Rachel Steepleton (nee Geftakys) shows how the similarity between the Assembly and the "Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization" (3HO) turned on the lights for her. Refer to the Glossary for definitions of Assembly terminology.
3HO Dysfunctional Family
The Forgotten Child
Network of Lies
Pit of Rage
Talking About Mom and Dad's Problem
Now that you know my story of Assembly involvement I will show you the path to the change in my perspective and the answer to my question, "Why?"
As you can see from my story, I came from a classically abusive, dysfunctional family with a religious twist. I also believe I came from, at best, an abusive church. Once my husband and I left the Assembly, I began to read accounts from other people who had left other abusive ministries and churches. I began to see a pattern of similarities between the Assembly and the other abusive ministries especially in the dynamics of the groups. There were eerie similarities in behaviors, roles, and procedures for dealing with issues. I remembered as a young adult noticing these similarities but convincing myself that it was because Satan knew that the best lie had a lot of truth in it.
At this same time I was studying abusive, dysfunctional families. I knew my grandparents had been physically abusive to my father when he was a child, and I was interested to gain understanding about the cycles abusive families go through, thereby passing the abuse from one generation to another. I began to see patterns of behaviors and identify roles. Maybe it was because the ministry was started and run by my family, or maybe because in many ways the Assembly had been my family, I started to see how the patterns of an abusive family matched the patterns of an abusive church. I was amazed.
It made sense though. It helped explain why certain people were drawn into these churches. I wanted to be careful that I had thought this idea out carefully before adopting it as an answer to my "Why?" question. I started to look at the identified roles of an abusive family and what I thought was the corresponding roles in the abusive ministries. Again and again they matched.
I wondered if because abusive families came in all religions, races, and social/economic levels then were abusive ministries limited only to Christianity or could there be other belief systems with abusive ministries as well. It was then I began to study other religious, new age, philosophical groups that had been described by former members as abusive. The more I read the accounts of these people, the more I saw the same patterns emerging. It was then I came to a conclusion. All abusive groups are, at the core, the same. The outside coating, the words they use, the doctrine they use words from, may be completely different but the dynamics of the group and the controls used, the ultimate abuses and motivations are all the same.
This was a hard pill for me to swallow. It meant that the group I had grown up in was not about God. It was about control, and feeding addictions. Now before you throw this away and completely dismiss me, hear me out.
Because I believe in a personal relationship with God, I believe that when you accept Christ as your savior and ask him to forgive you of your sins you are saved. I believe this is true even if your salvation happens while you are involved with the Assembly because it is a personal thing between you and God. I believe you can receive Christ as your savior by just reading the gospel, without anyone around. I don’t believe the truth of your salvation has anything to do with the Assembly and everything to do with acceptance of Christ’s payment for your sins on the cross.
I also believe that the average member of an abusive group is sincere. That means I believe the average saint believes in God, is a sincere Christian, loves God and wants to follow him. Many are in the Assembly because something in their background makes them predisposed to the dynamics of an abusive group. They are simply falling into roles from their past only with new names.
That is why I believe if the continue to seek God without compromise ultimately they have to leave. They really do want God and God will not leave them forever, in a place he is not. If they continue to seek God, He will lead them out. One of the reasons some do not leave is they compromise and are intoxicated by the lure of the power and false spiritual superiority an abusive ministry holds. Since they have seen the truth and chose to deny it in order to stay in a comfortable place, they then switch from simple victims of abuse to contributors, if only by silent complicity. This is known as denial.
One of the real turning points for me, an "Aha" moment, was when I read a paper by a former member of the 3HO, the Healthy, Happy, Holy, Organization. This is a movement based in Yoga and the Sikh religion. However, once again, I encountered eerie similarities between it and the Assembly. One paper described the roles in an abusive family.
When reading this please remember some of the terms are different but they describe abuses and dynamics identical to the Assembly. Please do not dismiss this because they have different names for what is happening. The underlying story will be very familiar. I have added in italics some Assembly terms for what is happening, as well as some thoughts.
The first several years that I lived in an ashram [brother’s house or Assembly] I felt right at home. Had I been more self aware this would have worried me considering that "home" for me had been an alcoholic family. Now I can see that my early years in 3HO [the Assembly] were spent re-enacting many of the typical dynamics of my disturbed youth and that I (and most of my other Sikh brothers and sisters) were busy creating a "dysfunctional" spiritual family with all the same ground rules I had lived under for the first 18 years of my life.
It would be hard to imagine me surviving in a family that didn't talk or to imagine an ashram [brother’s house or local Assembly] where conversation isn't one of the prime pastimes. Actually in my family (and in ashrams I have lived) we talked all the time. We just never talk about what was really going on. In my family the taboo subjects were as follows:
1. Don't talk about Mom and Dad's problem. 2. Don't be angry. 3. Don't question the rules, beliefs, and image of the family. 4. Don't deviate from your role.
I plan to deal with these ground rules and how they have affected my 3HO [Assembly] experience in a series of four articles for "Visions". I think I will tackle the last taboo first; that is, what are the roles we play in 3HO [Assembly] and how do we get stuck in them.
