Besides Joyce and Jason Gerdes, I didn’t have much luck finding co-operative witnesses. A few other ex-Oasians had been willing to talk to me, but only off the record or anonymously. I had failed to discover much at all about de Ruiter’s early childhood, where the really formative experiences occurred. Joyce had hinted about something dark from that time which John had shared with her, but was unwilling to go into it. [This was shared on an Oasis bulletin board by “God” earlier this year and involved alleged early and unnatural sexual experiences in the de Ruiter household.] I was aware of the danger of using psychological theories to “explain” de Ruiter which would inevitably be tainted by my own bias. Outside of enlightenment, there is no such thing as an unbiased perspective. We see only what we are able (or willing) to see.
Undaunted by that fact, I have set about to explore psychological, at times metaphysical, models of interpretation in an attempt to get to the “root” of de Ruiter’s strange behavior. The extent to which I came up with accurate models is impossible to say, since the only person who knows for sure isn’t talking to me. John de Ruiter claims to be a living embodiment of truth. That’s a fact. So what if we take him at his word and analyze his actions and words through the lens of that extravagant claim? Isn’t this the fairest and most balanced way to approach the subject, as well as the most interesting?
At the risk of seeming frivolous, during the course of writing this account I discovered that “John de Ruiter” is an anagram for “Injured Other.” This discovery seemed to relate to two closely related facts that have come repeatedly to my attention. The first is that de Ruiter attracts a fair number of psychologically wounded people as followers (I include my wife and myself in that category). No surprise there: a guru offering a panacea of “okayness” at a reasonable price is likely to attract more than his share of injured others; but it seems especially so in de Ruiter’s case and, applying the principal of “like attracts like,” the suggestion is that de Ruiter is wounded in similar ways.
The second fact concerns the number of people I’ve encountered who seem to have been negatively impacted by de Ruiter. Again and again as I approached people who knew him, I encountered the same reluctance, inertia, or outright refusal to talk about their experiences; the impression I received was that their experiences were too painful, embarrassing, or distasteful for them to want to revisit. That doesn’t necessarily mean they were injured by de Ruiter. From my own experience, I know that association with de Ruiter can stir up painful aspects of the psyche and open up wounds from the past. There’s every chance de Ruiter would be blamed for that even if he were innocent. That’s the case for the defense and it’s a solid one. The last thing I want to do is join an angry lynch mob persecuting an innocent.
Then there’s the case for the prosecution. There are the claims of all those people (Joyce, the von Sasses, Don Rousu, Hal and Candy Dallmann, and many of his ex-followers), some of whom I’ve been able to speak to and some not, whose testimony is unequivocal. They are the injured others de Ruiter has drawn to him and, in many cases, cast off like unwanted muffler bearings. The best one could say about these is that he failed to heal them. As a researcher trying to get to the truth, I am left with the impression that, like a runaway 4 by 4, de Ruiter has left a trail of mangled bodies behind him, and that he appears to be either blissfully ignorant or coldly indifferent to this fact.
The psychologist Carl Jung had a maxim: “When an inner process cannot be integrated it is often projected outward.” Ironically, de Ruiter himself has said roughly the same thing: “If you want to know where you’re at, look around you.”
De Ruiter successfully persuaded his followers that, for him to embody truth with his every word, thought, and action, included having secret sexual liaisons with his disciples. He persuaded them that his “knowing” told him to conceal such activities, and that he had done so without ever being caught in a fragrant lie. Actually de Ruiter had been caught in fragrant lies, but he had a catch-all answer, which was that he was speaking from a different level so it only seemed like lying. He didn’t admit to adultery because in his mind it wasn’t adultery. He was not a polygamist for the same “reason.” He stated that his conscience was clean, regardless of his actions. For people who trust in de Ruiter, this is regarded as enlightened behavior; for most other people, it resembles something less benign.
To de Ruiter, at his “enlightened” level, everything is a matter of your point of view. Words have different meanings according to context. De Ruiter has perfected the art of defining context, not only for himself but for others. He determines what the context is ahead of time, and what the words he chooses to use mean. From what I can glean from his followers, no one else properly understands the context he’s created, which means no one can question him when he claims “not to have meant it that way.”
