What is Michael Guen’s Relationship to Money?
We have estimated that Michael Guen grosses approximately $400,000 per year. This figure may or may not be completely accurate, but given the amount of students and acupuncture clients, this is a reasonable estimation. Oftentimes, he would say that he does not have much money and he would tend to downplay his wealth. But it is all part of the front that he puts on. Michael has no remorse for what he charges and feels entitled to charge what he does because he is an “expert” and claims to have knowledge that you cannot get anywhere else. He never really cared what I made and did not offer me many discounts on the cost of my “tuition.” Even when I divorced and he was aware that I made only a certain amount working at a non-profit, he did not have any gesture towards me to decrease my expected “tuition.” Overall, he has abused his power with money. As far as I am concerned, he is swindling people left and right. I myself was going in debt every month and paid 55% of you paycheck to him. He knew that I did not make very much money but convinced me it was for my personal and spiritual growth.
So many students and clients have spent an incredulous amount of money on his services and programs. The five senior students alone have probably spent approximately $300,000 between all of us, over the course of several decades. Two of the families have suffered severe medical issues and he encouraged them to continue to pay for expensive acupuncture one-on-one sessions with him. In my own case, I was embarrassed to tell people about how much money I was giving him every month. Others have also been ashamed to publically declare what they are paying. In fact, when Karl and I spoke with one of the women about her finances, she deftly changed the topic. She was asked point blank what she gave him every month and outright refused to say. We estimated that she spends at least $2,000 per month. It is possibly up to $3,000 per month.
One of the ways in which Michael allows himself to receive so much is by couching the relationship we have with him as that of “a master and disciple.” By saying that this “sacred relationship” is like having a parent guide their child in everything they do, he is justifying why it takes so much money to sustain the relationship. He often says that it “takes an enormous amount of energy” to guide people through that level of “transformation.” And then once again, he reiterates that you cannot “get this type of character training everywhere.” The “core members” and lineage holders were expected to have a certain special type of relationship where we would pay a set monthly fee per month. He did not believe in the “fee for service” model with us, meaning that he can give whatever amount of attention to us and still collect the same monthly fee.
In my own situation, that meant that I often paid my requested amount even for months where I did not receive any real instruction or attention. Sometimes I would be on probation from classes because he manipulatively set me up for punishment. He claimed that I was jealous and competitive with other women. I would still be expected to faithfully pay the “tuition” amount, no matter what happened. He requested a payment of $350 per month from me in 2005 and said that it signified my commitment to the group on a deeper level. He had instilled fear in us that if we did not continue to pay that amount or we took a break then we would tell us to leave the group. In fact, if we took a break from the work, we were still expected to pay tuition. So this limited our desire to leave. In fact, when one member of the men’s group left and then returned, he had to pay Michael Guen a tremendous amount of money upfront for the privilege of being in his classes again.
Some of the things that are frequently encouraged are participation in workshops or intensives as well as one-on-one sessions with Michael. All of these cost extra above and beyond the original “tuition” payment. Everyone starts getting excited about the workshops and he makes you want to participate and join in. As for the one-on-one sessions, he will charge his amount on a sliding scale, but for the most part his regular fee is $120 per hour. I was personally paying $90 per session and was seeing him once a week to receive acupuncture and consulting on writing the chapter. This would have gone on endlessly.
The total amount of money that I spent on Dr. Michael Guen over the past ten years of my life was $55,000. This is money that I could have been saving for retirement, travel, graduate school or anything else. I feel as though he cheated me out of this money, promising me greatness and attainment and subjecting me to manipulation and blame. He made me pay for the abuse. Last year, I was giving him over half of my net income as I was living in the apprentice house, paying tuition and then paying for one-on-one sessions separately. He convinced me that I was investing in myself and it would come back to me when I finally became a teacher and the business went public.
Essentially Michael Guen knew that I was earning not very much working non-profit agency and he took my money from me without any remorse like a psychopathy would do. He stole my money and gave me so many false promises of what I would become. As I mentioned in previous chapters, he always slipped in that our success was “never guaranteed” and that we had to work for our positions. There was no granted sense of entitlement that we were allowed to have just because we had stuck around for a long time. I could have potentially been going into debt for him for the rest of my life. In fact, one of the women and her husband were going into debt.
After I divorced, he continued to prey on me financially. He made me commit to living in the apprentice house and then conveniently told me how much it would cost after I committed to it. So of course I didn’t feel as though I could back down at that point. I spent $925 per month for rent plus another extra fifty dollars for utilities that were not covered. In fact, I was paying $100 per month on utilities for a household of five people. I was living with roommates and did not have my own space and I still paid and arm and a leg for this situation. It was all under the disguise that I was receiving special training that could not be gotten anywhere else.
Each member is paying him exorbitant amounts of money. The word tuition is abused. I cannot go back to using it in an ordinary way. Usually when you pay tuition, you are enrolled in an institution or a school and are about to receive a credential that can be validated by other people. I did not receive anything that the outside world would freely acknowledge. Everything was done on the “invisible realm” and he claimed that we would get an “etheric credential.” Apparently, all we needed to do was to write our stories and “find our missions.” We were supposed to gain respect from other people that way. We spent long days talking about what it mean to be “impressive.” He even denounced getting only a master’s degree in psychology saying that it would do very little. He said it was a waste of time. He implied that getting an “etheric credential” would be more worthwhile.
Because I was supposed to be a “lineage holder,” I was expected to pay for the rest of my life. This was the old set up of the master and disciple relationship. Here is a perfect example of Michael manipulating his other students in order to get more money out of them. He wrote this email to me and another student who also lived in the apprentice house:
“It would be appropriate before your lineage brother leaves here on Monday (back to China) to privately remind/inform him that it would be appropriate for him to leave a donation for the teacher. Distinguishing a lifetime ‘lineage disciple’ from a tuition paying ‘student’, the most serious of us had this regular gesture with Gong Baozai to the last day of his life; this, irrespective of what we were doing and where we were living. After the wonderful impromptu get together and ba gua quan training deep into last night, I think the two of you have an indelible experience of what a true orthodox relationship and study entails. Yet, you might politely explain to him that even though Uncle Mike does not personally need his money, whatever he felt like contributing would go a long way in support of rent and build out costs of the new Wasah community space (maybe even bring him to see the yoga room).”
In this email, he is clearly trying to show us that he is entitled to this student’s money, just from the sheer fact that this student needs to be grateful forever to his master. He talked about the “spirit of the gesture” and how you needed to be balanced energetically when it came to money. He also would often say that money was spiritual and that people today need to practice their businesses with this idea in mind. In actuality, he was getting tons of money and claiming that this was the new spiritual way of doing things, to apparently be “paid what you are worth.” He convinces that women are powerful and important and tries to get them to become “spiritual leaders” and teachers in order to make more money from them.
Michael Guen had all of us working for free for an organization named One Effort Living that barely existed fully. We as members were expected to generate material for his website www.oneeffortliving.org (which by the way has yet to come out to the public). He gave us absolutely no contract to sign and just vaguely talked about a profit sharing co-operative model that would supposedly go into effect when the business became public. He claimed to also be in the background until the women were capable enough of running the business and taking over. But he really had it in his mind to be the central force and director. Any person pulled into the organization would be preyed upon and he would always get a major percentage from it. You would never be absolutely free or independent with your clients or students. In effect, working for Michael Guen equaled slave labor.
– Ruth –
Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn via Flickr