If you'll bear with the terrible length of this reply, I can give you some info. I got while researching the insidious cult, Miracle of Love, which also often uses sex to recruit, keep, and control its members. You can check out desctructive cults link on this rick ross site to see pages and pages of details. I can't remember the source for the following info. I copied and pasted into files without appropriately labeling it. But there are some links within the document you can follow up on, there are some names to check out, etc.
Also, before reading the following, be aware of the support group Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. More awareness of this issue is necessary and should be a part of groups like this. Perhaps you could get the ball rolling. Good luck, Lily
It is rather unusual for people to have sex in groups--the shyness factor is powerful. But its a lot more common for an abusive guru to have multiple partners and call them to the bed room one at a time, or to orchestrate the sexual relationships within the group--like a child playing with dolls. I would consider this 'sex shared within the group' as a form of 'group sex.'
When abusive, this is about power not play, companionship or respect.
(Note: This discussion refers to group sex that takes place within a context where there is a power imbalance and where trickery and emotional coercion are used to recruit subjects. Play has nothing to do with it. You're being used as an object for the leader's power agenda. The following material does not apply to group sex where everyone is a consenting and conscious adult and all have freely agreed to participate.)
Within a power imbalance play and partnership are not possible.
When I speak of group sex/sex-within-a-group that takes place in the context of a power imbalance, I will call it 'manipulative group sex' to distinguish it from 'playful/consensual group sex.'
**(Note: If your spouse (or current partner) is threatening to dump you or have an affair unless you participate in group sex, or consent to an 'open marriage' under such conditions, you are incapable of freely consenting. You are best off leaving this manipulative individual while your self-respect is still intact. And no, you are not being a prude.)
Problems with Manipulative Group Sex used for 'Spiritual Practice'
The problem is that any spiritual insight you might pick up in the context of manipulative sex will resemble insights obtained through use of psychedelic drugs. The context is so extreme, that once you're back in the outside world, you're likely to have great difficulty integrating those insights with day to day life.
And, thats if you are lucky and have have not 1) gone crazy or 2) been infected with HIV--and 3) you did not have a pregnancy or a baby you were unprepared to have.
For the rest of the discussion, I will refer to the sex-guru as 'head chimp'. Because in a group sex situation, that's what he (more rarely) she is--the
Head chimp, in alpha position, with a troop of favorites, and the the rest of the apes lower down in the hierarchy.
Some manipulative leaders pressure abstemious disciples to do drugs or alcohol even when the disciples do not want to. The guru will accuse the disciple of being puritanical and that this is in the service of pleasure.
But the guru's covert agenda is not pleasure, it is power--he or she wants to disorient and confuse the disciples. Gurdjieff forced alcohol upon guests who were not used to it; all this was supposedly in the service of crazy wisdom.
On this disorientation principle, disciples who are fond of alcohol and drugs may be pressured to abstain from them.
Effects of manipulative group sex:
1) It puts the leader (often male) 'on top' of the group. He's the head chimp, has pick of the women. (Some head chimps prefer to do it with other men. But most of the documented cases involve male Head Chimps with women, so for the purposes of this discussion, we will assume that is the gender configuration of the group.)
2) The chosen women compete with each other for the Head Chimp's favors, engage in catfights with each other, which is a way to enforce discipline in their ranks. If one women considers leaving the group, the others often pressure her/shame her to stay put. A woman out of favor may return to favor. All this is described by Amy Wallace in her book, 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life With Carlos Castaneda'.
Mean while, the men in the group may be pressured to abstain from sex, or only do it on command from the Head Chimp.
3) As a result, the attention and libido of the entire group focus on the Head Chimp, since he's monopolizing and orchestrating sexual energy in the group.
The constant tintillating gossip about Head Chimp, whom he's shagging/no longer shagging, who in favor/in disgrace--all the gossip and 'soap opera' distracts the inmates and keeps them from realizing that *they are being used like a collection of toys by an an out-of-control child who is disguised as an adult*.
The ongoing drama provided by the Head Chimp's sex life may be so enthralling that people never get around to re-claiming their own spiritual and erotic energy and leaving the group.
