The Impact of Apostates’ Activities
on the Suppression Associations of Conscience or Belief.
In many cases apostates play a complex and crucial role when an association of conscience or belief is subjected to social and financial suppression in society, which may lead to social marginalization and financial or judicial problems for its members. In the frame of this report the term ”apostate” refers to individuals who leave and turn against an association of conscience or belief, making efforts to actively hinder the future development of the association. The term “association of conscience or belief” here refers only to associations who are not normative in the surrounding society.
Today the first encounter with associations of conscience or belief is most often second hand, through media. Classic mass media and social media alike give fertile grounds to individuals or groups who intend to discredit such associations. The apostates’ stories often make the headlines whereas the reporting on the factual activities of such associations does not. In social media, blogs and forums, any claims can be made and slanderous communities are easily formed.
From a human rights perspective we find that the views and claims of apostates are given a disproportional attention in media and thus impact on society. The freedom of speech of the few has a high price for the many, whose fundamental rights are limited or breached.
In extreme cases apostates are known to make direct contact with politicians, business partners or family members to intervene from political to private levels in the lives of the members of the associations of conscience or belief.
In a few cases, the activities of apostates can be hindered by law; websites are stopped and apostates are brought to courts for slander. Still in the majority of cases their activities do not break the law and only indirectly lead to the breaching of human rights.
Apostates’ activities are directly linked to the notion of a “cult”. The term “cult” is derogative only in a Christian and post-Christian context, where it bears connotations to “heretics”. In Hindu India “cult” bears no negative connotations. By the derogative power of the word, associations of conscience or belief are termed “cults” the west, when being attacked. Apostates’ activities are often directed by anti-cult interest groups, most often based in Christian dogma, or by unofficial power structures of society who aim to destroy such an association.
In “Apostates and the Legitimation of Repression” Dr. Lewis sets contemporary anti-cult phenomenon in historical perspective, by studying the anti-Catholic movement in USA during the nineteenth century. This movement produced extensive bodies of literature which show distinct parallels with contemporary anti-cult discourse, particularly in the sub-genre of apostate stories. The primary anti-catholic theme was the abuse of young women in catholic nunneries. The stories range from sexual abuse to murder, and produced numerous apostate tales authored by “escaped” nuns.
In recent history the use of apostates as agents for politically motivated state persecutions is well documented in Nazi Germany, under the totalitarian communist regimes of Eastern Europe and as an ongoing practice in China towards Falun Gong. There are still cases in Europe today in which apostates are called as key witnesses in trials, biased by personal motivations and different degrees of pressure or compensations. In the cases of state persecution of associations of conscience or belief in Europe today we often find a direct collaboration between police, prosecutor and media where apostates are given a prominent position in media campaigns.
The last decade a new wave of anti-cult movement has hit Europe, often by reference to anti-terror. This range from new laws for surveillance and frames for police actions specific towards spiritual practice to an increased interest in media for spiritual practice other than the normative in that society. In "Moral Panics and Anti-Cult Terrorism in Western Europe" published in the journal "Terrorism and Political Violence", Massimo Introvigne claims that the governmental actions taken in France, later followed by other European countries, have instigated public violence towards associations of conscience or belief, rather than solve the problem with violence within some extreme and criminal groups.
As internet today is the main source of information also for media and state, the “information terrorism” of anti-cult groups and apostates is more efficient than ever. Apostates today find themselves thriving in a political and media environment receptive to sensationalism and fear of spiritual practice, other than the normative.
Most associations of conscience or belief members come and go. Typically the number of active members remains stable for years, but in a constant flow, where only a few stay for a lifetime.
The phenomenon of apostates is highly irregular, from a statistic point of view. The great majority of ex-members stay positive and grateful to what they shared and were offered in their time as member. They acknowledge their experiences in the association as enriching their lives, and both joining and leaving as conscious choices in their personal development. Those who voice their disaffection loudly do so in waves, riding already created negative sentiments in society.
The periodically recurring idea that associations of conscience or belief would often try hinder members to leave, and take sanctions against those who leave, is highly exaggerated. The findings of sociological studies confirm that this idea is the result of apostates’ activities, rather than the base for it. With a few notable exceptions, members of associations of conscience or belief come and go according to their own free choice, without tension from either side.
In the cases when an ex-member become apostate the motivation is mostly of a personal and emotional character, rather than an ideological or mental.
We find two major determining factors when ex-members dedicate large amounts of time and resources on activities as apostate; the loss of social prestige or a love relation determining the individual to leave the association.