There are two different types of role playing dysfunctional families. The first type might be called "personality roles" and the second types are "sex roles". Some examples of personality roles are the addict, the co-dependent, the hero, the scapegoat, and the forgotten child.
Briefly, the addict is the power broker in the family. All the other roles revolve around keeping this person stabilized, protected, functioning and happy. These are all impossible goals.
Obviously in 3HO [the Assembly] it is a rarity for a Sikh [saint] to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it is not that uncommon for a Sikh [saint] to use money, sex or power compulsively and abusively…..
This is often the case with Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys]. In an alcoholic family no one knows just what the addict is going to do next. Similarly, Yogi [George Geftakys] is often a very surprising and confrontational person, which causes many of those around him to try desperately to keep him fed, pacified, controlled and happy so he won't do anything too outrageous too often.
This is very hard and unnecessary work, and the prime role of the co-dependent [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys]. [Note: In the articles containing transcripts of the workers meetings, notice how Dan and the other leading workers around George, quickly jump in when George gets agitated, to "handle it".]
The co-dependent [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] is the primary caregiver of the addict [George Geftakys]. Much of the co-dependent's [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] job is public relations. They smooth the waters, rationalize away any problems, deflect consequences away from the addict [George Geftakys], keep everyone in their place and keep the public image and the belief systems in place.
In return the co-dependent [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] gains intimacy with the addict [George Geftakys], a tremendous amount of manipulative power and a very strong sense of being spiritually superior.
The children's [average saint’s] roles of hero, scapegoat, and forgotten child are not politically powerful roles in the family or organization [Assembly], rather they are the flunkies of the system. Briefly, the hero is the good kid, the scapegoat is the bad kid and the forgotten child is the invisible kid.
When I moved into the Philadelphia ashram [sisters or brother’s house] back in the 70s, I was handed a little pink book called "Fascinating Womanhood". For any of you who missed having this book affect your life, it is a practical how-to manual on marriage from the woman's point of view, written by a Mormon. It is the philosophical opposite of feminism, completely committed to the belief that the spiritual fulfillment of women is achieved through unquestioning service and obedience to men.
I first read this little tome while in my militant women's liberation mode so, needless to say, the book angered and disgusted me. Yet since my marriage of 9 months was not going at all smoothly and because my ashram sisters [Assembly sister – particularly leading brother’s wives or workers] assured me that Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys] was into the book and getting his wife to read it, I decided to put some of the principles to a try.
It was a miracle! Instead of arguing with every little thing that came out of my young husband's mouth, I tried listening, nodding and pretending to agree with him and he loved it! Almost overnight my husband went from someone who avoided me to a lover who actually seemed to like to be around me. I was converted! I knew that it was the highest liberation of a woman to serve her husband sweetly, strive to be a "domestic goddess" and wear ruffles. Yes, I am afraid I even wore ruffles!
Inevitably this new philosophy got all tangled up with the 3HO [Assembly] concept of women being the Grace of God [man’s glory, wife as example of the church in the relationship of Christ and His Church].
(In most ways, 3Hoers [saints] no longer play such extreme sex roles. [Think of the difference between the early Assembly and today]. It has been a very long time since I have seen a male head of an ashram lounging around while sweet young things ply him with foot massages. However recently there has been a lot of talk about how Yogi Bhajan has married a few middle-aged men off to teenage girls. In an attempt to understand why Yogi Bhajan might do such a thing, there have been several explanations put forward within my hearing. One was that perhaps the marriages would allow these older men to "mold" these young girls to their liking. )
The other type of role playing in a dysfunctional family is that of taking on personality roles. The primary two roles, as I have already mentioned, are that of the addict [George Geftakys] and that of the co-dependent (usually Mom and Dad) [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys]. In 3HO [Assembly] these roles have frequently been played by the head of the ashram [George Geftakys or on a local scale: the local "head" leading brother, worker or head of your brother’s/sisters house] and his inner circle [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys or on a local scale: the other leading brothers, their wives, or the head steward of your brother’s/sister’s house], and by Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys] and his inner circle [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys].
The hero role might be better described as the "unsung hero" role. In the dysfunctional family this is the sibling that comes home and makes sure that dinner is cooked, that the younger children are taken care of and the co-dependent parent is comforted and the addict is put to bed to sleep it off. In 3HO [Assembly] we call this figure the "Keep Up Ji". [Remind you of the brother or sister always volunteering for helping out with the fellowship or tent meeting prep or to set up chairs, take down chairs. They are always early and always working, sometimes, if they can keep up the high level of work, they are asked to be workers but not nearly as quickly as others.]
When Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys] comes to town, you won't find the hero going out to dinner and movies with the Master and members of the inner circle [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys]. No, our hero has spent the last week painting, nailing, cleaning and cooking. She is in the kitchen making Yogi Bhajan's [George Geftakys or Betty’s] food, not upstairs eating it. He is busy running the children's program or out in the rain doing guard duty. And when 3am comes our heroes start the morning prayer while the addicts, co-dependents, and scapegoats snooze the ambrosial hours away.
