Monday, April 17, 2006

Homegrown Guru Freaks Out Edmonton

File under: The Siddhi of PR

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based nonduality teacher John de Ruiter is feeling the heat from the Edmonton Sun. They've just published a series of articles suggesting his satsang is little more than a cult.

A look at his website makes him out to be your standard Western nondualist. It's slick and not a stitch Hindu (de Ruiter's roots are Christian.) We've come to realize slick suggests nothing more than the use of a good designer, nor does the fact he admitted to cheating on his wife mean he's a fraud as a nonduality teacher. But doubts were raised after reading this:
"Critical thinking is the first thing to go, and the last thing one realizes has left," says [his ex-wife.] "Critical thinking was discouraged. Since most of the discussion is based on abstract theology and constructs, there really is hardly any way to disprove or prove any of it.
That sounds like a grade A mindfuck to us. Cult expert and long time deRuiter critic Steven Kent sure thinks so:
"The silence enables the followers to attribute superhuman status to de Ruiter," he says. "They create their own illusion of him during these times. He says something esoteric and the silence gives them time to reinterpret it in ways specifically relevant to the particular needs that they have.

"I also noticed it being used as a punitive function. Someone would challenge John or call him out on these esoteric things and say, 'Please explain this, I don't know what it means.'

"Then he would remain silent and he would glare. And if the person in the chair breaks down and starts pleading for answers, then it becomes a demonstration to everyone in the room that wow, this guy is amazing and powerful."
Kent's prejudices notwithstanding, that's a great analysis of satsang psychodynamics. But it still doesn't mean de Ruiter is leading a destructive cult. It's just standard devotee-to-guru projection behavior, the devotee's power to have meaningful experience entirely out of a belief in the power of the guru's enlightenment.

The important question is whether de Ruiter is taking advantage of this. Being a legal crankypants and one time adulterer means he's human. It's how much he believes in his own hype that would speak the loudest to us about his fitness as a guru.

7 Comments:

At 4/18/2006 7:54 AM, Blogger ontheotherhand said...

Another day, another guru. Having looked at the website link, I don't think that newspaper got all over this guy with just that little bit of benign info. He's probably doing the same thing as most "masters" out here -- getting people to give up their lives and money to him, and their families get angry and call it a cult (which, imo, would make it one). I'll wait to see the defense that's probably coming: "John saved my life! He is holy and great! The local newspapers are evil" blah blah blah. Or maybe nobody from his group will read this blog.

Thanks for posting it. I'd stay away just out of abundance of caution.

 
At 9/03/2007 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following is a copy for this Kent link...a 2002 new piece on the CBC

briefly...nothing difference then more resent material BUT do note the comment towards the end where the Ex-wife comments on some "training" John D. was taking and then "testng" on her (sounds very mch others such as Feild IMO)..That bit very much tells what is going on at the Centre for Integrated ..Hmmmm Scamism????


http://www.arts.ualberta.ca/~skent/Linkedfiles/The%20Gospel%20According%20to%20John%20(CBC).htm


