We will bring a series of articles regarding the witch-hunt effects in society, displacing the rule of law, when spiritual groups are confronted with allegations of sexual abuse.
We start with an article by André Tarassi published by “Centre d'Information et de Conseil des Nouvelles Spiritualités” – CICNS, in 2006.
"Spiritual Minorities and sexual abuse?
By André Tarassi
Anne A. Simpkinson, whose remarks are intended to denounce sexual deviance in spiritual groups in the United States, says in her book "Betrayal of the Soul": In the mid-1980s, the wave of articles detailing the accusations against Catholic priests about their conduct with teenagers, has unleashed a series of revelations about the behaviour of many spiritual authorities in almost all religions. Since then, new charges arise regularly. There is hardly a month without something new emerging about a priest, a rabbi, a pastor, a rishi or accused swami resigning because of sexual abuse. It would be tempting to point to one group or another and say "it's their fault, if we put them all in prison if they were eliminated, there would be no more of this abuse!”
This would not be reasonable or even possible. If the abuse still exists it’s because of certain principles which are treated with more or less success. One of them is called “transfer". Freud was the first to formulate the concept that relates to our ability to transfer feelings from the past on individuals in this moment in order to relive and resolve prior experience. The transfer allows us not to see the person as they really are, but instead through our projections. The spiritual authorities become the objects of transfer.
These words of Anne Simpkinson are those of someone who has an understanding, having studied human relationship problems, but they also reveal that bias is now widespread, which makes out that religion or spirituality is the cause of deviations in human experience ( spirituality= violence, sexual deviance = spirituality , spirituality = illegal enrichment etc.)
The bulk of her work, taken at face value, can give nausea and encourage insidiously, though perhaps unintentionally, one to flee from the spiritual approach. This is perhaps not the goal, although the overall trend is to discredit this area. This kind of literature seems to be the product of the painful relationship that our societies now have with spirituality. Fortunately, she ends with these words which are more inspired:
‘The ability to abuse someone else is "in our backyard" ’ and the important point of this statement is that it's not just in our backyard but it’s in all of us.
So let’s observe the problem from a new angle: There are two aspects to the problem of abuse of power (using its influence to satisfy personal needs):
- On one hand, this phenomenon cannot be denied. (Read "Daily Manipulations")
- On the other hand, this phenomenon is not confined to religion and new forms of spirituality but to human nature. (Read "manipulated speech")
If these are reasonable assumptions, it follows that another invisible abuse is emerging in this context: the denunciation of almost all the spiritual leaders of the past thirty years is largely due to the use of this campaign of stigmatizing spiritual minorities which allows and still allows many people to settle personal scores through this sensitive subject. We are all generously informed of the charges but we do not realize the huge amount of fabrication, exaggeration and slander, which are more or less intentional regarding these subjects.
The few big stories in recent years, summarized below, some resulting in convictions and others not, confirm and provide an overall more balanced and informative perception than those provided by traditional media.
Deepak Chopra (March 2000)
Deepak Chopra was cleared by the court after a deliberation of 10 minutes. The jury rejected a complaint from a former colleague, Joyce Weaver, who accused him of being dismissed because she complained of sexual harassment. "The jury's verdict was unanimous and said she lied, she made this story up and Chopra told the truth,” reported his attorney, Michael Flynn.
Swami Chetanananda (August 2005)
Some followers had accused Swami Chetanananda (J. Michael Shoemaker) for having exploited them financially and sexually. One of them, Dana Swift, a bartender, said she was very attracted by the "divine energy" of this man who "made her euphoric." During the meetings with him, she noted that some disciples followed Swami in his apartment after the conferences. Swift was able to be part of this inner circle that attracted her. In April 1998, she claims that the teacher finally made a sexual proposition. Some other women have made similar claims, but on condition of anonymity. Following these accusations, Swami Chetanananda officially declared he sometimes had sex with consenting women. In a text he wrote for the occasion, he said that these cases are the product of "a small group of former members who gather regularly to plan the distribution of slander on the Internet .The claims are not only lies, but the distortions are so gross that they are simply impossible to respond to." Diane Asay, a current disciple of Swami confirms having seen some of them fight for "access to the bed" and that those who did not actually achieve what they wanted were now on a crusade to destroy him. There was no trial, but rumours circulated.
The existence of a satanic sex cult created from scratch, the court said. (January 2004)
The German court said that the accusations of ritual killings, cannibalism and sexual rites by a supposed satanic cult were fabricated. The charges came from a woman who claimed to have suffered for 18 years from sexual abuse by members of this sect. She had built a prosecution where she told elaborately and in detail how she had to undergo repeated abortions during certain ceremonies while other victims were killed there, cut into pieces and eaten. This 33 year old woman claimed that the ritual took place in the Trier region in West Germany and Belgium. Horst Roos, the Attorney General, said that the investigation had shown that these allegations were false.
Catholic priests who became victims of false accusations:
1) After a deliberation of seven and a half hours, Robert Schaeufele, a Catholic priest, known as "jolly brother Bob," was acquitted. The two alleged victims said they had been abused by him in 1984, when they were 9 and 10 years. His lawyer said Schaeufele himself was victim of the obsession of society about sexual abuse by priests, a climate that easily leads to false accusations. He compared these trials to witch hunts of the past. "Schaeufele is innocent and honest," he said.
