Behind the scenes in The New Tantra.
A story of the manipulation, lies and control at the core of one of the worlds biggest tantra schools.
This is my story; I have experienced all of it. It was years of great joy and also some of the darkest moments of my life. This is the story of why I left my position as the feminine headteacher in one of the worlds biggest tantra schools, The New Tantra (TNT).
I was heavily traumatized and burned out when I after 5 years left the school. It took me a long time to really realize what happened and fully step into the strength to publicly share my story. There has been deep confusion and fear of being attacked if I open up. Am I allowed to speak and tell my story? What will be the consequences? I still care for some of the people in and around TNT, that has also made me question if I should speak up or not. I have asked myself if it would be more loving to shut up and never tell my story. But I have come to the conclusion that this is a loving act for me and for everyone else that got harmed during their time in TNT. Things like this need to come out in the light.
For a long time, I thought I never would tell this story. But the same question kept coming back when I was thinking of the ones who left before me; If you knew, why didn't you say something? Why did you walk away without telling us what you saw? Why didn't you warn us?
I know what their answer would have been, -It was no idea. You didn't want to see it Bea. I just had to leave and save myself.
I know that because some of them tried to tell us. But I did not listen. I defended everything even if I deep inside knew there was a truth in what they were saying. I did not want to see it. I will now share my naked truth about what happened to me behind the scenes and why I left TNT. Maybe that can help someone that needs this article. Maybe the person that needs this can do what I could not at that time, listen with openness and without defense… I hope so…
I don’t want to create a war. This story is not a personal vendetta. This is my truth and my experience and now is the time for me to own it fully.
Have a good reading…
TNT is a spiritual tantra school known for it’s tough approach, with teachings that are very confronting and straightforward. It has its roots in the Crazy Wisdom teaching coming from Adi Da Samraj, an unconventional American spiritual teacher. Alex Vartman (the founder of The New Tantra) received these teachings as a student of David Deida. (David was a student of Adi Da) TNT attracted all kinds of people, from all over the world. Doctors, scientists, CEOs, artists, priests, beauty queens, transsexuals, bisexuals, young and old, singles and couples, everyone was there and so was I.
I had been on a spiritual journey for several years before I came in contact with TNT. I had explored different types of yoga and tantra and done some hardcore years of spiritual discipline training. Coming from the corporate world running a business and working with leadership and communication for some of Sweden’s top companies, this was a totally new world for me. Far away from the board meeting rooms, I was used to spending my days in. So much felt like magic. I had my first spiritual awakening during these years and life felt amazing and full of opportunities. From here it felt like I could just go upwards and onwards to the promised land.
I heard about TNT from a guy on a tantric party. He described it as raw, dark and sexy with a lot of party going on. A totally different kind of tantra from what I had been practicing before. You have to try it out, he said. So I did. I jumped right in there, full-hearted and very naive. I did my first workshop in Sweden 2011. I wanted to grow spiritually and Alex had an impressive resume, for instance, years with David Deida that I had studied for before I meet Alex. I got on the fast train. I was the top student from the day I stepped in. I was brave, bold and full of life. My too-muchness, that I had a problem to tune down in the corporate world, was suddenly perfect and celebrated. I felt at home. I felt high on life and it felt like a really good party.
I had been a TNT student for only 6 months when Alex asked me to start working for him. I was flattered. My background was perfect for TNT. I was an experienced and successful project manager, creative director and communicator with an education in pedagogy. I had just written a book about the art of facilitating large groups and creating lasting development among companies and organizations. It was a perfect match. I stepped into the TNT team, meaning the group of people closest to Alex with organizers, DJs, assistants and co-teachers. I started to help him out with organizing and assisting, after just a year he offered me to become a teacher and I accepted the challenge. Little did I know then that I stepped into a journey that would almost crush my life.
On the webpage, TNT describes that their mission is to develop a modern sexual practice that abolishes ego inflation, greediness, disrespect and manipulation. Big words that sound appealing and promising. But behind the scenes, it looked quite different. When I look back I can see that TNT actually held a strong structure of ego, disrespect and manipulation. More than anything I had experienced before.
When I left TNT in December 2016, I was in a deep depression and in a burnout. I had never felt so bad before. Just before I left the school I totally hit rock-bottom. I found myself soul broken, I just wanted to give up on everything. I did not recognize myself anymore. I did not want to be what I had become, and my whole being was screaming, YOU NEED TO MAKE A CHANGE.
Ego or clarity?
I had been working in TNT for almost 5 years when I had my first long break away from Alex. Me and my husband went to a paradise island in Cambodia for our honeymoon in December 2015.
Alex used to warn us about the danger of being away from him over longer periods of time. He said that team members doing that usually contracted back into their egos and “got lost”, which means they decided to leave the team and TNT. I had heard endless stories about several of the assistants, co-teachers and organizers who had left before and during my years with Alex.
The time on the island gave me something I did not expect. It was like a thick fog slowly lifted and I saw a puzzle of manipulation, power play and addictions. Piece by piece fell into place. I finally had time and space to see it. It was overwhelming and terrifying. I was afraid that Alex warnings were true, that I was becoming contracted and lost in my ego. But a part deep inside of me knew it was true could not ignore what I saw.
I had gotten several warnings signals during my years in TNT, I had seen a lot of shit, but I had not paid it much attention. It was like we all knew “how it was”, and that was the price to pay, to be close to a spiritual teacher. But now everything became so clear. I spent weeks writing down the different parts and scenarios I saw.
The month in Cambodia was one of the worst in my life. I felt so confused and shocked. I felt trapped, I felt angry and scared. I suddenly woke up in the middle of a complex sexist cult structure. In which Alex, followed by the rest of the men, had the power and the women got sick.
The red alert
After my month in Cambodia I went directly to hold a TNT workshop in Bali. Alex was also on the island. It felt very awkward to meet him and I held as much distance as I could the days before the workshop. Me and my co-teacher Diesel held the workshop and afterwards we were to celebrate together with Alex. When he came to the restaurant he told us all that he just had a talk with our Danish organizer, and he had shared that his wife was in a depression and had suicidal thoughts.
