Spiritual Bypassing Guru Robert Augustus Masters Was an Abusive Cult Leader
Author and spiritual teacher Robert Augustus Masters, also known as RAMOS ran two abusive cults for a period of 17 years. He is accused of systemic physical and emotional abuse. Former members claim he has never confronted his own shadow nor has shown empathy or compassion for his victims or remorse for his actions— something that contradicts his so called expertise on “the shadow.” Masters’ history raises important questions about what accountability means for spiritual teachers who have abused in their past.
Written by Be Scofield, M.Div / Represented by United Talent Agency
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On October 1st, 2018 Sounds True published a new book by “spiritual bypassing” guru Robert Augustus Masters. It’s called “Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark” and features a forward by author Lissa Rankin. Known by many for his popular book “Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us,” Masters is often cited as an expert on the ways people use spirituality to avoid their own shadow and taking responsibility for their actions.
Masters is a self-admitted former abusive cult leader. Between 1977 and 1994 he ran two cults in Canada, one of which was called Xanthyros. He wrote a short blog post around 2014 about his past called “A Needed Shattering” in which he admits that he got “off track” and was an arrogant, “spiritual asshole” who ran a cult and harmed people. After a 9-month psychotic break from a drug induced experience, he claims that all of his former abusive ways “no longer fit” him. Mentally unstable and in need of constant care, his members fled him in 1994. He now claims his former experience as a cult leader makes him particularly well suited to teach about spiritual bypassing, cults, abuse and aggression.
The accusations against Masters include claims of many years of physical and emotional abuse, manipulation, mind control, intimidation, financial manipulation, relationship tampering and more. Former members claim he also broke up numerous couples and demanded some members give their kids up for adoption. A former insider describes him as “an abusive, cruel, egocentric, power hungry paranoid child” who “coerced us into abusing our families outside the community as well as those inside — spouses, children, and friends.” The actions by Masters caused extensive trauma and harm to former members, including babies and children they claim. Former members state that he has settled three lawsuits out of court in regards to his past abuse.
In 1995, just one year after the mental breakdown and cult break up, he began practicing therapy again without having sought treatment for his abusive past former members claim. In 1999 he received a PhD in psychology from the online school Saybrook.
Accusations of Abuse
“In public RAM is hiding his past as a cult leader.”
The specifics of the allegations come from former members who have posted about their experiences with Masters online. They are collected on a Spiritual Wiki page. They claim Robert Augustus Masters (RAM):
- “Threw his wife Gail down the stairs.”
- “Forcibly and repeatedly banged his front man Philip’s head on the floor while sitting over him.”
- “Banged the head of an intimate against the wall which resulted in prolonged headaches.”
- “In the middle of a group, he farted in Kobally’s face.”
- “Forced a child at age 10 to wear a diaper for three weeks in front of his peers, and the adults.”
- “Spit in more than a dozen people’s faces, both men and women.”
- “Groomed a teenager, preparing her to be sexually initiated by him.”
- “Separated, physically and emotionally, each of the 20–30 (married) couples that joined the Xanthyros community as well as children from their parents.”
- “Constantly encouraged psychological mobbing and physical bullying.”
- “Put each infant in the middle of a Xanthyros group circle and was only satisfied if the baby crawled towards him.”
- “Expected sooner than later that each joining member would give over their life savings to him. Many did, given the very forceful group pressure.”
- “Set up his inner circle to commit crimes on his behalf.”
- “Encouraged members of Xanthyros to cheat by filing for welfare, which resulted in a simultaneous raid on three of the community houses by the Welfare Agency of the province.”
- “The three mothers of RAM’s five children claim that he abandoned his financial obligations toward his children.”
- “Four out of his five now adult biological children are estranged from RAM. His four step children hate him.”
A former member:
“RAM succeeded in disempowering all the members of Xanthyros, by applying the standard mind control tricks as in intimidation, seduction, pushing boundaries, zero tolerance for criticism by way of threat of aggression, isolation from family and friends, creating growing financial and emotional dependency, resulting in genuine confusion as to what was right and what wasn’t — after years of these tactics. As a way to manipulate the group dynamic in his direction, RAM constantly encouraged psychological mobbing and physical bullying.”
Comment from Goodreads book review:
“Please be informed that Robert Masters was once the leader of a Cult named Xanthyros where he used brain washing techniques and damaged the lives of many of its members. This cult ended in 1994 when Robert had a drug induced near death experience that left him in need of constant care, at which point the members disbanded. Please, do not trust this man with your emotional and psychological well-being. Truly, he should not be able to practice any form of psychology with the atrocities he committed in his past.”
From Amazon in 2016 about his current methods:
“Having been to group work with Robert recently, I have witnessed first hand his cultish group think and indoctrination and left 5 days in. I would advise all considering his content to research Robert. He is not what his writing makes him seem.”
