There are two things you need to know about cults. First, no one who belongs to a cult thinks they are in a cult. Secondly, the sort of people who join cults are not, generally speaking, cult-like people. They are not less but more intelligent than average, not less but more independent-minded, outside the box thinker types. Most people who participate in something they eventually discover to have been (or to have become) a cult, do so because they are trying to get free from the mostly unacknowledged, cult-like nature of greater society. They know enough to want to get clear of the mind control programs of culture, but not enough to recognize the danger signs as they leave the reservation. Desperate for orientation now the cultural map no longer works for them, they fall prey to the first charismatic leader they come across. Or rather, the first charismatic leader who meets and matches their own needs, whose teeth fits their wound.
What follows is my own story of how I found the right guru-teeth to match my wounds (betrayal trauma). It will be serialized at this blog over several weeks, in preparation (I hope!) for publication of the full manuscript. This is a cautionary tale that begins with the brightest of hope and ends in the deepest, darkest swamp of manipulation, abuse, and, yes, something that looks a lot like trauma-based mind control: exactly where my regular readers would expect it to. But, long and painful as it has been, it has also been a deeply illuminating journey, and continues to be so. By the end of the rainbow, the pot of gold is looking to be where we might least expect to find it: in the recognition that the only way to drain the swamp ~ is by entering all the way into it.
Beyond Anything You Could Imagine
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.”
—W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”
I first heard of John de Ruiter from the woman who became my wife. We hadn’t met in the flesh yet. She told me about John on the telephone.
“He is beyond anything you can imagine,” she said.
“I can imagine quite a lot,” I replied, testily. I was thinking of Carlos Castaneda’s sorcerer teacher, don Juan, at the time. It was a bit presumptuous of me, since I didn’t imagine him (Castaneda did).
“Well, OK. He is beyond anything I could imagine,” she said.
She said something about John being like “the Second Coming.” I was appalled. This was not a person given to hyperbole or absurd claims, nor was she the credulous type (she wasn’t a Christian either). I fancied I’d had my own experiences and/or encounters with “Christ consciousness.” I’d even believed, at times in my life, that I might be “the One.” So I suspended judgment, both about my future wife’s sanity and John de Ruiter’s messianic qualities.
That night, I had a dream.
A few months before the conversation with my wife-to-be, before our paths had crossed at all, I was walking on Hampstead Heath, London, with an acquaintance called Gifford. I’d met Gifford a few weeks before through the intervention of my mother, who had given him a book I’d written in 2002 called Matrix Warrior. The book was a “handbook for unplugging” inspired by the famous sci-fi movie and sparked by my growing belief, or quasi-belief, that I might be The One. While Gifford and I were talking about it, he mentioned a guru he used to work for (doing sound recording) who had taken his followers to see the movie. I made a mental note of the guru’s name and intended to do an online search. I then forgot all about it.
The night after my wife-to-be told me about John de Ruiter, while I was asleep and dreaming, I woke up and realized I was no longer in my bed. I was naked, lying on a table that was raised up at an angle so that I was almost vertical. On my right was John de Ruiter. In front of me, without using my eyes, I could see a row of people, all naked, watching me. They seemed to have angels’ wings, which I took as an indication of benevolence and superhuman power. In other ways, they appeared quite ordinary.
I kept my eyes closed, embarrassed by my nakedness. I didn’t know where I was or how I had got there; I resolved to pretend I was asleep until I woke up. There was another man on my left, whispering in my ear. At first it seemed like gibberish, then slowly I recognized it as a foreign tongue. I was being cleaned all over my body, with particular attention to my penis. A piece of wood was being used on my teeth, and someone, possibly John, was holding a sharp instrument, like scissors, near my groin. For a moment I was afraid I was going to be circumcised.
I had a dim recall of how I’d arrived there. The previous dream—from which I had “awakened”—was of being transported in the back of van, at night, through some eastern European country. There was intrigue involving Nosferatu-type characters, all unclear. In contrast to that, there was nothing dreamlike about the present experience.
John, or someone, said my name. “Jason.” (I later changed the spelling to Jasun.) I replied with the affirmative, thereby letting them know I was awake. There was a feeling of excitement or anticipation among the gathering. It was similar to when Thomas Anderson is unplugged in The Matrix, when his naked body is brought into the Nebuchadnezzar and cleaned and reconstituted for his new existence. I was undergoing an initiation.
