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 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

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 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

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

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

The general email address for the site will also change from to

Likewise the email address for Rick Ross will change from to

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 is now for sale at the GoDaddy Auction Domain Name Aftermarket Web site. 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 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. 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 is now for sale. Also included and conveyed to the purchaser of will be four additional domains;,, and

Note: The sale of the domain name 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 will only purchase and have access to the domain name and nothing else. What is now known as will become 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 :
Gina’s personal blog :

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?”


“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 :
Gina’s personal blog :

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  — Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

By Gina Catena

Young families and greying baby boomers chat outside popular restaurants on Fairfield’s town square, accustomed to ignoring the fact that 850 innocents are trapped in a gated, barb-wired compound outside their town.

vediccityhwy1.jpgTurning to my friend I said “Everything is calm and peaceful. Folks chat and bask in sunshine. Fairfield’s [Transcendental Meditation (TM)] community is more integrated and tolerant than in the past. But doesn’t anyone question the pandit compound? This reminds me of small town Nazi Germany, when citizens colluded to ignore prison camps only a few miles away.”

She responded with parroted remarks that I had heard elsewhere, “I don’t feel badly for the pandits. They’ve been paid. They’re sending money home to their families in India – as poor immigrants have done from time immemorial. In Indian culture it’s common for one member of a family to sacrifice their entire life to benefit the larger family.”

Her verbatim response echoed one of Maharishi’s favorite indoctrination methods – multiple repetitions of nonsense would eventually be accepted as truth.

She continued, “The Movement hired a private guard. The local sheriff didn’t feel comfortable recapturing escapees any more.” Her calm manner shocked me.

“They have a guard? Some escape? Where do they go?” I asked.

“Of course some escape!” She continued, “Some of those Indians came to see America. They are poor people who took this job. They’re not trained as holy men. They have a work contract to meditate and chant for a couple of years. Their families are supported in India while they are here. The escapees usually show up at a nearby farmhouse asking for help.”

“This is 21st century North America, not ancient India’s indentured servitude.” I responded. ”Everyone in town knows that a few miles away there are people locked inside a guarded compound surrounded by corn fields. In this country, only prisoners are so constrained. Can this be legal?”

“They have visas.” My friend shrugged.

“Who holds their passports? Do they know their rights?” I asked.

After brief hesitation, my friend responded “It’s not my business. I just quietly conduct my life here. I have my own problems.”

I let the conversation drop. My friend has her reasons. So does everyone else.

On Highway One, only two miles north of the entry to Maharishi University of Management, a highway sign points west, towards an otherwise innocuous side road directing to the TM Movement’s incorporated Vedic City, which is governed by mayor Raja Bob Wynne.

The highway sign fails to name the fenced compound, around the back side of Vedic City, that encloses over 800 Indian men. Yet, everyone in Fairfield, Iowa knows about the secluded pandit compound.

The Spiral of Silence Theory may explain why citizens of Jefferson County Iowa, including local attorneys, government and law enforcement officials, avoid public discussion of questionable legalities surrounding the forced containment and minimal compensation for these indentured “Pandits” from India.

How the Hidden has Power” and “Out of Sight Out of Mind – Making Silence Easy” provide further insight to the social milieu of such silent complacency.

Note: Gina Catena co-moderates a blog about TM Movement and TM recovery :
Gina’s personal blog :

August 28, 2012

By Cathleen A. Mann, PhD


bookfreedom.jpgSteven Hassan’s latest book, Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs, just released in summer, 2012, is the latest in what can be seen as a trilogy of sorts, starting with Combatting Mind Control in 1988 and then Releasing the Bonds in 2000.  A large portion of the material in his latest book is a verbatim repetition of material from Releasing the Bonds. In his most recent book, Hassan reports that his sister was the impetus to changing his “approach” in interaction away from interventions, an activity that Hassan has been involved in for over 30 years.  In the preface to this book, Hassan repeats the story of his introduction to and his exit from the Unification Church (Moonies) and how that exit helped him find his life work of education and liberation from “mind control cults”. 

However, it is notable that in this third book, Hassan has greatly expanded his target audience due to what he says is cult activity “increasing exponentially,” and the “rise of the Internet”.  Since Hassan maintains a substantial Internet presence through his Web site,, it could be argued that he has increased public sensitivity to cults, thereby magnifying the importance of his solutions, as well as providing a forum where he can extensively promote his own theories and agenda.

