Testimony from Ex Michael Guen Member Emma
This is a testimony of an ex member of the Michael Guen’s group. Let’s call her Emma for future references. Thank you Emma for having the courage to come forward and share your experience – we know it takes a lot of guts to do that.
- Ruth & Karl -
I was involved in Michael’s women’s bagua group off and on for about five years. At the time of this writing it has been about three and a half years since my involvement. Here are five concerns that I had about Michael’s group and how I came to reconcile them:
1) I was excluded from classes and workshops without being explained why. There was always some vague explanation about my character. I was still expected to pay for these classes. Upon hindsight I realized I’d done something to challenge Michael’s authority or in his mind had hurt his business in some way. When I saw other women on the up (his new teacher’s pet) or out (excluded or demonized) I learned not to take it too seriously. There was always big drama going on and people were constantly inflated and deflated according to Michael’s manipulations. It kept people on their toes and sometimes passively trying to please him.
2) Michael made me promises about programs and opportunities in the future. When that future arrived and I questioned why I had not received these promised things I was again put down for character flaws. What about Michael’s integrity and ability to keep a promise or at least make a concession if he were unable to do so? From what I’ve seen big promises are often made about success and popularity, but the actual coming out never happens.
3) I had a boyfriend with a background in psychology who thought Michael’s group was a negative cult. When he gave me an ultimatum about leaving him or the group, I didn’t like my boyfriend’s control methods either. I could see what he was saying about the group, but I wanted to leave in a way that felt like it came from me and was in the way I wanted to leave. Michael actually scolded me for leaving this relationship when I thought I was expressing my loyalty to him and the mission of the women’s way. I was hurting in so many ways after that. I saw many women’s relationships with their significant others challenged by their connection to Michael and the Ba Gua group. He wants control and possession and he is often critical of men in people’s lives and asks for secrecy from them surrounding what happens in the group, sometimes because it involves a past or current sexual affair with him.
4) After finding out about a recent inheritance I received, Michael created an intensive six month program for me. He said I had a demon (his word) that needed to be let go of. I was expected to pre-pay $13,000 for this program, an amount he told me not to share with the group. My doing this program was the condition that would allow me to continue with the practice community I’d worked with for several years and if I failed to complete the program be banished from the community and allowed no more contact. There was a contract written up that disallowed me from dating and outside communication about my involvement for the time of the program. When I told my father about the cost of the program he was immediately suspicious based on the usual and customary rates for things such as acupuncture, psychology and martial arts which Michael was certified in. One of the senior ex-members of the group who had also come into money thought my father right for questioning Michael’s ability to exploit someone for money.
5) When I left, I tried to make my exit as gracious as possible and with as much integrity as I could muster, nonetheless, I faced the group’s customary emails of backlash. Although this was not a huge surprise and actually strengthened my resolve that I was leaving something that wasn’t something I thought was good for me, it was still uncomfortable. What was really sad for me was an email that came from a family friend involved in the group months later and only several weeks after my son was born. The letter was so full of criticism and such a claim of disconnection and non-support for my actions at a vulnerable time in my life, it literally felt heart-breaking. How cruel words like these that were inspired by Michael and his teaching were supposed to empower women is the deepest mystery to me.
I spent a long time after my exit trying to heal from strong words that cut me down and made me question my abilities and other key aspects of myself. The only way I could fathom some of the cruel words he said to me was that somewhere in his past he too must have been deeply shamed and that these things were a sort of projection that really had little to do with me. Michael has some gifts and talents, but sometimes he can really be off. There are no checks and balances in his system to correct this from happening. I think he has issues around money, sex, and power: three things he often accuses the women of.
Before and after meeting Michael I’ve met and studied with others whom people call “spiritual masters”. Although Michael deals with some of the same inspired ideas in his work which can lead the followers into heightened states; there are some key differences, I think. I’ve heard it said a true master is so free of karma (desire) that he can effortlessly transmit the energy, breath and consciousness of the divine to multiple people at once. I don’t sense this total emptiness with Michael, and see his own desires and judgements as keeping him from loving/transmitting so completely. For me, the condemnation that is part of the group is the deepest expression of this incompleteness. Furthermore, I don’t sense compassion and ease around the parts of people that call for healing like I do with true masters. For him it is cause for some great lesson in which he concedes to making “a mountain out of mole hill.”
Nonetheless, I’ve heard it said of a master, “as you see him, so shall he be to you.” I believe that this is true of spiritual teachers who are still struggling with personal karma. I believe a lot of the benefits followers receive in Michael’s group are due to their own faith and spiritual vision. The exalted view of Michael everyone is encouraged to take in itself can bring the blessings of the divine to those who perceive that way, even if in a relative sense he is unable to fully live that divine expression.
Although I had many inspired experiences in Michael’s presence and was able to overlook a lot questionable actions for some time, ultimately the cursing words he spoke about my heart and soul led me question him and his teaching. I believe this parting was healthier than to stay and take on a sense of shame about my deepest core. He incited such shame in me both publicly through ostracizing and privately through harsh words. My hope is that by writing this I can prevent such pain from coming upon others, and that such faith and love that people invest in Michael can be reinvested in trusting the self.
– Emma –
Photo Credit: clickykbd via Flickr