Gospel according to John.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (2): And what is in that seed cannot come out.
MANSBRIDGE: Why do these people treat a former Edmonton shoemaker like he's the new messiah.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (1): His words touched me in a way that I had never been touched before.
MANSBRIDGE: We investigate a controversial new age guru.
Title: Gospel according to John
PETER MANSBRIDGE: John de Ruiter used to be an Edmonton shoemaker. Now he's head of a new age religion with followers around the world. It's a movement with no name a
message that's hard to explain. De Ruiter calls himself the living embodiment of truth. Well our colleagues at CBC Edmonton took a closer look at some of that truth. Here's Judy
Piercey with the gospel according to John.
JUDY PIERCEY (Reporter): It doesn't look like much. But here it is a Monday afternoon and another day in the spiritual quest is beginning. One by one they trickle in, joining a
worldwide phenomenon, living their whole lives for a spiritual ritual, three days a week in one of the bleakest corners of industrial Edmonton. If the place is unlikely, the man they're
following even more so. John de Ruiter is a truck loving new age guru. He started out as an evangelical preacher, a man who wants little to do with the outside world. John de Ruiter is
considered by some to be the new Messiah, but to his critics, he is just a man, one who they say has been corrupted by greed, lust and power. And his followers are closing ranks on an
outside world that they increasingly believe will just not understand. Just last summer, people were more than happy to spread the word of his teachings. They came from around the
world for a ten day retreat. People from all walks of life - some drifters, some professionals, many that dropped their families and lives to move here. For now, this was a chance to bask
on the home turf of a man known simply as John.
ERICA HUNTER: This man, John came and his words touched me in a way that I never been touched before.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (1): The main thing that John conveys is a selfness and an openness and to surrender, it's you're your heart.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (1): His message of love and truth was what really, really touched me some and I wanted to know more about that. I wanted to know if he was for real, if
he really was being what he was teaching.
PIERCEY: Seekers who say simply that they love him. He calls himself the living embodiment of truth. His followers use words like pure and clean and sweet to describe him. They
adore him because he seems to be above the trappings of sex, money and power. Joyce de Ruiter was his first disciple and his wife. For nearly 20 years, she believed everything he told
her. When Joyce and John met, she was 19, he was 22. Like her, he was the child of Dutch immigrants. The minute she set eyes on him, her destiny was set.
JOYCE DE RUITER: And I was working at a book store and he walked in and I said to the girl who I worked with, there's the man I'm going to marry. And of course I wondered a
million times what I saw that day and I think I just saw intense focused eyes. He was good looking but I don't think that was it. He just had intense eyes.
PIERCEY: John de Ruiter's intensity also made a fast impression upon his Lutheran Church. It was here that he got his start. That's 20 years ago. But there was a quick parting of the
ways. De Ruiter was asked to leave. He started preaching to just a few couples.
JOYCE DE RUITER: For you to go with your thoughts.
PIERCEY: At first, John kept his day job as a shoemaker but gradually his following grew and people started coming to the store to listen to him speak. At the time, it didn't seem that
unorthodox to Joyce.
JOYCE DE RUITER: I just wanted to be the obedient, faithful, loving wife that I should be. I mean, honestly I mean I know that sounds kind of idealistic.
PIERCEY: Joyce remembers when her dream of being a preacher's wife started to fall apart. It was just seven years ago that her husband abandoned Christianity and sought out a new
age teacher.
JOYCE DE RUITER: Why didn't I realize that he was learning her techniques of, various techniques - astral travel, bilocation. A lot of hypnotic kind of stuff. It was called connected
and he would just stare in your eyes. And I remember when he came home and wanted to try this out on me and nothing happened. I didn't see anything and I didn't know why but...
PIERCEY: He wanted to practice?
JOYCE DE RUITER: Well, I realize now he was practicing.
PIERCEY: As de Ruiter perfected his technique, his following grew. The staring became John de Ruiter's trademark. He advertises it as gazing and opens every meeting by silently
looking at the audience for up to an hour.
CAROL ASKEW: He touches everybody's eyes but sometimes he lingers in some people's eyes. But he will actually touch everybody's eyes in the room before the meeting starts. I
have a question.
PIERCEY: Carol Askew saw things when de Ruiter started at her.
ASKEW: John has an affect on people when he stares at them. You could call it hypnotism but it's more than that. But people do definitely have an experience. I saw lion's face. I saw
Jesus' face. I saw an evil face. I saw just pure gold light.
PIERCEY: The staring and silences are a big part of the appeal, part of the mystery of the movement that has no name with a message that's hard to figure out.
JOHN DE RUITER: And what is in that seed cannot come out until you as consciousness, all of your heart lays down inside of that seed.
STEVEN KENT: The audience is enraptured. They're just sitting on his every word.
PIERCEY: Steven Kent is a professor at the University of Alberta. He's recognized as an international expert in alternative religions. He has attended de Ruiter's meetings but even he
finds the message hard to define.
KENT: In terms of the actual teachings itself, it's all inner mental psycho babble, some people say.
PIERCEY: Carol Askew liked the message and de Ruiter's family man image so much that she moved her craft business from Washington state after attending just a few of his
meetings.
ASKEW: I just said hey, I'm going to do it. I'm going to come up and hang around this man and see if I can be the way that he is.
PIERCEY: She was hoping to sit at his feet and learn from his teachings. But she found the meetings lacking in substance.