I was questioned about my father’s business. The questions seemed nonsensical at the time, and even more so when I woke. Waking from the dream was like changing locations, or moving from one body to another. In the blink of an eye I returned to my previous existence, with memory of another, separate reality in which I had seemingly been “initiated.”
The dream—or whatever it was—convinced me to look further into John de Ruiter.
My Introduction to Gurus
“So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.”
—Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Until I met John de Ruiter I had no interest in gurus. I grew up as an atheist, mostly because of my father. My stepfather, a spiritual seeker, came along several years before my father left. His years teaching in India left him with aspirations to guru-hood, and he loved to counsel troubled souls (especially female ones). He practiced Yoga every day, and though he never tried to indoctrinate us, we were aware of his spiritual philosophy. As an adolescent, I saw him use my mother’s money (having no other means of support) to fly to Oregon and attend a retreat with the Rajneesh community. He returned wearing dark red clothes with a picture of the Bagwan (Osho) around his neck. He was notably slower moving than before, more docile, and his eyes were glassy. My mother was not happy, even less so when he stopped having sex with her and continued to spend her money on return trips to Oregon.
This experience, combined with my ingrained religious skepticism, gave me a strong feeling of distrust and distaste for gurus and spiritual teachers. When Osho was imprisoned, it confirmed my belief that he was no more than a clever conman. My perspective took a radical turn when, at the age of twenty, I discovered Carlos Castaneda and immersed myself in tales of sorcery. Don Juan became my imaginal guru. I read Aleister Crowley and became a student, though not a practitioner, of the occult arts. I learnt Spanish and spent two years in Mexico, “on the trail of don Juan.” My two goals in life at that time were: 1) to meet a soul mate and fall in love; and 2) to find a man of knowledge and become a sorcerer. If I had been forced to choose between the two, I would have been hard-pressed, but would have probably picked the second.
Fitting, then, that meeting the woman who would become my wife (twenty years later) and finding a “man of knowledge” in the form of a Canadian citizen of Dutch descent named John de Ruiter, occurred almost simultaneously. In fact, one led directly to the other. Until I met de Ruiter, a man of knowledge and a guru were two very different things to me. The “spiritual path” held no interest compared to the warrior’s way and the world of sorcery (I read and re-read Castaneda’s books over the years, until the teachings were ingrained in me). Perhaps because of my stepfather’s folly, gurus, unlike sorcerers and magicians, were not something I took seriously.
The first time I met John de Ruiter, it was at the Center Point building, located in a sort of nameless space between Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross Road, in central London. The building has a history to it, both personal and occult. The personal is that, as an adolescent, I used to travel from Yorkshire to London to buy Marvel comics at The Forbidden Planet on Denmark Street; seeing the Center Point building as I emerged from the London Underground signified that my quest for power was nearing its final destination, and filled me with a sense of great excitement. The occult history is something I only found out about while writing this book. Madeline Montalban, a witch, lived in an apartment at the site where Center Point now stands, and in November of 1949, her abode was the location of an occult ritual. The ritual was attended by Kenneth Grant, head of the British branch of the OTO (I corresponded regularly with Grant between 2001 and 2003), his wife Steffi, and Gerard Gardner (“the father of Wicca”). The aim of the ritual was to raise “a current of magical energy with the purpose of contacting certain extraterrestrial intelligences” by dancing around a large sigil inscribed on parchment, designed by the artist and magician Austin Osman Spare. The rite was interrupted, however—so the story has it—before the invocation could be completed.
Center Point was one of the first skyscrapers in London and construction finished around 1967 (reports vary), the year I was born. The building gained an increasingly notorious reputation as it remained empty for many years (between nine and fifteen, depending on the source); as late as 2005, several floors were still unused. Modern folklore attributes this to the uncompleted occult ritual, the as-yet unrealized summoning of extraterrestrial forces. Whatever the case, my first meeting with John de Ruiter was the first time I had set foot inside the Center Point building. I didn’t know anything about its association with extraterrestrial intelligences or occult rituals at that time, but it was with a sense of excitement that I mounted the steps and entered the building.