In my family, my older brother filled the role of hero leaving me free to be the scapegoat and rebel, my primary dysfunctional life role! However, after I pulled off my ultimate scapegoat act (yes, you guessed it again, I joined 3HO) I tried my hand at the hero role for a few years. This, mind you, is a very hard role for someone like me who hates housework, cold water and people telling me what to do.
I only kept it up for those few years because I thought you could get into that co-dependent inner circle by being a hero. This is absolutely wrong. You make it into the inner circle by being co-dependent, not by being good- but I didn't know that until much later. [This explains why some people become workers and leading brothers quickly while others have years of hard work before the "arrive"]
The scapegoat is the problem child. This is the kid who acts out, gets lots of negative attention, and even at times (gasp!) breaks the family taboos! Many of these people don't keep up in 3HO [Assembly] and almost all of them get a bit "fringed", or marginalized, shall we say. These are the most likely of the children to become addicts as well. In 3HO [Assembly] scapegoats tend to come under attack at "house meetings". In fact, they are usually the reason the meeting has been called!
Once while I was still in my hero phase I visited the Boston ashram. This was back in the days of the Golden Temple Restaurant, and let me tell you, those heroes worked like dogs!
There was this bad boy Sikh there, however. His main outlaw act was not rising for the mandatory sadhana each morning. They tried everything. They hauled him onto the stair landing where everyone had to walk over him to get to the yoga room but he slept peacefully through that. They threw him, blanket and all, into the cold shower, which successfully woke him up but then he crawled back to bed. [The brother or sister who is always late for devotions or dinner or other mandatory activities]
They had just called a house meeting to discuss this problem child when I came to the end of my visit. I have always wondered what they tried next and where that mighty soul might be now. [Remind you of the brother or sister, always in trouble, always at the center of the discussions but always sticking around. That is their safe place. When they are in trouble they know what to expect and how to act so it is easier then the unpredictability of being an average saint and never knowing if what you are doing is really ok and approved of by the leadership.]
You probably haven't noticed or remember too many Sikhs [saints] who play the forgotten child role. Wearing all white and a turban is not something most forgotten children are interested in. They stay to themselves and to their rooms. I do remember one forgotten child I lived with in the Portland ashram. I can't remember her name but she kept the plants watered and the cats fed. [Reminds me of so many saints that were always just there, not sitting in front but not in the back. They were always quiet but always there. They are always working and in hindsight a question pops up in the back of your mind as to why they never were asked to be workers. At all costs, they avoided recognition either good or bad.]
In the dysfunctional family this role is handy for avoiding the whole mess. I have tried this one a bit in recent years but I am not very good at it. Heck, I have tried all these roles at one time or the other! [I think this type of saint is the hardest to reconcile with the idea of complicity to the abuse. This is because their complicity is silence. They are not overtly involved. They may not be lying, simply for the fact that they never volunteer information of any kind. You wonder why they stick around and assume it is because they just don’t see the abuses. When you confront them with the problems they still don’t leave. They give superficial excuses, like, "Well it isn’t like that where I am, for me" or, "All churches have problems". They then usually stop talking to you because they don’t wish to be challenged. My idea is that all those who stick around, do so because the dynamics of the group work for them on some level.]
Living in a dysfunctional family is very chaotic. [Ever wonder why under the surface everyone in the Assembly was never really at peace, always on edge. Some were good at the illusion of being at peace and others we thought were at peace because we never got close enough to them to see below the surface. I have found that once you get past the exterior, no one was ever truly happy and at peace in their life, while in the Assembly. They usually blame themselves to excuse the discrepancies between what is preached as the outcome of the Assembly lifestyle and what is the honest truth inside them. The favorites excuses are they don’t have peace because they need to constantly repent of a "besetting sin’ and that they feel they are not careful enough to make sure at every moment that "Christ is at the center." If they could just get victory in those areas, be always "yielded to Christ" they would have peace. They are convinced that it is not the Assembly that is flawed but rather themselves. They are seeing the "old hag" and not the "beautiful woman".] ….
The main trait of [the addict] is that you never know what this person is going to do next. Are they going to praise you or blame you, empower you or humiliate you? [Sounds suspiciously like George Geftakys.] It is the fundamental dynamic of the dysfunctional family that everyone cares deeply about the opinion and approval of the addict [Ultimately George Geftakys but may also be personally the leading brother or discipler "working" with you. They have convinced you that their approval = God’s approval]. After all, the addict is usually Daddy or Mommy, but even beyond that, addict-types often generate a strong aura of power and magnetism.
Many alcoholics, for instance, are convinced and convince those around them that their drinking is caused by others failing to come up to their high standards. Children of alcoholics, therefore, spend our lives trying to improve ourselves.