ASKEW: There wasn't really any teachings. It was just going and sitting and being with John for hours and hours and with mostly silence.
PIERCEY: Erica Hunter had the opposite feeling. She settled in Edmonton and abandoned a of career painting movie sets in Vancouver because of what she got from sitting in de
Ruiter's presence.
HUNTER: I feel like I've waited my entire life to meet somebody like John. I feel like in my heart I've thirsted for somebody that could show me about myself.
JOHN DE RUITER: And you encountered what I am, as a parched thirsty heart encountering an ocean.
PIERCEY: Ask people in the meetings to explain the message, and no one seems able to do so. It may be too much for an ordinary person to grasp. But to an expert, the silences allow
followers to fill in the blanks for themselves.
KENT: Much of what's going on with de Ruiter, I think, is that people are trying to make sense out of their own autobiographies. The trouble is, of course, especially with the baby
boomer generation, is that I, we are expected that we were part of the age of Aquarius. This was the golden age. This is the dawning of the period of enlightenment. Much of getting
older for the baby boomers has been a shock. You know, we expected the age of Aquarius. We got Brian Mulroney, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
PIERCEY: Whatever the reason, it's a message that has caught on around the world in places like Hamburg, one of the regular new age centers on an international circuit that takes de
Ruiter to a different country every month. His followers travel too, winding up in one country after another for several days of meetings. Arthur Sandburgs came all the way from
Australia.
ARTHUR SANDBURGS: The fifth meeting I think today. It's different each time.
PIERCEY: Babara Muthman has already booked her ticket to Edmonton.
BARBARA MUTHMAN: The first time I saw him in Australia.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (2): We wanted to organize a meeting in Austria with him.
PIERCEY: Their loyalty pays off for de Ruiter. The admission fee of about $16 Canadian adds up. He'll walk away from the five days in Hamburg with $40,000 in admission alone.
Not to mention the sale of tapes, books and photographs. But only de Ruiter knows the truth about just how lucrative business is. He is the sole shareholder of Oasis, the company that
handles the web-based sales of products and the bookings for the overseas trips and retreats. Retreats that get bigger every year. Last summer, 500 people paid $400 each for ten days
straight of meetings in Edmonton. Many of them will stay behind and keep on attending six meetings a week for which the admission price is only a couple of bucks. It's not just the
money. People give of themselves to be close to the leader.
JOYCE DE RUITER: People would offer to clean my house, do my yard work. I could've had my kids driven anywhere if I wanted. You could take advantage of it, if you want to.
KENT: People continue to feed the leader with the sense that he or she is special, that he or she is above the ordinary mundane world in which the rest of us live helps fuel this kind of
exclusivity that many leaders breed. That kind of exclusivity often leads to trouble. People then feel that they are beyond the normal roles, that they are outside, that they're somehow
special.
PIERCEY: The message that the leader is special is reinforced by the degree of need that people bring to the meeting. There are troubled people here. People looking for help.
HUNTER: I cry every time I think about it because I feel so grateful that I met this man.
PIERCEY: Erica Hunter is grateful because de Ruiter helped her find peace of mind.
HUNTER: When I met John, he just, he made it okay to be in pain. And my whole life I realized I had been running from pain. And John in such a gentle way, showed me how to be in
it and that it was okay that it hurt. That's all it was doing, it was hurting. It wasn't going to kill me. It was only hurting me.
PIERCEY: But not everyone in the group finds peace of mind. At her very first meeting, Carol Askew saw just how troubled people were.
ASKEW: A young man spoke, probably late 20's and just ranted and raved for probably three hours about demons and how he was going to kill himself and how just, and just yelling.
KENT: I saw one person spill her soul in front of the group and apparently not get a satisfactory answer. She was out in the hallway after just crying her eyes out. So people have a lot
of emotional needs and they bring them to John.
PIERCEY: Professor Kent is no longer welcome at de Ruiter's meetings. And neither are reporters. So we brought a hidden camera into this meeting in Hamburg. The boxes are tissues
are placed along the aisles for the inevitable emotional outbursts. At this meeting, a woman begged repeatedly for de Ruiter's guidance.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (3): I'm all very confused. I can't really connect with people. I can't connect with myself. It just hurts very much because it feels like being dead.
PIERCEY: After contemplating for nearly two minutes, here's de Ruiter's reply.
JOHN DE RUITER: Relax without concern.
KENT: People bring to these sessions a great number of needs that they have. The danger of course is that people bring up issues to John and he's really not qualified as a counselor.
He has no background at all. There's no support network. There's no formality about the kind of advice he gives. There's no follow-up. So the risk is, and it happens with many groups,
is that people get themselves in more emotional trouble.
PIERCEY: It's something that apparently concerns de Ruiter too. On his website, there is a disclaimer, a warning that de Ruiter is not qualified to deal with emotional problems. Many
people who have followed him for years admit that their lives have not really improved. But still, they stay. Even when their faith and devotion were put to a crucial test. Just three years
after de Ruiter hit the international circuit, his followers back home in Edmonton were shocked to learn just how human their spiritual leader really was.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
PIERCEY: In just a couple of years, John de Ruiter had won a reputation around the world as the guru who was highly enlightened but yet humble enough to drive a four by four truck.
He attracted some wealthy and powerful patrons. Gradually, his inner circle included a wealthy couple and two of their daughters. De Ruiter singled out the sisters as disciples. Catrina
