Inside the “Gentle Wind Project”
A Husband’s Perspective
by James F. Bergin
After 17 years with GWP, Jim realized that he was in a controlling group/cult. How did that happen?
How does someone get drawn into a cult? How can you get someone out?
The following is my perspective on what happened to me, my wife, and children, as a result of becoming involved with the Gentle Wind Project (GWP). Most of the information is first-hand experience, but I have also drawn from a considerable volume of literature about mind-control groups, sometimes referred to as cults. What I found to be revealing is how my experience and knowledge of GWP’s activities, spanning seventeen years (from 1983 to January 2000), fit the general description and modus operandi of these types of groups.
My intention in describing my experiences is to compare them with other types of groups, and to provide a case study for people wishing to further understand the psychodynamics of GWP. I encourage readers, current Gentle Wind members, GW "Instrument Keepers," and GW former members, to evaluate the material for themselves and, as they say, “take what you want and leave the rest.” For me, writing this very personal story has been deeply helpful and has strengthened my relationships with my wife, children, extended family and friends, and demonstrated, once again, that you are only as sane as your secrets.
Apropos of secrets, GWP leaders will attempt to control this information, as they have attempted to do on their websites since, of necessity, they must always protect their many secrets in order to maintain the mystical manipulation that takes place for followers and potential recruits.
NB: Pages from the GWP website eyeofthesky.org , referred to in this article, were removed from the Internet by GWP after the plaintiffs filed their lawsuit against my wife, myself, and ten other individuals and businesses. In addition, GWP has altered their main website, and their name(s), multiple times.
As a member of the group now known as the Gentle Wind Project (or Gentle Wind, Gentle Wind Retreat, Gentle Wind School, Gentle Wind/Turning Point, GWP, GW, Allies for Trauma Relief, Gentle Wind Iran, Gentle Wind Hawaii, Gentle Wind Western Massachusetts, and the Millers' latest version, Family Systems Research Group), I firmly believed that I was involved in something very unique and that, as a result, I was a “spiritually evolved” individual. We were told that the GW project was “a small community of people…act[ing] as a distribution center for healing instruments designed by the Brotherhood and guided by the Planetary Logos,” and that, “…the technology is available to all of humanity and is distributed only through Gentle Wind.for aiding souls back to the path of evolution which some ninety-eight percent of the souls in this planet are now not following.” (Carreiro:1987: 6, 122).
The mystical manipulation (Lifton:1989) that I experienced during my tenure with GW, namely that the leaders were communicating with the highest level souls in the “spirit world,” and that they were healing individuals and the world through mystical “telepathic healings” and “healing instruments,” the design of which was “engineered” by the “brothers and sisters of the inner world,” enthralled and seduced me, along with many others, to take on this strange belief system.
After becoming convinced that GW’s way was the only way, I unwittingly allowed myself, my wife (who was sexually manipulated later, while a dedicated member of the group), and my children to be influenced in what turned out, for us, to be very destructive ways.
Following my final exit, after many years, from Gentle Wind’s influence, and after four years of reading, meeting former members of other high-control groups and cults, and generally recovering, I now realize that I didn’t allow this to take place. It happened so slowly and subtly that I was not cognizant of the process at the conscious level. Had someone asked me early on whether I would submit to handing over a large part of my income and life’s savings, give up a nurturing and valued relationship with my wife, take a back seat to seeing and parenting my children, sell the business I loved, and live in greatly reduced circumstances, I would have laughed at the idea. But, as I will describe here, the process was deceptively subtle, pervasive, and persistent.
Among the many distortions presented on the GW leaders’Eye of the Sky website (NB: Pages from this site were removed after GWP filed their lawsuit. Why?) is the statement that “the normal psychological profile for people involved in cults usually includes overly dependent personalities with weak identities….easily led, who are looking for structure and lack personal goals, often as a result of relationship or career failures.” To the contrary, as the reader will quickly learn from the Resources page on this website. “Research has shown that most cult members are of above-average intelligence, come from stable backgrounds, and do not have a history of psychological illness." (Langone:1993/Singer with Lalich:1995/Tobias and Lalich:1994).
"Cult leaders and cult recruiters tend to capture the hearts, minds, and souls of the best and brightest in our society. Cults look for active, productive, intelligent, energetic individuals who will perform for the cult by fund-raising, recruiting more followers, and operating cult-owned businesses or leading cult-related seminars. In the 1960s and 1970s, perhaps, it was more typical for primarily young people to get involved with a cult; this is no longer so. The young and old alike, and everyone in between, are being recruited into a wide array of cultic groups.” (Lalich:1997:5).
Cult leaders, on the other hand, are enigmatic, complex individuals. Veiled in talent, charisma, and intelligence, they are difficult to understand and easily dismissed, by virtue of their deeds, to be evil, as in the case of many notorious cult leaders of fame and fortune, and others of lesser fame. To avoid the pitfall of dividing the world into good and evil, as many cults do, it is perhaps more understandable to think of evil, even in the personality of the most damaging cult leader, rather as a flaw distorting that person’s essence, or, as Troy Chapman eloquently writes, “If we understand that evil results from a distortion of one’s true nature, we respond by trying to bring out this nature so that it manifests itself purely rather than pathologically in the world.” (2002).
An intriguing and -- in my experience, accurate -- description about the universal personality characteristics and behaviors of high-control and cult group leaders is Len Oakes, Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities.(1997; see Resources on this website.).
While I am critical of my experiences as a member of Gentle Wind, I ascribe most of what was done to me, and to others, certainly not as evil, but as a distortion of the true nature of the leaders involved, and I believe that GW, as an organization, is a manifestation of those flaws.
How It Began
For us it all started innocently. Like many caring parents, we were looking for advice about problems we were having with our children, and turned to Claudia Panuthos, a respected, thoughtful person, and licensed social worker, that we were already affiliated with as an author through our publishing company. She was very sympathetic and helpful, but surprised us when she offered “healing instruments” and a “soul reading” rather than therapy or counseling. Panuthos told my wife that “therapy took too long” and that she now had “a teacher” who offered new technology, which removed damages to the “etheric” or “auric” structure. We were intrigued and followed through with her offer, sending, as requested, a small piece of our oldest child’s hair, in place of the counseling that we had called about. This was mailed to Gentle Wind (then called Gentle Wind Retreat, later: Gentle Wind School, Turning Point, Gentle Wind/Turning Point, and now the Gentle Wind Project) in Kittery, Maine.
What we received back was an audio tape containing a “soul reading” about our child that, we were told, came from the “teacher” (eventually identified to us by Gentle Wind as “Master Hilarion” – GW Newsletter, Vol.1:#2:1; later, “Estelle” – Vol.1:#4:2; “Planetary Hierarchy” – Carreiro: 1987:20; “Planetary Logos” – Carreiro: 1987:20; “The Logos” – Carreiro: 1988:138; “the Brotherhood,” the “Brothers and Sisters,” “the Inner World,” “the Company,” “the Spirit World”), detailing what was supposedly taking place with our son’s soul and life journey. In the same package was a set of “healing instruments” or “tools” (hand-held small pieces of plastic reportedly imbedded with herbs, precious stones, and various other specially chosen ingredients; during our experience with GW, we used at least 100 different varieties of these). We were instructed to have our child “hold these tools every time he gets upset.”
“Soul readings” coming from “telepathic channelling” were said to “tell an individual soul exactly what [it] needs to hear in order to take the next step in evolution.” (Carreiro:1987:54). The first “reading” that we received, coming from a mysterious source, recited in an articulate, but far-off sounding style by Panuthos, made an eerie impression on us. But, the information seemed to fit our child’s behavior and persona, and offered us some answers about his behavior. Soon thereafter, we began sending pieces of our own and our other children’s hair, with equally strange results. For not only did we think that these readings were coming from a “spiritual source,” they were delivered by someone that we trusted who was, in addition to her new role as a “channeller” of “soul readings,” a respected therapist and author of two books that we had published with whom we had a professional, friendly relationship.(Panuthos:1984/1984). The “readings” mystified us because the unidentified “teacher” actually seemed to be “channeling” information through our friend-author-counselor about who and what we were – at the soul level.
I, for one, like others who tried this service, was flattered and curious. Here, at last, was some source that knew the real me and seemed to care. Just what I thought was missing in my life. The “teacher’s” instructions for allowing this “data [to be] properly absorbed by the soul” were to “listen to the tape many times with an open heart.” (GW Newsletter:1:5). To add more import to our newfound ideas, we read in the same newsletter: “There is nothing anywhere on this planet…other than the work in this Community [Gentle Wind] that in any way even touches briefly upon the truth of the psyche. All information that has come up to this time that is held as truth by the world are [sic] lies made up out of man’s own imaginings. He misunderstands this as he misunderstands everything.”
(Official “soul readings” for the general public were discontinued after the first few years following Gentle Wind’s formation. However, taped “readings” and “information” were, at least until the year 2000, when my association with the group ended, still handed out to certain “instrument keepers” and GW group members; and “channelled information,” directly over the phone, in person individually, or for the entire inner circle and selected others, was available on a continuous basis. In addition, the most devoted followers assume that every spoken word by the GW leaders is coming from the “spirit world.” This belief was reinforced constantly from the beginnings of Gentle Wind through pronouncements such as “All of the [GW] staff members maintain continuous telepathic communication with the Brotherhood.” (Carreiro:1987:ix). Another time, when a group leader was addressing a group of followers about their shortcomings, she said, “We can hear your thoughts.”)
My wife had a similar response to our initial audio tapes of “soul readings.” This led us to request subsequent “readings,” and then we even began to receive spontaneous offers from Gentle Wind to send us “information” that “They” (supposedly the “spirit world”) knew we needed: “The teacher has some information for you if you would like to have it.” Of course we wanted it! This was then delivered to us over the phone or via a new audio tape sent through the mail. My wife and I would listen to these “readings” over and over, finding a form of relaxation and direction in doing this, and an escape from the real world responsibilities of working and parenting. Many years later, we came to realize that this focused listening had a profound effect on our subconscious minds – a hypnotic influence, if you will, that, over time, shifted our entire lives.
We began spreading the word about this exotic connection to our friends, family, employees, acquaintances, and, yes, strangers, too. Even at this early stage of enchantment with the Gentle Wind group, we were shocked when people weren’t interested in receiving a “soul reading” or using the “healing instruments,” or when they questioned the information on the “readings” or the effectiveness of the “instruments.” We began to unconsciously, and later consciously, separate people into those who “got it” and those who just “weren’t ready.”
(At this early stage in the development of the Gentle Wind group, the healing instruments were “free.” Now there are set “donations” to own the various instruments, ranging from $250 to thousands of dollars. People attending seminars or those convinced to hold a “healing instrument” by an “instrument keeper” – someone who purchases an instrument and agrees to share it – can receive a healing for “free”; but once a person believes that the “instrument” is doing something to him, there can be a strong self-motivating drive to purchase one and then to upgrade continuously as newer, more expensive models, with ever more elaborate “healing” claims, are produced.)
Wanting to repay GW for what we perceived at the time to be help for our family, and to ensure the continuation of the project that we were beginning to depend on, we were told that we could “donate whatever we wished for the soul readings and instruments,” but that they (the leaders) were “not allowed to profit financially from spiritual work.” Declarations such as this persuaded us that we were dealing with people who were more enlightened than anyone on the planet – imagine having absolutely no desire for material gain! We were sold on the idea that the GW founders were totally altruistic.
(Interestingly, the “no material gain” message is still winning converts for GW, more than two decades after it ensured our loyalty, because this remains the most effective message to attract potential followers who are unselfish, good-hearted people, eager to help “save the world.” A recent quote on the GW website from a new “instrument user” states, “…it is rare in our society to have an organization which does not profit from such a remarkable development as the…Healing Instruments.” This same remark could have been made by me twenty-one years ago, and probably was.)