"If I just got better grades, or if I could be nicer, or if I could serve better, then maybe Daddy would like me and not drink so much." This can easily translate later in our lives as Sikhs [saints] to: "If I could just do a better sadhana, [give better ministry, quote more scripture, be more joyful, or be more encouraging] or if I could just manage to read my Banis, [Bible for longer time periods or more often] or if I could just serve better, then maybe Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys, or a leading brother and worker] would notice and appreciate me." [Once again, we believe that approval from leadership = approval from God]
Unfortunately the addict keeps changing the rules for gaining his or her approval. This fluctuation and unpredictability creates a constant state of chaos in the home [Assembly or personal life].
A fairly typical example of the type of chaos common in dysfunctional families and how we, as children, desperately try to make sense out of that chaos can be seen in a story that a 3HO friend once told me.
One day while walking home from elementary school with her friend, she found that her alcoholic father had thrown all the living room furniture out into the front yard. Thinking fast, she explained to her startled companion that the sofa, chair, end tables and lamps had been put there because the "furniture cleaners" were on their way over to pick them up. And later she asked her Mother why the "furniture cleaners" had failed to come.
As seen here, the need for strong stories and belief systems becomes, at times, pathological in the face of an addict's [George Geftakys] crazy behavior. It is the job of the co-dependent [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] to provide some stability and structure to the home. To do this, they [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] like this young girl, must lie.
The network of lies used by co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] to maintain the illusion of a stable environment is the system of beliefs, rules and P.R. statements that one learns early in life must never be questioned. To question them is to throw yourself into the bottomless, whirling pit of chaos. [To question in the Assembly is to question the "servant of God," which we have been taught is equal to questioning God himself and thereby is sin.]
Please note that often the beliefs proposed by the co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] are of the highest philosophical and moral quality and the rules, on the surface, seem just. Most dysfunctional families, for instance, strongly believe that the family should stick together. This belief is, of course, generally virtuous, but it can become downright frightening when applied to an abusive household.
In 3HO [Assembly] we are blessed with literally thousands of beliefs, practices and philosophies that we can use to expand and heal ourselves [become more accountable, be perfected by God, or maintain Christ as our center]. We can also use the same beliefs, practice and philosophies to construct and maintain our dysfunctionality.
Co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] within our organization [Assembly] often use lofty ideals and rules of Dharmic living [Christianity or the bible] in their attempts to keep 3HO [the Assembly or George’s ministry], and 3Hoers [saints], safe, secure, controlled, and orderly. Questioning these ideals and rules can be deeply threatening to co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] in two ways. First, to the co-dependent [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] it feels like questioning will cause the whole 3HO organization [Assembly and George’s ministry] to crash and burn, and second, questioning threatens their [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] sense of purpose.
It is interesting that Al-Anon, which was designed to help the co-dependents in the alcoholic home, was started because it became clear that it was often easier to get the alcoholic to stop drinking than it was to get the co-dependent to stop controlling. Co-dependents after all, view themselves as the good guys, the moral and spiritually superior, blessed few who will, and do, make all the sacrifices to keep the organization or home from falling into total chaos. [I think that describes most of the leadership, both workers and leading brothers, and Betty Geftakys, to a "T".]
So what happens when co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] stop trying to control everything and everybody? What would happen if we stopped trying to insulate and protect? Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys] and just let him do his thing? What would happen if we stopped shunning our brothers and sisters who ask uncomfortable questions, get angry and act inappropriately? What happens when you ask chaos in and offer her Yogi tea and cookies? …….
I remember the day I first noticed that I was about to lie about 3HO [Assembly] to a stranger. This nice, curious, man had just politely asked me about ashram [brother’s/sister’s house] life. I was about to reply like I always did:
"As Sikhs [saints, Christians] we rise 2 1/2 hours before dawn [get up at 5:30 for a time of devotion], take a cold shower, [spend 30 min. to 1 hour having a personal morning time] and do yoga [eat dinner together every night, and possibly breakfast] and meditate [attend meetings on Sunday all day, Tues. night prayer meeting, Wed. Bible study, Thurs. outreach, Saturday tape ministry and once a month an All Night of Prayer on Friday] and sing praise to our Creator [are always encouraging on another to serve God]."
Instead of saying that, however, the truth fell out of my mouth.
"Well," I explained "we are suppose to get up and meditate and do yoga at 3:30am but for the last six months nobody has managed to do that. In fact everyone has been really negative lately and the only time we even talk to each other is during our weekly house meeting where we have been ripping each other to shreds!"
Strangely enough this response did not go over so badly with the man to whom I was speaking. However, unfortunately for me, the female co-dependant head of the ashram [leadership] had heard my candid remarks and I received a very severe lecture on the importance of keeping a positive public image for 3HO [maintaining unity, don’t talk about it to unbelievers or other Christians because they don’t have a mature spiritual understanding, or they just say you are lying and deny it all together, while encouraging you to repent of the lie].
I had heard the lecture before. Almost all dysfunctional families are very strict about keeping a good face in public and mine had been no exception. After a while you begin to believe the press releases you are busy fabricating. God knows you want to believe them.
