“I don’t think I ever saw anything beyond normal about John, other than his words. Of course his presence, his charisma, sitting in a room silently, but only because people projected that on him. He was not impressive to me on his own. He was a talented person, I admired his courage. I’m not saying that I wasn’t impressed with him as a person, but not like that. That’s not how John was at home. He was a very average person except that he had qualities. He’s good with his hands; he likes adventure so he’s quite courageous. He’s a great water skier. I admire him for these things. That’s it.”
A father feels a duty to set a positive example to his children; a guru or spiritual teacher—even one who doesn’t claim to be the living truth—has (or believes he has) a responsibility to “keep up appearances” in order not to let his followers down. Maintaining such an appearance might not be as difficult as it sounds, if the belief and adoration of the followers is enough to sustain a guru’s belief in himself.
I have seen how de Ruiter’s followers have a tendency to dismiss the testimonies of his wives (Joyce, and later Benita von Sass), as prejudiced and tainted by bitterness and disillusionment. Skeptics, on the other hand, tend to take the accounts as conclusive proof of de Ruiter’s dishonesty. At the very least, they provide some useful context to the picture of de Ruiter that has been created and maintained by the Oasis PR team for the past fifteen years or more. There is plenty of room for speculation as to why de Ruiter has chosen to keep that aspect of his life carefully concealed. What there can be no real argument about is the fact that he does keep it hidden, to the best of his abilities. Yet de Ruiter’s teachings are all about “unveiling reality,” so when is the veil to be drawn aside so we can gaze upon the reality of de Ruiter?
It’s a curious fact that de Ruiter was apparently secretive even with his first wife, perhaps anticipating this very day?
I can’t know how much John was sharing with me. I think John saw me as a skeptic. We started out as soul mates, deeply in love. I would think I knew everything, but now I realize I guess I didn’t. I think at some point he realized he could only share so much with me, because I was skeptical and you’re not going to tell someone who doesn’t believe; you’re going to tell the people who will lap it up. If John had consistently displayed the loving, kind, giving, humble fruit, I would have probably been more inclined to believe his crap. But at some level, he was a jerk. . . . He was incredibly self-absorbed. It was always about him, about what he was going through, his own experience of what he needed, and the path he was on. It was always about the path he was on. How are you going to argue with that?
The official bio describes how John and Joyce first met in the Christian bookstore where Joyce worked, in 1981, when they were both devout Christians. According to the bio, both of them had a strong sense they were to be married from early on, but they only shared this feeling several months later, on their first date. They were married in June 1982, and four years later their first child was born. Joyce told me her husband-to-be believed in sexual abstinence before marriage. “When we would fool around and go too far, he went on huge guilt trips and would talk about experiencing grace afterwards, feeling forgiven.” Evidently this was a powerful issue for de Ruiter: he would pursue Joyce sexually (she believed they would have gone further if she’d allowed it), but at the same time, “there was a lot of guilt related to it.” What’s significant about this detail, besides showing de Ruiter’s traditional Christian morality (fairly unusual for a young man in the late ’70s), is the way his “guilt trips” were followed by an experience of “grace.” The picture Joyce gave me was of someone wrestling with sexual desires, giving into them and experiencing the corresponding shame, and then, miraculously, being “saved” (from his sinful nature) by the intervention of grace. There is something familiar about this sequence: it is a pattern de Ruiter repeated, in an almost theatrical manner, when his eighteen-year marriage to Joyce came to a messy climax in 1999, also a major turning point in his trajectory as a spiritual teacher.
The first five years of the marriage with Joyce coincided with the period during which de Ruiter was struggling to find his way—his “ticket”—in the world, culminating in his coup d’état cum exodus at/from the Bethlehem Lutheran church, in 1986. Their first child, Naomi, was born in 1986, the second, Nicolas, in 1988, the third and last, Nathaniel, in 1990. As de Ruiter’s bio has it, “in 1996 the first public, non-residential venue was opened at the Akashik book store in Edmonton, replacing and ending the years of Sunday morning meetings in de Ruiter’s home.” Shortly after that, de Ruiter met the von Sass family.
