Tacoma Tribune 1992
From "Ramtha's New Age Shrouded in Doom," by Leslie Brown,
The Morning News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington, 5/24/92, A1, 20.
Students who once found meaning in the teachings of an ancient warrior channeled by Yelm (WA) spiritualist J. Z. Knight say her message has shifted in recent years and is now rooted in fear, secrecy, and calls for obedience. Seventeen former students say that Knight’s School of Enlightenment is steeped in mind control and a terrifying vision of the future. They say the school has become secretive and divisive, with people competing for her attention rather than seeking a higher state of consciousness. They say Ramtha has told them their tongues would rot if they spoke to outsiders about the teachings. Many also speak of the broken bones and other physical damage caused by Knight’s ‘field exercises, in which blindfolded students run at each other or wander for hours through a maze of ladders, tunnels, and halls.
J. Z. Knight declined to be interviewed for this report, but her employees deny the existence of problems at the school, which they say continues to have an enrollment of about 3,000 and is not being diminished by an increasing number of disillusioned dropouts, as critics claim. Management says that some people are indeed dropping out because they can’t handle Knight’s new curriculum, which uses field exercises to try to bring meaning to Ramtha’s words. ‘People don’t want to go to the next level, said Greg Simmons, a student and employee. ‘They still want to sit back and be told how it is. The school has become more difficult but also more understanding.
Knight, 46, gained a worldwide following after she became a medium for Ramtha, whom she describes as a 35,000-year-old warrior from the lost continent of Atlantis. Audiences paid as much as $1,000 a head to hear Knight channel Ramtha. In 1988, she founded her school and stopped traveling, but little was known about her teachings until her ex-husband filed an affidavit, attempting to overturn the couple’s divorce settlement, detailing the field exercises, dancing rituals, and other events at the ranch that he contends have created a cult-like atmosphere. Current students, however, say they have been unfairly targeted by the press and the local community because their form of alternative spirituality is sorely misunderstood. A woman who works for Knight said that the association had made her a better person, happy with who she is.
But 17 former students interviewed say the need to obey has replaced the former search for expansive spiritual growth. Recently, says ex-husband Jeffrey Knight, an elite and secretive group of 15 top students was told to strip naked and lie blindfolded before Knight in what she called a purification process. He worries that the top students are developing a blind allegiance to her and will do anything she asks. He says she recently told students, ‘If you think my reach is limited by this body, you’re making a fatal mistake.
Fear now reportedly permeates the teachings, as Knight’s typical talk of impending natural and economic disasters gets more intense. Now she talks of space aliens conspiring with the government and feeding on human beings. She calls on people to build secret underground shelters stocked with two years’ worth of food so they can protect themselves when the aliens invade. Only Ramtha can teach people how to survive. This fear-based teaching, according to former student Linda Baker, coupled with what she calls basic brainwashing techniques such as food and sleep deprivation, keeps people in the school. Also reported in the curriculum are rapid breathing exercises, pagan [sic] dancing, and other exercises that create hypnotic states.
Ramtha teaches that you have the power to heal your illnesses, to grow back limbs, to overcome death, to increase your vibrational frequency so you can become pure light and within a thought can be anywhere you want to be, Baker said. ‘If you open your brain, you can overcome death. That’s what it means to be an ascended master. Everyone has some amount of fear of dying that was preyed on by Ramtha. It got to where it was basically said that if you didn’t go to these required events, you would die. I would see people at the end of the test [in which they tried to get through the maze] just weep and cry because they didn’t make it. They felt as though they had failed and were going to die. A woman who attended Ramtha teachings for ten years adds, ‘Ramtha used to say, Trust no one, not even me. Trust only yourself and the God that is within you.’ Now she says, Trust me, because you can’t find your way home.’
A former student who was told to leave or give up a local therapy workshop he had started defended the Ramtha school, saying that what some call abusiveness is simply another way for people to find greater inner strength. But others say they left the school emotionally scarred and financially destitute. A mental health professional from Olympia says she became a student in 1988 looking for more spiritual meaning in life; she says she entered the training as an emotionally stable person but left nine months later suicidal, her self-esteem shattered. ‘It was the most devastating experience in my life. It took me three years to heal . . . I was full of self-loathing. Basically, I fell apart. Some former students call J. Z. Knight a fraud. Others say she really was in contact with something greater than herself, into ‘the mind of God or some kind of ‘superconsciousness, but that Ramtha is no longer coming through her.