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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael Gottlieb
Posted by: JeffLosAngeles ()
Date: March 23, 2003 11:19AM

I know several people at different stages of involvement with "Royal Way" AKA "Jacumba" centered around a charismatic leader "Michael," with a "Ranch" retreat east of Los Angeles in the desert.

Techniques seem very similar to Est/Landmark/Forum and other LGATs.

Difference might be size - not very large or attention-seeking. And the organization is very selective in recruiting - very under-the-radar.

Still, you hear the classic "get out of your own way" and "your problems come from your own mind" claptrap.

Is there more information about this group? What are its origins? I have some info about the location of the "Ranch" retreat, and its LA meeting center, but that's it.

Any media coverage?

I am very worried about my friends... and would appreciate any information or testimonials, even just suggestions on where to look closer to home - Los Angeles.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/21/2008 09:54PM by rrmoderator.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 26, 2003 07:31AM

Ran a quick Google search and came up with nothing. My suggestion is subscribe to some Google groups dealing with consciousness, psychology, mysticism and post a question about this set up. Google has a world wide reach and someone might find your post and respond.

Good luck. All I can say is, anything where they have multi-day retreats in the desert, operate secretively under the aegis of a low profile leader, and where there's little or not outside accountability doesnt sound good at all. At least when you go to a physician, you can call the county medical society and check his or her credentials.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 26, 2003 07:53AM

it is a longshot.

Certain 'New Age' places rent facilities to a wide, wide range of groups, some legit and some not. So the ranch may or may not be owned by the LGAT. And we dont know if the charismatic 'Michael' is sole owner or co-owner.

Good luck in your search. Do the Google dance. You can do simple and advanced searches in the Google groups as well as Google itself. Group listserve archives sometimes have useful material.

However, always remember the old spy's word of wisdom: Information is only information. It can be true or false. Until it has been tested and verified, information is not the same as intelligence.

Good luck--both to you and your friends. In the meantime, read the material on Rick's forum regarding LGATS. There is also useful stuff in the first edition (1995) of Cults in Our Midst by Margaret Singer. Her publisher was forced by threat of a lawsuit from some rich LGATS to remove her insightful LGAT material from later editions of the book. Rick Ross may have it here on his site.

Whatever you do, we advise that you NOT attend any of these LGATs, especially the advanced trainings, no matter how worried you are about your friends--you can get your mind scrambled, no matter how smart you are. These folks have 25 years of accumulated social psychology experience behind them because new LGATS buy or borrow material from older, more successful groups.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: righttofight ()
Date: March 27, 2003 04:23AM

It does not surprise there's more than the one I experienced.

The one in L.A. licensed from Lifespring is MITT. Marina Del Rey.

They should be operating in Bagdhad along with the Republican Guard. Just as heinous.

Stay away from the LGAT. If you have a friend in it - they're lost.

They LGATs will shred your life.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: JeffLosAngeles ()
Date: March 28, 2003 02:46AM


It's great to get these very supportive posts. I thought I'd pass along some more specifics that I've gleaned on my own... these should help people now or in the future who are searching on this subject.

Royal Way's retreat is also called RW Ranch. It is in Lucerne, California area. It appears that Royal Way rents or otherwise lets this facility to other groups for their own retreats. In other words, not every meeting at RW Ranch is for Royal Way. You can find mentions about these types of meetings thru Google searches on RW Ranch. There's even some photos.

What seems different about Royal Way compared to other LGATs I've researched is that it is "invitation only." In other words, it appears the members approach recruits directly, often repeatedly over long periods of time. Recruits are invited a few times a year to the Ranch for a weekend of initiation - cost is approx $500 - and afterwards encouraged to join regular classes in West LA (maybe other places as well?). From what I hear, later meetings in LA cost about $40, and later Ranch visits cost $500 or so - and these become compulsive for many. Wisely, perhaps, Royal Way doesn't seem to advertise anywhere or post anything on the web (though others show the facility on their websites).

Experiences of initiates is very similar to what I hear described in other LGATs, with the exception that charismatic "spiritual" leader Michael often spends time working with initiates individually, and impresses them with his "immediate understanding" of their most profound desires and character traits. This makes a strong impression on initiates. Meditation time is also a component of the first weekend.

Regular sessions in West LA often involve group encounters, with group leaders and others confronting students about their life choices, character traits, etc.

