A Living Paradox
“We are so acutely aware of our deficiencies, and he has so well programmed us not to trust ourselves, not to trust what we think, not to trust what we feel, that the hardest battle we ever have is having courage to say, ‘I may not have everything together, but I know something is wrong with you.’ That is the hardest thing for us to do, because we’ve been trained and taught and indoctrinated not to trust ourselves and not to be arrogant in our opinions. So who are we to look at John and say, ‘Something’s wrong, John’? That’s a terrifying thing to us. This is why the battle to leave John is so hard.”
—Joyce de Ruiter-Kremers, 2010
Once the elements of the affidavit began to crystallize in my mind, the cognitive dissonance I experienced was enormous. What made it even more difficult was that my wife took this new information casually, almost with indifference. Her perception of de Ruiter was seemingly unchallenged by hearsay or anecdotal evidence.
Just a week earlier, I had been thinking of moving to Edmonton to be near him. Now the accounts I’d heard (not just the affidavit but others) combined with and gave substance to a growing intuition (though de Ruiter admonished his followers not to trust intuition) that something wasn’t right. De Ruiter was immensely powerful, that was more than just a seeming. But now I had to ask myself an unsettling question: if he was as powerful as he appeared to be, was he powerful enough to deceive people?
The impression I got at Birds of Being was that, although many of the group had read the affidavit, either they didn’t believe it or they didn’t care. (I later found out that they were being discouraged from reading it.) Benita had already been demonized by the group—she was unpopular even before the split—so, like Joyce before her, anything she had to say against John was not to be taken seriously. But at the very least, surely the affidavit was evidence that de Ruiter was severely challenged when it came to containing his women? Even if Benita were making up wild stories to get back at him, the fact remained that this was the woman (one of them) he had chosen as his wife and trusted to run his business. (In fact, as we’ll see, the von Sasses were a major financial force behind the creation of the Oasis center.) The best you could say about de Ruiter at this stage was that his judgment was poor. If he had responded to a “movement of being” by jumping in the sack with Benita and Katrina against his wife’s wishes and behind her back, it was a movement that had set him up for some major headaches. However you sliced it, the affidavit proved that de Ruiter was a human being with all the flaws that go along with it—and possibly some more serious ones too.
The consensus view of de Ruiter in the Oasis group—a view I had recently shared—was that John was beyond such weaknesses. Allowing that he had flaws at all opened the doors to a massive overhaul of belief about him. If I’d been wrong about that, what else had I been wrong about? How much was my perception of him based less on a reality than a mixture of de Ruiter’s performance skills—his sorcery—and my own projections? Between us, had we created a magical illusion of a Christ embodiment, a good king and perfect father? And as the illusion was coming unraveled, was I getting to see that the father was only a man after all—or would I find a bad king? Countless theories began to weave their way through my brain. Of course John had a dark side, and naturally it was a side he was careful not to let his followers see. He had to maintain an image of perfect truth and complete goodness, so effective a persona that even my wife—usually the inverse of a gullible or trusting person—had bought it hook, line, and sinker. And I had followed suit, from that first dream on, until I was down on bended knees with my head bowed, waiting for the chop.
If I wanted to know what de Ruiter’s dark side was like, what the real man behind the curtain looked like, the obvious place to enquire was with his (ex) wives. The affidavit was like the fruit in the Garden that opened my eyes. The initial result of this massive internal shift for me was positive. I might be losing my religion, but I was gaining a new sense of my own truth.
It’s possible that what follows is just my very limited mind’s attempt to make sense of an unbearable paradox, a paradox as old and archetypal as that of the Son of God who is also God-the-Son (or the Serpent who is also the Savior). De Ruiter’s words reached me at as profound a level as I had ever been reached by words; they formed the basis of a whole new way of seeing and being. I spent dozens of hours listening to his tapes. I fully believed he was the Way, the Truth, and the Light. He was my ticket home. I gave myself to him, internally and without conditions. I offered complete loyalty and devotion. There was no doubt in my mind, none at all. Now there was nothing but doubt. Whatever I had come to suspect recently, even if true, it didn’t really detract from my perception of de Ruiter’s enormous power. All my experiences of that power and seeming benevolence were still intact. But now the new evidence contradicted it all. If he was that powerful and not benevolent, only one conclusion was possible.
I made a few inquiries at Birds of Being about how to meet with John privately but I received little by way of encouragement: write him a letter, contact Leigh-Anne, ask to sit with him in the café, get in the Chair. If I could have set up a private meeting with him, I would have flown to Edmonton in a shot. The funny thing was, since I had started to believe de Ruiter might be corrupt, I was less afraid of facing him than when I thought he was pure goodness. Now I wanted to face him, to ask him all the questions that no one dared ask or that he blocked with his stony silence. I wouldn’t take silence for an answer. I would confront that figure of darkness and of light. The more I mulled it over, the more I believed de Ruiter had an unconscious, shadow side, and that his identification with being—and being seen as—an all-good Messianic truth-embodiment had caused him to completely disown that shadow, and so be possessed by it. He would then be justifying morally questionable behavior under the delusion that he was battling external “forces of darkness”—when in fact it was his own shadow he was wrestling with. “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.”
On the other hand, maybe he really was Christ, and in the interests of a full planetary integration, he was embodying the satanic energies too? This was what (Benita’s testimony claimed) de Ruiter believed, and I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, at least for now. But if this was the case, when exactly was he planning to let his followers know? I remembered the sign de Ruiter placed outside his shop in the early days: “Christianity is Satan’s masterpiece.” He also used to claim Jesus had been his own private teacher. So what did that say about John-ianity? Was Oasis the anti-John’s masterpiece?
