3. Part I: Psychopaths¶
In the summer of 1974, Ram Dass had just finished teaching a six-week course to 1,300 students at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. His guru, Neem Karoli Baba Maharajji, had died a year before, and he was feeling somewhat depressed because he had not found a new teacher. Although many thousands of people looked up to him as their spiritual teacher, he knew that he was not enlightened, and he longed for a teacher he could trust. He had decided that he was going to go to India that winter to search for a suitable teacher.
Hilda Charlton, an eclectic spiritual teacher in New York City, took Ram Dass to see a woman she felt he should meet. He came into a room where a woman was sitting, apparently in deep samadhi. He was invited to verify her trance state by putting a mirror under her nose and trying various means to get her attention. It appeared to him that the trance was real. He then sat in the room for awhile meditating with her.
Abruptly she came out of her trance, and then appeared to channel Maharajji to him. The information being channeled seemed to be kinds of things Maharajji would discuss and things that Ram Dass had never mentioned to anyone. He was impressed, but at the same time he felt repelled by her excessive makeup, jewelry and vile language. It was explained to him that the woman was an incarnation of the Hindu deity Kali. Kali is a manifestation of the Divine Mother, who purifies people by appearing very frightening. This seemed to be a legitimate explanation for feeling uneasy about her.
After vacillating for several weeks, Ram Dass decided to commit himself to taking teachings from this woman. Although the teacher and teachings he was receiving were supposed to be a secret, word spread among the Western devotees of Maharajji, and soon New York City became an unlikely Mecca for dozens of them who came to attend secret classes with this teacher.
Later, Ram Dass wrote an exposé of his two year involvement with this teacher. His description of the complicated web of lies, deception, sexual misconduct and drug use by his teacher portrays a classic example of a psychopath pretending to be a saint.
3.1.1. There are more psychopaths than saints¶
Psychopaths pretending to be saints present a very serious problem for all spiritual traditions. There are many more psychopaths pretending to be saints than there are real saints. If you have a true saint for a teacher, then you have a real possibility for spiritual attainments, including enlightenment. If your teacher is a psychopath, then you may become a programmed puppet, and you risk being , sexually or financially abused. You also may lose your job, your family and possibly even your sanity. Eventually you risk disillusionment in the pursuit of any spiritual quests.
For the purposes of this book I define a saint as any true spiritual seeker who, through a process of study, discipline, prayer, or meditation has attained a purification of mind and true spiritual understanding. In the Buddhist tradition a saint would be fully enlightened, although a legitimate teacher would be one who has attained at least the first of four levels of enlightenment.
A psychopath is someone who is morally defective and does not respect the values of property, truth and proper consideration for the effect of actions on self and others. Generally mental health professionals do not regard psychopaths as mentally ill because they do not manifest obvious dysfunctional behavior, but they appear to be rational. Most professionals prefer the terms sociopaths, borderline personalities, or antisocials.
Perhaps it is because my degree in psychology dates back to 1959 that I prefer the old fashioned term psychopath. I am doubtful that changing the name for each current vogue in professional understanding contributes to the public’s understanding of this very important issue. Also, my direct personal experience with psychopaths has reinforced the view that psychopaths are indeed mentally ill, even if the signs are not immediately obvious.
3.1.2. The origins of psychopathy¶
The origins of psychopathy occur in early childhood when prolonged periods of feeling the unbearable pain of being unloved are experienced. Actually psychopaths may have been loved, but their parents’ problems with marriage, career, health, drinking, drugs, travel, etc. may have kept them from adequately expressing it. When the child had problems, he or she felt that there was no one to whom to turn for support, guidance and love. Most children who have this type of experience simply become neurotic, but others experience a more sinister development: As the stress builds, they feel that everyone and everything is the source of their suffering. They reach a breaking point and make a conscious decision to get even with the world. From that point on they feel that any harm they cause others is justified revenge. They become juvenile delinquents, and by the time they become young adults their pattern of behavior becomes so deeply rooted that they are virtually incurable.
There are two general types of psychopaths. One type is overtly violent, and most of them quickly end up in prison for murder or a series of violent crimes. The other is a covert type that is actually much more dangerous and can cause both violent and nonviolent suffering to large numbers of people. There are no limits to the amount of damage a psychopath can do. Hitler, Stalin, and Saddham Hussein are examples of psychopaths who did great damage when they seized political control.
You should understand that being a psychopath is not a black or white situation, but is measured on a gradient scale, and we all have some element of a psychopath in our personality. It is only when this characteristic is strong enough to dominate the personality that the label psychopath should be used. Even when this occurs some people are only slightly psychopathic and others are very psychopathic.
Very psychopathic people rarely remain long amid the byproducts of their actions even if they are the covert type. They either end up in prison, or are constantly on the move from place to place. They rarely acquire an advanced education, establish themselves in a career, or become recognized as useful persons in society.
However, slightly to moderately psychopathic persons can become established in a community, and covert psychopaths can have extraordinarily attractive and charismatic personalities. The entertainment business and advertising seem to attract a disproportionately large number of psychopaths perhaps because both professions involve creating illusions. They may be doctors, perhaps with fake degrees, who frequently are charged with malpractice. They may be lawyers who become deeply , involved with criminals and scam artists. They may be politicians who take bribes and abuse the powers of office. They may be psychotherapists who seduce or enslave their clients. They may be business people who sell shoddy merchandise, inflate repairs and do not honor guarantees. They may be religious leaders pretending to be saints.
3.1.3. Distinguishing saints from psychopaths¶
Distinguishing a saint from a psychopath presents a unique problem because they have some common characteristics that seem at first to be identical. Both saints and psychopaths can have the appearance of a beautiful, radiant and attractive being. Both may tell you, ‘Be here now, forget the past, forget the future; be spontaneous, heed your inner voice, follow your bliss.” Both may advise you to not be bound by traditional social values but by higher spiritual values. Both may have messages from God or spiritual teachings tailored just for you. Both may be homeless wanderers. Both may manifest fearless behavior and may risk persecution. Saints and psychopaths can be intuitively perceptive of people’s mood changes, new developments, and new understandings. They may appear to manifest similar psychic powers, healing, mind reading, and channeling from other realms.
Although the powers of a saint and a psychopath may seem the same at first, they have different roots. Saints have a calm, clear, empowered state of mind as a result of discipline, meditation, and introspection. Psychopaths can develop paranoid samadhi, which is a concentrated mind, because they have done so many unskillful things such as lying, theft, injury, adultery, substance abuse, etc. Their powers come from having to have a very sensitive awareness to perceive when someone is coming after them. They are also gluttons for attention, and when they have your attention they will start to feed on your spiritual energies like a psychic vampire. They can sometimes read minds, tell the future, do healings, see things which aren’t physically apparent and you may become mesmerized and convinced of their divine power.
So how do we tell saints from psychopaths? My teacher, Sayadaw U Pandita, says that he never makes up his mind about peoples enlightenment until he has known them and observed them closely for a year. It is in the nature of saints to respond to sincere requests for help, and guidance. If you sincerely want help they will be there for you. They may ask you to make commitments once you are training under their guidance, but there is unlikely to be an initial urgent commitment. Psychopaths, on the other hand, are more likely to come on to you with an initial urgency, demanding that you make a commitment immediately or lose your opportunity. Therefore, my first advice about telling saints from psychopaths is to take your time.
3.1.4. Amoral or immoral?¶
In time some very distinguishing differences between saints and psychopaths become apparent. Saints have such a deeply rooted morality from their own direct understanding that by normal social standards they may be amoral. The Buddha clashed with his culture by disparaging rites and rituals and not respecting caste. Christ, too, conflicted with his culture.
Psychopaths, on the other hand, are simply immoral. Their divergence from social standards involves self gratification and disregard for doing harm. At first it may be difficult to discern whether a teacher is amoral or immoral, but in time it may become apparent whether or not he or she adheres to the standards of behavior being taught. The situation that Ram Dass found himself in was that of having a teacher who insisted that everyone tell the truth, but she herself constantly lied. She forbade the use of drugs, but used them habitually. She insisted on celibacy for her students, but practiced adultery.
I use a standard of evaluation I call SAY, MEAN, DO. Saints will say what they mean and will do what they say. Psychopaths will mean something other than what they say and what they do may have little relationship to what they say and mean. For example, psychopaths may say they love you or want to help you, when what they mean is that they want attention or money. What they do in the long run is going to be a disappointment. It takes a while for consistency or inconsistency of SAY, MEAN, DO to come into focus. The more time you take in evaluating this the more accurate your conclusion will be.
3.1.5. Seeds of destruction¶
Psychopaths are constantly planting the seeds of their own destruction, so it is good to look and listen carefully for this. When new psychopaths arrive on the scene, they or their co-psychopathic entourage will tell you many stories of how successful and well respected they were at their previous locations. However, in time they or other people will begin to tell stories of great conflict and discord at their previous places. Listen carefully to these stories and you will hear that they were at the center of these problems. Listen more carefully and you will see that they were the cause of these problems.
3.1.6. The Big Lie¶
Psychopaths frequently make use of the Big Lie method, so you should critically evaluate the plausibility of the claims people make. You should be very suspicious when someone claims that 98% of cancers were cured, or 99% of the marriages they arranged were successful, or 100% of their students become enlightened. Almost all of such claims are made by psychopaths, especially if they repeat such claims over and over again.
