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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: YellowBeard ()
Date: May 01, 2005 11:06AM

‘Bliss bunny’ is a colloquial term used in the world surrounding Eastern religious cults usually to describe new recruits. These are people all excited by the flowery words and promises of eternal loyalty and unimaginable fulfillment.

The bliss bunny stage inevitably fades as the person finds all the same problems, fighting, and confusion present in the spiritual environment as they experienced in their ordinary life which they were trying to escape. Many times these conflicts are actually intensified in the spiritual environment (in fact, I'd like to say almost always). But generally, by the time this is recognized, they're too deeply entrenched in the ideology and the process of rationalizing these behaviors begins.

Many cultists channel these frustrations at perceived enemies of the group and its leader(s). Anyone who questions the sincerity and legitimacy of the groups goals, becomes a justifiable outlet for aggressive behavior. These ‘bitter bunnies’ would be comical, with their mechanical and repetitive talk of love and kindness while brutally attacking those questioning their ideologies, if it weren't for the seriousness of the viciousness they many times engage in.

Most of the time, cult recovery discussion boards attract more bitter bunnies than people actually interested in engaging in explorations on the issues. With the board I started in late 2003, [i:d57cebddb3]Cult Busters - SRF Division[/i:d57cebddb3], this has definitely been the case. With months (and even over a year for some) of trying to engage in conversation with the ‘usual suspects’, it became clear to the bitter bunnies that even [i:d57cebddb3]en masse[/i:d57cebddb3] they could not hold their arguments together against even the slightest rational probes sent in. Their in-fighting ceased long enough to ban together to try a new tactic.

It became clear that their propaganda efforts were not going to go anywhere, so in an impressive array of group-think, they decided to cause as much disruption to the board as possible. One poster, prior to the bitter bunnies gleaming their new tactic, became clinically paranoid and ended up editing all of his posts (which numbered in the hundreds) leaving many investigative discussions filled with empty shells, making these discussions largely incomprehensible. This caused a lot of disruption on the board.

The bitter bunnies seeing the disturbance that was caused, decided to mimic that action as the best possible way to cause as much damage as possible. Communicating behind the scenes, they struck in unison in "hole punching" the board. They also started creating several different names and began spamming up the board to maximize the disruption.

What does this teach us?

With the object of creating a fair discussion space, I allowed cultists to have their say. I also thought that some of the topics being explored would stimulate critical thinking in a few. But nothing of the kind ever happened.

I'm now thinking that cultists should not be welcomed unless they're willing to seriously discuss the issues instead of merely trying to obfuscate the issues and promote their ideologies. While many think this unfair in not giving equal time to those wishing to present the other side of the story, I'm starting to think that it is more than fair. After all, most of the sources of information on these groups available is promotional PR. Type in the name of the cult of your choice in your favorite search engine, and you're going to find more promotional information than anything else. In fact, for the vast majority of questionable groups, you'll usually be hard pressed to find opposing views.

So what's the point of catering to cultists who have the sole objective of silencing critics in mind? They use the "fairness" argument to create smoke over any voices of opposition. The cultists have more than their fair share of having their say. They dominate the Internet with their promotions, they use fliers on the street, and they fill magazines with ads. The cards are already stacked in their favor by far.

So I feel it's important that our message is not watered down by the illusion of fairness which they like to create. [b:d57cebddb3]They ask a man selling water in the desert to be fair by providing sand as well as half of his inventory![/b:d57cebddb3] Don't fall for this deception fellow cult busters. We learned at our site the hard way.

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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: May 02, 2005 11:26AM

Anything to do with Cult-Busting is playing HARDBALL.
They will do whatever it takes to attack and silence their critics.

In terms of an internet message board, i do not believe it is possible to have an open discussion in good faith, for all the reasons you just mentioned.
It only takes a couple of people to cause some serious damage.

So even though i am the biggest supporter of Free Speech, it does not work in these sorts of topics, in an internet message board format.
The only solution is to have a Moderated discussion, and if people show bad faith, then that's it.
So its not a totally objective debate, but more of a network where survivors can have a discussion.

An ethical way around this would be to have a link to a public unmoderated Usenet forum to discuss those same issues. Then those who want to have a free-for-all can do so.

Of course the danger here, as recognized, is that "blocking criticism" is cult technique #1, and does not lead to a healthy style of thinking if you NEED everyone to agree with you all the time.
But of course, the problem is not disagreement, but those who attack in Bad Faith.

I think the balance is to have enough personal intellectual integrity to acknowledge that the discussion is Moderated, and that those who break the rules of the forum will be ejected.
This allows some criticism in, which i personally think is a very good idea, and is healthy.

