On May 7 of this year, I sent an email to 73 of John’s followers who subscribe to the Birds of Being Google Group, inviting them to share their experiences with John for my book. On May 8, you posted at BoB, warning people not to engage with me and telling them: “The level of this writer’s reliability is low.”
As you know, we shared a brief email correspondence in April, during which you expressed warmth and a willingness to meet up in Edmonton if I ever visited. My last email to you addressed some of your concerns about the book, in as direct and as honest a way as I was able. I invited you to tell me more about how I might be “projecting” my issues onto John, as you believe I am. You didn’t reply, and so our brief correspondence ended. When I read your words about me at BoB, I was both surprised and hurt. Was this really what you believed, or was it only what you wanted others to believe about me? Of course I was aware that the gulf between our perspectives was potentially unbridgeable–how could I not be? Yet while it lasted, I felt there was at least some mutual respect between us, and a shared interest in having an honest dialogue. Maybe I was mistaken.
FYI, the email I sent John’s followers wasn’t seeking information about John (as the recent College newsletter implied). I know his dedicated followers would never say anything negative about him, and you know it too. I was inviting those people to testify, to share their experiences with John, and if possible to help clarify what, in their view, he is doing and why there is such a sharp contrast between his teaching and his private behaviors. You presented me as misguided and ill-motivated for wanting to shed light on John’s shadow side. . But is this really so terribly wrong?
John represents to me not just a puzzle but the greatest challenge I have ever faced as a writer–that any writer has ever faced–the challenge to reconcile the tension between “good” and “evil,” relying only on the evidence of the senses, inner and outer. I think John presents this challenge–knowingly or not–to all of his followers, and to all those who care about him. I also think that very few of them are bold enough to meet this challenge and to take the proverbial Minotaur by the horns. Does anyone know how consciously John is embodying this archetypal conflict of light and dark? I doubt if anyone but John can ever know for sure, but then, I don’t need to know to meet the challenge.
John offers his followers an image of goodness, purity, power, and perfection, and he offers words to match that image. He provides an incredible, blissful “high” through proximity to his presence–by literally being where he is at–and it’s a high that (I can testify) is addictive. There’s a conundrum in this, as there is with every spiritual teacher. A spiritual teacher cannot teach self-reliance. He or she cannot lead a student to autonomy. Have you ever wondered why there are no graduates in the College of Integrated Philosophy? (You are a smart guy, I am sure you have.) The reason in my view is that no one can embody or integrate the love of what one knows by going to a college. The title of COIP is a joke, intended or not. (Who knows? I know John loved to pull pranks as a kid and a teenager, and I sometimes wonder if his entire Ministry is a prank.)
You may ask, what’s a spiritual teacher to do, when the one thing worth learning can’t be taught, when we can only rely on ourselves to determine the difference between good and evil, truth and falsehood? Worse still, when the creation of an externalized image of goodness, to worship or even to emulate, is the source of the greatest confusion and error that exists in this world?
There is an answer to this question, and I believe I have found it via my experience of John, and that the answer is the skeleton key that unlocks the shadowy labyrinth in which the Minotaur dwells. It is to present a contradictory image, one possessed of the very opposite qualities, a shadow image, and then to conceal it in plain sight, like a purloined letter. By superimposing the negative image on top of the image of goodness, it becomes invisible. Over time, that shadow image–the exact inverse of the image of the perfected spiritual Master–slowly becomes visible to the followers, bringing about a steady erosion of belief in the positive image, and the corresponding disillusionment. This invites the follower-student to reject the father-teacher image they have created–out of their own wants and needs–and to “slay the Buddha.” Only when we see the shadow clearly do we realize we are facing in the wrong direction–looking outward and not inward–and change our orientation, away from other, back to self.