3.1.7. Spiritual scenes¶
Spiritual scenes are fertile feeding grounds for psychopaths. There are always new members and teachers arriving and there is a bias to welcome and accept them as being wonderful. Psychopaths thrive on not having to verify what they say. They frequently get away with claiming to be enlightened, the reincarnation of some deity, delivering messages from God, or having special spiritual powers.
3.1.8. The chorus of psychopaths¶
It is common for psychopaths to pick up ideas from each other. Channeling is a classic example. From time to time there is a chorus of psychopaths proclaiming that California is about to fall into the ocean, or that Earth will be hit by a comet next August. When the disaster doesn’t happen they will say that their prayers prevented it. How do you immediately check out the validity of channeled information? Generally speaking you can’t, other than reflecting on the plausibility of their claims and waiting to see what happens.
3.1.9. More claims than comets¶
Of course, you may miss out on the excitement of being a close disciple of the next avatar or messiah. You may drown when California sinks. Remember that avatars come every thousand years or so and a comet hits Earth every 100,000 years despite the proliferation of claims. In the last two thousand years there have been tens of thousands of predictions of drastic earth changes and not one has come to pass. You may feel attracted to a radiant being who is making unlikely claims and offering a shortcut to spiritual development. If you want a short cut to spiritual development, consider Russian roulette. The odds are better and the chance of suffering from a mistake is less.
3.1.10. The pattern of avoiding punishment¶
Psychopaths skillfully evade blame when they are confronted with having done something wrong. Since they lack a true sense of guilt, they do not respond the way you may expect a guilty person to behave. Psychopaths have a very distinctive sequence of responses to dealing with confrontations. If one method of stopping a confrontation does not work, they will change strategies. When confronted with wrong-doing, a psychopath will respond in this sequence:
Ignore the issue.
Deny that they have done something wrong.
Attack the accuser, usually accusing the accuser of being the one who has done wrong.
Threaten to harm the accuser, someone else, something, or self.
Apologize and admit that they have done wrong, then ask for a clean slate or new start
A saint, on the other hand, will either immediately admit that he or she has made an error, or ask for clarification and seek reconciliation. An example would be Christ’s advice that when someone asks for your coat you should give your cloak also. Generally, saints will place a higher value on harmonious relationships than on pride or possessions. We must allow for cultural factors and personality characteristics, but when confronted with wrong-doing, saints generally will follow this sequence:
Acknowledge errors and misunderstandings
Admit that they have made an error
Offer compensation or correction
Avoid that type of error in the future
The first strategy of the saint is the last strategy of a psychopath. But when psychopaths are finally forced to apologize they will outdo the saints. Their previous belligerent attitudes will vanish. They will apologize profusely and confess the error of their ways in great detail. They may even list wrongdoings that you were unaware of, to impress you with the depth of their change. Their transformation seems quite impressive and even professionals who should know better are sometimes taken in by their pretense. Judges have suspended sentences of repeat bigamists and outrageous con artists who swore to devote the rest of their lives to making restitution.
“Give me a clean slate”, is the refrain of psychopaths. They will proclaim that they are a new person or that they have been born again. Sometimes they insist that they should not be punished because the person who did those things no longer exists. Indeed they may make drastic changes in their behavior, from being rude and domineering to being humble and submissive. It is, however, all a ruse to get off the hook. For awhile after being caught psychopaths may go through a quiescent period, but in time the same old patterns of behavior will reoccur. They are not bound by conscience or true remorse. As soon as you walk out the door they may revert to their old ways without skipping a beat.
3.1.11. Psychopaths are self-destructive¶
You should remember that the essential characteristic of psychopaths is that they are self-destructive and destructive of those around them. Sooner or later things are going to turn out bad. Having a psychopath around is like having a pet rattlesnake running loose in your house. When you determine that someone is psychopathic, you should make an immediate clean break with them.
Threatening a psychopath is like waving a red flag at a bull. Our legislators should be aware of this when they pass laws. Laws which motivate normal people to avoid crime may result in psychopaths committing more crime. Psychopaths are essentially self-destructive and so to threaten psychopaths with destruction if they break a law only increases their motivation. All too often our system of punishment results in sending psychopaths to prison which becomes a school for learning psychopathic tricks. Associations made in prison result in the establishment of a more dangerous network of psychopaths in society after they leave prison.
3.1.12. Psychopaths crave attention¶
As a result of not having received love and attention as a child, psychopaths have an almost unlimited need for attention. One of the signs of a psychopath is that wherever they go they tend to become the center of attention. It doesn’t matter to them whether they do something good or bad as long as they get attention. They can be benefactors as easily as they can be dangerous and may steal things to give to someone else. At parties they become the focal point of jokes, speeches, pranks, story telling, arguments, fights, singing, dancing and intense activity where they are the center of attention. They are skillful, talented, entertaining, argumentative and accident prone. At lectures and meetings they become the center of attention by asking many questions, making statements about how they oppose something, or how they applaud and approve of what is being said. If they can’t get attention in a group, they will usually be doing lots of fidgeting in their seat, like O.J. Simpson did at his trial. If they no longer can get your attention by dominating you, then they can shift to seeking your assistance in helping them rehabilitate themselves or recover from an accident.
3.1.13. Motivating with guilt¶
Another sign to watch for is that psychopaths tend to motivate you with guilt. Anything you do wrong becomes a lever for manipulating you. This is particularly true if you break, or threaten to break a promise, even though they usually have poor records in keeping promises.
3.1.14. Anxiety attacks¶
There is one sign of a psychopath that usually only a close associate will have an opportunity to see. From time to time a psychopath will have anxiety attacks. They hide alone, or with someone totally under their control, when they become panicked about their health, fear of being arrested, assassinated, or attacked by devils, spirits, etc. Sometimes anxiety attacks last days or weeks, or sometimes only brief moments, especially if they get their co-psychopath motivated to do something for them as a result.
Most organizations, especially spiritual organizations, tend to make rules of various types as a result of their encounters with psychopaths. This can be useful in some circumstances, but usually the result is complexity and inconvenience for the members of the organization. The psychopaths will simply break the rule if they can get away with it, or do something else which is equally bad but not against the rules. Organizations would be better advised to develop an awareness of psychopaths and establish a system for getting rid of them.
Too often the initial impression that a psychopath makes on people is very positive. This is especially true in spiritual organizations. Sometimes psychopaths have an attractive, radiant appearance. They stand out in a group and people are likely to feel especially drawn to them. An organization would be well advised to be extra cautious about becoming involved with any unusually attractive or impressive newcomer.
Another thing to watch for in spotting psychopaths is that a group of people is likely to have a polarized mix in their response to a psychopath. Quite likely some people are going to feel extraordinarily drawn to a particular newcomer, and others will have a strong negative reaction to him or her. Typically, in time, everyone in the group is either going to develop a strong liking or disliking for a psychopath.
Psychopaths are dangerous even in legitimate organizations with honest leadership. If a psychopath comes on the scene bad things are bound to happen. Businesses become inoperable, teams become disorganized, families break up. Psychopaths are likely to be trouble makers, embezzlers, drug dealers, or get the organization involved with illegal dealings. The morale of the organization is likely to deteriorate, and the staff is likely to become divided into warring camps.
Buddhism has fewer psychopaths than other major religious traditions. This is partly because Buddhists have a clearer idea of what enlightenment is, and leaders are more likely to spot someone who is pretending to be enlightened. Also, Buddhism is outwardly comparatively boring. Psychopaths are more likely to be attracted to singing, dancing, love, light, miracles, and channeling. Usually psychopaths have a great deal of trouble sitting quiet and still. I appreciate the boring facade of Buddhism, as it is a great protection.
At the same time the comparative scarcity of psychopaths in Buddhism leaves Buddhists more vulnerable to them. A psychopath may be sitting at the back of a meditation hall reading a book while everyone else is meditating. Occasionally even monks in monasteries get involved in strictly forbidden activities, such as sex, drugs, lying and stealing and get away with it because no one expects monks to do such things.
Generally you are safer choosing a Buddhist teacher who has been authorized to teach by a widely recognized teacher or tradition. Of course, psychopaths may claim authorization to teach, but they usually do not maintain close association with their tradition or other teachers. On the other hand, exceptionally good teachers frequently develop their own styles of practice which are different from their tradition. As a rule of thumb you would do well to avoid teachers who proclaim their enlightenment and put down other teachers. Although some of the most effective teachers in the West are laypeople, monks and nuns make safer teachers than laypeople, especially if they are actively associated with their tradition.
Although prospects for fundamental change in psychopaths is unlikely, the prospects for change in co-psychopaths are very good. Co-psychopaths are close associates of psychopaths who are caught up in their web of control and deception. They may be a spouses, partners or disciples. They, themselves are usually not morally defective, but they have accepted the artificial reality that the psychopaths have created, and they believe that the psychopaths’ behavior is acceptable because of their divinity, illness, abused childhood, enlightenment, etc. They have been programmed by the psychopath to lie, cheat, steal, or even murder. It is usually the disparity between their own inner sense of morality and the rationalized, programmed morality of the psychopath that causes them to break away. Frequently the self destructive nature of psychopaths will lead them to overplay their hand and cause their co-psychopaths to break away. Sometimes co-psychopaths leave repeatedly and then return to their psychopath.