When the former US president Bill Clinton was caught in a lie, he received ridicule for debating the meaning of the word “is.” De Ruiter’s evasion is performed at a more sophisticated level. “You mean that kind of adultery? I meant the other kind. That’s the kind I’m not guilty of.” As long as de Ruiter considers himself to be an embodiment of truth, he is also the final arbiter of justice. He answers only to himself, and when he is caught in a sin, he doesn’t blame it on the devil. He blames it on Truth.
Dismissing de Ruiter as a charlatan is too easy and doesn’t fit the facts. What fits the facts is that he is genuine up to a point. For one thing, de Ruiter appears to be uncannily attuned to people’s unconscious, and he certainly hits the nail on the head much of the time (as he did with me). This can’t be entirely explained away as “suggestion.” Perhaps de Ruiter is a kind of savant, a channel for truth rather than an embodiment of it? An embodiment would have to be equally true all the time, which appears to be what de Ruiter wants his followers to believe. The problem with this–and it’s not a small problem–is that, when he gets caught in a lie, he has to turn it into a movement of truth. His self-designation suggests a desire to identify with truth and be done with any other kind of identification. In the process, he has fallen into the oldest trap there is.
The Bully of Light?
“The potentialities of the archetype, for good and evil alike, transcend our human capacities many times, and a man can appropriate its power only by identifying with the daemon, by letting himself be possessed by it, thus forfeiting his own humanity.”
—Carl Jung, Aspects of the Masculine
Perhaps the most provocative stories I heard about de Ruiter related to his violent treatment of animals while a boy or early teenager. My only source for these accounts was Joyce, who heard about them from de Ruiter. Joyce has asked me not to include these accounts so I am honoring that wish, without neglecting to mention it at all, as I believe it may be essential to understanding de Ruiter. I knew from my wife and other sources that de Ruiter had publically referred to his “coarseness” as a child and a teenager, but there was little if anything that remained on record. His public bio makes no reference to it.
In the absence of any overt mention of de Ruiter’s childhood treatment of animals, I combed the bio for hints or clues, however vague. The bio describes de Ruiter’s “inborn drive to find things out,” and how it led to a capacity for making “go-carts, homing-cages for his beloved pigeons” and fixing up “lights in unusual places around the house.” De Ruiter’s carpentry and building skills “gained him the nick-name of John ‘Golden-Hands,’ affectionately recalled by his parents to this day.” Yet apparently, those same golden hands did some rather strange things to small animals. Perhaps it was from his “in-born drive to find things out,” or another, grislier manifestation of his “fascination with dismantling intricate devices, from clocks to car engines”? If so, no wonder the official bio chose to omit it.
Since neither he nor his family members have spoken to me, I can only speculate about the kind of early childhood de Ruiter endured. What kind of early experiences turned him into a bully and a “prankster,” or caused him to mistreat animals? Joyce felt ambivalent about sharing these stories from de Ruiter’s past with me, and in an attempt to balance things out, she recounted another, less grisly story. John’s father would wake him in the middle of the night to go and find baby pigeons in an old abandoned house. “Maybe he stole them from nests,” she said, “I’m not actually sure. He had a little shed in his backyard where he raised them and he would chew food and use his tongue to push it down their mouths to feed them.” I didn’t find this story nearly as “sweet” as Joyce did, but it definitely caught my attention.
Apparently stealing baby birds from their nests in order to raise them was something de Ruiter learned from his father. And although it might seem (as Joyce suggested) to contradict accounts of cruelty to animals, the two behaviors could both relate to a single need. A boy’s desire to take out his frustration on small animals goes hand in hand with caring for birds, because the desire to hurt and the desire to heal are both responses to a wound. By caring for his birds, de Ruiter could assume the role of loving parent and give to them whatever nurture he lacked as a child.
He is still doing the same today: feeding his Oasis pigeons, from his own mouth.
“So his playing on your gullibility and trying to fool you with this, that and the other thing—maybe that stems from the same place bullying comes from, but it got turned from black to white, so he no longer bullies in the darkness, [by] trying to hurt, he bullies now in the light, to play. So it’s almost like he never changed, he just took his stream and purified it.”
