Myshkin or Machiavelli? (John de Ruiter’s Messiah Complex, pt 7)

The Demon-Carrier

 “Bob was carrying our demons; that was one of the strong suggestions.”
—Joyce, 2010

The turning point in de Ruiter’s career, at least on the surface, appears to have been the famous “nine-hour testimony” which he gave before the gathered congregation at Bethlehem, an incident which he described in 1998:

What I was doing during that nine hours, I would go into, it’s like my own space developed over all those years, from about seventeen years on. I would go into that space and I would just be on the inside now and just describe how things developed, and I would go from one time to the next to the next, and each time I would be inside of that space, I just talked about it. What that did to people who were listening is it took them inside of that space. Because it wasn’t the words that I was using, it was the space that I was in.

Joyce was not present for the marathon testimony but she heard a recording of it afterwards. She summed it up for me as “extreme narcissism; those are like the early signs.” No doubt others in the church would have agreed, but there was at least one person who experienced something else. That was Bob Emmerzael, and besides John, Emmerzael is the most enigmatic and evasive character in de Ruiter’s history. In 1998, at a public meeting in Edmonton, Emmerzael described his conversion to the group (the transcript is from a tape recording):

The biggest change for myself was when John gave his testimony, which was I think a nine-hour ordeal; it was from early evening till late in the morning. For me, that was the key. It was for me like the picture of truth just dropping into place and fulfilling itself. From that point on, it was knowing truth and actually being inside of truth instead of trying to make it work, that I actually knew the truth and the picture was clear and it was there, it was complete. Right from that moment on, things took off for myself.

In those early days, Emmerzael became Tonto to de Ruiter’s Lone Ranger, Robin to his Batman, John to his Jesus. Today, Emmerzael is no longer among de Ruiter’s followers, however, having gradually ceased attending the meetings in the early 2000s. Despite being diagnosed with cancer over fifteen years ago, I knew from Joyce that he still lived in Edmonton and that he had never spoken about his reasons for leaving the group (reputedly not even to his wife). Yet Emmerzael was perhaps the most central player in de Ruiter’s rise to prominence.

As Joyce recalled it, Bob was an elder of the church who became de Ruiter’s confident after that nine-hour testimony. From that day on, the two men went out together on average four nights a week, from eight at night sometimes until six or seven in the morning. They spent that time talking in restaurants and in de Ruiter’s van, and Joyce would often get up in the morning to find them both sleeping in the front seat of the van. “I didn’t think they were fooling around with women,” she told me. “It was an area of conflict. I didn’t like that he would sleep in all morning and stay out all night. I always thought, apparently [he managed] without much sleep, but I realized later, OK, you probably are sleeping with Bob in the van.”

Years later, once de Ruiter was fully established as a (non-Christian) spiritual teacher, Bob, the beloved disciple, sometimes held meetings in Edmonton when de Ruiter was touring. So far as I know, none of these recordings are available, but there is a recording of the meeting (in 1998, the tape is called “Bob’s Story”) where Bob gave his own testimony, a testimony which concentrates exclusively on the impact de Ruiter had on his life.

I was caught up in this thing that was way bigger than me. It was phenomenal, the description of fireworks going off was constant, truth opening up. It was even apparent then that what was happening was happening with John, and I was really along for the ride. I was benefiting just by being with John, and the more I’ve been with him, the more that that’s actually been the case, that that became established more and more, [that] what was actually taking place was a cornerstone of truth being established here in this place, in this world, so that everything is built on that, and everything that took place then is to have that cornerstone shaped, formed, and completely usable, and then just doing what the truth would do. And for me, it was me being a part of it, in a way that was like a useful tool.

Throughout his testimony, Bob states his belief—his “knowing”—that de Ruiter is “the living embodiment of truth.” While apparently Emmerzael was the first person to believe this, by the time of his testimony, others believed it too and de Ruiter was making the claim publically (it was even printed on the early tapes). But in the period Bob is describing, Bob may have been the only person to believe this about de Ruiter—except possibly for de Ruiter himself. Describing the relationship from his side, at the same meeting, de Ruiter said:

Once it was clear that I moved in truth and [Bob] was taken into it, like I took him inside of my space. Once that happened, he dropped his space, he just didn’t bother with it anymore, he didn’t listen to it. . . . He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t want to use up his energy trying to fit things in when he could just drink. I would open up truth and he would just bathe and bathe and bathe in it. . . . for him it was like, everything’s over. For myself, he was just like putty. I would open up truth and it’s like I’d be working this putty while I’d be opening up truth. I could mold him. [Emphasis added.]