There is no doubt that maintaining positive public relations has its right and proper place in our organization and any organization. But if we are genuinely succeeding in creating beautiful community, there is nothing to lie about. [Would you have to lie if the ideals you have were the truth? A lot of the Assembly explains their lies away by convincing themselves that it is the truth in some "spiritual dimension". They assert that those unbelievers cannot see because they don’t have the spiritual capacity. That way it isn’t a lie it is telling the spiritual reality that is just unseen by fleshly eyes. A perfect example is my father. He claims that once you have repented of and been forgiven of a sin, in God’s eyes it is as though it never happened. Therefore, if someone asks if you committed that particular sin you would say no and that would not be a lie. It would not be right to say, "That is part of my past and a sin I have repented of, been forgiven of, and made right with those it hurt, I do not wish to speak of it." Instead you just say, "No", which is at best a deception.]
But for children of alcoholic lying is often easier than telling the truth and thus facing that we are wounded and we need help. Co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] lie about everything because the ideals and the fantasies are always so much pleasanter, peaceful and controllable than reality is.
For a long time I didn't worry much about the few odd people who left 3HO [Assembly]. I hadn't liked them much when they were in 3HO [Assembly] so it seemed reasonable to me that, after forsaking the truth, they had all become pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers [compromised, immoral, pregnant out of wedlock, cheating on their spouses, drunks, divisive, liars, arrogant, or worldly] like the rumors implied.
As time went by and more and more Sikhs became ex-Sikhs, I maintained a strict dualistic model of spirituality. There were eagles and there were the slugs, the godly and the godless, the committed and the bums. [the us – them mentality. If they are not in "fellowship" any longer they are not godly or at least as godly as we are.]
Many scapegoats grow up to become addicts. Having set out to reform the world they become the leaders of the new order. Many early male directors of 3HO [Assembly] ashrams were these scapegoats turned addicts, rebels turn to tyrants. [Classic example – my father David Geftakys]
As in any dysfunctional family, these rage-over-grief types were forever ranting and raving, praising and blaming, and, at times, participating in addictive behavior around money, sex and power. Their inner circle of co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] and those Keep Up Ji heroes [my mother], who were doing most of the labor, used to run around "working on themselves" in an effort to gain status and acceptance as much as spiritual insight.
There have been times down through the years where 3HO [Assembly] has seemed to me to be just like a baboon troop complete with Dominate Male #1, Male #2, #3, #4 and so on down the pecking order.
Where would 3HO [Assembly] be without its 'Keep Up Jis' [unsung heroes]? So many times in my Sikh walk, after letting my scapegoat ways get the better of me once again, I would seek out the soothing auras of those grief-on-top-of-rage heroes. They would sit me down, dose me with Yogi Tea and gently lecture me on the fine-points of dharmic living. Newly inspired I would once again attempt the endless job of disciplining myself. [Now don’t tell me you can’t see the Assembly here. Who was the one you went to when you needed to feel better? Who was the brother or sister confidant that you would go to, not to be corrected but to be "encouraged" to stick it out? Maybe you were the one everyone came to.]
Grief/Rage personalities survived the dysfunction of their childhood families by assuming the role of stabilizing adult. They learned to put their needs to the side and take care of everyone else first. Eventually they hoped that all this "selfless service" would lead to their being blessed and acknowledged. Of course it rarely did. In fact often their scapegoat sisters and brother got more attention with their report cards full of F's than the heroes got no matter how many A's they earned.
On the surface grief-on-top-of-rage types are calm and often serious. Their ability to put the good of the family and organization above their own needs give them a saintly, slightly martyred expression and when things go wrong, they get sad and depressed as they try, once again, to discern what next sacrifice is required of them.
Any anger, rage or jealousy that our hero has when faced with having to be the one, once again, who makes all the sacrifice is firmly repressed. Eventually a pit of rage, carefully protected and hidden, develops in the bellies of these peaceful souls.
Although there is nobody more taken for granted, and often times used, than the hero, the service position does, in fact, offer some hope of political and social power. Instead of serving in the kitchen, it is possible to become the assistant of the addict [George Geftakys]. This, again, is the role of co-dependent [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys].
Co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] usually run the life support systems of the organization like creating the schedule and controlling the money and constructing the public image. [can we say Betty Geftakys, Mark Miller, and Dan Notti] They do this to support the addict [George Geftakys] as well as the organization or family, so when the addict [George Geftakys], in typical unpredictable style, decides to bomb the calendar or raid the cash box, it is the job of the co-dependent [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] to patch up or, if need be, cover up the addict’s [George Geftakys] activity.
Thus co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys], though powerful, have lost most of their individuality. They sell their souls to the organization becoming "company men and women". Because of this, they can feel completely trapped in their positions- often so entangled in the web of politics with the family or organization that they are at a loss to know how to free themselves.
When co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] do break free. it almost always causes a scandal. It is not easy on a family or an organization when the person who has been holding everything up and making everyone feels secure just walks away and lets everything crash behind them. [Could the workers who are supported full time or employed by Ariel ever really leave without it costing them their livelihood? At their age most of them could ill afford this. Therefore the reasons for staying and continuing the lies and image becomes more then just spiritual and emotional but also financial.]