Everyone puts up with it because the guru is dangling the carrot that someday when they become worthy or purified, they'll become enlightened. No one understands that the guru/Head Chimp playing this power game has *no incentive* to share his power by making everyone else enlightened. Because then, he will no longer be unique, his disciples will become his equals and not need him anymore, and they'll all leave and desert him.
4) Meanwhile, male devotees submit to the Head Chimp by giving the guru full access to their women. As a result, the women lose respect for the men. The men who allow this to happen are likely to seethe with (justifiable!!!) rage and then be convinced they are spiritually unevolved.
4) Monogamy is socially programmed into us and often becomes part of our core identity, even if quite a few people have trouble being monogamous. Even when most of us interpret it by being 'serially monogamous' most of us have a deep preference to not share a partner *during a relationship*.
Very often, manipulative people will pressure followers to violate their own sexual values by pushing them to engage in expressions of sex that go counter to what they are used to.
When someone is pressurizing you in this manner, the play element does not exist. You cant achieve any sort of spiritual breakthrough under this kind of duress.
Examples: A homosexual disciple may be pressured to dump his male partner and only have sex with women. (Meera told Andrew Harvey to dump his husband, go celibate, or marry and woman and declare that devotion to Meera cured him of homosexuality. Read this in 'The Sun at Midnight by Andrew Harvey)
A heterosexual disciple may be pressured into homosexual expression. Or the head chimp will take his or her partner away.
(Chogyam Trunpa intruded on disicples' partnered relationships (Holy Madness by Georg Feurstein and so did Jetsunma Akhon Lamo (in The Buddha From Brooklyn, by Martha Sherrill. Richard Baker Roshi, who succeeded Shunruyu Suzuki Roshi as abbot of San Francisco Zen Center, also intruded on students' partnered relationships--and finally, after doing this one too many times, he was confronted by the Board of Directors and fired. See Shoes Outside the Door by Downing.)
6) Head Chimp/gurus who enjoy throwing people off balance may use another strategy: encourage someone to get attracted to them, the eager disciple volunteers for sex--then the guru condescendingly rejects the disciple's advances.
On one occasion, a young girl showed up at Gurdjieff's bedroom door; he refused to sleep with her. But, he was sleeping with other women. He just kept that a secret. (James Webb The Harmonious Circle)
**A Head Chimp may be married while doing all this. When a Head Chimp is married, this can give the impression that he is 'safe', when in fact he is not--his wife is enduring the situation, possibly even recruiting new prey for him. (When French king Louis XV began losing interest in his official mistress, Mme du Pompadour, Madame du P maintained her hold by recruiting young girls for the king.)
Price of Privilige--Old Victims Must Recruit Fresh Victims
Very often Head Chimps devalue and ridicule conventional morality, even seek to dismantle conscience--often claiming that once this is achieved, a brilliant virtuous essence or 'inner nature' will automatically become manifest.
Persons accustomed to monogamy will be accused of middle class values and pressured into group sex. Or they'll be conned into thinking that sex with the guru will improve their energy.
But all too often, after the Head Chimp has pressured devotee to discard and devalue conscience and and to demonstrate their departure from conventional ethics and their new devotion to group and guru through participation in group sex, these devotees find they have not become brilliant, radiant people.
Instead, they feel shaken, disoriented and in chaos. Emotions boil and surge within the distressed disciple, because the grounding effects of values and concience have been disabled. You may feel the wild emotional surges characteristic of very early childhood--bliss alternating with wild terror. In this newly vunlerable condition, disciples will feel more dependant than ever on the person who has destabilized them--the Head Chimp. They may be conned into believing these regressed emotional surges are evidence of enlightenment, when in fact they are evidence trauma. They'll desperately buy into any new philosophy offered to them.
At this point, the newly vulnerable disciple may then be pressured by the Head Chimp to go to the next level--recruit new victims for the orchestrated sex.
Members of the inner circle who have already morally compromised themselves by becoming procurers for the Head Chimp will add to the pressure. They dont want to see someone holding onto their integrity and making them look bad!
In her book, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Amy Wallace describes how, after being recruited by a pair of Carlos Castaneda's consorts, she slowly came to understand that one of her duties as a member of his harem would be to recruit other women.