Before embarking on the saga of the von Sass sisters, it may be useful to cover an aspect of de Ruiter’s teachings which were directly involved in everything that happened, either in terms of how de Ruiter rationalized his treatment of Joyce (both to her and his followers), or as a genuine “spiritual” explanation of them. This is de Ruiter’s concept of “weaning.” In very simple terms, weaning involves letting go of emotional, psychological and sexual wants and needs, usually in the context of a relationship, in order to become reliant solely upon one’s inner resources. Self-weaning would be a conscious inhibition of compulsive desires in order to get free of them, as when a person quits a drug or any other compulsive habit. Being weaned by another person is rather less common, and generally only occurs in parent-child relationships (though to a degree also in the military). It depends upon an obvious inequality between the parties involved, as the more “adult”—less dependent—person denies the other certain basic wants and needs in order to help them reach a new degree of emotional maturity and independence. That’s the theory of it, at least, and it’s something de Ruiter has spoken about in his meetings, though usually in abstract, philosophical terms rather than practical ones. It’s also, not surprisingly, something he has allegedly practiced in his own relationships, most dramatically (or at least most publically) with Joyce.
Joyce told me how their marriage started out as a normal marriage with normal marital quarrels and arguments, and how sometimes her husband would give in and sometimes he wouldn’t. If they had a quarrel in the evening, he would leave and go to a movie, sometimes staying out to see a second movie. They wouldn’t ever resolve the issues, she said, but eventually he would come to bed and “it would be sweet.” Towards the end, however, it was far from a normal marriage. She remembers when her husband told her, over a coffee at Tim Horton’s, how “he was now going to cut the marriage down to the roots so that it could grow again.” She had no idea what he was talking about, but she was terrified what it might mean. Things were rapidly changing. Joyce pointed out to me, however, that John’s explanation of how the marriage ended at the meetings was “after the fact.” Her experience was simply that he was cutting her out of the marriage and came up with a handy, “spiritual” explanation for it.
“John spun webs around me and talked in circles,” she said, “so I never knew quite what was going on during the last five years of our marriage. I was extremely skeptical, extremely doubtful, for years; but I always said there is not one thing that I can put my finger on.” Whenever she hit stumbling blocks, he would pull her over them, “masterfully and artfully.” Joyce wanted to get past her doubts because she didn’t want to lose her trust in her husband. And as much as she wanted to get over the stumbling block of doubt, it was convenient for de Ruiter to help her. But slowly but surely, her trust was corroding.
She knew he was involved with Benita and Katrina: she had seen the relationship develop for three years. It had all the signs of an emotional affair, but she didn’t want to believe it was sexual. When he finally told her that they would in fact be his wives, and that this would mean everything—physical, spiritual, emotional, sexual—something snapped in her. “I knew then, ‘you’ve crossed a line John, you’re not pulling me across this line.’ I dabbled a bit with, ‘Could this be, could this make sense?’ If indeed this is true, I will have to accept this as well. But that was just too big of a line for me to cross.” After this, she said that nothing made sense: her eighteen years with de Ruiter, all the goodness, depth, innocence that others saw in him no longer seemed real to her. Her husband was asking her to do something that she knew even he didn’t believe was right. She was convinced he was betraying himself.
Once, when they were in Hawaii, when he was already an established guru, de Ruiter had told Joyce that “he couldn’t be [her] husband until he was [her] master.” He had made a clear statement: unless she was willing to be his disciple, she couldn’t be his wife. Joyce complied as well as she could, but she struggled with it immensely. She let her husband “be like God” to her. And although she never had visions of shapeshifting or auras and colors, when she connected to him at the meetings, it was a powerful experience. “Looking up at him, usually weeping, amidst the harsh treatment he was giving me, I would say to him inside, ‘Though you slay me, I will trust you,’ which is what Job said to God.” As a Christian, “a very confused Christian,” she let him “merge with God for me. And he was brutal to me, absolutely brutal as a husband; but I allowed it, thinking, ‘I’m being tested, I will trust you, I will love you.’” This relationship defined the last four years of their marriage. She had trusted him for so long that she didn’t know anything else: she didn’t dare not to trust him, couldn’t even conceive of not trusting him. “The alternative was too scary, because if I actually believed the alternative, he was a madman, he was deceived, he was deluded, he was horrible. That alternative, that scenario, was too big for me. I couldn’t handle that.”
While Joyce told herself it was all a test, to give this up, to surrender her love, de Ruiter talked to her repeatedly about how much she had surrendered but how there was “still one thing; he wouldn’t be explicit about it, but I knew that there was this bit that I wasn’t willing to let go, and he was always focusing on that bit.” Joyce assured me that there was nothing wrong with their sexual relationship, but that, by the time he was sleeping with the sisters, he was no longer comfortable sleeping with her. Joyce believed this was the real reason he had to “wean” her” of sexual desire, and that, as he was weaning her of the need have him as her husband, as she was surrendering all her wants and needs as a wife, he was commencing his affair with the sisters. “Towards the end, the last year or so, finally, he was slowing down [sexually] too; but eventually the explanation was that I had to be weaned of that as well. Don’t ask me how it works with a guy when he’s had sex with someone else and he comes home to his wife. Things are different then.”