It appears students are instructed that humans proceed thru seven or so stages of development, starting in childhood and graduating eventually (thru help of Royal Way) to the seventh stage of spirituality. Most initiates are told they are somewhere near the third stage.

More on the charismatic leader Michael: Longtime members keep photos of Michael in their homes. He looks 60+ at least. Some think he was at one time a rabbi. No one seems to know his last name.

One more personal detail: I've have seen people I am close to who scoffed at the organization for years be recruited in a matter of weeks by friend or family who approaches them directly and incessantly. Pattern seems to be that the recruiter tells them, "I see you struggling now" or "I think you could get more out of life" and then tells them (repeatedly) how Royal Way could help them also change their life, suddenly, for the better. Irony is that the people I know in Royal Way have as many - if not more - personal and professional problems than people outside the group.

I sincerely desire to more publicly expose Royal Way for what it is, but because the organization is so insular, this seems difficult. I'm posting all of this so that others may start adding their specific experience, and perhaps along the line bigger interest will develop.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 28, 2003 12:05PM

My hunch is that 'Michael' probably keeps promising recruits under survaillance, gleans information about them through his spies, then uses that to make it seem that he has psychically intuited what their deepest concerns are. Many bogus psychics use adroit questions (the technique is called 'cold questioning') or yes, they use spies to snoop on people.

It sounds as though 'Michael' is using a potent combination of techniques from LGATS and possibly other material from Gurdjieff/Fourth Way work. I recommend that you read some of Rick Ross' material on Fellowship of Friends and the Sharon Gans group. These are rip offs of Gurdjieff work (I happen to believe Gurdjieff himself was nothing but a con artist, but thats just me).

Gurdjieff/Fourth Way work is conducted in low profile small groups, which are often secretive and vest tremendous authority in the teacher. These groups often acquire property for retreat purposes, as they dislike public scrutiny. The teacher is considered to be at a higher level of development than students. There is an intense pecking order based on what stage of development each member is allegedly at. Various forms of meditation and trance work are utlized, as well as a very burdensome, idiosyndratic vocabulary. Students learn that they are the elect, members of a cosmic mission, set apart from less evolved beings. Paranoia can eventually set in. Concepts are looted from legitmate traditions such as Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism and various Western occult traditions, but are used merely to stir up psychic powers and enhance the authority of the teacher. Many people, if lucky, eventualy realize that Fourth Way work is a dead end and ditch it.

Members of bogus groups often do a lot of free labor for the teacher (under the guise of work meditation) and constantly must give money for trainings, special fees, etc. Membership in a bogus Fourth Way group is a very expensive privilige, and, starting with Gurdjieff himself, Fourth Way types tend to target affluent people who have sufficient time for all the tasks and homework assigned by the teacher.

This does not guarantee that 'Michael' is necessarily a Gurdjieff/Fourth Way teacher, but superficially, your description of his group and its methods reminds me of the ways various Gurdjieff groups (both 'real' and 'fake') would operate. The stuff you described sounds much closer to Gurdjieff or New Age shit than anything in Judaism.

There is a google group alt.consciousness Fourth way. If you post some inquiries there, perhaps someone knows about Michael and the RW ranch. Jim McCabe runs a website exposing New American Wing; he might know something about your man, too.

These Fourth Way groups constantly attract and inspire crooks, and Micheal may be a new one on the scene. Some of the really discreet Fourth Way crooks have been operating lucratively under the radar for decades.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: March 28, 2003 12:14PM

you mention that much of his group work is in West LA. Does he seem to be targeting the gay/lesbian community? Or does he go after anyone with money?

If you can identify whether he targets a specific group of people that might help. If he's focusing on the gay community, you might consider alerting some of the gay papers--it might make a good feature story for a resourceful investigative reporter.

A query on for the LA area might be helpful. Just make sure you dont get tricked by members of Michael's group who throw you off the scent with misleading information.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: April 01, 2003 12:00AM

hunches for you to mull over, concerning this group:

You said that part of the doctrine seems to be that there are seven levels of human development. Here are remarks from a person who studied Gurdjieff/Fourth Way work in England. Her comments seem to jibe with what you have described:

'The Gurdjieff concept, which Ouspensky had accepted, was that several levels of 'man' already exist, from the primitive to the technologically advanced, and these had been labelled Man Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4. The effort required was to develop Man No. 5, an increasingly conscious man, more in control of his own destiny than the lower states. But beyond this, there must also exist in theory, Man No. 6 and Man No. 7, both of them slightly nebulous concepts of higher states of being.'