2) Bishop Michael Smith Foster returned to his parish in the neighbourhood of Boston, not guilty of the charges made against him. "I am deeply touched by your love and support," he said at the meeting held at his church to greet him. A former altar boy, Paul R. Edwards, accused him of having regularly sexually assaulted him in his room between 1980 and 1985. The priest was suspended. The statements were proved gradually to be full of factual errors and lies.
3) A judge acquitted another Catholic priest Raymond Larger, 54, accused of raping an altar boy in the 1990s, having heard the testimony of two hours of the accusing 21 year old , the judge 'exclaimed: "We can go no further with this testimony, which is impossible to believe a word. In full conscience, I cannot allow this to continue! ". Raymond Larger came out of the courtroom embracing his family and speaking of his accuser: "I forgive him completely, I wish the best for him now."
Swami Muktananda (November 1994)
The charges, filed just before the death of Swami Muktananda (Baba) in 1982, said he had broken his vow of celibacy. They were published in 1983 in an article written by William Rodarmor in an article in CoEvolution Quarterly. The article was based on interviews with 25 apostates of SYDA detailing the alleged sexual activities of Muktananda with very young women disciples. In Muktananda's lifetime, nothing had yet been published, although some accusations began to appear, verbally, in the last years of his life, just before he appointed his successors in the ashram. Then he had also responded with a text, "A message from Baba," in which he quoted Kabir, the poet of the 15th century: ‘The elephant moves in rhythm when the dogs are barking from behind’, adding that the disciples had to know the truth from their own experience and not by what they read or hear. Closest disciples of Muktananda, sometimes living in rooms next to the Swami, said that they had never seen or heard and could not confirm the attacks made by these apostates. There was no trial, but the rumours continued to circulate.
Sathya Sai Baba (1976-2011)
Sathya Sai Baba had millions of followers worldwide. The exact figure is unknown. He is regarded in India as one of the most influential sages, a living god. The Prime Minister is one of his fervent disciples, the chief of police is his driver. It is reputed that he can manifest the sacred ash (Vibhuti) from his fingers and make other miracles happen. His ashram has never been empty for years. Yet, like many other spiritual leaders in the world, and perhaps even more intensely, he is accused of continually sexually abusing young boys at his ashram. The first charges date back to 1976, when Tal Brooke, a former American follower, wrote "Avatar of Night." The allegations are plausible but an alternative explanation for this rumour is proposed by a follower, Stuart Jones, indicating that Sai Baba during a public or private dialogue, sometimes used oil on certain points of the body in relation to the "energy centres" (chakras). Carole Alderman, founder of his charity work, said: "I witnessed many miracles, I've seen people get out of wheelchairs and start walking. I saw all kinds of things materialize from nowhere, several times a day. I could see that he knew everything. Why would my word be less real than their own? "And when asked about sexual accusations, she replied:" It has no base, all who know him know. “Although these accusations have been circulating for more than thirty years, Sai Baba had never been formally charged and had never been known to appear in court in India.
Sri Swami Satchidananda (1991)
In 1991, one evening, some old disciples of a famous master of Yoga, Sri Swami Satchidananda, brutally interrupted his lecture in a large hotel. "How can you consider yourself a spiritual leader when you have sexually abused women in your community?" called out Susan Cohen. The wise man with a grey beard, 76 years old, sitting cross-legged in his saffron robe did not seem disturbed by the interruption. He even whispered "Thank you", which made the assembly laugh, and then resumed his presentation on the way of finding inner peace ... while Susan Cohen left the room. Susan Cohen and Sylvia Shapiro accused him of having forced them to have sex when they were his secretaries ... 20 years earlier.
One of the closest disciples of the old man thought it was pretty normal for a person with thousands of students to have disgruntled and unfounded accusations made against him. No trial had been filed. A reporter asked him privately about the charges, to which he responded by saying, "She knows that they are false. In addition, my life is an open book, I have never hidden anything from anyone. "
Ananda (March 1999)
Ananda Church of Self-Realization (different from the Self Realization Fellowship, created by Yogananda) was founded in the 1960s. In their church, we see the portraits of Yogananda and his master Sri Yukteswar and Babaji.
In 1998, in the court of Redwood, appeared Donald J. Walters (Swami Kriyananda) and Levin, another leader of the movement and the church itself, for sexual abuse of former members. Six women came to the bar to assert that the Swami had abused them when they were 20 years old. The church was sentenced to pay $ 300,000, Walters $ 400,000 and Levin $ 30,000.
Jon Parsons is the lawyer of Ananda since the 1980s. He said of its members and leaders, "I know them all and find them all, without exception, sincere, dedicated and honest." He thinks the attack, which was orchestrated very well, is due to people who have past resentment, whose advances of love were turned away, especially by Levin, who was married and was a father. Walters admitted to having had sex with women but that they were all consensual relationships and without abuse. The videos that show the court show, and reported even from his fiercest opponents, that he always behaved as a very refined gentleman, perhaps even like an English gentleman, even listening to the most humiliating descriptions, which he considered false.