Easy or not, this is the healthy step that co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] must make toward healing dysfunctionality in 3HO [Assembly] and elsewhere. Co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] need to remember that for them, falling apart is falling together.
There is nothing more shocking in 3HO [the Assembly] (especially to other co-dependents) than watching some formerly model 3Hoer [saint] access their rage. You start to hear rumors, "So and so is negative." [They are struggling, they are bitter, they have been divisive] and you know that this person is on her or his way out of the dharma [fellowship]. Meanwhile we make every effort to avoid this person because we fear that "negativity" [divisiveness, sin, or bitterness] is contagious.
Many people in 3HO [Assembly] have spent years being good Sikhs [saints or Christians], or at least trying very hard to be good Sikhs [saints or Christians]. They have sacrificed, they have served, and they have done the practice to the best of their abilities. I actually know 3Hoers [saints] who have never had a marital dispute because they have called in Yogi Bhajan [George or Betty Geftakys or a leading brother]to mediate every conflict.
Though most of us haven't gone to such extremes, we have all put 3HO [the Assembly] first; freely letting Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys or Betty Geftakys or both of them via the leading brothers and workers] dictate our diets, our sex lives, our clothes, our choice of partners, our children and our livelihoods. [That is the story of my life and I have seen it be the story of so many lives around me as I grew up.]
For most heroes and co-dependent [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] there eventually comes a day when they simply get tired. Having given of themselves so much over the years, they come to realize that they gave away everything and they are no longer who they want to be. All the dogma, philosophy, as wells as the lies and fantasies, turn to dust in their mouths.
For co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] the burden of keeping everything under control, the burden of constantly soothing and serving the addict(s) in their lives and for some, the growing guilt over the less-than-righteous means that they may have employed to manipulate others, becomes just too heavy a burden to carry anymore. Instead of feeling liberated, they begin to feel used, conned and betrayed and these feelings access their rage.
It is this dynamic that we see when we watch former pillars of 3HO [Assembly] become, seemingly overnight, enemies of 3HO. [Steve and Margaret Irons, Tom Maddux, the Mathias's, Kevin Healy, the Gariseks, Kirk and Linda C., Brent and Suzie T., the list goes on and on.] Whether we like it or not, feel comfortable with it or not, 3HO [the Assembly] has many heroes and co-dependents [the leading brothers, workers, and Betty Geftakys] in its ranks and when they begin to awaken to reality and heal, the covert rage within them is going to become overt rage. So hang on--it is going to be a bumpy ride.
Though grief and rage are both very painful emotions and can be equally destructive and redemptive, the main emotional taboo within a dysfunction family or organization is expressing rage. This is not so surprising when we observe that raging people usually break not just the taboo against being angry, but every other one on our list as well, and they do it loudly.
It is just too much for the family or organization to handle the role change, the demanding questions, and the threat to the addict/co-dependent bond, all at once. So angry people in 3HO [Assembly] get shunned. [How often have you avoided a person even before they left "fellowship" because of the negative comments about them as they began to question and stand against abuses]
Addicts and scapegoats getting in touch with their grief usually get shamed and ridiculed instead and they disappear too, going off to tend their wounds. [Remember the addicts and scapegoats usually have rage, not grief, so when they access their grief it has the same effect as the heroes and co-dependants accessing their rage.]
One evening when I was about twelve or thirteen, I announced at the dinner table that I had figured out how we should solve the family problems that were tearing us apart.
"Mom should stop drinking, Dad should stop smoking and we all should enter therapy!" I exclaimed with all the enthusiasm of a kid who has pondered long and hard over a brainteaser and who has had the ANSWER come in the middle of the night on the back of a bolt of lightening.
Needless, to say, my great revelation bombed with my family, or maybe I should say that it bombed my family--starting a full scale war rather than providing a healing solution. I had, of course, broken the most threatening and highly defended against taboo in a dysfunctional family--don't talk about Mom and Dad's problem. Or worded a bit differently- Keep It Secret!
Breaking this taboo is in theory very easy. All you need to do is tell the truth, or like we Sikhs like to say, SAT NAM! [Or, as we saints like to say, "Walk in the light."] When we decide not to tell the truth, however, (a decision that we all make daily for many different reasons, some righteous, some not) we enter the twilight zone of secrets.
There are certain facts that, although we are aware of them at one level of our brains, we refuse to let them into our conscious minds. This mental Defense mechanism is called denial. It is an extremely creepy feeling when you come out of denial about something you haven't been able to face before. You just can't believe that you could have been so blind or that you could have so easily forgotten, or not noticed, things so obvious and important.
There are several levels of denial. The deepest is when we forget an experience because it is too frightening to contemplate. Being sexually molested as a child, for instance, is a trauma that is commonly repressed and forgotten about until such a time as when the person is ready and strong enough to finally remember and heal.
Another level of denial is when we give our power away to someone, completely trusting that they will handle our money, our health, our psyches, our children, or any number of other important parts of our lives. [This is the level of denial most of the leadership maintains.]