von Sass who played on the Canadian Olympic volleyball team.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (2): Exactly what Canada has to do to get von Sass involved in the...
PIERCEY: And her older sister Bonita von Sass. Joyce often found herself home alone, struggling with her suspicion that her husband was unfaithful. Then around Christmas two
years ago, John de Ruiter asked a disturbing question.
JOYCE DE RUITER: What would you think if I said I was going to have two more wives? I was just, I didn't know how to take this, you know, seriously? Is this a joke? Is it a test?
JOHN DE RUITER: Let's being to open up and to...
PIERCEY: It turned out to be neither a joke nor a test? De Ruiter admitted to having sex with both sisters. His wife confronted him at the next meeting.
ASKEW: Then he did not respond at all to her. He just didn't say a thing. And he did not look happy.
PIERCEY: The next day, de Ruiter explained publicly to his followers that sleeping with the two women was a burden he was forced to act upon. His explanation was recorded for sale
on audio tape.
JOHN DE RUITER: Bonita that took place and with Catrina that took place, it didn't take place on the basis of any feelings, any preferences, any thoughts. It didn't have to do with their
looks, their appearance, their heart, their age. It didn't have anything to do with any kind of compatibility. It had only to do with what arose from within my inner most.
PIERCEY: Carol Askew was shocked and disillusioned.
ASKEW: If he was lying, that was big to me.
PIERCEY: At first, Erica felt betrayed.
HUNTER: I know what he's given to me and what he's doing in his personal life, I don't understand. And I don't need to understand.
PIERCEY: When Erica's friends from the group get together for dinner, the talk often turns to de Ruiter's relationships with the two women. Like most of de Ruiter's followers, they
quickly came to terms with it.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (4): I've never had an issue with ownership as far as knowing that nobody owns anybody. And knowing that even if I am in a so-called monogamous
relationship or a marriage, that there's no such thing.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (5): My heart constantly is pulled towards him as this deep knowing that he's clean.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (3): Most of us are not qualified to have even one. We're not qualified to be married. We're not qualified to be in relationships. We are not, we're just not
qualified to be in that. But somebody who is qualified actually can be a husband, a worthy husband not just to one, but to many.
PIERCEY: It was Joyce de Ruiter's moral breaking point. But it was also a turning point for the group, one that some think is a point of no return.
KENT: The group seemed to cross some sort of threshold and that threshold was the extent to which any of his actions are spiritually driven. That's the concern, I think, some parents
have. If he can spiritualize what many people see as deviant sexual, or sexual un-secular behavior, then how far will the group allow him to go?
PIERCEY: The question troubled Steven Kent. He began receiving e-mails and phone calls from families worried that their loved ones were in a cult. Not a cult in the sense that they
were denied freedom to come and go or deprived of sleep or food or even forced into rigid beliefs. But in the sense their families can no longer connect with them. The Bosma family
has been missing their youngest daughter and sibling for the past 15 years. Gladys and her husband Don were among de Ruiter's first followers. Sister Marg was Gladys' best friend.
MARG BOSMA: It's not even about what they believe. It's I miss them. I miss Don. I miss Gladys. I miss the kids.
PIERCEY: It hurts Fred Bosma that his brood includes four more grandchildren who he doesn't even know. One time he confronted de Ruiter.
FRED BOSMA: And I said John, you sit down there. I have to talk to you, you know. I said this has been on my mind for so long, you know, that you steal my children and my
grandchildren. I said we have no access to anyone because of what you teaching them - Don and the family. Lord, we pray that they could be delivered out of this cult and that they will
be set free and that they...
PIERCEY: The family's prayer went unanswered. Their loved one made it clear they would never come back into the fold.
MARG BOSMA: If she phoned me up tonight and said that she's out, I'd probably get on a plane and... (CRYING) And I guess there's always hope.
PIERCEY: They all worry about her. Especially big sister Elsina.
ELSINA: They no longer think for themselves. They can't function without his input. So he sits there and he gives them the drugs that they need. So now they're completely under his
spell.
PIERCEY: What are you doing?
ELSINA BOSMA: You know, she's not on a prescription pill. She's on John.
PIERCEY: It's a dependency de Ruiter refuses to talk about. Since word of his relationship with the sisters got out, he avoids all cameras.
JOHN DE RUITER: And the mind has no idea what is happening. It can't understand it, but in your heart there's a knowing that it's utterly good.
PIERCEY: A message not to think. One that's breeding and growing isolation.
KENT: It spends more and more time with itself and less and less time with contact with the outside world. In the process, it sets off its own morality, its own social system, its own
hierarchy, its own status, its own sense of meaning and value. When those kind of implosions happen, then a lot of problems can occur.
PIERCEY: Joyce de Ruiter has been on her own for almost two years. She works at an indoor rock climbing gym to help support herself and her three children. She's rebuilding her
life after taking therapy for people who have been brainwashed by cults. Now she wonders just how far her ex-husband supporters will go.
JOYCE DE RUITER: Well it won't stop until John stops. The group isn't going to stop. It would take John seeing reality. And I've never yet heard of a teacher waking up from their
own deception.
PIERCEY: But these people are seeking the truth from a man who calls himself the living embodiment of truth.
JOHN DE RUITER: There is a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow.
PIERCEY: A message and a promise that are in such demand. De Ruiter is already booked around the world for the next year.
JOHN DE RUITER: It's so close.
PIERCEY: For The National, I'm Judy Piercey in Edmonton.