In such circumstances, membership in the Head Chimps inner circle will become a horrible blur of being both oneself and then recruiter of fresh victims for the Head Chimp. This seduction into collusion makes it horribly difficult to wake up to the situation and then leave. Price of regaining one's conscience and returning to the world of conventional ethics means realizing 'Oh God, look what I became. And look what I did to harm other people!'
It is so much more tempting to keep one's conscience from re-activating, to deny one has been abused, and go on believing in both the Head Chimps's 'love' and to believe that the Head Chimp is right and that conventional morality is just a trap and a snare for unevolved people.
Group sex isnt just a matter of bed hopping. It can be orchestrated by a Head Chimp in other ways. The HC may demand celibacy, then suddenly declare that more people in the group need to be in sexual relationships and then assign people to relationships with no one being allowed to choose their own partners (Andrew Cohen, as reported by Andre van der Braak in 'Enlightenment Blues)
Inmates often insist that the Head Chimp loves them. (To face that you've been used this way by someone who does not love you is unbearably painful to contemplate.) The subjects are confusing intensity with love--something the whole culture encourages us to do--and is readily exploited by predators.
Unfortunately, the Head Chimp does not love. He is treating devotees as objects, using and throwing them aside, just as a bored two year old uses and discards toys at whim.
The Head Chimp has created an atmosphere of *intensity* and does this by manipulating people's fantasies. He begins sculpting the situation by targeting and tintillating people's fantasies long before he persuades them to shed their clothes.
From Fantasy to Physicality--The Guru Gets into Your Head Before He Gets into Your Pants
The first step in the seduction process occurs long before physical sex is enacted. The first step in the seduction is targeting persons who are especially vulnerable to seduction/disorientation. Next, after selecting one's target population, the perpetrator will target specific individuals, touching the devotee's deepest hopes, then linking those hopes to the mythology that has condensed around the guru. First get people to link their hopes and aspirations to the public image of the Head Chimp--then exploit that in the seduction/grooming process.
As described by Amy Wallace in her memoir Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda Castaneda had such a public reputation, that hundreds, maybe thousands yearned to study with him, meet him. From that large pool of eager devotees, members of Castanenda's 'inner circle' recruited yet more members. Wallace does not say so, but in reading her book, I got the impression that Castaneda's recruiters targeted people who were willing to tolerate cruel, abusive behavior.
The Confusion of Love with Intensity
Intensity is not the same as love. And lovers do not treat you as an object. They see you as a person. Only adults can fully love. A child lacks sufficient empathy to love in the fullest adult sense. Head Chimps are usually small children disguised as adults. Their psychiatric profile is usually severe narcissism/sociopathy. Because they are trapped in an early childhood stage of development, they are especially talented at touching the child latent in us all.
One of our discussion board members said that pressuring people into patterns of sexual expression that are foreign to them is a highly powerful way to disrupt core identity.
Once youve crossed that barrier, you'll be confused, a mass of wildly shifting emotions and those emotions can range from rage, dissociation and shame to a peculiar kind of ecstacy.
When your core is so massively disrupted and your emotions are surging around, then its easy, very easy, for a Head Chimp to trick you into believing that you're enlightened or close to becoming enlightened. And that guru may easily use some form of trance on you to great effect when you're in this state.
Afterwards, you're likely to be ecstatic, ashamed and very confused, with a big shameful secret to keep.
All that will keep you in the group. The peculiar ecstacy and profound feelings will keep you from facing the full extent to which you were manipulated and disoriented. You feel trapped because you fear anyone outside the group will not understand, or they'll think you're a fool--or they'll be creepily tintillated by the sordid details.
***One hall mark of bogus gurus is that they teach you to equate intensity, confusion and disorientation with enlightenment.
Its all, deep down, a power trip, and despite the bliss, love has nothing to do with it. Its all about power.
Moral: Nothing, not even 'enlightenment' or any amount of esoteric knowledge is worth selling out your soul or your health.
Anyone who tries to mess with your self respect and sexual energy in the name of spirituality, give him or her the finger and just walk away.
You will feel really good about it the next morning. (grin)
Self respect is a wonderful thing. If you have it, honor it.
And if you've lost it--just take back your power and refuse to be fooled that way again.
