Two were taken out, with neither breath nor pulse, a year-old woman and a year-old man, both of whom had been in excellent health. Nineteen other people were taken to the hospital; some are still in critical condition. Some say the lodge ceremony belongs to the Native Americans who have practiced it for centuries, and should never be held by non-Native Americans, and never for profit.
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Others say the New Age practice of Large Group Awareness Trainings the industry term for this sort of weekend needs to be regulated. To me, it seems they were searching for a transcendent experience thru extreme physical means. Who am I to say if that is right or wrong, spiritual materialism or not? It might be the grossest sort of spiritual materialism for some and not at all for others. But I do question the motives and wisdom of the person running the retreat.
Did he intend to bring people to the edge of death? Did he explain this was what was going to happen? His website exerpt on Google reads:. Balance is bogus! One astute techy retrieved James Arthur Ray tweets the guy was a prolific tweeter , which he deleted after the deaths. Very telling, very sad, and very thought-provoking. How will the media treat this? How will we spirtually minded folks treat this? How will it be sensationalized, or treated sensitively? Stevens said the department had received tips about Massaro, that people across town were concerned.
He stuttered. I think he should just cruise along and not try to force himself to do anything specific. He offered to find Brent's cell-phone number, so Stevens could call him directly. Jocelyn Daher considered the same question. Otherwise, just kill yourself. Because we wanted to make sure that your words did not encourage him to kill himself.
His voice fell to a whisper. Jocelyn sobbed softly. Massaro folded his hands over his heart and closed his eyes, as if in prayer. Gary drove across the state to his son's apartment, desperate to keep him from the retreat in North Carolina. He raised his hand and rushed to the front of the room, breaking through his shyness to declare his newfound freedom.
The video was published sometime in late , but has since been taken down. Life started coming through me.
Long hugs punctuated his conversations, which were often sprinkled with references to enlightenment and changing reality. Then he stopped calling. But this phase had no end. Every day he gave a little more of himself to Massaro, trading pieces of his old life for another chance at enlightenment. Massaro laid the path, and Brent followed. A few months after the Flat Rock retreat, Brent crammed into his Toyota and moved to Colorado, where Massaro had begun to build his enlightenment empire.
His parents tried to pull him back, to convince their son he had searched his way into the darkness. No man could have all those answers, they told him. No mortal could solve all that pain. They hired a cult-extraction specialist to pry him away from Bentinho Massaro. For two years Gary and Trish Wilkins prayed and worried and waited, all the while asking themselves what had made their only son so devoted to this online guru, until Brent finally called home. He had spent those years in frantic search of the peace he found in Flat Rock.
The tiny remains of his life fell away: A summer fling spurned him and moved back to Denmark. A wrist injury cut short his attempted return to the tennis court. His roommates in Boulder moved to Sedona, and Brent stayed behind. I took a deep swing. He flew home almost exactly two years after the retreat in Flat Rock, landing in an unseasonably cool March in Virginia.
Gary and Trish made a bed and met him at the airport. They brought him home and waited almost a week, trying their best to fix the anxiety they had never seen before. They brought him to a psychiatrist and sat as a family while Brent explained how he felt unsafe and uncertain, terrified of sending his life in the wrong direction. Fear froze him. A second doctor recommended Brent check into a mental-health facility. He agreed, and spent a week in a local psych ward, with nothing to do but manage his blossoming panic. Peace returned gradually.
When he checked out, he agreed to stay in Virginia. But part of him was stranded back in Boulder. He never told friends from home that he had returned. Something about the place felt right. People in search of peace and healing assembled. Money flowed freely across town.
Annual tourist counts climbed over 3 million. Event centers boasted of their crowded schedules. Yoga studios and crystal shops lined the narrow streets, and even the city's official website listed a map of the vortexes. Now it was the place where Gabriel of Urantia gathered his followers. Where a student of Dahn Yoga died in the scalding desert. And where self-help icon James Arthur Ray's "Spirit Warrior" sweat-lodge ceremony killed three of his students, drawing unprecedented attention and the world's prying glare.
The guru's followers spread across the city, renting single-story houses and sitting in weekly seminars. One follower called it Massaro's "masterpiece. With each successful retreat, Massaro's visions for Sedona grew grander. It would be the center of their enlightened world. This could be a place on earth the world has never seen or anticipated. Digital cult.
Cult leader. Massaro told the story of the kitten again, explaining it wasn't as brutal as it seemed. Then he said he wasn't offended by the cult-leader label. Like, OK, great. They would become one, bound by the bliss of enlightenment. Then they would penetrate into the Absolute. He grew more erratic, loading himself with world-saving expectations and contorting his teachings to meet them. He lashed out at critics online, filling the comments below their Facebook posts.
That would be boring.
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His ego grew, filling the space once reserved for dissension and doubt. Only weak followers expressed skepticism, he said. He was the path to enlightenment. Follow him. Break away from non-believing friends and family.
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They only hold back the truth. They had to hurry, he urged. Soon the world would transform, the ship would take off, and only the enlightened could come along. They had to save the planet, awakening all humanity, upgrade the civilization. All by The Trinfinity Academy would guide billions of people through his courses. Trinfinity Films and Trinfinity TV would blast his message across the planet. The Trinfinity Tech Lab would finally create devices the government had long been hiding, allowing humans to connect with alien civilizations and travel outside of their bodies.
But those outside his grip saw a man who had lost control of himself.
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Cult expert Cathleen Mann added Massaro to a list of potential dangers she was following. Massaro shrugged him off, and the host pulled down the interviews. His base never stopped growing, even after he raised the price of retreats and moved them to luxurious tropical resorts. A great pressure to save the planet had strained him since childhood, he explained.