The Time I Was Recruited into a Cult

My black tux was a rental. Ali borrowed a pale, blue dress that accentuated her angular Scandinavian features and short, dirty blond hair. We never had occasion to get dressed up for anything, and we had never ventured beyond Olive-Garden-grade restaurants. But there we sat, at a large table, surrounded by about three hundred women and men dressed in gowns and tuxes, in a five-star Westchester, New York restaurant. The place was lit by the glow of a million white Christmas lights, strung over the vast dining room’s low, sloped ceiling.

The excitement was palpable and the people were fascinating. Doctors, lawyers, businesspeople—they’d all inexplicably, and somewhat recently, decided to become computer programmers. As a senior in college, finishing off a questionable combined degree in philosophy and music studio recording at a small state college, I found their professional life-choices bold and impressive on a number of levels.

I finished the last sips of what was the best cup of gourmet coffee I ever had when he strode into the room.

Rama was a handsome, white guy, with an aquiline nose, a helmet of blond curly hair (it was the early 90’s), a black leather jacket, and jet-black sunglasses. He stepped onto the small, low stage, sentineled by two large, stunning arrangements of flowers.

At the microphone, Rama looked around with a grand, Tom Cruise smile. He performed a monologue about politics, movies, and meditation which everyone in the room, including myself, found hysterical. From time to time he made little statements that sounded like deep, Zen puzzles, such as, “I like my students not to understand everything. If they understood everything, they would have nothing more to learn… Understand?”

He eventually sat on a stool and told us to meditate on him, with our eyes open, and watch what happened.

I got comfortable in my seat, took a few controlled breaths, and within a minute the entire room glowed as if every inch of the place, and everyone in it, had been inlaid with radiant gold leaf. I was slammed with a wave of pump-my-blood-with-opium-and-purring-kittens euphoria. I internally calculated that, if this is the kind of thing I experienced on my first night with Rama, it’s a no-brainer to follow this guy for the rest of my life. I was twenty-one years old.

Twenty three years later, I can tell you with a certainty that drugs had not been slipped to us and the guy calling himself Rama was not emitting mystical energy. Those in the room, who shared this exact same vision, were what modern psychologists call: shitheads.

No, actually the phenomenon is slightly more complex than that, but only slightly.

Let’s jump back to a month earlier, where we can watch the first stages of Jim getting fucked over.

As a twenty-one year old, my semi-unconscious plan was that Ali and I would get married, have kids early, make life decisions based on financial scarcity, and eventually get divorced. This world-outlook was based on my childhood perceptions of how adults behaved and the inappropriately romanticized cautionary tales from after-school TV specials.

Here’s a vivid memory from immediately before my recruitment: I was manning the ice cream fountain at a customer-free Friendlies restaurant, in the depressed city of Fall River, Massachusetts. A co-worker was heading out on break and asked if there was anything I needed. My deadpan answer: “Spiritual fulfillment.”

Enter the Boston Meditation Society, which posted colorful fliers on every one of UMass Dartmouth’s concrete columns, announcing free meditation classes. I had always wanted to learn meditation, curious to see if it could calm my restless, distractible mind. And nothing sounded better to a college student without a pre-paid meal plan as, “Free.”

That Thursday evening, Ali and I sat in a small classroom with eight other college students. Randy, the meditation teacher, was dressed in a business suit and tie, had kind, smiley eyes, and clearly loved talking about meditation. We finished an exercise where we concentrated on our breath with our eyes closed, and watched our thoughts float by. Then Randy talked about these people who could meditate really well, and how they gave off a kind of golden glow. You can see this glow depicted as halos in paintings of Jesus, Buddha, and saints from around the world. And for those who were spiritually sensitive… well, they got to see the glow.

For everyone keeping score at home, we’ll call this: Red Flag #1.

After going to a few of these mediation seminars, and staying after to talk with Randy about spirituality and hear more stories of historically enlightened people, he invited Ali and me out to dinner at… Olive Garden. While Ali and I gorged on bread sticks, he clued us in that he could tell we were indeed spiritually sensitive people and that he could let us in on a little secret. He was a student of a guy who is one of these enlightened beings.

