John-Roger : The Story Behind His Remarkable Journey From Rosemead Teacher to Spiritual Leader of a New Age Empire

<i> Times Staff Writers</i>

When English teacher Roger Hinkins appeared, chalk to blackboard, in the 1970 Rosemead High School yearbook, nothing in his pleasant demeanor suggested that a peculiar occurrence had radically changed his life.

Eighteen years later, Hinkins--who now calls himself John-Roger--is still a teacher of sorts, but these days his image appears in more auspicious places: Posed next to Mother Teresa in an Interview magazine spread, or alongside best-actress nominee Sally Kirkland at this year’s Academy Awards.

He is the founder of a Santa Monica foundation that, until recently, bore his name, and which oversees an alternative university, holistic health center, various media enterprises and the well-known Insight Seminars. At least 50,000 people around the world have taken Insight’s intensive, transformational-type training, and its productivity seminar has been instituted in such corporations as Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, Chemical Bank and by the U.S. Social Security Administration.


How far John-Roger has come can best be seen, however, through an annual event called the International Integrity Awards. Since 1983, John-Roger’s foundation has presented this award to Mother Teresa, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, polio researcher Dr. Jonas Salk, Mayor Tom Bradley and singer Stevie Wonder, among others. In 1986, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa’s unsuccessful attempt to leave Poland to accept one of the awards drew worldwide news coverage.

At least 47 states and 200 cities and counties now declare an annual Integrity Day, and the Beach Boys, Diana Ross, Gene Hackman and William Shatner, among many others, have sent messages for Integrity Day promotions.

At last year’s Integrity Awards gala, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, consumer activist Ralph Nader, “Platoon” writer/director Oliver Stone, and--in absentia--UCLA bone-marrow specialist Dr. Robert Gale, were given warm applause as they received leaded-crystal pyramids and checks for $10,000, payable to a favorite charity. But the celebrity-laden, black-tie audience of 1,000 gave its most enthusiastic ovation when actor John Forsythe introduced the 53-year-old man known to disciples simply as J-R.

“Health, Wealth and Happiness”

To thousands of supporters, the awards are just another way in which John-Roger is helping the world find “health, wealth and happiness.”

But some critics share the belief voiced by a top staffer on the eve of the first Integrity Awards: That the “suicidal plunge into the spotlight of media” was yet another example of John-Roger’s self-aggrandizement and would subject the man’s own integrity to more public scrutiny than it could withstand.

In fact, little scrutiny has been focused on the figure behind the polished public image, a cherubic, almost frail-looking man who followers see as the embodiment of a Christlike power known as the Mystical Traveler Consciousness. Nor has much light been shed on the international New Age empire that has blossomed around him and his church, the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (pronounced “Messiah”), which some former followers now call “the Cadillac of Cults.”


Like most of John-Roger’s supporters, John Morgan, a Los Angeles aerospace systems analyst, scoffs at the notion that he is involved in a cult. He prefers to think of John-Roger’s story as “the American Dream turned spiritual.”

Any way you look at it, though, this tale of one man’s rise from obscurity to black-tied avatar to stars is unusual--even by California standards.

A New Age Dawns

Back in the 1960s, before the Age of Aquarius was redubbed the New Age, word of yet another spiritual leader spread among Californians hungry for enlightenment. Seekers--many of whom had sampled the era’s mind-expanding potluck, including Silva Mind Control, Eckankar, est, yoga, astrology, occultism and drugs--drifted in to try this new offering.

The “way shower” was the Rosemead High School English teacher. He called himself Dr. John-Roger Hinkins, later Sri John-Roger, and offered followers hope of escaping from the wheel of rebirth and karma by ascending Earth’s negative realms into “a totally positive state of being” called “soul consciousness.”

According to John-Roger’s teachings, reaching the “soul realm” is virtually impossible without the assistance of the Mystical Traveler Consciousness, a metaphysical power John-Roger claimed to embody, along with the mantle of the “Preceptor Consciousness,” an even-more powerful presence said to exist on Earth only once every 25,000 years.

“We bring forward the ‘close’ of one age and unlock and fling open the doors to the New Age,” John-Roger wrote in a 1973 MSIA book of teachings called “Baraka.” “. . . Soul Consciousness is again being presented to those Souls who can recognize it. This is the work of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness--this is the work that I have come to do.”


In another MSIA book, “Initiation to the Sound Current,” he wrote: “Initiates of the Mystical Traveler Consciousness are those that I am specifically taking home to God.”

