The cover of Time Magazine’s current August issue features the subject of “Meditation.” This includes substantial space about the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM), the creation of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In its “Shoppers Guide to Meditation” Time even offers its readers a direct link to the TM guru’s website.

However, there is no mention that Maharishi and his meditation have a dark side.

Time mentions Maharishi University in Iowa and his “school of enlightenment.” There is even a blurb about the guru’s old Himalayan ashram. But nothing about why he has often been called a “cult leader.”

Former followers of Maharishi have sued him for personal injuries allegedly sustained through TM. And he eventually paid some of them off in out of court settlements.

Time also didn’t note Maharishi’s predilection for bizarre building projects, like expensive “peace palaces,” where his acolytes claim they meditate to change the world.

It seems that the guru may have realized a certain sort of cash consciousness that seemingly knows no bounds.

Maharishi even claims he can teach his students to fly.

Time didn’t mention these facts, but instead pointed out that celebrities like film director David Lynch of Twin Peaks fame and actress Heather Graham practice TM.

Graham once played Judy in the movie Lost in Space, perhaps she is now a bit spaced out.

Time also didn’t mention that a number of studies have offered less than glowing reports about TM.

One three-year study done by the National Research Council on improving human performance concluded that “TM is ineffectual in improving human performance” and that pro-TM researchers were “deeply flawed in their methodology.”

An article published by the International Journal of Psychotherapy reviewed 75 scientific articles about meditation and concluded that 62% of the practitioners encountered negative side effects.

A German study found that “76% of long-term TM practitioners experience psychological disorders, including 26% nervous breakdowns.”

Some groups called “cults” use “meditation” as a simple form of trance induction to induce a state of suggestibility. They can then influence members more easily and download their own agenda.

Maharishi has a deeply troubled history. His compound in India was the focus of allegations regarding “child molestation, death from abuse and neglect.”

Maybe that’s why the Beatles ultimately dumped Maharishi?

Some say the Beatle’s song “Fool on the Hill” was composed to commemorate their brief time with the guru. Others claim that “Sexie Sadie” was the actual tune they used as a vehicle to mock Maharishi. One thing is certain, neither song is much of a tribute.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) ran a commentary titled “TM’s Deceptions.” In it a former follower of Maharishi is quoted saying; “We were told it was often necessary to deceive the unenlightened to advance our guru’s plan to save the world.”

What’s Time’s excuse for plugging this controversial guru’s plan?

Jan Crouch and her husband Paul built a religious empire called Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) based in Costa Mesa California.

TBN is the largest Christian television network in the world and broadcasts from more than 5,000 stations. Its revenue in 2001 alone totaled $160 million.

Controversy has often surrounded the Crouch family and its kingdom.

Their authoritarian control of TBN, which is run something like a family business, charges of plagiarism and the earthly compensation the couple receive, are examples of persistent criticism.

Perhaps more troubling are allegations amongst conservative Christians that TBN promotes a “Prosperity Gospel,” and what some call the “Word of Faith” message.

One of the most popular preachers on TBN is Benny Hinn; a flamboyant faith healer often derided as a “fraud” through numerous television and press investigations reports D Magazine in Dallas.

Hinn claims numerous “miracles” have occurred at his revivals staged around the world. People that attend routinely say they have been “delivered” from cancer and Hinn supposedly has even helped to raise the dead.

However, none of these purported “miracles” have ever been proven objectively and conclusively.

Hinn may now have the opportunity to not only disprove his critics, but also to assist his long-time friends and sponsors at TBN.

Jan Crouch has been stricken with cancer.

The blond grandmother known for her tearful testimonies and heavy mascara almost as much as Tammy Faye Bakker was diagnosed with colon cancer in May.

But rather than relying upon a miracle the televangelist chose to undergo surgery.

Despite that surgery, at the end of May Crouch’s doctors found that the cancer had spread to her lymphatic system.

Will Benny Hinn now help to heal Crouch through divine intervention and demonstrate to skeptics that he is not a “fraud”?

Or will Paul Crouch become a widower while waiting for Hinn to facilitate such a “miracle”?

Stay tuned.

After a seemingly contrived media blitz about Tom Cruise’s dyslexia, the other shoe finally dropped.

Applied Scholastics International” opened its doors last week in St. Louis, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The program is closely related to Scientology and was founded, is largely staffed and coordinated by its practitioners.