—Jason Gerdes, 2010
I have already uncovered evidence for de Ruiter being a bully in his childhood, as well as for the possibility that he continued such behavior into early adulthood in more refined (or disguised) ways, via pranks and weird haggling methods. But is there any evidence he is behaving in a bully-like manner in his present, “enlightened” state? At first glance it seems not: de Ruiter appears very far from an aggressive or violent type. On the other hand, a bully is someone who picks on anyone weaker, who uses his or her superior strength to dominate, terrorize, and control others. Bullying can take many guises, some obvious, some not. Using the ability to be emotionally distant and detached, for example—as de Ruiter appears to have done with Joyce and others—is a way to maintain a superior position. In extreme cases, it could come under a wider definition of bullying.
One ex-follower described to me in detail how he felt psychologically bullied by de Ruiter; his testimony had to be stricken from the record, however, in a rare case of a witness discrediting himself. I corresponded with another man who spent eight years in Edmonton as a follower and had a similar experience to recount. The image he used to represent his time with de Ruiter was of being “naked and tied up in a dungeon . . . slowly dying. But heaven forbid I was allowed to complain or even consider that something was wrong!” He recounted how de Ruiter treated “sincere questions from dear devoted hearts” about the possibility of leaving Edmonton and moving on by telling them that “to do such a thing would be a most heinous crime,” comparable to “breaking the bones of their souls.” This person’s experience was the opposite: leaving, he said, was like “releasing the bones of my soul from those chains and that dungeon.” De Ruiter had implied that to walk away from him and his teachings was something “that would haunt a person to their grave. [A]nyone who has witnessed his ‘ways’ with people would agree that he wielded great power over those under his spell. In my experience this can become literally terrifying when one starts to ask the question of oneself ‘should I stay or should I leave?’” Another long-term community member confirmed his account, recalling how de Ruiter told someone that to leave the Truth once you had found it, or to turn away from it, “would be like breaking every bone in your body.”
Does this sound like a loving enclave for truth-seekers? Is this the kind of protection racket which de Ruiter learned from the Native American Len? If de Ruiter’s first experience of absolute surrender to a male authority figure (after his father, at least) was of being dominated and controlled by a bully—and if it had worked for him—has he unconsciously imitated that model ever since?
The word “bully” has specific associations that certainly make de Ruiter seem like an unlikely candidate. But I hadn’t thought of my brother that way either, until my wife showed me a psychological description of the bully-type that fit him to a “T.” The article describes bullying as “the single most important social issue of today,” one that tends to be “an accumulation of many small incidents over a long period of time.” Each incident might seem trivial on its own, when taken out of context, but together the “constant nit-picking, fault-finding and criticism” has an accumulative effect. Often there is “a grain of truth (but only a grain) in the criticism to fool you into believing the criticism has validity, which it does not; often, the criticism is based on distortion, misrepresentation or fabrication.” Simultaneous with the criticism, the article describes “a constant refusal to acknowledge you and your contributions and achievements or to recognize your existence and value.” (Compare this to de Ruiter’s repeated admonishment to his followers that they are “wonderfully worth nothing.”) Also, “constant attempts to undermine you and your position, status, worth, value and potential; being isolated and separated from colleagues” (something de Ruiter allegedly did to Benita and Katrina), being excluded from what was going on (as he did with Joyce), being “marginalized, overruled, ignored, sidelined, frozen out, belittled, demeaned and patronized, especially in front of others.”
Another bullying tactic is “having your responsibility increased but your authority taken away; having unrealistic goals set, which change as you approach them; finding that everything you say and do is twisted, distorted and misrepresented.” The piece lists the “tells” that identify a bully, a large number of which match de Ruiter’s public and private persona fairly well (based on the testimonies I have heard). The article cites four types of bully, including “The Socialized Psychopath or Sociopath” and “The Guru.”
Rewriting Reality: The Use of Language for Spiritual Indoctrination
“Concerning what you know, within, is occurring here: instead of thinking what you’re thinking, be what you know I’m doing. [‘Long connection.’] That will manifest in your thinking and it doesn’t come from your thinking.”