We were hooked, or you might say, addicted, wanting to know more. By degrees, but consistently, we tried to become more involved, particularly my wife, often driving to Boston together for seminars, or to Kittery to use a new instrument that would presumably eliminate our latest problems. Little did I know at the time, that the “soul readings,” so convincingly rendered, were actually the insights of very skilled and talented therapists who claimed contact with “the brothers and sisters of the inner world,” and that the audio tapes and so-called soul readings were extremely strong suggestions that were programming our subconscious minds. I also had no idea that John Miller (aka Tubby), the Gentle Wind Project leader, was directing the group from behind the scenes. Mary Carreiro (her name at that time; formerly Claudia Panuthos; later Mary Miller; “Mo” Miller; “Moe” Miller) was the spokesperson at the seminars, and most of the other “Gentle Winders” we knew were women.
It was only after several trips to Maine that my wife finally met John Miller, whereas for me it was months later. Our understanding prior to these meetings was that the individuals at GW were not important, and were only “channels” for the “teacher” from the “inner world”; there were “no leaders or gurus at Gentle Wind.” This was just what we were looking for, as we considered ourselves to be totally independent of groups or organized religion. At that time in our lives we defined ourselves as progressive social activists, publishing books to effect social change while dabbling in new age philosophies. All of this, we believed, fit in perfectly with the aims of Gentle Wind. It was just at a “higher level.”
This higher level, unknown to us at the time, would quickly assert itself in GW books and newsletters with declarations such as, “It is not possible for anyone in the human world to understand how or why [the ‘healings’] work. . .We can say that this healing instrument comes from a place that is both on this planet and a trillion light years away.” (So much for independent examination of the science behind the project.)
A Deeper Commitment
After gradually being enticed by our “soul readings,” my wife and I became increasingly active in Gentle Wind over the next couple of years, often attending seminars or small-group meetings where Mary Carreiro gave lectures, in the convincing and charismatic style with which she was naturally gifted, about the intricacies of the soul, evolution, spirituality, and the “healing instruments.” The end of the lecture always consisted of asking people to take an instrument (still free at that time). Carreiro was presumably “channelling” this information. During these lectures, the early followers, including my wife, would often stand up to mysteriously “direct energy” around the room with their arms and hands, or they would “receive information” that certain people in the audience needed a “special adjustment” or “healing.” This would result in one or several GW staffers standing around the person “in need” and sending “special energy” into them with their hands or with “healing instruments” – an alluring experience for the recipient of this attention, and a spectacle for the other seminar attendees. It was during this time that the GW leaders started becoming gradually more distant from their growing numbers of devoted followers. I quickly exchanged the fantasy that we were a community helping each other on an equal footing to the reality that all information and directions arbitrarily came down to us from the group’s well-defined hierarchy.
Years later, when my mind became clear, I began to see that the ever-changing GW belief system was simply a compilation of established spiritual beliefs, political statements, educational philosophies, and human potential movement/therapeutic techniques. This hodge-podge of new age/psychotherapeutic/spiritual ideas came from a wide variety of sources, many of which were reliable and true; now given ultimate authority because of being “channelled from the inner world” and unique to GW. However, even when this recycling of historical and modern philosophies was intellectually apparent during the years of our involvement – causing uneasiness in me – I was still convinced that the Gentle Wind source was the most unique, and, besides, it didn’t matter – I was already “hooked.”
(An example of this blind acceptance was the way we dealt with the printed newsletters and publicity material written by GW leaders. Unfortunately, this material was often ungrammatical and misspelled. This was appalling to both my wife and me, and to a few other followers, and we yearned to edit the writing, partially to save face for ourselves among our friends that we had hoped to recruit with this material. However, by that time we were already hesitant to be honest about something as simple as spelling errors. Early on, when my wife offered to proofread or edit GW material, the offer was refused with a smiling face or a blank look. In time, she found that there was a risk of receiving an insulting “soul reading,” or, as GW members sometimes called this kind of information –“a blaster” – about our “intellectual pretensions.” We gradually tried to swallow the need to improve writing standards, and rationalized that we were “giving up our egos” by letting mistakes go through without commenting. We also joined the group-think about this, which was that “there is a reason for the mistakes and misspellings…it’s obviously the way the ‘spirit world’ wants it and they are the only ones who know how to communicate with human beings. We are wrong and they are right.”)
Attending lectures, receiving “soul readings,” “telepathic healings” and “adjustments,” and using constantly updated “healing instruments,” combined with visits to the GW headquarters in Maine, where I observed a dizzying array of the very latest in computer technology, multiple workshops with top-of-the-line industrial and finish-carpentry machinery, the highest quality sound and photography equipment (in addition to swimming pool, sauna, hot tub, tanning beds, and wall size-TV screen), along with bustling, important activity, created an aura of mysticism, excitement, common cause with other new recruits, and a sense of being “saved” and “chosen,” culminating, for my wife and me, in what Conway and Siegelman refer to as snapping. (1995). This term defines a process whereby an individual gives up his or her perceived reality for another. For some, this is an actual moment in time, and for others, like us, it is the result of a slow process of subtle influences. In either case, a person gradually and unwittingly allows a new idea and behavior system to cover over who he or she is and gives their life and mind to the belief system that is mediated by the leaders of high-control groups, sometimes called cults.
As the number of our visits to Kittery increased, we learned that there was a great deference, and later submission, by the followers in the presence of John Miller. This was reinforced by “readings” and written “information” explaining to us that there were “no gurus or leaders [in GW],” but that, “…it would be accurate to say that there is one among us whom we have been told is older than any of us can possibly imagine. He is a representative of the Beginning….We call this one Tubby. And, as we have said, he is very ordinary….the only thing that might be considered sacred or holy is the truthfulness and authenticity that he represents….He is as old as time and as young as a spring chicken. His original evolution was done in another place and in another way, a much more rigorous and disciplined way….producing within this Monad a kind of extreme focus….essential in bringing this healing technology into humanity….Tubby came here to do this work as a representative of the spiritual engineers responsible for the human condition….If you stay with this project long enough, you might meet him some day.” (GW Healing Manual:11).
What Defines a High-Control Group or Cult?
After years of being an obedient follower, I began researching some of the literature about thought control (see Resources) and also attended a conference (the annual ICSA conference) about cults and high-control groups around the world. What struck me was the universal similarity of these groups to Gentle Wind. Almost every group had a leader or guru who was spiritually “connected” to some “higher power” or “spiritual source,” and used this “source of information” to manipulate (consciously or unconsciously) and influence his or her followers. Each group, like GW, claimed that they were the only group to have access to such spiritual information, that they were “not a cult,” and that the members would be “saved,” enter paradise, be healed of damage, break the cycle of reincarnation, and many other variations of rewards for being followers. In addition, as I was later to learn, many leaders of high-control groups use their self-proclaimed authority to sexually control and have sexual relations with their followers. (Lalich:1997/Tobias and Lalich:1994). GW, like other groups I studied, claimed that their mission was universal healing, or to put it another way, “to save the planet.” The behavior and organization of GW fit the pattern of hundreds of such groups across the country and throughout the world. The GW group was not special, nor, as I slowly began to discover, was I. (Please see www.rickross.com, www.freedomofmind.com /wwwculticstudies.org /and the other Resources on this site.).
My initial response to this revealing information was denial. After all, I was convinced, at the time, that GW was a unique group, the leaders and members were my friends (although they provided little emotional or friendly support), and not like all the other groups or cults that seemed really weird to me. The “real cults” wore strange outfits, danced in the streets, proselytized to family, friends, and strangers, panhandled, or tragically committed group suicide. This surely was not GW with its appeal to compassionate, middle-class, educated, skilled, independent, alternative individuals. But then I started reading how such groups, even the really weird ones, recruit talented, successful people who can contribute some source of skill or, particularly, money to the enterprise. I also could readily relate to the groups that expected their followers to spread the ideas to prospective recruits and bring in new believers.
Throughout December 2003, in response to stories on the Internet from former GW members, the GW leaders stated on their website that if GW is a cult then so is Alcoholics Anonymous and the military, in which people become true believers. In their more recent attempts to undermine former GW members’ personal stories, the leaders produced a new website to put their spin on personal stories from former members. (eyeofthesky.org NB: Pages from this site were removed after GWP filed their lawsuit. Why?). On this site, in an attempt to prove they are “not a cult,” the leaders compare themselves to the Jimmy Fund, Red Cross and many other reputable nonprofit groups. So, what is the difference between a high-control group or cult that distinguishes it from those types of organizations? For a start, in my experience, the Jimmy Fund is a nonprofit organization employing a staff, but, unlike GW, I don’t recall that they gave me “soul readings,” or had sexual relations with my wife, in return for my contributions. Similarity in organizational structure, such as being a nonprofit, does not mean similarity in activities or intent. (Singer with Lalich:1995/culticstudies.org). A spurious comparison, at best.
As a veteran, I knew that, unlike the military, cults have but one ultimate leader, not many, and that soldiers, even though indoctrinated into military life, do have a predetermined end to their enlistment. To its hard-core members, Gentle Wind was for life. Alcoholics Anonymous is certainly another group with a committed following, but unlike Gentle Wind, there is no leader who is connected to your soul’s needs or your higher power. In AA, you are your own higher power. In Gentle Wind, all information came down to the members from John “Tubby” Miller, via Mary “Moe” Miller and a few other women in the inner circle surrounding John Miller. I never observed feedback or questioning of this information from anyone inside the group. In AA, there are regular conscience meetings where a group of interested attendees tries to reach consensus over questions of how to spend money or about particular issues that might be troubling the group. In Gentle Wind there was no observable consensus or questioning, only the inner circle and the close followers who were also “channelling,” not surprisingly, the same information as John Miller, agreeing that they, too, were “hearing the same messages from the spirit world.”
In my seventeen years in GW, I never saw anyone question, or otherwise interrogate the information flowing from “Moe” or “Tubby.” If anyone even indicated dissent or challenge of the ideas, they could risk being “furloughed” from the group temporarily, or permanently. I implicitly knew that all information about spirituality, relationships, clothing color, eating habits, sexuality, and almost every aspect of our lives, came down from the “spirit world” via GW leaders. However, it wasn’t until my recovery from nearly two decades of this devastating experience that I learned the true depths of the leader’s control, after my wife was finally able to tell me about the secret sexual rituals “engineered” by John Miller and the women in his inner circle; passed off as the “energy” to produce new “healing instruments.”
During my years of involvement with the GW group, I would have never dreamed that I could counter the leaders who were connected to the “spirits” that supposedly guide the destiny of the planet. As I have now learned, a follower of a closed group who chooses to remain in such a system must resort to complete conformity and blind obedience as the only solution. We were told that John (“Tubby”) Miller was one of the highest initiates ever incarnated; that Jesus was a 4th level initiate and (as of about ten years ago) “Tubby” was purportedly at the 7th level. Because of his “high vibration” “Tubby” could often be found sitting on a sofa, with two or more women from his inner circle touching various points on his body in order to direct energy to “bring him into balance,” since it was so difficult for him to maintain health and “grounding” in such a “low vibration” as planet earth.
(The behavior that other GW members and I exhibited [of conformity and blind obedience] is sometimes termed Cognitive Dissonance by researchers and psychiatrists – a leading theory explaining the magnetism of cults. Originally developed by Leon Festinger in a renowned study of the inner workings of a 1950s UFO cult, the theory posits that people naturally seek consistency within their thoughts, feelings and actions. When an inconsistency or dissonance occurs, especially between thought and action, the tendency is for people to change their thoughts to accommodate their new behavior. Robischon: 1998).
Most high-control groups or cults operate in this way, wherein lies the harm. By gradually – sometimes by design; sometimes as a result of the leaders’ psychopathologies interacting with members – usurping an individual’s will through mystical manipulation and other means of control, members are prevented from becoming who they are. This interference in free will is adamantly denied by GW leaders when they state that GW staff – and the “spirit world” that they are purportedly in constant contact with – would never interfere with free will (which, obviously, leaves the responsibility for any adverse effects from involvement in GW upon the followers). Nonetheless, I, along with my wife and other members, stopped taking credit or responsibility for our own successes and accomplishments. We attributed positive events in our lives to the “healing instruments” and the protection that we felt we were surrounded by as followers of the GW group, and we blamed everything negative on our own limitations or “will.”
