The transcript shows how the logic of the in-group cannot admit outside information. Indeed, it cannot even admit inside information: the actual allegations are never named. (Information and message control is essential to any high-demand group.) By marginalizing and minimizing the allegations and offering no outside resources — such as in the areas of restorative justice or trauma care — the talk creates the impression, supported reflections on “The Four Reliances”, that not only is the group ideology all that is available to help, but that leaders like Simmer-Brown have adequate answers to the problems in the organization they have led for decades.
I’ve left out the names of the community members who ask questions or comment, save for one. Kathleen Moore spoke fifth, and gave me permission to disclose her name. Moore was the partner of the late Bill Scheffel, who died of suicide on July 8th. He immolated himself in his car
a week after giving a despairing address to a community gathering to discuss the scandal.
Moore issued a direct and personal appeal for accountability amidst a culture of silencing.
Moore described having been isolated by the community after Scheffel’s death, pushed to the margin as an outsider, as someone willing to discuss toxic dynamics within the group. This follows, as she says, a pattern that impacted Scheffel himself. She began by reading a quote from Scheffel’s address:
I’m in a world of pain. When Trungpa Rinpoche died, there were many forces at work. Now there’s a phenomena of you’re either in or out. We are no longer a society. We’ve become a church. Society has division, diversity and dissonance. The rank-ism [here] creates distance and has broken me.
"Since he died
,” Moore continued, “his friends who are mostly senior students of Trungpa Rinpoche, almost all of them teachers, are saying things like, I killed him, that I’m responsible for his death. No one will say this to me. I hear it from others who’ve heard it and believe those people. But what I’m experiencing is incredible amounts of silence.
Instead of directly answering Moore’s public appeal to suggest policy that would address ways in those who criticize the group are marginalized, Simmer-Brown offered to meet with Moore in person.
“It sounds like this may be a more personal conversation between you and me and I would be delighted to talk with you one on one about that
,” said Simmer-Brown, effectively silencing a discussion about silencing, and further blurring the lines between public responsibility, private resolutions, and perhaps even therapy.
It’s important to understand that in this and similar sub-cultures, private meetings with teachers are highly valued and largely understood as intimate transmission moments. The assumption is that far from being confrontational or eliciting accountability, the meeting will offer the leader an opportunity to communicate some deeper, secret truth that will give the member relief.
After offering a private meeting, Simmer-Brown then went on to self-reference, talking about her own periods of outsidership in relation to the community.
The appeal to private reckoning is not only used to evade public accountability. It can also be used to deflect the institutional responsibility that organization leaders hold.