My system went on red alert. This was now the 7th woman in the team and around Alex that had burnout symptoms, depressions or suicidal thoughts… I was the first one getting it already back in 2014, then one after one got sick.
All the women in the team were depressed!
For me this was a BIG warning sign. Two women in the team had contacted me several times before Bali, sharing about how depressed and exhausted they were. So I was already intellectually and emotionally involved in this issue.
Pieces of the puzzle
After years in TNT I was so unused to trust my own voice (at least when it was about myself). I was skillfully trained to always check everything with Alex and the team. That was the way we did it in TNT.
I knew I had to find a woman that I could get mirrored by, someone one with experience of spiritual practice, tantra and Alex. I decided to contact a woman I knew had the experience I needed at this moment. I hoped she could tell me if I was going crazy in my ego or not.
We had our meeting, we talked for 6 hours and she confirmed several pieces of my puzzle. The addiction, the manipulation and the burnouts. Everything I intuitively already knew. Alex due to this day blames this woman for me leaving TNT. He thinks it is her fault, but of course, it is not. I had seen it myself before that meeting. She just confirmed that I was on the right way. That I was not crazy for seeing this. She shared her own experience from being around Alex and how sick she had become. She really helped me a lot to also see my own co-dependency toward him.
I went on, talked to more people, collecting more pieces, and it all became more and more clear. TNT was longterm harmful, especially for women, and I had ended up in the middle of it. It was a complex web of different dysfunctions. Dysfunctions that one by one could make anyone sick, and all put together, it was like a powerful cocktail for addictive people. Especially when you were deep in it like me and my husband.
When the picture got more clear and I realized how serious the situation was, I wrote a long letter to Alex. I listed the things I doubted in our “spiritual practice”. The things that got me sick. The things that did not make sense and that I had questions about. I tried to be as honest, gentle and loving as possible. I did not want to piss Alex off. Because then I knew he would not listen. I knew it was a bomb I was delivering. Several had spoken their truth from the outside after they left but I haven't seen anyone still on the inside TNT ever questioned Alex or the teachings like this before. (This was itself very interesting, to speak up stay in relationship. Something I am very happy I learned during this time)
(You can read the letter by the end of this article. I have taken away some parts that were to private and I have corrected the spelling, except from that this is the letter I sent to Alex, February 18 ,2016)
I described that we as a school and leaders had to take this situation most seriously. That we no longer could blame the women in TNT for being contracted or not doing their spiritual practice well enough. We had to stop putting it on an individual level, we needed to take our responsibility and consult someone from the outside with the right expertise.
I described how I saw that the hard sex we practiced in TNT could be harmful to women, and long-term make us more contracted and even traumatized. How harmful it was when the school blamed us women for being the ones doing drama. I pointed out that I saw codependency issues, and how our students were getting lost in their open relationship practice, increasing the ego instead of transforming it. Finally, I described how the intensity that TNT was so well known for opens a portal for more addiction = more ego.
I invited him to work on the situation together with me, to follow his own ego teachings and find the 20% were we were off (meaning where we were wrong).
I was naive, I thought our good relationship would save me from a witch hunt, but what happened was far from it…
2 days later Alex had forwarded my letter to the whole team. As it turned out, not to support me, but for them to support him. The bomb went off… The silent war between us started. Alex was involving the whole team to “put me back in place again” and to get rid of that big head of mine, full of “ego”.
I didn’t get any space to have an open consideration about the content in the letter. No one in the team really wanted to listen and talk about it. Not even Alex. Instead he turned around and started a magnificent gaslighting* campaign against me. I don’t blame them; I knew the game, I had done the same many times with others who had questioned stuff in the community. That was the TNT culture.
We kept together. That was how we did it. We were so trained to think alike, to protect each other, to protect Alex and to protect TNT. A culture that made us blind and stupid in so mays ways.
* Gaslighting is a tactic, a form of psychological manipulation, in which a person or group, in order to gain more power, makes another person question their reality, memory, perception, and sanity. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the person and miscredit the persons sanity.
Alex did everything he could to “smash me out of my ego” and to “win me back”. I have never in my life witnessed a bigger drama or manipulation game. He often did not talk to me directly. He got all help he needed from a well trained team, my so called friends. He let his assistants call me, often with awkward messages that sounded like Alex words was coming out of their mouth. He was not used to people putting up boundaries and he did not take no for an answer.
After month of drama I suggested that we should meet a weekend, just the two of us, when he came back to Europe. Then we would have time to connect, sort things out and discuss the undiscussable. He agreed to meet me alone in Barcelona. Just the two of us so we could talk privately.
Barcelona (April 2016)
I landed in Barcelona, the night before our meeting. I gave Alex a call but he did not answer. I decided to call his closest assistant to check if I had the right number. She answered and said, Yes, he is right here. She told me that almost the whole team was in Barcelona. I was surprised, to say the least. Alex had invited the team behind my back and had not shared his agenda with me. Why?
Just days before, I had talked with several in the team about my meeting with Alex and no one had said anything about them also coming.
Disrespect, manipulation and lies was suddenly okay. Things that Alex normally told us not to do were allowed, even encouraged, when it came to protecting him and his lifestyle.
This was how we did it in TNT. When Alex called we dropped everything to show our loyalty. Alex and TNT was first priority in our lives. And if we did not prioritize him we were reprimanded.
On the day of our meeting, I met Alex for lunch. He pretended we would have a team consideration about why all the women in the team got sick, and that was the reason he had brought the team to Barcelona. He said that he had found some answers that we all should talk about.
- Why did you not tell me everyone would be here, I asked.
- I wanted it to be a surprise, I know how important this issue with the burnouts is for you, Alex replied.
A surprise indeed. I came up to his apartment, it was located just opposite of La Sagrada Família. It was a simple two room apartment. When I stepped in I could feel the excitement in the room. There was the team. People I called my friends. I could smell yesterdays party, a familiar mix of condoms, lube and marijuana.