The loss of social or financial prestige, connected to a certain position within the structure of the association is usual within associations of conscience or belief. In systems that aim for personal development beyond the material level, the attachment to certain social prestige is considered a hindrance, and is confronted by the association. When attached to the lost privilege the individual can be led into apostasy by feelings of betrayal or humiliation within the association and or by the leader of the association.
The other major determining factor is when love relations are broken or changed, by what is experienced as a result of being member in the association. Many of the most aggressive apostates are motivated by broken marriage and jalousie.
Propelling factors behind the strong impact of apostates’ activities
The psychology of retaliation of apostates involves making themselves “important” to a group where their hope of a position or recognition was not met. Often the personal development in such associations is based on giving up certain attachments and patterns that feels essential to the identity of that individual. Thus the identity of the individual can experience her position as threatened by the path, and may chose to withdraw. This individual conservative phenomenon is typically triggered in associations where individual transformation is involved, as in many associations of conscience or belief.
Our society is naturally conservative regarding its set of norms and frame of understanding. When alternative sets of values are practiced within our society, it is naturally met with a suspicion rooted in the subconscious. These stories are most often linked to the lowest steps in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; feelings of insecurity regarding sexuality, property and family, rather than trying to meet the associations in their aim to relate to the higher steps of the same hierarchy, such as love, esteem and self-actualization.
The dual conservative tendencies of individuals and society construct a web of normative ideas that are uncritically perpetuated among laymen in the fields where associations of conscience or belief aim to act based on knowledge; how to fulfill the potential of life itself. Any novel practice in this field is easily considered subversive at individual and society level.
Media always plays a decisive role for the impact of apostates’ activities. Many claims and vies of apostates fit well with the needs of tabloid media, fuelled by instincts and subconscious fears.
In a variety of different court battles, ex-members recruited by anti-cultists provide negative testimony against their former associations, such as in child custody cases where one of the parents is a “cult” member, and in cases where governmental agencies need evidence for violations of various governmental regulations.
Israeli political violence scholar Ehud Sprinzak claimed that "governments and government agencies are responsible for the generation of large amounts of violence", and concludes that "governments may carry a heavy responsibility in generating violence both against and by assaulted minorities. The extreme discourse of the most lunatic anti-cult fringe may claim legitimation by the similar rhetoric used in French or Belgian official documents".
In uni-cultural societies the anti-cult interest groups and media shape and welcome the same type of claims and views of the apostate.
An effective tool used by apostates is, the systematic copyright infringement. Publishing the secret and copyrighted material is subversive financially, and also damages the core structure of these associations, based on gradual initiations.
Apostates publish lists of private individuals, scientists, doctors, politicians, experts etc. identified as "cultists", "cult apologists", or "cult supporters", which may have an discriminating effect and even cause violence.
Today everyone search for information on the internet. Every year the information terrorism becomes more powerful. A well planned disinformation campaign with Search Engine Optimizing overrules other information when searched on Google or other search engines. Once informational terrorism is allied with mainstream media, it dominates the information flow about the association for years.
Within the field of information terrorism we also include personal contacts of apostates to politicians, media and other people of influence. These personal contacts often refer back to information terrorism.
Levels of apostates’ engagements
For the structure of the report we consider three different levels of the apostates’ engagement with increased concern for the human rights implication of the actions. The levels indicate a decreased respect for the dignity and fundamental rights of the individuals targeted, and increased potential danger of the actions. The pattern show that the same people who engage themselves at a private level are also active at society and social level, whereas the majority of apostates engaged at social level do not act, agree to the actions taken at society or private level. Thus the levels indicate a movement away from a personal indignation towards a more professional and unscrupulous engagement.
Social : apostates fuelling a hostile environment by partaking in slandering social media, blogs and forums. Many times the disappointments of the social ambitions not being fulfilled in the initial group is covered by a natural continuation in the new anti-group. The social anti-group is often centered on an internet forum where different topics are discussed and anti-opinions are formed. These forums are not frequented only by apostates but also by individuals still members of the association, family or others who find interest in “alternative” information regarding the association of conscience and belief.
Society: apostates are known to contact media to reach a broader audience for their claims and views. Some apostates are given the role of “experts” or “whistleblowers”, touring the media landscape and many times receiving financial compensation for their participation. In some cases this becomes a second nature of the individual, the basis of a new life and identity.
The apostates’ actions in one country or city is exported to another place where the association is active; a missionary of apostasy.