This was reinforced by the fact that GW leaders never assumed responsibility, on behalf of the “healing instruments,” for adverse events in their followers’ lives, or for lack of effectiveness in eliciting advertised changes. If I experienced difficulty in some way, after years of holding the “healing instruments,” or found that the same inherent problems still existed, then the problem always belonged to me or needed to wait until a “better instrument” was developed, or possibly, “the spirit world could rewire me.” “Rewiring” was another GW term bandied about; with some members and leaders claiming to be “shells of their original selves, having been completely rewired by the ‘spirit world.’”
(GW’s caveat to a successful “healing” following the use of any “healing instrument” is that “certain people cannot be helped by the instruments.” Even though the percentage of people that “can’t be helped” was purportedly infinitesimally small, I heard it said many times that “so and so can’t be helped because of their will,” or a “particular genetic problem,” or some other exception to the rule. I wondered why there were so many exceptions, but never asked the question because I didn’t want to risk my place as a privileged and protected member. It was impossible for GW to ever be wrong, in their followers’ eyes, using this system.)
In sum, according to my personal experiences, what distinguished Gentle Wind from organizations that do not exhibit high control is that the leaders of GW, during my involvement, claimed to have the ability to tell me about the plan and nature of my personal existence due to their “higher vibration” and connection to the “spirit world.” Thus, I gave over my higher power and freedom of thought (and choice) to the group and its leaders. As Janja Lalich explains: “By attacking a person’s innermost self, cult leaders manage to dissemble and reformulate members according to the cult’s desired image. In other words, through a variety of social and psychological influence techniques, they take away you and give you back a cult personality, a pseudo-personality. They punish you when the old you turns up, and they reward the new.” (Lalich:1997). As part of this process of “adjusting” individual personalities, “Tubby” would assign more appropriate names to certain followers (including the name “Tubby” to himself). In addition to many changes in first names, at least five upper-level members, at last count, had legally changed their surnames to Miller – John (“Tubby”) Miller’s last name.
Since my wife and I were both members of GW, one of the techniques used by high-control groups or cults to maintain influence over members was known to me: controlling information. (Lifton:1989). From my observation, the form this took in GW was to inoculate us from outside sources of information by consistently citing GW as the sole source of “correct” information about the nature of reality. (Carreiro:1987,1988). As a result, GW became the prime source of information and direction, and each follower eventually trusted opinions and advice only from the leaders. As husband and wife, we gradually thought less about communicating with each other and took directives from the “spirit world” through “Tubby.” In the same way, we began to look for guidance for minute matters of parenting our children from “Tubby” and the women that surrounded him. Our dialogue as a couple was no longer validated by the group or by each other, since we now believed the real truth about us, and almost everyone else, came only to GW leaders from a “source” that had to be “stepped down” many times by the “highly evolved” leaders to be understandable and “safe” for those of us that were “lower on the evolutionary ladder.”
This new behavior observed in followers – sometimes called the emerging pseudo-personality – has the added feature of separation not only from the old self, but, in the case of my wife and me, from each other. A wedge is gradually and unobtrusively driven between partners in a relationship (and between friends and family members) so that each follower’s primary relationship is eventually directed exclusively toward the group-perceived leader. This process began when we responded to the information about our son’s “soul reading,” and increased when my wife was invited to visit Kittery and spend some time on weekends to “test the waters of Gentle Wind.” These excursions began several months after we first received so-called “channelled soul readings” and “healing instruments” for our family. Grateful for the apparent help and concern that we were receiving, my wife became progressively more focused on GW activities over the course of the next two and a-half years, as did I. Because I loved my wife, I was pleased that she seemed to be finding an enhanced sense of purpose through the group, and did my best to take on the added responsibilities in our co-owned business and in parenting our children.
However, after visiting the GW headquarters on several successive weekends, it appeared to me that my wife’s behavior and attitudes had rapidly started to change. She would return to our home in Massachusetts after these visits, withdrawn and distant, and without appropriate affect. Her demeanor was detached from our home life, and, as she became more a part of the GW group in Kittery, she, too, began to “channel” information from the “spirit world,” even bringing new GW recruits to our home where they could now use the most up-to-date “healing instruments” and receive “soul readings.” I was very aware of these disturbing changes – which resulted in a growing distance between us – but being ensnared by the mystical ideas of GW myself, I chose to believe that the personality changes in my wife were spiritually beneficial, and kept telling myself that it was part of the requirement of being committed to such an important project. When my wife’s mother and siblings called with concerns about her gradual and uncharacteristic withdrawal from them, I assured them that everything was perfectly normal. Little did I know!
I later learned from my wife that many of the women were taught to be “channellers” by Mary Carreiro (aka Claudia Panuthos, Mary Miller, Moe/Mo Miller), and that the process involved going into a trance-like state to “hear” messages from the inner world about a person who had requested a “reading.” At one point, most of the second-layer members, including my wife, were involved in giving readings to each other and to the public. When this began it was easy to find out what you should be doing with your life. One member could say to another, “Can you ‘get’ any information about what I should do concerning . . .?” or “Do you ‘hear’ anything about this….” “Can you ‘ask’ whether there is any ‘information’ for me?” The other member would listen (to her own imagined voices) then try to “get” an answer to pass along to the requester in the form of a “message” from the “spirit world,” or perhaps give a nervous smile and say no. But, to get to the real source, a follower would sometimes gather up the courage to call Mary so that she could “ask” if there is “any information about [a certain question]…” Presumably, Mary was asking the “spirit world” or “Tubby”; thus the answer was considered infallible and generally brought temporary relief from worry.
GW leaders, and many GW members, were also thought to have the power from the “spirit world” to send “telepathic healings” to people anywhere in the world. These were often done “on request” for close followers, “instrument keepers,” and potential recruits. However, very “special telepathic healings” were also sent to world leaders, teachers of GW members’ children, employers, church leaders, and thousands of other people, at the direction of GW leaders. Variations on this “telepathic” process existed over the years, including saying the word, “Heal,” while looking into the eyes of any person, including strangers. “Healing instruments” and strange, stylized hand and arm motions, accompanied by required words or “visualizations” by a GW member given this “ability,” were used to “send a telepathic healing” to someone in the same town or on the other side of the world. (When the Berlin Wall came down, it was intimated that this was the result of “telepathic healings” on the world leaders at that time.)
An outside objective observer would surely have concluded that people hearing and believing in voices from the “spirit world” and “telepathic healings,” – as approved by the GW leaders – were greatly disturbed and probably in need of psychiatric intervention, but to us, completely engrossed in this 24-hour a day drama of unpredictable and inappropriate activities, consulting with “planetary hierarchy,” through the interpretations of “Tubby” or “Moe,” had become our norm.
Divide and Conquer
After two years of weekend visits to Kittery without me, taking along one or the other of our small children, my wife returned from GW and informed me that I “needed” to sleep in a different room, for what I presumed to be some spiritual reason that was beyond my understanding. I was bewildered, wondering, like most husbands, what I had done. However, even though we were married, and had been for eleven years, we did not question or discuss this change since our relationship was now being directed by a “higher spiritual source” that knew what our souls needed to change.
The separation between us had now seriously begun, but the real meaning of this was not apparent to me at the time. Years later, after leaving the GW group, my wife was recovered enough to tell me that during this time she was asked to participate in so-called “energy work” – a euphemism for the sexual rituals with “Tubby” and the women followers surrounding him. She was told that the “spirit world” expected to gain “new healing instruments” as a result of her participation in the “energy work,” and that participants should not have sexual relations with anyone outside of the group. For my wife, now fully converted, there was no self-discernible choice but to follow this “higher” calling to assist in the project’s goals. As for me, I had surreptitiously been replaced, in my relationship with my wife, and as an object of her affection, by “Tubby.”
Within a year following our physical separation at home, my wife decided to move to Portsmouth, New Hampshire (across the river from Kittery, ME and 2 miles from the leaders' house at that time) to be a full-participating member of Gentle Wind. Others – mostly women, a few children and a very few men – were also migrating to the Kittery/Portsmouth area for the same reason. In our case, the separation of husband and wife, and father to children was now complete. My wife depended on the GW leaders for all substantive answers pertaining to our relationship and parenting. Under their influence, we would not live together, or discuss what really went on in Gentle Wind – especially the “energy work” – either with each other, or with anyone outside of GW, for the next fourteen years. Only in the last few years have we started talking about this with each other, and attempting to speak openly with former and present members of the group.
Following my wife’s move, our contact became limited to swapping the children back and forth between Maine/NH and Massachusetts, where my family had lived, and still consulting with each other on business matters. It felt like a divorced couple sharing custody. And, although we were not divorced, the results were the same.
The separation from spouses, friends, family, and identity is one of the most destructive manipulation tools used by high-control groups and cults. During my experience, I witnessed ties to families and friends broken – whether completely or partially through innuendos, or by direct suggestions from “readings” about the negative effects of being around family or other non-GW people. (i.e.: “Your Mother puts spikes in your consciousness”; “Beware of that friend [of twenty years]… you will probably find that you want to cut your connections with her”; “Your family isn’t worth any effort from Gentle Wind…They’ve done nothing to help this project. We’re not going to send them any more ‘telepathic healings.’”) As this process deepened, the GW members had nowhere to go but to the group. We became isolated, over time, from our other support systems and thus became increasingly dependent on the information coming through the inner circle of Gentle Wind.
Those of us that maintained tentative relationships with extended families and former friends learned to put limits on our time with them, and carefully monitored the content of conversations regarding GW that “they wouldn’t understand.” Inner circle members would almost always travel in pairs for any necessary errands or family interactions. Others ended non-GW relationships completely and rarely communicated with “outsiders” except for necessary business interactions. This choice might be described by a member as, “This is my life now and I’ve told my Mother [or someone else] that I just can’t come to visit. The Project needs me; I can’t spare the time, and, anyway, it’s just too energetically draining.”
This type of disempowerment and dependency makes thoughts of leaving a group extremely traumatic for anyone brave enough to consider making the break. (Hassan:2000,1990/Langone:1993/Lifton:1989). For many, including myself, the recognition of my experience in GW, followed by my gradual recovery, can take years to overcome. A comment from a present member expressed this: “Sure I’ve had my doubts about GW, but I just don’t want to go there [there being inward to face her doubts about the group].”
Fortunately, due to the growing number of ex-members from such groups, there are now professional organizations available to help former members, along with excellent books and some helpful support groups scattered throughout the country and the world. These resources were a great help to me and my family on occasion during the first couple of years following our exit from the group. If a former member of the GW group or a similar group is determined to open his or her eyes to the larger world again, the rewards found in returning to freedom of thought and choice are immeasurably sweet.
The first time I went to Kittery/Portsmouth to visit my relocated family, I found them living in the third-floor attic room of a large house, which was occupied by other GW members, all women, most of whom, I found out years later, were also participating in the sexual rituals with the leader referred to as “energy work.” The extent of the influence of the group’s thought adjustment on me is now very apparent when I consider that, until that point, my wife and I had always put the well being of our children first, and had provided a safe, loving environment for them. However, after nearly three years of involvement in the activities of the group, my perceptions were so greatly influenced by my GW-blurred vision, I could not see that my young children and wife were living in chaotic conditions, surrounded by bizarre behavior with people “channelling soul readings” on a daily basis from the “spirit world,” holding strange little pieces of plastic that were supposed to bring in “healing energy” for various conditions. Any normally functioning person would have considered this environment to be inappropriate and insane and removed his children from such a disturbing influence. But not me. In my controlled mind this was the place to be, where “spiritual energy” abounded and “evolution” was taking place on the fast track. To objective viewers of this situation – including some of our family and friends who knew about our involvement – my wife and I were clearly…out there…gone…in la-la land.
(After we announced our exit from the GW group to family and friends who had remained loyal to us in spite of our proselytizing and cutting them off to various degrees, we received many kind and understanding comments. One dear old friend, known for his humor, wrote, “Glad you have disassociated yourselves from the ‘gentle wind group’ and the two of you are once again firing on all eight cylinders!”)
