The Instagram Guru ‘F–king’ His female Followers ‘To Freedom’ - Rolling Stone

​​In may 2017, a friend sent Jade Alectra, a 34-12 months-historical California-based yoga teacher and Instagram influencer with about 75,000 followers, a video featuring a spiritual guru she'd on no account heard of earlier than. the person was small, blond, and sprightly, essentially elfin in appearance; he spoke with a delicate Dutch accent, providing guarantees of self-actualization and attaining one other airplane of cognizance.

despite the fact his teachings consisted of relatively regularly occurring spiritual koans, he looked nothing like a typical ethereal guru: On Instagram, he always showed off his fondness for cigars and great blended whiskeys. He regularly posted photographs of himself together with his tanned arm snaked across the waists of one or more waifish, mermaid-haired girls. And together with his toned biceps, and Zack Morris-esque swoop of sun-kissed hair, he greater carefully resembled a pampered surfer boy whose dad had paid his approach into Stanford than a spiritual chief.

The guru's name become Bentinho Massaro, and initially, Alectra says, she changed into profoundly unimpressed by means of him, describing his content material as "very mashed potatoes. loads of things he says are very nearly like riddles: to understand every little thing is to understand nothing, which ability to know every thing,' " she remembers. "I not ever truly discovered much value in that. I simply didn't bear in mind it." but Alectra, who lived in la at the time, depended on her friend, a fellow instructor on the dependancy-restoration middle where she worked. So for motives even she will't reasonably bear in mind, she adopted Massaro on Instagram. "It changed into like, 'ok, he's sort of alluring. He's young. He's my age. possibly in just a few years, I'll get it,' " she says.

After Massaro did an episode on his podcast deconstructing the boundaries of average monogamy and plugging polyamory, Alectra, who became in a flailing relationship on the time, DM'd him to let him know how deeply it had affected her. they had a brief, polite trade. along with his apparent penchant for tailor-made suits, high-conclusion nutrition, and exotic, Instagram-capable locales, Massaro's persona "all felt very fantastic Gatsby," she says. "He appeared very contrary of the entire academics that I had met and known that teach spirituality. He become within the speedy lane, and that i appreciated that attitude. That appeared fresh to me, and true."

Alectra all started following considered one of Massaro's girlfriends, Cory Katuna, on Instagram, offering her an hourlong free reiki session. they had an instant connection, she says, and a few months later, apparently instantly, Katuna invited her on a retreat, although she wouldn't tell her the place it changed into and said she needed to sign an NDA if she wanted to go; one of the most stipulations became that if she broke it, Massaro might sue her for $300,000. Alectra turned into simultaneously repulsed and intrigued. "i was type of afraid that i might get there and it will be this loopy orgy, and that i'd be this, like, fresh mouse that they drop into the cage," she says.

Then she remembered that just a few months earlier than, she had long past to look a tarot-card reader, who had instructed her that she would meet a person who changed into a little older than her boyfriend, who wasn't her soulmate, however who could be first rate for the realm, and with whom she could at some point do super issues. She blames every thing that happened to her in a while on that moment.

part spiritual chief, half wellbeing guru, half aspirational Instagram bro, Massaro is a curious mix of quite a lot of social media personae: He leads self-aid retreats all over the place the realm and has garnered tens of thousands and thousands of views on YouTube, where he has been posting his slickly packaged lectures for the past decade. On Instagram and fb, the place he has cultivated almost a million followers together with his each day affirmations, his message resists most makes an attempt at interpretation: "The underlying field of all objects is itself the subtlest object of all of them," he says in a single contemporary post, in which he gazes blankly into the space. "free up your self of the subject as if it had been a last object you can deny focus and understand your real state past."

Yet if you probe below the surface, Massaro's teachings seem to endure the diverse mark of a depressing messianic complicated. He has brazenly mentioned he can "teleport, bilocate, and levitate"; he allegedly prescribes restrictive fasts and diets, which cult experts say helps hold followers malleable (a declare he denies); he has sex with feminine followers as a means to reward them and to punish them for apparent misdeeds, in accordance with two women I spoke with who'd had relationships with him; and his teachings skew towards open misogyny, instructing followers on the strict dichotomy of natural gender roles and urging women to face up to their more active "masculine" impulses, writing in one 2016 publish that femininity is described by means of "radiance and give up." (It's value noting that strict gender dichotomies are regular in cults, with the self-development corporation NXIVM espousing an analogous ideology.)

Jade Alectra with Bentinho Massaro

Jade Alectra with Bentinho Massaro

Jade Alectra connected with Bentinho Massaro after a tarot-card reader told her she'd meet a person with whom she would do excellent issues.

Courtesy of Jade Alectra

One grownup has died following his involvement with Massaro's neighborhood: Brent Wilkins, a handsome former college tennis player who took his own lifestyles at the conclusion of 2017, after Massaro had made public feedback at a previous retreat that looked as if it would propose suicide, prompting a police investigation and Massaro and his followers to flee from the fallout. The group has considering that ping-ponged all over the world, from a monastery within the Netherlands to a non secular core in Quito, Ecuador. (sooner or later Massaro was now not a suspect in Wilkins' death, which changed into handled as a suicide.)