Psychopaths can be a disaster for an organization if they succeed in getting a manager or teacher into a co-psychopathic role. There are some signs to watch for when a legitimate spiritual teacher becomes involved with a psychopathic partner: Teachers will have much less time to devote to their teaching. There will be a greater emphasis on the teachers making money either directly or indirectly as a result of their teaching. The teacher may leave to start a new organization, or many key people will leave. A new emphasis or activity will develop in the teachings. The teacher may get involved with some immoral or illegal activity. These signs do not mean a teacher has become immoral per se, but it is an indication of the power of their partner to create a web of commitments and distort reality.
3.1.18. Helping a co-psychopath¶
Even after co-psychopaths break away, the roots of their programming are deep, and there is a possibility that they may return to the control and influence of the psychopath. It is a pattern of behavior similar to that of co-alcoholics and abused spouses. Even when co-psychopaths are successful in breaking away, there are prolonged periods during which they gradually realize the extent of the artificial reality that they adopted. Some never figure out what happened, other than realizing that the relationship was unwholesome for them. Co-psychopaths may need psychotherapy and support groups to overcome the inner conflicts they experience. Their chances for recovery are very good. It is highly recommended that co-psychopaths seek relationships with people or groups that have had similar experience, such as former members of religious cults.
If you have extricated yourself from a group dominated by a psychopath, you will have a strong desire to get your friends out of it too. Unless your friends in the group are expressing some doubts or reservations, it is usually fruitless to trying to talk them into leaving. Co-psychopaths are too caught up in the artificial reality of the psychopath to hear your advice. If you try too hard to convince them, you will succeed only in breaking off communication. The best strategy for a friend is to wait until they show signs of doubt and give them understanding support at the right time.
3.1.19. Purity of motives offers protection¶
Some of the spiritual teachings you need to learn concern impurities in your seeking. To the extent that your seeking is motivated by desires for power, prestige, sex, sense desires, etc., you are vulnerable to being seduced by a psychopath. To the extent that you are motivated to become enlightened or to purify your mind of defilements, then you are on safe ground. Usually our motives are a mixture of good and bad. If you are a true spiritual seeker, you will convert experiences with psychopaths to a process of purification which decreases your lower motives and increases higher motives.
3.1.20. Psychopaths do not want to be cured¶
One of the most tragic aspects of psychopaths is that even though they may pretend to want to change, they really do not want to. Psychopaths are rarely responsive to psychotherapy. They are difficult to cure because they don’t want to be cured. On rare occasions, they come to reflect on their lives during a mid-life crisis and may truly desire to change. Even then, it may take extensive psychotherapy with expensive specialists to induce a true transformation of behavior. These rare occasions occur only when they come to the desire to change on their own, and not when they have been caught and are only pretending to want to change.
It is not advisable to try to reform or cure psychopaths. The best advice is to learn to identify them and develop a strategy for cutting off the relationship. Although a relationship with a psychopath is painful, it is also an opportunity to enhance your spiritual growth and purify your own motives. Be patient with friends who are under the control of a psychopath, and be ready to help them when they express doubts. Awareness of the problem of psychopaths is half of the solution.
Although there is a superficial similarity between saints and psychopaths, we can in time distinguish between them by objectively observing their behavior. We all have some psychopathic tendencies, as well as tendencies to be saints, but when these tendencies predominate, we use the label psychopath or saint. When we encounter some extraordinarily impressive personality, we would be wise to ask ourselves if this is the personality of a psychopath. Observe their behavior carefully to determine if they say what they mean and do what they say and mean. There is a Checklist for Saints and Psychopaths on the next page, and there are extra copies which can be removed at the end of this book. Keep this list handy and review it from time to time.
Checklist for Saints and Psychopaths
SAY MEAN DO consistency
SAY MEAN DO disparity
Adhere to own moral standards
Breaks own rules
Many bad debts, writes bad checks
Truth is highest standard
No true regard for truth
Insists dose associates tell the truth
Tell close associates to lie
Push philosophy aggressively
Attractive but not drawing
Attractive and drawing
Waits for you to seek help
Comes on with unsolicited advice
Good reputation endures & improves
Good reputation fades in time
Projects & organization grow & improve
Projects & organization degenerate
In the long run things turn out well
In the long run things turn out badly
People have long term benefit from association
People are damaged by long term association
Have concern for effect of actions on self and others
Are unconcerned for effect of actions on self and others
Will immediately apologize for errors
Apologize as last resort
Look for their own mistakes & will apologize
Ignore their own mistakes and apologizes only if cornered
If trapped will not renounce principles
If trapped will do or say anything to escape
Typically have good health
Typically have variable exotic health problems
Typically have few accidents & injuries
Typically have many accidents and injuries
Felt loved when a child
Felt unloved when a child
Can sit very still
Can sit still only when center of attention
Encourage associates to be self reliant
Enslave people around them
Refrains from using mind-dulling substances
Substance abuse common
Are comfortable being in the background
Compulsion to become the center of attention
May adopt a spiritual name one time
Adopt many aliases
Any one psychopath or saint is unlikely to have all of the characteristics listed. Just because someone has some of these characteristics does not mean he or she is a psychopath or saint.
3.2. Screw U¶
In 1986 I gave a talk on the subject of Saints & Psychopaths at a meditation retreat that I lead with Shinzen Young. Several years later, a tape of this talk was played on a Los Angeles radio station. The next day I received many phone calls from people who wanted copies of this tape and more information on the subject. It turned out that about half of the people calling were mental health professionals.
One of the callers asked me about my education. I spontaneously replied that I had gone to Screw U. Although I have a BA. degree in Psychology (Ohio State University 1959), my advanced studies have come from my personal contact with psychopaths in daily life. I encountered several psychopaths when I was a businessman, when I was involved with intentional communities and also in religious organizations. One of the most valuable courses I took at Screw U was with a teacher I shared with Ram Dass.
While I was manager of the Hanuman Foundation Tape Library I received teachings from a teacher with whom Ram Dass was also receiving teachings. It was the same teacher described in the previous chapter. I regarded Ram Dass as my teacher, so I automatically gave the status of being a legitimate teacher to his teacher. It is unlikely that I would have been attracted to this teacher had Ram Dass not been involved.
After I had been involved with this teacher for about a year, Ram Dass announced to his students that he no longer felt that his new teacher was a legitimate teacher. Even though he gave a very clear and honest explanation for changing his mind, it took a couple of months for me to fully see that he was correct. I learned a great deal from the process of getting involved with and extricating myself from, association with this teacher.
3.2.1. The Hindu Tradition¶
It is helpful to understand some aspects of the Hindu and Buddhist teachings which Ram Dass taught. In the Hindu tradition the ultimate objective is to merge your consciousness with God. Enlightenment is an implied part of this process. Since it is difficult to merge your consciousness directly with God, it is recommended that you merge your consciousness with enlightened beings who are capable of merging their consciousness with God. Usually there is a hierarchy of beings involved with this process of merging consciousness with God. Devotees should strive to merge their consciousness with their guru who is enlightened. The guru has merged consciousness with his/her guru and a lineage of gurus who have Merged with some deity such as Krishna, or Shiva, who has merged with God. If your guru is enlightened, then it is quite possible that this arrangement may hasten your attainment of enlightenment.
Although this system offers a short cut to enlightenment, it also offers an opportunity for infinite mischief for a psychopath. A devotee should cultivate an attitude of total oneness, trust and obedience to a guru. A legitimate guru will use this attitude only to expedite the devotee’s spiritual growth and will not use it for personal benefit. If you choose the path of devotion, you should be able to distinguish between a saint and a psychopath.
3.2.2. Buddhism and Hinduism¶
Just as Jesus Christ was a revolutionary in Jewish culture, the Buddha was a radical revolutionary in Hindu culture. He encouraged questioning of spiritual authority and on a number of occasions set down principles for judging the validity of spiritual teachers and teachings, He directly rejected the idea of giving someone high spiritual status because of the status of their parents. He frequently challenged the idea that rites and rituals such as animal sacrifices, or bathing in a holy river could absolve sin. Some of his views were so contrary to Hindu culture that this may be one of the reasons that Buddhism died out in the land of its origin. The Mogul invaders formed alliances with some Hindu kings and eliminated all Buddhist monasteries and temples.
The oldest lineage of Buddhism, the Theravada tradition, lacks the devotion to many different deities that is characteristic of the Mahayana tradition. However, there is some expeditious value to devotion as a means of speeding the progress of a student’s development. The Mahayana tradition evolved for a long period amid Hindu culture after the Theravada tradition had gone to Sri Lanka. The Mahayana tradition has many more characteristics similar to Hindu culture than the older Theravada tradition. The Mahayana tradition places the greatest emphasis on enlightenment, but makes use of devotional qualities similar to the Hindu tradition by worshiping gurus and many deities. Ram Dass’ new teacher was primarily a Hindu teacher, but made use of some Buddhist Mahayana teachings.
3.2.3. The mysterious teacher¶
I heard the first rumors about this teacher in November of 1974 when I attended a ten-day Vipassana retreat with Ram Dass and many devotees of Neem Karoli Baba Maharajji lead by Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield and Richard Barsky. At the end of the retreat Ram Dass mentioned to me that he had found a new teacher, but strangely he would say nothing else about this teacher. Someone else told me that he was taking teachings from a Brooklyn housewife who had become spontaneously enlightened in her bathroom.
