The grand deception continues as we delve further into Serge Benhayon’s treatment room deceptions, the ovarian healing manipulation, hands on healing techniques to increase suggestibility, exploitation of students’ traumatic pasts, the Esoteric Healing Workshop scam and a teaching approach designed to confuse and control.
Ovarian cold reading as an attempt to exploit
I believe I had three treatments with Serge before he tried the ovarian ‘reading’. I wasn’t living in the area so the first treatments took place over a couple of weeks in the latter half of 2004. Looking back on my diaries from the time, Serge’s philosophy had made no impact on me. I was working through my prior experiences in my own way, but I was interested enough in his approach to return for treatment on my next scheduled holidays in 2005. It was then that he stepped up his attempts to recruit me, talking me into attending the yoga translation/channelling/study performance, and intensifying his sales spiel, where I bought the Alice Bailey book, the Chris James coaster and paid a deposit for a 2 day ‘Sacred Esoteric Healing Workshop’.
Prior to the yoga study meeting I’d thought Serge was all right – trustworthy and caring – and he had some interesting ideas about spirituality and healing. However, the overt sales techniques and copious bullshitting at the Patanjali study put me on alert. Therefore, as I’ve described in a previous post, the alarm bells sounded loud and clear when he proposed I needed an ‘ovarian reading’.
‘I don’t think I need that,’ I said, before I even knew what it was. When I asked what it was, I wasn’t given a direct answer, and I don’t remember consenting to having it done, only being mightily irritated and extremely wary. The same trick had been pulled on me once before, by another so called ‘healer’. I was receiving hands on treatment with one of the healer’s students, and was lying on a treatment table a bit zoned out with my eyes closed, when the so called healer said to me; ‘A man hurt you. Tell me who hurt you…’ Because I was already skeptical and knew him to be a boundary pusher and psychic pretender, I told him in no uncertain terms to mind his own business. Unfortunately, too many people who are polite and unsure of their rights and personal boundaries fall for such capers.
It is an attempt at exploitation and members of the public need to know they are not required to disclose personal details to anyone, ever, including to a doctor. If you feel it will assist you to make disclosures to someone, be very sure the person is trustworthy and has your best interests at heart. In a clinic environment where there is a potential for profit making or exploitation, make sure the practitioner is a registered professional, so that if you feel your disclosure has been abused, you at least have avenues for complaint and recourse. If you feel you’ve been abused, please help fellow patients and make the complaint.
Anyway, when Serge said he thought I’d benefit from an ovarian reading, I immediately thought, ‘not again.’
I asked him what he meant by ‘reading’, and asked ‘do you mean psychic reading?’, and he gave me the standard dismissal common to serial bullshitters – smile, laugh, avoid eye contact, change the subject. In spite of my discomfort and misgivings, he went ahead with it, saying he thought it might be helpful (to whom?) and with his hands on my lower abdomen, proceeded to perform a cold reading, making suppositions on my relationships with men beginning in early childhood, using leading statements like, ‘when you were five years old, a man let you down’, and so on, insinuating I’d had negative experiences with men at various ages through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. All of the statements were vague; ‘a man turned out to be not as he seemed; a man tortured you, a man in your life wasn’t there for you,’ etc.
Yes, Serge, my dad didn’t buy me an ice-cream when we went to the shops when I was seven. With all of his phenomenal psychic power, Serge didn’t pick up I have five brothers.
I wrote briefly about this in my first cult thought reform post – Serge’s ovarian reading was a fishing exercise, looking for dirt from my past to use against me. He is bound to get results with a proportion of patients seeing one in three women have experienced sexual assault or abuse and one in five men, and every other human being has had run ins with others at some point in their lives. It was an initiatory trick to trap me into the ‘cult of confession’, which is employed in harmful groups to break down personal boundaries and maximise exploitability among recruits. Confession and disclosure are justified as ‘sharing’ and part of the group bonding experience, however, information on past trauma or misdeeds can also be used against members should they begin to have doubts about the group or show dissent. Scientology is famous for it.