John-Roger was a bit more modest in an interview with The Times last year at the $6-million, three-story John-Roger Foundation building on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. Flanked by three associates in his well-appointed office, he said that his motivation as a teacher is “to help people, it’s always really been that.”

Clearly, though, the scale of his teaching has grown dramatically over the years.

‘John the Beloved’ Arrives

John-Roger was born Roger Delano Hinkins on Sept. 24, 1934, in Rains, Utah, a coal mining town that no longer exists. The son of Mormons, he attended the church’s mutual improvement associations and occasionally gave inspirational “three-minute talks” as a youth.

The only influential reading matter he recalled encountering in his youth was Napolean Hill’s “The Laws of Success.” His adolescent mind was absorbed more with sports and girls than with spiritual matters, he said.

As he and his brother and sister describe it, John-Roger’s childhood was typical. He attended North Emory High School, where he played tennis, among other sports. The only unusual aspect of his youth was his early realization that he could spot the colorful “auras” that some people believe surround the human body, he said.

During this time he worked briefly in the coal mine where his father was superintendent. “I don’t think I was meant to be a coal miner, because I broke out in a rash all over my body,” John-Roger said. “. . . I think I created that not to have to go home every night to get coal dust out of my ears and out of my eyes. I hated working in the coal mines.”


While attending the University of Utah he worked as a night orderly in the psychiatric ward of a Salt Lake City hospital, and later became a part-time PBX telephone operator with the Salt Lake City Police Department. After graduating with a psychology degree in 1958, he packed his car and headed west to California, where he eventually landed his job at Rosemead.

In 1963, he underwent a kidney stone operation at a Los Angeles hospital and, as a result of what might have been a sedative overdose, went into a nine-day coma.

“When I woke up nine days later,” he said, “. . . there was another being in me and he called himself John. . . . When I opened my eyes, I remember my mother sitting there saying, ‘Who are you?’ and the voice said, ‘I am John’ and she said, ‘Is Roger there?’ He says, ‘Yes, he’s in here too.’ ”

When asked to describe who John is, John-Roger said: “I can tell you who John says he is. When he first identified himself, he said: ‘I am the beloved.’ Later on he said, ‘You can call me John.’ I put them together . . . ‘John the Beloved.’ ”

After the operation, Hinkins went back to teaching, but his life was never quite the same, he said.

He had been teaching at Rosemead for several years when E. Terry Irvine became principal there. Irvine says his predecessor described Hinkins as “an outstanding young man and an outstanding teacher.”


Over the years, Irvine recalled, “the kids always liked him. He was a very interesting person.”

But gradually word got back to Irvine that Hinkins was digressing from American literature in his teaching. After several students complained that whole periods in Hinkins’ class were spent with the lights off and drapes pulled, and that Hinkins was instructing them in such matters as how to use self-hypnosis to prepare for exams, Irvine went to Hinkins’ third-period class one afternoon to investigate. When he opened the door, “It was just as dark as pitch. Usually I’m a very calm person, but I blew up right there,” Irvine said. “I turned all the lights on. I jarred the kids out of their reverie. . . . Right in front of the whole class, I said, ‘Mr. Hinkins . . . I never want this sort of nonsense to happen again!”

Soon thereafter, Irvine and John-Roger said, the two decided that it would be best if the teacher moved on to pursue his spiritual teaching.

Irvine recalls only one complaint from a parent about Hinkins--a Catholic mother who came to him to protest that her son had abandoned the family’s faith to follow his former English teacher. Irvine confirmed, though, that several other students went on to attend their teacher’s spiritual seminars after John-Roger left the school, and that at least one of his teachers also left the school to work with John-Roger.

Candy Semigran, who is now chief executive officer of Insight Seminars and has worked with John-Roger off and on for two decades, was 13 or 14 when she first saw him in front of her English class. “He was my favorite teacher in high school,” she said. “He was always challenging us to go beyond what we thought we could do.”

“I saw someone who wanted to assist people in being happier and living productive lives and growing towards peace on this planet,” she said. “I remember even when I was a teen-ager, saying, ‘Someday I’m going to work for this man.’ ”


‘The Movement’

In the earliest days, a handful of people gathered in John-Roger’s Baldwin Hills home or in the homes of followers around Southern California, where they would donate $3 “love offerings” to hear his practical advice and spiritual wisdom.