“Cults are on the rise” seems to be the theme of this latest book.  But there is no proof of this claim. Hassan offers no scientific study or survey with statistics to prove his theory. It may be that “cults are on a downward turn,” or perhaps “cults have stayed the same”. These possibilities may not help in the marketing and sale of books, but they are two equal possibilities. Of course none of these statements regarding the growth or decline of cults is based upon scientific evidence. Hassan’s theories are not genuinely informative in any factual sense. 

It seems to me that Hassan’s purpose at conflating cult numbers is to frighten people and provide him with a marketing tool to sell books, rather than genuinely seeing so many groups and/or relationships as somehow being “cult-like”. He certainly hasn’t proven otherwise in this book.

It’s interesting to note that Mr. Hassan has written the preface to his new book. In the preface he offers the usual anecdotes and testimonies to his success. Hassan defines both the problem and the cure as “cult like traits seen at every level of society.”   Postulating his theory about an overwhelming societal problem, Mr. Hassan then offers his own unique solution.

Defining terms

It is important to note that within his third book Hassan has added new ingredients to his definition of a cult.  He claims in the first chapter that a cult uses (1) authoritarian leadership, (2) deception, and (3) destructive mind control.  The title of his new book now mentions “beliefs,” but this is not in his definition.  It is troubling that a book supposedly written to educate the public about cults would even enter into the area of “beliefs,” when almost all cult educators and experts don’t focus on beliefs, but rather on harmful practices.  In fact, it is a myth that cults are solely defined by beliefs. After all, the First amendment or Establishment Clause of the US Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, which includes the right to believe whatever you wish.  Hassan persists in using the term “destructive mind control,” which is not a term used in any legal setting and that has no real meaning.  Mind control seems quite ominous and rather sensational, but this term does nothing to further the discussion about the dynamics of cults and how they operate.  The research done in this area does not mention the term “mind control,” but uses terms such as “undue influence”, which express a more precise and exact meaning. 

Ultimate authority

Steve Hassan’s Twitter handle also can be seen as an interesting example of his problem with defining terms and labels. His Twitter handle is “cult expert”. Being qualified and 220px-steven_hassan_headshot_02.jpgaccepted in a court of law as an expert is typically meaningful proof of expertise. But Mr. Hassan has never provided expert testimony in a court of law.  What authority then, outside of Hassan himself, has officially recognized him as an expert concerning cults? For that matter has an authority officially recognized Hassan as an expert in anything? 

Steve Hassan’s latest book, just like the one before it, is self-published.  If Mr. Hassan were in fact “the #1 exit counselor,” surely he could find a publisher.  Having a publisher would bring in the much needed contribution of objective professional editing, and perhaps a peer review process, which might have made this a better and more credible book.

Starting with page 6, Hassan describes what he calls “common cult scenarios”.  These accounts may be the factual descriptions of actual cases or composites, but they read like the most sensational scenarios.  Hassan repeatedly places himself at the center of these brief case examples. He is the hero. He never fails to come up with just the right thing to say to successfully get through to a cult member.  Once again this fits a familiar pattern. Just like Hassan’s statement about the rise of cults, these scenarios appear self-serving and seem designed to elevate Mr. Hassan to a pedestal. Apparently, he is the one that can snap people out of a cult with just one or two artful remarks. He thus sets himself up as the ultimate authority on what to say and when to say it.  There is no mention of similarly artful things, which family members can say, even though the supposed purpose of this book is “helping loved ones” out of cults.  The definition of cult put forth by Mr. Hassan could be applied to many groups. He offers insufficient distinctions between what he considers a cult and what might be considered an ordinary group.  The message in this book seems to be that Steve Hassan has somehow become the final arbiter who will define such things for everyone.

Borrowing ideas

In Chapter 2, Hassan introduces Lifton’s eight criteria or psychological themes for thought reform, another term used to define “mind control,” even though Lifton never used the words mind control in his work.  Hassan also introduces Singer’s 6 criteria and brings in the social psychology construct of cognitive dissonance.  Even though Hassan names the origins of these ideas, nowhere in the body of his book within any chapter does he include properly cited references. In fact, the reader is told near the end of the book that a bibliography is not available, but rather can be found at Hassan’s Web site.  This is certainly not in keeping with any protocol of academic writing and seems like a device to minimize as much as possible the owners of the ideas that Hassan claims as his.  Not including such text references when you have depended upon the ideas of others might be considered something akin to plagiarism. 