A spokesperson for the program says it’s “secular,” but it is admittedly based upon the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

Cult apologist J. Gordon Melton, was apparently flown in to assure anyone interested that this effort “has to be separate, or it would just be too controversial,” reported The News Tribune.

Melton previously offered apologies for the terroist cult Aum in Japan after the group gassed Tokyo subways. Cult members paid for his travel expenses.

Tom Cruise, actresses Jenna Elfman and Anne Archer and musician Isaac Hayes, all Scientologists, were there for the grand opening reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cruise, the featured speaker proclaimed, “Study Technology works.”

But the former “Top Gun” offered no proof other than an anecdotal story.

For that matter, there is no meaningful independent peer-reviewed and published scientific study proving the effectiveness of any of Hubbard’s touted “technology,” to cure anything.

Even Cruise’s alleged cure from dyslexia has never been independently verified.

No one seems to care about such facts though in an increasingly celebrity-driven pop culture. If a movie star says something is true, it must be. And there are always those photo ops.

The Hollywood TV show Extra ran a clip about the opening of the St. Louis center without even mentioning the Scientology connection.

Scientology certainly is expert at managing and milking its celebrities for its maximum benefit through carefully coordinated media events in an ongoing effort to plug pet projects.

Cruise and other Hollywood types that showed up in St. Louis are just one more example of Scientology’s slick publicity machine.

Isaac Hayes even cut the opening ribbon for yet another staged photo op.

A so-called “human potential” group that offers courses devised by the originator of a failed “pyramid scheme” is causing controversy through a proposed building project reports the Albany Times-Union.

Keith Raniere, known to his students by the title “Vanguard,” hopes to build a global headquarters for his latest venture called “NXIVM” (pronounced Nexium) or Executive Success Programs (ESP) near Albany.

But area residents don’t seem to appreciate his vision of an almost 70,000 square foot edifice in their neighborhood.

Raniere’s first foray into business failed badly.

His company called “Consumer Buyline” allegedly bilked members financially and was shut down after multiple lawsuits, numerous investigations and substantial bad press.

Raniere was restricted from starting another multi-level operation for some years and told plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit he was broke.

But now the self-proclaimed “scientist, mathematician, philosopher and entrepreneur,” assisted by his faithful “Prefect,” a registered nurse named Nancy Salzman, appears to be in the midst of making a comeback.

This time instead of selling memberships in a buying club the man they call “Vanguard” is selling courses to “allow for accurate, consistent measurement of human psychodynamic performance.”

However, Raniere and Salzman are not licensed mental health professionals, such as a board certified clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.

John Hochman, M.D., a forensic psychiatrist and professor of Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA described Raniere’s current enterprise as follows:

“The ESP Intensive appears to be a gateway that encourages participants to attend further training sessions or seminars, and get friends and family to do the same. In a general sense, the goal is integration of individuals into a subculture – however, a particular kind of subculture. It is a kingdom of sorts, ruled by a Vanguard, who writes his own dictionary of the English language, has his own moral code, and the ability to generate taxes on subjects by having them participate in his seminars. It is a kingdom with no physical borders, but with psychological borders – influencing how his subjects spend their time, socialize, and think. Increasing involvement serves to increasingly distance participants from their relationships in a manner that is slow and subtle, and thus not at all obvious to them.”

Paul Martin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in the study of destructive cults and the rehabilitation of former members offers these observations:

“The claim that ESP is a science. Raniere says it is, but that does not make it so. Science must meet certain requirements. There is nothing in the published scientific literature about ESP nor has an exhaustive search of the psychological literature base shown any publications by Keith Raniere…the workshop participant appears to have to accept these claims by faith. But this faith is a far cry from the scientific claims of ESP that Raniere asserts.”

Martin concludes, “The teaching and practices of the workshop contain elements that correspond to the eight themes of thought reform as described by Lifton” and the mental health professional then offers the following parallels to those criteria evident within ESP.

What then is Keith Raniere the “vanguard” of, a supposed science regarding “human psychodynamic performance,” or just another personality-driven cult?

Another complaint alleging child abuse has been filed regarding Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) headed by Jane Whaley reports The Digital Courier.

Whaley leads hundreds of followers in what critics have called a “cult” in Spindale, North Carolina.

Shana Muse, a former member of WOFF and mother of four, is still waiting for her four children to be released from the group. The estranged mother fled the group last year and later filed for the return of her minor children during December of last year.