I decided to visit friends on Long Island, New York to see if I could get information about this new teacher. It soon became clear that my friends were involved with this teacher too, but they would say nothing about her or what they did with her. Several of my friends would mysteriously join a car pool and drive somewhere together, then return several hours later. After a few days I decided that I was going to learn nothing more, so I decided to return to Colorado.
At that time I was managing the Hanuman Foundation Tape Library in Boulder, Colorado. Two of my employees had been close devotees of Maharajji and spent many years in India with him. Soon after my return they received letters, from friends in New York that said devotees who had been in India with Maharajji were welcome to attend the secret classes. My employees wanted to go to New York to see what was going on, so we drove to New York together. I figured that my association with my employees would get my foot in the door and it did.
My employees were immediately included in all of the secret classes. We were staying with friends in New York City. As before, they would mysteriously join a car pool and go off to classes for several hours each day. I did get some more information on the nature of the classes. Most of the classes were held on week days in large houses occupied only by students, or in the home of the teacher while her husband was at work. There were five classes a week and the largest was over 100 people on Wednesdays in a rented class room. The classes were different sizes and only about a dozen people including Ram Dass were permitted to go to all of the secret classes. Of course, the secrecy and exclusivity of these classes increased my desire to belong to them.
3.2.4. A call from the teacher¶
After we had been in New York for a couple of days, I received a phone call. It was the teacher and without telling me who she was, she aggressively asked me many questions about my sex life. It seems that I dealt with these questions satisfactorily as I was told that a car would come immediately and take me for a face to face interview.
The interview was conducted in front of a class of about three dozen people. The interview involved many questions about the type of spiritual practices I had done, where I lived and my relationship to Ram Dass. It was made clear in the interview that I wasn’t quite up to the high standards of spiritual development that was required for her students, but it was implied that I had some potential if I worked hard. At the end of the interview she told to see Hilda Charlton who would assign me special practices to, as she said, “Clean me up.”
Hilda Charlton was a devotee of Nityananda, who was one of the most famous gurus in India before he died. After the death of Nityananda, Hilda lived several years in the monasteries of Sai Baba. Sai Baba has long been the most famous guru in India and his monasteries are large and luxurious.
Sai Baba had authorized Hilda to teach a class in New York City as part of his organization. Two or three hundred people would attend her Thursday night classes at Saint John the Divine Cathedral on Manhattan Island. Hilda was the one who had discovered our secret teacher and introduced Ram Dass to her.
When I went to see Hilda, she gave me instructions to be celibate, vegetarian, to meditate, to do breathing exercises, and pray to the Virgin Mary every day to relieve my sins. She told me to return to Colorado and do these practices for three months before returning to New York. I then went to Ram Dass who told me that I could attend secret Tuesday night classes that the teacher had told him to conduct.
3.2.5. From Boulder to New York¶
Since my employees were being admitted to all classes, we decided to move the Hanuman Foundation Tape Library from Boulder to New York. Ram Dass instructed me to rent a house in Queens on Long Island for the Tape Library and for six of his students. My employees were assigned a different house to live in. At this time there were six other houses in Queens which each had about a dozen students living in them, but this was the only one with just Ram Dass students.
A week after we moved into the house we all found ourselves in the kitchen at one time. It was clear that we needed to get organized as to cleaning and other chores; we decided to have a house meeting. Within a minute the phone rang. It was our mysterious teacher who promptly told us to call off the meeting. She appointed the person who answered the phone the house leader and said that she would send Ram Dass to come the next morning at 4 A.M. to conduct the house meeting. We were all quite impressed at the timing of the call and the special attention we had received.
3.2.6. Attending secret classes¶
It was not long until every one in the house except myself was attending secret classes. It was clear that I was the low man on the totem pole in terms of spiritual development. Then about a month later, I received a call from the teacher who yelled at me, “Why are you not here!” It seemed that she was trying to make me feel guilty. But very clearly no one had told me to attend. She told me to show up for the largest class next Wednesday.
I felt honored that the diligent work on the various practices I had been assigned had paid off, and that I did not have to wait the three months that Hilda had mentioned. The Wednesday class was packed like sardines. We all sat on the floor, knee to knee, for about 3 hours without getting up. The teacher knew each of us by name, and during the class she had a brief interchange with everyone in the room. I was quite impressed with how appropriate her questions to me were ond how accurate her observations were. Wednesday was the day set aside for new students and visitors. On occasion she would exorcise a devil, or do a healing for newcomers. It was an interesting and dramatic class.
About a half dozen very advanced students who, we were told had psychic powers sat in front and there would be occasional exchanges with them. The teacher might ask them what invisible deities were in the room and then tell them that they had observed correctly. It seemed that this must be one of the most important places in the world since so many important gods dropped by for visits. The advanced students would praise our teacher for her love and devotion she had for her students and the wonderful results of her teachings. In turn the teacher would praise the advanced students for their enlightenment, psychic powers and tell them how important they were. Clearly we were a very special group of people to be honored by receiving such teachings.
After about three hours our teacher and about twenty advanced students would leave the main room for special advanced teachings; the rest of us were told to remain and meditate. Usually Hilda would be left in charge of leading the meditations of the main group. After a while the teacher would leave the second group and tell them to meditate while she took a few of them to another room for even more advanced special teachings. Finally, she would leave that group with Ram Dass to give him very advanced teachings.
3.2.7. The Divine Mother¶
We were constantly reminded that our teacher was an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali. Kali is the wrathful aspect of the Divine Mother, who is regarded as the mother of the world or reality. The Kali aspect of the Divine Mother is frightening, the way a mother who loves her children frightens them with punishment if they misbehaved, Kali has black hair, black skin, and blood dripping from her mouth. She cuts off the heads of sinful beings and wears their heads in a necklace around her neck. Kali banishes sin and impurity from her children. Only the spiritually pure are safe from the wrath of Kali.
Our teacher had long jet black hair, and it sometimes seemed that her normal dark complexion took on a decidedly black tone. We were repeatedly told she would take on our karma and as a result, we were told, she would bleed copious quantities of blood from her mouth. On occasion, students who were her attendants in her home would call other students and tell them that their teacher was bleeding so much that they were worried about her health. They were sometimes told that the bleeding was from taking on the karma of their sin of doubt, and they were reminded what a great sacrifice she was making because of her love for them.
Our teacher had enormous amounts of energy. On occasion we had marathon classes which would last sixteen hours, and she would be full of divine energy when everyone else was ready to drop. We were told that she did not sleep, but there would be times that she would go into a deep state of samadhi for hours. It was not unusual for people to receive phone calls from her at two or four o’clock in the morning. Her style was to challenge people and make them feel guilty. She used vile language and usually brought up subjects which would embarrass them, such as their sexual inclinations. The ultimate punishment was to be banned from attending classes, although most who were banned would eventually be permitted to return.
3.2.8. Ram Dass leaves The Teachings¶
After I had been there for about six months, our teacher announced that Ram Dass would be leaving what we called The Teachings. Ram Dass continued to attend classes for another month, but there were big changes after this announcement. There were greater melodramas after Ram Dass departed. It was announced that someone was trying to assassinate our teacher, and we were told to be on the lookout for strangers with guns. We were told that some lamas had come from Tibet to persuade our teacher to return to Tibet with them. They had determined that she was an incarnation of a deity, and they wanted her to return to her temple so that they could worship her. Our teacher disappeared for several days, and we were told that she was experiencing an overload of spiritual energy. All students were instructed to sit up all night in meditation to psychically draw off the excess energy so she could return home. Then it was announced that our teacher had left her husband, and they were going to be divorced. Again the teacher disappeared, but this time a few students started to get phone calls to join her in Florida.
A few people had chosen to leave The Teachings before Ram Dass departed, but after he left many more began to leave. I noticed that for a while after people left they maintained a respect for our teacher, but about a month after they left they developed a strong dislike for both The Teachings and the teacher. It was a puzzle that took me a few months to figure out.
The departing students left vacancies in the advanced classes, and suddenly I found myself promoted to all of the most advanced secret classes. It didn’t occur to me that the special attention that I was receiving was because I had a close association with Ram Dass. Our teacher was constantly pumping me for information to discover what Ram Dass was doing and saying. As time went on, it became apparent that there were various intrigues going on between the teacher and Ram Dass as gifts were returned and confidences were betrayed. The teacher and Ram Dass would deliberately give me conflicting instructions, and it was clear that they were both trying to get me to make a choice between them. Other students were also placed in circumstances where they had do choose which teacher to follow.
3.2.9. Ram Dass confesses¶
Finally about three months after his departure, Ram Dass made a public explanation as to why he left The Teachings. He announced to his Tuesday night class that he had been deceived into believing that the teacher was enlightened. His suspicions started when the teacher made sexual advances to him under the guise of advanced tantric teachings. The private sessions of advanced teachings that he was supposed to be having became a cover for a sexual liaison with a married woman. She claimed to be beyond desire, but it became clearer and clearer to him that she was motivated by lust. The hypocrisy of having an adulterous sexual relationship while pretending to be a celibate teacher of celibate students was too much for him. Eventually he decided to leave, but since he felt that The Teachings were benefitting others he did not want to create a schism.