You are John’s oldest son. No one can know better than you do how there is always an element of rebellion and defiance in such a shift, away from transference and dependency and towards integration, autonomy, and wholeness. There is always some experience of betrayal. What has betrayed us is not the father or the teacher–who was always only human–but our own projected image of them. It betrayed us because an image cannot ever give us what we need–as children or as spiritual followers–a living, loving, tactile, full-body connection to the other. John is not there for any of his followers, and I suspect he was not there for his children or his wives either. But then, no one is there for him, either. Communication is only possible between equals, and John’s whole way of being precludes the possibility of equality.
John’s shadow side is real. As you of all people must know, it is exactly as deep and wide as his light side, and correspondingly dark. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow cast by the object, and the object here is John’s “person,” his human side. The more luminous he has to be for his followers, the shadier he has become behind the scenes. Everything strives towards wholeness and balance, and so slowly, inexorably, the dark, hidden aspect of both the man and the teachings is being disclosed. Who among John’s followers is ready for “full disclosure”? This is what we are getting to see now. Can you really blame me for wanting to help draw back the curtain?
Is all this “lovely and good”? That depends on your perspective. As long as we are perceiving dualistically, nothing we perceive is ever only lovely and good. Of course this applies to John too, and only a fool could ever think otherwise. But John has built an empire on the backs of fools; you know it, he knows it, and I know it. However painful admitting that might be to those of us whose backs have been co-opted for John’s ascension, it can be lovely and good to let ourselves see this, to see all that is unlovely and bad–craven, corrupt, mean and manipulative–not only in John but in ourselves. Seeing changes everything, and the alternative is denial and self-rejection, a condition that prevents wholeness from happening. Like everything that lives and is fragmented, John wants to become whole. Who knows, maybe he even wants us to become whole too? Or maybe he wants to prevent that from happening with all his being? And maybe his very determination to prevent us from becoming whole is what provides us with the most golden opportunity?
My question to you is this: are you and John’s followers willing to know the whole truth about John the man, regardless of your investment in the image of goodness which you have created? Can your idea of him, your belief, and your “knowing,” withstand every last revealed truth about his worldly (and otherworldly) behaviors? If not, then what? Which is more precious to you: to know the truth, whatever the cost in belief; or to hold onto an idealized image, regardless of how unreal?
As his oldest son and heir, I have no doubt at all that you carry John’s secrets–his shadow–in a way no one else alive does–not even John. I came from a family of dark secrets; some of them may be almost too dark to imagine. I can easily imagine how heavy this burden must weigh on you–the knowledge that so few of John’s followers could ever bear even a portion of those secrets the way you have had to. I also know–or imagine I know–that you feel it’s your duty to carry and keep those secrets, that it is essential to serving John and supporting him in his work. No doubt that’s true, but I wonder if you are aware just how heavy the cost is–not only for you but for those you love, and who love you?
John wants people to believe that transparency is a flawed concept because truth is relative, that it is only as appropriate as the circumstances merit, that letting it all hang out is fine at a nudist beach but not-OK at an Oasis board meeting. Unfortunately, this has become a justification, not merely for discretion but for opacity, obfuscation, and lies–and for the sorts of interactions that I suspect most of John’s followers, however loyal, would see as sexually inappropriate, if not shocking, and shady backroom (or basement) deals.
This creates a problem. When concealment is seen to be serving self-interest, then all the lofty spiritual explanations become not a way out of that trap, but a still deeper layer of the labyrinth. If John is using truth as a means to conceal, goodness as a cloak for evil, then not just you but any of us who have ever supported John in what he does become complicit in that deception. We who have had our trust abused become abusers of trust.
The book I am writing is my way of owning up to this, of absolving myself of past sins, for supporting John and offering his mixed bag of good and evil, truth and lies, to the world. It is not a question of pointing an accusatory finger at John but of recognizing my affinity with the same power abuses and betrayals which John appears to be guilty of, and of owning and integrating my own shadow side. This is very far from a painless process. I don’t volunteer for it lightly.