As crumbs fell from my mouth, I asked, “Oh, is his name Rama?”

(Wait, what? How did Jim know Rama’s name?)

Let’s jump back to a few years earlier to where we can see how the first seeds of Jim getting fucked over were sewed, ever so carefully.

In high school, I worked at a Bread and Circus health food store, a place which would soon be absorbed into the Whole Foods regime. As a dorky 16 year old, I was interested in the supernatural, like ghosts and ESP, and I would incessantly talk with my coworkers about that kind of stuff, as I cleaned and rinsed lettuce in the produce prep room sink. There was a married couple, who I worked with, who said that it sounded like I should go hear their guru speak, since he knew a lot about the supernatural and was a really cool guy.

They gave me a tape of this Rama person lecturing about meditation and the mystical powers that it can bring. When it came time to take me to the seminar, they were told by someone in their organization, at the last minute, that I couldn’t go since I was under 18.

Back to the Olive Garden where Randy was staring at me with bugged out eyes: I was a cult recruiter’s wet dream.

For those keeping score at home, we’re going to stop counting Red Flags. This entire piece is a list of Red Flags.

So Ali and I got a box set of Rama tapes, on which Rama discussed, in a smooth, cool tone, techniques for “Buddhist” meditation and the mind states to carry when walking around in the world. We listened to these tapes all the time and learned that people vibrated, spiritually, on different frequencies, and that those who vibrated at lower frequencies drained everyone around them. We’ve all been around those people.

And since, according to Randy, Ali and I naturally vibrated at a higher frequency, the key to spiritual growth was to meditate and save your energy from being drained by slower-vibrating people. That way we can grow a savings account of, what is called, Kundalini. This will eventually lead to enlightenment. And by studying with a teacher like Rama, we get an extra boost of Kundalini every time we meditate with him, and instead of having to reincarnate for a thousand lifetimes to gather enough Kundalini, we could attain enlightenment in just one. In the world of Buddhism, this is considered a sweet deal.

We also learned that our minds start out as pure vessels, and when we have a negative thought about anything, especially during meditation, we should give it a little shove aside. We’re just picking up negative psychic junk from the slower-vibrational people for miles around. I had some doubts, but it didn’t sound entirely implausible.

Randy told us that Rama was coming to the east coast to speak at a formal dinner. It cost $300 per person (1992 money) to get into the event, but since Ali and I showed such promise, and Randy was such a successful computer programmer, he was going to pay our way.

That brings us to the tuxes, gowns, delicious food, and Christmas lights.

That night, Ali didn’t see the golden glow during the meditation, but she did feel a surge of good feelings. What she also felt, like all of the people who didn’t see anything that night, was that she was somehow lacking and would have to work harder or somehow be more worthy to see the gold. Since we walked in wanting 1) to be special, and 2) for life to have some magic, they had us, whether we saw the gold or not.

In a short time, after that first of many nights in the presence of Frederick Lenz (aka Rama), I would start organizing every item of clothing by color, keep an OCD-clean apartment, quit college (with 9 credits to go) so I could lie my way into a computer programming career, break up with Ali (relationships drain the spiritual path), and decide to move away from my family (more drains) and never again see anyone I ever knew. I’m leaving out the two dozen other compulsions and anxieties I learned over this course of time.

There are entire books which discuss how all the visual effects and my rapid personality/belief changes were possible, such as Lifton’s, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, and the more recent and more practical book by Steven Hassan, Combating Cult Mind Control.

But the bottom line is this: I was under hypnosis. Just like at a hypnosis show where a person, within a matter of minutes, goes into a trance and then behaves like a chicken or believes they’ve lost their penis. From the very first night of Randy’s lecture, I was being taught the techniques to regularly put myself under hypnosis.

After meditating or prayer, you go into an otherwise healthy trance state, but also become open to suggestion. So, Randy’s stories about seeing halos, which were told to us right after meditation, went into a personal database of possible experiences I would have with someone I believed to be enlightened. “Rama” was an expert in talking in the same way a hypnotist would, but his trance-inducing speech was camouflaged as stories and jokes. He didn’t have to say what to see, since my brain had Randy’s stories stored away, so I experienced a kind of waking dream.