He had intended to quietly leave the teachings without conflict. However, the teacher would not leave him alone; he was constantly confronted with dirty tricks instigated by her. When other people left the teachings, they would come to Ram Dass to share their experiences of their teacher. Soon a vast web of deception came into focus. The information that convinced Ram Dass that the teacher was channeling Maharajji had come from a diary of a woman who had been with him in India. People who claimed to have seen large amounts of blood come from her mouth had been instructed to call Ram Dass, Hilda and others to say they were worried about the amount of blood. Everyone in the inner circle of students believed that others had seen blood, but when they compared experiences none had seen it. Her enormous amount of energy came from pills. Much of her supposed psychic information came from an intelligence network of her students.
The reason that people who left The Teachings developed dislike for her within a month after leaving was that they would exchange information with the others who left. People who remained in the teachings would rationalize what they heard, or not hear what was being said to them. I too rationalized what I was being told, and the awareness I developed of this capacity for rationalization was one of the most valuable lessons I learned in 1976.
Ram Dass’ revelations about the teacher seemed to me to be incomprehensible affairs of titans. Worship of the Divine Mother was to see that all reality was a manifestation of the Divine Mother. The highest teaching was that even horrible and unpleasant things were also manifestations of the Divine Mother. To see the Divine Mother behind all forms of reality was to see the true reality. It was a contradiction in terms to say someone had deceived me into seeing anyone as the Divine Mother.
I continued to regard our teacher as the Divine Mother. How could I be wrong? Everyone and everything was the Divine Mother, and to see things this way was an assurance that I was on the path to liberation. It seemed to me that I had benefitted from The Teachings, and I had made a great deal of progress in my spiritual development. This judgment was largely based on having progressed from being a rejected outsider to a key member of the inner circle. This is an example of the dubious types of reasoning that a co-psychopath is likely to use.
3.2.10. The inner circle¶
Being in the inner circle provided an opportunity to witness deception and dishonesty that I had not been aware of before. I witnessed her taking pills and saw the effect they had on her energy. She took some of her students on shoplifting excursions, she charged meals to other people’s hotel rooms. She conspired with students to fake injuries for insurance claims, and she would habitually tell people things which I knew were not true. Seeing all of this as the play of the Divine Mother was wearing thin. These things were clearly wrong.
A couple of months after Ram Dass made his revelations, I finally announced my departure from The Teachings. It was a gradual process like a balance scale slowly swinging to the other side. I left when the balance was 51% doubt and 49% faith. In the ensuing weeks and months, the balance continued to shift to increasing doubt.
Over the years I would occasionally encounter friends who never left The Teachings. Knowing how their minds would rationalize anything I would say, I would make little attempt to encourage them to leave. If I had vigorously tried to get them to leave, they would have cut off communication with me.
3.2.11. Special interpretations of reality¶
Although the method of viewing everything as a manifestation of the Divine Mother has some value in cultivating a transcendent awareness, it is a method which can be easily abused. In fact, all methods which require a special interpretation of reality are potentially dangerous, especially if a psychopath is involved. The worship of deities, gurus and teachers can be helpful in attaining liberation, but they all involve adopting a special view of reality.
3.2.12. Teachers should be guides¶
My personal preference is now to be a light unto myself. My taste in teachers these days inclines to boring Buddhists who focus directly on the objective of enlightenment. The Buddha encouraged the attitude that teachers are guides who are familiar with a path. The guides do not make the journey for us, but only advise us. From The Dhammapada:
Mukti Ma Deva Walla was the name which Neem Kara Baba Maharajji gave to Jane. Mukti was traveling in India visiting all the big time gurus when she came to Maharajji. He was famous in the West as the guru of Ram Dass. Maharajji asked her what she did in America, and she replied that she and her then current husband, Charles Berner, conducted weekend Enlightenment Intensives. Maharajji replied to this by giving her the spiritual name which means Goddess Who Sells Enlightenment.
Mukti came into my life in the summer of 1977. At that time I was living by the yacht harbor in Santa Cruz, California. I had an income of $25,000 to $35,000 a year from investments and was managing the Hanuman Foundation Tape Library as an unpaid volunteer, distributing Ram Dass tape recordings. Mukti, had been traveling with a friend of mine until they had decided to go their separate ways, happened to be staying nearby, so when I heard that there was going to be a gathering of Maharajji devotees in the Bay Area I left a message at the home where she was a guest, telling her about it.
Instead of returning the call, she arrived at my house in the evening. She was on her way to Berkeley, and since it was late she spent the night. One thing led to another, and we ended up being together for the next two years. Because many of my friends were devotees of Maharajji, she started to use the name Mukti.
3.3.1. Feeling spiritually desolate¶
I had been feeling spiritually desolate because I had never traveled to the East and met the great gurus. I had heard stories of miracles, insight and wonder from Ram Dass and many of my friends who had spent years traveling and meditating in India, but I had been unable to go on a spiritual quest because I was responsible for my mother, who was having a progressive series of strokes. Also, I had founded the Hanuman Foundation Tape Library four years earlier, and it was in a stage of development that made a prolonged trip for me impossible.
It did not occur to me that the quality of my meditation practice, the merit of my work and caring for a parent were more valuable spiritual activities than an exotic journey. I was fascinated by the stories of Mukti’s travels around the world and by her acquaintance with many famous gurus, saints, and teachers. She was adept at getting their personal attention, and she attributed this to their recognition of her spiritual development.
At age thirty-three, beautiful and talented, she had given up the comforts and luxury of a super-rich family to pursue her spiritual quest, and could tell endless stories of her adventures. She spoke fluent Greek, Spanish, Hindi and had a working vocabulary of many other languages. Mukti could sing, dance and draw. She was very intelligent, a great talker and she could get the attention of anyone she wished.
After we met, we were together constantly for three weeks during which we told each other the stories of our lives. She was intimately acquainted with many major gurus and spiritual teachers including Ram Dass, Ken Keyes, Chinmayananda, Sai Baba, Anandamayi Ma, Swami Satchitananda, Muktananda, Yogaswar Muni, Al Drecker, Amarit Desai to mention just a few. She also told me many stories about her mother who had been married to several different movie stars and millionaires. A particular set of stories concerned her mother’s yacht in Coca Beach, Florida; a 71 ft. converted PT boat with a cabin that covered the entire deck. Mukti said she was receiving $5,000 a month from a trust fund and was supporting sixteen hippies who lived on the yacht. She had many adventures with sex and drugs during this time. She would open the yacht to crowds of people Sunday afternoons when they would play Ram Dass lectures on the speaker system. I had previously heard stories before about a yacht at Coca Beach where Ram Dass tapes were played and now concluded that this was Mukti’s mothers yacht.
Mukti said that it was when she was living on the yacht that she met Charles Berner, who developed the weekend Enlightenment Intensive and fell in love with him. She said that he had tried to get her mother to give them a large amount of money, but her mother was angered by that and threatened to disown her and cut off her trust fund if she married Berner. She married Berner anyway, and had not received any trust fund payments since then.
Although the marriage ended in divorce, her mother had not forgiven her disobedience, and she still was not receiving her trust fund payments. Mukti said that eventually she would have to get all the delayed payments in a lump sum, but she did not want to legally challenge her mother who was trustee of her fund.
After being together with Mukti constantly for three weeks, I realized that my office work was piling up as well as other urgent matters demanding attention. The tape library office was in the house, a normally convenient arrangement, but when I attempted to get some work done I gradually became aware that there was something wrong with Mukti.
She could not leave me alone. It seemed that every five minutes she would come down to sit on my lap, ask a question and sit on my lap, or start an argument and end up sitting on my lap. I could not get any work done. We would have a long talk in which I would explain the pressing importance of my need for unbroken concentration. A few minutes later she would cut her finger, or need help upstairs lifting something, or want to go to bed. It just went on and on and, finally I would give up and we would go to the beach. The next day, when I tried to work, the pattern repeated itself.
I had planned to attend a three-month retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts that fall. One of the things that attracted me to Mukti was that, when I mentioned this, she said that she, too, had been planning to attend that retreat. I had to adjust the business to operate in my absence anyway, and after a couple of weeks of effort, I finally managed to do so.
During the next two years we traveled around the world twice. Mukti convinced me that traveling to India was more important than being available if my mother had a serious stroke. Mukti had a thick address book of names of wealthy devotees she had met while visiting various gurus, and she was a master at using her association with the gurus as a way to get invitations to stay in luxurious homes. My association with Ram Dass also proved useful in that respect, and she taught me how to capitalize on it. Before long I fell into her lifestyle of a professional house guest living out of a suitcase.
Because of our transient lifestyle it was difficult to focus on the quality of life we were leading. We were constantly entertaining or being entertained as guests, and moving from place to place. We had no particular responsibilities and promises did not have to be kept, as we were always on the move. Mukti and I did no productive work during our travels.
3.3.2. The three-month retreat¶
Somehow we managed to arrive a month late for the three-month retreat. The rules of the retreat were simple and strict: Total silence was to be observed, except during interviews and talks with the teachers; there was to be no communication with other retreatants, no sex, no drugs, no stealing and no sentient being was to be harmed. The schedule of sitting and walking meditation retreat began at 4:30 A.M. and ended at 10:45 P.M, There were to be no days off this schedule until the end of the retreat in December. Mukti had told me impressive stories of her previous meditation practice and advanced initiations, so I expected that she would take to an intensive retreat like a duck to water.