And the commonest form of denial is how we all ignore the scary facts, because if we were to become fully awake and fully conscious to the issues, we would have to take a stand, and we just don't have the courage. [This is the first level of denial a average saint goes into when first faced with the facts of abuse]
When a friend reaches a point in their healing process where they are willing to tell you something about themselves that feels shameful, this is what I call a personal secret. The friend is usually not yet healed enough to let their shame become common, and thus uninteresting, knowledge, so they swear you to secrecy.
Unfortunately for me, when I am at the listening end of one of these confessions I have the hardest time remembering that my friend is feeling ashamed because bluntly, there are few temptations or vices in the world that I haven't either participated in myself, or vicariously experienced through my friends and family. This makes me a very forgiving and unshockable listener but a rather spacey secret keeper. I can forget that a friend feels guilt about an action or reaction that seems like a perfectly human and ordinary mistake or delusion to me.
This spaciness is at times almost forgivable in the face of some of the crazy secrets I have been asked to keep while in 3HO.
I once patiently waited through 20 minutes of weeping and stammering to find out that one of my sisters had gone out and bought a Hershey's Bar in the middle of a zucchini fast. She drove several miles out of town and snuck into the woods to eat it.
Did you know that a devoted Sikh brother of mine and his wife French kissed in the sadhana room before they were married?
Along these same lines, I know of many married 3HO couples who used to have sex more than once a month. One friend even confided in me that her husband and she had even once had sex three times in one month!
My two favorite Sikh secrets, however, were told to me by two single men. One of these guys admitted to me that he sat down several times a day, for several hours, and pretended to read his prayers. The other man showed me how he had taped himself doing 2 1/2 hours of Long EK ONG KAR meditation on his reel to reel tape recorder. That way whenever he needed a break from 3HO, he could hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, set his tape recorder to chanting and head out the window to a conveniently located "girlfriend". [It is funny because the same kind of "silly secrets" comes out in the Assembly. Like – they have a TV that they hide. They missed a meeting and went to or rented a movie. They were thankful when their kids were sick so they could stay home. They didn’t understand George’s ministry]
3HO [the Assembly] has always buzzed with gossip. Gossipy secrets are those juicy little tidbits of scandal that third, fourth, fifth parties give you, swearing you to secrecy because, of course, they don't want to be the ones caught in the act of telling. Frankly these secrets simply cry out to be passed along, yet as we all know, they can be dangerous to handle.
The underlying dynamic behind much gossip is that when situations , behaviors, and/or issues begin to come out of denial , the first thing that happens is that secretive gossip begins to perk. I think this is one way we protect us from having to own up to or admit things too suddenly. There is always a very real possibility that what is getting passed down the vine is false information; a fact that gives us some sense of security while we begin to grapple with the fact that the information may well be true.
In every 3HO [Assembly] community that I have ever lived in there has been the child-like soul who, having heard about the "secret" love affair or "hidden" money scandal for months, will rightly assume that everybody knows about the "secret" anyway, so why don't we put it on the agenda for the next house meeting?
I can smile at and deeply appreciate this display of purest innocence, because, well- Mom really should stop drinking and Dad really might stop smoking and therapy really would do us all a world of good! However, I know that child-like disclosures lead right to being a victim of all sorts of unpleasant reprisals. [If this has never happened to you, I am sure you have seen someone who thinks that by just bringing a problem to the leading brother’s attention, the problem will be "brought into the light" and dealt with. It is never dealt with and we know underneath that it never will be truly brought into the light. After all, it may "stubble the weak ones". When the person who originally brought up the issue, finds out it hasn’t been dealt with and brings that fact to the attention of the leadership. They are "talked to" very strongly about their own shortcomings that lead them to questioning the leadership.]
So if we are into "sat nam"--if truth is our very core and identity--how should we react to gossipy secrets?
Frankly, I am much more an expert on how NOT to interact with gossip than on how to handle it gracefully--but here's what I think anyway. I think that we need to choose our issues carefully, take responsibility for disclosing the "secrets"; take a stand and inspire others to take a stand with us; and then just sit there, and take the heat.
Clearly denial-busting and secret telling takes courage and we rarely come out looking too pretty or smelling too sweet, but heck, it is a job and someone has to do it. Just as clearly, it is stupid and unkind to get into major denial-busting over petty or personal issues. Whether so-and-so did it with whose-it, isn't worth remembering much less taking action over.
This is because in extremely dysfunctional systems, for instance the Mafia or within corrupt governments and companies, people are allowed into the inner circles only after they prove that they can keep secrets. They are then rewarded for their silence with the "drug" of their choice be it status, power, money, women, or combinations thereof. If someone threatens to break the chain of secrecy, that individual is instantly in extreme danger. [Once you see the whole truth you realize why the leadership, acting as co-dependents, refuse to deal with issues. It is the same reason those I mentioned at the beginning, refuse to leave even after they are confronted with the truth and thereby become abusers by their complicit silence. The reason – it works for them on some level. They are getting something for their silence and lies. It may be power, money, authority, or just the ability to maintain the illusion that they are involved with a committed and spiritually superior group.]