I can only imagine how much more painful and challenging–but also vital and potentially liberating–the process must be for you, as his son. It would be patronizing of me to think I could help with that process, especially since you obviously don’t want my help. And yet, it would be remiss if I didn’t admit that this is my deepest, truest reason for writing to you. Because what else has value in this world if not two souls connecting across an abyss, at a level of deepest vulnerability, and having the courage to share the things they are most afraid to own up to? What else is even real, if not this uncertainty and unsafeness of ever meeting, and the willingness to try?
P.S. Since the scope of this letter extends beyond the two of us, I have made it an open letter, to be posted at various places on the Net. You can respond in whichever way feels most comfortable to you.
Thank You for sharing this letter. My three older brothers and I are now providing 24/7 care for our parents. My Dad is 91 and my Mom is 88. They have lived full lives and we are a pretty tight knit family. As the brothers and our spouses have come together to care for my aging parents I have come to see, painfully at times, some of the skeletons in the closet more clearly.
I’m looking, actually asking others to help me see, my own blind spots. It’s been an incredibly rich time seeing more accurately the family dynamic which can be, at times, dysfunctional to put it lightly. Putting into writing and making visible for everyone to see is such a powerful tool for increasing awareness. I have been reading your posts and listening to you podcasts for many months now and have found them immensely helpful and have shared your podcast with numerous others.
Yesterday, I was listened to an interview by Craig Ferguson on his radio show with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. They got to talking about Jimmy Saville and how sick and fucked up he was. But that he “got away with it” through collusion. That this horrific abuse of power, with one of the outward manifestations being pedophile rings, was covered up by people of influence and power. Steve Jone mentioned that this is a present day problem. That this pathology did not end with the death of Saville.
I agree with this assessment.
The reason that I mention this, is because I know that the trauma that I experienced, to varying degrees has controlled me In certain ways. That the more that I bring my trauma into the light, the less that it will run me in ways that are not healthy. The more I claim my shadow and take responsibility for all the ways that I have caused harm, the more I can integrate those “objectionable” parts of my self and be whole. The less I am able to do this, the more broken I stay and the less helpful I’m able to be to myself and others.
Thank you, I really appreciate your work!
With High Regard,
Don thank you for your post ~ how powerful it is to not shy away from ones shadows, even though one might think one would get bogged down by looking and welcoming all that is there, what actually happens is one is more able to live more fully in the body and into life, as all that one is. I appreciated your post. All the best with the care of your elderly parents.
Thanks Don. I’m glad yours is the first response here, since you have grokked the essence of the “operation” and why my interest in John is so vital a streak to be mining. From your words you are engaged with the material in an active, not passive way, which would allow you to understand it in the only way we can ever understand anything: by living it.
Alex Harvey to the rescue…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-nosdSTqEE
I would have thought “The Faith Healer” a bit more appropriate 😉
I always felt the song had a sexual exploitation undercurrent to it:
“The fingertips of holy fire
Every lasting sweet desire”
“can I put my hands on you,
Let me put my hands on you”
Kind of an Elmer Gantry vibe.
They were both neck and neck until Faith Healer faded, rallied, but then finally gave up the ghost!
John? Is that you?? 😉
Powerful piece of writing, left me reflective, vulnerable and strangely validated as to what has been moving for me. Thank you for this wise and pointing post containing very pertinent questions for any person serious about this journey. 🙏🏻
Personally Jasun I would drop this concern with de Ruiter. Yes he’s almost certainly a fake but there are many of them out there. I’ve taken the odd one to task myself but the one thing you tend to find with these people is that they rarely repent and disappear. After all they make a very nice living conning naïve people of which there is an almost unlimited supply.
I’ve learnt that being concerned about these things engenders the wrong mindset if you’re interested in spiritual development. It runs counter to the spirit of development. Zen would say “be unconcerned” or “what are you looking for in your neighbours house”? The unconscious state cannot be reached with a mind that grasps at externals. A teacher named Richard Rose once asked “What’s more important, world peace or individual development”? The mass of the people have no interest in developing themselves but will happily engage in war.