They welcomed me like nothing was going on, no one commented on the fact that they were all in Barcelona. I had spoken to several of them just days before, talking about my trip to Barcelona to meet alone with Alex, and now they just smiled and pretended everything was perfectly normal.
I went along with the game, I had played is so many times. I knew exactly what was coming. It was soon my time to taste the “who do you think you are” trial.
We went up on the roof, it was a sunny day. We were just socializing on a polite level. No one addressed the strange fact that they were all in the apartment I was suppose to meet Alex alone in.
I could feel my heartbeat getting stronger and stronger. I had done this myself many times. I had been a part of the “pretending everything is fine, just before we cut your head off” game. I knew this was not going to be an easy night.
After an hour Alex called us down. I prayed in silence while I walked down the stairs. I prayed for mercy and strength to stand in my truth. I prayed for my body that was in a burnout, I prayed for everyone in the room.
I set my phone to record and placed it in a good spot. I may need this later…
My mother, who is a woman with great experience of women abuse, had taught me to always record meetings with people you feel threatened by. It is a way to not let the narcissistic gaslighting take over your sanity. I am happy I remembered her advice in that moment.
From that moment I recorded every meeting with anyone in the team. When I first told people about the cult structure in TNT they did not believe me, they could not even image how extremely manipulating a situation like that can be. If you have never experienced it yourself, it is hard to understand. It all sounds like bad stories. So recordings are good to have…
In the living room the social talk suddenly stopped, the happy faces were gone.
-Bea, sit down, Alex said.
I sat down in the middle of the room. On the floor. The living room was small. Just a sofa, two chairs and some flip over papers on the wall.
-Call them up, Alex told one of his assistants.
Oh, their will be more people, I thought.
She called up the remaining four team members on Skype. Now there were 10 people and me.
Alex stood by the papers on the wall.
-Let’s have a consideration about the burnouts, he said.
This was the smoke screen he put up, to get me to follow him to the apartment. I knew that this was not the reason we had all come to Barcelona.
Alex gave us a 20 minutes lecture about why he thought the women in the team were getting sick.
He started with me, -I think you have a mercury poisoning, he said. That mercury is leaking from your amalgam filling in your upper jaws. That will effect your nervous system and make you extremely sensitive to almost everything, and especially electro magnetic waves.
The whole team agreed, this had to be the reason I was in a depression, a burnout and had suicidal thoughts. I played along, to not piss anyone off.
Alex went on to the next case. -Linda, I think your are going into your enlightenment process and that is why you feel suicidal and exhausted. He explained the different types of enlightenment processes. He gave an example of how Byron Katie became enlightened through a deep depression.
He pointed out that he himself was a master in mediation, and that we women didn't do enough hours of masculine meditation. And that was why we still believed our thoughts. Especially on relationships. He made it very clear that there never should be any drama in relationships. But what Alex did not include in his speech was that his own relationships were all full of drama. That he himself was hopeless in relationships.
It was very hard for me to sit and listen to such a load of crap. He went on talking about how good he was.
-I am not interested in drugs, he said, with a joint in his hand. Or beautiful girls or boys, or sex… Alex Vartman not interested in sex! He manipulated the whole team to constantly supply him with sexual services or fixing black guys or prostitutes for him. Using the beautiful women in the team as bait to get guys off the street to fuck him. What a load of bullshit, and no one ever questioned him.
He did not mention himself, his teachings, or anything I had mentioned in my letter as a possible reason for us women getting sick. He gave me the advise to check my amalgams in my teeth and do more masculine practice. That’s it! We should just do more masculine practice, that was the answer to our burnouts. I had gotten this advice several times from him over the last two years. I had done tons of masculine practice but IT DID NOT HELP!
That was the consideration about the burnouts. 21 minutes in total. What about the other 5 women in the team that also were in depressions? I could not stop wondering, do they really think I am this stupid? Don't they see what he is doing. Is this how blind I had also been?
He now changed the subject to; AVOIDANCE OF RELATIONSHIP. The whole team turned towards me, while Alex texted it with big letter on the paper. Boom! This is it. I took a deep breath and prepared for the worse. I knew this teaching from Adi Da Samraj. And I knew the team would grasp for anything to prove how “off“ I now had become.
I don’t blame them; I had been in situations like this many times. Actually every time Alex thought someone in the team was “off”. That was how we did it. Alex never met us alone in a situation like this. He always needed his team to back him up. To prove that he was right and we were wrong and get support to bash the ego (our bad behavior) out of us.
The rest of the night was focused on proving that I was avoiding relationship with TNT and Alex and that I had contracted in my ego. Thing after thing was brought up. (But what was not brought up was, that I actually was sitting in Alex living room. How can you avoid relationship when I was the one initiating the meeting in Barcelona and traveled there to meet him.) They did not mention that I was the one daring to be honest to Alex about the burnouts, bringing up and discussing things that had to be discussed. “Discuss the undiscussable”, Alex always said. But if you did you were put in an ego trial and bashed into place again.
The team and Alex bashed me with ego feedback for 8h. It was one of the most extreme situation I ever been in.
It was terrible to see the team. They acted like parrots, just repeating what Alex had trained them to. The more offensive they were the more “points they got from daddy”.
Whatever I brought up was not relevant, it was history or none of my business. But whatever they brought up was very important, and all of their business. My co-dependency with my husband was their business and should openly be discussed with everyone. But when I brought up the teams co-dependency with Alex, that was none of my business. Even today listening to the recording it just does not make sense.
After some hours I pointed out that they all acted like sheep in a cult. (the cult dynamic I had started to see in Cambodia was now played out, right in front of my eyes) Then Alex fired me. Everything was my fault, and I was lost in my ego.
During the night they even wanted me to sign a Non Disclosure agreement in the midst of it so I could not tell anyone anything without being sued by Alex. (I did not sign it of course).
