Introduction

I am writing this article as a previous member of the Order of Christ Sophia (OCS) and the Center of Light (COL).When I first encountered the OCS in 1999 I found it to be a supportive and empowering organization.Over time however, I feel that the nature of the group has changed dramatically and I would now describe it as extremely destructive and dangerous. I am gravely concerned for the welfare of anyone currently involved with or considering involvement with the group and it is my hope that what I describe here will bring clarity and insight to others.

Background

I was a “student” in the OCS for several years beginning in 1999 when the organization was first founded.I later trained for the ministry and functioned as a “deacon” for 2 years, a “priest” for 8 years and then a “shepherd” (the highest level of OCS training) for 2 years. I was also a member of the board of directors for 4 years.During my time with the group I had extensive contact with its leaders and became intimately acquainted with its internal dynamics and politics.Because of my familiarity with the OCS I feel that I am in a position to offer credible testimony about the nature of the organization.

Destructive and dangerous characteristics

The destructive and dangerous characteristics of the OCS.

The remainder of this article will describe the characteristics of the OCS that I found to be most destructive and dangerous.I will divide them into four categories and discuss them separately.The four categories are:

1) The leaders of the OCS have exhibited psychologically pathological behavior.

2) The leaders of the OCS have engaged in abusive and unethical practices.

3) The OCS has become an authoritarian and tyrannical organization that encourages loyalty to the leaders of the group rather than to God.

4) Group dynamics within the OCS have created an atmosphere where members come to accept, normalize and even positively reinterpret negative practices which eventually cause severe psychological and emotional trauma including the loss of personal autonomy and identity.

Psychologically pathological behavior

The leaders of the OCS have exhibited psychologically pathological behavior.

father_peter_bowes_photo.jpgThe OCS is led by Peter Bowes (photo left) and Clare Watts (photo lower right).Both have made claims that I feel to be delusional and have exhibited behavior that I feel represents psychosis.

Bowes has claimed the following: to be the reincarnation of St. Peter; to be the reincarnation of St. Francis of Assisi; to have been personally instructed by the Buddha; to have received the authority and responsibility for carrying on the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ directly from St. Paul; to possess the highest consciousness of any spiritual teacher alive; to be the most trustworthy person alive; to be the recipient of an Apostolic succession derived from Jesus Christ; that the OCS is the most spiritually evolved organization of all time; that the OCS represents the second coming of Christ; that the Apocalypse will occur within the lifetime of the present generation; that only 30% of the population will survive the Apocalypse; that the OCS will play a pivotal role in bringing the post-Apocalyptic human race into a new consciousness.

Watts has claimed the following: to be the reincarnation of St. Clare of Assisi; to possess the highest consciousness of any spiritual teacher alive; to be the recipient of an Apostolic succession derived from Jesus Christ; that the OCS is the most spiritually evolved organization of all time; that the OCS represents the second coming of Christ; that the Apocalypse will occur within the lifetime of the present generation; that only 30% of the population will survive the Apocalypse; that the OCS will play a pivotal role in bringing the post-Apocalyptic human race into a new consciousness.

Bowes and Watts have also asserted that they can hear the voice of God and accurately discern Gods will through a process they call “receiving guidance.”While they maintain that all people have the inherent ability to do this, they insist that their level of enlightenment affords them the ability to know God’s will with unrivaled clarity.Furthermore, they frequently use this alleged ability to proclaim the will of God for others.mother-clare-watts.jpg

When questioned about the validity of these claims, Bowes and Watts have maintained that they represent the truth.And when criticized for the unethical and abusive nature of the behaviors that will be described below, they have insisted that they are leaders of the highest integrity.Bowes and Watts are convinced that they are messengers sent from God, that their conduct is virtuous and that their actions are divinely guided.I feel that they have both exhibited signs of serious psychological pathology.

Abusive unethical practices

The leaders of the OCS have engaged in abusive and unethical practices.

Bowes and Watts have engaged in unethical and abusive practices with appalling regularity and have persistently defended the moral fortitude of their leadership. Bowes and Watts play a central role in the “spiritual instruction” of anyone who participates in the OCS.They proclaim themselves to be “Master Teachers” and consider all others to be their “students.”Both are trained psychotherapists and it is my opinion that they are able to use their professional expertise to exploit psychological wounds and engineer a dynamic where group members become insidiously disempowered and dependent.Initial interactions with Bowes and Watts are predominantly positive and serve to engender people into continued participation.With deeper involvement, members become progressively immersed in a group dynamic that distorts their perception of ethics and reality.It is within this dynamic that Bowes and Watts become psychologically manipulative and emotionally abusive.

Such behavior is usually hidden from the public eye and occurs in private sessions.However, there have been multiple occasions where Bowes and Watts have publically harassed a group member to the point that they were reduced to tears.To date, countless people have left the OCS feeling that they experienced severe emotional and psychological trauma.Many have reported feeling extremely anxious, hopelessly depressed and profoundly disconnected from themselves and God.Several senior ministers, including some who are currently involved in the group, have reported these same sentiments including being depressed to the point of contemplating suicide.

While Bowes and Watts publicly profess a philosophy of inclusiveness and egalitarianism, behind closed doors they promote an attitude of superiority and disrespect toward humanity.People outside the OCS are often described as animals, useless and a waste of space.Bowes and Watts also insist that Christianity represents the highest form of spirituality and commonly insult the practices and practitioners of other religions.On numerous occasions they have made glaringly anti-Semitic remarks.