When I meditated using “Rama’s” techniques by pushing away negative thoughts, I was training my subconscious to quickly and efficiently avoid critical thought. Good luck convincing someone in a cult that they are in a cult. They will just hear static.

As you read this and think your brain is too strong to be hypnotized, congratulations. That is precisely the mind state someone needs to be hypnotized. Your guard is down, dude.

In fact, if you went away for a three-day or week long “retreat” with some of these cults, it doesn’t even matter if your guard is up; they’re experts in breaking you down. The recruiters are doing it out of good, since they believe they are saving your soul or the world.

If you have ever read a book or watched TV and didn’t hear someone trying to talk with you, you have experienced a trance state. When you watch TV or a movie, you suspend judgement about reality and get absorbed into the story. Your reality becomes the shows reality, for a time. And like in prayer and meditation, when you go into this altered state, you are open to suggestion for a while afterwards. This is why there are commercials.

Some of us are more susceptible to a given cult based on where we are in our lives, especially if we have moved, have lost a loved one, or feel unsure about our future. There is a cult to fulfill any hole we might have in our life, and cults try to recruit smart people, since smart people do better work. The more brains you have, the more brains they have to grab onto.

You think you’re smart, so if you’re convinced of something, you must be right. You’re smart.

Not only are there spiritual and religious cults, but there are business, political, and psychology/relationship cults. They all operate the same way using the same mind control techniques; they just use different terms and attract people with specific needs.

My cult didn’t have a compound and we didn’t dress different or eat different food. We meditated in private and worked hard to get computer programming jobs. Unless I was trying to recruit you, you’d never know I was in a cult. Even then, you probably didn’t know I was in a cult, since I was just trying to get you to a meditation class. I’ve even heard of cults recruiting through soccer clubs and knitting circles.

What could I have done different? There was no internet in the early 90’s on which to look stuff up. I would have had to search though old articles on Microfiche, which was always hit or miss at best. Now, I would just look up the organization online and add the word “cult” or “abuse” to the search terms. You’ll quickly see if the group you are researching is an alias for a larger organization and/or if they have a history of manipulation, lying, and abuse. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

And above all, I would not walk into a meeting/retreat of a controversial organization, by myself, with the attitude of, “Eh, I’ll just check them out. If they’re fake, I’ll be able to tell and I’ll just walk away.”

Yeah, don’t do that.

If someone gets hypnotized in less than two minutes at a hypnosis show, what could happen when you listen to a cult recruiter or leader speak for hours or days?

Everyone who gets trapped in a destructive cult had moments of doubt in the beginning. The nail in the coffin is when they gave the cult some more time to prove itself.

I ultimately got out with help when my concerned high school friends and family joined forces, did the research on how to communicate with a cult member who cannot think critically, and engaged me in a peaceful intervention.

But all that’s for another post. It was dramatic, to say the least.

They even got Ali out.


If you enjoyed this, please Like and/or Share! - Jim

23 thoughts on “The Time I Was Recruited into a Cult

  1. Great article it’s I knew you went through this… fascinating to read. It would be a good article for college kids to read.

  2. I have read other accounts about this Rama/Lenz person (who actually committed suicide in the 90’s), and have concluded it was all hypnotism. Such things as Lenz described do occur, but he was plainly working off of gullibility (everyone can be a billionaire/enlightened/perfectly healthy, without effort, overnight), and suggestion. A true con artist. Beyond the initial fleecing and manipulation he practiced, there is recent research indicating long term damage done to the mental processing of those subjected to long-term hypnosis (read: his students). A truly awful person he was.