What was de Ruiter “molding” Bob into? Presumably, both men believed de Ruiter was molding Bob into “truth,” otherwise Emmerzael would never have consented to the process for as long as he did. But besides taking their word for it, it’s impossible to say what kind of internal “molding” de Ruiter performed on Emmerzael, or just how beneficial it was, to either of them. What we do know is that Bob, an elder, became de Ruiter’s confidante and his first official “follower,” and that it had a ripple-effect on others in the group, who followed Bob’s lead and joined de Ruiter’s party. At the 1998 meeting, de Ruiter said:

When people that were close to [Bob] before and really respected him before, they were amazed. They could see that a lot of people would follow me and be deceived, so to speak. They were most amazed when Bob followed me because that didn’t make any sense, because he was stable, he was even, he was smart, he knew where he was. He wasn’t moveable like most other people would be, and yet he would just totally follow. They couldn’t understand that, that didn’t make sense; of all people, that didn’t fit at all.

In Bob’s own words:

This little straggling group that remained with John, in spite of the fact that the rest of that Christian community was chattering with fear as to how deep the deception was. It was basically only a week and a half, I think, that everything blew up. Then after that, the response that the rest of this group had towards us was that we were just powerfully deceived. In many ways it would be fair to say that it was like being, well it isn’t fair to say but the equation can kind of be given of being like guinea pigs. Like everything was new, everything was . . . this stuff had never been written and taught. The only one who lived this way was Jesus Christ. That stuff being written down had been misinterpreted for centuries and mis-lived for centuries. That which was opening up was entering into total newness because there was nothing that was able to give the picture of who Jesus was, of what the truth was. There’s nobody to explain that to John. I tried. John was not seen as this huge threat and powerfully deceived individual until after I joined him.

When de Ruiter left Bethlehem—whether by his own choice or because he was ejected from it, as Reeder claimed—Bob Emmerzael spear-headed the exodus. The exodus formed the core “cell” of de Ruiter’s private Christian group.[1] That cell group (many of whom are still following de Ruiter today) eventually multiplied into a three or four hundred strong congregation, the Oasis community.

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“I Am That”: A Man After God’s Own Heart

“John shared with me about encountering ‘the Beast’ in Revelations, and doing battle with the Beast. Extremely early on, probably four years after we got married, he and Bob came home and needed to tell my sister, Bob’s wife, and myself [their] revelation . . . that Bob and John were in fact the two witnesses in Revelation. We were never supposed to share that with anybody. It was hidden knowledge. Shortly after that, maybe within the year, John shared that he was the fulfillment of a different scripture, from Isaiah 53, a classic scripture about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. . . . We were never, ever, ever to share that.”
—Joyce, 2010

One thing that became clear as I proceeded with my investigation was that de Ruiter’s teachings, for all their mutations, remain essentially Christian (and ascetic) at their core, even while the outward form (and, as I would discover, de Ruiter’s own private behavior) veered further and further from his Christian roots (see Appendix Three). So what sort of a Christian leader had de Ruiter been? Joyce assured me he wasn’t much of a preacher, more of a teacher. Those first meetings were long, she said, starting at ten or eleven in the morning and continuing until two in the afternoon. This created the sense that “something big was happening, because it took up our whole day. It was different, it was big and exciting.” That first stage was followed by one or two years of silence, sitting on the couch, doing and saying nothing. “We’d get together in the morning, everybody would sit down, nothing would happen, a little bit of small talk, and we’d all sit there, and sit there, and sit there, and sit there. People would fall asleep, and eventually it would be two or so in the afternoon and it would be over, John would say that was it.”

Paul described the group as “disaffected Christians” who created “a new kind of Church based on the Bible.” They weren’t tied to any denomination, he said, but craved spiritual experiences and relationships with others who were equally committed. “For most of the time,” he told me, “I think even John was trying to figure out what his authority was. I just thought he was well-read and was working out some neat explanations for things.” They started with Bible studies once a week, focusing on Revelations. Since open prayer and worship wasn’t considered appropriate, there was “a lot of sitting and waiting for someone to share thoughts.” As time went by, de Ruiter did more and more of the talking. Sometimes, Paul recalled, there were strange manifestations: “physical or vocal expressions that would have to be considered very abnormal.” Participation from the group became less and less and the silences became longer. De Ruiter’s “vocabulary changed over a period of time and the use of the Bible quickly became less.” He became more outspoken about his ability to interpret spiritual things, and dreams and visions were shared and explored. As Paul remembered, the women became less and less involved with the regular meetings. “There were a lot of questions from the wives who were less enthusiastic, but John would encourage us by calling us ‘pillars of this church.’ We often mocked the traditional church for how it worked in the Flesh (made things happen by strength of Man versus trusting God).”

