I was so sure that TNT was not a cult. First of all, what I had heard about cults was that people attempted suicide together or gave all their money away. This was an open school and you could come and go as you like. Far away from what I had read in the media.
I had also googled TNT and cults several times in the belief that if this was a cult someone would have written a warning about it. But no, nothing. (This is one more reason why I now share my story) Honestly, I don’t think anyone of us in TNT knew what the criteria for a cult were. And we never looked it up. I just trusted Alex when he said it was not. :)
Alex even had a “cult police” appointed in TNT. He gave the title to a male student who was a professor at the University of Copenhagen. A smart guy that people trusted. -He will check us, Alex said. That created a false sense of safety.
When I look back at it now it seems kind of absurd to appoint someone from within the cult to convince the cult members that they are not in a cult.
The appointed cult police even held and recorded a lecture where he tried to prove TNT was not a cult by using Robert Kegan's theory of adult development. Instead, he tried to show that the students were to blame for the accusations of TNT being a cult. Being the ones creating a cult structure around Alex. The recording was posted on youtube and spread within TNT.
What he did not do was compare TNT with Roy Wallis seven signs of a movement being a cult. In my opinion, TNT qualifies on most of them. He did not either explain how the dynamics of co-dependency are played out in an immature dysfunctional organization, creating a cult structure. To think that the leader himself has no responsibility for creating the structure is absurd and sounds like complete denial.
By the way, the cult police are now the head teacher in the TNT cult.
I recommend you to read a book about cults if you are interested to learn more about cult dynamics. Or watch the movie Holy Hell. That will enlight you on the subject.
And by the way, you do not need to be stupid to enter a cult. Everyone can become a victim of a narcissistic person. A cult structure is such a strong dynamic and almost impossible to see when you are in it. The reason for this is what is called the denial and normalization process. I will give you an example.
When I first joined the team I was in shock over what I saw. I had never seen anything like this before. So many crazy things and abuse happened behind the scenes. I actually went into freeze mode (a trauma reaction) several times my first weeks with the team.
The “lower assistants” then worked as a bridge to get me into the system. Unconsciously starting the normalization process. Showing me how to behave in an environment like this by saying things like;
- This is how it is to be around a Spiritual leader.
- You better do this or that, or he will become angry.
- You should be happy you are one of the chosen ones.
- This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
- You just don’t get it, dumb fuck.
Actually, no one gets this in the beginning… It does not make sense, in any way. Not before you have spent some time in the system and the gaslighting- and the normalization process has started to blind you.
After a while, you get so used to the system that you start to protect it.
A new team member comes in and you are now the one getting them into the normalization process.
They, like you, start to do things that go against their core values. Over time their adaptation and co-dependency get stronger, and sooner than they know, they are in it as well. Blinded by the longing to be wanted, special, necessary, important and significant.
This system is used by everyone involved. It is played out in the co-dependent “one up” or “one down” / better than or less than thinking.
Cult dynamics are “Hard-Core” Co-dependency (read this article for more info)
. Everyone familiar with Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle of co-dependency
will recognize the top-to-bottom hierarchy of relatively more powerful dominators and less powerful submittors; each dominator being submissive to the dominators on the level above. The “guru” stands at the top of a dysfunctional pyramid of increasing dominance from bottom to top and increasing submission from top to bottom. A dysfunctional leader always creates a dysfunctional group.
Or as Alex himself said it many times, you are just marionettes in my show. But we, in the team at that time, just laughed.
This is very embarrassing but we could sit together and joke about people who criticized TNT for being a cult.
We were so arrogant and naive that we even said; They do not have a clue of what a cult is…as if we knew, we were laughing our arrogant asses off from the very core of an extremely strong cult dynamic. Got to laugh at that now!
The following is shared with us by an ex-student who X attempted to curse and destroy but ultimately failed. He has since went on to rebuild a happy life successfully.
A step-by-step guide on how X turns you into one of his believers
1. Appear friendly and approachable:
Jovial, adept at cracking jokes, and making fun of himself, X will create an image that he's fun to be with, showing interest in your interests and becoming your best pal.
2. Display the image of a sage:
X has his students around him behave with total obedience and submission. He will also repeatedly recount his encounters with the late (baba, sheikh, guru, murshid, whatever) and how supramundane their relationship is. Furthermore, we are constantly reminded on the seemingly supernatural events around him, implying his power and extraordinary status. The overall purpose is to instill awe and respect in you, so that you begin to believe how lucky you are to have the opportunity to meet such a “high Lama”.
3. Invite you to attend his “Dharma teachings”:
By this time, if you are still not in awe and respect of him, he would have most likely left you alone for you are not the “chosen one”. As you indeed attend his teaching, he will quote the (Teachings) but based on his own interpretation.