By 1971, however, the lectures were drawing sufficient crowds and income that it seemed a good idea to formalize things, John-Roger said. He and his followers created the Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness.

By the mid-1970s, several thousand people--from Santa Barbara to Berkeley, Miami to Amherst, Mass., and in a smattering of places as distant as Britain and Romania--were reading the monthly Soul Awareness Discourses John-Roger offered at a small yearly fee, and doing daily meditations, known as spiritual exercises or “se’s,” often while envisioning--”mocking up”--John-Roger or the purple light “the Traveler” is said to emanate.

Followers also met--and continue to meet--weekly in private homes to share banana bread and coffee, to sing and dance and listen to audio tapes of John-Roger (or later, watch videotapes) and to chant together the “sacred names of god.”

After completing certain prerequisites, a follower can be initiated into “the sound current,” and initiates who do their discourses and se’s for two years are eligible for ordination as Ministers of Light in the “Melchizedek Priesthood.” Because MSIA is a legally incorporated church, ministers are able to perform such duties as baptisms and marriages. Their main commitment, however, is to spreading “the Light,” a positive energy described in a 1976 MSIA children’s cartoon book as “the Holy Spirit” and “the most powerful force around . . . not something to be played with.”

In describing what attracted them to John-Roger and to what became known as “the Movement,” people speak of John-Roger’s “loving, caring attitude,” his sense of humor and his charisma.


Some also believe he is clairvoyant. “The Traveler,” after all, is “aware of all levels of consciousness simultaneously,” according to Movement literature.

“It was like somebody had taken off the top of my head and lifted me up,” former minister Tris Roost, a teacher who first got involved in the movement in Berkeley in 1972 or 1973, said of attending her first seminar. “He talked to me so directly it shocked me. I felt dizzy. I was moved by it. He said things about me that only I would know.”

In a 1974 MSIA book, “Across the Golden Bridge,” 62 followers, some of whom remain in key positions within Insight and other organizations, express their devotion to John-Roger in prose or poems and explain how and why they became involved in the Movement. Their tales of spiritual seeking in the midst of alienation; of watching “2001: A Space Odyssey” on LSD; of late-night sessions with the I Ching, and, in one case, of hospitalization for mental illness, offer a history of MSIA and of that complex transitional era in the American subculture.

Michael Bookbinder, now 44, wrote that as a troubled youth in the ‘60s he “did not have one happy day.”

“Everything I did was measured against suicide. . . . Every time I saw suffering, it would fill me until there was no room for anything else,” he wrote. “. . . Hearing about the Vietnam War on the radio and TV would get me very sick. I started taking as much heroin as I could get.”

Then Bookbinder met John-Roger and, with the help of his “guru’s” counseling and “aura balances,” he was able to kick drugs, he said. He and people who met him then say Bookbinder became a charismatic and extremely effective recruiter for the Movement, and was instrumental in setting up MSIA “Light Centers,” in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Chicago and Berkeley as well as in Paris and London, before he became disenchanted with what he saw as John-Roger’s “manipulative” recruitment techniques, and left the movement in the early 1980s.


John-Roger teaches that almost anything, from wealth to good health, can be achieved by overcoming such “negative” influences as guilt and anger, an appealing notion to many self-awareness aficionados of the booming Me Generation.

But some followers who have left the movement say that John-Roger’s stress on avoiding the negative keeps an already naive flock dependent and childlike. This, they contend, effectively keeps followers from critical analyses of issues--even though John-Roger often says, “When in doubt, check it out.”

Faithful followers disagree with this assessment. “In all the years that I have been with J-R, he has never said you have to do anything,” said Annette Lawrence, who attended her first tape seminar in Miami in 1969. “. . . If he wants to or chooses to give advice, he says, ‘Here are 14 options you can look at.’ ”

A similar conflict exists over the movement’s distinctly familial nature. Almost invariably, people say they were initially attracted to the movement because of the camaraderie between warm-hearted people it offered. While many still hold that view, others now feel that John-Roger uses the lure of family bonding to skillfully manipulate society’s lonely and insecure.

“I envisioned growing old with these people and that they would always love me,” said a woman whose name was Susan Blass during her 11 years in the movement. But when Blass (who asked that her current married name not be used) refused to cut off associations with followers who were raising questions about John-Roger’s integrity, the love vanished abruptly, she contended.

In its place, she and others say, came warnings from John-Roger of a fearsome and contagious negative force known as “The Red Monk.”


