How Was I Recruited into Michael Guen’s Cult ?
I found out about Michael Guen’s group from a friend of mine that I had met at an alternative healing center. Both of us were volunteering there at the time. I remember how enthusiastic she was about the group and how persistently she talked about it. “We’re reviving the lost feminine,” she said and I really didn’t know what that meant. I was in a place in my life where I could have been vulnerable to this type of outside influence. Having moved to Sonoma County to be with my first boyfriend, I worked part-time as a typist at a local newspaper. I had a degree in Liberal Arts but not a substantial career path yet. I had started a part-time holistic healing program and believed that I was meant to become a practitioner. But I didn’t know how much work that would take or how it would look like in the future.
I was only a few weeks engaged when I was encouraged to join the group by my friend. Looking back, I was quite young to get engaged. In many ways, I was pretty naïve yet innocent to relationships. We enjoyed being in each other’s company. We didn’t fight and we had a type of easy going relationship. It seemed like the natural thing to do. I had been observing my close friends’ relationship and thought that it could be something good for me as well. They had been together since they were fifteen years old and married when they were only twenty years old.
The woman who befriended me was also around my age, perhaps only three years older. She said that she really wanted other young women to join the group because most of the members were in their forties and fifties. She started talking about creating a sisterhood. I remember feeling incredibly confused around the terms that she used very freely. “This is an amazing inquiry,” she said to me. I also would learn later that the women had been engaged in fifteen years of “research.” What exactly were they researching? These words in everyday context have an ordinary meaning, but when you start speaking in regards to a “teaching,” they suddenly become special. This was part of my introduction to the shoptalk. The jargon also tried to make the teaching seem special and scientific. It was a particular language that you had to learn and once you began using the words in everyday language, you felt as though you belonged.
My friend convinced me finally to go to the first meeting after taking me to lunch one day and offering to pay for my first class if I didn’t like it. It was virtually a money-back guarantee, an offer I could not refuse. I thought, “What do I have to lose?” Her enthusiasm in a way was contagious and I started to get a little more intrigued about this women’s cause. There were a few catches, however. The first one was made me feel a bit uncomfortable. This women’s cause was happened to be led by a man. I learned from my friend that this man named Michael Guen was apparently given secrets of a women’s teaching by his own master from China. Okay, so that was incredibly weird. It seemed pretty strange that a man would be so interested in promoting a women’s cause.
Furthermore, there was another catch. The monthly so called “tuition” was $180 per month, which was a huge portion of my paycheck. I was only working about 25 hours per week at the newspaper. In all honesty, I was scared to get a full-time job, as I did not want to have all my time sucked away. And it did not occur to me to take on that responsibility. So having to pay for a once a week class that cost $180 was a huge burden. There wasn’t any sliding scale available either, I later learned. This was why I went to the first intro night with a bit of a hesitation. I wasn’t willing to commit fully until I could see what this program was about and why this woman raved about it so much. It seemed to be really helping her in some profound way.
Ever since I was a little girl, I hadn’t been much of an athlete either and that yet another issue. This whole teaching was apparently based on martial arts. I couldn’t imagine myself getting into kung fu. I gave up soccer after fourth grade when we moved to California and my school didn’t have a team to play in. Besides, I was always the runt of the team and would easily run out of breath if I was playing any role besides waiting at the goal post for defense. I hated P.E. when I was a kid. The thought of doing a martial arts practice was less than appealing to me. My friend was so convinced that I would like this adaptation of martial arts moves. She even said that she had a psychic vision of us training together.
Only later did I discover that the woman who brought me in had another motivation for inviting me. She and her classmates had been told by Michael Guen that he would only teach another round of Women’s Spiritual Autobiography if they had recruited a set amount of women. I was one of the many new women that joined. He had set it up so that he would automatically pull new women in, collecting the $180 per month tuition freely. At the time, I had no idea about the nature of his manipulative ways or the extent of how much he could not be trusted. I was already hooked and eagerly came to the first class the following week. My indoctrination had begun.
– Ruth –
Photo Credit: Teresa Ostos via Flickr