Friendships outside of the OCS are discouraged.Ministers are instructed to view people as potential recruits rather than as equals.Ex-members have reported being relentlessly pressured to dissolve previously meaningful relationships.This practice is evidenced by the fact that most longstanding members do not have any close external friendships.Even friendships within the OCS suffer under the weight of Bowes and Watts.As members ascend in rank they are told to stop relating to lower ranking members as peers regardless of the depth of their previous association.Bowes and Watts also inject themselves into relationships in such a way that they become the directive parties.Because of this, relationships within the OCS are in a constant state of flux and lack the autonomy of otherwise healthy fellowship.

Bowes and Watts have taken a particularly antagonistic stance toward familial relationships and have been responsible for the widespread devastation and destruction of countless families. This antagonism has occurred on multiple levels.

Bowes and Watts have been consistently adversarial in regard to the nonparticipating spouses of group members.They have often told members that their spouses were losers, negative, dark or possessed by demons.These malignments, and the many that will be described below, have been unfounded.Bowes and Watts have also frequently instructed members to cease all sexual relations with their partners and warned that such intimacy would cause them to become contaminated.In various cases they have pressured members into divorce.

Bowes and Watts have also behaved abusively toward the children of group members.Several teenage children have reported feeling verbally abused and bullied by Bowes.In one instance, the mother of a teenage boy was told that her son was spiritually lost, didn’t have a spiritual bone in his body and was going to grow up to be a date rapist.There have been multiple instances where members have withdrawn their children from the group and specifically told Bowes and Watts not to contact them only to find that Bowes had:ignored their wishes, contacted their child, told them that their parents’ decision to withdraw them from the OCS was sad and invited them to come back when they were 18.

Bowes and Watts have brutally attacked the relationships of group members with their parents and immediate families.They assert that family bonds are primitive and shallow and that true love can only be found in the spiritual family of the OCS.They describe familial relationships as being unworthy of time and attention and dissuade members from having close relationships with their relatives.Such messaging is incessant and is delivered in both obvious and surreptitious ways.Bowes and Watts spend an inordinate amount of time casting childhood experiences in an exceedingly negative light.Members are commonly told that they were neglected or abused and parents are frequently described in unduly critical and demeaning ways.Bowes and Watts have routinely guided members into meditative states and asked them to relive their most painful childhood memories.In the midst of this emotional vulnerability they have made extremely manipulative comments that have inflamed past hurts and instigated repugnance toward a members’ childhood and parents.They have told members that:there was no love in their childhood, their parents didn’t love them, their parents hated them and that they only received table scraps of love.Bowes and Watts have regularly taken their hostility to the extreme of pressuring members to completely sever ties with their families.On several occasions where a members’ parent has died they have instructed them not to attend the funeral, citing the biblical quote of “let the dead bury the dead.”Separation from family has inarguably become a part of the very fabric of the OCS and the degree to which Bowes and Watts have attacked and devastated families cannot be overstated.Most ex-members have reported feeling emotionally manipulated to the point where they treated their families in unconscionable ways.

Bowes and Watts have also adopted unethical and abusive practices regarding marriages and partnerships existent within the OCS.Bowes and Watts often arrange marriages, claiming that God has guided them to do so.Once the couple is married, they play a central role in directing the marriage.Such direction consists of requiring that each member of the couple has a greater loyalty to Bowes, Watts and the OCS than to their spouse.Bowes and Watts have publically asked ministers what they would do if their partner left the organization and expected the minister to profess organizational allegiance.Bowes and Watts also routinely direct couples in matters of physical and sexual intimacy.Typically, a couple is instructed to sleep in separate rooms for a majority of nights and to be sexually intimate a maximum of once per month.Such governance is not left to the discretion of the couples who are instead expected to obey these instructions as if they came directly from God.Those who have questioned such policies have been chastised and accused of being sex addicts or of being loyal to their primitive desire natures.Ex-members have described feeling abused in regard to sexuality and made to feel ashamed of being physically attracted to their partners.Many have stated that the influence of Bowes and Watts on their marriages was catastrophic.

Bowes and Watts also control the amount of time couples spend together and with their children.Ministers are required to spend excessive amounts of time performing ministerial duties that require late nights and early mornings.As the vast majority of ministers also hold full time jobs, many are overworked, exhausted and lack the time for leisure, exercise, outside interests and socializing.Ministers who have voiced concern over excessive work requirements have been ridiculed and accused of being lazy.In the case of married ministers, partners have very little time to devote to each other or to their children.Ministers who are parenting are directed to spend more time with OCS duties than with their children.Several ex-member parents have reported being told that it was sufficient for them to spend 15 minutes of dedicated time with their child each day.Others have reported being told not to help their children with their homework because that was the responsibility of the child’s schoolteacher.There have even been cases where a surrogate parent was assigned to a ministers’ child and that child was told to consider the surrogate to be their new source of parenting.

In recent months, several well respected and high ranking ministers left the OCS and communicated to Bowes and Watts that they had become tyrannical and abusive and that the organization had become dangerous and destructive.While these ministers were the first to openly criticize Watts and Bowes en masse, they were certainly not the first to leave the organization.A noteworthy statistic is that over 50% of those who have ever been priests in the OCS have left the group and would describe it as negative.Despite this high defection rate, Bowes and Watts have continued to abdicate responsibility.Instead they have maintained that ex-members have resigned exclusively because of flaws of their own.Moreover, they have demonized departed ministers by publically declaring that they: were possessed by demons, were agents of darkness, were riddled with fear and pride, had turned their backs on Jesus and Mary, had betrayed God, had fallen from grace, had led God’s children astray or had thrown their lives away.In one case, Watts told a departing minister that her marriage was shrouded in darkness and that any children conceived in such a marriage would be children of darkness.