I got fired several times that night. First for pointing out that the team acted cultic, then for being monogamous, that was obviously not suitable for a tantric school like TNT with sexual freedom as a main parole. Then I got fired for not delivering all my ego feedback to Alex. (I said I have the free will to deliver my feedback anytime I wanted and that I did not feel safe to do it in a surrounding with people that just bashed the shit out of me for several hours.) Then I got fired for not signing the Non Disclosure agreement and so on and so on…
It was early in the morning when I got out of the apartment. Alex and the girls were having sex in one of the bedrooms. Again, the familiar smell of condoms, lube and marijuana. Alex with his head in the pillow and his ass served by his lower assistants. Just as it used to be. I just wanted to get out. Before I went out Alex called me into the bedroom. He dragged me closer to his head; Bea, you are brave. No one never dared to stand up against me, you did a good try, he whispered.
I walked all the way back to my hotel room. I just had to clear my mind. I was exhausted. I was not angry, in one way I had enjoyed it. Finally, I had stood up for myself and my truth. Finally, I had feedbacked Alex and told him where I thought he was off. I did not tell him everything, it was not just the right moment to deliver the whole truth of what I saw.
For several hours it had been like a really bad movie. I would not want anyone to experience the same. Alex and the team put me through extreme manipulation and gaslighting. One moment I felt strong for speaking up for myself and not just accepting everything they wanted to blame me for, the next I felt I was losing my mind.
My body was shaking so badly when I came back to my hotel room. I put on some music and just let my body shake it all out, like an animal after they have been attacked. I could hardly stand on my legs. I cried, I screamed, I just allowed everything to come out. I did not want it to stay in my body.
Exhausted I fell asleep on my bed. After some hours rest, I called my friend and my husband. They have both experienced considerations with Alex so they knew what I had been trough. They just listened to my story and it was such a relief to talk to them. No, I am not crazy, it is not just a bad movie, this cultic shit was for real.
I was supposed to meet Alex for a late lunch later that day. I had a nap before I got dressed. I prepared my recording equipment and went out. I was still tired. The sunny day made me good so I walked to the restaurant. It gave me time to prepare and meditate on our meeting.
The restaurant was on the same street as Alex’s apartment. I was sitting outside and went through my list with feedback and question marks from the night before. Remember, I got fired, and we had a big workshop coming up in Holland 2 days later. So I was rather confused about my situation.
Alex showed up 45 minutes late, I could see and smell that they were still partying. He was not in a good mood. We ordered some burgers and sat down.
He was so extremely arrogant. I had never seen him like this. It was like having lunch with Dr Jekyll och Mr Hyde.
-So give me my feedback, he said. Give me everything you have on me. I had prepared a list with 6 things. The softest feedback came first.
-I think it is strange Alex, that you don't want to look at yourself, and your role as the leader when you have a consideration about the burned out women in TNT, I said.
-I have, I did not find anything, he replied. Next one!
I gave him the next one on my list.
-I think it is strange that you can give me feedback on my codependency but that I am not allowed to address the extreme codependent relationship you have with your closest assistant and how this effects her, you treat her like shit.
He just starred at me, then he started pointing his fingers hard towards his own head. -You are crazy Bea. Totally CRAZY!, he screamed. You are so crazy you can’t teach or even assist in TNT anymore.
Then he stood up totally furious, with the burger and fries flying all over the place. Everyone at the restaurant stared at us. -Stay the hell out of my business and my relationships, he screamed even louder.
Then, he left the restaurant in his leopard fur and black sunglasses. This was the start of a drama that went on for 9 months.
I called my co-teacher Diesel right away. I told him that I was not coming to Holland to teach. -I got fired again, I said. -This is crazy, I will call him and talk sense to him, he answered.
I went back to my hotel to rest. An hour later Alex calls me up on Skype. Now with the team in the room.
-Oh, Bea, I just did not want you to teach with your burnout, Alex said. Now he was a totally different Alex, his voice was soft and loving. Mr Hyde had turned into Dr Jekyll .
-I just love you too much, and I am just worrying about your health, you know that, he continued. Are you sure you can handle it? he asked.
-Yes, I can, I said.
In my mind I thought, if I can handle 8 h of consideration with you, then I can handle anything.-Come and teach with me if you are worried, I said. I knew he never would.
Alex was never good at taking feedback. Actually, he was the worst in the whole team. He said we should give him feedback. He told the other students that he trained the team in that. But when someone finally was brave enough to give him feedback or raise the fact that something felt wrong, 9 times out of 10 he answered by justifying his own behavior and making the person who gave him the feedback look stupid or wrong. He was a master in gaslighting, manipulation and using his anger and drama to get his way.
Can you image having any kind of relationship with someone who always justifies their own behavior while pointing their finger at you… No exactly, that is hopeless. And that behavior is highly narcissistic.
The answer is outside the box
It is so extremely dangerous when a spiritual leader does not want to check his teachings when so many get sick from it. I finally took all the strength I had, trusted that voice of mine and I slowly started to open the box I had put myself in 5 years earlier. I could not be the head feminine teacher in a school that did not want to look deeper on why we women got so sick.
I could not be in a tantra school that diminishes the feminine. I could no longer spread teachings that I knew were harmful towards my sisters and long term made us sick.
It was some very tough decisions I had to make. Just a few weeks after our meeting in Barcelona, Alex told me he was retiring. I thought for some time that I maybe could stay and clean up the mess in TNT and change the unhealthy dynamics into a healthy structure. Now I see this was craziness. I just wanted to heal what had been damaged. Not just in me, but in everyone. I tried for 7 months but I did not have the strength to fight this fight alone, it was too hard when no one wanted to stand by my side and take the fight with me.
In December 2016, I left a community I had spent 5 years in. A community that had given me so many things. I left people I loved, people I called my friends, I left all my income, I left a position as headteacher, I left some of my sisters who also were sick.
Trust me, I wouldn’t have left if everything was fine. It was the toughest decision I made in my life.
I had to back out slowly. Holding up the facade, to not create an open war between me and Alex. Saving myself first. One assistant had left the year before with a bang, telling everyone about Alex being a harmful narcissist. I did not have the strength to share my story right away. I was also so fed up with all the drama. You cannot win over this kind of strong structures. It will just burn you out.