  3. I met Fred back in 1969. He was always carrying around a big camera so instead of Fred Lenz we called him “Fred the Lens.” Long, long before he started his cult he was clearly a sociopathic BS artist and I really could not get past his smarmy exterior to get to know him. I don’t know if he studied it or it came naturally, but he suddenly was billing himself as a fortune teller. Of course fortune tellers make their living reading “tells” or little subconscious clues that reveal what their “mark” is feeling. They cleverly tell people things that are true of most human beings (a blind read) and so of course they are probably correct and the person reacts with credulity. Then they get hit up for money to learn more. Fred could convince most anyone of anything and he started out by using his skills to get women into the sack with him and then quickly dump them because they were now somehow defective or inadequate and of course they would believe that to be so. He started his cult in San Diego and was running it more like a harem. He managed to catch the wave of office computerization that occurred during the late 1980’s and 1990’s and had his followers pretend to be computer experts and provide references from other “experts” who of course were shills in the same group. They would charge huge fees and produce nothing but optimistic “progress reports” and then take the money and disappear leaving the targeted company with nothing to show for its investment. Pre Google and Social Media it was too difficult to check people out so they ran this scam for years and years. It is not clear that he committed suicide. He fell off his private dock at his Long Island NY mansion and promptly drowned. He had high levels of alcohol, heroin and other drugs in his blood. Did he jump, slip and fall? Or was he pushed? Maybe by one of his jilted girlfriends or someone he took for a lot of money. Nobody knows.

  4. I was a member of this group for awhile–in fact I may have corresponded with Jim Picariello for awhile back in the 90’s although it has been a long time so I’m not sure. I was in and out of the Lenz group during the last years of his life but in the years since his death I’ve become less and less enamored of his “teachings”. He DID know how to teach people to meditate, and many applied his teachings with some success to their careers.

    But the cost to “study” with Lenz was very high in comparison with the sometimes real, but often meager, benefits. I’m not just talking about about dollar costs but let’s start with that: members often paid thousands of dollars a month in “tuition” in return for often only a single lecture lasting a few hours. It was also very damaging to people’s relationships with their families–and Lenz tended to discourage his students from having romantic relationships except, of course, when he himself decided he wanted to go to bed with a particular female student. People became isolated from normal life experiences; everything was about making enough money to pay “tuition”. People would be making good money but giving so much of it to Lenz that they were broke, deeply in debt to the IRS and credit cards, and sleeping on the floor in a sparsely furnished apartment.

    I had mixed feelings about Lenz while he was alive, recognizing both his strengths and his weaknesses, and never fully making up my mind. Now that it has been 17 years since his death, and looking at the long term legacy of his influence on his members’ lives, I see a lot of former members whose lives were significantly damaged by their time with Lenz and who have taken a long time to heal.

    @Chirantan

    I’m always interested in the perspective of those who knew Lenz in his early years before his teachings took the form they did in his peak years.

    Part of his scam during the peak computer consulting years was to appeal to people’s sense of greed. If someone’s income rose from, say, $10/hr to $50-$100/hr, Lenz would take all the credit (and most of the money) with the promise that if they would only stick with it for a few more years, he’d make them multimillionaires. In a few cases Lenz may have actually come through on such promises but mostly people ended up broke with a lot of debt–and ill equipped to weather the hi tech recession that began a couple of years after his death.

    And it also seems like many new cult leaders came out of the woodwork after Lenz died ready to take on his students and, of course, their money.

    Yes I’ve heard a couple of times that it might not have been suicide. I really have no idea, but I’m not aware of any evidence to support the story that some former members put forward: that he committed suicide due to a terminal illness which therefore justified his suicide from a Buddhist perspective. I’ve talked to people who were close to him and–while they claim it was a terminal illness–they are at a loss to explain what that illness was and why it is so difficult to pin down what the alleged illness was. Plus the concept of a terminal illness doesn’t explain or excuse why he involved a female member in his suicide plans. So, yes, I’m willing to believe he might have been murdered but there is no real evidence for that either–other than the broken railing suggestive of some kind of a struggle.

  5. I had completely forgotten about this part of your life. Thanks for speaking about it again. In this climate of “ drink the trump koolade or you’re not American”, it’s good that be reminded to think. No matter how much it feels as if you’re getting nowhere, think. Be introspective and then think beyond yourself. Think then speak then act.