The increased periods of silence were explained as a form of “weaning” from the need for anything concrete, including a teaching. Joyce was skeptical.

We were told that it was good for us. I just thought, “This is bullshit, nothing’s happening here, people are falling asleep, this is a joke.” But I did my best. It was in my home, so I tried. It wasn’t just [John] being lazy and a lack of initiative to prepare something. It was partly that, but that was also conveniently covered up by [his saying] “There is nothing, I have nothing for you.” We were being shed of all of our preconceived notions and constructs, rapidly dropping all of the traditions that we had once held onto. Which is why it’s so ironic, because somehow we kept this one tradition where we had to tithe towards our pastor, of all things. It was under the pretense or understanding that we were shedding our religiosity and so on; but it was just a vacuum.

De Ruiter’s conviction—his own standard of integrity—was never to preach what he didn’t know from direct experience. So the moment he became unsure of himself, he would fall into silence. Ironically, that silence became the nature and meaning of the “sermon,” and even the reason for the meetings. By redefining what had value, de Ruiter turned a lack of anything tangible to offer into his offering, and transformed an apparent failing into an ostensible virtue. Once again, silence saved the day.

*

Based on Joyce’s accounts, de Ruiter decided that he was the living Messiah—not merely “the key” but “the One”—shortly after leaving the Bethlehem church (where aptly enough, this “savior” was born), and while brain-storming with Bob Emmerzael. It was a folie a deux that the two men were unable or unwilling to keep to themselves. Joyce remembered it as a pivotal point—who wouldn’t remember the moment her husband came home claiming to be the Messiah? At the time, she asked him, “Are you the Second Coming, or are you the one coming before?” but he wouldn’t answer. She was confused. Historically, Jesus had already been and gone, so what was John’s purpose exactly? The way she understood the Second Coming, it would be a big deal, and people would know about it everywhere. None of what was happening me her expectations of the Second Coming. Yet John’s claim wasn’t exactly to be the Second Coming, she said, it was more that he was the Messiah. “It didn’t make sense for John to claim to be the fulfillment of Isaiah, because that was about a savior who bore our sins, if you will. So who was John in that picture?”

The news that John was the Messiah, in whatever form, was to be kept strictly under wraps. It was only for the elect to know. But of course word got around, and even if open claims of his being the fulfillment of the prophecy were not encouraged, de Ruiter sometimes compared himself to Christ and talked openly about having Jesus as his personal teacher. Bob testified publicly to John’s divinity while de Ruiter sat in the room, his silence endorsing all of Emmerzael’s claims. At the same meeting, de Ruiter also talked about his “apprenticeship” under Jesus:

In my relationship with Jesus . . . he would be with me in a way that I knew was true and I had no comprehension. . . . I was put in that situation because there was actually a purity of heart. It’s like Jesus taking a clean heart and a pure heart and putting it in a space that it can’t comprehend and nothing will ever take place if you don’t integrate that space, and that can only be done to a heart like that. There was already like a perfect heart, a pure heart, to do that with a heart where there’s anything less than a purity or cleanness, it’ll just hurt itself. For him to transfer what he was to me, then it’s like that had to take place, basically the hard way, and with a heart that was clean and that was pure. Anything less than that would just automatically disqualify it on every level. I just started surrendering, and once that caught, it was like a wild fire and I never did anything to ever slow it or stop it. Once it started I never drew back. I never hesitated.

While De Ruiter speaks in a gentle, diffident, almost tentative tone of voice on the tape, using searching, naïve, often childlike terms, at the same time, in the most disarming of ways, he is alerting others to his own supreme specialness, his “perfect heart.” He is telling the group how he was chosen by Jesus Christ to be His disciple and earthly representative, His successor. While de Ruiter may have only referred to himself as “an Apostle,” his descriptions imply that he considered himself far more than that. Towards the end of the meeting, he said:

If you had to do it the way that I did it, you would never do it. I know that you would never do it. Because the way that I did it, you don’t get another chance. It’s like if you blow it, you’re disqualified. . . . My guess is that a lot of people who were in my place would have started and just got disqualified. That that would have happened a lot. And with myself . . . I was just clean. I never drew back, or I would have been disqualified.

Although there were many contenders for truth-embodiment, evidently there was only one winner. The self-professed status of living embodiment of truth does not invite peers, collaborators, or even disciples. It requires followers. “There is no such thing as a ‘knowing’ that John does not agree with,” Paul said of that time.