This penchant that Steve Hassan has for borrowing upon the ideas of others without specifically cited attribution should be glaringly apparent to anyone familiar with Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). According to Mr. Hassan’s first book Combatting Cult Mind Control; he has studied NLP extensively with its founders. He has also described how NLP and the writings of its predecessors influenced the development of his own cult intervention model. In Hassan’s latest book (p. 208-214) he discusses concepts and techniques that come from NLP such as Visual Kinesthetic Dissociation and the idea of representational systems. But he fails to cite their source. Hassan makes no mention of NLP whatsoever, nevertheless borrowing from it quite heavily. This is especially troubling, given that NLP remains highly controversial amongst people that study cults, particularly because it can be seen as a manipulative technique of persuasion. NLP also poses an ethical dilemma when used within the context of cult intervention work. The integrity of an intervention and for that matter the interventionist is compromised by the use of such deliberately deceptive techniques and manipulation.

 BITE model

On page 23, Hassan introduces what he describes as the powerful BITE (Behavior, Information, Thought and Emotional control) model, something that he seems to see as a superior definition of the manipulation involved within cults.  Much of the BITE model is borrowed material from a 30 year long tradition of social psychological research.  In reading the elements of the BITE model within Hassan’s current book, that model has now been greatly expanded from his previous two books. The BITE model he now proposes is so broad that it could be applied a very wide array of groups.  What is troubling is that Hassan has not provided any guidelines to separate out the groups, which might warrant the cult label and those that do not.  The BITE model, as now applied by Hassan, has become a kind of philosophic construct not grounded in facts, but rather theories, many of them borrowed from others.


This composite philosophical approach as now devised by Mr. Hassan might be called “Hassanology”. In the world of cults Hassanology essentially depicts Steve Hassan as the ultimate savior. He is a hammer, and there is an ever expanding list of groups to be seen as nails. As they say, “When you are a hammer everything looks like a nail”. Of course this might once again simply reflect a convenient marketing strategy.

Hassan, repeating themes from his previous two books, introduces on page 52, this idea of dual identities, i.e. a pre-cult identity and a cult identity.  There is no evidence of a cult identity v. a pre-cult identity.  It is not even established that human behavior works in this way. These are not constructs that are generally accepted in psychology or professional counseling.  These claims exist entirely within the confines “Hassanology”.  Again, the tone of Mr. Hassan’s book is that these beliefs are true, rather than just one person’s untested ideas. 

Another troubling claim is that Hassan believes that all cult members suffer from phobias (p.56).  Again, Hassan presents his idea as an absolute truth, ignoring the fact that there is no scientific theory and/or scientific evidence to back it up.  Hassan seems to think that his ideas on phobias mesh with his claim that all cults practice hypnosis. He doesn’t acknowledge any exceptions. According to Mr. Hassan all cults do these things.  It is true that many cults teach members that leaving the group is wrong or bad, but where are the scientific studies that conclusively demonstrate that this practice constitutes phobia indoctrination?

Strategic interaction Approach

In Chapter 3, Hassan re-introduces his intervention model, the Strategic interaction Approach (SIA).  He states that this model will “promote change and encourage growth in the family as well as in the cult member” (p. 36).  Mr. Hassan promotes this model as the preferred alternative to “old style” deprogramming and/or “exit counseling”.  However, what Hassan does not discuss here or for that matter in his two preceding books, is that his approach includes elements of counseling.  And there is nothing specifically mentioned about the cult member being counseled explicitly understanding that they are participating in counseling, i.e. informed consent.  In fact, it appears that Hassan does not see the need to offer his SIA counseling as a matter of choice, but instead uses the family dynamic as  tool to keep the cult member talking and then to spring his counseling upon them without informed consent.  All professional counseling requires such an understanding and explicit consent before it begins. Counseling, by its very nature, is persuasive and constitutes an unequal power dynamic.  A licensed professional counselor that does not know this can do harm to people. People must agree and be amenable to receiving counseling, regardless of what the setting or stated goal may be. The ends do not justify the means. This principle is often cited concerning the questionable behavior of cults, and should apply to those attempting to help cult members as well.