Also, in line with the negation technique used in hypnotic manipulation I described in the previous post; prior to the reading, Serge told me ‘you don’t have to comment on what I say.’ Because I’d detected his ruse, I’d already decided not to comment, and not to react either, no matter what he said. As the reading wore on, with him making unsavoury presumptions on my private life into my twenties, he became visibly unfocussed and frustrated and asked, ‘so am I right?’
‘You don’t have to comment…’ he’d said.
However, if you don’t comment, Serge, the unqualified, self proclaimed ‘healer’ will pressure you to disclose anyway.
As annoyed as I was, I kept my response low key. I gave him nothing. The concern I have about Serge’s intentions with that scam is what becomes of the people who fall for it and disclose their negative experiences to him? One of our readers filled us in:
I went to visit Serge a few times a couple of years back and he did the same to me. He was really in my face about how men had used me and checked me out etc while doing it at the same time. I was pretty young at the time and it freaked me out as I didnt really have a sexual history to tell. What a creep. The next time I went at my mothers pressuring, I told him some crap and he bought it. two weeks later my mum was on my back about it. I was thinking what the ! so much for confidentiality or whatever, but i guess it doesn’t apply when you are a rock star guru.
That’s the thing about being an unqualified healer – there are no ethical standards to keep you in line, and therefore nothing in place to protect patients. It’s hardly an ideal therapeutic environment is it? A man leering over a vulnerable patient, pressuring her for details on her sex life? Or a patient feeling obligated to invent a disclosure to appease the practitioner’s sleazy requests? Not only had he no right to ask about her history, he had no right to disclose it to anyone else. Yet, in relating it to her mother, he placed further strain on a relationship already strained by her mother’s unhealthy association with him, the loving, caring ‘healer’.
Again, I’d like to appeal to our readers to comment here or contact me privately if you ended up telling Serge about your experiences with men. How did he use that knowledge? Such verbal intrusiveness alone is grounds for complaint to the HCCC.
After that experience, I felt I needed to know more about what Serge was up to, so I attended the Esoteric Healing Workshop. It was there I made further observations which convinced me Serge uses students’ traumas to compel them to deepen their commitment to his ‘healing’.
Healing as a front for deception
Serge lures many recruits into the Universal Medicine organization under the pretence he can train them to become healers. The usual outcome, however, is they merely increase their consumption of Esoteric therapies and healing workshops – sometimes endlessly. For the small number of unqualified healers who go on to practice we are hearing numerous reports that their treatments are highly effective at relieving clients of their funds and hopelessly ineffective at relieving symptoms. These practitioners, including Serge, have also failed on numerous occasions to refer patients for competent medical care with seriously adverse results.
I don’t blame Universal Medicine students for falling for Serge Benhayon’s audacious scams. Many good people fall in love with the idea of helping others, and when they attend Sacred Esoteric Healing Workshops, they are told they can become accredited healers, advertise as such and earn money from it. With the practice of healing portrayed as easy by UM, students are blinded to the difficulty of training in and then working daily in therapeutic modalities, where they need to be getting consistent and tangible results in reducing symptoms or pain. They are also not told Esoteric Healing ‘training’ does not equip them to diagnose or treat symptoms, let alone recognize when a patient or client needs referral to competent medical care. They are not told their incompetence can do harm. For this reason we are strongly lobbying AHPRA and the federal and state governments, with the assistance of patient advocacy groups to tighten regulations on unqualified practitioners.
It’s the same reason we’ve named the culpably irresponsible doctors associated with UM, who are endorsing this travesty and overseeing harmful practices in the name of ‘healing’ and ‘medicine’. They of all people should be aware of the risks. I’ll write more on this soon when I re-update the Naming Names page. But to give you an idea, I’ve found unqualified healers advertising chakra-puncture services to cancer patients and patients with Crohn’s disease, having done a 2 DAY (!!) course. That is, using an untested modality and performing unqualified skin penetration with acupuncture needles on some of the most vulnerable patients in the community. And taking their money for it.