People still somehow in the 3HO [Assembly] mindset, often don't realize how much they may have forfeited their free will and independent thinking. Certainly at first, it might be a struggle for most members to conform. Perhaps this was not so obvious at the start, but there is an eventual unconditional acceptance and conformity regarding the teachings of the group. And those teachings tell devotees how to think. Through the revelations of the organization adherents come to believe that they will somehow be able to know secrets that others don't. Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys] teaches his followers that through the right devotion, they can "see the unseen" and "know the unknowable." [Scary similarity,isn’t it.]
When I was a member of 3HO [Assembly] from the time I woke up until I went to sleep at night, my life was filled with proscribed routines. And my attitude concerning the world was molded by those routines, rituals and various teachings.
The first premise I accepted as a devotee of Bhajan was that "Khalsa [overcomers] will rule the world." The implication of this teaching is that the "Pure ones" [overcomers] (3HO members) [saints] are a superior race [Christian], to whom all will eventually go to for help.
The governing principles regarding this doctrine were that most people need help and correspondingly, we "The Khalsa" \ [saints]can give it. Most 3HO [Assembly]devotees were constantly busy and preoccupied with personal purification, [praying the selfer’s prayer, and self examination] which included rigidly conforming to a proscribed norm. We grew our hair long, only wore white and went on special diets to cleanse ourselves. Every morning we got up at 3:00 AM to take cold showers, chant and do our yoga. [The Assembly’s physical disciplines are different but the idea of self discipline leading to holiness is the same.]
Once sufficiently purified, we were on our way. Prayers filled the days and there were always special recipes to learn. Meditation sessions were also quite frequent. And there were tapes to listen to for more insights and secrets [tape ministry to give us the "heavenly vision" George has from God]. Once on the path, everyone needed to understand the difference between us and them (i.e. the "pure" and "impure")...
We believed as our nervous systems grew stronger, our subconscious minds would be purified. But even after straightening out my diet and expanding my aura, I still needed one more thing--Divine protection. God now favors us so much that "He" will come to you, even without experiencing a vision. Of course this would only occur if and when you truly succeed and then you might then have visions beyond time and space. But until that achievement at least I knew that God has chosen me and would therefore protect our group more than anyone else, which was comforting. [The idea that we in the Assembly, will be part of the "remnant" and maybe the entire "remnant".]
We accepted all these things and every day learned more about how bad off everyone else was and how truly great we were. [Other ministries and Christians are carnal, worldly or compromised.] And then it was revealed that some coming catastrophe like Armageddon was not far off. This prophetic forecast seemed to make everything come together. It somehow made sense that we must be ready, be purified, glowing human beings, whom God had chosen to protect through his "True Guru," just waiting to pick up the pieces after the holocaust. In the meantime though, we would go forth and spread our teachings within the impure world filled that needed help.
Years passed by and I was very busy. There were my "monkey glands" to empty when I brushed my teeth, prayers to be read, turbans to be tied and every month some new diet to follow. We also had obligations at the ashram to teach classes, chop vegetables, serve people, clean and fix things. [The praying of the selfer’s prayer, the constant self scrutiny and attributing any questions to" self being in the center", and more obviously, the endless meetings, the hours of seminar, the unending amount of work to support the meeting, fellowships, outreaches, etc. Getting up at 5 to be able to spend and the recommended 1-hour in the word FIRST thing in the morning. As a mother, the mat training, keeping children quiet for hours in the meetings, and all of the above on top of housework and child care – some of the most physically exhausting work there is.]
And there was the news to carefully follow in each state, the nation and the world. When things went bad, and we were just waiting for things to go bad, our destiny would then be fulfilled. And if things got better, it was because of our prayers. But of course this was only just the "calm before the storm." [I can’t think of anything that is more clearly the Assembly.]
Perhaps impure people might be able to take empty pauses in life, when they became bored. But of course this only proves how empty they are inside. Unlike the outside world though, 3HO devotees are not empty. We were filled with thoughts about our Guru (our exalted teacher), our wonderful life-style and how we were helping the world [scrutiny of our lives to maintain Christ as our center, trying to constantly reconcile our true feeling and inside life with the ideals set forth by the preaching.] And there was always something to do, work for the group, for God, our Guru and of course humanity. And if I had bad or impure thoughts, they needed to be quelled through meditation or chanting--something to fix them. [The selfer’s prayer – how many times a day did you pray it?]
It was a marathon of devotion and I did my best to keep up with my fellow Seekers. We also always needed to make sure that everyone in 3HO [the Assembly] was truly following and spreading Yogi Bhajan's teachings correctly. [George Geftakys or as we would convince ourselves, God’s word revealed through his servant] If they were not, well that required more help to correct them too.
Some might say, "But you had your own free will, and could have done otherwise." I can only respond, that we were so busy and exhausted from our constant practice, rituals, diets and spiritual strivings, that most of us didn't have the time or energy to really think about that.
After reading this I hope you can see the correlation between the dynamics of dysfunctional families and that of abusive groups regardless of religious affiliation. The only conclusion could be that when a group becomes abusive, it is no longer about God but rather about feeding the addictions of a few in the name of God.