The Family Grows

In 1974, MSIA purchased a large, Renaissance-style mansion on West Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles, which John-Roger dubbed “the Purple Rose Ashram of the New Age,” or PRANA. Now referred to as the Prana Theological Seminary and College of Philosophy, the mansion became a commune, housing as many as 100 initiates at a time.

A year earlier, MSIA had purchased an estate in Mandeville Canyon with a house, estimated by former staffers at 6,000 square feet, where John-Roger lived, and continues to live, with a small group of handsome young men, many of whom met him when they were teen-agers.

Known to initiates as “the guys,” the group, six or seven at a given time, traveled around the country and around the world with John-Roger, assisting at seminars and performing “aura balancings,” “light studies,” “polarity balancings,” and “interphasings,” all of which were said to clear negativity and realign a person’s energy fields. In the movement, with its hierarchy of initiates, being one of “the guys” was seen by many as the highest possible honor. But there were many other ways to serve “the Traveler.”

In 1971, initiates launched a flyer called “On the Light Side,” which grew into a well-produced monthly tabloid called the Movement Newspaper that was made widely available at New Age and metaphysical bookstores. The one constant through the years has been a column called Ask J-R, in which John-Roger discusses karma, relationships and spiritual matters such as “the Traveler’s nightly ‘soul trains’ ”:

“There is a midnight ‘train’ in which I collect my students to travel the inner realms,” John-Roger wrote in a 1983 column. “If you miss that one, there is another at 2:00 a.m. It’s a good idea to have your body down at these times so that when I call you, you are ready to come with me.”

Cassette tapes are integral to the spread of New Age thinking, and MSIA distinguished its releases by warning listeners they had better buy their own. Listening to the tapes releases negative energy that is absorbed by the Mystical Traveler Consciousness, the labels say, then caution “if you allow someone else to listen to or play your tape, you, rather than the Mystical Traveler Consciousness, become responsible for what they release. . . .”


In addition to buying MSIA products and paying for various services, initiates are encouraged to make donations. Tithing, or giving a percentage of one’s monthly income to MSIA, is also recommended. Because of its tax-exempt status as a church, MSIA is not required to make public its financial records, but by all indications people contribute money freely--in some cases in large lump sums.

The Secular Realm

By 1976, the growing empire expanded once more with the creation of a holistic health center called Baraka. Located today in the John-Roger Foundation building, Baraka, with its New Age Musak and hugging in the hallways, boasts practitioners of everything from holistic dentistry to chiropractic, acupuncture and herbology.

Two years earlier, on May 14, 1974, four MSIA ministers in Los Angeles created Golden Age Education, a tax-exempt educational organization that would offer monthly symposiums on topics ranging from nutrition to Egyptian mystical wisdom along with courses on self-acupressure therapy and mind-body dynamics.

But Golden Age was not a financial success until John-Roger founded Insight Training Seminars in 1978 and placed it under the auspices of Golden Age. During the first full year of Insight, according to tax documents, Golden Age produced total revenues of $1,094,679--up from gross revenues in 1977 of $90.

Insight was developed “from standard curriculum in education,” said Russell Bishop, an MSIA minister who left his job as a trainer for John Hanley’s controversial Lifespring organization to create Insight for J-R. About 50,000 people around the world have taken Insight’s initial Awakening Heart Seminar, and many go on to enroll in the multitude of other seminars it has spawned, including Insight II, Insight III, Children’s Trainings, Teen Trainings, and Wilderness Trainings.

The goal of Insight was, and is, “to work with people on the practical day-to-day stuff of life,” Bishop said. “In talking with John-Roger about creating Insight, the very intention was to do a very basic practical seminar, devoid of spiritual or religious intent.”


Yet, just before the first Insight training, John-Roger held a meeting to introduce the new program to his ministers. He began his talk by announcing that he had just returned from Hawaii, where he attended a “four-day meeting up on a high mountain peak . . . called through the Traveler Consciousness . . .” and attended by “the spiritual hierarchy of the planet,” including Jesus, Krishna and other “ascended masters.”

He then assured his ministers that the new program they were being asked to take would give them a chance “to look at the teachings of the Traveler . . . in a different perspective.”

Not all the ministers were comfortable with the new addition to John-Roger’s growing family of enterprises. Some, including Wendy Grace, a former minister who is now a teacher and counselor in the San Fernando Valley, felt that it made the movement “too worldly.” Others felt that it focused too much on money.

