Communities of the Abandoned: How to Tell Pyrite from Gold on the Spiritual Market?

I recently had an exchange of emails with Dave Oshana and a fellow participant in the Enlightenment Transmission retreats about “spiritual” “teacher” Bentinho Massaro. I had not heard of Massaro until she sent me this link, written by a former member of his audience cult. Ironically, it is written by a trans-person (I say ironic because I have made my feelings fairly clear about the trans-agenda), and it has of course been rebuked by Bentinho’s many followers as a hatchet-job from an axe-grinder. I only read part of the piece and watched a couple of the videos linked, but my impression was almost immediately that Massaro does an admirable job of invalidating himself without much assist from disgruntled ex-followers.

There’s no way I can claim to be looking at Massaro with an impartial eye, however, any more than someone who has a history of heroin addiction can view “recreational” drug use impartially. Experience sensitizes us and gives us discernment, but it also makes us touchy and reactive. Often it is hard, sometimes impossible, to tell the difference.

As I think most of my readers and listeners know, and not counting my association with Dave Oshana, I have by now pretty much thrown out the baby of “spirituality” with the bathwater of a millennia-long disinformation campaign. My response to Massaro, accordingly, was one of irritation, weariness, and, at a visceral level, sheer disgust. Superficially at least, he reminds me of a male Teal Swan, another young, attractive, and “edgy” (conspiracy-minded and high-woo content) self-appointed spiritual teacher. Can we call them post-Icke baby-gurus? Is there a factory now for these Manchurian initiates?


Teal Swan. Seriously.

I admit that I haven’t looked into Massaro in any depth. I only have so much attention to devote to these seemingly endless false ceremony masters (so many fakes, so little time). But do we really need facts to dismiss someone who claims to be a dimension-hopping Shiva-avatar posing as a cigar-chomping boy band wanna-be? Has the spiritual scene really sunk this low? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, it has; but by all means check out the link for yourself (as well as Massaro’s official response) and tell me I am being unfair to young Benhinto (it might just be sour grapes, since I failed in my own bid to become a movie star tough love sci-fi avatar).

At the heart of my distaste for these postmodernist, self-appointed fashion gurus is, no doubt, not a feeling of envy but one of “ancient” (primal) betrayal. Whatever infant wounding I reenacted with John de Ruiter and Whitley Strieber, I continue to reenact in miniature fashion every time I stumble upon the latest piece of socio-spiritual skulduggery. There are unresolved issues in my psyche that cause me to see red at the first whiff of spiritual power-abuses. But right next to this visceral reaction is, I think, a genuine soul-response: the imperative to say No to reality distortion in order to say Yes to reality. There’s really no reason to reject pyrite unless you are looking for gold. And I have been looking for gold long enough to feel fairly confident in my abilities to identify the stuff of fools.

Some might argue that you can’t judge a book by its cover or an awakened being by his “superficial” behaviors. Isn’t it better to give the benefit of the doubt than jump to conclusions? I admit to having a knee-jerk reaction to these people, which is the opposite of measured and clear perception. Fact is, as a seeker, over-exposure to spiritual hypocrisies has instilled in me the desire to create an impenetrable filter to prevent any more radiation from getting through. And it is not just spiritual reality distortion that infuriates me: I felt outraged and disgusted the other day when I saw some “critic” (writing for Roger Ebert’s site) gave Alien Covenant 4 stars! (Yes, this really happened.) This outrage hardly comes under the rubric of serving the public good. Sometimes it is better just to shrug and click away.

But there’s a funny thing about human behavior. We are hardwired to look for the warning signs of a predator, and even just one serious indication is often enough to convince us to stay away. It takes a fair bit more for us to trust a person is noble, wise, and good. A while back, I noted about Jimmy Savile, how one serious infraction (if proven) undermines a person’s trustworthiness in our eyes, regardless of how much apparent good they might have done. We saw the same thing with Kevin Spacey: one perceived bad action canceled out a hundred perceived good performances (he even got removed from Ridley Scott’s new movie at the 11th hour, though doubtless for economic and not moral reasons). This seemingly sensible approach seems to get reversed with cult followers, however, in which one experience of perceived goodness is enough to obscure a legion of sins.

