When Former Devotees Expose Fraudulent Gurus: John-Roger, Werner Erhard, Carlos Castaneda

I just re-read a favorite book by Peter McWilliams entitled Life 102: What to Do When Your Guru Sues You. The introduction is entitled What does a rampaging guru have to do with you? McWilliams got taken by John-Roger, a self proclaimed guru known for abusing his power. It’s a fun and enlightening read, as are all of McWilliams’ books. Life 102 is not simply an expose’ of misrepresentation, scandal and fraud relative to one man, one incident.  The book goes into the intricacies of the programming aspect of indoctrination in organizations that purport to be self help but are instead cash cows.  The book is particularly relevant in light of the James Arthur Ray incident. I literally stayed up overnight reading it, although I did skip over the dialogue of John-Roger’s harrassing phone calls and hateful notes to naysayers, and skipped over the legal findings of specific criminal acts.  Essentially, the story began when John-Roger, a self proclaimed all knowing ascended guru, told Peter McWilliams that he could see in his aura that McWilliams had AIDS and tuberculosis and that he was going to die in 9 months.  BUT, if McWilliams put Roger’s name as co-author on some books and shared profits with him, Roger would heal his illness for him.  McWilliams was under his spell from 1978 until 1994, at which time he was medically treated for depression.  As his depression lifted, he began to see what others had been telling him about John-Roger, and he began to break ties.  Roger retaliated, as he always did, and it is all documented in the book.

Another favorite book in a similar vein is Amy Wallace’s  Sorcerer’s Apprentice: My Life With Carlos Castaneda.  Amy is the daughter of bestselling author Irving Wallace, and she recounts the 27 years she knew and interacted with Castaneda and his self proclaimed “Witches,” from the time she first met him at age 16 to the time from the early 90s until Castaneda’s death in April ’98 when she was one of his lovers and a member of his inner circle.

Here is a sample chapter that shows the hierarchical structure so typical of cultish organizations.  Especially egregious when deception and psychological abuse tactics are used to intentionally beat initiates down and reprogram them to suit a financial agenda, particularly when the self proclaimed leaders well know the power of their words.  Used for abuse, words are a weapon as much as poison or a machine gun.  I spent my 20’s in several ashrams and yes, several cults, but I secretly kept my own counsel and got out unscathed.  Not so for many people, who took on the teachers as replacement parents of a sort.

Another good book is Outrageous Betrayal: The Real Story of Werner Erhard from Est to Exile by Steven Pressman.  Erhard’s est is now owned by Erhard’s brother and marketed as Landmark Education formerly Landmark Forum.

So, if you feel attracted to someone’s teaching, go check it out.  Despite their claims, just don’t think they are God or the messiah or a divine messenger or an ascended being or an enlightened master.  People who allow themselves to be promoted that way have a distinct agenda.  I’m thinking Jesus would like just have His first name or maybe that fish symbol on His business card.  I don’t think He’d have in giant neon glittery letters SAVIOR, SON OF GOD.  His website url would likely be something more like www. feedthem . org/ rather than something like  www. theonlywordtheonlysonofGodthereisnootherIAmLord. com.

I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater, I’m just saying know the difference.  Stay conscious.  Stay informed.  Question everything.  Get answers or get gone.  You might find some real useful gems of wisdom and don’t mind paying for some workshops, just don’t buy into the hype portion of the programs.  The teacher is just another person who has some useful information.  If the information is useful, it will stand on its own whether Jesus said it, whether James Ray said it or whether Bugs Bunny said it.

So many people have a spiritual or psychic awakening, an a-ha moment that propels them into serious research and study and seeking.  Some experience receiving an overload of information and feel baffled by it.  They want to find someone who can help them sort it all out.  Others are able to focus their attention into the study and assimilation and sharing of the information they receive.  These are the ones who start promoting themselves as teachers. Often, when the teacher has some material success, their attention and focus begins to stray and takes them out of their divine consciousness, their awakened consciousness.  So while they still say the words, there is no feeling behind them.  They may have been connected to Spirit for the 2 months of their life that it took them to write their book, and the other 80 years they sit back just sell their book over and over again.They may promote themselves as having the same consciousness as when first awakened, when in fact they may have only had that state of mind for 60 days of their entire life.

As their intent wavers and changes, so does their mojo.  They may lose it altogether or they may bop in and out of it.  They begin riding out their time on the laurels of their earlier reputation.  Some catch themselves and redirect their focus, and continue to be valuable teachers.  Some may continually bob in and out of awakened consciousness.   A desperate few use deception and trickery to manipulate and con their followers.  These are the ones who have so completely lost their focus that they are no longer attached to any divine flow of information , only a divine flow of illusion and self centered, small mind thinking.

For me, it’s a big turnoff when someone continually refers to themselves as an authority and postures for personal accolades. Also when they try to use high pressure marketing entrainment rather than simply telling me outright what they want me to buy.  It makes me immediately wary of them, because it shows they’ve got the hidden agenda.

So, follow whoever you are led to follow.  Attend every class or workshop you are curious about.  Take the best of all the information available, and simply discard what doesn’t work for you.

But stay awake and alert.

Just keep your eyes open and don’t go following anyone off a cliff.