  6. @Anne Beth

    I’m the same David who posted a couple of years back. Your message is a reminder that, although he made mistakes, Rama/Lenz was definitely right about some things. You see, Rama warned us about Donald Trump and some of the things that Rama said about Trump seem rather prescient given recent events in American politics. Remember that Rama died nearly 20 years ago, long, long before Trump’s rise to political power. Yet Rama seemed to see the danger that Trump represented back in the 1990’s in a way that few others did at the time. More generally, the direction (generally an unfortunate direction) that US politics has taken over the last 20 years is pretty close to what Rama predicted it would be.

    1. Hi David,

      I agree, Lenz was a highly intelligent guy who had his hand on the pulse on many subjects. I suspect he was even a genius. I just don’t believe that equates to being enlightened.

      I hope you are well, David! Life is going well for me.
      🙂

      1. Good to hear you are doing well Jim! I’m doing pretty well myself. Interestingly there is an update to the Rama/Lenz page on Wikipedia that was made in the last couple of days that you might be interested in looking at. It is under “Criticisms and Controversy” on that page. It is perhaps the most balanced view of Rama/Lenz, covering both sides of the controversy, that I think I’ve ever seen in the 25 or so years since I first encountered Rama/Lenz. It only discusses the financial side of the controversy, though–it doesn’t go into the other big reason for bad publicity, namely the claims made re Rama/Lenz’ alleged treatment of women. I’m not sure who wrote it–I didn’t write it myself and it doesn’t quite match the writing style of anyone in the group whose writings I know. My own experience was that I was one of the ones with existing qualifications in IT–I had a graduate degree in computer science–so I didn’t need to fake my resume like many others had to to get my first computer jobs. Having a degree got me a job and a start, but it didn’t necessarily guarantee me the big bucks. At first I was a bit ahead of the curve, but as the Rama/Lenz fees began to rise, and my income wasn’t rising as fast, I eventually found myself facing the same financial problems as many others in the group. These problems included things like damaged credit which took me about ten years to recover from, although I did eventually rebuild my credit. Others got deeply in debt to the IRS–I managed to keep any debt I had to the IRS at a manageable level–and I don’t know how they ever got out from under. It is better not to be in debt at all, but if you are going to fall behind in payments, it is better if you owe money to a private creditor than to the IRS. Anyways I thought the update on Wikipedia was very well written and would interest you.

        1. Hi David,

          Thanks for the update with the Wikipedia page. I’m curious, have you ever read any of the books which talk about cults but don’t mention Lenz? Like Combating Cult Mind Control (which mostly talks about the Moonies and Scientology)?

          1. I don’t know if I’ve ever read Steve Hassan’s book, but I’ve definitely read Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich’s “Cults in our Midst” although it was many years ago. Also when I was an undergraduate student, well before my Lenz years, I also studied cults in a psychology course, and even wrote a term paper on cults. I thought I was immune to cult recruiting techniques.

            The thing is that I would caution that being familiar with cult recruiting techniques in general doesn’t mean one is immune to the techniques of a specific group. All of these groups tend to have some things in common which the books on the general topic address. But each group has some things that are unique about it. Each group has things about it that are different from other groups that the group members and leaders use to say “hey, here’s what’s different about us–we’re nothing like those other nasty cults you may have heard about.”

            As you noted in the original blog post, Lenz and his long term students tended to emphasize that they didn’t make people live in a compound (albeit Lenz often did insist his students move to a distant city) and still held regular jobs in corporate America (albeit not always obtained ethically as the Wikipedia update notes). They used those things to distance themselves from “those other nasty cults.” If one has previously researched cults, but one’s idea of a cult is being isolated in a jungle in Guyana or dropping out to sell flowers on a street corner, then the Lenz brand of cult could seem very attractive. Their argument that they were something different than Rev Moon or Rev Jones could be very persuasive when they took pains to emphasize the differences, not the similarities.

            My understanding is that it is pretty common, actually, for one cult to decry all OTHER cults as dangerous cults while claiming that they themselves are somehow different. To successfully resist cult recruiting tactics it is not enough to understand the general tactics. One has to be aware that most groups understand cults very well, and have well rehearsed arguments that they themselves are somehow different. Reading books about the general tactics won’t help you if you encounter a new group that you’ve never heard of before and that can persuade you that they are different from all those other groups.

