cult recovery 101

exit counseling

Group Says Movement a Cult

By Phil McCombs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 2, 1987; Page C03
On the eve of a “yogic flying” demonstration by followers of His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi set for the Rayburn Building of the U.S. House of Representatives next week, a group of concerned parents and others known as the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) has gathered here to debunk the flying as fake and sound an alarm about cults.
The group charged in a press conference yesterday that the maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, of which yogic flying is an advanced stage, is not simply a method of relaxation through meditation, but a cult that ultimately seeks to strip individuals of their ability to think and choose freely.
“They want you to dress and think and speak in a certain way and not to ask questions,” said Steven Hassan, a former follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon who has studied cults for a decade. “They go into hypnotic trances and shut off who they are as a person.”
A spokesman for the maharishi, Mark Haviland of MIU’s College of Natural Law here, said yesterday that “TM is a very simple, useful thing {with} practical benefits of relaxation, of increased inner potential.” He added that TM is “not a philosophy, a life style or a religion.”
Two former TM adherents who studied yogic flying at the Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield, Iowa, Joe Kelly and John Taity, gave a demonstration of it at the press conference by sitting cross-legged on the floor and hopping in an awkward forward motion that lifted them completely off the floor a few inches.
“It’s strictly physical exercise,” said Kelly. “There’s nothing spiritual about it.”
“It’s purely physical,” said Taity.
Another former MIU student, Patrick L. Ryan, said that he studied yogic flying there in a “totalitarian environment” where every minute of his day was programmed.
Yet, he said, “I never saw anybody fly.”
Dean Draznin, who teaches TM here and identified himself as a spokesman for the movement, discounted CAN’s claims, saying that TM is “a very simple, effortless mental technique that’s practiced 20 minutes, two times a day. It doesn’t involve beliefs or a life style. It gives more energy, more dynamism.”
Draznin also disagreed that TM involves any mind control. “We don’t force people to take courses,” he said. “They can take advanced courses if they choose.”
A press release from the maharishi’s Age of Enlightenment News Service advertises his “program to create world peace” and is headlined: “TM-Sidhi ‘Yogic Flying’ Technique to Be Demonstrated in the Nation’s Capital.”
Haviland said yesterday that “hopping” is the first stage of yogic flying. He added that “hovering” and “actual flight” — the second and third stages — have not yet been achieved.
“Given the results we’ve experienced so far, we feel that it won’t be long before we’ll be getting onto the second and third stage,” Haviland said. He said the important thing is the “coherence” that the “flying” creates individually and collectively, “which leads to world peace.”
Ex-members of the TM movement said at their press conference that TM is in fact a religion for its adherents with the maharishi seen as a god. Patrick Ryan has sued the maharishi for compensation for the eight years he said he devoted to raising money and promoting the cause. In leaving TM, Ryan said he had help from CAN and a related group, FOCUS, which offers support for those seeking to leave “cultic or totalistic involvement.”
These groups are holding an anticult conference open to the public at the Shoreham hotel starting at 9:30 a.m. today and continuing through tomorrow.
A new group called TM-EX, for those leaving the TM movement, is being formed, according to Ryan.
A spokesman for Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) said yesterday that the congressman set up a room in the Rayburn Building for the maharishi’s adherents to demonstrate yogic flying after receiving a request from the MIU, which is located in Leach’s congressional district.
The presentation will be made for the benefit of members of Congress and their staff, according to spokesmen for Leach and the maharishi.
Leach’sspokesman said the congressman, after being told of yesterday’s criticisms of the TM movement, responded that MIU is “accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and also recognized by the Federal Interagency Commission on Education.”
He quoted Leach as saying, “I have no objection to any American citizen expressing their First Amendment rights on Capitol Hill or elsewhere.”
Hassan said at the press conference — held at the Shoreham yesterday at the same time that the Maharishi Continental Assembly, a conference for followers of the maharishi, was getting underway in another part of the hotel — that TM adherents suffer a “destruction of personality. It’s an addiction, akin to alcohol and drugs.”
He handed out a pamphlet saying that “physical and psychological harm” may result by using TM techniques “even if only for a short time.”
Patricia Ryan, the daughter of Leo J. Ryan (D.-Calif.), the representative who was shot to death on Nov. 18, 1978, in Guyana as the Rev. Jim Jones led hundreds of his followers in a mass suicide, said that “bright, idealistic people are the most vulnerable” to movements such as TM. “They become unsuspecting victims.”
TM became popular in the 1960s when a number of celebrities, including the Beatles, traveled to India to study with the maharishi. Draznin estimated that 1.5 million Americans have learned TM techniques.
Outside the hotel yesterday, a group of parents from CAN carried pickets against the maharishi’s conference.
The signs said: “Don’t Be Fooled by Maharishi’s Flying Circus,” “Parents Against Cults” and “Cults Steal Minds.”
One of the parents, Rudy Arkin of Washington, said he lost his son to the Hare Krishnas several years ago. The son eventually “walked out, but without deprogramming. I fear he’s out there floating, because we haven’t heard from him in over a year.”
© Copyright 1987 The Washington Post Company

