Common Ground July 1995 Vol.X No 1. Part 1 of 2
article printed in the now defunct Common Ground newspaper , July 1995,
Joe Sumrall was a tall, handsome, congenial man who moved to Yelm in the mid-80s to be near the outrageousness of Ramtha. He left behind the California rat race and a lucrative career as a graphic designer. Free of the strictures of social consciousness, he was able to pursue a playful passion for cartooning in Yelm. He published a popular book of cartoons in 1988 and syndicated his work through numerous New Age publications, including Common Ground (1989-90). His cartoons were known for their superb draftsmanship and playful satire of New Age eccentricities.
In January 1992, Sumrall attended an event at the Ranch. During a lunch break he drove home to eat. He was later found dead at his house, having been beaten and strangled to death by an unknown assailant.
Disgruntled former students suspected foul play by elements at the Ranch, some even accusing J.Z. of settling a score against Sumrall for satirizing her in some of his cartoons. But according to those close to the investigation, police do not think the killers were in any way related to the Ranch or anyone in the Ramtha community. Police believe there were two perpetrators who probably knew that Sumrall had, like many in the Ramtha community, buried gold on his property, and that the killers severely beat an uncooperative Sumrall into revealing the location of his buried loot, after which he was eliminated as a possible witness. J.Z. was so upset about the murder, she proclaimed a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.
It is ironic, however, that J.Z.'s gesture, though well intended, trails a tragedy in part catalyzed by Ramtha's advice to avoid banks and bury valuables, such as gold, on one's property. Not only did many followers relinquish financial solvency when they followed this reckless advice, but for his parley at sovereignty, Sumrall lost his life.
The Sumrall tragedy presaged a year that quickly became one of the worst in J.Z.'s life. For 1992 was the year of the divorce trial and the subsequent public exposure of the inner workings of RSE, the Ramtha community, and J.Z.'s personal life. Through Jeff's affidavits and testimony, the testimony of former students, as well as J.Z.'s testy behavior in the witness box, the press made much of the bizarre context of the trial: a gay man suing to reopen the divorce settlement with his former wife who happens to channel a 35,000 year old disembodied warrior. Spirituality, greed, New Age weirdness; The angles were plentiful and delicious. And the press feasted on every juicy morsel.
A consequence of all this negative attention and ridicule, J.Z. and RSE lay low for the next two and a half years, choosing to regain control of the foundering community. She spent the time working to refine the teachings and to teachings, that RSE & J.Z. were thrust back, into the limelight. Though little connection seems to exist between May's controversial training methods and the curriculum at RSE, the assumed connection was leaped upon with salacious ardor by a scandal pandering press. And though J.Z. and current students would prefer that people, such as the writer of this article, leave the past behind and focus on the school and what it is today, the group's tumultuous history and its teeming contradictions render a close examination of the culture, of the people, the teachings, and its illustrious leader, necessary. For as Shakespeare said, "What is past is prologue." And the Ramtha community's prologue is a foundry of inconsistencies and ironic plot twists that begs evaluating.
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Lighten Up!: A Book of Enlightened Humor: Joe Sumrall: 9780939680726: Amazon.com: Books
http://www.amazon.com/Lighten-Up-Book-E ... 0939680726
New Age cartoonist Joe Sumrall was found dead in his Rainier, Wash. home on Apr. 3.
At, first it appeared he died of natural causes, but. a coroner's investigation revealed he had been Strangled. The case has not been solved.
Sumrall had been the owner of a Newport Beach, Calif. advertising agency. in 1987
he dropped out and moved to Rainier in order to be near the ranch of New Age
channeler J. Zebra Knight, who lives near Yelm, Wash. Knight claims to be the
channeler for a 35,000 year old warrior called "Ramtha" and has become a multi-
millionaire through paid consultations with those willing to pay.
Ramtha had lived in Atlantis, Knight says.
Sumrall had authored a book of cartoons in
A BOOK OF ENLIGHTENED HUMOR, published by Rear & Co. of SantaFe,N.M.
He was 45 or 46 years old.