment.  

“Since I can’t enter, may I walk along that road between the fences, still outside the pandit compound?” I ask while pointing to the moat-like dirt road separating the compound from the parking lot where we stand. 

“Nope.” he responds. “Private property. You can take pictures from this parking lot fence.” He extends his arm indicating the fence encircling the small gravel parking area.

I retort with a smile, “But Oprah filmed inside.”

The guard laughs, “But you’re not Oprah.”

“True enough.” I wink and continue, “Maharishi always gave extra benies to the wealthy. It’s about public relations and donations. Too bad I don’t have a zoom lens.”

The guard observes from his small shack while I walk freely in the fenced gravel parking lot, clicking photos with my red point-and-shoot camera across double fences to the pandits.

Pandits play baseball on a seemingly unmarked grass field. 

Three Indians in white gauze kurtas notice me. They walk closer to sit under a tree near the fence, watching the guard talk with me. They remind me of captive animals in a zoo who had watched my children and me from behind fences. I wave. The pandits wave back.

Two beige former school buses parked beside the drive marked “Residents Only Private Drive” remind me of childrens’ summer camp transportation. The guard informs me that buses transport pandits for occasional special performances at Maharishi University’s Golden Domes or elsewhere, to return the same day.

Between snapping photos and chatting about the weather, I introduce myself.

“I just saw Oprah’s show and found this fascinating since I used to live here. I graduated from Fairfield High School 1975 as the first ‘Ru to graduate from Fairfield High, before MIU began their high school here.

(‘Ru is slang term awarded by Fairfield residents to the meditators who invaded their town in 1974, shortened from Iowa-accented GuRUuuu. MIU, Maharishi International University, later became MUM, or Maharishi University of Management)

Seeking commonality, the guard names some high school classmates from his graduating class a few years before mine.

After thinking a moment, I respond. “No, I don’t remember them. I only attended FHS for my senior year; that’s when we moved here. You and your friends were out of school by then, so I didn’t meet them. I remember Myron Gookin who is now Iowa’s local District Court judge. Myron was either our senior class president or the student body president. I think his family lived on North Main Street at the time, in a meticulous yellow house if I remember correctly. They moved to the other side of town after the ‘Rus took over that end of town. I arrived with the first group that came here with MIU from California. My mother was an MIU Student. I fell in love with Iowa, but the old Parsons campus was such a mess!”

“I remember.” he smiles and nods.

We laugh together while sharing memories of 1974′s awkward campus BBQ welcoming MIU’s arrival to Fairfield, when skinny vegetarian MIU students refused to eat barbequed pork donated by local farmers.

I add, “I always loved Iowa. My children were born here. My daughter attended Pence elementary school on the south side of town,” thereby implying that I was not a die-hard ‘Ru, since my own children attended a local public school rather than MSAE, Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. “Eventually I couldn’t take it and moved away.”

The guard nods, then begins to open up. “There are 850 pandits here now. The Movement plans to have 1200 to keep the numbers here up for when dome numbers drop. They keep saying more will arrive soon,” referring to Maharishi’s plan for a specified number of (TM-Sidhi) Program participants for the ever-promised “Super Radiance effect”  that would magically create World Peace.

“There are 88 buildings now and expanding.” He points to one building with an orange and purple entry, “That’s their Durga, or temple. The white entrance by a larger building is the administrative building. The large gymnasium is in back. Another building is the meditation building. All their needs are provided for.”

He suddenly sounds scripted, “They meditate, have food, study and exercise time. They study Sanskrit and Vedic scriptures. You can see they’re playing baseball now.” He nods to the ball game before us, speaking as though this is normal. “A clinic will be coming to take care of their medical needs.” he adds.

“They visit local doctors and the hospital now?” I ask.

“Usually. But there’s a doctor who comes to see them out here sometimes.”

“Have there been cases of tuberculosis or other infectious diseases?”

“I wouldn’t know.” He shrugs.

“I’m in the medical field. It’s good they provide medical care. This is impressive.”

I wonder if the TM Organization is building a private clinic to avoid alerting public health authoritites, or if the clinic merely provides a cost-saving convenience.

We stand quietly looking at the compound and pandit baseball game for a few minutes in the Iowa sun. Not sure what to say next, “Where does the money come for all this?” I ask.

The guard shrugs, shaking his head,  “I’m not part of the Movement.”

He points to his left, behind the guard shack, past open fields to a few rows of distant rectangular yellow buildings.

“American pandit-types live there. I forgot what they’re called.”

“Purusha?” I ask,

“Yes. Purusha. Some Mother Divine women live near them. But most of the women are in New York or North Carolina.  Purusha men are sometimes allowed to attend pandit ceremonies. They once allowed a couple of Mother Divine women to attend a pandit ceremony, but apparently it became a scene. Women are too distracting for the pandits. So no more females.” After a moment, guard adds, “There’s no problem with Purusha men and Mother Divine woman living nearby. ”

“I wonder how the pandits controlled themselves when Oprah visited.” I say.

The guard laughs.

After taking my few photos, I thank the guard and drive away, wishing I had better planned my questions.

Stopping briefly along the side the compound to photograph the street sign for “Vedic America Drive”, one pandit approaches me.

A moat-like ditch filled with knee-high prickly weeds deters me from getting close enough to the fence to talk comfortably. I wish I wore different shoes.

I wave “Hello” to the lone pandit.

He returns my greeting.

“It’s a beautiful day!” I call to him from the roadside, standing beside my car.

“Yes” he agrees.

“How are you today?”

“Fine.”

“How long have you lived here?” 

“One hour,” he reponds while wobbling his head side to side, Indian style.

 I realize he does not understand. I speak more slowly.

“How many years you here?”

“Two years.”

“Are you happy?”

“Yes.” He wobbles his head.

“May I please take your photo?” I hold up my camera.

“No.” he turns to walk away from the fence, then quickly returns. “OK.”

I snap his photo while the guard watches us from his perch.

“I have to go now.” We wave good bye.

Note: Gina Catena co-moderates a blog about TM Movement and TM recovery : TMFree.blogspot.com
Gina’s personal blog : comingtolifestories.com