The actual truth, perhaps, is that there is no consistent individual self or “doer,”  only a series of actions, and that no “one” of us can ever be consistently one thing or another, only the sum total of all our actions (and then some). But the way we are conditioned to perceive and receive others is on this basis (the belief that people are individuals), and to be honest, I don’t even know how to perceive otherwise. Maybe that’s the real problem here, and what this post should be addressing. On the other hand, maybe it is addressing it, since a guru can only become such by allowing people to perceive him or her as not only having but being a personal connection to the divine. Such a context makes it difficult to perceive such individuals as anything besides all-good, or all-bad.


jasun red beret

The author. Seriously.

My cousin and I fell out in 2016 over her support of Hillary (or at least, we haven’t been in touch since our disagreement). These are the times we live in. We are being divided to conquer. When I was deliberating over this current subject matter, I considered whether being unwilling to accommodate someone in a possible delusion was a good enough reason to allow a rift to form. I thought, if Dave Oshana couldn’t accommodate what he sees as people’s delusions, he wouldn’t interact with anyone! But Dave is always coaching people to see their delusions, that’s kind of his job, and if someone isn’t willing to be coached, he can’t really help them. The difference is, people are paying Dave to help them so he already has a green light. With my cousin, it was more a question of, how can I really trust this person as an ally if her judgment is so off? It’s not a reason for falling out; but it does create a gulf. The trick, for me, is to continue to sort the seeds and expose the flaws in these public figures, and in people’s beliefs (starting with my own), without succumbing to the all-too-human tendency to demonize, either the false gurus or the people who support and defend them. Because I know this is the way it works with myself: identify the distortions, without self-recrimination, and let go. There is no crime in being wrong (and no honor in being right).

Liminalism is all about remaining in uncertainty. But finding the ground requires crossing the threshold of “relativism” into assurance. At what point does “Does anyone really know?” become tepid sophistry or postmodern political correctness, fit only for spewing out? Do we “know” that a serial killer cannot be “awakened,” or vice versa? Strictly (intellectually) speaking, we don’t; but then, at the mind level, we don’t know anything, except this (that we don’t know anything), at which point, words not only lose their dogmatism, they lose all meaning.

Regarding claims of being awakened avatars from other dimensions, since we cannot ever know what state of awareness anyone else is in, all we really have to go on are their behaviors. This includes what they say, but I think words are generally the least relevant, the least reliable, evidence, at least when taken at face value outside the larger context of overall behaviors. For me, to see a Massaro or Swan is to dismiss them. But obviously I wouldn’t rest a case against their being awakened on a gut response. At the same time, I see no reason not to go with it. For me, there’s really no case to rest, because like I say, I don’t have the time. Barring the (largely mythical) smoking gun, as I discovered while investigating John de Ruiter, evidence is always accumulative so it requires a concerted effort to “prove” a guru is dirty. Most, possibly all, of the data points shouldn’t be turned into deal-breakers, but they are all pieces in the puzzle. Just as de Ruiter flying first class while charging his volunteers to see him and preaching surrender to endless suffering was the tip of that particular toxic iceberg, so I would wager that Massaro’s glaringly obvious “off” behaviors are reliable indicators of a fundamental lack of spiritual integrity (I mean literally, the guy is damaged goods).

benhinto & aliens

It would be a whole lot easier if I was able to take a position against all spiritual teachers, and just argue for why there are no exceptions and can never be, because the whole game is rigged. Unfortunately, I can’t argue this, because I don’t actually believe it to be true. I don’t believe it’s true because I think that, somehow, I got so improbably lucky as to meet one such exception. And if the only point in identifying pyrite is to find gold, then it behooves me to be totally transparent about the interior gold I believe I found, via Dave Oshana and the enlightenment transmission (I left off the caps this time).

One of the main things I enjoy about Dave, ironically, is how he confounded my expectations about how a spiritual teacher, or “awakened being,” should act. I say ironic, because one of the most frequent defenses of power-abusing spiritual teachers is that they only appear to be abusing power when what they are really doing (like Osho with his Rolls Royces) is having a laugh and confounding our expectations, as a filter for the “undiscerning” (i.e., you have to see beyond the surface behaviors to get the full benefits). But there is a world of difference between being uniquely oneself, as I think Dave is, and justifying neurotic behaviors with the claim of defying cultural conventions, as de Ruiter with his Calling or Massaro with his callow poses, cigars, and “tough love” appear to be doing. At best, we can say they are being willfully obnoxious as a form of “crazy wisdom.”  But does crazy wisdom really work? Does tough love? I don’t believe in either one anymore, though I used to preach and practice both. They might seem to work, because they might have the effect of scaring the constructed identity, causing it to inflate, deflate, dissociate or fragment, as a self-protective strategy, thereby inducing “alternate states of awareness.” But if so, I think these are inevitably states that move away from wholeness, not towards it.