Yogi Amrit Desai (1994)
In October 1994, Yogi Amrit Desai, spiritual director and founder of Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts (USA), resigned after admitting having had sex with five women, over several years, following the scandal these revelations had created. The spiritual teacher of 62 years had previously been considered by all as a sweet and inspiring person. The Kripalu Center then passed through an intense catharsis where teachers, scholars and therapists had to deal with, sometimes very emotionally, all the frustrations and fears that this situation had awakened. The result is that the centre still exists, with different staff, who said they had "grown up from this experience." There was no trial. The admitted relationships were deemed to be socially allowable to the extent they were between adults.
Sogyal Rimpoche (1995)
In December 1995, the first landmark trial against a Buddhist teacher was resolved by mediation. The trial, which began in November 1994, against the Dalai Sogyal Rimpoche, accused of inciting, for 19 years, his students to have sex with him, "taking advantage of their vulnerability and the belief that they reach enlightenment in serving the sexual and other needs of their master Sogyal.”The defense of Sogyal suggested a financial settlement, which was accepted by the complainants. Although Sogyal Rimpoche was not a monk and had not made a vow of chastity, it is certain that the reputation of asceticism of Buddhism was greatly reduced after this.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna) (2000)
In 1998, there was a $ 400 million lawsuit against the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which has one million members worldwide and 75,000 in the United States and Canada. The movement was founded by the Indian master SrilaPrabhupada in 1966. One of the charges was hypothetical sexual abuse of young children between 1972 and 1990 by some members of the movement in the US.
ISKCON said they were aware of abuse by members in the past but they had immediately created bodies in each gurukala (spiritual centre) to protect children and women. But the whole reputation of the master and his teaching was affected by the information. In France, the so-called "Hare Krishna" has almost completely disappeared, much to the satisfaction of certain authorities working to eradicate spiritual minorities and even though, since their absence some people have said that they were not so bad and just "folk". An established religion like Catholicism has even survived the pedophilia accusations of hundreds of priests.
The case of Sri Chinmoy is widespread on the Internet. Past disciples report being sexually abused by their "revered guru" who "had a little sex" and "did not seem to have an erection", others talk about the fact that he said he was vegetarian, but had been surprised many times eating meat ("greedily", as in this example where the master came to meet one of his disciples at the airport (when all the rest of the hostile literature instead said that he would entrust this task to someone else), the latter arrived sooner than expected and thus surprised his guru eating ("like a pig") pieces of chicken in the meantime and was "very embarrassed" to be discovered ( was it necessary to be indulging in a vice of eating chicken at an airport when he would do everything to hide it usually?). There has been no trial against Sri Chinmoy all these years, only testimonials, often anonymous because "Sri Chinmoy threatens them."
Sri Chinmoy has not publicly intervened on these issues and asked his followers not to respond to what was spilled on the Internet. Sri Chinmoy died on 11 October 2007.
Mandarom (Gilbert Bourdin, Hamsah Manarah) (1993-1998)
A Mrs. E evidenced in the newspaper La Croix in 1993: "I do not think there was a drug problem, as rumour has it. I can say, however, that there is a practice of sexual exploitation. Hundreds of women have been sexually solicited. The master leaves out the need to initiation sessions. How else does one explain the incredible number of divorces among couples who attended Mandarom? "The Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus said it was defamation. Defamation was recognized by the Paris Court on 10.25.1993.
Subsequently, Ms. F.R also mentioned the rape. Based on her testimony, 18 disciples and Gilbert Bourdin were arrested on 12 June 1995. The complaint of FR ended in no case to November 13, 1998 after the death of Gilbert Bourdin.
Today, under the same charges, the media and our citizens have ultimately more leniency and less intransigence towards the politicians who are responsible for nations, and this also applies for the presumption of innocence, and sometimes the Immunity which is applied, in contrast to what is practiced for spiritual leaders who drive small communities. It seems that in any case they get a particularly malevolent attention because of the corruption of political figures that have real power to influence mankind. Clearly, our society has come to create scapegoats used to divert attention.
The Outreau case in France has taught us the limits of our prejudices, our certainties and fears? Don’t the examples above demonstrate a cacophony and a bias?
Most of the cases we studied are just rumours without formal complaints or trial even though the charges are sometimes very heavy and run over years. When these cases are presented in court, many complainants are unsuccessful (including in several cases where Catholic priests were tried in predominantly Protestant countries (USA)) and others that are not. The truth is that money suddenly seems to play an important role in eliminating any complaint (which highlights whether complaints really had the motive to warn people of "the truth" or even to heal a personal injury, then we would expect less venality).
Overall, with the exception of few, we face an avalanche of reputations tarnished leading to ostracized people. However, even in the midst of this torrent of lies, we should point out for the few real acts that deserve a conviction in court, should we not develop an adequate education for our humanity rather than one that creates scapegoats? Would we agree that any possible mistakes are enough to convict a man for life, or even his spiritual community? "