*

“I distinctly remember John saying to me that he had no friends. I distinctly remember those exact words and I thought it was very strange. It may have been regretful, but since he didn’t actually show emotions, I don’t know. It was more of a neutral statement and I thought it was odd. But I have thought about it a hundred times, that he probably didn’t have friends [because] he couldn’t confide his deepest feelings. Bob Emmerzael became a friend.”
—Joyce, 2010

According to Joyce, de Ruiter carried more authority than any ordinary pastor would. “There was something in the air, that he was different, that he was a radical, that he had ‘a pure heart,’ that would have been the term. There was always this sort of hush that John had this amazingly pure heart. In that way, he was different. He wasn’t seen as just one of our equals who played that role.” Whether it was by conscious design or not, from the start de Ruiter was placed above his fellows. Even his wife was under the spell:

I believed it, somewhat, and his [younger] sister projected that on him. Bob would have somewhat projected that on him, from that elders’ meeting on. Probably in some subtle way John asked for it. Because he teaches this stuff, there is the presumption that he lives it. Because he talks about this, in that kind of a mesmerizing, mystical, hypnotizing way, you cannot help but think, “You wouldn’t talk that way unless you knew this.” It was more the air he had as he spoke, as if he knew this.

Joyce mentioned how, in the Old Testament, David was described as “a man after God’s own heart.” “Somehow,” she said, “that little phrase got slapped on John.” That was her primary contribution to the evolution of a guru, she said. She believed in the perfection of her husband’s heart and that such a thing was possible; she wanted “that kind of person in my life.” When she’d met de Ruiter, she had fallen in love and believed his heart was pure. “From that point on, he kept trying to convince me of that and reaffirm that and confirm that.” Whenever things didn’t add up, she had to believe that he had a pure heart; that was what he told her to believe, and that, since his heart was pure, whatever impurity she was seeing wasn’t true, because he had a pure heart. “I never ever gave myself permission to see otherwise, because [I believed] ‘John’s not like that.’ That’s the fatal error we all make.”

The belief that de Ruiter had a pure heart would eventually come to be held dear by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people. “Why do we let that be our premise?” Joyce asked me. “For some people [it’s] because of the way he looks, his stare, maybe the aura we see around him. It’s very complicated, a lot of it is because a few hundred people believe that, have been believing it for a dozen years, so it must be true. I think that’s how all these personality cults work.” As perhaps the first person to believe it about her husband (though John’s younger sister may have beat her to it), Joyce made “the fatal error” that “started the ball rolling.”

My own suspicion is that, if anyone (besides de Ruiter) got the ball rolling, it was Bob Emmerzael. During his testimony in 1998, Emmerzael describes his experience within the Christian church, when he met a lot of “top-level Christian leaders.” He worked overseas with a Christian group and met big-name authors and missionaries, leading pastors and “TV people.” (By giving this personal history, he is laying out his credentials for the group.) Even while he was involved with all this, Emmerzael said, he had to justify the Christian leaders’ behavior by saying that “these were just human beings so that’s why there can be such a difference between what is true, or what is true of Christianity or whatever, and what their lives are.” While there were certain areas in which these men lived “cleanly,” he noticed “huge chinks.” He claimed never to have seen such chinks in de Ruiter. “I became aware of that fairly quickly, that the more I knew him, the more that is on the surface very amazing, because it still never has happened. I’ll let you know if it does.” (Laughter from the group.)

Emmerzael’s point in his testimony is that, while the Christian leaders who so disappointed him were “just human beings,” de Ruiter was something other than merely human. “By just valuing John,” he says, “valuing the truth, I gain what is true. It becomes what I live in. It had nothing to do with me having any initiative in it. It wasn’t my initiative to establish myself in truth.” In other words, it was truth that took charge of his life in the form of de Ruiter. For Bob, they were the same thing. Emmerzael talks about de Ruiter like a man in love—maybe because that was what he was at the time. He was in love with truth, and since he believed de Ruiter was the embodiment of truth, he was in love with John.

In twelve years, there’s never been any confusion. I’ve never had any confusion. In being established in what is true, it never, ever was a picture of myself wrestling with whether truth or what I knew of truth was true. What was true was absolutely true. I don’t see that as just because I had all this time with John, although that didn’t hurt. It was like what was true was absolutely true and that was settled. Whatever’s happened since, if there was anything of what would appear to be confusion on the surface, it would be like, that’s just something that appears to be confusing; it has nothing to do with what I know.

It’s hard to tell from Bob’s babbling who he is trying to convince. He is speaking of doubts and lack of trust in such a way that he appears to dismiss the subject, yet it is still what he chooses to speak about. In fact all he is really saying, throughout his entire testimony, is that he loves John. His awareness of “who John was” allowed the truth to establish itself more and more in him, which in turn allowed John to be established more and more in him: “knowing him, and in me knowing him as the embodiment of truth.” The trust Emmerzael had in John allowed him to know John’s heart fully, and to know that his heart “never, ever, ever missed. It never once deviated from what I knew of truth and what was always there before us. It’s been about twelve years now and that’s an incredible picture even on the surface, to know that somebody’s heart never once, never even once slightly deviated from what was true.”