 
At 2/18/2009 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well folks, it must be time for an update.It is now 2009 and where are we now with John DeRuiter? Having been around John for many years I'm pretty sure I can give a fair assessment of what is happening around him but then again I'm a bit of a shit disturber and actually still have a brain and my critical thinking capacity.
Firstly, people commenting on JDR who have not personally sat with him are completely in the dark and are making uninformed decisions in their comments (much the same as the people who voted for George Dubyuh)
Now 10 years later John still has a relationship with the two woman (sisters)who he dumped his wife for. (Actually he gave his wife the choice to join the harem; she declined) There is no love lost between the two sisters and they are much like acid and ice cream-not a good mix. Acid,Benita is in charge of everything.She had no people skills whatsoever when she started the job and now she has at least one or two so she is growing.The main woman in charge at the time was dumped with the excuse that she needed a vacation.That woman probably still questions her worthiness but now I'm speculating.
I've had many deep experiences sitting with John and will tell you that he has never bitten me,(probably because I bite back.)but I would never take some of the crap that he dishes to some people but they invariably take it.Over all it's unbelievably boring.we sit,we gaze,he gazes. it's all very peaceful,like a graveyard or should I say mausoleum as the new digs are all marble and chandeliers.
My main complaint was that if you were to ask John a challenging question he very often reverts to silence and that cuts out any chance of a dialogue about truth or anything else.By doing so he chooses always to be in "Power" position and you, the questioner become secondary chimpanzee without a voice.It truly sucks and is completely disempowering.There can be no "Real" dialogue because he's always in charge of the situation.
The majority of people in the group are pretty "John Gone" and there is no focus on critical questioning as the group has silently agreed that that is not cool.I think they call it co-dependency.The sad thing with almost any guru who answers all questions is that it basically makes you a bit stupid and you will always second guess your decisions ("gee, I wonder what John would do?")and John has an answer for everything.He is an incredibly intelligent speaker and master of the one liner.The problem though is that he has created an obscure language that most humans cannot possibly grasp and in my opinion has muddied and complicated the pure field of truth.
Many who hang with John get a lot from it. They are intelligent and articulate people and some are real sweethearts.People in the group do have an opinion which they share privately but not publicly.
All in all he seems pretty benign and he ain't no Jim Jones but if you want to truly grow get the hell out of there and take on life directly.