* The ability to recruit and groom vulnerable people, manipulate their unconscious fantasies and cultivate an atmosphere of intensity may feel like love, but it is not love. You're being treated as an object in a power game, no matter how ecstatic you feel. If traumatized this way, you may come out of it distrusting your own aliveness, because it was so ingeniously used against you.
Facing this is so very painful that many people cling desperately to the belief that the Head chimp loves them. It is a very difficult fantasy to give up.
The writing above touched me deeply because this is exactly what happens during the Miracle of Love Intensive. Love is mistaken with Intensity. I'm still suffering from the the abuse happening at MOL and I'm very grateful for this message board. I hope it will prevent abuse and educate people more and more.
Unfortunately, there is an inosense at the heart of all of us, longing for something higher and that is easely taken advantage of!
This letter by Dr. Len Oakes, author of Prophetic Charisma spells out the problems that arise when persons incapable of long term adult relationships set up as sex gurus and lead followers into bogus tantric relationships:
The discussion of tantra in your recent issue (What is Enlightenment? magazine) was limited by the absence of a solid understanding of sexology, and the psychology of revolutionary religious teachers or "prophets." A couple of points:
It is now becoming clear from a variety of sources, especially sexological research and psychotherapy, that sex takes on its deepest meanings within the context of a committed, long-term, loving relationship.
I hasten to emphasize that this is not a mere restatement of moralism but is based on actual research and clinical observation. Hence, the claims about sexual enlightenment by people who appear not to be in such relationships are clearly suspect. I suggest that in all future articles a brief but thorough biography of the author or interview subject be appended to assist readers in evaluating the statements made. Credibility rests on how one lives one's entire life, not on having published a book or recruited a following.
Secondly, while What Is Enlightenment? is clearly committed to a belief in enlightenment and spiritual masters and teachers and so forth, again, scholars have studied such matters and the results are not very supportive of some of the positions taken in your recent issue. My own work, which was a study of the personalities of twenty "prophets" in New Zealand and Australia, while very sympathetic to such figures, nevertheless concluded that they were much too narcissistic to ever enter into an honest and equal relationship with others, and that far from being fulfilled or enlightened beings, they actually needed their followers at least as much as the followers needed them.
As honesty, equality and the absence of gross dependency needs are the basics of loving relationships, it is most likely that when these figures speak about or practice tantra they are merely sexualizing their neuroses (recall Chögyam Trungpa's dictum that "ego can convert anything to its own ends, even spirituality"—to which I would add, "especially spirituality!"). Our capacity for self-deception is infinite, and it is at its greatest among those individuals who have slipped their psychic moorings and are most able to lead us into both light and dark.
When our innocent aliveness is sung to, touched, and then cynically exploited by a predatory person or group---the worst injury we suffer is to being resentful and terrified our own capcity for aliveness, because we may experience that innocent aliveness as something that could be fooled and tricked into betraying us--like a 2 year old child who has innocently let a burglar into the house.
Our inner child needs to be accompanied by an inner parent.
Legitimate spiritual practices show us how the inner child and inner adult can and should function collaboratively.
Predatory spiritual groups try to split the inner child from the inner parent, usually by devaluing adult critical thinking--just the way child molesters try to isolate children from adults who could protect them.
When a predator instills shame, shame disables adult critical thinking and makes it hard for us to apply critical thinking to a situation where someone has harmed us.
What I think has happened is that in many abuse situations innocence is left unprotected because a predator has tricked us into devaluing our adult instincts, which leaves our inner children isolated and unprotected. And certain organizations do very select recruiting, and target us when we are at vulnerable times in life--exactly those times when it is most difficult to activate adult critical thinking skills, and when, without realizing it, we are feeling like motherless children.
When our adult faculties have been distracted or disabled, and our innocence is left unprotected, then thrilled and seduced, all too often, we emerge from such trauma feeling afraid of and perhaps even enraged at the innocence in us that was so seducible, that let itself be thrilled by a molester. We dont realize that before this occurred, our adult selves were tricked into self doubt/manipulated through group pressure, chanting, dancing, stress into a state where we could not protect our innocence from the ones who aroused that innocence, then molested that innocence.
So we may risk hating and fearing that sweet, alive childlike part of ourselves, choke off our aliveness and then stay on guard, afraid ever to trust again, hope again, thrill again, aspire again.