          2. I agree with everything you said, but the one exception is Combating Cult Mind Control, where the book compares the differences with many cults, but also trains you on how to recognize when you’re being recruited for a cult. It breaks the process down pretty well, and frankly they all do roughly the same things, just with different angles. Anyway, it sounds like you’ve achieved some great recovery around something that is such a traumatic experience, so I’m happy for you! 🙂

  7. The Frederick Lenz Rama people are still recruiting today (2018) – and they do not tell you up front that they are disciples of Freddie Lenz.

    The MO is amazingly similar to what Jim describes,

    * Posters for “Free Meditation Classes”

    * Posters are well produced, nice variety of colors, graphic designs. Most of the time the graphics incorporate buddhist images, though recently a few of the posters show hinduist imagery such as Ganesha

    * Overkill – the posters are often on every telephone pole or tree in one short block and are replaced each week – more often if weather is inclement

    This is done in specific neighborhoods – areas where people are affluent, likely to be university students or employed in the technology industry.

    Any time you see high volume poster recruitment this signals an organization that already has the money to pay for the cost of printing that material and enough volunteer labor to distribute the stuff.

    And the Frederick Lenz Rama group indeed has money – what they want more of is fresh meat.

    And that means us.

  8. Here is a two part musing on how we can be influenced.

    Cults get at us through our mammalian need for social relationship.

    Jasun Horsley
    APRIL 10, 2017 AT 1:54 PM REPLY
    Critical faculties are, IMO, insufficient protection when it comes to charismatic leaders skilled in finding and pulling emotional/energetic triggers, patterns of abandonment and trauma and imprinting us with their own words and presence while in that raw state. It is like accelerated transference and there’s no rational protection against it if you are susceptible (a good match for the teacher) and unless you are forewarned.

    cynicalseeker
    APRIL 10, 2017 AT 7:06 PM REPLY
    You may be right. I noticed in one of your articles about Leonard Cohen you said that you had come to the conclusion that you couldn’t any longer trust your gut feeling. I agree with that. And I can envision situations where I might make a wrong decision about a particular guru. But this guy? First of all claiming to be Christ would raise a huge red flag for me. And all the staring followed by platitudes? He sounds like the Barack Obama of gurus. Definitely hearing about and reading up on these people is a huge help. You’re doing a good service here. I probably would not have heard of him otherwise.

    Jasun Horsley
    APRIL 10, 2017 AT 7:13 PM REPLY
    John doesn’t ever publicly claim to be Christ; he has let it be known among long-term followers and then continues to nurture that belief through hints and nods and innuendos. As Tim says in our talk, he rules through implication.

    https://auticulture.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/ignorance-is-strength-john-de-ruiters-empire-of-one/
    —————————————————————-

    (Grim)
    The most effective form of cult recruitment is through relationships with people you already love and trust.

    My knowledge about cults and social psychology was well above average.

    But I don’t think anything could have prevented my getting sucked in.

    What happened to me was I got entangled with a very slick person who was licensed as a psychotherapist but who was actually a high ranking member of a cultic organization.

    A dear friend of mine was his long time client and eventually became a member of that cult.

    “Sheena” was my friend for the past 5 years or so. We were super close. I went through a hideous series of tragedies that left me utterly guilt ridden. I lost my faith in a career track I’d spent years training for.

    As Bugs Bunny put it, there are situations where Ya Just Gotta Trust Someone.

    Prior to that, Sheena had, every so often, mentioned her therapist – as we tend to do. so the guy’s name was familiar to me.

    The way Randy talked up Rama, building up expectations in Jim’s mind, Sheela talked up this therapist to me. So without my realizing it, X became a possible future resource should my life become unmanageable.

    BTW in trance induction the term for this is “a pre frame”

    Note: I cannot know if Sheena was intentionally recruiting for this therapist, or doing it unknowingly. The best and most subtle advertising, whether for shampoo or cults is through people we already know.

    Years later when I was traumatized and guilt ridden, utterly disoriented, I did a commonplace thing and asked her if her therapist had any openings.

