Who are you calling a sect?
When we think of sects, immediately associations of manipulation and abuse arise. Who among us didn’t meet such accounts on newspapers or TV?
‘Sect’ is the new ‘S’ word – as it is today one of the most degrading slurs that can be used against a group or an organization. And the ‘S’ word is used with great ease, regardless of the devastating effect it has on those that it is flung upon. But apart from the pejorative meaning given to this word, the journalist is committing another big error (crime?): replacing journalism with an aggressive form of activism that risk to threaten the very essence of this important work. Especially when the object of the journalistic attention is a social group that is engaged into a spiritual work … the deviation can be immense and consequences bigger than one can estimate.
Indeed, at one point or another, almost any spiritual movement has been accused of being a sect. And this severe error was not made by journalists that were not informed enough on the significance of the term but by journalists turn into activists that tried to impose their one-sidedness to their public.
If it wasn't that the media represent today one of the powers of the state, it would have been just another “error in the matrix”. But with the importance and power the media is gaining from us, it is our duty also to correct its actions and point out any dangerous patterns when they appear. I have seen and directly encountered, few times already, the strange phenomenon of journalists changed into activists of one-sidedness, monologuers that refuse to learn from and listen to the other one's opinion with genuine openness just because they consider already knowing the truth.
And to the victims of such activists are given only the chance of trying to find their justice into the labyrinth of media-defenders bureaucracy, an institution that can easily rival the mythical Labyrinth of Minos. If one can make it out of this journey alive, they will drop the charges and will be happy to have survived the deadly poisonous bites of these media hyenas.
The case I know
One such case is that of Natha Yogacenter in Denmark. Natha Yogacenter was founded in 1990 and is one of Denmark’s oldest and largest schools of Yoga, Tantra and Meditation. However, in 2009 Jyllands-Posten published a series of high-profile articles by Orla Borg, accusing Natha Yogacenter of being a manipulative sex-sect. In order to make the accusations more credible, the journalist was presenting insinuations that the financial support that the Yoga school was receiving from Copenhagen commune was misused by the sect. And of course, to make his claims a little more credible he gave even some numbers (a cheap trick used to show you have done your homework and you know what you are talking about when you do not have a clue).
These articles, which stretched over 3 weeks, were soon indiscriminately picked up by over a dozen other media.
Following the media reports, the Copenhagen Municipality investigated Natha Yogacenter’s accounting and administration for evidence of the claims of Orla Borg. However, their investigation found no evidence of that, and the support continues until this day. After one month of serious investigation they have cleared all the accusations from the already big media campaign. Needless to say, the media never reported the results of this real investigation and the failure of the journalist/activist.
One must ask then – why is it that claims which had such an extensive public echo could not be certified at all when investigated? How come that the journalist failed to investigate such a simple aspect?
The bizarre metamorphic change: journalist turn one-side activist
When contacted to show him the story from Natha's perspective, the journalist clearly told me (in a recorded phone conversation): “No matter what is your story I will not publish it ...”.
This is where the ugly face of the one-sidedness starts to appear and Orla Borg the journalist shows clear signs of a strange metamorphic change into an activist of his own truth. I leave it to another time to talk about the reasons for such bizarre change to appear. Here we only point out the dangerous pattern that sometimes – not so seldom – surface into the media even here in Denmark.
Now I can see that same accusation of being a sect and misusing the public fonds by Natha Yoga center appear into a show on TV2 that was probably running out of sensationalism: “Denmark according to Bubber”. He is trying some old tricks that for sure sell: sex, sect and corruption.
The fact that the production company failed to offer minimum conditions for cooperation, trying constantly to trick me and Natha into a strange deal was already addressed here (link to the article “An incoming media case?”). They even lied to us by saying that they never used but only one kind of contract that it was offered to us also. When checking around we found more than one different (much better) deal that they offered to others. And here is again the same face of the activist showing up from the smokescreen created to hide it.