This link describes a toxic Gurdjieff type

group.[] See if it feels at all similar to the way 'Michael's' group operates. He may not be 100% Gurdjieffian but may have swiped at least some of his material and operating techniques from that 'tradition.' Ive noticed that G-groups often call themselves 'spiritual' but they often get unhealthily pre-occuppied with magic, psychic powers, and vest a dangerous degree of power in the leader, who is percieved as a Magic Mommy/Daddy--all this actually interferes with spiritual work, rather then helping it.

And it prompts regression in many followers, who become childishly dependant on the teacher. It also inflames greed and ambition in other students-who often defect and create their own bogus groups, so as to compensate for their years of servitude. As a result, teachers often become paranoid, knowing that today's talented senior disciple often becomes tomorrow's rival. The Gurdjeiff/Fourth Way scene is full of squabbles--and it has spawned at least 3 generations of crooks and con artists. Each crook tends to introduce his or her own modification of doctrine. Michael may have cooked up a new recipe.

The persistent bias of Gurdjieff/Fourth Way work is its students tend to see themselves as special, set apart from unevolved yokels like us. If Fourth Way doctrine is modified, the teacher is often drawn to material that has mystique and esoteric glamour-- psychic energies, occult entities and powers--stuff that authentic spiritual teachers consider distractions and of little importance.

Some Fourth Way teachers have became interested in Hindu and Tibetan gurus. With rare exceptions they gravitated toward kept hidden and reserved for advanced practitioners--material that appealed to those with greedy egos and an elitist bias. The elements in Hinduism and Buddhism that involve the practice of wisdom and compassion and service to all sentient beings are usually ignored or downplayed; People in this tradition look for sets them apart and above the run of humanity, rather than what connects us with humanity. 'Invitation Only' is the magic spell.

IF Michael is running a bogus Fourth way group, one of the worst features of this tradition is its doctrine that ordinary people are 'asleep' are nothing more than robots, entitled to no compassion, kindness or ethhical concern on the part of the more highly evolved student of the Fourth Way. Persons in toxic Fourth Way groups are taught that they can ignore conventional ethics when dealing with the world outside the group--and that the teacher is exempt from ordinary ethics or social accountability. Nasty.

This site gives a valuable glossary of Gurdjieff/Fourth Way jargon and some articles [] See if any of this stuff resembles what Michael is doing.

It appears that Michael may be running something that is less an LGAT than a therapeutic community/personality cult, perhaps peddling some esoteric doctrine. These groups can go on for years if members are pre-screened carefully, skillfully recruited, and if they are taught to behave in a manner that 1) avoids scandal and 2) conceals their group involvement from friends and family.

Problem is that set ups like these can be toxic

1) You're constantly milked for money
2) Your entire social life may be gobbled up by the group, leaving you terrified to imagine leaving/or being kicked out
3) Certain meditation techniques taught in the group may foster paranoia and in some cases make people more vulnerable to involuntary trance/dissociation

and those who do leave (or are ejected) may find themselves disoriented, bereaved, socially isolated, spiriutually and in some cases financially impovrished.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: JeffLosAngeles ()
Date: April 07, 2003 01:35PM

Thank you Corboy for all of your helpful background information about these organizations. It sounds like you are well acquainted with this type of organization and you've helped me to understand a lot of the context for what I see happening.

I'm reading the articles you described, and I'm also going through "Cults in Our Midst," the Sanger book. A lot of information I find sound very familiar to me from what I pick up about Royal Way, but because I haven't attended Royal Way, of course I can't say for sure how it differs from the general descriptions.

I ended up talking with a friend who admitted to me that about 6 years ago s/he attended 3 of the retreats at the Ranch, and some of the regular classes in West LA. For a series of reasons I won't get into, this person stopped attending the class - fortunately. These are some of the info I got.

I believe address of the Royal Way retreat (AKA RW Ranch) is 8088 High Road, Lucerne Valley, CA 92356.

The woman who regularly conducts the classes in west Los Angeles is called Maggie. (Once again: no last name for her - as with their leader, Michael.)