It certainly is an incredible picture. By painting it, Emmerzael elevates not just de Ruiter but his own discernment into the realms of the absolute. De Ruiter’s wife had a very different story to tell, but of course, she wasn’t asked to testify; Emmerzael, meanwhile, was never married to de Ruiter. He remained in perpetual courtship with him, and so the illusion of his beloved’s perfection remained intact (for a while at least).

[T]o actually be inside it and be who I am, I don’t see that happening to anybody anywhere, apart from what actually is established in John, what John is is actually allowing the truth now to be brought about in this world. That wouldn’t have taken place, I don’t know, the only way that that can take place is through what is happening with John.

Though Emmerzael doesn’t come right out and say it, the implication is clear: anyone who doesn’t believe in John is doomed. To be saved—“established in truth”—they have to go through him. By taking his Christian beliefs and transposing them onto de Ruiter, Bob gave de Ruiter the power (and the glory) of embodying those beliefs, thereby bringing meaning to his own life.

Emmerzael was the first of de Ruiter’s children to testify, and he set the pattern. “His heart was perfect,” he told the congregation in 1998. “I would have never imagined a heart like that. I couldn’t even imagine. The only thing I could have ever equated it to was Jesus Christ, because he was God.” John was Christ, therefore John was God. Throughout the meeting, de Ruiter was in the audience, making occasional comments or corrections; since he didn’t correct Bob at this point, he was tacitly giving the nod to Emmerzael’s wild claim. “Yes,” his silence says. “I am that.”

If it was enough that John was here and belief in him was not required, why was it necessary to testify to all of this? What possible effect could it have upon the listeners except to increase their awe—and worshipful love—of de Ruiter? Besides that, there appears to be no purpose to Emmerzael’s testimony.[2]

 

Who Am I This Time—Myshkin or Machiavelli?

“I think John is shy, which is why in social situations he becomes a kind of a blubbering fool. He’s not that good socially. He makes up for it, but he never was. When he started conducting weddings at his own meetings, it blew me away because suddenly he looked like a fool. He didn’t know what to with his hands, he would kind of sway, he hardly knew what to say. It was like a radical, black and white difference.”
—Joyce, 2010

As I pressed on with my investigations—receiving rejections or non-responses from almost everyone I approached—I began to despair of ever reaching an understanding of de Ruiter. If his own wife of eighteen years still didn’t know who he was, what chance did I have? Was there any way to determine how much of his life was the result of calculated action and how much of it “just happened”? His loyal followers believed de Ruiter was a spotless vessel of “pure goodness.” His ex-wives (if I included the von Sasses in that category) told a different story. Who was likely to know de Ruiter better? I knew the arguments against trusting the testimonies of ex-wives, yet my many conversations with Joyce convinced me that what she felt towards her ex-husband was less ill will than a fervent desire to understand him. She told me she never knew who her husband was. He had a normal side, she said, and she loved that normal side. But there was also a lot of confusion around him, including “just whacked stuff.” Joyce was entirely convinced that John was an ordinary man, in terms of having no superhuman powers at least. “John is human, he’s a very, very mixed up human being. There’s nothing otherworldly about him. There’s just a lot of confusion going on. That is something I am convinced of. But I can’t explain that confusion. I don’t know what it’s all about.”

Apparently even Emmerzael, despite all his supposed “knowing,” experienced the same confusion. He described himself as de Ruiter’s “guinea pig,” and as clay for the master’s molding. Naturally he would have had a vested interest in believing his soul-sculptor was trustworthy. But based on his testimonies at the time, a significant part of his trust was because he wasn’t sure what was going on. “There would be pictures, like visions or things,” he said in 1998, “but we weren’t practically aware of how all of that stuff was going to take place.” Presumably such “stuff” included the building of the Oasis Empire–so was de Ruiter as “practically unaware” of this process as Bob was? Did he simply become “a living embodiment of truth” one day and follow what he “knew to be true” all the way to a multimillion-dollar corporation with hundreds of followers? Or was it all worked out behind the scenes, “embodying truth” being the best shot he had at making an honest living without going to college or kowtowing to Christian orthodoxy? Was becoming a living embodiment of truth something de Ruiter had to work at, like any other career path?

One piece of evidence I found for the latter perspective was Joyce’s account of de Ruiter’s interest in body language. During the early years of their marriage, she said, her husband was reading up on the subject.[3] Though Joyce apparently didn’t consider her ex-husband especially intelligent, she came to believe that he developed “some sort of a skill to read people, to read their insecurities, to read their needs: were they needing a father, a lover, a friend, a teacher? Reading that from things they said and from their body language, and becoming that for them.” Only later did it occur to her that he had kept a lot of those particular books around the house and that he was fascinated by the subject of body language. “Definitely it was something he was engaged in and took up as a study,” she said.