From what I could tell, a lot people in the Oasis community, maybe most of them, believed de Ruiter was synonymous with goodness. From such a perspective, any hint of a dark side would be met by a fierce wall of denial. The situation might be similar to a child who finds out his father is doing some really messed up things, but who gets a clear signal from the rest of the family not to talk about it. Unable to corroborate the new reality with anyone, after a while the child learns to pretend it’s not happening. The child has to “forget” what it knows in order not to disturb the smooth surface of the household. This process of suppressing knowledge to maintain a cover story is crazy-making. Perhaps something similar was at work in the Oasis community?
I knew my experiences of de Ruiter had been real. It hadn’t all been projection. His power was beyond question: I had seen it with my own eyes; my whole life had been (superficially) transformed through his influence. The picture I had of him was too extreme to allow for some watered down in-between. If he wasn’t a living embodiment of truth, then he was a master of deception. There was no way for me to reconcile de Ruiter’s depth and power with the idea of a simple huckster chasing after money, sex, and worldly power. If he was in any way corrupt, that corruption would have to be manifest on the same level on which he appeared to operate, that of “the Deep.” If he was corrupt, he was deeply corrupt.
On the other hand, if, as a result of his over-identification with Christly goodness, de Ruiter were embodying “antichrist” energies, would that make him any less valuable a teacher? Possibly not, provided one knew it at least. But it would mean he wasn’t someone to blindly follow (or follow at all), and that his wisdom-teachings might be laced with something else besides wisdom.
While I was beginning the investigatory work that eventually led to this book, I went to de Ruiter’s website to check a detail in his bio. To my surprise, the whole site had been overhauled. Within days of beginning my investigation, the site had abandoned its austere, simple design for a much more dramatic New-Agey look, dreamy and bright with Neptunian blues. Had Oasis begun the damage control already? If de Ruiter was expecting serious court costs and damages to his public image, was he going for the hard sell? A placidly smiling John was standing in front of the ocean, promising, “The easiest, most effortless and perfect answer can be known by all.”
Curious, I went to the online store to see if the video download of my Bristol talk with John was still available. It took me a while to find it because the numbering system had been altered. Now, instead of being number 001 at the top of the page, I was halfway down the page, numbered 037.
It was official: I was no longer John’s number one.
“Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.”
One day, I found Joyce’s account on Facebook via a Google search. Since I didn’t use Facebook, I asked a friend to contact her and tell her about me. Once I had her email address, I emailed her. Joyce responded quickly with the following:
I have always expected that eventually somebody would turn their experience with JdR into a book. Many should. I truly believe in unveiling, as you so aptly put it. In fact, this is one of the first things I too did 10 years ago, when my crisis hit. At the time, many told me that I should “write a book.” I am not a writer, but nevertheless, I did begin. I wrote 200 pages of my 18 years with JdR. I still have it, and may one day work on it and publish. I have reasons for which I don’t. One is my children, and two is that I have a semi “gag order” on me. Part of our divorce settlement was that I “would never do anything that would potentially harm [his] earning potential for as long as I am getting child support.” Since my two sons are now living with John, I am attempting to terminate child support; thus this constraint will perhaps soon be lifted. Despite that, I am not sure I am ready to publish. I am glad you are—extremely glad, especially because I see you are a talented writer. I have always hoped that the first book that comes out about JdR is tasteful and well written. . . . Naturally, this “gag order” does not necessarily mean I cannot speak about my past life, but I know John, and I am quite certain he would take action at this point. My child support has not been terminated yet, so this is still a fragile time to begin to speak.
In a second email she wrote:
When I left John 10 years ago, I truly had no idea what I had left. In fact, while I was with him, I had no idea who I was with. . . . I recall believing and saying to him that I was quite sure that if he saw the grave error he was making, I truly trusted that he would “repent” of it. In other words, when I left, I believed he was merely deluded. I called it an innocent illusion. Over the last 10 years I have become more uncertain. Over the past 10 years I have seen what seems much more like malice, cruelty and corruption. I understand that malice, cruelty and corruption could still fit in with his own deluded perception of his own purity and innocence. . . . I understand how that works. The one thing I always claim to not fully know, is whether he truly believes his own lie or not (i.e., is he deluded or mad?).
Since I left I have read hundreds of books of other spiritual teachers, gurus, cult leaders, mind control, etc etc etc. I have spoken to endless people. I feel very clear on the issue. I would say Andrew Cohen, Barry Long, Isaac Shapiro, Neelam or even Osho are clear examples of who John is. I doubt he will ever get as “big” as Andrew Cohen or Osho, because he simply does not say enough or does not say intelligent enough things. His silence and paradoxical statements are limited, in my opinion. About his capability to seek revenge, I have no doubt. I have been in litigation with him for almost 10 years. Recently, I realize he attributes much of that revengeful or unkind behavior on Benita. I don’t know. I knew Benita, but I am sure John authorized her actions.
When I left the group, my body left. It took years for my mind to leave. It seems a part of my spirit will always be there. John was my husband and spiritual teacher. The wounds go very very deep.
I imagine you are well aware of the newspaper articles that have been published years ago. John was and still is very angry at me for this, by the way. I hear you about his secret desire to be “found out.” I don’t know. I have only seen him fight hard to protect his image. He has threatened to sue, he has tried to ban publications, and he has paid good money to keep certain things from being made public (or for the fear of this occurring). But, I agree that transparency and openness is essential. I understand that the group is being discouraged from reading the affidavits. This is a shame. This shunning of information shows so well the depth of close-mindedness. Why not be a critical thinker? Why not strive for transparency?
By one of those odd coincidences, Joyce posted about her experiences with John de Ruiter at a public forum today, here, in synchronization with this post, and its title.
 Neptune is the planet of surrender, of redemption, and of Christ, but also of addiction and escapism.