However, there was still a glimmer of reality in me that made me feel uncomfortable: that funny feeling that everyone around you knows a secret (which was, in reality, the sexual activities / "energy work" / rituals, but also a myriad of other “secrets”) that you don’t, and that you are not a part of the group, or really even welcome. That feeling was manifest in a very tangible way when I got up from the mat on the floor where I was sleeping later that night and went to my wife to make some sort of a human connection. Upon feeling my presence, she turned her back to me and asked me to leave, not in the way a woman resists the advances of a man, but in the way one individual shuns another. I did not stay the night, but packed my things and departed when all were asleep, vowing to return only to see my children; realizing, now, for the first time, that my wife was literally “married to the group” for all intents, and that I could only regain her affection by becoming a more dutiful GW member myself. In this way, I, too, was drawn further into the group, for my “spiritual evolution,” and now my family, were attainable only through further involvement with Gentle Wind.
Loss of Autonomy
To maintain contact with my family and the activities of Gentle Wind, I continued to make periodic weekend visits to Kittery/Portsmouth. During this time, my wife told me, at the advice of GW leaders, that “it would not be correct” to stay in the same house with her and my sons for “energetic” reasons. Accommodations were found elsewhere, usually on another group member’s living room sofa.
Despite the accommodations, and because of my twisted perception about the “generosity” of the GW leaders in dedicating themselves to “saving the planet,” and my devotion to GW, I began publishing their books through the publishing company that my wife and I had founded and run together for many years. After my wife abandoned our business (to stop the fate of “aging prematurely from doing something that wasn’t right for her to do anymore,” according to the GW “information” she received), I continued to successfully manage it on my own, but began forming company policy around GW values. My wife took on the editing of the GW books, as no one outside of the group “would understand enough about GW” to work on these (and my publishing staff refused to touch them because they thought GW was a cult). Our good and loyal employees of many years were very unhappy with the content of these books and began, much to my chagrin, to leave the company; several walked out immediately after the printer’s proofs arrived, giving up good jobs and benefits.
At that time, I was informed by the “spirit world,” via Mary “Moe” Miller and my wife that the publishing company would begin to go downhill because I was only doing the work for “glamour” and that “my soul really wanted to build things.” Mary/Moe gave me a spontaneous “reading,” informing me that I would become ill if I didn’t begin working in carpentry and building. This had an alarming and powerful influence on me, for now the way to my spiritual evolution, continued good health, and my wife and children was through giving up the publishing business. Without questioning this information, but yet deeply regretting it, I took steps to sell the company as well as our family home in Massachusetts, and eventually moved to Maine, at last, to be a full-participating member of the Gentle Wind group and to be near my family. With this move, I was separated from my autonomy and life-long profession.
This type of separation from careers, homes, relationships, and activities was common for other GW followers, as well. While most members yearned for some measure of calm and stability, actual events and activities in the group were always in flux. Members were constantly being told, via “information” or “readings,” to move from one house to another, to end a relationship with a certain member, or even to move to another city. Often, after a member began to make preparations for an upheaval in his or her life as a result of “receiving information” from the leaders, he or she would then get revised “information” that it was no longer important to move; that she, according to the “spirit world” had “already learned the necessary lesson.” We were like puppets on strings, with people literally waiting and hoping for phone calls to receive information that they could rejoin the group, or help out with some privileged chore. Even something as mundane as walking the leaders’ dogs (who were often said to be reincarnated!) or cleaning their oven was considered a privilege. At a less mundane level, I have learned from my wife that some women devotees would wait for their phones to ring with the hope that the voice on the other end would invite them to “do energy work” scheduled for the next morning, or, at the very least, to dinner with “Tubby” and the inner group.
In addition to the many secrets that were already dividing us, members were now informed that they had certain “definitions” of personality or behavior that influenced their lives and relationships (as determined by the “spirit world” through the GW leaders). I had been labeled a “live alone” by the leaders, one of the dozens of pop-psychology terms still used as guidelines for people in the so-called “GW Relationship Seminars.” As a “live-alone,” I was said to be capable of “spiritual evolution,” but not capable of sharing a living space compatibly with others. I believed this in spite of the fact that I had productively and enjoyably lived my whole life in close proximity with others. As a consequence of this and other labels, along with the “energy work,” and other divisive actions of the group, I lived by myself for many years, visiting my wife and sons often, but always returning to my own residence even though we eventually lived in the same small town. Needless to say, my wife was a “live with,” just one more reason why we were incompatible. (Not surprisingly, since we began to unravel the web of GW delusion, we once again share the same home for the first time in many years.)
The Secret World of “Energy Work”
Two years after our exit from Gentle Wind, my wife was able to gather the courage to recount to me what had happened to her, and others, in the secret group sexual activities / sexual rituals (known as “energy work” by the leaders and followers). As part of the “honor” of being part of the secret circle involved in the “energy work,” the women, including my wife, were told to not have sexual relations outside of the group, and to “never tell anyone about this, since the world would not understand.” When my wife was invited by Mary Miller (often the spokesperson for John “Tubby” Miller and the “spirit world”) to be a participant in the “energy work,” she was told that John Miller was the only man enlightened enough to be involved; that “you can imagine what other men would do with this scenario.” She was also told that the GW leaders had “resisted the request from the spirit world to begin having sex with each other,” but that “the spirits said they had to do this for the success of the healing project.” Put this way, it sounded like an assignment, a generous act of service. Through this “generosity,” Gentle Wind now had my wife’s mind – and body.
Perhaps, had my wife and I been able to communicate to even a small degree about the reality of what was happening in GW, we might have been able to break out of the mind-controlling spell that had taken us over. Even in my blissed-out state, as a man, the knowledge of my wife being used in these sexual rituals would not have registered in any way as spiritual. If my wife could have communicated to me about what “energy work” was, it would have immediately become apparent to me that what was really being done to her, and the other women members of the group, was a “spiritual” excuse to gain control over their sexuality and indoctrinate them, through elaborate and powerful rituals, deeper into the group, not to mention satisfying the sexual fantasies of the leader – who was the centerpiece of these sexual rituals.
By manipulating my wife and other women into this ritual through the promise of “saving the world through the development of healing instruments through sexual energy,” John “Tubby” Miller and the inner circle of women that served him, flagrantly disregarded our married status, separating us more, and further contradicted his own teaching that the “ten commandments” were actually spiritual rules. In my case, he forgot one of those: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” He and the other leaders also forgot the therapists’ code of ethics that demands an impersonal, and certainly, non-sexual, relationship with clients. Although my wife and I were technically not former clients, we had originally gone to one of the group leaders seeking professional advice. It was also my understanding that some members had been previous clients of John Miller and Claudia Panuthos when they were in separate private therapeutic practices before forming the Gentle Wind Project.
Janja Lalich, in her introduction to Women Under the Influence explores the unequal power dynamics that affect many women today: “Even more sequestered from our view are the countless hidden, coercive relationships: the terrified woman held in an abusive ‘intimate’ relationship, the ‘chosen’ student intimidated into having sex with her teacher, the trusting parishioner tricked into a secret affair with her pastor, the selfless devotee caught in a web of pseudo-spiritual sexual shenanigans with her guru, the confused client persuaded to indulge the fantasies of her self-serving therapist.” (1997).
Knowing any of this would have awakened me to prevent my wife and children from further involvement with the GW group, prompting me to take action for the sexual scam that my wife and others were experiencing while under the psychological domination and mystical manipulation of the group leaders. I was to later learn that this type of sexual exploitation is extremely common among these kinds of groups and “is seen as the final step in objectification of the cult member by the authoritarian leader who is able to satisfy his needs through psychological manipulation leading to sexual exploitation.” (Lalich: Domination and Submission: 1997).
During the process of realizing the ill use of my wife, I have, in addition, now come to understand that, as her spouse, I was also manipulated. In usurping my wife’s mind and body during a large part of our marriage, by means of “spiritual” manipulation, “Tubby” also controlled my sexuality by engaging my wife’s “sexual energy” in his behalf, and, as a result, consigned me to years of celibacy and separation. I was also to suffer the further indignity of being cajoled as a friend by “Tubby,” my spiritual leader and GW associate, while he was secretly having clandestine sex with my wife and other female followers, and directing those followers in relations with each other. The fact that my wife was a married woman with a family, and husband, did not deter “Tubby” and the GW inner group from the potential destruction of our marriage and family life for the sake of personal gratification in the guise of “energy work.” This kind of an affront is one that no “spiritual” or decent man would ever do to another man, or to anyone. And it is certainly not a way to “save the planet.”
While I often wondered, I ironically thought celibacy was also the norm among the GW leaders and followers. How misguided I was, since the sex-word was rarely mentioned in my presence.
The GWP group sexual activity was not only a means of separation, but a powerful experience of bonding my wife, and the other women involved, to the leader and to one another. Combined with the overall drive to “bring humanity out of darkness,” this was very compelling for the participants. As a husband, trying to regain the affection of my wife, there was little I could have done to compete. Without having a grand agenda of “bringing peace to the planet,” my occasional attempts to break the distance between my wife and me was met with confusion and unease, and had the negative affect on me of seeing my wife as the perceived source of my rejection (this displacement was increased by repeated insidious “information” from the leaders about my “controlling” wife), thus enforcing our separation, and maintaining “Tubby” and his “energy work” as the object of affection. The anger and resentment toward my wife was, as a man, difficult for me to overcome. It wasn’t until my wife and I finally were honest about what had gone on in GW that healing and sanity could take place. As I’ve said, you’re only as sane as your secrets. Or, as Ram Das says, “Hurt is a grace for teaching.”
Unfortunately, according to my wife, some of the GW members mistook this bond with each other and the leader, through ritual sexual practices, as true and meaningful love. Once connected to John Miller in this way, their future relationships outside the group could be extremely problematic since intimacy became associated, at the same time, with both the higher purposes of “healing the planet” and exotic excitement, and, as a result – even though perhaps not consciously accepted – sexual abuse. In his research, Lifton notes that “true believers” achieve intimacy only when it is associated to some higher purpose. What is particularly insidious is that once my wife and other female members of GW were indoctrinated into “energy work,” they were vulnerable to be “on call,” at any time, to perform sexually under the guise of helping to "create a new healing instrument.” Even if they were rarely called, the potential still existed, thus bonding the participants on a continuous basis, and smothering most potential for nurturing relationships on a “human” level. This was not only true of loving partnerships, but also affected forming outside friendships or joining in activities with people who weren’t part of the group.
Some of the women participating in the “energy work” reportedly professed a feeling of very intense love for the centerpiece of these sexual rituals – John “Tubby” Miller. According to experts who have studied high-control group behavior (See Resources), this form of love is a distortion of the real meaning of love in that the women are never considered equal to the leader. Rather than love, according to Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving, this is submission, or clinical masochism, in which the power of the one submitted to “is inflated, may he be a person or a God; he is everything, I am nothing, except in as much as I am part of him.” (1956:16). Fromm goes on to say: “This type of masochistic relationship, in the secular sense, is a form of idolatry, in which the submissive participants become the instrument of someone outside of themselves.”
In this way, my wife, and the other women, remained “married” to “Tubby” and Gentle Wind through the conspiracy of secrecy that separated them from their current or future spouses, partners, and from each other. This created an ongoing bond and form of control, even though the “energy work,” for many of the women “on call,” was only occasionally practiced, and now, for most outside of the innermost circle, may be a thing of the past. (In any case, new “instruments” continue to appear in the present time, with ever greater promises of “healing” and an exorbitant “donation” price tag for the individuals who want to own one.)
This loyalty to the “secrets” continues even though many members now live widely separated geographically. Interestingly, in their attempt to obfuscate and deny that sexual rituals took place, GW leaders made the following statement to discredit my wife’s story: “The GWP has 19 statements from research participants reporting that at no time did they witness any form of sexual abuse, ritual or misconduct of any kind.” (eyeofthesky.org NB: Pages from this site were removed after GWP filed their lawsuit. Why?). These leaders, who purport to be honest and open, should simply ask their “research participants” if group sexual activity, termed “energy work” by the leaders and women followers, involved group sexual activities, and whether they were invited by one of the GW leaders to participate in that for the purported purpose of producing "healing instruments."