Despite the group having a Code of Ethics and Whistleblower Policy that requires a formal investigation of any allegations of misconduct, no such investigation has taken place.On the contrary, Bowes and Watts have deliberately attempted to suppress dissention and have blatantly lied about the ministers who resigned and their reasons for doing so.They have also actively dissuaded members from speaking to ex-ministers.Some who voiced the desire to do so were warned against being lured into temptation.A recent technique that was used to suppress dissent was that Bowes and Watts emailed so called apology letters to select ministers who had left the group and cc’d the majority of OCS members.The content of these emails was misleading.While they were called apologies, they actually implied that the ministers had left for benign reasons and greatly downplayed any wrongdoing on the part of Bowes and Watts.It is my opinion that these emails represented an attempt at subterfuge and damage control and that Bowes and Watts used the forum of an alleged apology to circulate their own explanation for the mass defection of ministers.To further their suppressive efforts, Bowes and Watts had the email addresses of the ex-ministers blocked so that they could neither send nor reply to emails from members with an OCS email address.

There have also been various instances of financial abuses and indiscretions within the OCS.Ministers are not paid for their duties and are required to allocate large amounts of time to the OCS.A high ranking minister might spend between 15 and 30 hours per week performing ministerial duties.Not only do ministers not receive any financial compensation but they are required to contribute 10% of their gross income to the OCS.Furthermore, in order to accommodate group services, many ministers have purchased larger homes than they would have otherwise required and financed the additional expenses without any assistance.Ministers are also expected to work at bi-annual spiritual retreats at the groups retreat center. Again, they are not compensated for their work at these retreats but rather are expected to purchase their own airfare and pay full price for their attendance as well as their children’s attendance.Many ex-ministers who could not afford such expenses or who had difficulty devoting large portions of time to the OCS have reported being reproached and/or threatened with demotion.

It is also noteworthy that while all other ministers are unpaid, Bowes and Watts are each awarded a full salary with health benefits.Furthermore, when Bowes and Watts travel to the different COL locations throughout the country it has become common practice for members to collect money for their expenses.

The OCS has also solicited money both from group members and the general public under the pretense of raising funds for a temple that they claim will be dedicated to world peace.Yet Bowes and Watts have no immediate plans to construct such a temple and have instead funneled money to other construction projects designed to increase revenue.

Bowes and Watts have also displayed favoritism towards ministers who contribute the most financially and materially.Their emotional abusiveness has been greatly lessened in cases where a minister was contributing large amounts of money, covering the cost of an OCS facility or performing a key service.Those who have not been as useful to the OCS have been treated with much greater cruelty.

Finally, Bowes and Watts have commonly engaged in behaviors which have breached the confidentiality of ex-members.They have publically revealed confidential information about ex-members and have spoken about this information and the members in markedly negative ways.

Authoritarian and tyrannical organization

The OCS has become an authoritarian and tyrannical organization that encourages loyalty to the leaders of the group rather than to God.

While the OCS claims that it intends to bring individuals into a closer relationship with themselves and with God, it is my opinion that involvement with the group instead causes people to become less dependent on themselves and God and increasingly dependent on Bowes and Watts.

When the OCS was first established, group members were encouraged to cultivate a personal relationship with God and to live their lives according to what they felt God was directing them to do.Over time, however, Bowes and Watts have slowly supplanted reliance on and dedication to God with reliance on and dedication to themselves.

One of the key ways that this is accomplished is through an obsessive devotion to the process that Bowes and Watts call “getting guidance.”While the principle of seeking Gods divine will through meditation can be found in the teachings of other religions and is not inherently suspect, Bowes and Watts have perverted it in a number of ways.First, they claim that they have an unparalleled ability to discern Gods will and that they can know what Gods will is for an individual with a greater clarity than the individual themself can.Second, they require that all ministers report the guidances they receive to them for final approval.Finally, because of the powerful group dynamic that I will describe below, I believe that most ministers are actually entering into a process of intuiting the will of Bowes and Watts rather than truly seeking the will of God.

Bowes and Watts have repeatedly advertised that when they are speaking it should be assumed that God is speaking.Accordingly, it is commonly accepted that what Bowes and Watts say is the pure and clear word of God.In cases where a minister receives a guidance that is different from that apparently received from Bowes and Watts, it is assumed that the minister is incorrect.Any claim to the contrary is viewed as arrogant and the minister is chastised for committing the sins of pride and disobedience.

There have been many examples where Bowes and Watts have used the principle of guidance to manipulate a group member.In one case, Bowes and Watts attempted to pressure a minister into leaving her spouse.This minister was one of the most senior members of the OCS and had been chosen as the groups’ successor.Yet when the minister reported that the guidance she was receiving was to be faithful to her husband, Bowes and Watts asserted that she was wrong, attacked her character and threatened her with demotion.Another senior minister was informed that God wanted him and his wife to have children.When the minister reported that the guidance he was receiving was that they should not have children, he was also told that he was wrong, his character was similarly impugned and he was also threatened with demotion.There have been many other cases where a minister who sought to follow their own guidance was castigated.And many ex-members have reported being pushed into actions such as disowning their family, selling or purchasing homes, defaulting on loans, quitting jobs, beginning new careers or donating large portions of money to the OCS.Unfortunately, this list is by no means exhaustive.