Prior to your arrival, information of you would have been gathered by asking your introducer.
(Bolded by Corboy for emphasis. This introducer is likely to be a close friend or an advisor whom you utterly love and trust. You cannot imagine that person would tattle tale about you and that your trustful disclosures would be used in this manner)
During his teaching he will give you the impression that he knows all about you without you telling him, so you feel that his teaching is great as it strikes a chord with your current life situation, and be be interested in going for more. And before you know it, you will be...
4. Taking refuge:
PY would use slogans such as “A human body is hard to attain, and the Buddhadharma is hard to come by" to imply how rare your encounter with him is, and how you should treasure this opportunity now.
(Or you may be told your karma in this life is specially auspicious that you met such a rare Master, and such a chance will not come again. Or you may be told you two met in a past lifetime and you have a special destiny. You may be told the Master has had dreams or visions about you - the ruses are many.Corboy)
Should you stubbornly refuse to take refuge with him, he may flare up, but alas there's nothing more that he can do to you. Knowing that he shouldn't destroy the relationship he has with you as there's always another chance in future, he will try to loosen up the tension by being jovial or cracking some jokes.
5. Maintaining control over you and your loved ones:
As you become more involved X will use humiliation, induce shame, and remove your ability to make decisions as "Lama knows best". That in whatever you do, you should always first consult your root guru.
He is very skilful in manipulating your emotions, rendering you helpless and tattered as you cling onto his very joy and anger. Total control over you is his way of ensuring the strength of his organisation and its financial sustenance.
One of the major reasons that Theosophy and Anthroposophy are difficult to define and outline concisely is that both doctrines continually redefine basic concepts (such as Logos, Christ, soul, spirit, plane, and so forth) according to the immediate demands of the point under discussion.
The understanding of the various terms also change with time, topic, exegete, and the point of the argument: Mrs Besant and Rudolf Steiner, for example, frequently (though not always), mean very different things when they use the word Logos; their definitions are, in turn, different from either the traditional Christian or Gnostic understanding of that important term. At the same time, enough points of coincidence lull the reader into a false sense of identity of concepts. The result is that becomes impossible to get a real grip on what should be basic building block ideas.
Furthermore, occultists tend to develop their arguments not by deduction or even induction, but by analogy. The reader, at the time of reading, momentarily senses the relationship of terms and intuitively or sympathetically perceives a parallel; afterward, understanding vanishes.*
(See note at bottom of this article - Corboy)
"Finally (Carlson continues) not only do the Theosophists constantly redefine their own terms, but they "translate" the statements of non Theosophists into their own terminology, invariably muddling the translation. Their definitions of basic concepts are unfortunately so loose and subjective that just about any alien concept can be subsumed by them. Thus, for example, Anne Kamenskaia, discussing Fedor Dostoevsky (who was not much taken with oriental philosophy) blithely attributes to him the idea that mankind will achieve spiritual heights not through sorrow and suffering, but through the radiant flight of an exultant soul liberated from the chains of karma (!), although Dostoevsky would never have chosen to express himself in that way.
(Maria Carlson, No Religion Higher Than Truth: A History of the Thesophical Movement in Russia 1875-1922 Princeton University 1993, page 229, footnote to Chapter 5: Theosophical Doctrine: An Outline.
definitions are, in turn, different from either the traditional Christian or Gnostic understanding of that important term. At the same time, enough points of coincidence lull the reader into a false sense of identity of concepts. The result is that becomes impossible to get a real grip on what should be basic building block ideas.
Furthermore, occultists tend to develop their arguments not by deduction or even induction, but by analogy. The reader, at the time of reading, momentarily senses the relationship of terms and intuitively or sympathetically perceives a parallel; afterward, understanding vanishes.
(Corboy note: I am not sure, but perhaps this "not by deduction or even induction, but by analogy' alludes to the kind of dream like primary process thought one encounters in dreams or in the thought process of children not yet able to engage in formal logic.
Primary process thought and emotion are richly creative for artists, but incompatible with adult logic and scientific and historical problem solving.
This primary process thought and emotion is incapable of noting and registering boundary violations and violations of ethical guidelines.
If students are not given terminology with precise stable definitions, they will be unable to utilize adult formal logic when studying this material and cannot begin to think for themselves.
If a sufistic or theosophical group's terminology remains fluid, cannot be discussed, and remains dependent on whimsical definitions by the Master, students remain intellectually subservient to the Master.