It is important at this juncture to point out that there is really nothing new or unique about the SIA approach.  It merely represents a reworking of family systems theory, with no credit given by Hassan to its pioneers, such as expert family systems practitioners Virginia Satir or the Milan Family System theorists. SIA relies heavily on the body of theory and practice within family systems. Hassan’s remarks about the superiority of the SIA over exit counseling within his books is a thinly disguised attempt to say his method is fundamentally more effective,  and therefore has better results.  However, nowhere does Hassan provide a base rate and/or any type or accepted statistical method defining his results or what constitutes a successful SIA type of family work with a cult member.  Yes, Hassan provides anecdotal evidence selectively through testimonials, but there is no way to check if these are legitimate or edited for content. These testimonials are always glowing and positive, which is one of the major drawbacks to using testimonials; it’s deceiving and engenders the idea that your work with cult members is superior, always successful, and has better outcomes than any other approach.  This is why professional organizations such as the APA (American Psychological Association) have discouraged reliance upon testimonials. In contrast, one of the defining characteristics of pseudoscience is an over reliance on such anecdotal evidence, rather than scientific study.

Is the SIA approach the best approach? What happens when a cult member does not have a family suitable for the SIA approach?  Is that situation ignored?  The SIA approach, as advertised, has the family doing the bulk of the work and seems to include both deception and emotional blackmail to make it work.  Current cult members are never told they are facing an intervention. They are not told they will be subjected to counseling. And they are in a situation where family members confront them with family issues and disappointments, often in a very emotional way, which may be used to persuade the cult member to leave the group.  

In Chapter 13, the last chapter in the book, Hassan conjures up possible solutions to the “cult problem”.  First, he suggests more involvement by the legal system. Apparently he doesn’t realize that the legal system is already actively involved in sorting through cult issues. Perhaps Mr. Hassan’s ignorance of this fact is because he has never testified in any legal proceeding.  Second, Hassan calls for action by mental health professionals to join the “cause,” and that they should be trained in his SIA approach.  However, such training would be of questionable value and essentially redundant, since SIA is merely family systems, which is quite familiar to mental health professionals.  In what appears to be a contradiction, he also states that people can use his book to develop their own approach, working with their family members themselves. Why then the need to gather a group of mental health professionals under Mr. Hassan’s guidance if families can do this independently? He seems to cotradict himself. 


In my opinion proper distinctions are not sufficiently made regarding what are actually Hassan’s purported ideas and the ideas he has copied from others, which have not been given proper attribution.  And providing a general bibliography on a Web site simply does not meet either the academic criteria or ethical responsibility regarding meaningful attribution. Although Hassan is obviously not bound by such academic codes of honor, borrowing the ideas of others without citing them has frequently resulted in the expulsion of students from graduate school programs. No reputable academic journal would accept or countenance such omissions.  Has Hassan fallen into an academic trap? Does he believe that what he learned from others years ago has somehow now been transformed into his own ideas? Is he somehow convinced that he now owns those ideas?  The citation of sources is always an academic requirement and should be an author’s ethical responsibility, regardless of how long ago someone might have been introduced to the material.

Mr. Hassan’s latest book gives the impression that he sees his methodology as the only way, but there is a woeful lack of objective evidence to prove his theories.  It’s curious that Hassan includes pages on how to battle his critics.  Isn’t it possible that other ideas might be valid?  At the very least, extraordinary claims should require extraordinary evidence. Or has Hassanology become an “absolute science”? 

It is interesting to note that on page 25 under the condition “thought control,” is listed the “[r]ejection of rational analysis, critical thinking and constructive criticism”.  This is an excellent point and one that should be followed by every cult critic, cult interventionist, professional counselor, or expert. This would include accepting criticism without becoming defensive and the ability to see and correct problems. Debate should be based upon rational analysis. A person working in the cult recovery or education field should endeavor to emulate these characteristics. It is incumbent upon him or her to model this behavior, as it is the rejection of such values that quite often forms the basis for criticizing the leaders and dynamics of cults.

Cathleen A. Mann has a doctorate in psychology and has been a licensed counselor in the state of Colorado since 1994. Dr. Mann has done research regarding cult formation and the recruiting and retention practices of high demand groups. She has been court qualified as an expert in 12 states.

Update: This review was quoted by a purported “cult” in an online video produced to examine and/or criticize Steven Hassan. Subsequently Hassan’s supporters contacted the author of the review and CultNews suggesting and/or requesting that this article be deleted. Read more about this in the following CultNews report. The Ross Institute does not recommend Steve Hassan see this disclaimer.