Another example of the culture of obedience to Bowes and Watts can be seen in the way ministers have been instructed to council group members.Bowes and Watts recently began teaching that ministers should tell students what to do and expect their instructions to be obeyed as if they were issued by God.Ministers are directed to avoid imparting the principles of meditation involved in getting personal guidance with the rationale that only Bowes and Watts should be offering such instruction.Other examples of the exaltation of Bowes and Watts are the recent adoption of a protocol that requires group members to stand when Bowes and Watts enter a room and a ritual which involves members circling and prostrating to them as they are seated in elevated and adorned chairs.

In recent years some ministers have begun to adopt the abusive and unethical practices of Bowes and Watts. Particularly concerning is the fact that this trend applies especially to the ministers who have been appointed to lead the groups’ youth program.Elements of abuse, coercion and manipulation are increasing in the program.Some children have reported feeling bullied and insulted.Others have felt pressured to become more deeply involved in the OCS.Several have been confused and scared by teachings they received about sexuality and dating.Additionally, many of the children have begun to experience the negative repercussions of placing their self-esteem, self-image and self-direction in the hands of the programs misguided leaders.

Also concerning is the fact that due to the group dynamic described below, many otherwise well-meaning ministers are unknowingly serving as integral components of the machinery that has been so destructive to so many. Not only are they suffering themselves but they are also actively recruiting people into a malignant environment.

In summary, it is my observation that Bowes and Watts have supplanted God as the gold standard for the truth and the source of direction in members’ lives and that they have replaced God as the object of worship and reverence.Consequently, while members may claim that they are attempting to follow and worship God, I feel that they have been deluded into following the will of Bowes and Watts and worshiping them.

Group dynamics

Group dynamics within the OCS have created an atmosphere where members come to accept, normalize and even positively reinterpret negative practices which eventually cause severe psychological and emotional trauma including the loss of personal autonomy and identity.

An examination of the psychological and sociological literature will unearth considerable controversy regarding the topics of “cults,” “brainwashing” and “mind control.”Despite this contention, several landmark studies have incontrovertibly demonstrated the power of group dynamics and have been widely accepted by the academic community.The first one, commonly called “The Milgram Experiment,” was conducted by Yale University Professor Stanley Milgram.It examined the phenomenon of obedience to authority and clearly demonstrated that the vast majority of people were willing to deliver high voltage electric shocks to others if an authority figure told them to do so, even when they thought they were causing significant pain and suffering.A second experiment, known as the “Stanford Prison Experiment” was conducted by Stanford University Professor Philip Zimbardo.This study illustrated the psychological effects of being assigned the role of a prisoner or guard and demonstrated that people were willing to either perpetrate or accept psychological and physical abuse when provided with a legitimizing ideology and a social structure that supported it.An internet search of these experiments will yield many good references.Those looking for a single source can find an excellent BBC documentary called “Five Steps to Tyranny.”It discusses these two studies as well as others.Part 1 of 7 can be found on YouTube at. I include these experiments to substantiate the fact that apart from any debate about the legitimacy of “brainwashing,” it is a scientifically accepted fact that people can be powerfully influenced by the currents of group dynamics.I believe that these phenomena are at work in the OCS. The OCS is an organization that initially presents well.A newcomer will typically first encounter the ministers at a Center of Light (COL) rather than Bowes and Watts.These ministers are sincere in their desire to help others and the entry level classes and services that they offer emphasize universally accepted spiritual teachings as well as the traditional virtues of Christianity.The atmosphere is welcoming and supportive and most members have predominantly positive initial experiences.It is not until a member becomes more deeply involved in the OCS that the negative characteristics of the group begin to emerge.Unfortunately, as members increase their participation they also become immersed in a group dynamic which gradually skews their concept of reality and makes it difficult for them to detect negativity.This group dynamic has various components which I will describe below.

One of the primary components of this group dynamic is that the OCS places a tremendous emphasis on the cultivation of a state of openness and receptivity.Lectures focus on the fallibility of rational thought and the importance of trust and faith.Meditative practices encourage letting go and opening the heart.Many rituals and services focus on surrender.These practices and beliefs engender a state of profound suggestibility in the newcomer.Such a cultivation of receptivity is not unique to the OCS.Many religions prescribe it as a means of union with the divine and many new OCS members do initially find it helpful.However, it also makes members susceptible to the negativity of the organization and serves as the initiatory event in the establishment of the very harmful group dynamic.

A second element of this group dynamic is that the OCS places extreme emphasis on the importance of the “spiritual teacher” and the “teacher-student relationship.”Although these concepts are somewhat foreign to westerners, they do appear in many eastern spiritual practices.In these eastern traditions, however, great care is taken to ensure that the student-teacher relationship is grounded in an inherent respect for the autonomy and empowerment of the student.While these foundational elements usually exist when an OCS member first begins working with an OCS minister, the student-teacher relationship becomes inevitably contaminated by undercurrents of manipulation as Bowes and Watts become involved.This contamination is insidious as Bowes and Watts escalate their involvement with group members slowly.

The first activity that is undertaken with a spiritual teacher is an intensive process of self-examination known as a “Life Retrospection.”In the early years of the OCS, ministers guided students through this exercise with impartiality and members experienced positive results.Over time however, the ulterior motives of Bowes and Watts have adulterated the process.Group members past relationships and experiences are now cast in an overly negative light.This also occurs in relation to their present relationships and experiences.In this way, their conception of who they were in the past and who they are in the present is negatively reframed and destabilized.Upon completion of the life retrospection the member is given a new name which they are told represents the person that they will become.This further divorces them from their past and present. With the past and the present destabilized and negatively reframed, the member becomes increasingly dependent on the future.Because the key to this future is held by the OCS, the member is lured more deeply into dependency.