Under the guise of being weaned, Joyce was being excluded more and more, not kindly and sweetly but harshly. “What always amazed me was, ‘John if you knew to do this to your wife, who you loved dearly,’ I would think [I] would feel some of that. If, as he said, he had to do this because he knew to, but he cherished me, I think I would feel that. . . . It was very harsh. It’s that twisted thing: I felt like I was the most amazing disciple because all I wanted to do was learn how to endure this. It was kind of [like] being tortured: the whole Stockholm syndrome thing.”
Though Joyce was raised to be skeptical, she tried hard to believe. On two separate occasions, she took the Chair and poured her heart out, repented, admitted that he was more than just her husband and apologized for wanting him for herself.
The group would be in tears because the wife has finally surrendered. That was after India, after Poona, and shortly before I found out about Benita. When I was that surrendered, John could tell me. I am convinced that he believed, finally, I was at such a surrendered place [that he could tell me]. Maybe he didn’t believe, but hoped, that I would be okay with it. It was very strategic.
In 1997, de Ruiter told Joyce about a couple he’d met, Peter and Ilona von Sass, who owned a retreat center near Edmonton. According to Brian Hutchinson’s 2001 article “The Gospel According to John” (which de Ruiter reputedly tried to prevent from being published), the von Sasses had “a history of attaching themselves to spiritual teachers.” Joyce remembers how her husband “just let this family right in. He gave himself to them.” Between 1988 and 1996, the von Sasses had followed a Hungarian guru, Imre Vallyon, who ran the Foundation for Higher Learning from River Lodge, a retreat center near Stony Plain, Alberta which the von Sasses had helped secure. Ilona was devoted to Vallyon but when her husband fell out with him Vallyon asked them to leave. Peter von Sass took control of River Lodge and about a year later they heard about de Ruiter. They attended a meeting and Ilona von Sass promptly asked de Ruiter if he would lead a retreat at River Lodge. De Ruiter agreed, after which Ilona invited him to Calgary for some meetings and told all her acquaintances about him. (Apparently her husband was less enthusiastic and only came to meetings out of loyalty to his wife.)
Soon after, de Ruiter began spending time with the von Sasses’ eldest daughter, Benita. On his first trips to Calgary, he stayed with Peter and Ilona, but later he began staying with Benita. After Benita moved to Edmonton, he spent many late nights at her home. A few months after that, Katrina arrived from Europe, where she’d been playing professional volleyball (apparently Ilona had sent her a picture of de Ruiter which grabbed her attention). Since she needed a place to stay, she moved into the de Ruiters’ basement; now when he was not visiting Benita, de Ruiter hung out with Katrina, watching movies and talking late into the night. Joyce would plead with him to come to bed, but he always refused. He assured her that Benita and Katrina were his “disciples” and that their relationship wasn’t personal.
Then, in late November of 1999, de Ruiter and Joyce were sitting in the kitchen, smoking cigarettes, and he was talking about Joyce’s “death.” He acknowledged that she had “gone through a lot of dying, which was a good thing.” She had let go of “ninety-five percent of the life that [she] had to let go of,” he said, adding that her “ultimate death would be if he took on two more wives.” Joyce thought he was joking at first. She phoned Ilona von Sass and asked her if she knew about it. Ilona said she did but that she didn’t know what “wives” meant. After many sleepless nights pondering it, Ilona had decided that if this was “truth,” they had to accept it. A few days later, Joyce woke her husband from a pre-meeting nap and asked when he was going to tell her what “wives” meant.
“‘Wives are just like you, Joyce,’ he said. ‘A complete physical, emotional, and sexual relationship, just like you.’ That, Joyce says, ‘was when reality hit.’” (Hutchinson, Saturday Night Magazine, May 5, 2001.)
JdR from Samuel Info on Vimeo.
A Ruse by Any Other Name
“You moved out of the subsequent self because of the pressure. But you moved out of your First-self because of the pain. Going for pain-relief instead of remaining in Knowledge. Going for pain-relief will have you building a subsequent self, one to give you what you’re wanting and within that self you will then go for pressure-relief . . . to cover that you have gone for pain-relief. That will have you again building a further self where you won’t be going for pressure relief. You will simply put pressure on someone else to cover that you have gone for pressure relief. Within that self, if you don’t refer to Knowledge-within then you are well on your way to being lost.”