Overseen, endorsed and promoted by cult doctors
As blatantly outrageous as such activities are, the promise of becoming an accredited Esoteric healer has proven to be a powerful and lucrative recruitment tool for UM, and Serge has persuaded medical professionals to participate in the manipulation – at the expense of patients. And yes, we are compiling a dossier of cases of patients who have been harmed by Universal Medical negligence and cartel like profiteering to be submitted to AHPRA and the HCCC. Please contact us if your illness was not detected, or diagnosis was delayed because a UM practitioner failed to refer you for appropriate care. Also contact us if you were told to stop taking medication by a UM practitioner who was not a doctor, whether it be antibiotics, vaccinations, pain medication, thyroid medication or psychiatric medication. We are determined to put a stop to this harm to patients, and this disgraceful deception that the Universal Medicine therapies students are paying to receive and paying to learn have any worth.
Triggering trauma to instil dependency
Serge gains knowledge of students’ personal histories through intrusive questioning in his treatment sessions, ruses such as ovarian reading, or through the confessional practices that occur in his healing workshops. He also has a fixation with sexual violence evidenced by his constant reference to it in his lectures. Rather than being merely a neurotic trait, it’s a strategy for capitalizing on his knowledge of students’ traumatic or negative experiences to increase their dependency.
I witnessed this in action when I attended the Sacred Esoteric Healing workshop where Serge was teaching his hands on healing techniques. Following his instructions, the 60 or so students present were able to reproduce the reactions I experienced in his treatment room. I was able to duplicate them with students I was partnered with, and many students participating were reacting strongly; screaming, crying and in some cases vomiting.
As I stated in the previous post on UM habit formation, the hands on healing induces an altered state of consciousness in which the student is susceptible to hypnotic manipulation or suggestion. While the hands on treatments and catharses were in progress at the workshop, Serge scurried around the room telling us the reactions were due to evil entities from past lives leaving our bodies. He told us in our previous incarnations we had been archangels and monads and that we’d been burned at the stake, tortured, raped, dismembered, disembowelled, impaled with swords and had our wings hacked off. Since Serge says our multitude of past lives were saturated with traumas, the ordeal of entity removal becomes never ending.
Having already imbued students’ minds with images of brutality, sexual violence, victimhood and physical pollution during treatment sessions, Serge intensifies the programming during the healing workshops. He intersperses his talks with violent references at regular intervals, thereby persistently instigating a process of trauma triggering, where he regularly reminds students of their traumatic pasts, and by implication the evil entities and negative residues inhabiting their bodies. Such programming perpetuates a state of emotional reactivity and anxiety, which may progress to post traumatic stress disorder with the accompanying symptoms of insomnia, depression, social withdrawal, paranoia and volatile moods.
I witnessed students experiencing emotional breakdowns during the Esoteric healing workshop, erupting into tears, physically trembling and also appearing exhausted and resigned. I myself felt spaced out and confused for days afterwards, and have heard dozens of reports of students being emotionally fragile, distant and dazed on returning home from courses. I’ve heard more reports again of students developing chronic anxiety, behaving anxiously toward food, becoming fearful of going out, particularly to venues or social gatherings where alcohol is consumed, and rejecting of loved ones who may have drank a beer or two, or question their extreme behaviour and Serge’s deranged philosophy. Yet, the susceptible keeping paying up for more workshops and treatments. And more. And more.
SergeSpeak, the language of confusion
The workshops also feature a lecture component, and Serge holds regular meetings and talks. Beginning his lectures with a short ‘meditation’/hypnosis session to induce a trancelike state of reduced cognitive and critical functioning, Serge then uses a deliberately bamboozling oratory technique, laden with his idiosyncratic jargon (SergeSpeak) and far flung metaphysical and paranormal ideas. His doctrinal and linguistic shenanigans serve two purposes: one is to filter out individuals with healthy critical faculties. Judicious recruits quickly become impatient with the nonsense, reject it and exit, leaving susceptible, less critical individuals. Serge then exploits their trusting open mindedness by intensifying his predatory and divisive indoctrination.
The second purpose of Serge’s linguistic trickery is to disrupt students’ cognitive processes in what Milton Erickson would call a confusional hypnotic technique. Specifically, in his lectures and writings, he calculatedly uses language with inverted meanings, redefines traditional terminology and changes the subject at frequent intervals. The purpose is to deliberately unseat rational processes, so the mind is constantly grasping to find a logical footing and keep up. It’s extremely difficult to challenge terminology when meaning has been altered, let alone maintain a critical and questioning train of thought when he changes the subject so rapidly.