Another aspect of the group dynamic is that members are maneuvered into spending enlarging amounts of time with the group.Upon completion of the life retrospection, a member is offered the possibility of becoming a “spiritual student.”Bowes and Watts exert considerable energy enticing members into such an arrangement and ministers are told to constantly advertise its benefits.Being a spiritual student requires a high level of participation in OCS activities.At a minimum, students are required to attend multiple classes each week, several early morning services, special events, all spiritual seminars and all bi-annual spiritual retreats.They are also obligated to perform spiritual exercises twice daily, to send detailed notes to their teacher weekly and to meet with them biweekly.This necessitates that the member spends vast amounts of time with the OCS and its teachings.Such immersion also results in a growing social isolation and a loss of external cues.In time the group member begins to accept the alternate reality of the OCS as their own.Parenthetically, students are also obligated to give 10% of their income to the OCS and failure to do so results in termination of their studentship.

The adulation of Bowes and Watts further enhances the encompassing power of the group dynamic.As part of this adulatory practice, Bowes and Watts have assumed the titles of “Father Peter” and “Mother Clare.”True to these titles, most ministers feel that Bowes and Watts are their new parents.They are subservient to them and assume the roles of faithfully obedient and trusting children.As a student progresses Bowes and Watts become increasingly involved in their training.And in the wake of the assault that is waged against parents and family, members similarly begin to conceive of Bowes and Watts as father and mother.This establishes a powerful and pervasive parent“child dynamic that further entangles members in the influence of Bowes and Watts.

The group dynamic is also strengthened by a system of reward and punishment.Compliance with OCS dogma and subservience to Bowes and Watts is rewarded with praise and promotion.Defiance is chastised.Because Bowes and Watts have established themselves not only as parent figures but also as the mouthpieces of God, such rewards and punishments carry significant weight.An economy is created where happiness and success are only possible through submission and subservience.

OCS dogma also asserts that the meaning of life is the attainment of a spiritual experience that Bowes and Watts call “Self-Realization.”Because it is commonly accepted that only Bowes and Watts can bring a member into such an experience, members are essentially dependent on their favor for spiritual fulfillment.As a result, members caught in the group dynamic do not have practical recourse to mistreatment.They not only come to accept and normalize abuse but often internalize it as being due to flaws of their own.Bowes and Watts perpetuate this by regularly castigating members for their doubt, fear and disobedience in situations where it is actually appropriate for a member to doubt, fear and disobey them.Over time members even begin to reframe the misconduct of Bowes and Watts as positive or loving.

Another element of the group dynamic is the exploitation of the sincerity of the student and the perversion of the tenets of Christianity.Within the OCS, great emphasis is placed on pursuit of the Christian virtues of faith, trust and hope.Once immersed in the group dynamic, however, it becomes difficult for members to identify the blurring of the line between faith/trust/hope in God as opposed to faith/trust/hope in a person such as Bowes or Watts.The same pattern holds for matters of obedience to God vs. obedience to a person.In time, the sincere striving of a group member is perverted by the group dynamic and the position of God eventually becomes usurped by that of Bowes and Watts.

As the group dynamic continues to take hold, members increasingly place their sense of self in the hands of Bowes and Watts.Their self-image, self-confidence and self-direction are gradually infiltrated and controlled.In time, members experience a loss of personal autonomy and identity.In addition, as their dependence on Bowes and Watts increases, so too does the amount of abuse and unethical council that they experience.Long term members are ultimately left with a fragmented identity and a brutally wounded psyche.Yet, having been so thoroughly blinded by the group dynamic, it is difficult for them to identify that the problem is the very organization that they have been devoted to.

Bowes and Watts also use fear and intimidation to prevent defection.They frequently state that those who leave the OCS lose all consciousness of God and suffer severe negative karmic consequences.They also employ threats of an impending Apocalypse and state that the best chance of survival is affiliation with the OCS.

A final element of the group dynamic is a phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance.”After prolonged membership most members have become emotionally invested in and attached to the group.This investment makes it difficult for them to accept that the group has become destructive.Much like the phenomenon of loyalty to the abuser that occurs in dysfunctional relationships, members who have been the most abused often display the strongest attachments to the group.Many members have also been pressured into actions for which they harbor deep subconscious regret.In these cases it can be difficult for members to consciously face such regrets.Whether driven by emotional attachment or subconscious regret, questions about the legitimacy of the group result in a cognitive dissonance which a member will attempt to resolve by the easiest possible means.For many the easiest means of resolution has been to stay in the group and defend its practices.

All of these elements establish and support a group dynamic which causes participants to accept, normalize and even positively reinterpret the groups’ negative practices.Members eventually experience severe psychological and emotional trauma and a loss of personal autonomy and identity.

In conclusion

The OCS has become a dangerous and destructive organization and has been the cause of widespread devastation to countless individuals as well as to their friends and families.I encourage anyone in the group to carefully reevaluate their participation in it and to seek professional help if needed.And I advise anyone considering involvement with the group to steer clear of it.

[Editor’s note: Cultnews has received repeated complaints abut Perter Bowes and OCS, which are consistent with the observations and points made within this article]

Update: It appears that the organization has split into two school groups. The schools called the “Centers for Light” are led by Clare Watts and another group of schools now known as the “Ruach Center” is led by Peter Bowes. Both groups of associated schools can be accessed at the Order of Christ Sophia Web site under “schools”.