There are of course people who claim to have had “transformations” from exposure to de Ruiter, Massaro, Teal Swan, or any of the countless claimants to awakened states currently prowling the marketplace (and really proliferating now via YouTube). I find this a source of endless curiosity, frustration, and bewilderment. My best guess ~ and Prisoner of Infinity recounts my education for making such a guess ~ is that these people (both the gurus and their followers) have been pushed by their own desperate need into dissociative fantasy states of “self-empowerment,” and developed turbo-powered uber-egos in lieu of making real, lasting contact with their souls. Of course, no one can tell them as much, and no one can really know for sure. But I have had enough experience of this to know that it can and does happen, and that it can easily lead to the premature assumption of a mantle of “awakened teacher”: provided at least that one is able to persuade or inspire others to go along with it. I was lucky enough to not be so lucky.



Beyond examining gurus’ words and behaviors, what we have to go on is the effects of their “transmission.” Short of submitting to the teacher’s influence oneself ~ as I did with de Ruiter and, I hope in a very different way, as I have with Dave ~ the best way to gauge this is by observing the teacher’s followers, especially in how they speak about and relate to their teacher. (The article linked to above includes a large number of comments from Massaro’s followers.) This can also be extended to the spiritual scene in general, and the prevalence of what I might charitably call “unexamined assumptions” (the building blocks of all crucial fictions). One of these might be the belief in an awakened state, at least insofar as it is unexamined, untested, and undefined ~ or dependent on other people’s untested definitions. And if you think about it ~ since people seeking awakening are by definition unawakened ~ this is always the case. It is for this reason that I am toying with the idea of becoming an unawakened teacher.

Another popular belief, directly related, is the belief that the Earth and/or humanity is currently in a process of awakening. Personally, I find this belief easily as baffling as all these people currently insisting the Earth is flat. I can only surmise that it is based on the myopic viewpoint of people who frequent “spiritual” circles and surround themselves by people who reinforce the idea of a collective awakening, starting, of course, with themselves. Admittedly, I may be guilty of the reverse: I surround myself by my own “audience cult” made up of people who believe humanity is headed deeper into darkness, distortion, and despair. (Though I hope you don’t feel this way about yourselves. I know I don’t.) In today’s conversation with Jim Kunstler, he points out how the set he grew up in were big on psychoanalysis but seemed not to be any the better for it when it came to rudimentary self-examination or self-awareness. I would suggest the same, or similar, is the case with spiritual people. A set of beliefs and practices does not a way of being make.

Are people awakening to reality in 2017? Or is the trauma-matrix of the constructed identity self-care system becoming more and more creative, imaginative, and cunning in its subterfuges, red herrings, and dissociative strategies? There are countless public spokespeople out there, spiritual or not, from Alex Jones to Eckhardt Tolle, teachers whom people I know and even respect see as positive influences. I regard most of them as at best ineffective and self-serving, at worst destructive and harmful. This may be partly projection. They say if everyone you meet is an asshole, the asshole is you. I am a public figure also, and some people might even say I am a kind of teacher (I hope not, but I am not immune to the flutter of vanity such an idea causes in me). And my distaste for lies, obfuscations, and misrepresentations can only be sourced in something internal, because I almost literally want to vomit when I encounter these snake oil salesmen, even while I have been drawn to a few of them myself (Strieber, Icke, de Ruiter). But there is also, I think, a core recognition of distortion and deception (indistinguishable from the disgust) by someone (me) who has been there, and done that, himself. If you have had shingles, you know the symptoms when you see them. By the same token, I think I know an inflated ego when I see it. I don’t see unique awakened snowflakes in these characters: I see the same flaming boil of trauma-generated super-ego identity, oozing pus and peddling it as nectar.

spiritual marketplace

The spiritual marketplace in 2017

Can these people be “teachers,” in the sense of providing valuable data/experience for others? Of course, that’s why I like to study them. Might they genuinely have a calling to help the human race? They sure might, but intentions don’t count for much when the calling in question is fueled by unconscious trauma and will to power. (Hitler meets all these requirements, if you replace Aryan for human.) Sympathy for the devil isn’t the same as advocating him, either, and these characters’ fervent belief in their own calling doesn’t make them any less useful to the covert programs of Hell-construction that make up our society. On the contrary, it may be what makes them so effective as cheese in the transhumanist mouse trap. This way for self-realization and gnosis, total disembodiment and oneness with Spirit.