But most saw Insight as an asset, to them personally and to the movement.

“It gave me sense of purpose and clarity about my life,” said Jim Weed, who has since left the Movement and is now a sales manager in Virginia. “It was magical, an incredible high.”

MSIA provided Insight not only with a steady supply of paying customers to take the trainings, but also with unpaid volunteers to help with the increasingly complex logistics of the programs. Insight, in turn, injected the movement with excitement and a sense of renewal, members said.

“What we were doing in Insight was trying to spread the Traveler’s message . . .” said former follower Michael Hesse, 40, echoing the sentiments of others in MSIA as well as Movement literature. “Anyone who got involved quickly learned that there was a spiritual side.”


Before each session of each Insight training, for example, facilitators and assistants would purify themselves and the training room by “calling in the Light,” reciting: “Father-Mother God, we ask just now to be placed in the Light of the Holy Spirit, through John-Roger, the Mystical Traveler, Preceptor Consciousness, and we ask that only that which is for the highest good be brought forth.”

To help channel the infectious exuberance, Victor Toso, then a member of John-Roger’s personal staff, vice president of Golden Age Education and a top Insight facilitator, helped devise a program that is now called “The Gift of Giving” and was inspired, in part, by Amway techniques, Toso said.

At the end of a session, when the trainees were emotionally open, Toso said he would ask them to donate money so that others could participate at a subsidized rate in the experience they’d just been through--an experience he believed in deeply then. An initial group of seven donors, including couples, wrote checks for $7,000 each, Toso said. And when he introduced some of those donors to the first 250 people to attend a seminar at the subsidized rate, the new group raised what he estimates was as much as $77,000.

“It’s easier to sell the training after it’s done than when it starts,” explained Toso, 34, a Minneapolis entrepreneur no longer affiliated with MSIA or Insight.

Insight’s Candy Semigran denies this, saying that the Gift of Giving program takes in “substantially less” than the standard $450 per person fee.

Sacred, Mundane

In the early days, John-Roger and his staff crisscrossed the country in an old sedan. By the late ‘70s, though, he and the guys flew, usually first class, to facilitate seminars around the country and around the world, including the popular “Super II’s,” in which John-Roger would remove negative entities from people in an exorcism-like ceremony.


Other areas of the movement also began to expand as people flocked to new trainings and seminars such as the Prana Awareness Trainings, in which followers spend several hours a day, for a week at a time, facing one another across a table and repeatedly answering a simple question such as “Tell me who you are.”

For John-Roger, the work and travel, which included “transmuting negativity” by absorbing it into his body, were exhausting, according to former staffers.

Two of them, Toso and Wesley Whitmore, recall thinking that in contrast to his public behavior, John-Roger in private was often angry, vindictive and bizarre, occasionally shouting that he was under attack from negative forces. But their devotion to John-Roger kept them from addressing these issues, they said.

Meanwhile, the movement newspaper, as well as internal publications such as MSIA’s Rod & Staff, carried testimonials and devotional poems to John-Roger. Followers wrote him dozens of letters a week asking for his advice and blessings. And they helped to spread his work.

In 1982, John-Roger and two MSIA ministers filed articles of incorporation with the State of California for the John-Roger Foundation, “a non-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to the transformation of the planet through the enrichment and upliftment of individuals.” John-Roger wrote a letter to MSIA ministers announcing the creation of the foundation as an “umbrella” to assist and encourage the separate organizations in “our growing family,” and later foundation literature shows that the John-Roger Foundation became just that, coordinating all aspects of what was loosely termed “the Movement.”

The letter also announced the creation of “Integrity Day” as the first major step “to communicate our vision to the world-at-large.”


Integrity Day, it was decided, would be Sept. 24, John-Roger Hinkins’ birthday. As a prelude, on Aug. 26, 1983, several hundred people, including many of Hollywood’s glitterati, attended the first Integrity Awards banquet at the Beverly Hilton ballroom. “Entertainment Tonight” and other media were drawn to the event by celebrity MSIA ministers (Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, biographer and socialite Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington and actresses Leigh Taylor Young of “Dallas” and Sally Kirkland are among the more prominent people who have been ordained).

The awards, which contained no monetary supplement the first year, went to Jonas Salk and Robert Muller, assistant secretary general of the United Nations. The third award was presented posthumously to R. Buckminster Fuller.