Was de Ruiter’s interest in body language a continuation of his desire to get a “read” on people and determine how best to approach them? If de Ruiter is neurodiverse, to whatever degree, it might be that he didn’t quite “get” neurotypical human beings. In the early days, maybe he had trouble understanding social behavior and lacked the basic tools to respond appropriately? Neurodivergents (I am one) can fail to pick up the simplest of cues. Vocal inflexions or physical gestures that are quite obvious to other people can totally pass an Aspergerian by, and autistic types can also be literal-minded to the point of apparent idiocy (they often don’t get innuendos).

At the same time, neurodiversity often entails being finely attuned to other people’s unconscious agendas, and that can be a primary source of confusion. If a person is saying one thing while thinking another, autistic types often don’t know which signals to read and are unable to respond. Gerdes said something similar about de Ruiter, “You ask him questions and he’s like, ‘Why are you asking this question, are you seeing through me?’ So that’s why I think maybe he’s autistic, because he doesn’t think I’m truly asking what I’m asking, he thinks there’s a double meaning to it. Conversations with him were really surreal.”

As children, we learn behavior through imitation; so if neurodivergent children are picking up signals that are hidden to the naked eye and ear, they would have difficulty knowing what to imitate. They would be like beings from another planet: the harder they tried, the weirder they would seem. Perhaps the same is true of de Ruiter? His desire to correctly imitate human behavior might also account for his predilection—bordering on obsession—with movies. De Ruiter was a movie lover even in the early days of his marriage to Joyce; later he developed the concept of “truth movies,” and told Joyce that taking his followers to the theater was part of his work. To date (as far as I know), he still has screenings at the Oasis center. If de Ruiter’s fascination for movies stems from a desire to figure out what makes people tick, perhaps such vicarious experience is exactly what he is looking for? According to Joyce, “John always identified with the hero in a movie like Braveheart or Matrix, all these kinds of movie. He became that person and took on that identity. I think it had to do with being different and being misunderstood. I think John did a lot of that, identifying with these characters and building himself some kind of persona thereby.”

In those early years, de Ruiter set about building himself a Messianic persona, and apparently he used real-life personalities to gather raw material. Joyce cited several people over the previous fifteen years who were extremely significant in de Ruiter’s development. Each one of them, she said, gave something particular to him. There was Chris and Mariel Helmers, two “very intelligent, very analytical, intellectuals” who ran a new-age bookstore which de Ruiter frequented during a long period in the early nineties, as much as five days a week. “They would discuss everything . . . very intensely. John would go to the store every day and just hang out at the store and people would meet him, sort of like a doctor. I think sometimes they set up appointments and sometimes they didn’t.”

Then there was “Boots” Beaudry, who owned a massage clinic which de Ruiter frequented over two-year period, five days a week, “partly to get massage and partly to talk about stuff. John learned a lot from Boots, and that’s clearly when all the lingo changed. He started talking about Kundalini, chakras, third eye.” Boots got her nickname from her many years spent in the army. Joyce recalls it being a high position, and also that Boots had a very rough childhood (my wife remembers Boots talking about being sexually abused as a child). According to Joyce, Boots (like John?) “had a nasty side, and a sweet side; she had a childlike side and a very domineering side.”

She poured into John all her “new age” knowledge about chakras, third eye, bilocation, astral travel, energy, brain waves, etc. She also massaged him as she was primarily a body worker. John, of course, was discipling her. She often said that all her knowledge was worthless in light of what John was giving her—teaching her how to “be.”  It was a real exchange. It was also clear that she loved her special position around John. I have often said that it was obvious that all the people with whom John spent a lot of time had something unique to offer John—whether that was money, position, knowledge or otherwise. . . . It was during that time that John spoke extensively about his astral travel and bi-location.

Joyce remembers finding John “lying on the floor in one of Boots’ therapy rooms with a brainwave machine hooked up to his head. Measuring beta waves, etc. I guess that was the learning element.” She also remembers this as the time de Ruiter started the “connecting, the intense eye-gazing, where people started to experience his face shifting,” techniques de Ruiter also learned from Boots: “He would come home and actually practice; he practiced it with me sitting across the table, asked me to stare in his eyes: ‘Joyce what do you see?’ He tried it with the kids, he tried intensely all the time. . . ‘What do you see? What did you experience?’” Joyce says she herself never had a connecting experience with her husband, much as she wanted to. De Ruiter told her it was because she “knew too much. They were sort of attributed like the miracles of Jesus, the confirmation that he had special powers. I knew too much to need that.”