Erickson describes such a technique as breaking one’s orientation to reality, so the student mentally regresses and becomes increasingly receptive to clarifying hypnotic suggestions (Erickson, Rossi & Rossi, 1976, p.106). Such suggestions are delivered by Serge in a smooth, friendly and calmly hypnotic tone of voice, but are usually emotionally charged. Emotive words and expressions serve as anchors in trance induction for harnessing emotional energy to maximise the responsiveness of the subject (Waterfield, 2003, p. 311). Serge uses two distinct groups of words to achieve this: one group of ‘healing’ words, such as the aforementioned ‘love’ and ‘innermost love’ as well as feel the magnitude of truth, freedom of expression, invest in love, soul connection, God, gentle breath, walk with your heart etc. The other group evokes more confronting or challenging imagery, such as anger, rape, cancer, ovaries, vagina, sex, murder, incest, abuse.
During his talks, Serge’s soothing voice switches back and forth between themes of violent imagery and ‘gentle lovingness’. He ties the challenging themes of violence and abuse to students negative past experiences and the hostile world outside UM, while he associates the ‘healing’ images of ‘innermost love’ and ‘gentle breath’ with his persona and the group. Consequently, students are being unconsciously programmed with Serge’s dire worldview, yet, to their conscious minds they believe they are part of a compassionate and caring organization learning about ‘love, gentleness and truth’. Under this spell, they come to regard their membership in Universal Medicine as the only positive influence in their lives, while all prior or outside experiences are portrayed as negative, damaging and PRANIC!
In the near future I’ll be writing a post on SergeSpeak, and how Serge subverts and inverts language, transforming benign concepts such as prana (breath, life force) and ‘spirit’ into negative terms, deeming them counter to achieving his ideal of higher reincarnation.
As one of our commenters wrote on Serge’s fixation with removing PRANA and PRANIC! entities from one’s body or environment:
By removing Prana (life force) Serge is killing his students by stealth. I dont think it is a change in the words at all. Somewhere in his books he mentions that just before death we release all our prana. So what he is really saying is ‘deny life and things that give you life’ then you can die and have a soulful existence. He is doing a good job at that himself and with his students. Bloody brilliant.
Even the word, ‘love’, in Esoteric terms becomes something exclusive, highly conditional and cold, something more closely resembling ‘hate’.
In addition, as I wrote in my earlier account, Serge liberally adopts and distorts traditional philosophies to serve his own purposes. I failed to mention in the previous post, where I wrote about Serge’s sales techniques, name dropping is a hallmark of the Ericksonian sales approach (Waterfield, 2003, p.370). Mentioning the Dalai Lama, Maitreya Buddha, Christ, Alice Bailey, Leonardo da Vinci et al, lends Serge, the self proclaimed messiah, and his bent postmodern philosophy a veneer of prestige which wins students’ confidence. As does borrowing the reputations of the entranced doctors in his inner sanctum.
However, Serge’s perspective is bleaker than any of the most world negating spiritual traditions. His students, many of whom live in arguably one of the most beautiful, economically prosperous, privileged and safe communities on earth, are constantly complaining about what a terrible place the world is, how it’s full of evil, violence and injustice, and how lost they were before they found Serge. I’ve travelled to some of the poorest countries on earth and met people who were maimed, dying, starving and having bombs rained down on them, and never heard any of them complain so much.
In short, Serge exploits his students’ past experiences of trauma, their compassionate instincts to learn healing, their ignorance of obscure spiritual traditions, their disillusion with the world and their desire to lead a more spiritually and emotionally fulfilling life. He uses a variety of techniques to maximise suggestibility in order to induce paranoid dependency on the ‘healing’ and belonging they feel as part of his group.
In the next posts I will demonstrate how that dependency intensifies into full blown addiction.
Erickson, MH, Rossi, EL, Rossi, SI, 1976, Hypnotic Realities: The Induction of Clinical Hypnosis and Forms of Indirect Suggestion, Irvington, New York.
Waterfield, R, 2003, Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis, Brunner Routledge, New York, Hove.