—John de Ruiter, 2010
While I was researching de Ruiter online, I came upon an article called “Why We Believe,” by Bob McCue. The piece begins by quoting Jeremy Loome:
“The meeting has gone on for just a few minutes when a perceptible shift occurs: the audience is no longer fidgeting. In five minutes on stage, John de Ruiter has said nothing. Initially, some in the audience seemed uncomfortable or merely bored. But now, they seem enraptured.” This only works where the majority of the participates [sic] are believers and use their influence on the minority to pull them in. . . . We all tend to mirror the behaviour around us. A newcomer to the Mormon temple is hence impressed by the unusual reverence all there display and acts the same way. This is an otherworldly experience, and purposefully so. Silence, stillness and reverence are unusual states for most human beings. And for most of us, this sense of calm, control and power is attractive. Persisted in for long enough, this will break down the sense of self—our consciousness—in the attractive way described above. We like being in the presence of power that is aligned with our interests. This makes us feel powerful by extension, and hence safe. Power in the human context is largely conferred by agreement. In de Ruiter’s case, the group in audience with him agrees that he is worthy of their silence and reverence. For him to maintain a long silence is to emphasize his power. [Emphasis added.]
The most striking thing about de Ruiter isn’t his truthfulness (on the contrary), or even the scope of his knowledge or depth of his wisdom. It is his charismatic stillness, his power. I am fairly sure even his most devoted followers wouldn’t deny that de Ruiter inspires awe in them. My wife has said that being in de Ruiter’s presence was so intense that she couldn’t think straight. I’d had the same or similar experiences. I hadn’t ever questioned it; somehow I’d seen his raw power as proof of his goodness, or as a virtue unto itself. The question that occurs to me now is not how he inspires such awe, but why? Is it that he simply can’t help it? We all want to be powerful, and when we see extreme power in another, we respond with reverence, adoration, even love. But do such feelings really serve those around de Ruiter, or do they only serve de Ruiter?
From all I’ve seen, many of his followers perceive no intrinsic difference between the man and his message, because both equal “Truth” with a capital “T.” The man is the message, and as a result of that belief, many of his followers don’t really care what de Ruiter does in his private life. His presence and his power are so dazzling that they are blinded by them. What does de Ruiter do to correct this situation? From what I have seen, not much. By keeping his private life and the darker aspects of his personality hidden, he has created a rich and fertile ground for multiple delusions and fantasies to grow in.
There is a point during de Ruiter’s interview for the New Dimensions Café podcast (December 15th 2010) when he is talking about the power of silence, and he says: “when you know something, a voice isn’t required. A voice is required when persuasion starts to take place.” It’s a curious statement to make for a public speaker. Is de Ruiter saying no one ever opens their mouth except to persuade, or is he tacitly admitting that he only ever uses his voice that way? The word persuade is defined as “to induce, urge, or prevail upon successfully,” or “to cause to believe.” It is described as “a form of social influence. . . the process of guiding oneself or another toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic (though not always logical) means.”
Whatever else he is, John de Ruiter is certainly persuasive. He also seems intent on extending his “social influence” by guiding others—not always by logical means—to “adopt ideas, attitudes, and actions” which he believes (or claims to believe) are true. The principle action which he guides people towards is moving to Edmonton and joining his community. The ideas and attitudes which he encourages in others are ones he has defined, through a unique and idiosyncratic use of language (though whether he lives by them remains unknown). In the business of persuasion, de Ruiter invents new words and applies old words in new ways: words such as “knowing,” “okayness,” “innermost,” “person,” “dearness,” “pull of being,” “clean,” “straight,” “coarse,” “fine,” “entering,” “the more of you,” “what you first are,” together make up an idiosyncratic syntax, a dialect of the enlightened. It is “truth talk,” and for his followers, adopting those terms helps them gain intellectual access to an otherwise mysterious space, “John-space.” The effect of truth-talking is to feel closer to realizing and embodying the power and the knowledge which de Ruiter appears to possess—and which he offers, at a reasonable price, through a combination of profound psychic “connecting” and verbal persuasion.
People around de Ruiter enter into deep trance-like states in which they receive carefully worded communications from de Ruiter. Those communications take the form of instructions or advice; but within the context of hypnotic trance, might they also be viewed as commands?
De Ruiter presents seemingly novel concepts encoded either in entirely new verbal constructs (“pull of being”) or unfamiliar uses of known terms. Because they are unfamiliar, these phrases are received by a person’s consciousness in a different way than ordinary language. They don’t carry the usual associations from life, but brand-new associations that relate exclusively to de Ruiter and the group consciousness. De Ruiter’s anomalous phrases are like zip files that are designed to be “unpacked” once they enter a person’s unconscious. They are Trojan horses that bring with them an entire context, the context being, as far as I can tell based on my own experience and observations, “John-de-Ruiter-is-the-living-embodiment-of-truth.”