—John de Ruiter, 2011
Joyce told me she simply knew her husband too well to ever really believe in him as a living embodiment of truth. No matter how good a water skier he was, to her he would always be a man. De Ruiter’s insistence that she see him as her master rather than her husband betrays a desire to remain distant and aloof even from his wife. Ostensibly, it was for her advancement; but maybe aloofness was also de Ruiter’s preference (a preference he preached as well as practiced). Perhaps his dallying with the von Sass sisters—who regarded de Ruiter as a holy man to be revered and obeyed—was an inevitable response to the frustration he was experiencing in the face of Joyce’s refusal to “surrender” and recognize him as God? That would be in keeping with his “explanation” that he was taking on two new wives as a means to facilitate Joyce’ final and complete surrender to Truth (a.k.a. John). What de Ruiter left out of his explanation was the possibility (literally unthinkable to his more loyal followers) that the polyamorous new arrangement was also meeting his own, ever-increasing appetites, as well as a response to his preference for more “impersonal” (one-sided) sexual relationships.
So far, not only had I heard no persuasive evidence that de Ruiter discouraged his followers from perceiving him as superhuman, I had seen plenty of evidence to the contrary. Everything about his stage persona seemed to encourage the idea of superhuman benevolence. That was how it had impacted me, and everyone I spoke to among de Ruiter’s admirers described him in roughly the same terms. It followed that, the more de Ruiter’s followers projected their ideas of—and aspirations towards—absolute goodness onto him, the greater their belief in his superhuman status and divinity would become.
Logically speaking, the more a follower sustains the idea of his or her guru’s perfect goodness and divinity, the more acutely aware of their own lack of those same qualities will become. Based on my own experience (and what I’d seen of Oasians), a follower isn’t necessarily aware of this happening, because the blissful high of being around the “master” gives one a sense of specialness—though only insofar as they are submitting to his “truth.” A follower’s sense of self-worth centers on their capacity to recognize the guru’s greater worth, and their own corresponding lack of value. They get to be “wonderfully worth nothing,” because only truth has value. And if de Ruiter is the living embodiment of truth, then he is the measure of all things. As the group empty themselves of their prior set of values—including or especially their sense of self-value—they become fully receptive to an inception of value(s) by de Ruiter himself.
Ironically enough, all this could simply be the result of de Ruiter being uncomfortable interacting at a personal level. His Christ-like persona would then be a sophisticated but unconscious defense against any sort of personal interaction, a way to minimize the risk of vulnerability or exposure. If this were the case, it’s likely that any obvious movements away from a more personal engagement by de Ruiter with his group would correspond with some sort of external “trigger” in his personal life. As it happens, de Ruiter’s teaching style did mutate—from a more casual, conversational delivery to the slow, halting style for which later became known—over a relatively short period between late 1999 and 2001, immediately after he admitted to his adulterous affair with the von Sasses.
“When he presented this thing about Benita and Katrina, I knew very well, ‘If I go along with this, I will be the queen forever.’ I was very aware of this. In a sense I gave up everything when I said ‘This is bullshit John,’ because that would have been my crowning jewel, if I could have accepted that. I couldn’t, because I didn’t trust him. Partly it was the way he told me—he told me in stages. And when he left he didn’t have a clue what he was doing.”
On the tape “Stillness in a Hurricane” (recorded on the 5th, 6th, and 12th of December, 1999, Edmonton), de Ruiter compared facing the group immediately after the affair came to light to receiving a death sentence:
Coming up here, and sitting through the meeting, was like walking to the gallows. It was one of the sweetest nights of my life. I was bathing in every moment. Everything being completely still, and silent. And yet at the same time, sailing through this awesome blue sky. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. So endearing this morning. It is seeing so many hearts being so cracked open, and so fragile, so delicate. And seeing such a deep thirstiness, seeing a depth of a love of truth, hurting-hearts looking only for truth. I love what I see.
Besides taking delight in his follower’s broken hearts, de Ruiter’s claim is that, by conducting a secret affair with two women (though Benita’s testimony says there were other women also), he was only “doing what he knew to be true.” So why did he feel like he was walking to the gallows? Was he so afraid of the judgment of his followers, or was it something else?