While I was engaged in the email discussion that led to this Christmas post, my wife, entirely unaware of it, sent me a quote from Morris Berman’s blog:

“Communities of the abandoned,” Ernest Becker called them, and said that when a person gets to the point of seeing the emptiness of the dominant culture, he or she is then confronted with the question of the meaning of life.

My wife then added this comment:

So what post-modernism and identity politics do is integrate “abandoned” communities by inculcating a desire and a process by which outsider groups can be subsumed into the dominant culture, thereby avoiding any such self-reflective moment? Explains things somewhat.

Though she wasn’t referring to spiritual seekers and gurus, I think this amply diagnoses the situation. It even matches closely my own back cover copy for Dark Oasis, while adding an even darker nuance to it. The purpose of cults, whether the more literal (“spiritual”) sort such as Massaro’s or de Ruiter’s or Swan’s, or the more benign and amorphous audience cults (like, urm, this blog?), is to provide a refuge for people who are reacting to a growing awareness about the deleterious nature of society. The result (generally, not always, and whether intentionally or not) is to lure them away from true individuation (or awakening) and back into the mainstream, by giving them a renewed sense of belonging and a restored faith in the power of social consensus. It is a form of collective negative identity: people united in an unconscious conspiracy to reframe their shared alienation as freedom.

It saddens and frustrates me that people have so low a bar for “awakening,” and that the same old story plays itself out, over and over again. When tawdry, socially engineered imitations like Massaro or Swan get taken for the real deal, humanity takes another step closer to oblivion, singing “Amazing Grace” with a smug smile of knowing on its face.  Even the elect will be fooled? You better believe it.

‘Tis the season for crying humbug. Happy solstice to my unknown audience. May you kindle your own interior light. The darkness is now upon us.

bud in winter

Also of possible interest: 2013 piece “The Spiritual Market Place.”

The Disillusionist: Dave Oshana & New Spirituality, Stranger Than Science-Fiction” (PDF).

40 thoughts on “Communities of the Abandoned: How to Tell Pyrite from Gold on the Spiritual Market?

  1. Great post Jasun.
    Re: “I am toying with the idea of becoming an unawakened teacher.”
    I love that idea and can see an image of you sitting in the lotus position meditating while wearing a sleeping mask over your eyes.
    The “spiritual” world need people like yourself to be a Yin to their sometimes ridiculous Yang.
    Many happy humbugs to you over this holiday period.

  2. thanks; FYI I rewrote a couple of key passages as they were rushed and unclear. The section that begins “But there’s a funny thing about human behavior,” and the 3rd to last paragraph.

  3. Yes!
    And the overarching requirement is membership in the “tyranny of amiability” manifested as purposeful indifference, cognitive dissonance and primitive child-ego-state denial.
    However, there’s no sense trying to make sense of the nonsense, only accepting the often delusional nonsense for what it is, madness, individual or collective.

  4. Well-organized, highly insightful article. As you know, many, many people (especially in North America) are feeling powerless and lost. So much fixation on the visual, and impatience with or disregard for verifiable facts, has created the proverbial cultural vacuum into which fantasy, projection, and transference are rushing like water down a drain. Sometimes, I think Jung was correct: these “Gurus”—beyond any obvious or hidden pathologies—behave as if possessed by an archetype. This probably means the same thing, Jasun, as your stating “…pushed by their own desperate need into dissociative fantasy states of ‘self-empowerment,’ and developed turbo-powered uber-egos in lieu of making real, lasting contact with their souls.”

  5. I’ve never trusted anyone who makes a living as a spiritual teacher. Not that there’s anything wrong with making a living, just that it seems to me that if you think you’ve arrived, you actually have a long long way to go. And if there ever was anyone awakened to the point that they could teach others, why wouldn’t they stay in the trenches of life, be postal workers or loan officers or stay-at-home moms and dads? Spirituality isn’t static. You have to practice it every day or it atrophies. None of these pot-bangers with books to sell are really getting their hands dirty. Which makes them more or less unqualified for their chosen jobs. Seems to me, anyway.