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13 comments untill now

  1. Samantha @ 2014-03-29 00:39

    I spent some time with the OCS in Lansing Michigan about 6 years back. Everything that was stated in this article is exactly correct. Although I did not spend nearly as much time as the writer did, I got out fast. I remember meeting father Peter for the first time and leaving with a nasty feeling about him. He is rude, arrogant and insulting. I took a private meeting with him and one of the ministers. While I was there I felt bullied and made to feel like I was less than. He started to attack my family and even suggested that I was sexually abused by my father as a child. I left the meeting disgusted and vowed to never go back. My father is the best man that I have ever known and he has never EVER been inappropriate with me. I found Father Peters comments to be out of line and and extremely insulting. I went home that day and did some more investigating on the OCS and found similar posts to this one. Once I read them all I figured out that the minister was sharing my personal information with Father Peter and he guided his “Teachings” to fit my current life situation. This is a corrupt group and I warn everyone to stay away or get out. Thankfully my father and mother raised me right and I’m intelligent. I can tell you this much, I’m more spiritually aware than anyone involved with that group. My skin crawled as soon as I shook father Peters hand… I knew something was wrong. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE. If you know anyone that is involved with this group I encourage you to help them get out!

  2. Hi I was wondering my brother “belongs” to this “church” in Chicago any ideas how to get him out of it?? Thanks for your help!

  3. Grossed_Out @ 2014-05-21 20:09

    Mollie,
    Leora Bernard Gonzalez of Portland co-led with Peter when OCS split into two groups (OCS and Ruach Center).

    It looks like she left the group. If so, she may be a resource. Email her through Meetup.com’s Portland site under a search for meditation groups. Good luck.

  4. Ed Fladung @ 2015-08-23 20:12

    I knew Peter when I lived in Milwaukee in the early 1990’s. I met him when I answered an ad for someone to do an astrological analysis for me. I have been doing astrology since the 1960’s and would not characterize myself as “an astrologer”, but I know quite a bit about it. I wanted a second opinion so I went to Peter. His knowledge of astrology was to run a computer program and give me a print out. It was not what I was looking for.

    Subsequently I found out that he was practicing as a psychotherapist so I agreed to see him. At the time I had relocated from the New York area and was having some issues around my job that was stressing my relationship with my wife and I needed someone to talk with me about it. At first I found Peter to be very kind and helpful. At times he could be a little “off the wall” with theories that to me seemed to be not well grounded. After a time he began speaking to me about his involvement with Christian groups in California before he moved to Milwaukee. I have been a confirmed Buddhist for many, many years and I was uninterested in his Christian ideas. He tried on occasions to get me to renounce my Buddhist connections, at one point telling me that I had to write a letter to my teacher cutting off my relationship with him, I ignored this, but I was getting uneasy about this controlling behavior which was antithetical to how a psychotherapist should act with a client.

    At this point in time Peter had been married for over 20 years to a very nice woman and had 2 daughters, one who was at college and one who was a teenager. His wife was also a psychotherapist.

    In 1993 I moved with my family to the West coast and shortly after that, I found out that Peter had left his wife because apparently she had no wish to follow his desire to give up his practice of psychotherapy and reestablish his Christian ministry. At this point he moved to Oakland California and he contacted me there. He invited me to one of his “programs” which I found to be very strange and not something that I found at all interesting. He subsequently invited to one of his “Masses” which I found even more strange. I felt like he had elected to play “dress up” and put on a role that to me had nothing substantive in it. Being a Buddhist I had a lot of contact with people who were very serious spiritual practitioners and their way of being, their demeanor and their relationships with others was about the diametric opposite of what Peter was displaying. It was at this point that I cut off all contact with Peter.

    Before he left Milwaukee and embarked on this path, he applied to a Jungian training group in Chicago to further his psychoanalytic practice. They rejected him because of what they felt were some serious flaws in his character and that he needed some serious work to deal with his “issues”. He was extremely upset about this and it was at this point that things fell apart for him and he embarked on this “career”.

    I have to say that even today, I deeply care about Peter and I find that the path he has taken causes me a lot of sadness. Perhaps I never really knew him and perhaps the character flaws that the Jungian analysts found in him were those of a sociopath. From the stories I have since read, it is apparent that he has little compassion for others and that personal power has overwhelmed his judgement. The mystical path is a dangerous one.

  5. Ed Fladung @ 2015-08-24 17:53

    After posting my comments above, I found the link on this site to the court document wherein Peter’s license to practice psychotherapy had been revoked. I had heard about the revocation a number of years ago but I had never seen the actual document from the Wisconsin Psychology Review Board. There was one sentence in that document that took me by surprise:

    “Peter J. Bowes, Ed.D., Respondent, date of birth December 23, 1951, is licensed by the Wisconsin Psychology Examining Board as a psychologist in the state of Wisconsin pursuant to license number 1786, which was first granted July 20, 1993.”

    According to that document, Peter Bowes was first licensed to practice as a psychologist in Wisconsin on July 20, 1993.

    I left Wisconsin, sold my house and moved my family to the West Coast in June of 1993 almost two months before Peter was first licensed to practice.

    All of the psychological counciling that I and my wife received from Peter was before he was licensed to practice.

    It is now clear to me why he was rejected by the Jungian group in Chicago. In all probability, he presented himself to them in the same way, with illusory manufactured credentials and they did due diligence on him and found that the way he presented himself to them was fictional.