She took to it more like a chicken takes to water. At the end of almost every hour of sitting meditation she would be lying in wait for me. She would grab my arm and lead me off to the boiler room in the basement with an urgent need to discuss something. She was having some medical problem, some psychic experience in her meditations, or plans had to be made for our travels, and on and on. Those discussions in the boiler room were strictly against the rules, and I kept reminding Mukti of that, but in the next hour she would have a new emergency.
She had several exotic medical problems and was on a very special diet. The diet was difficult for her to follow, so she got me to promise to support her morally by following her diet. Some of our meetings in the boiler room involved discussing the need for changes in our diet.
Once I had a serving of yellow tofu on my plate. Mukti mistook the tofu for scrambled eggs that were forbidden in our diet. She was enraged at my apparent betrayal, so in the middle of the meal she came over and punched me very hard in the ribs. That was a rather extraordinary thing to do at a meditation retreat in the presence of many sensitive, quiet people.
It soon became apparent to the teachers that Mukti and I were having major problems sticking to the rules of the retreat. Jack Kornfield had us in almost every day, together or individually, to discuss our problems, but after three weeks of trying to settle into the retreat, the incident in the dining room was the last straw. Despite her talent, beauty and being in line to inherit a hundred million dollars, I wanted to end the relationship.
Mukti was quick to see that I had truly resolved to bail out, and for two or three days she became a model meditator. I maintained my resolve that our relationship was over, but seeing her settle into the retreat opened my heart.
3.3.3. The clean slate¶
Finally she left a note for me to meet her briefly in the boiler room after lunch. Her manner changed from demanding insistence to being soft and open. She confessed at great length that she now saw how out of line she had been. She even told me about rule-breaking of which I had not been aware. She told me that our experience and the meditation practice had resulted in her making a complete transformation, and that she wanted a clean slate and a fresh start on a new relationship. She had been married four times already and now she felt that she had found a relationship that might really work. She painted a vision of what wonderful things we could do with her money, then she said that it was difficult for her to meditate until we could resolve our relationship. It was becoming difficult for me, too, so the next day we left the retreat and checked into a hotel.
3.3.4. Our trip around the world¶
After visiting friends in Boston, we went to Texas to spend the Christmas season with my relatives, then left the country on our first trip around the world. We had been in Greece for about a month, visiting Mukti’s relatives, when we received word that my mother had had a severe stroke. We immediately returned to the United States to be with her.
Although it appeared that she would make a good recovery from paralysis, that stroke seemed to affect my mother’s mind more than previous strokes. She was convinced that Mukti and I were going to get married, and she had been on the telephone with her friends, planning a wedding for us.
3.3.5. Getting married¶
That brought up an issue that we had not resolved: Should we get married? Although there had been a great improvement since our experience at the meditation retreat, I could see that there were still potential problems with our relationship. On the other hand, being married would make traveling together easier, especially when we were staying at monasteries in India. Mukti also said that I was the kind of person of whom her mother would approve. If we got married and showed up at her house with a baby in arms, her mother’s heart would open, and all our problems would be over. From time to time Mukti had attempted to call her mother. Sometimes her mother would talk with her-for a few minutes, but usually she would hang up immediately when she realized it was Mukti. I thought that was strange, but Mukti explained that her mother was an unusually strong-willed woman. However, her plan to arrive home with a baby seemed likely to break the ice.
I still could not decide about getting married, so Mukti and I called Ram Dass and explained the situation. Ram Dass strongly recommended that we get married, and said that he would take a 40% interest in our marriage, Maharajji would take a 10% interest, and Mukti and I would each have a 25% interest.
With assurance from my teacher that it was my spiritual work, I no longer hesitated to get married. We quickly found a judge to marry us, and that quieted Mother’s plans for our marriage ceremony. Then, when it was clear that Mother had settled down and was making a good recovery, we resumed our trip around the world.
India was indeed an awesome and spiritual experience. We spent three months traveling to pilgrimage cities and visiting famous gurus. I was ill with something or another most of the time I was there and quickly caught malaria, so when we arrived in the pilgrimage city of Hardwar I was taken immediately to the hospital. While I was there Mukti would stop by and visit me for a few minutes each day as she was going to see Anandamayi Ma, one of the most famous gurus in India. I, on the other hand, was too ill to be entertaining.
After a few days I was well enough to join Mukti in our hotel, I slowly continued to recover from malaria, but I had other problems, such as diarrhea and boils. Mukti was insistent that I should be using traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine for my complaints and I agreed. At one point we were staying at the Neem Kara Baba Ashram in Brindaban when I began to develop two huge boils on my leg. I had just recovered from a boil the size of a grapefruit that had a core with the dimensions of an apple core. The boils were not only painful but made me feel ill from all the toxins they created. I was becoming quite impatient with the Ayurvedic treatments that seemed totally ineffective.
When it seemed that the two new boils were going to be as huge as the first, I panicked. I finally decided that the Ayurvedic approach was not working for me and that I was going to use Western medicine, so I began scraping off the herbal Ayurvedic poultice with the intention of applying antibiotics. When Mukti saw what I was doing, she became enraged that I would break my agreement and she shouted louder and louder at me as I proceeded. As I was about to apply the antibiotic, she grabbed the medicine from my hand and ran outside with it. I chased after her, caught her and wrenched the medicine from her hand. She was screaming and crying at the top of her voice as she followed me back into the room, trying to grab the medicine. By this time the entire staff of the ashram had gathered outside our window. Mukti continued to cry and then screamed that I had been beating her. I told the staff that I had not harmed her, but she continued to insist that I had been beating her. The staff finally left after they were satisfied that, at least, I was not beating her then. It was especially embarrassing for me considering my relationship with Ram Dass and the American devotees of Maharajji.
3.3.7. Another clean slate¶
Again I decided to end my relationship with Mukti, for it had become obvious to me that it was more important to Mukti to control and manipulate me than for me to be healthy. But as soon as I resolved to end our relationship she abruptly changed. She cried for forgiveness and admitted that she was wrong. Again she described the error of her ways in great detail, became soft, open and asked for a clean slate to start our relationship again. I had seen this change before, but I really wanted to believe her. I went to the hospital for a shot of penicillin and my boils immediately began to subside. So did the turmoil in our relationship.
All went well until we returned to Santa Cruz, where Mukti wrote to her mother to tell her that she was married again and was going to settle down. She tried to call her, too, but had no more luck than before.
3.3.8. The financial crisis¶
Meanwhile, my financial situation was getting critical. I had been spending money freely on the premise that there was a trust fund somewhere accumulating $5,000 a month, and that it was going to be only a matter of time before the money would be available to us. By then we had accumulated a total of $60,000 in one year bank loans. I had been borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, but it was getting difficult to play that game when I owed both Peter and Paul.
Something had to be done immediately as we could wait no longer for Mukti’s mother to come around. We had purchased a wide variety of items on our trip with the idea that we could find out what kinds of things would be best to import. I had purchased some new credit card sized calculators in Hong Kong, thinking that it would be easy to reproduce and print business cards on the back. The small calculators were quite a novelty in 1979 and I thought they would make an excellent business gift premium, so we decided to go into the business of custom imprinting small calculators.
3.3.9. The other strategy¶
Another strategy, as I mentioned earlier, was for Mukti to arrive on her mother’s doorstep with a baby in her arms, but there was one problem with that: I had had a vasectomy. Casting about, we located the nation’s top specialist in reversing vasectomies, and he assured us that I had excellent prospects, so we scheduled an operation.
There is much work to do when setting up a new business, but when I tried to do it I discovered that Mukti’s impulse to pester me had not subsided. She had been having increasing problems with stomach pain and frequent vomiting, so we decided that it might be best for her to go to the Hippocrates Institute, which specialized in a regimen of raw food and wheat grass juice. It was one of Mukti’s favorite places. When she left for the Hippocrates Institute I flew down to Los Angeles for my operation.
The two weeks Mukti was at the Hippocrates Institute was a very productive time for me. I established a source for small calculators, bought and set up equipment for silk screening business cards on them, developed direct mail advertising, and rented a mailing list. The business was ready to go, and all that was left to do were routine things that Mukti and I could work on together.
When Mukti returned from the Hippocrates Institute, she was unusually eager for us to have sex immediately. We did, once, and immediately after that she received a message from God saying that we were not to have sex. This was one was frustrating, but I felt confident that this situation would pass. In the Hindu tradition celibacy is an ideal even for married people and since we would be in India with many Hindu friends it seemed appropriate at that time.
3.3.10. Importing from India¶
We settled into developing our new business. Although we had a promising start with the calculators, Mukti was not happy about it, saying that the business was interfering with our spiritual development. What she really wanted was to import things from India, as that would give us an opportunity to visit the gurus when we went on buying trips.
We decided that the best item to import would be hand made silk rugs. I had a good location for a rug business near the River Oaks section of Houston, and Mukti knew many rich people all over the world. Mukti would be the sales force, and we were confident that she would do well selling investment quality silk rugs, so we abandoned the calculator business and set out for a buying trip to India.