Joyce described a major transition point when her husband met Boots, and then Baba Singh, a Sikh from India. A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism, defined as “any human being who faithfully believes in One Immortal Being; ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh; Guru Granth Sahib; the teachings of the ten Gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru.”(source)

“Up to that point,” Joyce said, “he was a teacher . . . people treated him as somebody with some more wisdom, some more knowledge, perhaps a purer heart than they had; but people didn’t worship him.” The people from the South side of Edmonton, whom Joyce called “the Baba crowd,” were familiar with the ways of the east and the whole guru culture. It was through their influence that everything changed: “people actually began to bow to him, treat him like a God. I would look at him and think, ‘Say something!’ And he didn’t; he conveyed that sweet, innocent, expressionless look, that blank look; but he allowed it.” Joyce believed those were critical times, perhaps even the critical year, during which her husband “allowed it to happen. I don’t know if he wanted it to happen or if it was complacency and he allowed it to happen.” Joyce saw in John what often looked like “apathy, selfishness, self-indulgence,” but at the same time she saw “a lack of self, a lack of ego.” She didn’t know what to believe, she was losing her ability to trust in her perceptions, because her husband told her how to interpret them every step of the way. “He just carried so much authority. I think a lot of John’s development was trial and error—this worked. This way, you have power over people; and so you continue to do that, not necessarily so consciously and deliberately. But unconsciously, you learn how to overpower people.”

*

“Machiavelli says that if as a ruler you accept that your every action must pass moral scrutiny, you will without fail be defeated by an opponent who submits to no such moral test. To hold on to power, you have not only to master the crafts of deception and treachery but to be prepared to use them where necessary.”
—J.M. Coetze, Diary of a Bad Year

The more I hear about de Ruiter, the more convinced I am that he has two distinct sides, sides that seem as dissimilar as Jekyll and Hyde but which apparently co-exist in his psyche and seem to work quite well together. There is the Prince Myshkin, Dostoyevsky’s holy epileptic; then there is Nikolai Machiavelli, the author of the famous political text The Prince. Prince Myshkin is an innocent who blunders his way through the social ranks of 19th century Russia, causing whirlwinds of activity wherever he goes, never quite comprehending the impact he is having. Except for the time frame, this certainly sounds a lot like de Ruiter. On the other hand, Machiavelli’s text, considered the inception of real-politick, is a treatise on the most efficient forms of tyranny and how best to attain power, social influence, and political control. This, I believe, is de Ruiter’s hidden face.

In simple terms, Myshkin represents childlike innocence and a lack of cynical agendas, while Machiavelli (in honor of whom the term “Old Nick” was invented) represents the most naked and ruthless form of self-interest. If we assume that, like all human beings, de Ruiter possesses both sides—then which is in control? Does his passivity and acceptance extend as far as passively going along with his own corruption? Does he equate truth with the line of least resistance? If his inherent innocence (his Myshkin nature) prevents him from suspecting the existence of an inner Machiavelli, would that make it easier for the Machiavellian part of him to put such “innocence” to use?

If we are to believe his own accounts, even in the early days of his teachings, de Ruiter no longer acted out of self-interest at all, only out of a love for what he “knew to be true.” But if the results of being true to what he knows are indistinguishable from the results of a ruthless bid for power and control, what does this say about de Ruiter?

****

[1] According to Reeder, Emmerzael did not voluntarily resign as an elder from Bethlehem either.

[2] For more on Emmerzael, see Appendix One, “The Things Bob Had to Swallow.”

[3] According to Joyce—and despite collecting thousands of books during the early years of their marriage—de Ruiter was not a great reader. She said that, besides some of those formative Christian works, he mostly read Western novels, such as those by Louis L’Amour.

 

6 thoughts on “Myshkin or Machiavelli? (John de Ruiter’s Messiah Complex, pt 7)

  1. One wonders what form “truth” took for John and Bob: words, laws, rules to live by, a sacred space, an intuitive knowing…? I prefer a word like “honesty” over “truth”. A word like “truth” confines the universe while a word like “honesty” opens it up. If Bob had used the word “honesty” instead of the word “truth” I might be inclined to think that Bob indeed loved John. I might even be inclined to think they were lovers. 🙂

    Unfortunately, though, the scenario kind of plays out like two buds sharing tokes in the van listening to Rush, volume set to eleven, while their infant kids crawl about the shag rumpus-room carpet and their girlfriends smoke too much, sigh and roll their eyes:

    Bud 1: Aww duuuude, Neil Peart, duuuude.

    Bud 2: Yaw duuuude, I know.