A cocoon of healing
When I left TNT I had to put myself in a cocoon of healing. I had to be so gentle and careful with myself. I had to face my deepest fears and I had to take one step at the time. I was so unused to trust my own inner guidance, I was so sick.
I kept away from my old TNT “friends”, not because I did not like them. But their voices were too strong, even if they did not speak directly to me. As soon as I came closer I heard people saying I had gone crazy, that I was lost in my ego.
I don’t blame them; I have done the same many times, we did it every time someone decided to step out of the team. We used to have hours after hours of considerations about their craziness and about how lost they were (which meant, we were the cool ones). We often continued for years after they left. Creating a typical “in and out”, “us and them” culture.
Honestly, for months I did not know if I was going crazy or not… I was so trained in the TNT way of thinking. I cannot even tell you how sick I was during the first 6 months. The most painful time of my life. Even now, I almost start to cry when I think about it.
Suddenly I was all by myself. Suddenly I had to start picking up a million pieces of me, laying there all in a mess in the dark. I felt lonely, isolated and deserted. All my “friends” were suddenly gone. No one asked me why I left. No one really wanted to know.
Have I been angry, YES
Have I felt like a victim, YES
Have I crawled out of my own ass and started dealing with the things in my life that bring me into situations like this… YES
When I cracked open down there in the dark I started to see my own deep co-dependency and addicted personality. A programming I have had since childhood, a way for me to survive, in an unsafe environment, a way to get control and a feeling of “safety”.
One of my teacher’s once said, “Life is a conspiracy to wake you up. It will keep giving you the same lesson over and over again until you get it.” I think I got my lesson this time.
I have during these 2 years worked so hard on my co-dependency and addictions, I have studied to become a certified specialist in addiction and co-dependency treatment. I have done tons of therapy, the 12 step program and a whole lot of ego work.
I don’t doubt that Alex somewhere had some good intentions starting TNT. But when you don’t even have basic knowledge about addiction and co-dependency you become blind to the dysfunctional system that is created. Structures that don’t serve anyone. It becomes a support system for spiritual bypassing, even if you don’t think so. Instead in depleting the ego you are increasing it.
TNT play ground for sex addicts and co-dependents
I addressed this for Alex in a letter already back in 2014, I addressed that I saw a sex addictive behavior in several people and that TNT looked more like a swingers club than a spiritual school, but he dismissed my observations with several explanations. Mostly by pointing his finger at me, saying that I was contracted. I can today see that I made the right observation already back then.
I think it is essential for a tantra school to have knowledge about sex and love addiction. Especially when you market your entry level as Sexual deconditioning. It is not hard for anyone to understand that a place with a lot of free supply of sex and high intensity attracts a lot of people with intimacy problems as well as people suffering from sex and love addictions.
In TNT the only way Alex addressed sex addiction was the cumming, the addiction to the ejaculation and the clitoris orgasm. As long as we did not cum we were “safe” from sex addiction, he said. When I look back, with the knowledge I have today, having that low level of knowledge is scary for an “advanced sex teacher” to have. Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder and has little to do with the cumming itself. It is also not about how much sex you have or what kind of sex you have, it is much more complex than that. There is a lot of research explaining this more thoroughly. If you want to know more, check out Dr. Patrick J. Carnes, the founder of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals.
When you have 1000s of students, several with addictions, getting that teaching, it just puts them deeper into addictive behavior, avoidance of intimacy and denial.
The denial in an addictive person is very strong, a person with addictions will fight the truth about their problems with everything they have. Denial also blocks out things from the brain so the addict often is the last one to see their own problems. It is a way to protect yourself because the truth is so painful. No one wants to have problems with addiction. And no one wants to se all the harm their addicted personality caused other people.
People with addictions seek other people with addictions to be able to justify their behavior and make it appear “normal”. That is why being in a community with like-minded people becomes so powerful. Inside the community, no one will question you and you have all the “drug supply” you want.
In a community like this, it is hard to get clear feedback. The people who give you feedback are often themselves in denial and want to protect their drug supply.
This is ego in its extreme form.
I can see that TNT was a huge playground for all kinds of sex and love addiction types. That does not mean I say everyone had that problem. But when a tantric school becomes a playground for addiction, spiritual growth cannot happen. It is just spiritual bypassing going on.
Like Craig Nakken writes in his book “The addictive personality”, people often have more than one addiction. And when they stop acting out in one of them they often switch to another without knowing it. This was very common in TNT.
The school was also widely known for its high intensity and that made it such a fun place to be. To go into high intensity is a way of getting dopamine kicks. This way the intensity itself could become a drug.
We often talked about addiction and pinpointed addiction problems in the team. Several were smoking marijuana daily, some had a history with years of cocaine addiction, me with my food addiction, half of the team smoking nicotine and so on. But no one talked about how this addictive culture affected the teachings. Everyone was blind for it. The scary thing is, that the only one claiming that he didn’t have any addiction, was Alex himself. Making him the most dangerous person of all. Totally blind of denial.
On our level 5 workshop (ego workshop), addiction was addressed but the solution we got was to keep away from whatever addiction we had for 30 days. Like that would solve the problem. It does not work like that with an addiction, it is a deeper issue than that. There are in most cases a deep underlying trauma causing the problem. Most people understand that if an alcoholic stays away from alcohol for 30 days he is not cured of his alcoholism.
No one in the team including Alex has fully dealt with their own addictions and therefore we did not have a clue about the depth of an addictive persons ego. So instead of giving the students the help, they needed for their addiction, we were increasing the addictive behavior by putting them into more denial.
The other form of dysfunction that often was seen in TNT was co-dependency. Co-dependent people are drawn to people with addiction like flies are drawn to shit. It is a perfect match.
As a co-dependent, you easily give yourself up for someone else’s will. You have problems to feel your own needs and you put other peoples needs before your own. To be able to step into the TNT team, this is actually required of you.