In situations where there have been financial dealings between the ex-member and the association apostates may take legal actions to pursue financial claims. In some cases such lawsuits can also be based in claims of deprival of human rights and manipulation. Such lawsuits and claims are often combined with an active collaboration with media.
Apostates engage themselves in contacting external partners of the associations with the intention to hinder the collaboration and activities. This typically relates to rented venues for classes, retreats, fairs, festivals or cultural activities organized by the associations.
In some cases politicians are contacted by apostates in order to influence decisions regarding associations of conscience or belief. We have indications that also judges have been contacted. This regards questions or cases that the judge or politician is directly engaged in at national or international level. Apostates are also known to contact politicians and journalists who engage themselves in defense of the human rights of repressed association of conscience or belief.
Private: Teachers, judges, policemen, doctors etc have been professionally marginalized or even forced to quit their jobs after apostates have contacted people in their working environment with their claims and views. This has been done direct at a private level or in connection to actions at a society level.
Family members have been directly contacted with claims and views on the activities of the individual or the association that the individual belongs to. In extreme cases such contacts have been taken to family members of individuals who are not even directly affiliated with the association, but only Facebook friends with members of the associations. In the case referred to the family members were politicians and the apostate seemingly hoped to reach an effect at the level of society. The intrusion in private life seems to be increasing with the information terrorism.
Most of the activities are low cost activities, such as internet communication. The pattern indicates that a few people spend a large amount of time on blogs and forums. Some apostates take it as a full time mission to spread their claims and views, and receive financial compensation for their participation in TV-shows etc.
In the cases of state repression the finance of such activities has been accredited to national secret service. In rare cases apostates have been threatened by police and prosecutor to testify their claims and views in court, even if they initially refused to do so. In some cases they have left their home country to give contrary declarations in the safety of other countries.
In special cases where an association of conscience or belief has spread information negative to certain business interests, companies having these interests are reported to have financed apostates’ activities against the association.
Social and financial consequences
Put together, the activities at the three levels play an essential role in the social marginalization of members of associations of conscience or belief.
The social activities in forums and blogs do not influence the lives of members much, if it is not for activities also at society and private levels. The output from the activities in social media is directly linked to the activities on other levels, the interplay between these activities and the reaction in society towards the association in general. When reaching a critical level of publicity the activities on social level instrument as a “legitimate” base for other activities.
When the activities of all levels work together the social activity on the forums become a source of “alternative” information for alarmed people in the social sphere of the member of the association of conscience or belief. Thus what for the apostate may be only a way to relief personal disappointments in a slanderous or mocking tone, reach a worried parent or colleague as a source of information.
As previous members the apostates’ claims and views are sometimes heralded by mainstream media as “experts” or “whistleblowers” unveiling the mysteries or scandalous activities of the “cults”. The collaboration between apostates and media most often result in speculative stories that satisfies the mutual need of both parties, well based in the dual conservative tendency of individuals and society, mentioned above. Links to forums and social media is often given in mainstream media to the information that could not be published without attracting lawsuits for libel.
In the case where there is already a media campaign against the association as a part of state repression, the activities of apostates in media most often goes hand in hand with an ongoing collaboration between police, prosecutor and media.
The result of personal contact at the level of society is in direct proportion to the level of repression and social marginalization of that association in society. If the association is treated neutrally in media, the effect of taking personal contact is small and the apostate is considered as voicing only a private opinion, often in contrast to scholars. Domestic politicians are sometimes easier to influence than international ones, who most often report to be familiar with the role of apostates in state repression of unwanted associations, and generally keep to the matter, disregarding the claims and views of the individual apostate.
Family members report different reactions, most feeling aggressed by the intrusion and questioning the motifs and aim of the apostates contact. Still, in all too many cases the intrusion in the private life of the member creates family traumas, resulting in broken families and loss of mutual trust.
Most external partners of the associations report to neglect such information and contacts, but some still have chosen to cancel previous engagements. The later reaction is more common in countries where the association in question is already socially marginalized. Some report to take the decision from a strategic perspective, not to be associated with the association, even if they do not find the claims and views of the apostates credible.
Apostates often play an important role in the social marginalization of members of association of conscience or belief, indirect through media or by direct contact between the apostates and politicians, partners or the social sphere of the member of association of conscience or belief. The social marginalization result in violations of fundamental rights, as in the cases studied for the report; physical violence, lost jobs, being shunned by family and friends or subjected to enforced medication.