This is only my guess, but perhaps recovery means discovering a way to feel compassion for that innocent child in us who was taken advantage of, turned on. Thing to do is create a conscious link between that inner lively, innocence (to which the cult gained access and then thrilled and exploited)and our adult discernment (which the cult gained access to, and then confused and disabled, leaving our inner child unprotected and accessible to exploitation).
That way, we link the best of both functions: the playfulness, liveliness and 'beginner's mind' of a child, with the 'street smarts', patience, and critical thinking skills of an adult.
Exploitative cult leaders prey on the innocent child that lives within us all. What they do is seduce and manipulate our inner children and simultaneously disable our inner 'adult'--by witholding information needed for informed consent, using confusion to shame us into mistrusting our critical thinking.
Any situation where you're made to feel ashamed or a 'party pooper' for asking questions and doing research---where you're told 'Dont be close-minded, just trust your feelings' --thats a set up thats designed to confuse and distract your inner parent--and could then be used to coax your inner child into the molester's get-away car.
A legitimate spiritual teacher shows us how to combine the vitality and plafulness of the inner child with the alertness, prudence and critical thinking of the inner adult.
I saw a situation that may symbolize how child-self and parental adult-self can productively collaborate:
A mother was with her two children--a baby in a stroller and her 2 year old daughter. They had to cross a street, with a timed street light. A big pile of cars waited impatiently. In the middle of the cross walk, the two year old girl, who had no sense of future consequences, no sense of danger, decided to test Mom's limits and she refused to keep walking. She was doing what all 2 years olds need to do--test limits.
But Mom, as an adult, saw things her child could not see--that the light was 10 seconds from changing to red, and that cross walk was not a good, safe place to have a temper tantrum.
Without getting mad at her child, Mom protected her child by picking her right off the ground, and carried her to safety. Child and Mom were both 'doing their jobs'. The kid was testing limits, and Mom was making sure the child stayed safe while testing those limits.
We need to preserve both our inner functions--the vitality and playfulness of the inner child, and the long-term wisdom and 'Bullshit Detector' of the inner adult/parent. The inner adult will know when its time to get out of the room and carry the child to safety, even when the child is feeling thrilled and wants to stay put.
The inner adult is there to ensure that the inner child's playspace remains safe--and a cult leader is someone who would try to trick that inner adult into allowing that inner child to be exploited.
One thing that makes such recovery difficult is that we get so many messages from the culture that being spiritual means regression, means rejection of critical thinking. Feeling is exalted at expense of intellect, when in fact the two need to function collaboratively, not one at the expense of the other. This pre-existing bias to exalt emotion and devalue criticalt thinking and fact-checking can be easily exploited by predatory persons and groups.
This paper on traumatic abuse in cults by Daniel Shaw may provide some resources.
Dan Shaw was in a group that manipulated ecstacy through yoga and adoration of a guru, rather than by LGAT methods. His take is many people feel bliss and relief because thier suffering is sealed and suppressed by an artificially produced mood state within the group, and devotees defend the group and its leaders quite fiercely because they dread that if their bliss, purchased by idealizing the leader's propaganda, is disrupted by scandal or exposure to disillusioning reality, the suffering previously suppressed by bliss and denial will come back to torment them.
Some gurus exploit this dynamic by predicting that anyone who leaves will suffer all kinds of ghastly consequences, so it becomes a terrifying self fulfilling prophecy unless the individual is fortunate and given convincing explanations for why this is happening. That is why so many who are booted out by brutal groups and gurus will continue to idealize their tormentors--the minute they stop idealizing their abusers and see them as merely human, all the unfinished business they suppressed through idealization will come back and haunt them--along with the trauma of being ejected. Its a double whammy and many people are terrified to face it.
Basic thing to remember is that the people who orchestrate ecstacy in these exploitative ways are actually unable to allow themselves to be intimate or vulnerable in any genuine way. That may be why they constantly demand intimacy and vulnerability from their followers--for through our vulnerability, these predators temporarily experience a vitality that they are unable to summon within themselves by honest means--they can only steal it from us.
We actually have something these predators do not have--which is why they keep recruiting.