If students must use a terminology that is unstable, a terminology that is used in an unpredictable, arbitrary manner, they will remain insecure and in need of a 'Master'. It is not ones own fault--the text has been written out in a manner that mimics adult logic but that is actually pre-logical and possibly for some readers, hypnotic. [/i]
“I’ve talked with the investigator [Nicole Kotsianis] who’s working on the case… She seems to think it’s just this game for this person.” One photographer, who spoke to the Hollywood Reporter in 2018 under the promise of anonymity, claimed that he lost his life savings to the woman. His analysis: "No doubt that if the mystery is ever solved, we'll learn she's not only brilliant, but probably is some sort of sociopath."
It seems that Instagram influencers are just the most recent target in a scam that runs much deeper. I ask Carley if she thinks Instagrammers are more susceptible to being scammed than other groups. “Certainly,” she says. “They know that as photographers, we’re hungry for work and I think they play off photographers like me in the industry that really want this type of job.”
The trip ended badly, and within a day he was back in L.A. He told her he had blown through his life savings. She kept calling. She promised to meet in New York. She didn't. Toward the end of January, he emailed her but the email bounced back. "I thought to myself, 'Finally, this is it, she's ghosted me,'" says the photographer. "At least now I know." Relief washed over him. Until that night, when she called again.
In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars he forfeited, the photographer struggles to wrap his head around the fact that she toyed with him so aggressively long after his funds were depleted, after she had gotten everything she would ever get, when it was simply a game she appeared to enjoy. "At what point does a crazy evil genius say, 'I've got enough out of this person, let's move on to someone else?'"
Linnell describes feeling an “inner peace, warmth and love” like she had never felt before in Lakshmi’s meditation class. This was enough to convince her that she had to somehow talk Lakshmi into taking her on as a student. It eventually happened, but not before Linnell had committed to paying thousands of dollars in tuition.
“For sure they targeted me because they knew I was well off,” Linnell said. “It was part of their operating model. Sending people out into the world to make more money so they could pay more tuition, and we were like their minions. We could justify it because we believed that we were only making more money because of their coaching.”
Much of what Linnell describes in “The Burn Zone” as Lakshmi’s teachings will come across as obvious flimflam: hidden mystical portals, a bizarre dress code and dark beings who apparently took exception when Lakshmi’s students used social media, danced, or kept too many family mementos.
Speaking of her troubled relationship with her mother, who became an alcoholic after the death of her husband, Linnell believes that this determined not only her relationship with men, but also her need for validation which led her to fall so completely into Vishnu and Lakshmi’s clutches.
“My relationship with my mom led me to carry a lot of self-doubt, which often allows others to treat us poorly,” Linnell explains. “I realized later that this is the start of every abusive relationship. I’ve learned so much from what I went through, that when I see toxic relationships I now realize there is a clear pattern.”
Getting sucked into the University of Mysticism by Lakshmi and Vishnu, Linnell was forced to cut ties with her loved ones, including her twin brother and all her friends who weren’t involved with the cult. When Linnell moved to New York City under orders from her spiritual leaders to earn her MBA and build a $10 million business, she quickly became entangled in a disastrous romantic and business relationship that caused her to lose over $500,000.
"From the outside looking in it looked like the perfect life.... I always felt empty inside and sad. I didn't really fit in. Most of my family died before I was 15 and then my father died. I was always seeking for what happens after we die, why are we here?...she said "let's meditate" and put on her sunglasses. I closed my eyes to meditate and had this incredible experience. Everything goes white and there's so much peace. I realised this was what I had been searching for my entire life. I thought: "I don't care who this woman is, I don't care what she says, I'm home."
It took a while but now I realise it's like any toxic relationship. If you go on a first date and somebody hits you, you don't go on a second date. But they start with the romance, they seduce you, lure you in and that's what they did.
Then what happens is they start giving you so many tasks that so much of your time is consumed in the group that you start distancing yourself from friends, family and activities you loved. Without realising it, my support structure started to disappear and the groupthink started to set in.
Then, after the two-year mark, they started introducing self-doubt.
They would say you're evolving into this enlightened version of yourself. Everything from the old you no longer applies. They'd say it's just like an alcoholic. Once an alcoholic gets clean they can't really hang out with their old drinking buddies at the old bars.
The more money we made, the more money we paid. They'd justify it by saying everything is energy, including money. The more money you spend and give to the teachers the more empowerment you'd get.
How would I know if I’m Spiritually Bypassing?
By definition, bypassing is unconscious, so it’s hard, if not impossible, to know when you’re doing it. All the more so if you’ve been manipulated to do it, which is what happens in high-demand groups.
That said, there are red flags:
If you feel “engulfed” by a method or community, such that it becomes your main and constant reference point for reality, it doesn’t matter what you’re actually being taught. What matters is the closing-off of other perspectives.
If the above happens really fast
If the group demands that you radically change your behaviour or daily schedule
If you’re encouraged toward a monochromatic feeling-state, i.e. always neutral or content
If a group places exhausting demands on your time, money, or emotional labour.