Joyce told me that John’s parents refused to have anything to do with the von Sass sisters once the truth came out; as simple Christian folk, they may have judged their son harshly for his behavior. Did de Ruiter suffer internal conflict about it? His decision amounted to a monumental change in both his private and public life. By taking two new wives, not only was he going against his Christian upbringing, he was contradicting his own teachings about the sanctity of the marriage bond and the need for monogamy.
De Ruiter’s explanation was the only explanation he ever gave for anything, whether buying a house with a swimming pool or conducting a clandestine love affair: he was doing what he knew to be true. The implication of these words is that he had no choice. So what’s the difference between that and compulsive behavior? Outside of his philosophy of truth, and coming from anyone else, de Ruiter’s account sounds like the reasoning of someone who acted against what he knew and then rationalized it. If de Ruiter felt like a condemned man facing his executioners, does this suggest there was some doubt in his mind, even a sense of guilt? But outside of that one poetic phrase, he never expressed anything of the kind. On the contrary, he insisted on having no doubts at all about what he’d done.
Although a handful of followers left, de Ruiter’s explanation was accepted by the majority, who chose to side with his version of events rather than Joyce’s. They only really had two alternatives: either they continued to believe their guru was embodying truth, no matter how it looked; or they acknowledged that he’d been lying, not only to Joyce but to them. Questioning de Ruiter’s version of truth would risk being ostracized from the fold; perhaps worse, it would mean losing the shining image of their guru’s goodness and being left with a crippling sense of shame and regret. From my own experiences of shame and regret around de Ruiter, it doesn’t seem surprising if hundreds of people chose to ignore what they knew and protect what they needed to believe. People do it every day.
I had known about the affair with the von Sasses and about de Ruiter’s lying to Joyce during the two years I was devoted to John, and I had ignored it too. The reason I’d ignored it was that I believed de Ruiter operated on a level beyond my understanding, so, whatever it looked like, it obviously wasn’t that. That was de Ruiter’s own reasoning, and it was tactically brilliant in its unassailability. The moment I allowed for the possibility that de Ruiter was an ordinary human being, the scales fell from my eyes and what I saw was a liar and a cheat with an unusual repertoire of magic tricks to cover his ass.
There was one other factor at play in keeping my denial in place, and that was that I was a long-timer believer in polygamy, and in the notion that “spiritually advanced” individuals—shamans and sorcerers—were not bound by ordinary social or moral conventions, and certainly not by romantic ones. When I first heard about it, the fact de Ruiter took a shot at having three wives if anything only increased my admiration for him. Maybe it was similar for many of the men in the group. Maybe the notion of having two or three wives was appealing enough for them to overlook the possibility that de Ruiter might come sniffing around their own nests? For the women, naturally the possibility of joining de Ruiter’s harem would have enormous allure. Considering all these factors, it’s easy to see why the consensus in the group was one of acceptance/denial.
It’s impossible for me—or for anyone—to know what sort of “knowing” de Ruiter had that led to his clandestine involvement with the von Sass sisters. Outside of his descriptions, we can only speculate what a “knowing” for de Ruiter even is. We also have no way of deciphering by what faculties de Ruiter determines something to be a true “knowing” and acts accordingly; the presupposition is always that his own depth of understanding is greater than anyone else’s—including, or especially, Joyce’s. So if de Ruiter says he had a knowing, that’s the end of it. The alternative is to question his authority and his “knowing,” which means to open a can of worms that few of his devout followers would want to gaze into. If de Ruiter could deceive himself about something of such magnitude, what else might he be deceiving himself about? At that point, for many people, all rational thought ceases.
De Ruiter’s spotlessly impersonal version of events really comes down do: “I did what I did and I’m not sorry, so let’s move on.” Compare this with Joyce’s messy and tangled, wholly personal account, and which one makes more sense?
When he first told me [about the affair], he said, “I either am or I will be sleeping with them. What difference does it make?” And I acknowledged that. He went away on a trip to Toronto, came back, we were having coffee somewhere, and I finally said, “Are you sleeping with them?” And he looked at me, and that slow, slow, slow nod. So I’m pierced—he is in fact sleeping with them—but I’m also relieved. Okay, so I finally know. But then he says, “But now I know that I won’t be anymore.” . . . . Some days later, I find out that he had gotten up very early from Katrina’s house, after spending the night with Katrina. “I don’t understand John, you said you wouldn’t be sleeping with them anymore.” He said, “I told you that I wouldn’t be intimate with them. I didn’t say that I wouldn’t sleep with them or be affectionate with them.” He sounded like a troubled teenager who couldn’t figure out what his lines were. He was going back and forth. [I thought,] “If you’re trying to tell me this is something you know, why does it fluctuate every few days?” It really was more like a scandal than like a scene of truth. There was nothing clean and final about it. It was more like somebody in a relationship struggling with their lines, how far they should go and where they should draw them.