The room consisted of a small stage with around sixty chairs arranged in front. It was almost full, and the people varied in age between mid-twenties and seventies, most in their thirties and forties. There was a PA to one side with a couple of technicians standing next to it. I went and spoke to them. I was told that, if no one asked a question, de Ruiter would simply sit in silence and that he might even leave. That struck me as a bit odd after everyone had paid fifteen pounds to get in. I hadn’t paid (I had walked in without paying); but even so I was determined to make the trip worthwhile. After filling in some basic details and signing the form (giving them permission to use the recording), I sat in one of two chairs in front of the stage where de Ruiter would be sitting. There was a microphone, which we were shown exactly how to hold. I was both nervous and excited.
Presently, de Ruiter came into the room. He was easy to recognize because I had seen a YouTube video and some pictures at his website. He was tall and slim in a light-colored linen suit; his beard and hair were white-blonde and well-groomed. He moved in a graceful, slightly robotic fashion. He sat down and placed a thin microphone attachment around his ear. On the table next to him was a vase of flowers and a glass of water. He sat completely still for a time, staring straight ahead. His eyes slowly moved around the room, as if taking in everyone present. In order to see the people at the edges of the room, he moved his head slowly to the side, but besides this he made no visible movement. His stillness was impressive. He had enormous presence; without saying a word, he held the room.
I felt tense. My name was written at the top of a sheet of paper, but another man took the microphone before I did. He asked a question, I forget what it was, and after a long silence, de Ruiter began to speak. He spoke in an extremely slow, soft, and deep tone of voice. His sentences were broken by long pauses, sometimes as much as thirty seconds between phrases. What he said seemed extremely vague, bordering on meaningless. I was already familiar with de Ruiter’s tempo and phrasing from the YouTube material and several audios which my wife-to-be had sent me. I had found them inconclusive, and despite my dream I hadn’t made up my mind about him. I didn’t understand why he felt the need to speak so slowly, or why he had to be so solemn the whole time. Couldn’t he crack a joke once in a while? Or at least pick up the pace a bit? A lot of the time, as on this occasion, what he was saying really didn’t mean much; it was a stream of spaced out (literally), poetic, simple-minded platitudes. I told myself that the questioner might be getting something from the words which I wasn’t picking up on. De Ruiter was directing his communication at him and not at me, and I did my best to suppress my skepticism and suspend judgment until I had my own experience.
I had been told to wait until John looked at me before speaking, but when the time came I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me or not. I am slightly short-sighted, and he seemed to be looking through me more than at me. Finally, he must have realized I wasn’t ever going to speak.
“What can I do for you?” he said.
I asked my question. De Ruiter spent several minutes gazing at me. Every now and then he opened his mouth or smacked his lips faintly, as if readying to speak, then became still again. Finally, he began to speak. With the first words out of his mouth, he zeroed in on something quite specific I had been working through with my wife-to-be. Just like that, with those first few words, I was a believer. We spoke for around twenty minutes and I did most of the talking. My experience was one of being led—by de Ruiter‘s words and perhaps other methods which I couldn’t observe—to a deeper knowledge and understanding of myself. De Ruiter appeared to do this without ever addressing my intellect directly. Intellectually, his words were unimpressive and at times simplistic. My impression, after this first encounter, was that de Ruiter was bypassing my intellect and speaking directly to my body.
I went back to see him again the following night. This time, instead of listening, as a way to reduce my irritation with the endlessly asinine questions, I focused my gaze on de Ruiter and “tuned into” his physical presence. For the duration of the meet, I kept as statue-still as he was. By the end, my body felt both lighter and more solid. I experienced a feeling of peace and, at the same time, empowerment. Was this what it felt like to be John de Ruiter, I wondered? If so, it felt really, really good.
The Lion & the Lamb
“Is it not possible to eat me without insisting that I sing praises of my devourer?”
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot
As it had been for my wife, John’s impact proved life-changing for me. This wasn’t just a philosophy or a system of belief; it was a way of being, and the proof was in the living. There didn’t seem to be any possible downside, and I had no compunctions at all about spreading the gospel, any way I could, as far and wide as my media skills allowed. My position was as an anti-guru personality who had found a genuine guru. At the time, I thought I was the last person to be brainwashed or duped into worshipping another human being. I saw myself as an Apostle of John. The first time I was interviewed about de Ruiter (on Diet Soap podcast, with Doug Lain), the show aired on November 11th, 2009—John’s 50th birthday! Naturally I saw it as a sign, and I sent him a birthday email via Oasis. I never received a response.
