Part II: Mandarom

"Investigation Inside a Cult"

This is Part II of the case of the Aumist Religious community in Mandarom, France.

The text has been extracted from an article published by CICNS, which can be accessed in it's original language (French). 

Continuation of Part I:


The Formation of a Totalitarian Pocket

(...) The story of this research cannot be silent about the pressures that I suffered throughout this work.

(…) In 1998, I received a letter from the president of section 38 (CNRS) - dealing with ethnology. She said, among other things: ' your projects have emerged as insufficiently (...) observed; where the fear... that your voluntarily relativistic approach is used for thetrivialization of movements such as the one you are studying.”… She (Editor's Note: the commission) judged before even knowing, and for a commissioner of science this is disturbing... This story highlights a serious phenomenon: there were subjects which were taboo for the majority of ethnologists who sat, at that time, in the commission of the CNRS.

(…) The president of the University of Provence refused for me to organized a symposium on the theme of "sects" in this University, although he had agreed as a first step, stating that we would be closely monitored. I proposed for my lab to set up a centre for research and documentation on new religious movements. My lab, in agreement at first, then changed its mind. Public institutions say they are interested in observing sects, yet how is one to understand these contradictory messages, if not as a deliberate attempt not refuse knowledge?

(…) Suspicion toward my emotional outburst occurred when leaders of Mandarom had the unfortunate idea to send 13,953 letters (!) to defend themselves. Believing that researchers and teacher-researchers would understand better than others... I couldn't spend an evening in the company of friends or colleagues without a flood of questions, not asking who the aumistes were, but about the crimes that they had been charged with... Troubled by what I saw, I wrote to the president of the League of Human Rights, explaining what I knew of the Mandarom and the contradictions I could observed between what was said in the media... I never received an answer... The position of the League of Human Rights on this issue is to oppose an extension of the penal provisions while affirming that we must combat the acts of sects (LDH info, n ° 90, June 2000 p11). Obviously, included in the catch-all "sects" is Mandarom.

(…) I wrote three articles for scientific journals. The first was sent to one of the major journals of Ethnology... [The editor] called me and informed me that the journal Committee had major misgivings regarding my text. Here are some of the corrections that were required:

-not to say that the rumor about the Mandarom is unfounded; (for further information on the subject of the rumor (only in French): RumoursSacrificial RumourSects, Rumours & Trials)

- say that my study may serve the group being studied;

-analyze the finances of the Group (this is likely the first time in the history of the discipline that an ethnologist is asked to become an IRS agent), etc.

I nonetheless agreed to return the article within certain limits and returned the corrected version. I received a letter from the Director of the journal: (...) « … We felt, collectively, that the approach of participant observation was helpful and even necessary, but it was frankly inadequate and could not be the same topic without diversifying approaches... it is best that you take back your rites to this paper now and I will request for the journal to return it to you." I wondered when reading this letter if it was the first time that a review of Ethnology was exercising a censorship to comply with common sense... This is a paradox, and not least, since the purpose of the research is to deconstruct the common sense to go against opinion...

A few months later, the University of Aix-en-Provence published a book on prayer... I suggested a Mandarom prayer to the person in charge of the book... The Editorial Board of the University objected to the publication of my article. I received a letter from the Director of publications who wrote: “I have never questioned your scientific rigor...” It is obvious that since it is not "scientific rigor" which is the question, it is the inherent belief that the ideology of secular fundamentalism is just as dangerous and undemocratic as religious fundamentalism.

(…) There seems to be no taboo if an ethnologist wishes to study a prophet and his movement in Africa, in opposition to what is happening with the Mandarom... The one enters in one of two classes, demeaning or valued, based on its spatial proximity.

(…) The aumistes decided to present a file to the President of the Republic (France)... They requested equal treatment... The delegation included the President of the triumphant Vajra Association, four bishops, all in priestly clothes, a lawyer and adept in civilian, and a bailiff who did not belong to the movement... Police asked the delegation to discontinue the process... The Chair asked: "what crime have we committed?” They (Editor's Note: police officers) retorted that the aumistes had made no statement of protest to the prefecture of police... She (Editor's Note: The President) declared that she wanted, in no way, to be in violation and headed to the prefecture... The President proposed to limit the delegation to three people. "It would still be a protest", he said. She suggested that only two people go there. "It would still be a protest" insisted the Secretary (Editor's Note: Assistant Director to public order)...the aumistes decided to renounce their approach and entrusted their case to the judicial officer... The Elysee Palace refused to take it.