Sedona, AZ has been infiltrated by a polyamorous tech bro cult leader with a massive following. His devotees are…medium.com
Evading Personal Responsibility
“Robert abused many, many others, young and old, on his journey to the pinnacle of Guru.”
Former members claim that Robert Augustus Masters (RAM) has never owned up to his behavior, nor shown any true remorse for his actions. Instead, like he has done several times before, he merely rebranded himself and propped himself up again they say. He left Victoria, BC in the 80s because of his increasingly poor reputation amongst his community of Osho Sannyasins, fled Vancouver in the 90s after Xanthyros fell apart and then relocated to Ashland, Oregon to escape once again. This passage details the end of his Xanthyros cult in Vancouver:
“In need of continued full daycare after his 5MEO [drug] hell trip started, RAM had lost control. One of his students accepted the task to nurse him. Teenagers who he had abused for years stood up to his face. To his close inner circle, desperate RAM expressed he was thinking of obtaining a gun. The prospect of a mentally deranged man shooting (himself or others) was the ‘last straw’ for devoted intimates to jump off the ship without captain. First gradually, then increasingly 30–40 disheveled cult members moved out of the Vancouver housing complex to embark on the long road of their recovery. The remainder of 30–40 Xanthyros cult members left the peripheral houses located in BC and USA to which RAM had demoted them for having spoken up to him. No one had asked RAM for permission to leave and no one waited for him to declare the nightmare was over.”
As early as 2006 he rebranded himself once again with the help of Ken Wilber and the Integral scene as a relationship and shadow expert. Integral Life currently sells a course about the shadow with Masters and Wilber. Former cult leader Andrew Cohen and discredited predatorial teacher Marc Gafni were also in the Integral scene at a similar time. Since then, Masters has appeared on numerous spiritual and self help programs and currently offers intimate, in-person trainings.
Former insider Phillip Clement explains the lack of remorse, “His sense of regret for separating families, putting children into isolation, humiliating people and provoking mobbing, spitting in people’s faces, banging heads against walls, is essentially nil.” He also says that Masters has “unfinished business” in regards to taking responsibility for his actions which “he has chosen over and over NOT to do.” Former “right-hand woman” and assistant Kobally:
“Robert has done none of this reparation or healing. Do not be fooled. He only talks the talk, and very well, but he does not nor has he ever walked the walk. He has no capacity for love or empathy.”
“There is virtually no one from that period who feels Robert has made good on his past transgressions with them” states Clement. He continues:
“He has yet to directly apologize:
— to the three mothers of his children for his abusive treatment, (none of whom want ANYTHING to do with him to this day);
— to community members who were coerced to give their children up for adoption;
— to the dozens of children (now adults) who were separated from their parents, and experienced terror, confusion and daily emotional abuse for years under his “leadership”;
— to the dozens of genuine seekers who joined his community, and left years later with horrendous long lasting wounds from his ego maniacal self centered pathological abuses.”
He continues by saying that Masters uses “spiritual gobbledygook” to “avoid, deny, and reject any opportunity to authentically do right by those he abused.” He apparently told former abuse victims — two children who were abused and were then older — who confronted him, “Stop complaining and turn the past shit into compost.” He has allegedly blocked, deleted and suppressed comments and commenters online as well who try to speak about his past. He deleted his Facebook page as a result of the negative comments. And he apparently had Rick Archer take down his video interview on Buddha at the Gas Pump because of the negative comment thread which was later reinstated without comments.
“If you want the treasure you have to face the dragon.” — Robert Augustus Masters
“Instead of trying to get beyond our personal history, we need to learn to relate to it with as much clarity and compassion as possible, so that it serves rather than obstructs our healing and awakening.” — Robert Augustus Masters
Masters’ short blog post about his cult past can be seen as a form of “strategic transparency.” He shared just enough about his past to make it appear he has changed while simultaneously avoiding real accountability. In the least, accountability would include describing the specifics of the abuses, naming the harm caused, reaching out to those he abused, expressing genuine remorse and detailing the steps he has taken to get therapy or treatment for himself. Aside from reaching out to a few former members in a very limited way, Masters has not taken any of these steps they claim. Apparently only about 20% of victims have been reached out to by Masters. And you’d think his past would play a central role in his current teaching if he had truly done the work to overcome and integrate it. Instead, former members describe a pattern of evasion, suppression and denial when they confront him about his past abuses. It seems clear that he is refusing to confront his own shadow.
One reason for his selective sharing is because Masters may be unable to show genuine remorse, compassion and empathy for his victims. Former members believe this to be the case. They think he simply cannot accept personal responsibility for his actions because of a deeper pathology and instead will manipulate, deflect and deny as much as possible. He weaves a convincing tale.