    It went downhill from there. The guy was slick. He tricked me to believe he was my only affordable option. My pal really built him up.

    To make a long story short, I was entangled with the guy for 19 years and I became scared of him without even being aware it. He pulled other tricks like failing to tell me that I needed an anti depressant.

  9. The Poster Campaign

    The pattern follows much of Lenz’ recruitment strategy from 20 plus years ago.

    The Lenzies are doing the flier publicity campaign in and around Valencia Street, a part of San Francisco that is massively popular with well paid people working in the tech industry and also postering Haight Street, which is a massive San Francisco tourist draw.

    They are also postering in the neighborhood
    near the University of California San Francisco campus, which is not to be
    confused with the University of San Francisco.

    UCSF is an entirely post graduate campus, with schools of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, dental hygiene, a world renowned hospital, celebrated graduate departments with students and faculty from all over the world. Just to say you
    are a student at UCSF gives you instant street cred.

    I saw an interesting bias at work. The posters are only in a half mile corridor on Irving Street that ends at 19th Avenue right at the location of their “dharma center” .

    I have not seen their posters on the stretch of Irving that runs from 19th Avenue to to the end of the line. That neighborhood is mostly middle class and immigrant Chinese, less gullible than your average university student or techie. And the Chinese are more likely to know something about genuine Buddhadharma.

    These days, the Lenz people may, if you are more trustful, refer to their meditation centers as Rama Centers.

    How to do the research

    What I did was go to the website on their posters, then Googled the living hell out of all the proper names I could find. At that time I had no idea this was tied to Frederick Lenz. My suspicion was aroused by the group obviously having lots of money to print posters and lots of volunteer for the poster campaign.

    Google bodhiwoods santa cruz and rama

    Bodhiwoods is the spelling, include the s.

    Whatever you find, save copies for yourself just in case it disappears. Some of Rama’s students did turn out to be talented in computer technology. Useful research leads will be scrubbed from the internet and they will know how to change their names and search algorithms as soon as they know folks are catching on to their current publicity campaign.

    Lets hope that the current crop of recruits escapes earlier

  10. One way to understand the more sophisticated varieties of cult recruitment is to examine the behaviors of two disturbing groups of people:

    * Pick Up Artists (aka PUAs)

    Any of us, if we are sufficiently disoriented will be in a state where our self cohesion loosens up a bit, like a building swaying in an earthquake. Metaphors of chink in the armor or Achilles Heel come to mind, but I like to think of it as a building swaying in an earthquake. We can cherish dreams of designing an impervious suit of armor, we can look for a magic spell that gives better coverage for Achilles.

    But we cannot prevent earthquakes — and we cannot prevent our adult self cohesion from getting wobbly and the plaster of adult competence getting loosened by the jiggling and falling away to expose the inner structure of the house — or one’s early childhood core self.

    Cult recruiters are, IMO molesters of the child self that is part of our inner structure.
    We can also think of the cult recruiters as charlatan home repair specialists who deliberately prey on people going through personal earthquakes and panicking, trying to get their adult plaster back in place.

    * Leaving people to whom we are attached (death, divorce, breakup, moving away, person becomes less available to us because they are under stress)

    * Leaving or about to leave a place where you’ve become attached – home, school, traveling

    * Disorientation as a result of immersion in an unfamiliar culture – anything from new in school to being in India where everything is unfamiliar — and overwhelming.

    *You’re about to leave school and you’re bummed because you cant figure out what to do with your training .

    These are psycho spiritual earthquakes that make us wobble – and where the crooked contractors come in to exploit our panic.

    The sneakiest ones do just enough of an initial first job that we really trust them, let them into our homes and leave our valuables unlocked.

    1. Here is an article that may be a helpful read.
      Small Quote:

      “It’s often said that no one sets out to join a cult — and Mr Klevjer agrees.
      If you or someone you know needs help, contact:

      Cult Information and Family Support Inc
      Lifeline on 13 11 14
      Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

      “People don’t go down a list of known cults, choose one and think, ‘This is the philosophy that best suits me’,” he says.