The Democratic Inquisition 

(...) The accusations that were made against the Mandarom are: raping of followers by the guru, embezzlement, money-laundering, construction of statues that blemish the landscape, use of drugs, mental manipulation, imprisonment of children, confinement of followers, craziness of the guru, craziness of the followers, etc... Regarding the aumistes, the usual presumption of innocence has been replaced by the presumption of guilt... It should be noted that, to date, the Mandarom has never been convicted (except for a statue which was destroyed by the Government in 2001), nor has their guru on the question of rape despite the intense work of the police.

(…) Contrary to widespread opinion, the regional court of Nanterre asked the authors of a book accusing the guru of rape, written by a former follower designating herself as the victim, and especially her friend, a journalist with TF1, to pay to his Holiness the Lord Hamsah Manarah 10,000 francs in damage and interest for the non-respect of the presumption of innocence.

(…) Regarding the question of whether children were imprisoned in the Mandarom, as I said above, I never saw one child locked up in this place during the years of my research. However, popular opinion is convinced otherwise, which shows that there is a powerful ideological factor.

(…) Regarding the question of drugs, this would make anyone who honestly knows the aumistes laugh because they obviously don’t need this to 'travel' in the cosmos...! (One can ask oneself whether or not to ban this lifestyle, i.e. the monastic lifestyle, but then this needs to be raised with regards to all monasteries... in order to respect the equality of rights)

(…) "Mental manipulation", still called the "brainwashing", has long been disproven by researchers... We must remember that well into the 1970s, the Cistercian monks had no private cell to sleep in, they had to remain fully dressed while sleeping and permanently remain on standby, and still today, these monks renounce their family, career, social life, etc.

(…) The same belief displayed in the Hindu religion and the Mandarom does not have the same status and does not cause the same reactions. Our society seeks to develop a single norm, which aims to codify our behaviors and thoughts to the extreme and where there is no room for margins, even if peaceful. Everyone must fall into line, despite the discourse on freedom which gives the illusion of the contrary.

(…) The rumor about it (Editor's Note: the Mandarom) is expressed in multiple and various ways. Thus, a TV show portrays images of the OTS (order of the solar Temple), "cult" whose members apparently committed suicide, associated with photographs of the Mandarom, while there is no link between these two groups... On the same page of a magazine for young people... on children in cults, we see a photograph of a little girl, who is assumed to live with devotees of Krishna (as suggested by the article in any case). Next to her, of course a photo of Gilbert Bourdin, although there is no mention of the Mandarom in the article.

(…) The development of opinions in our society is mainly due to the media. Indeed, anthropology suggests that what women and men think is not necessarily of their own choice, but that some of these thoughts are forged by society, which secretes and distributes them. But of course, unfortunately, these ideas can be more or less close to the truth... Journalists are subject to professional constraints that can prevent them from taking time to prepare their cases. In some cases, this results in errors that may have serious consequences even for those who do their work with the utmost seriousness and with a certain ethic.

(…) In this case, the media has, as the main source of information, associations fighting against "sects". Concerning the ADFI (Association for defence of the individual and the family)... and Roger - Ikor (CCMM) Center... They (Editor's Note: associations) are surrounded by a few authors who find here within the material for their peices... I began to call the president of a section of the ADFI in Paris... He begged me to accept to be followed under the care of his association "to protect you," he said. I had to tell him my age, my experience, my absolutely distrustful character, nothing helped... Deafness is a necessity for the condemnation of theory.

(…) One of the individuals who spearheaded the fight against Mandarom and these groups, A. Vivien, clearly said it is not necessary to understand, because knowledge would prevent the fight! “(…) by trying to understand, one finishes by justifying (...) The good apostles of sociology at the CNRS and elsewhere (...) blandly align with the discourse of sects in order to understand and thus allow themselves not to fight their excesses." Upon the mention of intellectual knowledge, Mr. Vivien becomes defensive of this virulent anti-intellectualism... yet, elementary logic allows us either to see that you made a mistake and that there is nothing to fight because nothing is offending or, on the contrary, to use the acquired knowledge to better address what needs to be. There are certainly some "sects" representing a danger even if, according to a sociologist of religions, "these groups are not necessarily dangerous and I would add that they become it very rarely" (r. J Campiche, when cults panic, Labor & Fides, 1995, p.103).

(…) Politicians, with the tendency to be confused, say the same thing about the Mandarom:

-with sects, you are in danger, which is sometimes invisible and even more malicious. This is what the interdepartmental Observatory on sects says very explicitly in its 1997 annual report. It condemns cults while saying that it doesn't know what they is.

– (…) We are well informed... and we will do what is necessary to protect you

-(...) So trust us... we are protecting you from evil.

The political benefit of the antisecte campaign is huge, because it establishes a consensus in French society. In fact, who does not adhere to this view that cults would represent a danger?... Currently, with terrorism, there is no better political instrument of diversion, with regards to critical social problems, than that of sects.


For Part III of the Mandarom case, please click here.