I knew that Mukti would want to stay on to play in India, but our financial situation was critical. I made her promise faithfully that our trip would be a quick one-week buying trip, and that under no circumstances would we be gone for more than a month. Our plan was to buy $13,000 of silk carpets on my American Express card, then we would return and sell the rugs before lapse of the three months required for the charges to reach us from India.
On our way we stopped in Texas to visit my mother, and while there Mukti suffered a miscarriage. The doctor mentioned that the fetus was six weeks old.
We continued on to India, and there we ran into a former girlfriend of mine with whom Mukti quickly developed a close friendship. We traveled together to Kashmir to buy carpets and then went down to Bombay, where we learned that Anandamayi Ma and Sai Baba would be in the same city in southern India on Anandamayr s birthday. They were the two most prominent gurus in India, and it seemed certain that those two favorites of Mukti’s would come together on that day. The auspicious occasion was only a week away, but our allotted week had expired.
3.3.11. Mukti stays in India¶
We finally decided that Mukti would stay on for another week with our friend, but before I went ahead to Houston to prepare for the big rug sale I reminded her of her solemn pledge not to stay more than one month, and urged her to return to the United States as soon as possible.
A week went by and there was no word from Mukti. A month went by and there was no Mukti or word from Mukti. Then, finally, after six weeks, I received a telegram from Mukti in northern India saying that she had typhoid and was too ill to travel.
I felt trapped in an impossible predicament. I wanted to go to India, but I couldn’t. Mother’s health had deteriorated and her medical bills were now $1,700 a month more than her income, and I had to make up the difference. I had to make over $1,000 a month in interest payments, and bills from our travels were coming in at the rate of about $2,000 a month. I had to make over $5,000 a month before I even could pay for food and shelter. I could not possibly go to India, or our finances would fall like a house of cards—and Mother was dying.
I contacted everyone I knew who might be going to India. Starting with Ram Dass I sent a string of people to Mukti’s aid, but it was another six weeks before a report arrived.
Meanwhile, two weeks after the telegram, I finally received a telephone call from Mukti in New Delhi. She said that she could not return because she had lost her plane ticket, and she was still too ill to travel. She begged me to come to India to be with her. I explained that it was impossible for me to go to India, but that I had sent many people to take care of her, I told her to use a credit card to buy another ticket and return immediately, but she continued to beg me to come to India to be with her, and then ended the call, saying that she was too ill to continue. That was the last I heard from her for a few months.
3.3.12. Reports from India¶
Then the reports from India started to come in. Ram Dass’ letter was the first, reporting that Mukti had returned to Hardwar and seemed in good health and spirits. The journey from New Delhi to Hardwar is more arduous than taking a plane from New Delhi to Houston, and that cast doubt upon her claim that she was too ill to travel. Other reports came in from time to time saying that she was doing well and did not need help. One report included a relayed message that the plane ticket she left with an agent had been sold and that she should come by and pick up her money. So much for her excuse about not being able to return because she had lost her ticket.
And then another kind of report started to arrive. Back in 1979 it took credit charges made in India about three months to appear on statements in America. It soon became clear that at the time Mukti claimed to be on her death bed she was traveling almost continually to every major city in India. The true magnitude of her lies and betrayal was starting to dawn on me. How could someone I had totally trusted do such things to me?
3.3.13. The American Express card¶
I attempted to have her American Express card cancelled, but I had signed a contract with American Express that legally obligated me to pay any charges she made on her card. It was the same as if I had asked American Express to cancel my card and then continued to make charges on it. I had to pay the bill.
By the end of 1979, I had been forced to sell all of my income producing assets, and I had ten thousand dollars in the bank When Mukti called me at Christmas, while I was visiting my mother, I said some things to her in anger. Her typical strategy when caught doing something wrong was to counter with accusations of her own. True to form, she became angry with me for not going to India to help her when she was ill. I made an obvious reply to that and she hung up in a fury.
3.3.14. $20,000 a month in India¶
That was the beginning of what was probably a record for credit card abuse in India. For the next five months Mukti went on a charging rampage that averaged $20,000 a month on my American Express card. India was not accustomed to dealing with fraud of that kind. Indian merchants rarely bothered getting authorization for charges because the telephone system was so poor and authorization was never refused anyway. During that time Mukti went to each of the American Express offices in India and got the maximum of $1,000 in travelers checks despite the fact that I was trying to get American Express to cancel my card. I told them that I had no chance of paying her bills, and advised them where she was and what she was doing. The charges were stopped at last, but only after she reached Hong Kong and tried to use the card there.
People are amazed that it is possible to spend $20,000 a month in India. Later Mukti admitted that it was hard work, but she proved that she had a talent for spending money. She started in New Delhi by taking a suite of rooms for herself and another for her boyfriend in one of the best hotels. Then she bought plane tickets for a guru and his entourage of twenty people and they all flew down to Bombay. There she checked into the Taj Mahal hotel and took a suite for herself, one for her boyfriend and a third for the guru. Meanwhile, she left the meter running on the rooms in New Delhi. From Bombay she went to Madras and repeated her performance. After all, she had to return to each major city every three weeks to draw her limit of $1,000 in travelers checks from American Express.
She was quite adept at drawing attention with her credit charges. For example, she charged a $1,500 shawl that she gave to Anandamayi Ma, which really impressed her Indian devotees. Again, when Indira Gandhi’s son was killed in a plane crash, and she went to Anandamayi Ma for consolation, Mukti saw a good attention-getting scene, so she rented a white, air-conditioned Mercedes Benz, with a chauffeur and arrived at the ashram while Indira Gandhi was there.
Throughout that period I was at my mother’s bedside, as it appeared that she was close to death. But after three months her condition stabilized, so I made a trip to California to take care of some of my possessions there. On the way I stopped in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to visit Ram Dass for a few days, and mentioned to him that his share of the current month’s American Express bill was $8,000. He was silent for a few minutes, and then said, “Is that a forty percent or fifty percent interest I have in your marriage?” He never paid.
3.3.15. Back after fifteen months¶
I also visited another friend who was a devotee of Anandamayi Ma, and he suggested that I write a letter to the abbot of one of her monasteries and tell him exactly what Mukti had been doing. I did, and it worked. Anandamayi ordered Mukti to return to me immediately, and within a month she was back in Houston — fifteen months after she had faithfully promised to return in one month.
I was prepared for her tactic of attacking when she was wrong, so when I picked her up at the airport and she met me with an angry “Why didn’t you come to India to be with me?” I replied with accusations of my own. Immediately she switched from being angry to being soft and loving: “You are right and I was very wrong. I love you. Forgive me. Give me a clean slate and let’s start over.” She was a master and put on a good show, but this time she had gone too far. I was determined to extricate myself from my co-psychopathic role.
Mukti called her mother, and it appeared that at last she was giving in. Her mother said she was purchasing a new house in Palm Springs, California, and she invited Mukti to come out and see it in the following month. At that time Mukti was staying with a friend in Carmel, California, and was so overjoyed at the news that she put a deposit on a million-dollar house in Carmel.
We agreed to a divorce and a settlement Mukti agreed to pay me $150,000, which represented fifty percent of the decline of my net worth while we were married, and she also agreed to pay the $150,000 in charges remaining on my American Express account. The settlement was to be paid on September 1, 1980, shortly before I was to start my long-delayed three-month retreat at the Insight Meditation Society.
3.3.16. “I stole that”¶
I joined Mukti in California to separate our personal possessions that were in storage there. First we separated our belongings in the usual way, but when deciding who should take possession of items acquired together Mukti would frequently say, “I stole that,” to establish her claim to them. I was amazed at how frequently she would say this.
I had been vaguely aware that Mukti would pick up some merchandise from stores and be in too much of a hurry to pay. Occasionally I would say something to her about it and she would invariably reply, “God told me to take it.” What appalled me was not only how frequently she said “I stole that,” but that some items were from homes where we had stayed as house guests. That was a sobering insight into how the mind of a co-psychopath can rationalize and not see things that should have been seen.
3.3.17. Another delayed insight¶
I had another delayed insight while we were in Santa Cruz, during an amicable period when Mukti had agreed to make restitution in our divorce settlement. After we had separated our personal possessions, Mukti took me to attend a concert given by a friend whom she admired for living a life of luxury by receiving multiple welfare payments. She said that they had met when she was at the Hippocrates Institute. A couple of weeks later it finally dawned on me that the last and only time I had sex after my vasectomy reversal was one month before her miscarriage. The fetus she miscarried was six weeks old, so she must have gotten pregnant shortly after arriving at the Hippocrates Institute.
3.3.18. There are no limits to the evil that a liar can do¶
I had resigned as manager of the Hanuman Foundation Tape Library when Mukti and I began our travels, but I still received some mail there and stayed there whenever I was in California. One morning I had gone out for breakfast. When I returned I discovered that Mukti had arrived early for our meeting and had persuaded an employee to lend her a key to get into the office. When I walked in, she was sitting at a desk, talking on the telephone, with a stack of my unopened mail in front of her.
A few months later I began to receive charges on a new Master Card that must have been in my unopened mail, and in a few months they totaled over $20,000. That was after Mukti returned from India and apologized profusely for what she had done with my American Express card, It was after she asked for a clean slate to start over. It was after we had agreed to our divorce settlement. That reminded me of a saying attributed to the Buddha, “There are no limits to the evil that a liar can do.” That saying has come to mind often since we went our separate ways.