Some of the things my friend described about the group experience are very similar to things described in the Sanger book:

• Members believe that the leader, Michael, has several degrees in psychology or psychotherapy
• Recruitment without advertising (people are approached discreetly)
• in the retreats, initiates are isolated and told not to speak to each other unless they are in the class forum (where they meet with Michael)
• they go through many exercises, including mediation, "yelling" therapy in darkened rooms, chanting
• the Ranch environment is very pleasant with food and well-manicured grounds
• in addition to giving money to the group, members are encouraged to visit the Ranch for "service" where they take on duties of preparing food and taking care of the grounds
• most regular classes in West LA, however, are very confrontational for the initiates - they openly talk encourage new members to break ties with friends and family "from the past" who may be holding them back
• members are discouraged from revealing any details to potential members because "the experience is about discovery" and "it's different for every person"

Some unique details I've learned are that the group used to be largely middle-aged, but now they are recruiting many more younger 20 something members - often children or close relatives of older members. As mentioned before, the group promotes itself as elite, and includes a larger number of "professional" types - men and and women - who are known to contribute money to the group beyond regular meeting and retreat fees. I've been told - though I can't verify - that the group has non-profit status. Also interesting, on the county real estate website, the owners of the ranch property are not listed. It seems they are exempt from this normal public disclosure.

Also, in searching the web, I noticed that when records were released from the Cult Awareness Network (after the takeover) it looks like a group called "Jacumba" was on their watch list. This is the other name I've heard for Royal Way - but almost 10 years ago.

I have lost a few people in my life to a point where it is truly heart-breaking to see them. Little by little they've changed - become more self-centered and selfish, uncaring - until I no longer find any of the things I used to like or love about them. Sadly, they see these changes as progress - though, objectively, none of them has dramatically changed the course of their lives for the better. Everyone I know who has joined, after a short while, begins to sound and talk like the other members - even the tone of their voices start to resemble each other.

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Royal Way/Jacumba/Ranch/Michael - Need Info
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: April 08, 2003 12:32AM

First, if this is a non profit group, they are supposed to file for nonprofit status with the Attorney General--and such information should be a matter of public record, available on the Attorney General's website.

There is an author, William Patrick Patterson, who is a reputable Gurdjieff scholar. He wrote a book, Taking With the Left Hand, which describes some trends that Patterson considers distortions of the Fourth Way.

THere is a chance that Patterson might know something about 'Michael' and his group.

Patterson contributes to a journal, Telos, whose address is
773 Center Boulevard, Box 58, Fairfax CA, 94978-0058

Their email is and the website is

My suggestion is send a letter listing your observations of the changes in your friends, deterioration in thier social relationships and that Michael is recruiting more actively. Keep your tone mature and dignified. Describe the behavior patterns of the group, as you have described them to me. Reputable students of Gurdjeiff work are becoming very unhappy at the staggering number of freelancers who are propagating bogus Work doctrine. So if Michael is one of these, 1) Patterson will want to know about him and 2) he may be able to give you some advice on how to conduct further research.

What you are saying about the similarity in tone of voice, secrecy, ultra-discreet recruiting methods, people being forbidden to discuss work with each other, focus on a 'highly evolved' leader. And the visits to the ranch for work projects may fit in with the kind of 'work octave' meditation that is practiced in Fourth Way groups.

In badly run groups, such as the one described in the RR article, this work meditation, all too often goes to upgrade the value of the property belonging to the 'teacher.' In screwy Fourth Way groups, a very unhealthy preoccupation with occult influences may seep in. The leader is seen is both all powerful and quite vulnerable to inteferance by outside influences. Students will be taught that if they dare to entertain any doubts about the leader, that this will 'hurt' the leader, or take the form of bad karma and rebound on the student.

It is not unheard of for an entrepreneur to appropriate methods and material from Gurdjieff work, and then teach these while pretending to represent some other tradition.

So your man 'Michael' may have a powerful collection of techniques from different sources, exploits a highly charismatic personality, and has created an environment in which fact checking is nearly impossible. His ultra-discreet recruiting methods also work in his favor. The group in Berkeley has been so very discreet that it has lasted decades.

Again, this is no guarantee, but elements of what you describe sound like a lot like a freelance esoteric or Fourth Way group. Here is a citation for a website that gives descriptions of groups and the behavior patterns inculcated. Interestingly, members of these groups learn to speak in a specific, stereotyped tone of voice.


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