Starting Out in Mainstream America

Starting Out in Mainstream America offers information about life in the USA today. 

Adjusting to any new culture can be slow, difficult, and painful. If you are entering or preparing for re-entry into mainstream American life after a long absence, or perhaps for the first time, you may have many questions about where to find and how to do things.

This book provides practical solutions for people with needs like:
  • getting a driver’s license
  • finding a place to live
  • finding a job or job training
  • getting health care
  • finding your way around the legal system

and information about broader concepts like

  • Abuse and neglect
  • Communications skills
  • Relationships
  • Parenting skills
  • Aspects of mainstream culture like music, movies, and sports

Writing Workshop: Coming to Terms with Your Story: A Pre-Conference Writing Workshop for Post-Cultic Recovery

Facilitator: Karen Pressley
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 (10:00 am – 5:00 pm)

After leaving a high-demand group, how do you come to terms with the people, events, and countless details of the memories that shaped that time of your life? Outside of counseling or talks with caring friends and family members, exploring the fertile subject matter of your experiences can be an otherwise daunting, seemingly irreconcilable task without a means of connecting the dots and coming to terms with your personal story. Your story is composed of countless moments, scenes, and choices that may hold difficult, tragic, repressed, or even magical events and circumstances. This Writer’s Workshop focuses on the healing qualities of writing that can help you to make sense of your experiences, re-establish your well-being, and re-discover your personal voice. We’ll use techniques that help you to create meaningful accounts that not only document memories, but that can help to diffuse the impact they might have on your thoughts and emotions. These techniques are based on research that shows that writing is a productive, healing process that has been found to reduce physical and emotional illness in people who write regularly.

As a participant in this workshop–and whether or not you consider yourself a skilled writer–you are addressed as a writer with a voice, an author with an authoritative position over your life story. If you have been more accustomed to being the object rather than the subject of your circumstances, particularly if you have been denied authority in the group, writing about your life can play a significant part in erasing years of invisibility and interpretation by others. With the goal of “write or be written,” you will learn writing techniques that will enable you to express the hard-won, deep layers of truth that you might discover but not otherwise share as part of daily social communication. As one writer said after developing a memoir, “Each time the authentic words break through, I am changed.”

The teacher of this workshop is a writing professional, a university instructor of composition, a published author, and a former sixteen-year cult member. She believes that writing is empowering, whether you write to lay bare your soul with absolute frankness for others to read and learn by, or you simply want to make sense of your life for personal healing purposes. By guiding you to put pen to paper as you explore your experiences through these specialized writing techniques and exercises in this three-part workshop, she will show you how writing can bring the very needed joy that comes from transforming your subject matter into material that helps you to grow while you create something of value for yourself and, if you choose, to share with or to help others.

The writing workshop will take place on Wednesday July 4, 2012 (10:00 am to 5:00 pm), the day before the ICSA Annual Conference in Montreal, which takes place July 5-7. The location will be the conference site: Holiday Inn Select Montreal Centre Ville Downtown.