As in the hypnotic method, de Ruiter’s carefully-constructed phrases enter into the awareness and take hold there, nexuses around which an entire framework of belief and perception can slowly begin to form. The more those phrases are heard—and above all, the more they are used, in an attempt to adopt the system of “direct knowledge” which is believed to be their source—the more the percipient’s consciousness and way of being adapts and mutates to accommodate and “match” the new language constructs. It is recalibration. As William Burroughs said, language is a virus. Insofar as they enter a system and are accepted by that system, words act as reprogramming agents. If they are allowed to complete their work, they eventually turn the entire system into an extension and imitation of themselves. In a word: a host. This echoes one of Oasians’ favorite Johnisms: “You are not worth fixing. But you are worth being replaced.”
One example I have seen for myself is how de Ruiter’s use of language obliges the listener to practice a kind of “doublethink,” such as in the phrase “be a nobody.” One can’t actually “be” a nobody—it is a cognitive impossibility, one that it’s necessary to perform certain mental contortions in order to allow to take seed in the mind. Without those contortions, rational thought will reject it as non-sense. A great deal of what de Ruiter says sounds like nonsense but his followers find ways to make it meaningful to them. I did the same. I even reframed many of his teachings to make them palatable to others, people who weren’t as open to de Ruiter as I was. For me, that practice of “doublethink” formed the foundation for a new “way of being,” a way that was modeled after de Ruiter himself, and based on his system of knowledge (or my interpretation of it). Judging by my experiences and observations, it entails rewiring one’s consciousness in order to make sense of—never mind practicing—the things de Ruiter says—his “hypnotic commands.” His followers—speaking from experience again, my wife’s included—willingly submit to that recalibration, based less on a full understanding of the commands received than a complete, suprarational trust in de Ruiter himself. Although that trust is often experienced as a deep “knowing,” it may be more accurate to call it a suspension of rational thought, and possibly a kind of dissociation.
Is de Ruiter’s secret manual called “Rewriting Reality”? He presents his own reality paradigm as Ultimate Reality, as a living truth which he then invites all comers to “enter.” But what becomes of those who accept the invitation? (At least one of them wound up dying alone in a forest.) If de Ruiter, as his followers believe, is one with truth, then the program he is installing in their minds and bodies is a program of truth, and there is no cause for alarm. But if de Ruiter isn’t one with truth . . .
When Confucius was asked how he would rule the world, he said, “First change the language.” L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics worked hard at redefining the English language to make sure its followers understood less about reality than when they came in, while believing they had a handle on a new and greater truth. If Scientology is anything to go by, embedding people with a new language matrix is the key to cult management. Most of us are used to allowing our thoughts to tell us who we are. If you want to redefine a person’s reality, start with their use of language and thereby hack into their thought processes. Every time a John-ite uses a John-ism, they are affirming their allegiance and adherence to the “royal” decree. They are paying psychic tithes to the King.
 Joyce also told me that John was not only a bully but was bullied, at least on one occasion: “[There is] a specific story he told me, in the McDonald’s restaurant in Abbotsfield, which stood out in my mind, it must be because of the way he told me. A classmate had his cowboy boot on John’s head, nailing it into the ground, belittling him, insulting him. This was apparently so powerful to John that he shared it with me. He was probably trying to tell me how he was bullied, and how small and humiliated he felt.”
 While I was preparing the book for publication in 2011, this person went to great lengths to persuade me that he had deliberately exaggerated his accounts in order to “help” me with my own process (without ever explaining how distorting the facts was supposed to help). He had recently spent time in Edmonton, attending the meetings, and discipled himself to de Ruiter once again. As a result, he evidently felt some guilt and reframed his version of events accordingly. Very little of what he wrote made sense to me, but the gist of it was that he believed he had been “projecting” his fears onto de Ruiter when he first corresponded with me, and that as a result, anything he’d said was inaccurate. He has since left de Ruiter and mostly returned to his previous position. This kind of vacillation is common among people who try to leave de Ruiter, or to leave cults in general.