Since biblical times and the story of Judas, apostates have played an integrated part in state or society’s repression of associations of conscience or belief. The contemporary strategy is parallel to the well documented use of such “testimonies” in recent history of repression of unwanted social phenomena, especially when related to associations of conscience or belief.
The connection between state interest and apostates’ activities can be more or less tangible, but the efficiency of the apostates’ actions is directly linked to the level of social marginalization of the association in question.
Rather than being whistleblowers, the apostate role is to re-affirm the already publicly established view. There is a cynical use of apostates in media to create headlines at the expense of the fundamental rights of the many members of the targeted association.
The cases where apostates under threat are called as key witnesses in court cases show a willingness to spread claims and views in social media and mainstream media, that they do not wish to share under oath. This indicates that the claims and views are of a private and speculative nature, that they are not willing to stand for under oath and when having direct legal consequences for others.
The financial consequences of apostates’ actions are difficult to map specifically, as they are a often part of a bigger pattern of social marginalization. Cancelations of contracts are reported as a direct consequence of apostates’ activities, hindering course activities (such as yoga classes) as well as cultural activities (such as theatre performances). Apostates have also engaged themselves in feuds regarding collectively owned property, which in some cases have been lost to the apostates.
Still, the big financial consequence comes not from the relatively few contracts that have been cancelled, but from a perpetuation of a social hostile environment, hindering the natural development of the associations’ activities.
Apostates are today given disproportional attention by politicians and media. Information terrorism is being ever more efficient and disinformation from such campaigns often finds its ways into authorities’ documents and even educational books, when paired with interests in mainstream media.
Soteria International encourages a critical view on the personal motives behind apostates’ activities and common sense when balancing between such information and the findings of scholars.
Soteria International affirms the connection between the interests of sensationalism in media and the shaping of apostates’ claims and views.
Soteria International affirms cases with connection between police and prosecutor interests and the shaping of apostates’ claims and views.
MISA as case study.
Apostates’ activities in the Romanian MISA case illustrate activities at all three levels. The apostates are formed in different groups of which some are working in direct connection with prosecutor, media and possibly Romanian secret service.
MISA and Mr. Bivolaru
MISA is a movement formed around the Romanian yoga teacher Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru. There is yoga schools affiliated with MISA in most European countries and 35.000 members are estimated to be followers worldwide. Mr. Bivolaru has been persecuted in his home country since the Ceausescu regime. Sweden granted Mr. Bivolaru asylum in 2005 after increased intensity of Romanian repression.
The MISA case is one of the bigger human rights scandals in Europe today, both considering the number of people affected and the graveness of the breaches of their fundamental rights.
Apostates’ activities during Ceausescu
During Ceausescu’s regime, Mr. Bivolaru and many of his students were kept under strict surveillance, some of them arrested and tortured. Still a group of yogis continued their yoga practice even in the periods when Mr. Bivolaru was imprisoned. The Securitate files show informers among the students and that ex-students played a major part in the state persecutions. Under the circumstances, these are not considered apostates within the frame of this report.
1996 – 2006
A police and media campaign started against MISA and Mr. Bivolaru. Many students left the yoga courses and apostates gave interviews in media etc. The social marginalization started along with increased infringments of the fundamental rights of MISA members. Apostates were not organized or active beyond the social level. Most notably was the apostasy in 2002 of yoga teacher Narcis Tarcau who had previously started MISA affiliated yoga schools in Denmark and India. Narcis Tarcau did not spread his claims and views beyond the social level and his actions had only a marginal negative effect on MISA. In 2006 he was joined by the yoga teacher Claudio Trandafir and together they have continued to teach the material of MISA and Mr. Bivolaru, violating the trademark and intellectual property right of the material in question, but only with marginal negative financial effects.
2007 – 2012
In 2009, when exmisa.ro was at its hight, www. exnatha.dk was opened as a portal for claims and views regarding Natha Yogacenter, the Danish affiliation of MISA. It is unclear to what extent Cecilia Tiz/Mahacutra was behind the opening of the portal, but she was an active member. In the English section many posts are identical with posts from wwwexmisa.ro. The forum is still open, but with little activity and only one in Danish language compared to 298 in English.
In 2010 her internet proselytism reached Finland and in 2011 India and Italy. After some initial heat, the activities soon died out in both countries, lacking local interest.
Mahacutra also has a YouTube channel and, until recently, the Facebook profile of Cecilia Tiz expressed her claims and views regarding MISA.
Since 2007 Cecilia Tiz has participated in different TV-programs regarding her claims and views on MISA. No other person has been given as much broadcast time to speak about MISA. The interviews on TV are used to recycle the information.