I have been extremely co-dependent, so I know this one by heart. It becomes such a huge part of who you are, you can’t see it before you hit some kind of bottom and start to wake up. Just like with every addiction. In my opinion, every person in the team was either addictive, co-dependent or both.
In the team you quickly learned that all your focus should be put on Alex. When he called, you just dropped everything. He was the “king” and we were his servants. And you did not dare to question this. If you did, you were out of there in a second.
When you are co-dependent, you want to belong, you want to belong so desperately that you give up your values, your truth and your dignity.
No one dared to speak up against Alex. If you tried, you were overruled and convinced that you were the one who was in your ego. And that Alex was the sane one. Alex often used a whole group to put you back into place. Like he did with me in Barcelona. Something he called the wisdom of the circle. But the wisdom of the circle doesn’t work when everyone is co-dependent. I questioned this many times when I saw the danger of it, but no one wanted to talk about it. I was, as usual, the one who was wrong.
Speak the unspeakable, Alex always said, but when we did, he did everything to keep us silent.
TNT was a very sexist environment
TNT regularly held special workshops for men. In these workshops, men were taught how to deal with intimate relationships. The teaching was mostly drawn from Alex personal experience of relationships together with David Deidas teachings. Alex explained over 20 ways of how women do drama and how men could disarm them. Alex put up a show to explain to the men how he would get women out of drama and then everyone got to practice the same techniques.
Being around Alex for several years I have seen that none of his relationships ever worked out. They were all full of constant drama or fights. Alex himself could not stop these dramas in his own relationships. Something he forgot to tell the men. In fact, I have never seen anyone, including the men in the team, succeed with this practice long term. Simply because it does not work. When the men later brought these teachings home it seldom worked and the blame was constantly put on us women. This does not work for me, it has to be my women that is a drama queen… She is too emotional, to problematic, to contracted.
This kind of power abuse was harmful to us. Whenever we stood up for ourselves, Alex and the men, said we were in our masculine shield doing drama.
When we women spoke up, it was almost always addressed as drama, and we needed to be “fucked out of it”
If you know anything of the dysfunctional drama dance, you know that drama is a played out between two or more people and it occurs in co-dependent relationships. When I wanted to teach this in my women's workshops, I was not allowed by Alex. -It is just for men, he said.
In TNT it was a lot about appearance, at least when it came to us women. Alex often told his girlfriend at the time to not show herself around him without makeup, she was not allowed to be around him without looking hot and “fuckable”. We women should be beautiful, radiant, horny and available. We should surrender to the men. When I, several times, pointed out that this felt wrong, the men in the team said that I was just jealous of the beautiful girls and that it was just me playing out a drama.
When I write this it feels totally crazy that I stayed so long, but it all slowly gets so normalized you get blind to it and you even start to protect the system and the teachings.
Abuse and control
I witnessed several different forms of abuse during my time in TNT. Verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, spiritual abuse and emotional abuse. I did not see it as clearly then as I do now and the things I saw I often did not have the courage to bring up. I tried sometimes but it always ended in gaslightning.
The abuse Alex put us through was strongest in his closest circle. There the sexual, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse was very frequent. Alex would convince us team members to change our life plans, interfere with our relationship decisions, how often we should be available for him, how we were to act and what we were to think. This happened on a daily basis while being around Alex. It was seen as completely normal. Of course, the sexual abuse was maybe the most ritualized of all where Alex would convince team members to be sexual with him at every workshop and often punish those who did not want to.
But the abuse also stretched out further than his immediate circle of followers. He would verbally abuse, ridicule and emotionally abuse students in his workshop. Thanks to his system of giving ego feedback to older students he had a carte blanche to publicly slander students in a workshop. Sometimes he politely asked before if the student was willing to receive his feedback, making it appear as if he only had the best intentions for the student, but since this was said to be an ego confronting school and you were awarded for receiving feedback, very few declined his offer. Those who did always faced public repercussions later.
This was a clever way for Alex to stay in control of how people were to behave, act, think and even relate to each other. Students learned to feedback each other in the workshops and continued the behavior in private. In organized meetups called, family gatherings, group practices and sister- and mens groups, where TNT students met to practice what they had learned in the workshops, the culture of giving to each other feedback thrived.
Though feedback was often just repeated teachings a student had picked up in a workshop and often reflected their own projections onto others, it would put older students in a power position over newcomers thus enforcing the hierarchical structure. The feedback system among students became a way to climb the internal ladder in TNT to reach closer to the core and Alex.
Sexual manipulation and abuse
All new assistants, djs or organizers who came into the team all got trapped in Alex bedroom for days. Men and women. To serve Alex sexually was a part of the job. After a while, it became a normal part of the duties in the team. Many hated it. Felt disgusted, but did not dare to say anything. They “served” and suffered.
Alex was more into having sex with men (or women with strapons) so he hand picked several of the male students to have sex with him. He told us who he wanted and someone in the team got them. He often persuaded the men by saying it would give them a tantric imprint, so that they would become great tantric lovers. He said it was an honor to have sex with him, and that his students should be grateful. This he also used when he wanted to have sex with a woman. He did not take no for an answer. If he wanted sex he used several different manipulation techniques and power plays to get his will, which he often did.
Families and relationships were hard to maintain in TNT
TNT was known as the school where relationships often crashed. Students threw themselves into open relationship practices, often just after one workshop. The ego went crazy and students got lost in the belief that open relationships and polyamory was more spiritual than monogamy. That this was the way to have relationships if you wanted to live a spiritual life.
I have during all my years never met anyone who was able to maintain this practice long-term without going into either co-dependency or addiction. In TNT it was often the women who got enough, who did not see any benefit from the practice. They often saw their partner getting lost in the need to get approval from other women. But no surprise, that when we women addressed it, we were accused of being the ones doing drama, being in our ego and were told to conduct our jealousy. The partner fighting to keep the relationship open often had the whole school as a backup, telling the other partner that they were off.