    And poor Joyce, the morning sun on the driveway, babe in arms, looking through the side window, wishing she could have hooked up with someone just a bit more mature.

    (oh and BTW – this scenario never ever happened to me.)

    Sorry to be flippant – no need to post the above – enjoying what I’m reading so far.

  2. Fascinating. Informative. John de Ruiter perhaps–considering a certain glory active in his conscious and or unconscious or combination thereof reach for a certain glory that surely is virtually inherant while aspiring for final truth–reveals a mixed uppedness (as his ex-wife Joyce suggests) generic to most of us I would suppose who in some way or another in degree are in a search of answers to what we are all about, personally, specifically, that will answer ourself relative the big picture. And consequent realizing the final lasting blueprint metaphysic apply it over the temporal, everything, and thus structure the trope of the mystery in the universes sensible to an anthropomorphic sensibility.

    Likely most of us look for, absorb information that will coalesce into a serviceable overall truth accumulated from layers of inner world and outer world enlightenment interpreted as such, into a script, scripture proclaiming manifesto, that gives us our meaning and purpose. Some few will interpret, ascribe their special seeing and feeling persona and their beyond the pale messages received from on high, and combine this reverential attitude with devoted ‘scholarship’ into such matters, and take it upon themself as avatar to spread the word.

    John de Ruiter ‘The Pure’ the light and the way, the truth, may indeed be bigger than most lives for after all he has declared himself such thus by assuming a belief and faith in himself that is extraordinary and self-persuasive. And either by displayed inference or in actual demonstration declares he is the one and only and thru him etcetera, etcetera. Being chosen and the vehicle, he has absorbed ‘enlightenment’ thru the doorways to truth from many accredited sources dedicated to the transcendant. That factor, perhaps without much need for conjunction in the temporal truth of life in its movement, seems to have emerged a character willing to speak for all who listen and follow.

    • Thanks Bill: sounds almost like you admire JdR, tho I suspect this isn’t the case…

      John: I am always happy to see your comments; even if irreverent, they are never less than insightful.

  3. I don’t admire John de Ruiter. I don’t know the man but from what I read that you wrote Jasun. I interpret from this based on the mill of my perceptions grinding, filtering out psychology answers that he is a character who I attribute to dysfunction of some sort. And that as a consequence he seeks to find a truth of himself. Many of them, truths, come into play in the course of this search. One thing leads to another. He may become truly informed and authentic from the standpoint of learning proven formula that will put things together in proper order according to . . . truth in the stars let’s say and leave it at that. How this power is used is the angle perhaps about which I am talking about. Truth is received–on whatever strength of opinion that is based– but analyzed off a persona that remains a confused self even while taking in everything that should enlighten, make it whole, cannot act off it, elightenment, totally, step by step as if described in a manual to freedom, from whatever. Since the incoming truth is analyzed in part by an untruth, a false plane that a missing element of character manifests in a person who most likely never will quite see straight, so to speak, regardless enlightenment input. He can’t get rid of the inherant wrench in the works. It is doubtful such a condition or program or destiny, if you will, will allow a teacher or spiritual leader to exemplify or be the personification of truth.

    Personal imbalance, as I perceive it, in this arena of a type spirtual leader or teacher, will put an angle to truth that serves aggrandizement to a self in doubt and not allow impersonal and pure to truth for truth’s sake to emerge without that bias, Where that leads can be many avenues, never to pure enlightenment. . Again, I am presuming a type person who doubts himself. Or why bother? And thus begins the search for wholeness. And the information to answer to that slips in according to effort and the need and forms a character that acts off it one way or the other eh. What is new I know. Except here we are talking about a type person who presumes the authority to spread enlightenment around, teaches to the answers as he understands. Impacts others. Big responsibility.

    Truth is without a body or mind. They are vehicle to perhaps reveal a truth of things. Understandings are dots of information connecting dots of information to a reach a point of personal solution to whatever. To whatever degree one is close to lasting wisdom most likely depends on the individual’s original makeup facility to envision. Knowledge taken in, meaningful applications of it to self, getting near the light, being free of selfishness eh, may release the desciple to his or her own enlightened ends and devices. Guru not needed anymore. Free as a bird to spread the word all by himself. Mentors are important providing information and spirit to advance another who is looking to find oneself, alright. The persistent confoundedness I think is not accepting what is wrong in the first place.

  4. I don’t have much to add except that I wanted you to know that I find this series on de Ruiter absolutely riveting. This is legit investigative journalism into the darker waters of the spiritual arena. In a way it reminds me of Joe Fisher’s Hungry Ghosts, except thank god you’re not entangled that deep. Such great work! I keep checking back in to see if you’ve put up the next part!

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