In de Ruiter’s defense, the whole situation was new to him, so maybe he was trying desperately to do the right thing, knowing he couldn’t possibly please everyone and tying himself into knots in the attempt. But if so, why give an account of never once having any doubts about what he was doing, never for a moment being torn between personal desire and truth? As far as I know, de Ruiter never speaks of internal conflict; he certainly never admits to doing anything wrong or lying to Joyce, even though that’s precisely what he did.
When he went on public record about the incident, he said two things which stood out. The first was: “I don’t live with lust. I don’t struggle with that. It’s not a weakness.” (Scott McKeen, “I Was Gods’ Wife,” National Post, Canada, May 16, 2000.) Yet by most accounts, de Ruiter was and is a highly-sexed person. Apparently, he experienced a great deal of guilt over his sexuality when he was a young man, at least partially due to Christian ideals. Joyce described how his “struggles with lust” would lead to a period of shame followed by the arrival of “grace.” In the von Sass affair, while there was nothing (besides that “gallows” remark) that indicated de Ruiter felt shame for his lustful behavior, he definitely managed to turn it into a manifestation of grace; many of his followers even perceived him as holier than ever for his “sacrifice.” Under the circumstances, de Ruiter stating that he didn’t “live with lust,” and that it was “not a weakness,” sounds a bit like the Wizard telling Dorothy to ignore the man behind the curtain. De Ruiter was not only denying all charges, he was telling us to dismiss all the evidence based solely on his word. Such total assurance in a case like this is indistinguishable from bald-faced lying. It is also more characteristic of a sociopath than a saint.
The second comment de Ruiter made around that same time was, “I have never once flirted in the last twenty years. Never once. I’ve had endless offers, and they just don’t mean anything” (McKeen). Here de Ruiter appears to be offering as proof of his innocence the fact that he never tried to commit adultery (at least not via the normal social ritual of “flirting”). And if de Ruiter never flirted with women, presumably he never had to because of all the “endless offers”?! De Ruiter’s defense consists of: “I didn’t ask for this to happen, so don’t blame me.” Like a child, he absolves himself of all responsibility, not only for anything that happened to him, but for his own actions. He is claiming innocence a priori.
On one occasion, Joyce asked her husband if he was ever sexually aroused by other women. He looked at her and very slowly said “No.” It was a relief, she said, to know that, if her husband was surrounded by adoring women, he wasn’t sexually aroused by them. She shared this exchange with some friends, and when the truth came out about Benita and Katrina, one of them challenged de Ruiter about his lying to Joyce. Joyce remembered that, “John’s answer was, ‘I was answering from another place, not from a personal space but from another space.’ That was how John dealt with everything. I cannot know if it’s complete deception and lies, or if he believes that.”
So what “space” was de Ruiter answering from? Apparently a space where a spade is no longer a spade, lust is not lust, and adultery is really a movement of being. So why enter that particular space in order to answer a question put to him by someone clearly not in that space, if not to provide the answer that best suited his purposes? If de Ruiter’s excuse was that he was enlightened, was he asking his followers to believe that he practiced an enlightened kind of lying? The moment his followers agreed to accept his non-denial denial, they effectively agreed to go along with anything he said.
“He is extremely evasive,” Joyce told me, “which is why he’s silent: he just avoids answering. In the years that I have been asking him about these women, he does not have an answer except: ‘It’s what I know.’ And he will always say, ‘I can’t explain it to you because you wouldn’t understand.’ I have always been amazed that John never attempts to explain [anything]. He just says, ‘It’s what I know and you wouldn’t understand.’”
De Ruiter’s version of enlightenment is every male chauvinist’s dream. It means never having to say you’re sorry.
 At the time I first contacted Joyce, she told me that she had a “gag order” regarding talking publically about her ex-husband in any way that might “harm his earning potential.” That was part of the court agreement, and would remain in place as long as he provided child support for their three children, who until recently lived with Joyce. (The two boys have since moved to Edmonton and joined de Ruiter’s organization.)
 Personally, I thought it would make quite a difference. And why the refusal to give a straight answer?
 Something similar seems to have occurred around the death of Anina: de Ruiter spoke before his congregation about the “truth” that he never had sex with her as if it was a proven fact, rather than simply his word against a dead woman’s.