 
At 1/19/2011 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The group is exploring a gray area of human intellect. One must understand more basic questions about the mind, before going off the deep end. This sort of thing is potentially dangerous; it opens doors to the astral plane. Certain sensitive minds, have become insane, fooling around like this. Mind is the most power thing in the universe.Knowledge of this nature should be guarded by the individual.

 
At 1/10/2012 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he quiets the mind, there is something worthwhile here. That was my take when spending time with him. I've had some incredible experiences of the heart, so I've seen some benefit spending time with him. I don't really take it beyond this though. The rest is just a distraction that I'm not interested in. Haven't felt the need to see him for several years, but will likely go back for a meeting on occasion.

 
At 9/25/2012 1:00 AM, Blogger jwize said...

Well, I left my commment but the user deleted it. I guess positive feedback is not welcome here.

 
At 9/25/2012 1:49 AM, Blogger jwize said...

Consciousness painted with bias is far from a purity of consciousness. This adulterated blog content doesn't have any meaning. Nobody is being brainwashed by John. People can't be blinded by others, only by themselves.

I haven't been following John but have listened to his tapes on and off. Some, I like, some bring up fear and guilt within me.

Many years before I ever met John, I had an awakening experience. Consistently, his teachings fall directly in line with what I know to be true about that experience, so you would be hard pressed to convince me that my experience was all just coincidence. I have deep appreciation for the depth of knowledge and meaning that exists within.

Basically, anyone with an agenda is not being honest. It's because that agenda is more important that being honest. As an exercise, tell us what John De Ruiter's "agenda" is. Give us some of the goodies already!

 

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