I got to hear the same when me and my husband together decided we wanted to practice monogamy. We could after some years see that it did not support our spiritual growth anymore to have an open relationship. That it just increased both our egos. This was one of the reasons Alex fired me in Barcelona. TNT could not have a teacher who was practicing monogamy, it would negatively affect the women in the community…
During my time in TNT I saw Alex pass through at least 4 relationships. All his girlfriends were TNT students. The relationships were either open or polyamorous. And guess what, none of them worked. They were all full of drama or fights and several of these women got sick, just as the women in the team. By the end of each relationship, Alex declared the woman crazy or in her ego and accused her of doing drama and that it was her fault that the relationship did not work.
I find it strange for someone to so vehemently recommend something to others that obviously does not work for them self.
I still meet so many old TNT students who struggle with their lives and their relationships. They blame themselves for not doing their spiritual practice well enough. Many of them don’t understand why they can’t get an intimate relationship to work. They don’t understand why they feel drained or have pain in their bodies. Or why they are caught up in distractions or addictions and can’t find their way out. They blame themselves. People that of course are totally unaware that the TNT teachings on open relationships and polyamory are filtered through the ego of addiction and co-dependency and the fact that Alex himself is unable to maintain a healthy relationship. They try to apply the TNT teachings but long term it doesn’t work. And then they think that they are off and they just try the same TNT recipe a little harder. I also see old students leave TNT for a new “Guru” hoping this one will save them. All this creates suffering, not spiritual growth.
Everyone is gathered, my whole family sits around the table in my brother's big house. My sister and my two brothers with their families are there. All the children were playing in the next room. My father that I have almost no contact with is also there. I love when we are all together. This was my wish for my 40th birthday and we had a fantastic day.
I got up to hold my speech. I looked at my family. And told them one by one how special and important they are in my life. I looked at my mother, she looked happy. Then I end the speech with the announcement that I got an offer from a resumed spiritual leader to work for him in his tantric school. I told them about TNT and that I felt flattered by the offer and that I would accept it. I looked at my mother again, the smile on her face was gone. Bea, be careful, be careful that it is not a cult. I do not like the energy of this, she said. I laugh, mom don’t be silly, it is not, I replied. It is not a cult it is a school and I am free to leave whenever I want. I am not stupid mom… Little did I know then…
I was so sure that TNT was not a cult. First of all, what I had heard about cults was that people attempted suicide together or gave all their money away. This was an open school and you could come and go as you like. Far away from what I had read in the media.
I had also googled TNT and cults several times in the belief that if this was a cult someone would have written a warning about it. But no, nothing. (This is one more reason why I now share my story) Honestly, I don’t think anyone of us in TNT knew what the criteria for a cult were. And we never looked it up. I just trusted Alex when he said it was not. :)
Alex even had a “cult police” appointed in TNT. He gave the title to a male student who was a professor at the University of Copenhagen. A smart guy that people trusted. -He will check us, Alex said. That created a false sense of safety. When I look back at it now it seems kind of absurd to appoint someone from within the cult to convince the cult members that they are not in a cult.
The appointed cult police even held and recorded a lecture where he tried to prove TNT was not a cult by using Robert Kegan's theory of adult development. Instead, he tried to show that the students were to blame for the accusations of TNT being a cult. Being the ones creating a cult structure around Alex. The recording was posted on youtube and spread within TNT.
What he did not do was compare TNT with Roy Wallis seven signs of a movement being a cult. In my opinion, TNT qualifies on most of them. He did not either explain how the dynamics of co-dependency are played out in an immature dysfunctional organization, creating a cult structure. To think that the leader himself has no responsibility for creating the structure is absurd and sounds like complete denial.
By the way, the cult police are now the head teacher in the TNT cult.
I recommend you to read a book about cults if you are interested to learn more about cult dynamics. Or watch the movie Holy Hell. That will enlight you on the subject.
And by the way, you do not need to be stupid to enter a cult. Everyone can become a victim of a narcissistic person. A cult structure is such a strong dynamic and almost impossible to see when you are in it. The reason for this is what is called the denial and normalization process. I will give you an example.
When I first joined the team I was in shock over what I saw. I had never seen anything like this before. So many crazy things and abuse happened behind the scenes. I actually went into freeze mode (a trauma reaction) several times my first weeks with the team. The “lower assistants” then worked as a bridge to get me into the system. Unconsciously starting the normalization process. Showing me how to behave in an environment like this by saying things like;
- This is how it is to be around a Spiritual leader.
- You better do this or that, or he will become angry.
- You should be happy you are one of the chosen ones.
- This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
- You just don’t get it, dumb fuck.
Actually, no one gets this in the beginning… It does not make sense, in any way. Not before you have spent some time in the system and the gaslighting- and the normalization process has started to blind you.
After a while, you get so used to the system that you start to protect it. A new team member comes in and you are now the one getting them into the normalization process. They, like you, start to do things that go against their core values. Over time their adaptation and co-dependency get stronger, and sooner than they know, they are in it as well. Blinded by the longing to be wanted, special, necessary, important and significant.
This system is used by everyone involved. It is played out in the co-dependent “one up” or “one down” / better than or less than thinking. Cult dynamics are “Hard-Core” Co-dependency (read this article for more info). Everyone familiar with Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle of co-dependency will recognize the top-to-bottom hierarchy of relatively more powerful dominators and less powerful submittors; each dominator being submissive to the dominators on the level above. The “guru” stands at the top of a dysfunctional pyramid of increasing dominance from bottom to top and increasing submission from top to bottom. A dysfunctional leader always creates a dysfunctional group.
Or as Alex himself said it many times, you are just marionettes in my show. But we, in the team at that time, just laughed. This is very embarrassing but we could sit together and joke about people who criticized TNT for being a cult. We were so arrogant and naive that we even said; They do not have a clue of what a cult is…as if we knew, we were laughing our arrogant asses off from the very core of an extremely strong cult dynamic. Got to laugh at that now!
Remember, it is almost impossible to see that you are in a cult dynamic when you are a part of it. It can just been seen from the outside. To think anything else just makes you very naive.
Been there, done that! Even got the t-shirt.