On the other hand, the Cultists will stop at nothing and engage in endless deceptions and Mind Games to cause trouble. They truly would believe that THEY are in the right, and are fighting their devilish enemies.

So in my humble opinion, a good balance is to moderate the discussion, and allow some criticism that is respectful to enourage flexible thinking.

Also, each person must retain control over their own posts, and be allowed to delete them at any time. Some people can get paranoid, but one shouldn't fault people who have been through cults for dealing with mental health issues.

In dealing with anti-cult work, its always going to be unpleasant, and disturbing, and even crazy. That is the nature of the beast.

I think people can create a protected area for cult victims to talk, and then hopefully allow some criticism in, to allow the people to buiuld up their mental skills and tolerance for ambiguity.
Granted, some people are very sensitive, and might not be able to handle this. Those folks should be given a private place to have a discussion, where they are 100% protected for a while.

So one could have
1) a Moderated forum, with moderate criticism.
2) an unmoderated Usenet forum from Hell.
3) a 100% protected space for vulerable people.

Just a few ideas...


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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: July 30, 2005 07:49AM

I forgot to mention something.
I was on the sucker mailing list for SRF for it must be decades now, since I once bought some stuff off them many many years ago. I keep getting junk in the mail from them, it never stops.

Finally, I got sick of this, and called a long while back to get my name deleted. Then a while ago, I keep getting Paramahansa Propaganda from them!!
So I called them up months ago, and told them straight up to delete me forever from their database.

Here's where it gets really weird. The girl on the phone was totally bizarre. She had this bizarre, detached, depersonalized BREATHY voice, that was almost inhuman, it was so detached. I felt like I was talking to a person wacked out on drugs or something, totally spaced out.
Then she tried a cult tactic on me, by saying I was a type of "student" of such and such Yoga, and started to try to do some of her "keep the guy on the list" stuff on me. I think what they are trying to pull is that you are a "student for life", something along the lines that if you did a certain course, then it means you are bonded to Yogananda for eternity, or some nonsense. She even kept interrupting me, and being quite adamant that I was a "student". it was very strange indeed.
Of course, by this point, that stuff has no effect on me at all.

So I then escalated it, by telling her to CEASE and DESIST from ever sending me anything again forever. She kept being mealy-mouthed and said she will put a request in, etc. I asked to talk to her superior, but she said there is no such person, which of course is a lie. I think perhaps I will call back and try to talk to a "manager" there, but I think they have it set up so you can't get off their mailing list.

If I get one more thing from them, then I will get my lawyer to send them a notarized cease and desist, and if that fails, I will take it to the next level. I'll also contact the authorities in their area.

Once these people get their fingers into someone they never want to let them go. They know if they keep sending that junk, that people may come back to them after many years.

Thank goodness, I can see this stuff so clearly now that it has no effect on me. But one can easily see, for more "spiritual" and passive people, how these games can keep them locked in.
But if you have very strong boundaries, and can be very assertive, and even aggressive at times, you can easily defeat these cult recruiter saleswomen.

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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: Toni ()
Date: July 30, 2005 09:17AM


Likewise, it took me years & persistence to be removed from cult mailing lists....!!

I don't know how they'd tracked me though moves, divorce, whatever.. they ARE persistent.

If I could remember what threat I'd finally used, I'd tell you. Sorry

t :D

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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: YellowBeard ()
Date: August 24, 2005 03:37AM

I'm kind of late in offering a response here. Haven't checking in in awhile. Sorry about that.

Thanks Cosmophilospher for your ideas on managing a cult recovery forum. Much appreciation there for your insights. I also received an email offering support from someone that wished to remain unmentioned, so many thanks to them as well.

And thanks Cosmophilospher for this latest piece on SRF mailing list troubles. I'm still on their list as well. :wink: Many have joked about the sheer amount of paper SRF wastes on continually harassing people for literally decades after they've left. Part of SRF ideology is that the bond between a guru and disciple is eternal, so even if you leave, you'll be back eventually. But the only true, lasting bond is the continual harassment from the cult. :mrgreen:

I like your description of the woman on the phone. Some of SRF's slave laborers are really out to lunch, the result of years of indoctrination and breaking down of the critical thinking faculties through twice daily, repetitive, mechanical meditations and submissive surrendering practices to a host of gurus. It's sad to see the hole that they've dug themselves into and what a wreck they've made of their lives.

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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: Peyton_Place ()
Date: October 01, 2005 01:02AM

From way back up...

Someone had commented about how the people they had interacted with were either very spacey or seemed to carry a thinly veiled hostility. I have had only a passing acquaintance with the group, but what I have experienced seems to agree.