Cecilia Tiz has further been quoted in hundreds of articles in printed media. A characteristic of her apostate actions is her very proactive role in relating to media that she is more or less openly takes her own initiative in these TV-shows or articles.
Slanderous and morbid disinformation of Cecilia Tiz
One tragic example of the proactive relation to media was when Cecilia Tiz in 2010 published a press release on exmisa.ro, claiming that the female MISA yoga teacher DD had been decapitated by Japanese mafia.  As DD had already left the country in 2004, following the persecutions of MISA, her friends and family were very worried, until DD herself answered in a video. The stories that Cecilia Tiz’ spread lack understanding for the human dimension of the claims made.
Another example is a recent story where MEP Marc Tarrabella is accused of undemocratically having acted under force from MISA members, when expressing his concern regarding the MISA case to the Romanian Prime Minister.
Her statements and stories go hand in hand with the campaign orchestrated in joint action between mainstream media, police and prosecutor. When Mr. Bivolaru was granted asylum in Sweden, one of the points called upon by the Swedish Supreme Court was the grave lack of security and human rights arising from this joint action.
Interventions at society level
In Romania, Italy, Germany, Iceland, England and Denmark Cecilia Tiz has contacted people or companies with which MISA or MISA affiliated associations have collaborations.
In Romania, several lease contracts have been lost following contact by her, regarding yoga courses, camps, festivals and theatre performances. The claims and views typically expressed “As a former teacher at the German branch of this so-called 'yoga school' I can assure you in all certainty and honesty that at MISA and its international branches the yoga practice is simply a cover for other activities, mainly related to the sex-business, exploitation of people and other similarly criminal offences.” Outside Romania, such claims were not given credence, as the yoga activity of the associations in question is well reputed. Both exterior partners and the MISA affiliated associations have still experienced the contacts from Cecilia Tiz as unpleasant and a direct attempt of sabotage.
Cecilia Tiz has also contacted many politicians, experts and journalists who have stood up for transparency and rule of law, following the many reports of human rights abuses in the MISA case. This includes Danish, Swedish and Dutch journalists, experts called by the Swedish Supreme Court, Swedish and Romanian politicians as well as members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Europe. As generally in the case of apostates’ actions in a non-hostile environment, individuals of these groups seem unaffected in by the claims and views of Cecilia Tiz.
There is today a court case running in Germany against Cecilia Tiz as result of her activities. If it can be judicially proven that she is identical with the alias Mahacutra it seems likely that she will be convicted of slander. After this process started Ms Tiz has changed her vocabulary and erased many posts from websites, but her mission remains the same.
Intrusion of privacy
Cecilia Tiz has also contacted private persons in the social surrounding of members of MISA affiliated associations. This has been family members, spouses or working associates.
In Romania MISA members working as doctors, policemen, teachers and judges have had to leave their jobs after claims and views regarding MISA have been spread at their workplace. It is unclear what role Cecilia Tiz and others from exmisa.ro may have played in this.
The human dimension of such a contact is immeasurable. 2004 to 2009 MISA members in Romania were beaten by strangers in the street, shunned by their family or forced into heavy medication due to their conscience or belief. To hunt down family and friends of MISA members during such circumstances cannot be covered by the apostate’s normally claimed motive to spread alternative information. No laws hinder such inhuman behavior, but history condemns it, as in occupied Europe or the Soviet purges.
Considerations regarding the motives and finance of Cecilia Tiz actions
Considering the extraordinary amount of time and travelling that Cecilia Tiz puts into her continuous actions over more than 5 years we must raise the question of motives and finance.
From her own statements and those of others close to her, it is known that the initiating spark for her to leave MISA resulted from jalousie with her husband. Cecilia Tiz openly blamed Mr. Bivolaru and MISA when her husband found another lover within the yoga school.
In many periods the many activities of Cecilia Tiz reflect the efforts of a dedicated full time job. Even if media may have given generous compensation for her stories and participation, she seems to have other funding as well, possibly donations by those whose interests are well served by her actions.
Virgil Catalin Calin
In 2010 the yoga teacher Virgil Catalin Calin left the Italian branch of the MISA yoga school. He taught and still teaches MISA’s yoga material, changed in shape of graphics and logo, but not in content.
He engaged himself in apostate activities, spreading false information and heavy defamations between students and teachers and provoking at social level a climate of fears and tensions against the members of MISA. The tensions spread from the village where he was teaching to all 9 cities where MISA had branches.
On the occasion of a MISA conference in San Bened