This phenomenon of group followers avoiding rational interpretations of their behavior, or even denying that the activities happened at all, is to be expected from members under the spell of these kinds of groups. A former member from another high-control group, who had participated in similar ritual sexual behavior, confided to me that she did not know she had been sexually abused by her “leader” until years later, after leaving the group, at which time she also realized that the “leader,” who was her source of enlightenment and much older, was now, in retrospect, physically reprehensible to her.
There is now a widespread contingent of newer GW “instrument keepers” who are probably unaware of the “inner secrets” and day-to-day living arrangements of the close-knit, original followers and the inner circle. These newer recruits have, in some cases, also become completely dedicated to the project because of their belief in the mysticism of the “healing instruments.” As their interest is stimulated and their donations grow larger, email and phone calls increase, with “information,” “special adjustments” (the in-group jargon for “telepathic healings”), and, perhaps, even “free instruments” sent as gifts.
As a result of this seeming generosity, new recruits might begin to offer their help to the GW staff, and slowly the web of influence is tightened. They can then be used by GW leaders, along with relocated original followers, to set up outreach recruitment seminars from Washington to California to Canada to Massachusetts to Hawaii to New Zealand (www.cults.co.nz). All that is required to activate these members is for “Moe” Miller to pick up her phone, or to send a message through one of her staffers, and request that the member participate in some task for the good of the group – setting up a seminar, working on publicity, raising funds, and, recently, sending emails and pledging their loyalty by denying my story, and other former members’ stories that are now being told, for the first time since GW was formed.
Except for a few former members, who, to date, are mostly silent about their experiences in Gentle Wind, there remains, after more than twenty years, a continued subjugation by the present members to the leaders and to the leaders' goals. Some followers who are “shunned” or even voluntarily separated are still, nonetheless, loyal to the group and its leaders, attributing their life’s accomplishments and gains over the years to the “healing instruments” and interventions of the GW leaders, rather than to normal human development, growth, and change that they have achieved on their own.
Publication of Former Members’ Stories: GW Leaders’ Reactions
After my wife’s story appeared on the Internet, one present GW member accused her of “making false claims against Gentle Wind” and “…cover[ing] up your serious mental stuff or illness.” This email went on to say, “You have lost your real friends and from what I can tell now you are about to lose all your money and property….” (email:12-19-03). This man also called and spoke to me for the first time in four years, saying, at first, that his purpose was to reminisce about our old times together, and then proceeded to accuse me of false statements about him in my wife’s account of GW experiences. After attempting to explain to him that the account was a personal story, not about him, and that members of most high-control groups go through very similar experiences, thus sounding exactly the same, I asked him whether he was aware of the “sexual energy work” that the women had participated in with John Miller and the GW inner circle. He stammered and changed the subject quickly, staying on the phone long enough to say, “I’m going to have to call my lawyer.” I realize that he was probably set up by the GW leaders to make this phone call.
Many such groups resort to legal threats as a desperate means to maintain control over present and former members. An even more explicit example of this phenomenon was found on GW’s website (12-14-03), under the misleading heading, “Plenty of Room for Other Points of View,” proclaiming that: “We will accept the genuine criticisms and we will confront the filth, distortions and lies head on and fight the originators and purveyors of this material with every legal means available – right to the supreme court [sic] if necessary. We want our good name back.”
Another present member, in an attempt to discredit my wife with the host of one website that included her personal story, wrote to the web host, “Hope you know [my wife] well enough to back her story. Slander is risky business.” (email:12-11-03).
Despite these unsettling communications, I wish these people well and hold out continuing hope that they, and other GW followers, will be able to eventually understand the complex psychodynamic influences that have greatly affected their lives. We do remain open to the possibility of former members and friends enjoying healthy, supportive relationships with us in the future when they are ready.
The tone of Gentle Wind’s theme about the mental instability and ethics of former members, like my wife and myself, who publish their personal experiences about GW, took on increasing outrage in the December 2003 “Warning” statements on GWP’s website, with one angry version raving, “We will not back off from our work – not even to hide malicious and completely false accusations. We now have all the documentation, affidavits, records from all the people that were there clearly showing that all the outrageous claims are completely false….” (12-14-03). A more distorted “warning” appeared on the website on 12-18-03 stating that “some people with serious forms of schizophrenic conditions who may be quite delusional receive deprogramming counseling….a very serious condition could result.” The GW leaders then went on to give advice to “Women over 40 experiencing any [post-menopausal] symptoms” to “please do yourself a favor and seriously consider HRT [hormone replacement therapy] before you do irreparable harm to your family, friends and ultimately your community.” Nowhere on these December 2003 website disclaimers was there a mention that the “claims” about Gentle Wind were coming from former GW members who participated in the daily life of the group for seventeen years and who have now, after rediscovering their bonds with other human beings, gratefully re-entered life.
(The GW recommendation for hormone replacement therapy was doubly irresponsible in light of widely publicized research findings proving a direct link between HRT use and serious cancer risks.)
An active example of GW’s vainglorious attempts to thwart criticism were viewed on their short-lived website, Eye of the Sky: “Welcome to Eye of the Sky: The Watchdog’s Watchdog” (1-29-04). Here, GW leaders, in the form of an apologia pro vita sua, characteristically, 1) Declared their infallibility: “We have the right to present the truth”; 2) Illustrated their use of intimidation: “…Availability of the legal process that may provide for injunctive relief and money damages against the perpetrator”; 3) Displayed their use of control of information: “Every single accusation in the [report] is made up, unthinkable and outrageously out of character for our staff”; and, 4) Demonstrated their right to define good vs. evil: “They [former members] just feel the compulsion to destroy.”
While the GW website statements were shocking, and even laughable to anyone with a foot in reality, they also showed the level of distortion, of necessity, that the leaders will go to for the purpose of discrediting former members’ personal accounts of the group’s activities. The remarks also seem to indicate that – at the request of the GW leaders – the remaining followers are persuaded to deny what they have seen with their own eyes and experienced in their daily lives.
Understandably, identifying with characteristics exhibited by cults is avoided and denied by most such groups. Dr. John Hochman explains this in Psychiatric Annals: “No group likes to be called a cult. Some groups ignore being called cults, others launch personal attacks on their critics….No cult wants its inner workings exposed, although sophisticated cults may curry media interest or even employ public relations consultants to manage their image.” (Hochman:1990).
“Contributions” to the Gentle Wind Group
(NB: Since this section was written, GWP leaders claim to have sold their Melbourne Beach winter home in December of 2003. The sales price was $450,000 (available through public records). Present GWP members, or "Instrument Keepers," should consider asking GWP leaders whether they have purchased a new property in Florida or elsewhere. To see what GWP has reported to the IRS during the past five years, please visit the Home page of this website.)
Another immediate problem for me, after I relocated to Maine, was that the liquidation of our personal assets made us very popular with the group leaders, who, unbeknownst to me, had started to make more requests of my generous wife for money to purchase a second home, this time in Blue Hill, Maine. With increasing uneasiness, she did manage to quell her rising forebodings and – along with other members – came up with some of the money to help the GW leaders buy a luxury waterfront home.
Later there were other solicitations for our money, including, eventually, a request to purchase yet another house – a winter home in Florida. When my wife said no to this last request, we received a “reading” together, undermining our attempts at that time to rebuild our relationship. We were informed that our thoughts about this were foolish and impossible, since “one-to-one relationships were energetically doomed to failure” and that "energetically correct relationships involve three people -- two women and a man -- so that the 'energy' goes in a circle, not back and forth as with two people." We were also told that because of our “destructive” relationship and parenting practices our children would eventually be “cycled back into animal life forms.” This was, naturally, very devastating and, as usual, we blamed ourselves. For me, the full meaning of this "reading" did not register, but I knew my wife, would be deeply affected.
My wife told me later that she had anticipated GW's request for this huge sum of money and was extremely hesitant to refuse because she had never said no to them before. She also didn’t want her intuitive feeling that they would ask for more to come true. Seeing this unquenchable need for ever increasing possessions and comfort on their part was causing her to lose her blind faith in their presumed altruism. Of course, it did come true, and her refusal turned into a distancing of us by the GW leaders. (A few years later, without our money, GW bought a winter home in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and later, another new home in New Hampshire.)
My wife now notes that as a result of her refusal to help purchase the Florida house, she started to face the fact that GW was going to potentially bankrupt us if we didn’t begin hiding more about our financial status from them. However, she didn’t share these apprehensions with me because of her concern that I would sever my relationship with the group. She also didn’t want me to know how much money had already been “donated” to them. If she had given GW additional return from the sale of our property, we would have depleted our savings, thereby ending my ability to buy a home or to provide adequately for my family.
GW's request for the Florida purchase, followed by the seemingly retaliatory “reading,” made my wife despondent. She gave up any hope of returning to a normal married life with me and began to feel like there was no way out of the cycle. This was one of the few attempts we had made at a closer reconciliation, and it ended subsequent to that “reading.” Years later, after we had left the group, I learned that my wife had actually felt very isolated for most of her experience with GW (as, in fact, did I). At the time of GW's Florida request, she had been hoping that, along with our children, she could resume a family relationship with me. However, the intervention of GW, with their “spirit connection,” changed that.
I was aware, and disappointed, that this "reading" would affect our family once again, since by now I was painfully mindful that GW was the prime deterrent of our relationship. Now, motivated by guilt about not being able to buy a house for them, and in an attempt to stay close to the source of our “spiritual survival,” my wife offered to pay a large sum each month for the group leader and his inner circle to rent a winter house in Vero Beach, Florida. In addition, she continued to make substantial donations to the group each month, which the leaders used to help maintain their very comfortable lifestyle, purchase of the latest technology, furnishings, constantly updated computer and hobby equipment, and, combined with other “donations,” Corvettes, BMW’s, and SUV’s. When the flow of our cash started to wane, so, it seemed, did the interest of the leaders.
During this time, my wife started to explain a little more to me about our financial situation. I began to realize that our personal resources were being drained off by continuous solicitations for money from GW to my wife (along with her own compelling and detrimental determination to give money to the leaders), and that the group might be exploiting us for our time and money. Not surprisingly, even though I realized this (as did my wife to some extent), we still allowed ourselves to be manipulated in thought and behavior by the GW leaders. However, she began to slow down on donations, mostly from necessity, but also from a new distrust of their motivations. I had children to provide for, with many expenses still to come, but this didn't seem to be taken into consideration by anyone but me.
Yet, I would not be made aware of the total scope of our “contributions” until my wife gradually told me the details, following our exit from the group several years later. Unfortunately for our financial well being, I had entrusted her with the task of keeping track of our finances over the years, even during our physical separation. Describing the extent of her “donations” was almost as difficult for her as explaining to me the activity of “energy work,” which she was incapable of telling me about until two years after I learned of the chronic assault on our savings. The power of the admonishment to keep the “secret” of the so-called “energy work,” coupled with a dread of bringing pain to me, weighed heavily on her in the interim, as it had during her entire tenure with the GW group, and continued to inhibit honest dialogue between us.
Upon first reading the GW denial about excessive monetary donations from their followers, I assumed they were claiming to have returned all contributions made by my wife: “Any funds given to [GWP]…were returned to her and her family at her request. This policy of returning funds is not specific to Ms. Garvey but is a long-standing good-will policy of the Gentle Wind Project, as all our financial records clearly show.” (GW website:1-30-04). Upon second reading, however, I began to understand that GW was professing to return funds upon request. The return of our money is actually not something they have done, but it is also true that, aside from two large loans that went unpaid for many years, we haven’t requested the balance of our donations and loans. We only asked GW to repay us for the principal on the two loans made to them by my wife in 1988.
Since GW's stated policy, when this story was written, was to refund any “contributions” requested I would like to request a refund. By my most lenient calculations, we would like to have our "contributions" of $69,063.50 returned. These were paid to GW by checks. I am also requesting the interest of $153,750 that we lost while the largest loans to GW went unpaid for fifteen years.
These two largest loans – totaling $205,000 – were made to GW leaders by my wife, without my knowledge, and without written contract, at the height of her complete subservience to the leaders. One might think that these large amounts indicate wealth on our part, but this actually represented the sale of our home and business. I assumed that my wife had invested this for the use of our family; and trusted her choices, as she had always been frugal and beyond reproach with our joint money.