  6. I understand your reasoning here and sympathize. But it is too absolutist for me, and it rests on the assumption that “awakening” doesn’t bring with it any sense of responsibility to help others, or that said responsibility might dictate the terms of its fulfillment. Just because this sort of reasoning is used as a “get-out” of jail free card by dodgy gurus doesn’t mean there’s never any truth in it. I would never have met Dave Oshana if he had followed your assumption about how awakened people “ought” to act. More importantly, perhaps, any awakened person would be severely hampered in helping others if they couldn’t offer services and receive consent from others to be guided, because to do so without said “green light” would be presumptuous and invasive. IMO, it is these sorts of blanket rejections of spiritual teaching in any form that the socio-spiritual engineering programs are partially designed to illicit, thereby making the bathwater so toxic that the baby is seen as in need of mercy killing.

    • The baby IS in need of killing. It cost Humanity religious cults and loss of intelligent awareness, because humans have been collectively trained to defer wisdom to others.

      Teaching Wisdom as a way of livelihood turns it into an occupation, a business, which means outright lies at worst and omissions of truth at best.

      Spirit is transmitted as a way of being. Being-ness in everyday life. Wisdom is free.

      • The trouble with absolute statements is that they end up totalitarian. By this reasoning, all psychotherapy that incurs a cost to client also does more harm than good, and then you end up extending it to medical care, alternate healing, and any form of mastery or skill-set that is geared towards helping others. Since it is such a wide spectrum either you have to decide that no one should charge for anything that involves guidance or healing, or, as it more sensible, admit that it can only ever be determined on a case by case basis.

        Also, a cult leader could, in theory, be rich enough (or privately backed enough) not to charge for his or her services. Would that then make them benign?

        The element of money as a component in the transference and hence healing process is widely recognized both by those who practice and those who receive psychotherapy.

  7. Jasun, glad to see that we are on the same Autard wavelength, picking up the same occultish flotsam and jetsam that inundates our omnipresent cyberspace matrix. I, too, came across Be Scofield’s article on BM and kept wanting to notify you about it especially when I found out that Be was TG. I could blame myself for neglect, but I think it was more a case of my “Procrastinating Angel” at work, keeping me from the keyboard for just about everyone. However, now I see the time is ripe to let ‘er rip again.

    I know you will appreciate this video. It’s from Gaby Petris who is a fierce critic of both Bentinho and Teal Swan. In fact, many of the videos Be Scofield uses in her article are from Gaby.

    But this one I found where Gaby sees Bentinho as channeling John deRuiter.

    • H.Tom, You may find BM’s facebook response to the current “cult” article interesting to read as it balances this one sided “expose” of BM…..both Gabi P and B Scofield wrote extremely distorted articles/ post out of context vids. Unfortunately I am “the Participant” who sent the cult article to Jasun in the first place because at the time I thought it was a”follow on” to his “cult interest” ….but i regret it because i see how i got caught up in the current mental madness which appears to be gripping the entire population at the moment. This negative impulse of the ego/mind to separate, distort, project , judge without personal experience of meeting the judged, post unchecked articles as I did,= ie “gossip”.Projection and emotional reaction seems to have intensified dramatically over the past few months…it is happening on every level with reactive comments on social media from “friends” or a stifling of expression/free speech because of “political correctness “etc etc. I find i can speak less and less openly because people seem to emotionally react. This Christmas i witnessed family members bickering over differences of opinion re Brexit, I witnessed middle aged friends threatening to “not be friends” because one believed the other was saying something they believed they were meaning but it was pure projection, simply a false unchecked belief. And people react because they don’t have the time to read the words or emails in depth, it is just a speedy shallow, phone read-through….. And so it goes on………………………..But i firmly believe and know that when it comes to spiritual teachers we can not really tell whether a teacher is “good ” or “Bad” for another person because it depends entirely on who we are drawn to and resonate with for the period we need to learn/understand/know /whatever it is that is revealed…like any other relationship……For example ,my experience of Dave Oshana as a spiritual teacher is is vastly , vastly different from Jasun’s. We are all so protective of our beliefs and what we think we know about another but it is not necessarily The Truth we can only be responsible for our own Truth when it comes to making choices, surely? (As for BM I am neutral towards him but i feel i have a responsibility to present a “fair case” since this is a very one sided jury )

      Here is the a facebook post from dec 17th………………BM)…Update — When Will The World Know Peace?