However, authorities in Spindale apparently care more about pleasing Ms. Whaley than they do restoring children to a legal custodial parent.

It has been said that the “cult” leader wields considerable political clout and influence in the small town.

Muse has been tangled up with seemingly endless litigation and needless red tape, while her minor children remain effectively under Whaley’s control.

Meanwhile other children are being removed from Whaley’s group amidst allegations of abuse.

How much longer must Muse wait before her family is restored?

In the 1970s “Moonies” became the moniker for the growing “cult” following of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church.

Today Moon has moved beyond those humble beginnings to become the friend of presidents, owner of the Washington Times and a tycoon who controls billions of dollars.

But some would say Moon’s burgeoning empire all began as little more than a “religious cult.”

Now there is a new Korean “spiritual” leader with an enterprise sweeping across the United States. It is “Grand Master” Seung Huen Lee and he calls his movement “Dahn Hak.”

Lee boasts “three hundred centers in South Korea…[and] over fifty centers in the United States, including a meditation retreat…in Sedona, Arizona, and a holistic health club in Closter, New Jersey.”

Dahn Hak includes the practice of “brain respiration.”

Lee says, “Brain respiration strips away the mysticism from enlightenment.”

However, others have observed that this “respiration” is more like “brainwashing.” And it “strips away” critical thinking along with a goodly amount of cash.

Dahn Hak’s founder claims in his book Healing Society that he received a pivotal revelation in the midst of an “excruciating headache.”

“The cosmos opened up inside me and swept me into her arms with a loud resounding moment of enlightenment, a deafening crash that seemed to transport me to another world,” Lee claims.

The Grand Master insists that “this voice told me that my body is not me, but mine. It told me that my mind is not me, but mine. It assured me that the Cosmic Mind is my mind and that the Cosmic energy is my energy.”

Lee then felt “the all-encompassing rhythm of life…absorbing and understanding in wonder the Cosmic Order within that governed all things.”

With his newfound powers Lee could purportedly perform “miraculous feats” including “communing with spirits, curing incurable diseases, helping paralyzed people walk, and calming mentally unstable people.”

Unselfishly the “Grand Master” then decided to share his vision. And it was time to “embark on an Enlightenment Revolution, a massive spiritual awakening that will sweep across the Earth.”

Lee’s “little masters” seem to believe in him and they work slavishly for next to nothing, often receiving little more than room and board. The Grand Master’s faithful feel that as Lee says he can “draw in and send forth energy.”

These acolytes also hope he will share with them his “energy-sensitizing and controlling techniques.”

Some practitioners seem to think that Dahn Hak is good place to work out and get rid of aches and pains.

However, Lee explains, “Although Dahn Hak starts out as a physical exercise, its true purpose lies in…becoming a ‘spiritual’ person.”

Sound like a religion with Lee as some sort of “healing” “messiah?”

“Dahn Hak aims at the spiritual enlightenment…a collective Enlightenment Revolution to sweep across the face of this Earth.”

Dahn Hak is also includes a plethora of corporate entities that appear to be making “Grand Master” Lee rich. If money can be defined as “green energy,” maybe Lee does employ some “energy-sensitizing and controlling techniques.”

Was Rev. Moon this man’s mentor? He seems to be following in his footsteps.

Note: MSNBC reports about Scientology “detoxing” 9-11 firefighters. To review the story run at Cult News click here.

Lawyers representing “cult leader” Dwight “Malachi” York have asked that their client be evaluated regarding his competency for trial reported the Macon Telegraph.

The judge ordered the psychological evaluation Monday.

York is charged for sexually abusing 13 minor children. The “cult leader” admitted his guilt as part of a plea agreement, but the judge who wanted more time for the pedophile in prison rejected the deal.

York who once led the group known as the Nuwaubians says he is immune from prosecution due to his status as an Indian chief.

He now calls himself “Chief Black Eagle.”

York has previously assumed titles such as “The Imperial Grand Potentate” and “The Grand Al Mufti Divan.”

The judge will probably not be too surprised if the evaluation shows that the “cult leader” is deeply disturbed. Based upon York’s behavior it appears he is a psychopath, sociopath and/or at least stricken with a serious personality disorder.

But his lawyers insist, “This is not an insanity issue.”

However, “cult leaders” like York often appear to be crazy.