The first of these two largest loans was for $130,000. At that time, Mary Miller asked my wife, in the presence of two other GW member-donors, if they could each “contribute toward a down payment" for the waterfront home that GW intended to purchase in Blue Hill, Maine.
(GW leaders did purchase this home and lived in it for a few years before returning to Kittery, location of their original home, leaving their followers behind; with many of the followers then paying an above-market rent to the leaders to live in and maintain that Blue Hill house for several years after the leaders left.)
The second of the two largest loans my wife agreed to give Mary Miller was for $75,000. Miller asked for this money on one day’s notice, according to my wife, “to quickly cover an amount contributed to GW by [another GW member-donor], and this would be paid back soon.” The $130,000 loan for the Blue Hill house down payment was also promised back “as soon as they sold their original house in Kittery" (which GW leaders later decided not to sell, and retain to this day as an office headquarters and a living space for followers).
My wife was under the spell of the GW belief system to the extent that she was completely reluctant to ask for the return of this money, and when she did ask, was overly cautious about being assertive with the leaders. Finally, six years later, Mary Miller, responding to a letter written by my wife, stated, “We will plan to give you the full $130,000 back when the [Blue Hill, Maine] house is sold. We can return the $75,000 when we sell the house in Kittery . . . . I think sometime in the next couple of years.”
My wife was greatly relieved to know that they had acknowledged their debts, and were at least discussing payment, after so many years. However, after that initial acknowledgement of the continuing debt, the GW leaders proceeded to eventually sell their Blue Hill, Maine home, but did not return our $205,000. They then purchased another waterfront home in Durham, NH (which is still owned and occupied by the group leader and his inner circle), and a winter home in Melbourne Beach, Florida (bringing their total number of homes at that time, known to me, to three, rather than two as stated on GWP's Eye of the Sky website, 1-29-04). Throughout this process, we still did not receive the $205,000 owed to us.
Following ten years of hoping, hinting, begging, and then, finally, demanding the $205,000 principal on these two largest loans (after we left the GW group and I finally learned the total value of our “contributions”), GW leaders, inexplicably and agonizingly slowly, paid us back that loan principal over the next four years. As with every other interaction between the GW leaders and their members, including former members, whether, when, and how our money was repaid was completely under their control. During the time the GW leaders had the use of our money, to purchase other homes or to spend in whatever way they chose, my family lost fifteen years of interest, which, calculated at a straight simple 5 percent is $153,750 from 1988-2003.
In return for my wife’s generously rendered interest-free loans, we were rewarded with abusive letters calling us “stupid,” or statements alluding to our greed – “You need the money to invest in the stock market” – and complete rejection. This isn’t the way most caring nonprofits treat generous donors.
In addition to the two largest loans, we wrote checks to GW for another four loans, totaling $32,000, that were not repaid, nor was interest paid..
I am hereby taking Gentle Wind Project leaders up on their offer to refund any donations upon request, and, on behalf of my wife, my children, and myself, would like to have a check mailed to me from the Gentle Wind Project leaders in the amount of $69,063.50 for cash (check) contributions, $32,000 for the four unpaid loans (without interest), and $153,750 for simple interest on fifteen years for the two largest unpaid loans, for a total of $254,813.50.
In addition to the two largest loans totaling $205,000, and the $32,000 in four smaller loans, GW also asked for three additional loans totaling $64,400. This amount was paid back over time, with interest. (We had finally learned to try for signed agreements.) One might wonder why we made additional loans when such a large amount was still outstanding. There is no logical explanation, as no reasonable person would jeopardize themselves financially following a history of unpaid debts.
In addition, we incurred debts of $21,000 in printing three GW group books while we owned our publishing company; and another $5,000 in remainder value for the books donated to GW for use in their own publicity and profits. I will not request reimbursement for these “donations,” as I deeply regret my decision to publish these books and wish to disassociate myself from them in any way possible.
Our donations in the form of seventeen years of free labor, purchases of materials, and use of our homes as offices and outposts of the GW group, are incalculable.
Why Did We Remain in the Gentle Wind Group?
Given our ages, experience, education, and rewarding careers, it is difficult for some people to understand how we could lose ourselves in such a group. What I have learned through researching and reading is that it can happen to anyone. Gentle Wind offered a connection to what seemed like a new reality, one that, we were told, was “connected to the spiritual world where highly evolved souls are dedicated to saving humanity.” For many people, like us, who were already involved in social change and wished to affect good in the world, this represented a cause to invest our energy and talent (and, of course, our money) in the service of others. The world abounds with people who come under the influence of high-control groups because of their very good intentions to help others, and who now fervently believe they are connected to the true meaning of existence: “We’re saved.” “Born again.” “We’ve got it!” In GWP’s case, we believed that we were now “higher level initiates.” Many times, one of the leaders would take a member aside to confide that, “You have reached a __ level of initiation,” purportedly due to following the “spirit world” suggestion to become a photographer, build a boat, or whatever could be imagined through the minds of John “Tubby” Miller and Mary “Moe” Miller.
As mentioned, we were told that “Tubby” was a “seventh level initiate.” While I wasn’t sure what this meant, I was convinced there were no so-called seventh level initiates in physical form except “Tubby.” Because we believed these claims, and because of his charisma and manipulative skills, the GW followers vied for attention and proximity to “Tubby” and to his inner circle – the 6, then later 5, women living as a family with him.
(These types of claims are typical of such leaders who profess to be high spiritual beings. In some cases, like Rev. Moon of the Moonies, leaders even claim to be “the Messiah.”)
Besides the sense of being special, or “chosen,” people stay in these types of groups out of fear. Leaders of such groups inform members that if they ever leave the group they will not be “saved,” they’ll “be damned,” become ill, or that they will in some way cease to exist at the same level as dispensed by the group. For my wife and I, there was the added responsibility of removing our children from this “spiritual protection.” This created a fear that held us, even after we started to see that the group was not all that we had originally thought it was. Ex-members of Gentle Wind, at least at the beginning of their recovery, often have persistent misgivings that some drastic fate will befall them, or that the leaders of Gentle Wind are aware of what they are doing or thinking, even if they live miles away. During our recovery these paranoid misgivings slowly evaporated as the group influence deflated.
Our children, though never willing believers in the “healing instruments,” were very much affected by our participation in the GW group. At this point in their now-adult lives, they have a mature understanding of the influence their parents were under; that they tried to tell us about for so long. Now they sometimes share with us the feelings they remember of that time – isolation and embarrassment at our behavior, sadness about separation from me and from their extended families, leaving several groups of good friends behind as their parents followed the GW group from Massachusetts to Kittery to Blue Hill, Maine, and being cajoled, bribed, or manipulated by their parents into constantly holding the latest “healing instrument.”
When I first told our sons that we now believed GW was probably a cult, their spontaneous, relieved response was, “We told you so. You should have listened to us.” Their recovery from the effects of my absentee parenting, coupled with the erroneous guidance we received via “information” from the GW leaders (one small example: that our sons were “actually reincarnated nomads from the desert”), began on the day when they heard that our association with the group had finally ended.
Children under the influence of parents that are controlled by such a group are doubly exposed to potential developmental difficulties. My children faithfully stood by me as I “allowed” them to be taken into harm’s way, and now, as adults, have a compassionate understanding of what possessed my wife to do what she did. My largest single regret about our involvement with the GW group is that we both exposed our children to a strange and gripping belief system that affected their father’s ability to fully participate in their growth and development, and that during this time the actual parenting “overlay” was coming from some distant so-called “spiritual source.” Even when they were very young, my children would knowingly comment to my wife, “So…are you going to call Moe?” It is interesting to note how young children could see through the mystical manipulation that controlled their parents’ decision-making.
On their Eye of the Sky website, GW leaders first altered, and then – based on their alterations of her words – dismissed my wife’s statement that “Some children raised by parents in the Gentle Wind group have reportedly suffered greatly in their development, after enduring a form of neglect while their parents were involved in the group’s work.” My wife’s admission of neglect of our children, while part of GW, was changed by the leaders to, “[GW] has never abused or neglected children.” However, the words “child abuse” were not used by my wife in her personal story (See Insiders' Stories), just as the words “rape, domestic violence, and molestation” were not used by her to describe the sexual rituals – “energy work” – that she and other GW women participated in with “Tubby” and the GW inner circle. GW imposed these new terms on her writing so that they could then deny “child abuse,” and – in the “energy work” – “the rape, molestation, and domestic violence” that did not take place. By such manipulations of language, GW leaders attempt to distract GW followers, “instrument keepers,” potential recruits, parents and relatives of GW members, and interested readers from focusing on what my wife has actually written about parental neglect of children and, among adult members, group sexual activities with the GW leaders, called “energy work.”
It occurred to me, after reading this GW “expose” of my wife’s story, whereby GW leaders switched my wife’s terms and changed her meanings to their own terms of “child abuse,” “rape,” etc., and then denied that “child abuse” and “rape,” etc., took place – that this is the way they controlled (and still attempt to control) discourse through the years of our involvement, and we were too susceptible, at the time, to see it.
A good example of the switch and change routine in GW would be a situation when I was quite naturally feeling tired, but instead of being validated for this feeling, the interpretation could be changed to, “You are really being affected by the ‘energy’ coming from the ‘spirit world’ – very intense right now!” This is a common technique in high-control groups and cults, and is used to impose meaning on the words, feelings, and actions of members, as another method of controlling information and exerting control over a person’s mind and perceptions.
Our children were neglected by us during the time that my wife and I were separated and distracted by the needs of the GW group, rather than primarily focusing on our family. They were fed and clothed properly, and loved deeply, but the overriding interference of “information” received by us from the GW leaders, coupled with this loss of parental focus, affected them during most of their developmental years.
When all the manipulative tools were stripped away, like peering behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain, what I found were Gentle Wind leaders in great need of attention, power, control, and material comfort. Without their devoted and obedient followers, these leaders would, in a sense, cease to exist. The various warnings and insults we have received or read on the GW websites since our personal stories appeared in public seem to attest to a great fear of losing control and being exposed. After all, if these leaders were truly being “directed by the spirit world,” and highly evolved, would they have any concern about former members’ personal stories?
What is a Cult Leader?
I remember attending one of the early Gentle Wind seminars around 1983, where it was suggested that we needed to surrender our egos to achieve spiritual evolution. In my later research into high-control groups or cults, I became aware that the suggestion to “surrender” is a common ploy used as bait, which is then switched to a subtle form of submission to the particular group leaders, in our case, “Tubby,” and “Moe,” his spokesperson. As I’ve since learned, methods of intimidation and humiliation are used to this end, in addition to mystical manipulation. (Hassan:1990, 2000/Langone:1993/Singer with Lalich:1995). One needs to understand that high-control group and cult leaders are generally charismatic and extremely talented personalities that utilize these characteristics to, in a sense, “court” their followers. But, according to Daniel Shaw, in Traumatic Abuse in Cults, beneath the benevolent smile and skilled therapeutic directives lies a personality manifest almost universally by cult leaders, characterized by paranoia and megalomania. (Shaw:2003).
On one occasion in GW’s Blue Hill, Maine house, I witnessed our esteemed leader, “Tubby,” humiliate a female member of the GW group who had made a mistake by saying to her, “Jewish women love to take it in the ass!” I was shocked and embarrassed by this encounter, but instead of speaking up on behalf of the offended woman, I let it go since I thought this was for her “evolution” and that Tubby had a higher purpose for such a vulgar remark.
In studying descriptions of these types of leaders and the similarity in their basic behavior, I imagined that there must be an instruction manual distributed to certain personalities on “How to be a Cult Leader.” Over and over, I found descriptions of these groups and their leaders, each with similar characteristics: exclusive spiritual connections, grand mission to save the world, charisma, false humility, control of followers, sexual control and exploitation, need for money and luxury, exaggerated claims of enlightenment, mystical presence, claims to be the only source of evolution, and the practice of debunking all other forms of understanding.