All these shows to the attentive observer that there is something behind the scene and the journalist is nothing more in this case but just an activist of his own truth, in a crusade of one-sidedness. After all, even the real crusades were just the extreme end of a one-side journey of their own truth being forced on the others.
And here is the interesting part: the important question that all of the media reports failed to ask was ‘what is a sect?’. What are the criteria of defining a sect, and is Natha Yogacenter fitting these criteria?
“This is an important story” tells Bubber to BT's journalist Jan Eriksen. But what he fails to show is a responsible investigation since it is such an important story. Then, is it important because your truth is the only one to be heard?
As it turns out, such criteria for analyzing a sect are clearly defined and can be easily found after even a short investigation.
One of the world’s leading experts on the topic of sects and spiritual movements is Swedish vicar Karl Erik Nylund. Nylund says that for a movement to be defined as a manipulative sect, it has to manifest at least 3 of 4 characteristics:
- Aggression – punishment of the members criticizing the leader or the movement.
- Aversion – criticism and persecution of the people outside the group such as parents for instance.
- Alienation – closed circuit inside the sect, as a geographical or ideological group. The sect becomes the new family.
- Absolute truth – only exists within the sect, and the leader/leaders are entitled to the absolute right of interpreting the truth.
Back to the case of Natha Yogacenter and the ‘S’ word: Nylund had actually made an investigation of Natha Yogacenter already at 2005. This investigation was done by request of the Swedish Supreme Court for the purpose of the case of Yoga Teacher Gregorian Bivolaru (Spiritual mentor of Natha and all its sister schools around the world) who had requested not to be extradited to his native country of Romania on grounds that he was persecuted there for his spiritual beliefs. In a precedent making verdict, the Supreme Court decided not to extradite Bivolaru and later he was granted political asylum in Sweden. This decision relied in part on Nylund’s report that was clearly stating: Natha Yogacenter and its sister school in Romania M.I.S.A. were absolutely not sects.
In Nylund’s word’s: ‘’During my conversations with the MISA practitioners and teachers, I found nothing of the first two A-s (Aggression and Aversion). With regard to the ashram life, only a part of the persons live there and the activities are not the closed circuit type. The courses are accessible to anyone from the outside. Anyone may attend the courses. Therefore we ARE NOT talking about alienation. Some of those who are more dedicated might have a minimum contact with the outside world, however leaders actively seek to oppose this form of alienation, by encouraging them to return to their work and family. Gregorian Bivolaru DOES NOT claim to be in undeniable possession of the absolute truth. Together with other people, he is a spiritual guide and is convinced he is a man with a mission in the society. On the other hand he displayed and still displays no political claims. If people will transform through the lacto-vegetarian diet and through meditation, this will occur gradually. Bivolaru’s power resides in his very humbleness. Therefore in the MISA case, we can find none of the criteria defining manipulative sects.’’
As we can see, in the case of Natha Yogacenter, not only did the one-sidedness activist Orla Borg fail to question whether Natha is a sect by checking the criteria, but he even neglected to mention any expert opinion on the topic. He skipped over this strait to the verdict, ignoring all evidence that did not support his claim, resting instead, entirely on rumors and gossip. Following in his footprints, Bubber is bringing the same people that the JP journalist was using in 2009 to make his own one-sided truth campaign. Same pattern of actively ignoring the obviousness and trying to show only one side of a story that otherwise would prove very interesting in its entirety … but this story would also prove threatening for the sleep of ignorance of some people.
The ‘s’ word is used today far too easily. In the absence of aiming to find the truth by looking into the reality according to clear criteria – ‘Sect’ is reduced to just a painfully harmful insult which is directed at organizations whose only fault may very well be that they offer an alternative to the social norms. In other words – it is just a reaction of fear or aggression towards what we do not understand.
But for me more worrying is the reoccurring pattern in the media of activism of one-sidedness. How can we rely on the discernment of people that prove to actively choose to ignore a part of the reality in order to prove that their truth is the only one? And when these people have the power that a journalist is given by us, the citizens, the problem can be very big for everyone. Can anyone protect us from such strange deviations?