This comment on one of his Amazon books highlights the concern of him manipulating current followers with his new image:
“Robert Masters is VERY clever with words and can fool most people into not noticing that what he is really saying in all his books is how evolved and all knowing and more spiritual he is than everybody else. It’s about creating an image of Him in YOU: he is not writing about you. He has changed cities three times and countries once in order to not take responsibility for the people he abused, and the lives he ruined. Read up on psychopaths, read up on Robert’s dark past and refusal to take responsibility for his past criminal behavior. He is particularly attractive to “teachers” who themselves long to conquer their hidden insecurities and feign wisdom and superiority the way he does.”
The founder of the Thailand based yoga and tantra school Agama, Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, has been accused by…medium.com
Masters should be our utmost model for “bringing the shadow out of the dark” in his own life.
Running a cult for 17 years while physically and emotionally abusing people extends far beyond the realm of making “mistakes” or “being human.” This is profoundly pathological, narcissistic and abusive behavior. It’s not a difficult or demanding boss. It’s not a moody friend. It’s extremely serious, long-term, systemic physical and psychological abuse and manipulation. Approximately 30 couples were broken up. Children were separated from their parents and deeply traumatized. Over 100 people were impacted.
It’s remarkable that Masters can abuse and traumatize people for almost 20 years, skip town, write a short blog post, and then rebrand himself as an expert on the shadow without having demonstrated any real accountability. And on top of that he got a book contract with a major publisher like Sounds True. He also has appeared on founder Tami Simon’s podcast several times. What sort of standards do they have? Giving him a platform and increasing his credibility — whether it’s Sounds True or Buddha at the Gas Pump — is problematic given his seeming inability to atone for his past abuse. Sounds True dropped Marc Gafni and Bentinho Massaro from their brand in the past so they seem to be somewhat aware of these kinds of issues.
What would it require for a former abusive cult leader like Masters to be accepted as a legitimate teacher again? There should be thorough evidence that he had sought serious treatment, accepted full responsibility, was not in denial, has integrated his shadow and was no longer a danger to potential students. Aside from the 4-paragraph blog post with generalizations about his past I’ve seen no evidence of this. There is no public display of genuine remorse and no in depth explanation of his behaviors and actions. It falls short of what you’d expect from a supposed expert in the shadow. And it is a far cry given the extraordinary nature of the abuse that occurred. A former member points out that Masters is still a potential threat to spiritual seekers:
“RAM — still dangerous — is a predatory man of the mind whose psychopathy is alive and unhealed. Lacking empathy, remorse, or compassion, this ‘relationship expert’ is unable to relate with people outside of promoting himself, and of being a therapist, an expert, a master.”
Unfortunately, there are many brilliant exponents of spiritual, self-help and transformative teachings who are woefully unable to apply their teachings to themselves. Masters is wrapping himself in the protective cloak of intellectual expertise to compensate for the very thing he is unable to actually achieve: true shadow integration.
I’ll end with a quote from Masters, which is particularly fitting for his own situation:
“Real shadow work does not leave us intact; it is not some neat and tidy process but rather an inherently messy one, as vital and unpredictably alive as birth. The ass it kicks is the one upon which you are sitting; the pain it brings up is the pain we’ve been fleeing most of our life; the psychoemotional breakdowns it catalyzes are the precursors to hugely relevant breakthroughs; the doors it opens are doors that have shown up year after year in our dreams, awaiting our entry. Real shadow work not only breaks us down but also breaks us open, turning frozen yesterday into fluid now.”
My request for an interview with Robert Augustus Masters had not been granted at the time of this publication.
Related articles by Be Scofield:
- Tech Bro Guru: Inside the Sedona Cult of Bentinho Massaro
- Women Accuse Agama Yoga Founder Swami Vivekananda Saraswati of Abuse
- The Gucci Guru: Inside Teal Swan’s Posh Cult
- The New Predator: Spiritual Teacher Padma Aon Prakasha Accused of Abuse
- OZ Actor Gano Grills Claims to be God, Starts Cult Called Galighticus
- How a Cult Infiltrated the California Institute of Integral Studies
- The Yoga Barn Guru: Inside Uma Inder’s Bali Cult
- Ashevillage: Where Dreams Go to Die
- Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen and the Culture of Evolutionary Enlightenment
About Be Scofield
Be Scofield is a queer/trans writer & digital strategist who has worked with and advised NYT bestselling authors, The Yoga Alliance, Chani Nicholas and Greenmedinfo among others. She is the founder of the online yoga school Mettaversity and the popular online magazine Decolonizing Yoga. Her writings on cults, social change, spirituality and LGBTQ issues have reached hundreds of thousands of people and have appeared in Huffington Post, Tikkun Magazine, Alternet and Integral World amongst other places. She also has a chapter in the book “21st Century Yoga: Culture, Practice & Politics.” Be specializes in the radical teachings of Dr. King and has taught a graduate course called “Dr. King and Empire: How MLK Jr. Resisted War, Capitalism and Christian Fundamentalism” at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.