    I can’t help thinking that his current situation is in no way different. All of the credentials that he presents as to his religious bona fides are in all likelihood fictional. They derive from the Order of Manns which was founded by a charlatan who practiced some of the same types of psychological manipulation that Peter and the OCS have been alleged to practice.

  6. Karenena @ 2016-01-16 07:10

    I have two co-workers that attend OCS in Bull Valley, IL. They are pressured to go to this ‘home’ church everyday (which interferes with their work schedule sometimes) I thought that was strange seeing both of these people really need jobs.

    Secondly, when one of them was in town talking to someone outside the church, an insider was demanding to know how my co-worker knew this woman? Asked how good of friends they are? Asked if she had told the woman anything about OCS? It was a regular inquisition.

    When I first met these coworkers, I casually asked what church they went to, as they relocated to our area specifically to go to this church. They were very secretive about it which raised suspicion.

    Scary stuff.

  7. Elizabeth Nicole @ 2016-03-13 23:20

    I would like as much information about OCS as possible. I have two daughters that have been alienated for almost three years. Through much information we have and following some threads..we were led to OCS. My one daughter is currently now seeking a masters in divinity (HUGE) departure for her…and all of the references to Jung and the extreme cut off and “let us go”…just so much of what I read sounds like this is it. PS…they are in the Boston area but we suspect they were lured by someone in New Haven, CT.

  8. You can Google the Ruach Center’s form 990 online. As you can see, roughly 43% of contributions went to salaries/benefits in 2014. On a side note, Bowes released quite a few books in 2015, which makes me curious to see how much cash the Ruach center brought in in 2015.

    My brief exposure has taught me that the members are unable to pull away from him; kind of like an abusive relationship. The individual I had a relationship was more concerned about Bowes & the group accepting me, than genuinely wanting to be with me. Clearly, Bowes is “master” in their lives. It’s quite sad, but they’ll eventually learn.

  9. Does anyone have any resources on how to get family members who are in the OCS out? I am deeply saddened to think that my sister will not be a part of her family, her children and my life after she developed a strong relationship with Peter and the rest of the OCS community.

    Historically, religious organizations that are cultish do not last through the test of time. How long will this OCS last? Should I remain patient and wait until my sister figures out that she belongs to an unhealthy, fake religious organization?

  10. There is a book that can be helpful in sorting through such things as coping strategies and the proper time and context for an intervention.

    See https://cultsinsideout.com/

    OCS is a very difficult group with limited communication and access for outsiders.

    Many members of groups like OCS stay for very long periods of time.

    If a leader dies groups like OCS usually unravel and fade away. But that can be many years.

    Meanwhile IMO people in the group age, miss opportunities and lose much of their lives.

  11. InsideOut @ 2016-12-05 15:50

    Former member who was in the ministry, here.

    There are some ways for one to get out that I found, but each person wakes up when they are able. it also seems that the aha comes in different ways, according to one’s nature.

    I’ve seen some leave via exposure to the outside world that shows the member that the world is what the cult leader says. If the outside world is presented as corrupt, dangerous, selfish, etc., and one is, say, doing charity work with one’s co-workers as part of a work initiative and feeling positive contribution, connection, meaning, care, etc., it starts to wake one up to the message of exclusivity (‘this [cult] is the only place that Love is’).

    Another way I’ve seen when a personal travesty, like a health crisis [provided one does not live on-site/co-habitate with cult members/leader], extended work assignment away, or other event removes one’s participation for awhile. Time away, if enough, can have a reset effect.

    Initially, one usually feels longing, that they are missing out, and most concerning, that they are losing their status in the organization with their absence [the organizations use labor and rank as ways to build loyalty; if one isn’t around to contribute labor or be a part of activities, and one is triggered by issues of belonging, this can be a torture]. [NOTICE HOW THERE’S NO LONGING FOR GOD OR MENTION OF GOD. IT’S ALL ABOUT CRAVING CLOSENESS WITH THE LEADER/GROUP/ORGANIZATION.]

    Eventually, though, that anxiety settles. Pieces of the old self resurface — pieces deemed ‘not so conscious’ by the cult [like, say, desire for and indulgence in watching a tennis match]. A sense of, ‘Hmm, why do I need the organization, what am I doing there, being away from the organization, more relaxed, and more free of rigidity feels more balanced/normal/simple.’ can arise. The cult thrives by being in one’s face; this is part of why they push for co-habitation. Constant access to minds plus rental income ensure that the leaders get their supply and dependency.

    Speaking of supply, Peter has a classic, clinical case of overt Narcissism. He gets off on exploiting others and bragging about it and parading it [hence, ‘overt’]. Clare has a classic, clinical case of covert Narcissism. She gets off on roping people in and keeping them there and looking like a rose (a.k.a., being sneaky, hence, ‘covert’). Both are extremely damaging because they suck one’s life dry of authenticity and genuine progress while creating craving for more of them to be had. Members believe themselves to be enlightened while they are actually regressed, too afraid to live with courage. Peter is a sadist, a psychopath, because he takes pleasure at harming others. Both display an obvious attachment to favoring their offspring within the cults while preaching non-attachment, letting go, etc. [finger in throat and gags].

    If one can meditate alone and away from the center, EVEN BETTER. For a member to experience what is real in spirituality without the presence or assistance of the cult unravels the cult’s lie of ‘You need us to experience peace/God/etc.’. No.
    The only thing these cults do is put lives on hold. This leads me to share the most direct way out that I know of:

    For a member to ask ‘What was I feeling about myself when I walked in this place, what was I running from, what did I want a break from, what comfort was I seeking, what void was in my life, etc.’, then, to FACE it. Waking up to this line of questioning though, is hard. Once one faces their stuff/fills their voids/accepts their lot, secretly and away from the group as a private pursuit and NOT in the meditation room or anywhere with the others, one can unravel the code. Like in The Truman Show or Westworld, the veil comes down quickly once seen. The goal then is how to get out [safely and swiftly].