Shoko Asahara the bizarre leader of Aum, who is facing murder charges, mumbles to himself and won’t answer questions in court.

Marshall Applewhite of “Heaven’s Gate” spent time in a mental health facility. He checked himself in.

Joseph Kibwetere who led hundreds of Africans to death in Uganda was likewise once hospitalized.

Charles Manson has also not been described glowingly in psychiatric reports.

The problem is crazy is as crazy does.

This means that crazy cult leaders often do damage through insane acts, such as staging their own personal Armageddon, “Helter Skelter” or leading others to mass suicide as they unravel.

Some cults seem “crazy” because cult followers are most often modeling their behavior after a deeply disturbed leader and/or living out his or her delusions.

Interestingly, York’s followers now think their Indians too and have taken to wearing Native American costumes outside the courthouse during demonstrations of support for their jailed leader.

“Less than a year ago [York] was a Jewish Rabbi and today they were all dressed like Indians again,” observed an amazed Sheriff.

Sounds crazy doesn’t it?

Two sets of Congressional hearings and an independent investigation concluded that David Koresh was responsible for the compound fire that consumed the lives of his followers and their children more than a decade ago in 1993.

However, some surviving Davidians and remaining family members have never accepted such conclusions.

Instead they filed a lawsuit and pursued the federal government for a claim of $675 million dollars.

They lost.

Still not willing to concede, they then filed an appeal.

That appeal has now been denied by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and without dissent, reports Associated Press.

“It’s disappointing because…those who wanted to get the truth out are passing on,” said diehard Davidian Clive Doyle.

What “truth” is Doyle talking about?

David Koresh was an apparent psychopath and proven pedophile, hardly the hero or messiah Doyle makes him out to be.

But conspiracy theorists have worked Waco into an anti-government myth. The problem was when it came time to go to trial the facts took precedence over fiction.

Audio recordings of Davidians discussing the fire and physical proof that it was started by those within the compound, demonstrated that David Koresh ordered his kingdom destroyed, effectively murdering the cult members and their children.

But for a devotee such as Doyle, who lost family in the fire and has given most of his life to the Davidians, the issue of personal equity apparently trumps reality.

Therefore denial, for the deeply devoted cult member, becomes the preferred choice that makes sense.

Interestingly, not long after the fire Doyle actually refused to answer, when questioned by a Texas Ranger if he knew who started the fire.

“We conclude that appellants’ allegations do not reflect conduct that would cause a reasonable observer to question Judge Smith’s impartiality,” stated the Chief Judge of the 5th Circuit Court.

Whatever, Doyle is not discouraged, there is still the Supreme Court where he believes his fantasy may finally be confirmed.

Some say new “sects” or “religious movements” are arising from within the Roman Catholic Church, but a prominent priest connected to a new study told Vatican Radio this is not true, reports Zenit News.

They are instead “religious organizations” that have “a direct line with the leadership of the Church,” said Father Gibellini.

The priest directed a study titled “Movements in the Church,” which was recently released.

Included amongst the groups studied were the Focolarini, Neocatechumenal Way, Communion and Liberation, Emmanuel Community, Regnum Christi, the Community of Sant’Egidio, and charismatic renewal groups.

Regnum Christi, also called the Legionaries of Christ has a deeply troubled history that includes allegations of sexual abuse concerning its founder Fr. Marcial Marcial Degollado.

What also appears to have plagued groups like Regnum Christi and the controversial organization Opus Dei are complaints of excessive authoritarian control.

The “charismatic renewal” within Roman Catholicism has also had its own set of problems.

Largely based upon personal spiritual experiences such as “speaking-in-tongues,” participants at times seem to have more in common with Pentecostal Protestants than Catholics.

The Church at times has banned some charismatic groups.

It seems that the frequently subjective nature of the charismatic experience can at times lead to confusion and invest power in someone who claims “special gifts” and/or discernment within a group.

This was the history of “His Community” led by David Mulligan, which is now known as Christ Covenant Ministries/Community in Vermont and no longer in “direct line with the leadership of the Church.”

The Catholic Church has had problems policing such organizations and people have been hurt.

One theologian opined, “I think that these movements revitalize the Christian community fabric.”

This may be true much of the time, but there have been apparent and/or notable exceptions.

For the sake and safety of that same “community fabric,” which seems to have been torn more than once by such groups, some caution might also be exercised.