Rather than being independent and above it all, the group leader exceedingly depends on the devotion of followers, and has little tolerance for deviation (GWP's ‘Garvey report exposed’ on www.eyeofthesky.org NB: This website was removed by GWP after their lawsuit was filed in Court.). This was also observed on GW’s website during December 2003. Complete with histrionic self-righteousness about “shams” and “charlatans” who would dare to criticize them, these warnings changed several times over the period of a few weeks, and then disappeared. (However, copies of those websites were retained by several people.) This same intolerance for questioning and criticism, or exposure to the public, was established early in daily interactions with the GW group leaders and also in written information, such as: “Those who criticize this instrument simply do not have the imagination necessary to understand or comprehend the use of energy….they themselves are often great misusers of energy. So those who criticize this instrument are of small and mediocre minds….”(GW: Energy Alignment Directions)
One of the theories about what makes these leaders operate, that mental health experts and cult educators have concluded, is that they are acting out on their followers, in the form of exploitation and subjugation, what they experienced in their own childhoods. In this way, they put on others what they loathe and seek to deny in themselves. (Shaw:2003). Instead, they claim to be “evolved” and perfect; claiming that while they need nothing, they are entitled to everything. (See Home page on this website for copies of GW's "nonprofit" tax returns or request copies from the IRS.)
As the years went by, I became more and more involved with the GW group. The leaders were, it seemed, generous to me, giving me presents and help with projects, such as photography and carpentry. While I was accepting this “generosity” and being grateful, my wife was making large “contributions,” which were used to purchase some of the gifts I was later given when they were no longer needed. This is very common in many groups where they appear to be giving favors and gifts to members when they are actually taking.
In GW, the leaders told us that they needed to have multiple houses, luxury cars, the best of everything, not because they wanted them but because they were told by the “spirit world” that they needed them. (i.e.: "This equipment is utilized by the Project in its research process….to help research subjects develop the very best aspects of their personalities….” eyeofthesky.org, 1-30-04). What we were told was that the leaders’ personal experiences with luxury items would supposedly translate into an uplifting of the GW followers and the entire planet. In addition, because the leaders were at such a “high vibration,” their physical bodies required these luxuries (such as spending the winter in Florida without which “Tubby” would “fail physically” because of the “energy going through him to keep the Gentle Wind Project going”). By their personal experience of having the best, they could “pull the rest of us up the ladder of evolution.” The obvious irony of this lifestyle is lost on followers, who come to believe the people that they worship “deserve” such excessive luxury. I often wondered why Mother Theresa didn’t drive a BMW?
Many GW followers lived – and perhaps still live – at close to poverty levels as proof of their devotion to the project and its leaders, while others achieve success in their own right, but attribute their successes to the “healing instruments” or proximity to the energy of the group. The ad copy for one of the most expensive healing instruments, with a donation price in excess of $10,000, was that “this is the same energy that the Gentle Wind staff uses to maintain themselves.” (Needless to say, we all wanted that one!)
As the group has accumulated higher assets and profits, there are, according to recent statements on their website, eleven full-time paid employees. For John Miller and his inner circle, in addition to substantial combined salaries, their houses and living expenses are reportedly paid by the “donations” given for the purchase of “healing instruments” and by “contributions” from members. This contrast between the “haves” (leaders) and “have-nots” (followers) is a universal characteristic of most high-control groups (See Resources).
This imbalance in Gentle Wind between the leaders and followers maintains the sense of spiritual hierarchy, whereby “Tubby” and his inner circle of women are the enlightened, followed by the next circle of members chosen to work long hours on the project’s endless tasks (publicity, seminar arrangements, caring for elderly members, building instruments, cooking, shopping, printing, answering phones, communicating with “instrument keepers,” and fundraising). To question this imbalance could result in being asked to leave GW, with fellow members avoiding and shunning the kicked-out member. The other problem with this one-sided power is that the followers become dependent on the leaders for their sustenance, as well as their salvation. The thought of reconnecting with the world, after years exclusively devoted to the work of the group, is enough to keep a member from leaving.
This mutual dependency exists continuously between a cult leader and his/her followers, whereby, “the followers are invited to follow him to perfection, implying their imperfection and shame, thereby maintaining his dominance and control in this seemingly endless ‘danse macabre.’”(Shaw:2000)
Robert J. Lifton’s Research Applied to the “Gentle Wind Project”
In reading Robert J. Lifton’s landmark study of thought reform and the psychology of totalism, which became the benchmark for the study of high-control groups and cults when the first edition was published in 1959, I began to understand the dynamics in all such groups that are used to control the way people think. Lifton convincingly shows how subjects in his study, from all walks of life, became fervent believers as a result of subtle techniques that destroyed past beliefs, relationships, and sense of self, and instilled a reliance on the leader for truth and wisdom. In his study, Lifton identifies features common to these expressions of mind control. What astonished me was how these criteria applied to the very special group (or so I had thought) that I had been a part of – the Gentle Wind Project. Following are a few of the criteria used by Lifton to describe some universal characteristics of high-control groups and cults.
These characteristics provide helpful insights to understanding the complex human dynamics in these types of groups. Lifton points out that high-control groups change over time so that these characteristics may not be operative at the same time, and vary in emphasis according to the leaders’ whims. In this way, the group is always in flux, keeping followers off balance and attentive to sudden changes.
Milieu Control: The most basic feature of mind control in these groups is control of the environment and human communication. Accordingly, I found that information and material that was subtly debunked by GW leaders was avoided by followers. This included outside sources such as psychologists and teachers, academic pursuits, people critical of GW, or any idea not considered part of the GW creed. To become exposed to such outside ideas was to be “slimed” by “damaging” ideas. For instance, I can imagine “Moe” or “Tubby” telling their followers not to read this material to avoid being “slimed” by me. As a result of this type of distortion, I began to believe that the books I was publishing in my company no longer had any validity because they had not originated from GW’s source of “spirit world” directors.
A few examples of ideas I accepted after being exposed to several years of a slow, imperceptible form of mind-control: “Religions have failed to provide accurate spiritual information (Carreiro:1987:36); Psychologists pretend to offer emotional assistance…(40); Clergy pretend to offer spiritual assistance (32); New age approaches [to healing] are more dangerous than psychotherapy (52); Education…can do nothing except keep people in the dark (59); [Teachers] do not prepare anyone for functioning in the real world (64); All science is disconnected, linear misinformation offered by educational systems to perpetuate human ignorance (69); Higher education has nothing to do with intelligence or accomplishment (70).” Obviously, there was nowhere to turn for any answers except to the GW leaders.
To the outside world, GW followers appeared to be fairly “normal,” (although my wife and I are finding more and more that people, as they always are, were more tuned in to our strange behavior than we could have imagined). Most of the “followers” had regular jobs, participated in some community activities, had outside acquaintances (but not close friends), and some members even stayed in touch (though mostly distant) with their extended families. Such an external appearance of normalcy, according to Dr. John Hochman, is fairly common: “A cult may function with members living in the community, wearing conventional attire, and holding down jobs.” (1990).
Mystical Manipulation: As mentioned earlier, GW leaders informed us that they and we were on a special mission, assigned by the “spirit world” to “bring peace to the planet – one person at a time.” In Lifton’s words, groups such as GW, claim that, “They are the agents ‘chosen’ (by history, by God, or by some other supernatural force) to carry out the ‘mystical imperative,’ the pursuit of which must supercede all considerations of decency or of immediate human welfare.”
As followers, we were constantly reminded that we were secondary to the project and that our “souls” had made this commitment: that we “were research subjects of the spirit world who have volunteered to be used by the project so that the spirit world could determine the best way to help humanity.” In other words, we felt that we were basically sacrificing ourselves for the good of the project and the world. “People must want to grow spiritually and must be willing to sacrifice their own ideas about success and personal happiness.” (Carreiro:1989:7). However, as mentioned earlier, sacrifice, a noble calling in such groups, later becomes submission.
An illustration of mystical manipulation in obtaining “donations” was on the GW website: “Because of the way our instruments are designed, without any circuitry to ‘enhance your experience’ by artificially encouraging you to donate ‘spontaneously’ to this project, we really do need donations.” (1-22-04). GW followers reading this would assume that GW could – if they wanted to – “enhance your experience” in using the “instruments” (like cigarettes were “enhanced by manufacturers to ensure addiction?). The statement also implies that GW is pure and honest (because they do have super-powers that they aren’t using in this case), so that the reader should donate to this mystically elevated, honest project.
Another example (one of hundreds) of extremely confusing “mystical” verbiage is when a “healing instrument” is described on the GW website as having “the complexity of high frequency temporal shifting matrixed with millions of predefined etheric modifications operating in a vertically and horizontally oriented polarization” (1-18-04). The use of such mystical manipulation and language can increase the pressure to use and believe in the “healing instruments” (and acquire them with one’s “donations”) when members and potential purchasers then read statements like: “Unless a damaged structure is repaired, lasting behavioral change is all but impossible.”
The Demand for Purity: In this mystical environment, the world, for us, was divided between absolute good (the work of GW and the group leaders who claimed they had sacrificed their personal lives and careers for the project), and absolute darkness or devolution. Basically, every soul was doomed to spiral downwards unless he/she used the “healing technology” from GW to interrupt this inevitable pull.
My wife’s story about her experience in GW is vehemently criticized by the leaders on their newest website with the ad hominum statement: “They just feel the compulsion to destroy,” the subtext of which is that detractors are evil and hence to be discredited by those whose ideas of reality come from the GW leader, John “Tubby” Miller, through the voices he “hears” from the “spirit world.”
Similarly, while I was attempting to recover money owed to us by Gentle Wind, I received in correspondence a string of disparaging remarks, such as: “Your last letter is an act of abject stupidity. The Healing Instruments cannot overcome stupidity. This is part of the problem with your children….” (“Stupidity” meaning here that my wife and I were no longer buying in to GW’s belief system.)
Then, manifesting a common group-leader flip-flop, after letting GW know that we wanted no more “healings,” “readings,” phone calls, or interaction – only the return of our money – I would suddenly receive a “free healing instrument” in the mail, or a plea to accept a “telepathic healing” from “Tubby.” One such offer stated: “….We have achieved a new level in the technology….Tubby said it will give you the kind of family relationship that you have dreamed of having.” (personal correspondence).
By then, a year after we left the GW group, we were beginning to understand what had happened to us. The decision to forego yet another “dream” was an easy one. Yet, what is typical of GW is the casting out of members, only later to bring them back into the group with the “reward” of a new healing. The member then gratefully returns to the fold, an even stronger believer than before. In this way, purity is restored by using the “healing instruments.”
GW used, and continues to use, the royal “We” and “Our” when making pronouncements about what is right and wrong about ideas and activities. Presumably, the “We” and “Our” are the “spirits” speaking through “Tubby,” “Moe,” and others. As part of the demand for purity, many followers were explicitly told, through “information,” “readings,” or off-hand comments by the inner circle, what was an acceptable form of work, friendship, dress, food, colors, conversation, and hundreds of other details of their lives, as minute as “the proper way to landscape a house,” ostensibly as a means of attaining, in GW terms, higher “spiritual evolution.” The criteria for this perfection were continuously changing, so that followers were permanently off balance and struggling to stay on “a path of evolution.” The polarization of good and evil, or demand for purity, caused me to become very judgmental, losing the balance of the complexity of human morality that comes from a diversity of experiences. In sum, I became rigidly smug because, to me, “I got it.”
The Cult of Confession: In many high-control groups, a form of public confession is used as a means of exploiting individuals, not for giving solace as it might be used in a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, where everyone is on equal footing. In GW, members would share their particular shortcomings or characteristics with each other. One example of this was the application of so-called “spiritual psychology” from a book “channelled” by Mary Miller, The Sacred Book of Healing. From this, I became familiar with a myriad of pop-psychology terms that followers identified with, such as: “live alones,” “live-withs,” “sexuals,” “non-sexuals,” “invasives,” “evasives,” “wildcats,” “preservers,” “unhappiness types,” “destroyers,” “pillars,” “psychoactives,” people with “state views,” “world views,” and on and on. (GWP:1996). These labels were quickly picked up by members and internalized as part of their GW personalities – potentially influencing each of their relationships.