      • Dear Ms Participant,

        I hope you don’t mind me searching for another way to address you since “participant” sounds so abstract and clinical. I first translated the word into German where it becomes “der Teilnehmer” but since you are a woman, the German would be “die Teilnehmerin” thus inspiring me to call you “Frau Teilnehmerin” which sounds well, way too Germanic! So I back-translated the word into English where it becomes Part + Taker and thus I now address you as:

        Dear Partaker,

        I have equal regrets about informing Jasun, only in my case, I regretted procrastinating for so long that I had dismally neglected to tell Jasun about Be’s article when I first read it 4 weeks ago. Instead, you became the bearer of “Breaking Bentinho News” to Jasun, and perhaps if I had not listened to my “Procrastinating Angel,” then you might not have been the karmic agent of Jasun’s introduction to BM.

        So you see, your regrets are balanced out by my regrets , and that’s the motif of my comment to you, balance, equanimity and thus serenity.

        You seem very upset that Be’s article is so one-sided and so you felt the pressing need to balance out in your own way Be’s distortions by presenting well, Bentinho’s equal but opposite distortions. Yet I see the balance taking place without the comments or intervention of any of us on either side.

        I might go so far as to say that Bentinho’s “One-sidedness” called forth on a deeper sub-liminal level the necessary “One-sidedness” of Be’s article in order to bring both into karmic-cosmic balance.

        Maybe a more dynamic way to express it, moving from a polarity to a triplicity, is to invoke the Karpman Drama Triangle

        where Be Scofield plays the Active Aggressive-Persecutor or Bully which impinges on Bentinho’s Rescuer position and knocks him off his “high horse” (Knight’s White Steed)into the Passive-Aggressive Victim role, where he regresses and grovels in pathetic but seething with anger self-pity.

        That’s what I see in the photo he took of himself for the message you cite. His “inverted smile” —not really a frown — mimics the inverted smile of the stuffed animal, (a piggy I believe, not a teddy bear.)

        As a retired high school math and physics teacher, I have seen that scowl before, mostly in the faces of 10th grade boys, yes, sophomores, who are becoming more and more sullen about their predicament at this stage of puberty. Real life is starting to intrude upon these “wise morons” and the relatively blissful innocent stage of 9th grade is fading away. I understand Bentinho is chronologically 30 years old, but in that photo he is exactly half his age, 15.

        Furthermore, his inclusion of the stuffed animal is a signal that he is acknowledging something of his own toddler trauma, which he has been re-creating as the great guru Bentinho, avenging his parents for either causing the original trauma or else failing to prevent it happening to him by some other non-parental agent.

        For her part, Be Scofield must also be re-adjusting to this new balancing out process. Perhaps she will move into the Rescuer vertex of the Karpman Triangle to supplant Bentinho, who will only play Victim for so long until he lashes out in rage as a New Persecutor or Bully himself.

        Best regards,

        Tom Mellett
        Los Angeles, CA

        PS. An interesting side note here. I have been reading Be Scofield’s Faceborg page and many of her fans are urging her to take up the next target of her cult-busting Shakti energy, namely Teal Swan. Both Jasun and I independently called Bentinho the “male Teal Swan.” Maybe soon Teal will become known as the “female Bentinho.”

      • This is looking ominous. Here is Bentinho’s latest video to his tribe. I am struck how disheveled he looks, and especially how much rage is seething in him, ready to erupt. Every time he tries to smile, it is beyond being forced; it’s like a dog baring its teeth and growling its warning.

        Try viewing the video with the sound off. Then you can really feel the rage about to explode. He’s plotting his revenge.

  8. Thanks for another great article Jasun!
    Recommendation; If you have not read it already, I’d highly recommend reading, “If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him” by Sheldon Kopp. Dr. Kopp was a psychotherapist but felt that he was in the business of demonstrating to his clients that they did not need him and letting them know that he was no better than they. It could provide a model of what an anti-guru would look like.
    Question: Do you have opinions about self-consciously false religions? I am thinking about Discordianism and J. R. Bob Dobbs/Cult of the Sub-Genius. Discordianism makes everyone a Pope, and confers on every new Pope the power to declare anyone else a Pope, among other things. The Sub-Genii tell every member to make as much money as possible from sale of their religious artifacts, and host “endarkenings” and “sickening services” as part of their activities… Yet many of them sincerely claim to have received spiritual benefits. There are enough people taking the Sub Genius stuff seriously as a path to enlightenment that its founders have been issuing disclaimers..
    Keep up the good work!

    • I dont much care for that Discordian strain of “crazy wisdom” – too close to chaos magick, psychedelics, and psy-ops for my liking; that milieu seems to intersect with that of Leary, RAW, Thornley, Matheny, and others with apparent or real CIA ties.