I find it interesting that you want me to drop my own interest when it is clearly providing an opportunity to uncover so much that is wrong with the world and ourselves and helping others to do the same. And that you would use a sort of spiritual platitude as a way to try and nudge me away from it Oddest of all, that you would ever imagine it would work! I get the impression you haven’t spent much time reading my stuff!
I suggest you take off your spiritual-muck-encrusted glasses & read the letter again. You may find there’s a level to it that you missed.
I wasn’t trying to be nasty Jasun and I have read a lot of your work. I’ve found a lot of interesting stuff on your blog and it has confirmed my view that there are things afoot in the world over which we have little control or influence and therefore we might be better off developing ourselves rather than getting overly concerned about it.
I don’t consider that to be spiritual platitude, on the contrary I think it may be very sound advice. The conspiracy movement has a tendency to poison peoples minds although I don’t class you as conspiracy theory as your writings have personal experience behind them. I do believe that in the end we have to make a choice between commenting on things or developing ourselves and again that is not spiritual platitude, it has basis in fact: “Do not seek enlightenment, merely stop cherishing opinions”.
Anyway if you think I’m deluded idiot, take a look at my blog and then make a judgement. I won’t comment again as I believe in heading my own advice.
I don’t think you are a deluded idiot and apologies if I gave that impression. It’s just that I have heard this sort of thing many times before and as I say, to me it’s merely a platitude. As with all platitudes there are many cases where it does not apply. To say “Personally, I would drop this thing with de Ruiter” isn’t helpful because you can’t speak personally about my interest in JdR. You can tell me it doesn’t interest you or you can speak about some similar experience of your own, which might be more helpful. But otherwise my experience is of someone giving intrusive and inappropriate advice. Any sincere spiritual person knows that the first rule of advice is to make sure it’s wanted before giving it.
Your comments above present a (to me) false dichotomy between “developing ourselves” and focusing on problems outside of ourselves. For me, there is no difference between these two pursuits, none at all. As for concern, good luck giving that one up!
Just thinking Ja Sun and ‘Against All Logic’…maybe you can do both concurrently. Maybe ‘doing’ the one (ie: guru questioning ) can be a contribution to what you call self development or, what’s often referred to as ‘Self inquiry’? Wouldn’t a commitment to sincere inquiry into Self and purpose lead to autonomy and knowing/being…’God/Isvarra’ and eventually eliminate all that stands in ‘opposition’ to this? For example dependence, whether on any ‘object’…teacher and otherwise. Wouldn’t dedication to this type of inquiry weed out any ‘thing’ or person or thought or feeling…teacher or otherwise…that is in-conducive, unhelpful, dependency oriented, deceitful or even downright harmful? I know we mostly all still have our ‘patterns’ or ‘vasanas’ to contend with and see through and hopefully, these are mainly ‘less detrimental’ ones that cause as little suffering to Self and others as possible. But at the very least, one’s commitment to Truth would surely steer us away from the most blatant of dishonorable, corrupt or very bad behaviors. I’m certainly ‘no angel’ (yet!) although I am committed to realizing what is ‘truly real’. Doesn’t this quest of discovery need to include looking at every’thing’? Our attachments to any’thing’ including and particularly…those that mentor us on this very subject??
Exactly. The world is our mirror: not for preening but for surgical self-intervention.
As I read that letter / invitation to JDRs son I couldn’t help but insert myself into his shoes, as I thought you did very empathetically in order to write it. As you stated “Coming from a family of dark secrets I can imagine how this burden must weigh on you…” What a burden indeed, and weather or not you receive a response from him I can’t imagine that your words would not have an effect, even if his initial response is anger or defensiveness. Also, thank you Don Peck for what you wrote, especially about asking others to help us see our blind spots. I spent many years living in that blind spot, and it required a lot of self medicating to stay willfully ignorant.
thanks Jeff; Nic’s response was disappointing, to put it mildly.