Fortunately, I did not have to pay for any of the charges on the stolen credit card because I never actually received it. The charges on the American Express card were only a civil matter involving a bad debt, but the use of a stolen card constitutes theft, a felony. Meanwhile, American Express would not issue me a new card, and that blew my last good line of credit.
3.3.19. The divorce settlement¶
The September 1, 1980 date for Mukti’s divorce settlement payment arrived, but the payment did not. I called a mutual friend in California who told me Mukti had gone to India for one month. (We know about her one-month trips to India.) Mukti knew that my three-month retreat started in September, so it was especially inconsiderate of her not to let me know what was happening. I would not know until the end of the retreat whether I had all my bills paid and $150,000 in the bank, or no money and $150,000 in bills that I could not pay. Meditation is difficult enough without a situation like that.
My mind was in turmoil for the first ten days of the retreat, but since I had done everything I could, I felt morally clean, and that allowed me to break through the confusion and settle into a good retreat experience.
Though I would not know my fate until Mukti returned from India, I was not at all surprised at the end of the three months to find that she had not returned and had left no hint of when she might do so. With my options now severely curtailed, I chose to begin a two-year retreat as a hermit in a remote area on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
3.3.20. Maybe there wasn’t a trust fund¶
In the spring of 1981, while I was secluded on Maui, Mukti came through Hawaii on her way back from India, learned of my location from friends, and came to visit me. She told me that when she called her mother in Palm Springs, her mother said that it would not be a good time for a visit, and abruptly hung up. Apparently, she had reflected upon the many clean slates and new starts that she had given Mukti, and renewed her resolve to have nothing to do with her. I told Mukti that my attorney and American Express could find no trace of a trust fund in her name. “Well,” Mukti replied, “maybe there wasn’t a trust fund. All I know is that the last check that I received from my mother was for five thousand dollars.”
It turned out that the woman whom Mukti called her mother was actually her adoptive parent. Mukti’s real parents had immigrated from Greece to New York City when she was ten years old. They had been wealthy, but lost their businesses. They had difficulty adjusting to a new culture and having to work and had put a heavy strain on their marriage. Mukti felt ignored and unloved in the new situation, and had become a problem child. She began to spend more and more time with an old friend of the family who had a home in New York City, a wealthy but childless lady who proposed to adopt Mukti. Because her real parents did not know what to do with her, and their friend offered a good opportunity for their daughter, they were quick to accept the offer.
3.3.21. Cocaine Jane¶
Unfortunately, Mukti continued to be a problem child with her adoptive parents. Her new mother divorced and remarried. Perhaps her adoptive mother, giving attention to a new husband, made Mukti feel insecure and resentful, but in any case she did not like her new stepfather, and by the time she turned eighteen she had left home.
Living off a temporary allowance, Mukti became a rock band groupie and had a rock song written for her entitled Cocaine Jane. Mukti told me many stories about how her adopted mother would try to make her change her behavior and lifestyle. Some things she did were quite embarrassing to her family. After several major but futile efforts to get her to straighten out her life, she was warned that if there were not a basic change in her behavior, she would be cut off. She didn’t, and she was.
3.3.22. There are no limits….¶
After my two-year retreat in Hawaii I left my truck with a friend to sell for me, having signed the title to make the sale easy. Mukti was a houseguest of my friend shortly after I left, and she took the opportunity to steal the signed title, sell the truck, and keep the money. “There are no limits to the evil that a liar can do.”
Ken Keyes wrote extensively about his affair with Mukti in his book, Discovering the Secrets of Happiness. The yacht which she described as her mother’s in fact belonged to Ken Keyes. This is but one example of how she changes names and circumstances to weave a lie that has some basis in fact. From time to time I hear reports of Mukti’s trail of devastation and betrayal. She has changed her name several times, and for a while lived with a plastic surgeon who changed her appearance, but her behavior has not changed. She stole $40,000 from a lady who had befriended and helped her often; she was caught selling food stamps and has forged checks, but somehow managed to avoid jail; and I have heard several rumors that people have invested in her schemes and lost their money.
In 1992 I ran into Mukti at the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos, New Mexico. She told me that the person I knew as Mukti was dead and that she was a new person. The only difference I could detect was that the old Mukti would have asked for a clean slate. True to form, I have heard stories since then of the destruction and duplicity that the new Mukti has left in her wake.
3.3.23. Saint Mukti¶
My experience with Mukti is particularly relevant to the subject of saints and psychopaths. Mukti represented herself as being enlightened, and indeed many people believed that she was. One of her previous husbands was a guru, with a substantial following in the United States. When Mukti came into contact with followers of that tradition, they treated her with awe.
One of the techniques of this tradition was to be able to give shaktipat. Shaktipat is a psychic energy a guru can administer which has a profound effect on the recipient. Shaktipat can be administered directly by a touch, or remotely in a large room, or even in another country when the recipient is meditating. There are a variety of experiences a recipient can have, such as falling into a deep trance, sudden rapid, erratic breathing, energy sensations in the body, etc. Once Mukti touched a man (from her former husband’s organization) who was visiting us. He fell over in a brief trance and slowly recovered in a confused, blissful state. He felt that he had been cleansed and transformed by his experience, and was quite impressed by Mukti’s power.
I invited Mukti to give me shaktipat, but she claimed to have been told that after having been given this power she should never use it frivolously. She said that it should be administered only when someone indicated certain signs of readiness for the experience, but she never clearly explained what those signs were.
Although shaktipat may very well be a legitimate, beneficial phenomenon used by saints and gurus, the ability to give shaktipat should not be regarded as proof of anything. The experience of shaktipat is similar to experiences that dubious Christian faith healers are able to give some people. There have been some studies with Kirlian photography which indicates that there is some kind of transferal of energy from a healer to recipient, but there is no explanation of what this energy is. Certainly we would not declare that the electric eel is a divine fish because it is able to transmit a profoundly effective energy. My view is that any strange or psychic phenomenon should be taken at face value only and that no conclusions should be drawn about anyone’s spiritual attainments because of their powers. Because people usually regard the manifestation of powers as proof of divine authority, some legitimate spiritual teachers manifest powers to get people’s attention, but demonstrations of miracles and powers may only prove that someone is a good illusionist or magician.
Mukti could also manifest psychic powers other than shaktipat. One example occurred when we were unpacking after our first trip to India. I was in the bedroom with the door closed, and I unpacked a souvenir from a previous relationship that Mukti had asked me to throw away. I hid it under some things in a drawer. About ten minutes later Mukti entered and was walking across the room toward me when she suddenly stopped, turned ninety degrees, crossed the room, opened the drawer, reached in, directly pulled the object from the bottom, and said, “What are you doing with this”?
Mukti frequently received messages from God. Sometimes the messages were dubious, and at other times they seemed profoundly right and appropriate. I never was convinced that they were indeed messages from God, but while we were together I never entirely dismissed them as fraudulent. I mentally filed those messages under the category of Maybe, but they tended to manifest a self-serving pattern from Mukti’s viewpoint.
3.3.24. Need for attention¶
Mukti was motivated by a need for attention. I suppose it was rooted in her childhood, because her parents paid her less attention as their family and their life of luxury and comfort fell apart. Then the change to a new life in a new country brought her even less attention. Whatever the cause, it seemed that she would do anything, good or bad, to get the attention she craved.
As we traveled around, constantly meeting new people, I had a ring-side seat for observing whatever she did to people. Whether a maid in a hotel, a waitress in a restaurant, a customs official, a policeman, a stewardess, or someone sitting next to her on a plane, they would notice and remember her. She seemed equally inclined to do something for which they would hate her or love her, but they would remember their encounter with her. She would never order something from a menu, but had to exchange or substitute items, or have something especially prepared. It was usually easier to get attention by complaining bitterly and excessively about the quality of food but, on occasion, she would have ringing words of praise for food and service.
3.3.25. Trust and distrust¶
It seems that Mukti was involved in an endless cycle of trust and distrust. It was very important to her that people keep their promises to her. She was constantly insisting that everyone around her make all sorts of promises to her, but became enraged whenever she felt that anyone had not kept a promise. At the same time she seemed incapable of keeping her own promises.
Mukti’s constant lies added a dimension to her cycle of trust and distrust. One of the first things she told me about herself was that she was a reformed pathological liar. That was her first lie to me. At times it was a good cover for things she had done in the past that involved lying. As with promises, she would become enraged if she suspected anyone told her a lie, and yet she seemed incapable of telling the truth. Many times she told me stories of events in her life, changing the names and circumstances slightly to create a false image of what really happened. It was puzzling to me why she would do that, as it would have been just as easy and interesting had she told the truth.
On occasion I was aware that she was telling someone something that was not true or not entirely true, yet, when confronted with the fact, she never failed to manufacture a rationalization or explanation. It is the nature of a co-psychopath to readily agree to improbable distortions of reality. One of the lessons I learned as I extricated myself from my co-psychopath role was that she had told me countless lies which I had been unable to detect, for even though I knew she would lie to other people, I thought I was exempt. It wasn’t until after she failed to return from India that I became aware that she had told me many lies.