Another illustration of this is the GWP secret group sexual activities -- “energy work” or shared sexual rituals -- that are so common in high-control groups and cults. Perhaps the conspiracy of secrets around “energy work” in GW represented, as Lifton explains, “Parts of oneself too precious to be expressed except when alone or when involved in special loving relationships formed around this shared secret world. Personal secrets are always maintained in opposition toward inner pressure toward self-exposure.” (427). In my interpretation of this, applied to GW’s so-called “energy work,” public participation of the women in these rituals with “Tubby” and each other was, at once, a deviant act and a confession of the act.
About this, Lifton continues, “The cult of confession can offer the individual person meaningful psychological satisfaction in the continuing opportunity for emotional catharsis, and for relief of suppressed guilt feelings, especially insofar as these are associated with self-punitive tendencies to get pleasure from personal degradation.”
This shared secret of the group sexual activity / rituals / "energy work" for the women under “Tubby’s” influence can, according to Lifton, “create an orgiastic sense of ‘oneness’ of the most intense intimacy with fellow confessors and the dissolution of self into the great flow of the movement.” Not surprisingly, the power of this shared secret continued until 2001 for most of the women involved, and probably still continues among the inner circle and long-time devoted followers, or perhaps for new recruits to the “energy work.”
The Sacred Science: All such groups maintain that their dogma is the only true way. Competing dogmas are “shams” or unenlightened. GW maintains its position as the only true system on the planet that has the means (“healing instruments”) and “information” direct from the “spirit world.” While ignoring human concerns for logic and rigorous scientific methodology, GW, in Lifton’s words “makes an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, or absolute ‘scientific’ precision.” Thus, the ultimate moral or spiritual vision becomes an ultimate science.”(Lifton:428). In defense of their spurious research methodology, in “The Garvey report exposed” (www.eyeofthesky.org), GW leaders illustrate this when elaborating on their so-called “science”: “As a general explanation, the healing process involves an interface of complicated energetic matrices where a person’s non-physical etheric system is matched to an especially designed, cascading, multi-buffered interface between the spirit world and the dense physical world.”
Within this framework, GW appears to use scientific jargon and terminology that appeals to individual logic, while, at the same time, conjuring up illogical insights, presumably coming from the “spirit world,” such as: “Michael Jackson is a highly evolved soul,” or that a member of GW was now “the Mother of the World,” or a GW inner-circle member’s deceased dog had reincarnated into her next chosen dog, or was evolving into a human instead, or, more telling, when my wife and I were informed that real sexual energy is among three or more people, not a couple, with the obvious subtext, unknown to me at the time, that the “energy work” with “Tubby” and others, was the correct use of sexual energy.
The combination of moral principles, as seen in GW literature, and ideas presented as coming from the “spirit world” through John “Tubby” Miller resulted in a doctrine that was beyond all others and irrefutable; hence, an “absolute science.” In dealing with outside perspectives, GW presents itself as a purveyor of ultimate truth, using only themselves as reference, subsuming all other sources (including my material) beneath this pseudo-science. This group “logic” allowed us to accept hundreds of statements without question, similar to this one: “Some day in the future when humanity is ready, we will explain in more detail how the Instruments and the total system works. That time will not be determined by the earthly staff of this Project. It will be determined by the WORLD OF BENEVOLENT SPIRITS where a much bigger view of our progress and place in the cosmos can be evaluated.” (GW website:1-18-04).
Loading the Language, or the Language of Non-Thought: According to Lifton, high-control groups use language with thought-control clichés loaded with special, group-assigned meanings, easy to memorize, and repeated over and over in writing and conversation. These words and expressions are ways of short-cutting or cutting off, a conversation about meaning into the “language of non-thought.” My least-favorite word, most often used by the GW leaders and followers, was “Wow.” It covered every situation and was always accepted from the leaders as an appropriate response to a dialogue that we should consider beneath them. This linguistic constriction had the direct effect of eliminating thought and expression. In addition, without further explanation or elaboration, terms were used by the leaders, adopted by members, and then moved into everyday conversation or jargon, including: “damages,” “company,” inner world,” “telepathic,” “inspired,” “etheric structure,” “message,” “evolution,” “energy,” “astral stuff,” “correct,” “healing,” “adjustment,” “inner world,” “spirit world,” “initiation,” "personality cards," and, of course, “energy.”
All of this jargon expresses the loaded language of the “sacred science.” Such terms are never interrogated for meaning or substance by the followers; rather, the terms are accepted and the followers search for “where they fit in” to the terms, or attempt to discover what the hierarchy of the terms might be. If most of the inner circle, for instance, defined themselves as “want-somethings” (defined to close followers by GW leaders as “wanting evolution for the planet so much that a person wants to be part of Gentle Wind”), then those followers that were defined as “have-somethings” (supposedly people that are inclined to protect their belongings) felt that they were deficient because they didn’t share the same characteristics as the “inner circle.”
Despite the reassurances that it didn’t matter whether one was a Have-Something or a Want-Something, one “have-something” member was devastated at what she perceived as her spiritual deficiencies since nearly all “inner circle” members were – of course – “want somethings.” Thus, the use of language and its underlying meaning is “owned and operated by the movement.” (Lifton:430).
Another instance of a wedge driven between my wife and me came with the discovery that I was a “want something” and she, naturally, was a “have something.” There were hundreds of other terms used as labels for followers and non-followers over the years, such as “sexual/non-sexual,” “evasive/invasive,” and on and on. My wife and I were – as one might expect – always polarized from each other by virtue of these labels.
Or, how about this one to describe us human folks: “There are three different types of nodal forms here. There are single, double, and multiple-pole nodes. Some are polarized and some are non-polarized. Single-pole nodes usually immerse themselves in a social role.” Upon reading this mind-twisting language, GW followers might, once again, play the game of guessing which “nodal form” they could be.
As a former book publisher, this conformity to the language of non-thought was most frustrating to me, as it was impossible to extend a conversation beyond the constricted language deemed appropriate by the group leaders and the well-trained followers. If a conversation wandered beyond these boundaries to questioning dogma, the conversation would end in a cliché, such as, “It’s beyond me!” or “Don’t ask me; I just do what ‘They’ tell me to do” or “The reason things are so hard is that ‘Tubby’ says ‘They’ have been changing the energy [or making a new instrument].” This would end the conversation. I hungered for truthful expression, but felt isolated with my own thoughts – and so I tried to limit those thoughts to appropriate subjects. Cutting off imagination and creativity, however, leads to depression, a common ailment among Gentle Wind members that was blamed on the difficulties of “living in this high-vibration atmosphere,” or “the intense environment the past few days because the “spirit world” is demanding increased ‘energy work.’”
Words like “Wow” could express ending a conversation, happiness, pleasure, or even displeasure. A current GW member recently sent a critical email to the director of one of the websites hosting former GW members’ stories about their years in the group. (My feeling is that this email was perhaps composed by “Tubby” or “Moe,” and sent out from the follower’s website at their direction.) The use of the Wow-word is seen in the “warning” about hosting ex-members stories: “....Hope you know [my wife] well enough to back her story. Slander is risky business....Wow, good luck on your truth printing mission.” The subject line of this email was, “Wow, you need money to tell the truth?” (email:12-11-03)
Doctrine over Person: In GW, the belief in the information coming from the “spirit world” subordinated human experience. You were now told, directly from the “spirit world” the real reasons of your own actions and feelings. When the sacred science and “information from the spirit world” were combined, the resulting logic was created and delivered in an uncompromising and righteous style so that it replaced individual human experience. These pronouncements were presented to us, and accepted by us, as more valid than our individual experience, even though I was at this time in my 40s, a veteran, highly educated, married with a family, founder of a successful publishing company, along with the myriad life experiences that comprise an individual. The conformity to the GW doctrine by followers served to reconfirm – among each other – the ultimate truth and validity of the dogma over individual cognition and experience. One member might say to another, “I don’t understand it; I just do it.” This effectively diminished the reality of who you were, what you did, and where you came from.
In questioning this, I am not saying that my awareness of the universe or spiritual mysteries is above any other person’s; rather, that none of the people making up the “inner circle” of GW had any greater clues about my spiritual needs, nor did their imagined voices and messages.
Dispensing of Existence: There was only one sure path to spiritual evolution in GW, and that was by using the “healing instruments” produced and sold by “donations.” As a member in the small group of loyal followers, any transgression carried the threat of being “furloughed” from GW activity. Being cut off from the group meant that one would cease to evolve spiritually, possibly become seriously ill, be “off track,” and generally have a meaningless life, or in Lifton’s words, the existential conflict of “being versus nothingness.” This became a powerful constraint on trying to have a life outside GW. (This “shunning” may be denied by the GW leaders, but, in my experience, GW followers would, with some frequency, be ordered in and out of the GW group due to imagined transgressions or “spiritual needs.” In addition, members were often told that their behavior had caused them to “nearly lose their connection” to the GW group: “You are only connected by a thin thread to this Project.”)
In a controlled environment (whether through physical or mental boundaries), according to Lifton, one’s existence depends on adherence to the belief system (“I believe, therefore, I am”), and submission to the “information coming from a higher source” (“I obey, therefore I am”), and ultimately total submission in the “project” as externally defined. Elements of personal identity that were perceived to interfere with or contradict guidance from “the spirits,” would threaten a member’s right to existence within GW. To a group member, this was the equivalent of being released into a void, a meaningless existence, no longer under the “protection of the spirit world,” and to be avoided at all cost.
In my experience, although these types of organizations, like GW, are always changing, one thing that remains the same is the claim to have exclusive access to a person’s “soul"
information” or “thoughts” or “life’s purpose,” and to use this as a subtle means of manipulation and domination.
In this story, I am just touching on the most salient part of my experiences as a member of the Gentle Wind Project, for to fully understand the complex human dynamics, converging personalities, interactions, and backgrounds of participants would take a lifetime of study and the insights of many other former members who have freed themselves from the GW belief system. The only thing that I can be certain of is that, for many years, the Gentle Wind Project leaders, in the name of the “spirit world,” usurped who we are.
Once I became free of the belief system that had layered itself over my mind – the mystical manipulation – the whole structure and ideas of GW collapsed for me like a deck of cards into a fascinating, yet meaningless, heap. Since that point, each day has been a welcome exercise of freedom of expression. Be it a comfortable or an uncomfortable day, it is filled with my unique self-expression.
The Gentle Wind Project’s leaders offered a contrived experience that seemed above all that is common and normal, causing me to feel special or chosen. However, these experiences, resulting from mystical manipulation, distortion, and external pressure, also created an equally intense opposition once I broke free of the restrictive thinking and reignited my inner capacity to grow and develop, turning what was a debilitating experience into strength, and the pain of realization about the immoral use of my wife's body and “energy” into a stronger bond of matrimony.
It has now been several years since my wife and I began parting company with GW. Our separation was in phases, from growing disbelief in the superiority and intentions of the GW leaders to, finally, a realization that the “healing instruments” were not needed for spiritual growth and survival, and that they were, indeed, in the nineteenth century sense, a form of “snake oil.” This marked the end of the mystical manipulation and broke the power of the mind-control. At that point, our sons could move forward as young adults with parents whose minds were finally intact once again, and my wife and I could reclaim our marriage and our chosen paths of service to each other and to the world.
Please click on Resources to view the references for this article.
Inside the “Gentle Wind Project”: A Husband’s Perspective
by James F. Bergin
Copyright © 2004-2014 by James F. Bergin. All Rights Reserved.
The information within the Wind of Changes website is being provided to offer accounts to the public of former members’ personal experiences with the Gentle Wind Project leaders.
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The Gentle Wind Project’s own official website, which reflects their views, is at www.gentlewindproject.org; however, their website was completely altered after the Consent Decree the GWP leaders signed with the Maine Attorney General, and, as of July 2008, was removed from the Internet entirely. A second GWP website www.eyeofthesky.org, was removed by GWP during September 2004. (Versions of websites that change or disappear from the Internet can sometimes be found on archival websites, such as the Way Back Machine: http://www.archive.org/index.php.)
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