      • In the mid-90s I was really “in to” the whole Discordian, Church of the Subgenius “quit-your-job-for-Bob” deal. The obvious absurdity, mixed with philosophical salad, at the time appealed to me (before becoming a full-time writer/editor I worked for [cough-cough] Nationwide Insurance). It didn’t help that my good friend, author Poppy Z. Brite—now known as Billy Martin—also “dabbled” in Discordianism, and a visit to her New Orleans home (since lost to Hurricane Katrina) and hanging out with her and then-husband chef Chris DeBarr inspired me. I thought/hoped the Subgenius craziness would reduce my chronic work-related stress . . . which is sort of like expecting “transformation” from the “Ren and Stimpy Show.”

        Also, Jasun, I’m wary of possible (even probable) intelligence connections among certain of these types. That hoary cliche about these agencies employing “useful idiots” has proved, over the years, to be factual.

  9. I think it’s interesting to point out Dave never claims a leadership title such as “guru,” at least as far as I’ve seen. Maybe the first red flag for false teachers is the claiming of a title which grants authority. It’s different when the title is given freely by the audience. I believe awakening is served with a heavy dose of humility.

  10. I am grateful for your insight. I wish you would think about removing the grayscale from the text type and turning it back to black. As with ink and paper, black on white is infitiely easier to read despite what all the trendy web page designers tell us. So is serif type for text. — thom

  11. Great post, Jasun.
    It’s frustrating, but cults are only groups of people who have been exiled in some ways trying to be relevant in other ways. If it’s a growing cult with many followers, it’s basically never about the growth as the measurement of people who have converted to their beliefs, so much as the pleasure they feel knowing larger numbers of followers means greater friction against society at large. So of course if they have an effect on society (even a gross one) then they ‘matter’ and can finally let themselves feel that they have stock in the outcome of their culture, even in this heavy too-extravagant way. It’s just to bad that people tend to be so unsure of their own agency as individuals that they feel the need to weaponize their insecurities into these ego-driven crusades.

    On a side note, I wouldn’t say I feel that you are a teacher, but you do teach. You craft what you believe well and with sincerity, and whatever things I didn’t know I had long ago realised are sometimes coaxed to the foreground of my mind and allow for a pleasant solidarity with you and your history. And thank you for that, because nothing is quite as lovely as the thrill of articulated rationality.

    • Yes, it’s the negative identity politics whereby both the identity and what it is opposing are reinforced by the opposition. The only way to prevent this that I know of is awareness, and awareness seems to depend on intimacy and transparency, which I think becomes less and less possible the larger the “flock” becomes.

      Jesus didn’t have hundreds of followers.

  12. Reading about some of these people in your posts makes me think I would be very happy to be unenlightened. If in fact, they are the ones who set the bar for enlightenment.
    Most of the better “spiritual teachers” (if you want to call them that) that I’ve met draw peoples attention to the subjects that they teach. Not themselves. Lessons, principles and trial and error become the focal point. Not the teacher.

    It’s so simple that it’s hard.

  13. Must read!!! Be Scofield’s new article is her diary/journal’s account of discovering and then infiltrating the Bentinho cult last November. What I find fascinating is that she relocated from Asheville, NC to Sedona AZ a month before her cult-busting article appeared and did not know of the existence of Bentinho until she was in Sedona for a few days.

    View at

  14. Jasun, I want to make several replies, especially to Ms. Participant above, but first I must inform you of news that you do not seem to be aware of. On December 9, a close friend of BM and inner circle member named Brent Wilkins, age 33, committed suicide by leaping off a cliff near the Midgeley bridge outside Sedona.

    I’d like to copy 2 comments about the suicide made on Jason Colavito’s blog.

    12/12/2017 06:35:52 pm
    A young man just committed suicide in Sedona who was on Bentinho Massaro’s retreat; the retreat costs $1,200. Fair one week it ends on December 15, 2017. The below post was made in Facebook by Brent’s friend.

    Bentinho has his followers sleep deprived, and fasted without food and also on grape juice and no water (Dry fasting). These are mind control techniques used by cult leaders.

    “As someone that personally knows both Brent and Bentinho. I can tell you absolutely without a doubt Bentinho’s influence on Brent did contribute to his death. On that matter so did Bashar. Due to Brent’s mental state, he believed Bashar and Bentinho about “important work” beyond the veil, that death is an illusion, that there are exciting things in other dimensions, that this form and body are not to be attached to and are not are true self. To disconnect from our families and friends that have limited beliefs and do not support or agree with us.

