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:: August 02, 2003 ::
Untimely death at Dahn Hak Retreat

On July 12th Dr. Julia M. Siverls died on Tiger Mountain, while participating in a Level Three "Master" initiation at the Dahnhak Yoga Retreat Center in Arizona.

Her family said, "We are devastated by her untimely death."

Dr. Siverls's sister-in-law posted this announcement on July 28th at a Yoga related message board.

Siverls was a professor within the Department of Social Sciences at Queens Community College of the City University of New York.

Her death appears to have been both sudden and unexpected.

Dahn Hak is a controversial organization that was founded in Korea by Seung Huen Lee.

Another New Yorker also once involved in the group warned, "Blind faith does not make you wise--beware of with whom you place your trust. It is entirely possible that a group may actually be a cult whose leader uses ancient references and exercises that have dynamic and profound effects to gain the trust of people--so that he or she may cultivate their own ego and riches."

Seung Huen Lee, a self-proclaimed "Grand Master," says that his practice of "Brain respiration strips away the mysticism from enlightenment."

But for the family of Julia Siverls, one Dahn Hak retreat will always be associated with tragedy.

[Posted by Rick Ross at 01:14 PM][Link]
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:: August 01, 2003 ::
Town residents near proposed "cult" complex unhappy

More controversy is swirling around the Executive Success Programs (ESP) led by a failed multi-level marketing guru Keith Raniere, now known to his devotees as "Vanguard."

Raniere is pushing ahead with a proposal to build a 66,000 square foot NXIVM (pronounced Nexium) center in a small town near Albany, which would then be run by ESP.

But the townsfolk seem to dislike both the building plan and Raniere's group, reports The Community News.

"Their Web (site) sounds like a brainwashing type of cult," wrote in one resident.

In an apparent dedication ceremony to launch the project, before receiving Planning Commission approval, one perplexed resident witnessed ESP members "on their hands and knees kissing the ground, scooping up the soil and kissing it, some…rolling on the ground."

The president of ESP Nancy Salzman, who was mentored by Raniere, told the planning commission that the proposed center would offer instruction for "people to maximize their potential through parenting, relationship and executive success classes."

Does this mean the project is business related or a social service?

Salzman is called the "Prefect" by devoted "ESPians" and seems to be the second in command.

Right now the group is preparing to throw a weeklong birthday bash for "Vanguard" later this month.

"Vanguard Week is a celebration of the human potential to live a noble existence and to participate in an interdependent civilization," says Raniere.

So why is it named "Vanguard Week" and celebrated on Raniere's birthday?

During this week of "celebration" there will be "forums every night with Vanguard and Prefect [Salzman]," notes the ESP website.

Sound a little creepy?

Does this mean reaching the "human potential to live a noble existence" is somehow dependent upon this dynamic duo?

Is that what Raniere means by an "interdependent civilization"?

Raniere's last scheme was an interconnected multi-level buying club called "Consumer Buyline," which collapsed amidst scandal and lawsuits.

It doesn't look like many of the residents near the proposed NXIVM complex feel like celebrating Raniere's birthday during "Vanguard Week."

[Posted by Rick Ross at 04:20 PM][Link]
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"Cult" comes to Wheaton College to stage conference

University Bible Fellowship (UBF), a controversial organization that has often been called a "cult," is staging a regional conference at Wheaton College this weekend. The event is expected to draw 1,000 participants reports The Daily Herald.

Samuel Lee founded UBF in the 1960s in South Korea. Like Rev. Moon's Unification Church Lee's group found college campuses fertile ground for its recruitment efforts, which began in the US during the 1970s.

The organization is known for its extreme authoritarian control over members through "shepherds" and a strict hierarchical structure of totalitarian leadership. This has included arranged marriages.

Many complaints have arisen over the years and former members have established websites regarding the group's alleged abuses. UBF has a history of bad press in both the United States and Europe.

The founder of UBF Samuel Lee is now deceased, but the organization continues to target students on college campuses around the world.

UBF currently has campus groups at Loyola University, Columbia University, John Hopkins, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois in Chicago, Northeastern University of Illinois, the University of Maryland in Washington D.C., the University of Toledo and Shippensburg State in Pennsylvania.

UBF's International headquarters is in Chicago.

No doubt UBF is happy they have an opportunity to stage an event at Wheaton College, where many students may note their presence. They are also holding a summer conference in Canada simultaneously on the campus of John Abbott College in St. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec.

Other branches of the group in Canada include Waterloo, Toronto and Ottawa.

UBF has additional outposts around the world actively recruiting in France, Germany, Russia, the Ukraine, Japan, Switzerland, England, Korea and India.

A petition to the National Association of Evangelicals is currently on-line in an effort to have UBF's membership to that body revoked.

[Posted by Rick Ross at 11:30 AM][Link]
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:: July 31, 2003 ::
Time Magazine plugs a "cult" guru's plan

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?

[Posted by Rick Ross at 05:38 PM][Link]
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Should televangelist sticken with cancer expect a miracle?

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.

[Posted by Rick Ross at 08:52 AM][Link]
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:: July 30, 2003 ::
Scientology's Hollywood hype comes to St. Louis

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.

[Posted by Rick Ross at 09:07 AM][Link]
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:: July 29, 2003 ::
"Human Potential" group in NY draws controversy

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?

[Posted by Rick Ross at 09:10 AM][Link]
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:: July 27, 2003 ::
North Carolina "cult" accused of child abuse again

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?

[Posted by Rick Ross at 10:02 AM][Link]
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DISCLAIMER: This news page is about groups, organizations or movements, which may have been "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form. But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful. Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing. Therefore, the discussion or mention of a group, organization or person on this page, is not necessarily meant pejoratively.
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