Some people questioned my admiration of de Ruiter, insisting he was just another corrupt guru. The most damning evidence they cited was de Ruiter’s messy break up with his wife, Joyce, in late 1999, the result of his affair with Benita and Katrina von Sass, two sisters born in Canada of German descent. Though de Ruiter spoke repeatedly of “core-splitting honesty,” apparently he had neglected to mention to Joyce his new “bond of being” with the two sisters. His wife (a Christian, as John had also been before his awakening) was understandably upset and accused him of adultery. John’s explanation was that he had not told her about the affair because it had been “a movement of being” and he had only been doing what he knew in his heart to be true. I understood from this that he had neglected to mention it out of innocence rather than duplicity. If he hadn’t denied it when Joyce accused him of adultery, it was because, to him, it wasn’t adultery. To most people this was a dubious, not to say puny, excuse. But by then de Ruiter was such an exceptional being to me that I accepted his version over his wife’s unquestioningly. Like many of his other followers at the time, I considered him beyond ordinary moral (or even human) judgment.
For myself, I knew that his philosophy of “okayness” worked. Letting go of the endless drive to achieve or self-improve, the ceaseless discipline of the warrior’s way or spiritual path, was a profound breakthrough for me. It was the truth I had been waiting my whole life to hear, that it was okay to be an ordinary person, that there really was nothing to do, because “no one can do ‘to be.’” Essential to de Ruiter’s teachings was the idea that we, as persons, are “wonderfully worth nothing.” De Ruiter taught that the self we are accustomed to is a constructed, false self that has usurped the throne of our true being. Its only value and function is in giving over that space to our “being” and letting it live our lives for us. Like Thomas Anderson’s life in the matrix, our ordinary selves were expendable. Deep down inside, I knew the truth of it. It was how I had always felt myself to be: worthless. Hearing that “nothing works but surrender” was music to my battle-weary ears.
When I had first seen John at Centre Point, I had come away with the impression that he was a mostly yin being, passive, like a baby. I had felt a desire to take care of him. I distrusted the apparatus that had formed around him, the Oasis community, and I suspected it was a result of his passivity, of his being so surrendered that he didn’t have any interest in what grew up around him, like barnacles on a rock. I had heard (from my wife to be) that he let himself be groomed and dressed by the von Sass sisters, hence there was a dramatic change in his image around 2000 (when he first started out, he looked more like a redneck Jesus).
The other main impression I got of de Ruiter was that he seemed to be lacking an obvious dark side. His apparent absence of yang energy, of a dynamic, provocative, challenging presence, his baby-like placidity, all begged the question of where his other side was hiding. He had an unmistakably Christ-like persona—but where was the other guy? Where, and what, was de Ruiter’s shadow? I wondered if it had to do with his having attained enlightenment before he had fully integrated that shadow? (According to his website bio—which is a bit vague—he was only nineteen or twenty when he had his second awakening.) I didn’t take my speculation much further, and I didn’t question what might become of an enlightened being’s shadow. The idea that de Ruiter might be in any way corrupt or untrustworthy (due to this apparent lack in him) didn’t occur to me. What did occur to me was that he seemed somehow incomplete.
The second time I saw de Ruiter was in the UK, in April of 2010, around twenty months after our first meeting and a week after my 43rd birthday. Before the first meeting, one of the Oasis group told my wife and I that John had been married the year before. We were both surprised: we hadn’t even heard about his break-up with the von Sass sisters! I experienced a moment of cynicism, and made a quip about John being “unlucky in love.” What bothered me was the clear evidence that, for all his truth-embodying, de Ruiter didn’t have much of a track record with relationships. Though I took my doubts with me into the first meeting, they dissolved into nothingness as I gazed at him on stage. His form seemed to shift and change as I stared at it and he appeared to be filled with light. His face seemed to be looking in several directions at once, and I hallucinated that he was sitting, standing, and levitating, all at the same time. As he sat in his leather chair, he emanated power, presence, charisma. His stillness and silence inspired awe. His voice sounded like it came from underwater, flowing like honey or nectar, soothing as it entered me, filling me with sweetness, nourishing my being.
At the second meeting of the first day (April 15th 2010), I took “the Chair.” I told John I didn’t know what I was there for, since the only thing I wanted was pain relief and I knew there wouldn’t be any of that. I talked about my absent father and how he had left “a big hole in my life.” I said that I had finally found someone big enough to fill that hole. I told him that he had come to me in my dreams and that I felt like I was “his.” I wondered if he could ask me a question, since I trusted him “more than myself” to come up with the right question. Five minutes passed in silence while we gazed at each other and I got lost in all sorts of visual hallucinations.