    These are actual beliefs that Brent felt were true and these are absolutely things that both Bashar and Bentinho teaches. Brent did make this choice on his own however he was heavily influenced by teachings that disassociate from the human experience.

    I am still heartsick as many of us are that he made this choice. But I can tell you confidently. Brent believed death was true freedom and he had bigger work to do on the other side.”


    12/29/2017 01:46:33 am
    Bentinho Massaro fled Sedona after he his attempt to prey upon the SEEKERS and was run out of town. Leaving all his followers and team behind after Brent Wilkins body was found NEAR Midgley Bridge. You so called no it all bloggers and reporters should know there is a HUGE ongoing investigation in Sedona. Brent Wilkins death HAS NOT been offically ruled a suicide. Additionally, if it were that simple, why did BM flee? Why are there multiple agencies involved in the investigation and BM’s attendees in the Sedona Experiement #2 interviewed? Not really suicide at all? Or maybe Brent gave his life for the greater good to stop BM from destroying others and filling his pockets….


    TOM: This situation seems like an eerie echo of the guru James Ray who in 2009 held a sweat lodge ceremony outside Sedona where 3 people died and 18 people were injured. He was convicted of negligent homicide but only served 2 years in prison and is now out re-inventing himself as a new and improved guru — a path I’m sure Bentinho will follow once he hides out long enough to outrun the karma of Brent’s death.

  15. Jasun, long time listener here…your recent discussion with Tano informs some of this (IMO). She thought it possible that enlightened beings could well get up to bad behavior and I agree. I would go further and suggest that what we little people call amoral behavior goes quite well with the “enlightened,” esp. those who self-identified as advanced spiritual beings. They exercise “charismatic” authority over people, and charisma to me has within it a transgressive essence. Charisma violates boundaries and overturns norms, customs, laws, etc.

    The stories of Jesus Christ from the Bible have a constant theme of transgression, by the way. Working on the sabbath, routing the moneychangers at temple, schooling the scholars on the law, even the miracles: what is a miracle but a transgression of the laws of nature? Literally something not supposed to happen but which happens anyway. What a bad boy!

    I have sometimes wondered that if Jesus himself had lived, as his poor successor Joseph Smith did, in an age of newspapermen and high literacy, he would not have been dogged by tales of ex-disciples who pointed out how fixated he was on his disciples nether bits, which disciple could hook up with which, or claiming for himself the prophets’ privilege of taking his followers’ wives for a spin. Certainly his modern day wannabes engage in this sort of behavior all the time. There so often seems to be an erotic element to these high spiritual types, does there not?

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion as always. Guru busting is important work, if a bit Sisyphean.

    • Quite a cynical point of view. It fails to address my point to Tano, which is: What is “enlightenment” or “self-realization” if it doesn’t result in deeper self-awareness and corresponding response-ability to others? I notice you use quotes for “enlightened,” implying that you consider it a myth (like Tano), while holding onto a mutated (or mutilated?) baby, that of the transgressive (or potentially transgressive) “higher” state. Meanwhile, what I think is the most important point gets ignored, that of pseudo-enlightenment, as described in the OP.

      Conflating transgression with miracles is a fair point, tho a bit too broad for me, since it puts sacrificing babies on the same spectrum with healing sickness, and therefore blurs everything. By this reckoning, our entire modern world transgresses the laws of nature; even our existence does. Ergo, there is a subtler factor not being identified in your comment, namely, what unconsciously drives an individual to perform miracles or kill babies. On that spectrum, there are probably acts that are simply never motivated by benign imperatives, or shall we say, by a healthy life force, and others that sometimes are and sometimes are not ~ such as being a spiritual leader.

      As for guru-busting being Sisyphean, yes, if the intent is to “stop” individual gurus. My (conscious) intent is rather to explore and expose the psycho-spiritual mechanism of false enlightenment and the resulting exploitation and power abuses. As I pointed out to Travis at a podcast thread, however, such an exploration becomes academic without using concrete, living examples.

  16. Reach for the stars… as the saying goes. Stars in Hollywood or in the sky. Our sun. NASA teaches us to understand our place in this universe or the soul-r system. We all revolve around a sun, whether that sun is in the sky or just a man put on a pedestal. Or just maybe, we don’t actually revolve around anyone or anything. We need to start looking inside rather than up or on the TV or at the man on the pulpit. Cheers Ja-sun.

  17. Pingback: How to tell Pyrite from Gold on the spiritual market? | Loki's Gazette

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