A closed energy system
Dysfunctional relationships, like the one created in TNT with an excessive neediness and demands on others for emotional or sexual salvation, can be can be compared to a closed energy system. A “closed system” is one in which there is no energy exchanged with the environment outside the system. You get “everything” inside the system. This is especially relevant for schools that build big communities. In a community like TNT, all individuals (who are really non-individuals) relies on TNT to be the source of happiness, belonging, friendship, personal identity, life-purpose and meaning. You may even have all your money coming from the system as I had for example. The people in the system often become dependent on the community for their sense of openness and happiness.
When someone from the inside or the outside threatens this energy system it is like threatening the source of life, the “savior” itself. When a “threat” comes everyone gets even closer together and start to defend the system. You attack what is attacking you.
The teachings vs the teacher
This dynamic affects everyone involved. The closer you get to the core of the relationship (the team) the more affected you become. But, even if you are “just a student” you get affected, because everything, also the teachings is filtered through this dysfunctional system and an addictive personality. You cannot just go in and take the good parts, like many think.
Alex often said, focus on the teachings, not the teacher. Yes, there were some incredible teachings. BUT it is always colored by the giver of the teachings, the Teacher. Especially if the teacher does not embody some of the teachings himself. Anything else is impossible. Especially when they are given person to person like in workshops or living close the teacher.
What happened a lot was that people liked the cool sex, but not Alex way of teaching. They then left TNT. Took the teachings (maybe even went off teaching themselves) with no insight at all of the underlying addictive disease that was implanted in them. They are blind to that they now are spreading a dysfunctional, often a very harmful underlying system.
How come I loved it in the beginning?
When a person with an addictive personality like me steps into a highly addictive, co-dependent environment. It’s the time of their life. Sex drugs and Rock’n’roll! Party, party, party.
An environment providing this is likely to attract every “cool kid” in the neighborhood. Including me :). It is just how it works. If you are not aware of your addicted personality you will confuse intensity with intimacy. And a system like this then just reinforces the ego, not the opposite as TNT claims.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sex, I love hanging with my friends, I love a good party. It is just the manipulation and the addictive ego behaviors I don’t like. I want freedom for real and I for sure did not find it 4 inches up my teacher's ass.
My opinion on Alex
Do I think Alex is a Psychopath? I am not a psychiatrist so it is hard for me to know, but I do not think so.
I see him as a big narcissist and a hugely addicted person. When you have a narcissistic addictive ego you can often behave as a socio- or psychopath. But I would not put a psychopath label on him. I truly believe in some of the deep moments of friendship we had. I can see that he is extremely damaged from his childhood and I feel big empathy with that.
Imo, he is heavily lost in his additions, and he behaves just like many other junkies do. Building a world around you where you don’t have to deal with that which causes the most pain. Alex built a whole school.
An addict will, when people address this in him, end contact with that person and blame them for whatever they can. They will also tell everyone that you are lost.
An addict will continue to create suffering in people that love them, for as long as they are in denial. The people who love them the most and have the strength and courage to stop sucking up to their additive ego are the ones they push away the hardest. Friends, partners, family and children. This is also true for Alex. Read any book on addiction, it’s in there. This is how the ego works. Alex has partly taught me this, but he forgot his own teaching, that the ego can’t see itself… He thought he was beyond all that…
One day, when we still were “best friends,” I asked Alex to be vulnerable and share his ego patterns with me so we deeper could support each other's growth. Alex honestly told me he just had one ego character left and that was his grumpiness. Imo, that is not the self-awareness I want in my ego teacher. We are all fucked up in more than just one area, and if you meet someone telling you they are not RUN.
The diamonds I carry with me.
In many ways, I am grateful for what I have learned from this time of my life. It absolutely worked as a catalyst for me to hit my bottom in my addictions and co-dependency. It has been a challenging journey, the toughest one so far in my life. But to deal with my co-dependency and my addictions for real has given me more than I ever could wish for.
Maybe it sounds strange to you that I can be grateful for my years in TNT. But it has been such a gift for me to be a part of such dark manipulation and control. I have witnessed it with my own eyes, I have felt it in my own body. And I found a way out. I have healed traumas, addictions and co-dependency. I have also deeply worked with my relationship issues. This profound experience now helps me in the work I do with men, women and couples. I am now dedicating my life to inspire and train people how to have healthy relationships, free from manipulation, co-dependency and addictions. And that itself is a huge gift for me.
My last advice to you is, if you ever feel attracted to any kind of “spiritual leader or teacher” please check behind the closed doors. Check what kind of intimate relationship this person is having. Check if they are truthful about their relationship history. Check with your old friends what vibes they get from this person. Do not only check with people who are already following or are interested in following the teacher. Take time and be very thorough when choosing. This is a choice that can affect your life, your children’s lives and your future.
Thank you for taking part in my story. It has not been easy to write. It has been a lot to process. Everything I have written is 100% true for me and is based on my own experience. I respect that there can be other stories and that everyone carries their own truth.
To all I may have hurt on my way, I am sorry. This is a part of making my amends to all of you, to share, so I can help you to clear out any confusion you may have in your body, mind and soul. If you need to talk, just send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make my myself available for you.
Now you can go two ways — >
1. You can go back and find all the faults in the text, calling your friends and have a nice co-dependent conversation about how crazy I am sharing this… (If you choose this one, then I also suggest you go back and read the section “A closed energy system” again)
2. You can also choose to look at this with and open mind, vulnerability and curiosity, share your own story and see were we all can learn and grow.
I choose growth, vulnerability and curiosity, and as a part of that I have just shared my story about why I left my position as the feminine head teacher in one of the worlds biggest tantra schools, The New Tantra.
If you want to have a true vulnerable heart to heart conversation about how this affects you or what you have been trough in TNT. Let me know. You will reach me by sending me an email at email@example.com. I will not be available for questions on social media and I will not be avalible for emails containing gaslightning.
Take care and remember, there is no quick fix for spiritual growth.
PS. This is the link to the letter I sent to Alex, February 18 ,2016