I lived in North County SD for a time and always wondered about the fellowship in Encinitas. It's beautiful and impossible not to notice. The beach below, Swamis, is one of the best on that coast for surfing.

A friend of mine visited the fellowship during one Halloween and told me that it was exceptionally creepy - people were nice, but very spacey. They were all wearing similar costumes - a la X Files if I remember right.

She felt it had a cult vibe, although neither of us had ever read anything about this group and had previously thought of it as harmless.

One day I was stuck downtown in Encinitas and decided to visit the gift store. The woman inside was very unpleasant - she looked at me like she wanted to kill me. I felt very uncomfortable and left almost immediately.

Also, I think Prudence Farrow is involved with other pursuits, whether or not she still believes in TM: []

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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: Gulab Jamon ()
Date: October 01, 2005 04:07AM

Personally I enjoyed most of my visits to the SRF centers in Encinitas and Pacific Palisades when I was out visiting California. I had read Yogananda's book "Autobiography of a Yogi" and found it interesting. Most of the people I met there were nice and polite, but I did have a couple of really weird, disturbing things happen there.

I visited the Encinitas center in March of 2002 on the way back to L.A. from a public health conference in San Diego. I had had an unexpected falling-out with the people I went with and ended up having to rent a car and return to L.A. on my own after they inexplicably ditched me after the conference. I was very depressed and thought I'd go to Encinitas and meditate there.

When I got there, I walked around the lovely garden and meditated in the chapel a bit. Then I went back out to the garden. There was an older man there who started talking to me. I immediately sized him up as a kooky but harmless person. He talked to me about Yogananda for a while, and told me that I was very lucky to be there on that day because it was the 50th anniversary of Yogananda's mahasamadhi (in other words, the day that the guru leaves his body and becomes "one with the universe"). He referred to Yogananda as "the master" and said that "the master" was going to make an appearance in his physical form on this special day. I really got a kick out of talking to him, believe it or not.

Now here's where it gets weird: in the middle of our talk, this uptight middle-aged bitch in long robes walks up to us and interrupts our conversation. She asks me, "Can I help you?" in a very cold tone of voice. "No thanks", I said, "I was just talking to this man about Yogananda." The woman turns to him and starts berating him for talking in a "silent" area and basically went off on him for talking to me and even threatened to kick him off the premises! She then turned to me with her ice-queen voice and said that if I had any questions, I should go inside the information center and talk to someone there or pick up some literature.

I thanked her politely, but I was completely offended and creeped out! It really ruined my experience of the place and made me very suspicious. I thought it was really sad and hypocritical of this clone zombie pseudospritual bitch to put down a harmless old man for having a genuine (to him, anyway) spiritual experience and sharing it with me. Yogananda is probably rolling over in his grave!

On another note:
Weirdly enough, I ended up moving right next door to the SRF center in New York City. I only went to services there a couple times and just did not like the vibe there AT ALL! It was very churchy and stuffy and people were NOT welcoming. Very different from the California scene.

It's funny, because the definition of a "cult" usually includes very forceful recruitment tactics, but what about these types of "cults" that are very clique-y and make you feel like you don't belong?

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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: bonnie ()
Date: October 01, 2005 06:23AM

I have encountered the same kind of "clique-y" behavior from at least one cult. IMO it was a type of scrreening activity on the part of the devotees intended to determine who might prove useful to whatever the agenda of the cult-in-question was.

In the group I am speaking of, young people, indeed minor children, seemed to be the "desired" new indoctrinees. There may have been some use for people with lots of money, but I never saw anyone with lots of money come to group functions, so I'm not sure if this is true.

I did, however, witness the group rejection of adults who were interested, and I saw how they centered their attention on any children who came to group functions. The rejection was subtle; cult members were very friendly, but only up to a certain point. They refused to talk much about the guru, (who is in hiding), and did not encourage or even permit non-members to talk much about themselves. Subtle, and not-so-subtle shaming was administered; often having to do with body image.(They did not like fat people, or even chubby ones, and seemed to focus on this obcessively. The female group members who were plump seemed to be very ashamed of this fact.)

In truth, the cult was very warm and inviting at first, at least to interested parties, but became colder and more and more hostile with time. The truly amazing thing to me is that they permitted me to hang around for so long.
They seemed to have a very highly tuned ability to screen out those prospects who might prove useful from those who might disturb the balance of the group.

In all probability, you belonged in the latter category, and were not wanted. Too bad for you. But that way, you at least didn't have to experience rejection by people whom you had previously considered to be true friends, so perhaps you were fortunate.

After the first few years of my friendship with the group I am talking about, I was given the same cold instruction and steered towards the printed material whenever I asked questions. It stung a lot more at this point than it would have if they had been that cold upon my first encounter with them.