In the spring of that year, John-Roger had visited Fuller at the renowned futurist’s home in Pacific Palisades. A color photograph of Fuller and John-Roger soon appeared on the cover of Inside Insight magazine, along with another photograph on which Fuller had written: “To John-Roger, in joint commitment to integrity.”

In the interim, however, many of John-Roger’s supporters were surprised to hear Fuller denounce their teacher in May, 1983, on the syndicated Larry King radio show. Fuller’s family refused to accept the award, because, grandson Jaime Snyder explained, Fuller had been promoting his own Integrity Days and “was not happy about the way the Integrity Day program of John-Roger was organized and handled in relationship to him and his initiative.”

George Cappannelli, director of the John-Roger Foundation, maintained they “didn’t have that prerogative” because “we were giving a public award to a public figure. . . .”

Even before the awards gala, however, Integrity Day had been stirring up conflict within John-Roger’s empire.


Negative Talk

The notion that negativity must be avoided is integral to Movement teachings, but in the days leading up to the Integrity Awards, Wesley Whitmore and other key staff members were thinking thoughts that could only be termed negative.

To discuss those thoughts with others in the movement was not only to reveal a lack of spiritual development, but also a lack of loyalty to John-Roger, former followers say. And because loyalty to John-Roger ran high within the Movement family, there was also a risk that word of the negative thoughts would get back to the leader.

For Whitmore, however, the thoughts were beginning to be more than he could bear to keep inside. One afternoon that spring, while Wesley and his twin, Wendall, (an MSIA minister and Insight facilitator) were pruning trees at the church’s Mandeville Canyon estate, he took a chance. To his amazement, Wendall had been thinking some of the same decidedly negative things, both Whitmores said.

The brothers began talking about what they said was their spiritual leader’s propensity to waste church money on “the craziest New Age” gadgets and notions that he encountered, from prefab domes to a “New Atlantis” project in the Bahamas.

From there, the hushed conversation turned to what Wendall calls the “Jekyll and Hyde” differences between John-Roger’s increasingly high-profile public personality and the “mean, cruel, dictatorial” personality revealed to those closest to him, he said.

After an hour or so, Wesley told Wendall, “This Integrity Day thing is the last straw.”

The next day, Wesley and Wendall voiced their complaints to other staff members and initiates in the movement. Gradually the discussion spread.


Staff members said that since they had all taken vows of poverty, they had come to question the integrity of living as well as they and John-Roger lived on the road and in the Mandeville Canyon house--with its luxurious designer spa and other amenities.

They had also come to question the way staffers, as well as John-Roger, used International Air Transport Assn. numbers to get travel agent discounts for their continuous travel, even though none of them were travel agents, as regulations require.

They were concerned by what they said were various high-risk investments the church and movement-related organizations had made with donated money, including a losing investment in the gold krugerands and silver bars that were stored in the Mandeville Canyon house.

But the most startling allegation that came out in the discussions, according to more than a dozen people who heard them, was that at least three of John-Roger’s closest associates said they had been having sexual relations with their teacher, each having been told, they said, that he alone was being granted this as an important spiritual favor.

What was devastating about the accusations made by these men was that they felt John-Roger had used “spiritual seduction” to take advantage of followers who worshipped him--especially since John-Roger and his staff were widely believed to have taken vows of celibacy.

In an October interview with The Times, John-Roger denied having had sexual relations with members of his staff and said that he had never led followers to believe he was celibate. He said those who leveled the accusations against him were disgruntled employees who had been fired. Since talking to The Times in October, John-Roger has refused repeated requests to be interviewed again.


John-Roger and two members of his church staff (both of whom have since resigned their positions) also said they have taken vows of poverty and thus do not file tax returns. They often travel first class and stay in luxury hotels, frequently on discounts arranged through the church-affiliated Atman Travel Service, they said, but claim there is nothing illegal or unethical in that. The church’s attorney wrote in an October letter to The Times that “Atman Travel provided tickets to John-Roger and certain other MSIA leaders at agency discount prices. So far as we are aware, no misrepresentations of any kind were involved.”

But in 1983, the negative talk about John-Roger continued among his flock. He responded to the charges by talking about a diabolical and contagious negative force known as “the Red Monk” or “Kal Power,” which he had initially discussed in an article in 1977.

Many movement initiates simply refused--and still refuse--to listen to the “rumors and gossip.” But the talk continued to spread, consuming followers in Los Angeles and reaching out less potently to the Movement family across the United States and abroad.

Finally, on the first International Integrity Day, John-Roger called a meeting.