How Did I Get Involved with Michael Guen’s Cult?
When I was twenty-three years old, I was recruited into a destructive cult. Of course I didn’t know at the time what I was really getting into. I was young seeker interested in spirituality and a friend of mine had pulled me into the group. She was very enthusiastic and convincing, even offering to pay for my first class if I didn’t like it. So in a way, it was a money-back guarantee. I had spent most of my life being raised in Northern California, a place where alternative healing and religious tolerance were widely encouraged and accepted. So in a way, I was already open to different spiritual perspectives. I was naturally searching for something meaningful.
At twenty-three, I was newly engaged. I found it quite strange that a man was heading a women’s movement. The leader of the group, Michael Guen, claimed that he was reviving the lost feminine. His organization back then was Wasah Institute and now it has transformed into One Effort Living. Guen also claimed to be a lineage holder of a sacred tradition from China. Looking back, I believed him and of course there conveniently was very little information to dispute what he was saying. Michael Guen was charismatic and charming, spinning an elaborate story to capture my attention. And he did. He was able to make me feel special and important.
For ten years, I was under his spell. He convinced me that I was investing in my personal and spiritual growth. I gave him a monthly tuition of $350 per month plus $90 per week for personal acupuncture sessions. Over ten years, I spent $55,000. He said that I would become a teacher and a healer under his organization, but that I would have to prove myself to the world. I really believed that I could attain greatness, even to the point of “mastery.” This was all part of the grand scheme – have an unattainable goal. Later on, I was to learn that all that time, he had been manipulating my thoughts, feelings and emotions. He said that women were “the last greatest untapped human resource on the planet.” I did not realize that he was abusing those resources and preying upon them.
Recently, I left the cult through the intervention and assistance of my boyfriend. It was as though I was seeing my life clearly for the first time, clearing the haze of what I believed myself to be. I had so strongly begun to identify with the group and the teachings that I didn’t know who I was anymore. My family and friends noticed that I was changing, and it was not for the better. I stopped other hobbies such as art and writing, and placed all my focus and energy on the group. I had been married for ten years, but that relationship also dissolved over time due to my intense involvement. It was as though I had a new marriage and commitment; I devoted myself to the cult.
After being manipulated by Michael Guen, I divorced three years ago and moved into his “apprentice house” to supposedly go deeper into “the work” (which happens to be a jargon talk term). What I was going deeper to was debt, as I continued to pay him massive amounts of money. At one point while I was living in his house, I gave him fifty percent of my income willingly. I continued to call it a personal investment, believing that I would earn a good income once his business emerged. I also thought I was saving my soul and “breaking free from my patterns.” I did not even realize that he had manipulated me into moving into that house. He knowingly took my money, not caring about whether or not I could afford it. Michael Guen controlled my mind and my emotions.
Let me tell you firsthand that anyone can get recruited into a cult. The cult psychotherapy literature talks openly about this phenomenon. I was a well-educated, articulate young woman who became susceptible to the snares of the cult leader. Perhaps when I was twenty-three years old, I was somewhat naïve, but I have seen other women come into the group who were business women, mothers, professionals, you name it. We were all equally being duped by this person who claimed to have “practical life solutions and answers.” He had a way of flattering the women and complimenting our talents. It was not surprising that I and many other women developed false feelings for him. Michael Guen brainwashed us to fall in love with him and crossed boundaries with me. He used our feelings against us.
One of the common features of people who join cults is that they may be in a vulnerable place in their life. I was newly engaged and also unsure of my own career path. In that sense, I was vulnerable. There were tons of women who joined the group who were genuinely seeking healing and relationship advice. Others came in because of their physical conditions or medical concerns. We were victims in the biggest sense. The sad part of it was that we were genuinely wanting help other people. And many of the women also had a desire to reach their potential and be of service to the world. Basically, he took advantage of our good intentions.
I believe that Michael Guen is openly abusing people. He is a sexual and financial predator. I am grateful that my boyfriend did an intervention on me and pulled me out of the group. He educated me about how a destructive cult operates and he let me choose whether or not I wanted to stay. It was an independent choice. Once I “saw the light” so to speak, I never went back. I feel a deep sadness for the women who are still entrenched in the group. They have chosen to cast me aside. My hope is that no other person is put through this horrific experience. My intention is to help educate others to make independent choices themselves and to value their own dignity and their own lives.
– Ruth –
Photo Credit: Sarah G via Flickr