I have been friends with a number of Yogananda devotees, and found them to be very friendly and kind. They were not active within the organization when I met them, and had probably always been at the bottom rung.

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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: brainout ()
Date: March 29, 2007 06:42AM

While investigating the posts on Self-Realization Fellowship, I found this quote. Seems like it fits also here, as a model for how to spot a cult? I'm trying to get a better sense of the dividing line. Substitute "pastor" for "guru" and it seems a good definition of the dividing line? It's from the moderator of the SRF Discussion Board, 12/07/2004 8:57am. So I'm only quoting the beginning of it, here. You can go to the "Self-Realization Fellowshp" board to read the whole thing in its proper context. I Don't want to annoy the forum with a too-long post.


(quote) 'If you're recovering from opium addiction, it's best to steer clear from groups of opium users who have left the den, because they're not recovered addicts, they just think they are since they've managed to pull themselves out of the den. They're still compulsively stuffing opium in their pipes, so they still have a serious problem.'
You've nailed it.

People may get pissed off and leave a particular abusive guru.

But if they've left that one guru's cult , but still cling to their personal cult of the Perfect Guru Who is Waiting for Them Out There Somewhere--- they're still hooked, still in the spiritual rat-race.

They've given up on a particular guru, but are still hooked on the Guru Archetype, the Guru Ideal.

They're still hooked because honestly, they dont yet know of any other way to access their own talent, their own vitality, except by using a Magic Daddy/Magic Mommy myth that requires them to be children and put themselves at terrible risk of exploitation by spiritual crooks who specialize in targeting and molesting 'adult children'--persons who are adult in calendar years, but who, without realizing it, are still trapped in a child's level of development, usually because of unexamined trauma.

Until seekers can question their addiction to perfect spiritual parenting, they'll still looking for the right dealer, who always comes through with the dope and who will be smart enough not to get arrested like the other guy did.

A big part of recovery is not just the process of weaning oneself from the drug; we have to stop romanticizing addiction itself, and the pseudo-romantic lifestyle around addiction. That includes questioning the glamour of New Age/Dharmic/spiritual addiction.

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Self-Realization Fellowship
Posted by: brainout ()
Date: March 29, 2007 09:13AM

Hi, I'm new to this forum, am newly in another RRI board on RB Thieme. These forums are great for brainstorming and gathering information, I'm grateful for them. Oh: [i:750b9bb5f7]I just posted to this forum a quote from corboy which I thought would go to the other forum, and I apologize for that.[/i:750b9bb5f7] Now, back to this topic of clique-y.

Like you, I've been in contact with SRF people; well, one is a very close family member, so I spent part of my youth exposed to some of it. But its tenets have always escaped me: [i:750b9bb5f7]just meditate your way to Nirvana[/i:750b9bb5f7], that's what I got out of it. Reading the Bhagavad-Gita, didn't much elucidate the difference for me.

I came here to identify the dividing line between "cult", and zealots of any kind of belief. Seems to me Yellowbeard, corboy and you hit on the dividing lines. Yellowbeard and corboy mentioned (respectively) the need-for-a-perfect-spiritual-daddy motive in the prospective 'devotee' as destructive to the individual, addicting him even when he later becomes iconoclastic; a "cult" would exploit that, either way. Seems to me a lot of political debate in America is designed to root out the iconoclasts and 'win' them over; but also, those who are zealots, "pro" something the exploiters want to use. So it's two sides of a coin, and always a psychological thing. A cult would SEEK to exploit that.

Then corboy went on to list a number of other characteristics which to me were extremely helpful, in his 12/07/04 post.

You just added another one: clique-y attitude. I've seen SRF people who had that attitude, and those who did not. I've seen RB Thieme people (of whom I must be classed) having that same clique-y attitude; but also, those who did not. The "newbie" mentality -- what Yellowbeard termed as "bliss bunnies" -- accounts a lot for a clique-y attitude. One is young in whatever the faith is, right or wrong, and naturally has an idolizing tendency. Ideally, maturation will grow the person out of that. But a cult would EXPLOIT a clique-y attitude, right?

A non-cult would feel constrained to tolerate the gushiness, since it's a phase; would keep warning about the perils of idolization, hoping the newbies will soon grow out of it, right?

So it looks like the clique-y or non-clique-y attitude itself, is more reflective of the [u:750b9bb5f7]individual[/u:750b9bb5f7], not so much indicative of whether "x" is a cult. Of course, if "x" EXPLOITS that attitude and encourages it, and wants your money -- you know, the laundry list that corboy enumerated -- then it's also cultic.

What are your thoughts on the dividing line, given what you've said?

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