Your letter to Nic fell short of your usual excellence. You must have written it in haste. Many of the points that you raised need further elaboration and further syntactical crafting. I read the letter carefully and I can understand the difficulty Nic had in engaging in a discussion with you. Your letter on one level was a purging narrative aimed at your psychological wellbeing. On another level your frustration fueled a rant and I was unable in one paragraph to easily follow your thread of thought.
I am not unsympathetic with several of your ideas but to elicit discussion with Nic or any of the John De Ruiter ‘students’ is not easy. Your letter invoked them as ‘fools’ and you label their teacher and Nick’s father a liar. Where does the discussion go after that? I think they understand your agenda and your appetite for material with which to enrich your book.
Like Nic and like ‘Against all logic’ I much prefer to wear spiritual-muck-encrusted glasses in my discussions. I honestly don’t think you are up to it judging by the manner you took a swipe at ‘Against all logic’.
Thanks for commenting. The question of agreement & disagreement is so interesting because it spans all the way from the most superficial and trivial human difficulties to the widest and most destructive. It’s kind of the sine qua non of existential suffering, this inability to reach agreement.
If I had to choose a single piece of writing that I feel best represents me as a writer, this letter would be a likely pick. It was one of the hardest things I had to write and with it I feel I came as close to achieving my aims, as a writer, as I have ever done. In terms of the sort of result I might hope the writing would have, that’s another matter; but then it’s still early days yet.
The letter was written from a place of clarity and deep enjoyment–the very inverse of a rant–and it allowed me to uncover within myself the compassion I was seeking for Nicolas, and to express it in a way that felt satisfactory. There were some hard truths in there, but compassion isn’t simply a matter of being gentle and kind but of being direct and honest and not being mealy-mouthed about the truth. I wanted to speak to Nicolas man-to-man, from what I know to be true about him, John, and Oasis. I felt that this is an experience Nicolas probably doesn’t often have, including or especially from his father, who has managed to persuade him that lying is not lying when it comes from an embodiment of truth.
There was in this (I realized after) an attempt, not just to be a straight father for Nicolas, but to be that for myself, to be, to embody, the father I never had. That’s what writing is for me: self-examination, self-exposure, self-correction, and self-parenting. Only Nicolas can know for sure what effect the letter had on him, though it’s safe to say that his response to me didn’t accurately reflect that (or even address it). I think Nicolas (as part of the AC) is currently concerned above all with protecting his father and Oasis, and with damage-controlling me out of existence. I do not think he’s interested, currently, in an honest, open dialogue. I approached him as if that were possible, because there was no other way to approach him that wouldn’t be disingenuous. At the same time, it was done with the awareness that this was really about my own process, with him as a mirror for that, just as I presented my struggle as a mirror for him to gaze into. As they say, you can lead the horse to water but . . .
I have noticed with a number of spiritual seekers how spirituality is not so much a way to get to the truth but a way to sidestep unpleasant truths about themselves. It eschews self-examination under the guise of transcending the self. The first causality of this sort of pseudo-spirituality is psychology. When we are on this sort of avoidance-through-transcendence path, there will always be an either/or polarity of self-development, so-called, versus critical examination, and this often amounts to a disregard and dismissal of the other as being finally irrelevant to one’s own process. It’s evident right there in how “Against All Logic” terminates dialogue with me under the guise of being above it (i.e., more concerned about self-development). The fear of disagreement goes deep; of course it’s tempting to avoid it, and so spiritualized justifications for doing so are very handy!
It’s also there, I think, in how so many John-ites express their strong feelings–especially about someone who is presenting evidence which they find uncomfortable–as if they were arguments. Very few John-ites engage in logical discussion about John. Instead they prefer to personally denigrate–often in spiritually prettified forms–whoever is presenting the arguments they find distasteful.
Have you spent time with John? Something about your comment suggests that you aren’t a regular reader of this blog.