      “The key thing to remember is that they don’t know what they’re joining — this is where coercion comes into it.

      “If people knew upfront what all the beliefs of the group were they would probably never join, but it’s a slow process where the inside doctrine of a group is released over time.”

      After spending several years with different gurus in India, Ms Garden can attest to this approach.

      For the full story read below:

      Life in a cult: ‘Like an extreme version of domestic violence’
      RN
      By Michele Weekes and Tim Fisher for Life Matters

      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-12/life-in-a-cult-how-i-escaped/9641852

      (Sometimes this loads slowly, so here is the cached version. For slow connections check text only)

      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:f3pZW7G8ClsJ:www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-12/life-in-a-cult-how-i-escaped/9641852+&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

  11. Hi Jim, it looks like there has only been one new poster–noodlebowl–since I posted last although noodlebowl has posted multiple times. But, yes, I’ve noticed that there has been quite a bit more activity critical of Rama/Lenz online in the past few months than I’ve seen in quite awhile. Critical stories about Lenz usually go hand-in-hand with recruitment drives by the Lenz people, so I’m not surprised to hear of this new recruitment drive in San Francisco. As noodlebowl and others note, the group absolutely continued to exist after Lenz’ death and still exists. I could tell you many, many stories about life in the group between 1998 and about 2010. In 2010 I started distancing myself from the group so I don’t know as much about what has happened since then. Both the press and Lenz’ critics seem to somehow assume this story ended in 1998 and that is absolutely not the case. 2010 is the year I started distancing myself from the group and it is also the year that my life started to become more sane–somehow I don’t think that is a coincidence! I got an invitation to Lenz’ birthday event this year–on Feb 9, 2018 or thereabouts–and seriously considered attending, but am glad in the end I decided to pass. It sounds like a new recruiting drive was in the cards and I’m glad not to be a part of it.

  12. FYI, in San Francisco, the Lenzies are on a new campaign of Free Meditation posters on Irving Street in the Sunset District — again.

    Guess they need fresh meat again – new recruits.

    Friends, always remember – it takes money to print and distribute posters, especially posters with colored graphics.

    Free meditation? Free introductions to meditation? Eventually that money is going to come from *you*.

    Do remember that this is near the University of California San Francisco.

    I also saw some of their posters outside of Saint Ignatius Prep School in the Outer Sunset.

    It costs about $ 25 ,000 a year to send your kid to Saint Ignatius.

    Do the Lenzies put their posters up near inner city schools?

    Nope. They want people with high earning potential.

    Most of the posters now have a blue graphic depicting a Chinese dragon. A few of the posters are mostly black with a buddha outlined in glowing yellow, like the halo around a a solar eclipse.

    Guess they

  13. Can highly recommend a book by Alexandra Stein entitled

    Terror, Love and Brainwashing: Attachment in Cults and Totalitarian Systems

    https://www.amazon.com/Terror-Love-Brainwashing-Attachment-Totalitarian/dp/1138677973/ref=pd_sim_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1138677973&pd_rd_r=ec7c4a13-cd56-11e8-a4cb-8f9c782aa20c&pd_rd_w=5j14X&pd_rd_wg=A32b8&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=18bb0b78-4200-49b9-ac91-f141d61a1780&pf_rd_r=6PHP8PQEG0BA9CHP2FD3&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=6PHP8PQEG0BA9CHP2FD3

    Go to bookfinder dot com to do price comparisons. Make sure to check the part of the
    Amazon link that gives low cost options and other purchase options.

    It explains why we can be educated, intelligent, even know a lot about the dynamics of cults and abuse, how we can know, intellectually, that something is very wrong with a leader and group, yet be unable to use what we know to break away and leave.

  14. The Lenzies are still postering up a storm in San Francisco’s Sunset District
    near the UC Med campus on Parnassus.

    “Free Meditation”.

    No disclosure that the actual inspiration of the group is
    Lenz.

    Posters on every block. Blue dragon logo.

    They clearly have money to print all those posters, along with the colored graphics, to say nothing of all those rolls of tape.

    What they want is more warm bodies who do not know about Lenz or
    his sordid history.

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