    Whatever the member was not wanting to deal with, or didn’t think they could deal with, the cult stood-in for as a surrogate. Think you’re worthless, less-than, bad, damaged/defective, unwanted, unseen, devalued? The cult will give you false worth, inflation, illusion of goodness, illusion of perfection/path of a perfected being, illusion of being wanted for you [when you are only wanted as a source of income and free labor/recruitment/marketing], illusion of recognition via puffed-up titles and rank, illusion of being valued WHILE putting you down, making you feel guilty, inadequate, scared, etc. (this more in Peter’s crowd) or making you further feel important, essential, chosen, part of a world mission, etc. (this more in Clare’s crowd). The best one gets in the cults is an adaptive or altered mode, not a transformed state.

    By directing behavior, values, thoughts, words, habits (and even hobbies, style of speech, and other aspects of individuality), the cult creates a fictitious existence — a falsified, ‘new’ you. The old you is still in there, covered-up. THESE ARE NOT TRANSFORMATIONAL PATHS, though they claim such. NEITHER THE CENTER OF LIGHT NOR THE RUACH CENTER CAN OFFER ANY TRANSFORMATION SINCE THE LEADERS THEMSELVES HAVE NOT TRANSFORMED. THEY TALK AS IF THEY HAVE, THEY BRAG ABOUT IT AND WRITE ABOUT IT IN BOOKS BECAUSE THEY WANT YOU TO BELIEVE THAT THEY HAVE. THEY HAVEN’T. THIS IS NOT A JEALOUS RANT. THIS IS AN EDUCATED RANT FROM EXPERIENCE POST-CULT AND FROM KNOWING THE TWO OF THEM WELL ENOUGH TO SEE THEIR DECEPTIONS.

    At best, Clare and Peter are each still acting from the wounded the girl and boy, inflating themselves, manipulating, and stealing to compensate; their desperation and access make them dangerous. At worst, they are less human, more entity, and darkness embodied in human form for the sake of taking more people away from the light. Most every religion speaks to how darkness uses any means necessary to take good people off of their center. Darkness can take any form and appear of the light and of goodness to recruit the most vulnerable and spiritually-aspiring. Peter has additionally raped multiple women energetically, something that at least Clare has managed not to do. Peter’s sickening extraction of the women as they are on their knees and he is pouring himself, not God, into them via a communion offering of ‘blessing’ on forehead and bread and wine serves to consummate relations with him, not God, and feed his ID. His face, afterwards, looks identical to someone who just had himself ‘serviced’/satisfied. More than one woman has reported this of Peter’s.

    In sum, there may not be a way to pull a family member out of these cults and yet long-time members are leaving. If you are a praying type, keep praying that your loved one wakes up. Regardless, consider reporting the organization to a local authority/non-profit licensing board, chamber of commerce or city government, etc. Exposure is key alongside the inner timing for each member. Once I decided to get out it was quick. Before that, I was there a regrettably long time. I was abused, I was not at fault for that or their leveraging my vulnerabilities, but I was also more scared to leave/live than to stay. At some point that fear changed and I saw more evil acts and tap dancing on their part that made staying worse than leaving. The curse they place on members is horrible. It contributes to a lot of extra time staying. Be ready for a some rocky roads if you do get your family member back, especially if they lived with a ‘Master Teacher’. Your loved one might appear intact but bear in mind they’ve spent an extended time stuffing their real feelings and anxieties and acting fine and special and smiling to the world or being secretive and protecting the cult. This will take awhile to unwind.

  12. I was a part of this group for one year and saw how destructive it was psychologically. It is something that has some beautiful truths within it, but is surrounded by deception and power of its two leaders and it’s trained priests who have submitted to the leqders’ programming. Now I understand Fathwr Peter runs his own center and so does Morher Claire.
    I was manipulated and taught to disconnect from my family and my community outside of the group. Anything that separates us from one another is not true religion. Anything that tears families and friendships apart is not true religion. Any manipulation by a church leader and control by that leader is not true religion. Religion provides choice and freedom and exploration. This group does not do any of that. I can see through people quite well and even I was lured in by some of the wonderful teachings. Perhaps 20 percent of what I learned was amazing. 80 percent was filled with the ego of the leaders and control and psychological manipulation. I am deeply saddened to think of that time in my life and am so happy to say I left after only one year. Someone I know who was more heavily involved was changed for life by their negative teachings. His confidence in His own ability to know God and to lead others spiritually has been destroyed by the programming of these two so called religious leaders. Getting those out as soon as they begin is the wisest course of action. If they are seeking spiritual truth, take them to a church or take them to a Buddhist monastery or somewhere where they can find what they are looking for. They will find a lot of things that do not belong within the realm of a religious life in the groups of Mother Claire an Father Peter Bowes. May God bless you and your friends and family on your journey.

  13. Iwasthere @ 2017-10-28 09:33

    I was a student at the Center of Light in Oakland, CA. I was always to hesitant to get too deep into it. Something just didn’t seem right. There was such romanticism of Christianity and yet worship of both Jesus and Mary as equal co-redemmers and to the Master Teachers. I went there to seek God, but instead I found false idols.

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