Finally, he spoke. “You have been awakened,” he said. The words gave me a thrill. “Awakened to the profound reality within. It moves you, by your own awareness in it—it apprehends you. You know it’s bigger than all of the self that you’re accustomed to. More than your self, it’s more than your person and your life. You’ve been awakened to greater reality within. Once awakened to that, you are also called to that.”
I felt validated, vindicated. De Ruiter was acknowledging my awakened nature, and letting everyone else there know it too. He was giving me confirmation of my calling.
“You have yet to apprehend that within that has already apprehended you,” he said. “You have yet to surrender to your own deeper, real knowledge within. . . . You already know that your surface existence doesn’t belong to your surface existence. It belongs to your knowing and to your seeing. This that you’re knowing isn’t an interesting category within yourself that you can bring into your life to add greater meaning. This that you’re knowing and seeing and in touch with within is what you come from. It is what you completely belong to. Everything that’s yours belongs to the same that you belong to.”
He spoke about reaching an agreement within myself, a full-heart’s agreement with what I know the truth of. He spoke of “waves of change,” and of an incorruptible knowledge within me. “This first knowledge within is incorruptible,” he said. “You can cover it but you can’t alter it. It resonates clear through anything you put on top of it. This knowing is you. You are waiting for you to agree with you.”
He spoke some more and I listened with a rapt and sheeplike expression (I know because I saw the video later). After a long pause, I thanked him, content to end the talk there. There was a longer pause, then he said: “What are you going to do?”
It sounded almost like a challenge. I had never heard John ask anyone a direct question like this (not even on all the tapes I’d listened to). “I am going to agree with myself,” I said at last.
“And that won’t be making meaningful decisions,” he said. “It will be meaning, making decisions. Your decisions as meaning will be uncharacteristic to what self you had. You will be that way. Your entire self will change. The very patterning of your self won’t remain the same. You’ll be meaning that has a being. A meaning with being that has a self. A meaning-being-self in person moving through life, doing from within that that you first are. You won’t be governed anymore by emotions and will, feeling. Meaning-you, meaning-knowing will be covering, integrating everything that you haven’t integrated yet. A massive clean, clear growing up of the innermost outwards, manifesting an entire life. Being that which you are born for. Meaning the full, complete coming into you.”
“I see a flower opening,” I said.
“It will petal your life instead of want and need doing so. You’ll be meeting every threshold in your self that you’ve been running away from. You’ll be healing every line within, every line of knowing that you’ve crossed. In a living way you’ll be healing yourself. You’ll be setting your self beautifully right.”
I told him I couldn’t have done it without him. He gazed at me for a time. I didn’t notice it until I saw the video later, but at this point a tear ran down his cheek. “You’ll be as awareness,” he said, “freeing yourself of bondage of unreason, freeing your self of the habitual misuse of reason. You’ll be freeing your self of the addiction to the misuse of reason. You’ll be setting your mind right. You’ll be thinking as reasonableness. You’ll be thinking with the sensitivity that love has. Your mind and your deep heart will be by you made to be congruent. Softness of heart with a sharp mind. Openness of heart with the will brought to one fine point, moved by meaning.”
“When you speak of the sharp mind,” I said, “I think of a sword, and I think of Christ saying that he brought the sword and not peace. I think of how I’ve been a warrior for my whole adult life, until recently, when I felt it was time to put down my arms and surrender.” I paused. “Am I still a warrior?”
We sat in silence and I realized he wasn’t going to answer my last question. I hadn’t really expected him to. When I watched the video of the meeting, however, he seemed to be nodding his head very slightly.
 Later, I discovered there was more to the story than that. As well as armed guards protecting the compound, there were claims that the food was drugged (which might explain why my stepfather seemed like a zombie when he came back). It has even been speculated that the entire community was, as also rumored about Jonestown, an intelligence operation, or at least heavily infiltrated by government agents, whose presence would have converted the community into something far from an authentic spiritual movement.
 After that time, I listened to countless tapes and went to many meetings, and never heard de Ruiter invite the questioner to speak, much less ask what he could do for them. This became a bit of a feather in my cap later.
 Actually, John’s look begun to transform before the von Sasses came along. According to one of my sources: “One lady who worked in the visual media industry called Jeanne Parr suggested to him that if he wore those clothes and had his hair down people would not take him seriously.”