In February 2022, three of Massaro's former followers — Alectra, Massaro's former girlfriend Jacqueline Graham, and Alectra's former accomplice Keilan McNeil — got here out in opposition t Massaro in a podcast with the aid of former NXIVM member Sarah Edmondson and to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, sparking a brand new wave of allegations that he become leading a cult. Such allegations have surfaced in the past, certainly in a Guardian expose in 2020 and a 2019 Vice documentary titled The Controversial Guru that wants to "improve Civilization." (The Vice documentary featured Massaro answering the question on how he feels in regards to the cult label: "we are a cult. we are a Curious, knowing, Loving Tribe.") Yet with the Covid-19 pandemic leaving many attempting to find answers, Massaro has been in a position to exponentially develop his following — he has well-nigh a million subscribers on fb, and greater than 100,000 on YouTube — prompting issues from former participants and those that song cults.

Massaro's expanding have an effect on is "very regarding," says Diane Benscoter, a former Moonie and the founder of, an organization that helps these littered with psychological manipulation. in accordance with Benscoter, Massaro's teachings have "a true appeal for people who consider lost, who feel like they're lacking something, who are searching for love and looking out for acceptance and searching for friends and neighborhood. They're going to be in reality at risk of this, and the can charge may well be years of their lives, or it may well be worse."

although Massaro and his community make funds selling admission to retreats and personal teaching classes, and outsource a lot of the labor to Massaro's followers, he acknowledges that many individuals work for him without compensation. "We don't function as a standard business. We operate extra like a household," he says over e-mail. "We travel collectively, devour together, arrange for housing together, and so all who are committed to our mutual vision strongly sufficient to be a part of the crew are supported insofar as the enterprise has the means to support them." 

When asked certainly even if or no longer he runs a cult, Massaro does not explicitly deny the can charge. "that could depend on your definition of a cult. What isn't a cult?," he tells Rolling Stone by means of e mail. "films have cult followings, political parties, countries, households, religions, militia, facebook agencies about all sorts of issues … All may be regarded to be cults. however, if you imply cult as in some variety of closed-off situation the place americans are managed against their will and cannot depart at any given second, then we aren't a cult in any respect." As Massaro tells it, free will "runs like a golden thread all through every little thing we do and how we function as a crew," and he denies having any power or handle over his followers, attributing his followers' belief of him as a font of truth or authority to their own misplaced beliefs. "The handiest means for me to in no way set off in anybody else a sense of inferiority is by using no longer talking or acting and even current in any respect," he says. "this may not accomplish our imaginative and prescient as a team nor would it be a real way for me to are living."

those Rolling Stone spoke with who've left Massaro's orbit, youngsters, have watched his growing influence with difficulty. "He's juggling all these plates to retain his operation going," says Graham, who believes Massaro "receives off on the excitement of pushing the boundaries." She alleges that he owes her lots of of heaps of bucks (Massaro describes the cash she gave him as a donation from her). "He can't aid himself from fucking up," Graham continues. "Now there are these plates spinning and it looks like it has to be exposed."

The son of a Dutch elementary college trainer and an energy-business worker, Massaro grew up in a reasonably standard middle-classification regional, his former followers and girlfriends say, though he did tell Playboy all the way through a rare interview that he used to event "bouts of poverty." His childhood become marked by way of acts of rage and violence, according to Graham, who turned into worried with him from 2019 to 2020. She says that Massaro informed her he had been clinically determined with narcissistic personality disease, and that he used to defecate on individuals's lawns. Massaro also frequently informed a story to his acolytes about having tortured a kitten by way of repeatedly throwing her right into a thorn bush in his yard, which would later be noted by using his detractors as facts of delinquent tendencies. (In an electronic mail to Rolling Stone, Massaro denies torturing his cat, but does admit to taking "a dump on a pal's garden a few instances a s a prank." He additionally denies ever having been diagnosed with narcissistic character sickness.)

As a young person starting to be up in the Netherlands, Massaro's parents became worried within the Silva method, a self-assist program that purports to build states of heightened attention and train students clairvoyance. The Massaros enrolled Bentinho in a youth path, so he spent his teenage years adrift in India, hopping on rickshaws and learning yoga and meditation before returning to the Netherlands and starting his YouTube channel in 2010. in the earliest video clips, he's a goofy child with a bad haircut and Chiclet tooth, working towards his steely gaze on the viewer whereas doling out pseudo-religious koans. in a single of them, he stares on the camera, grinning in silence, for a very good fifty six seconds earlier than announcing, "what is it that's seeing right now? Is it you? Is it the you that you agree with to be? Is it seeing at the moment, as an act, as a doing?" (lengthy periods of silence also feature prominently in Massaro's teachings, with followers i nspired to "eyegaze," or grasp every other's gazes without speakme for long intervals of time.)

After gaining recognition and acting at spirituality seminars and panels, by using 2016 he'd moved to Boulder, Colorado, home of a burgeoning religious group, the place he launched his subscription provider, Bentinho Massaro television, and created a flow referred to as Trinfinity. As an "upper-density being," he claimed, he can be in a position to lead his followers to a more robust airplane of enlightenment, ushering within the relaxation of humanity by using the yr 2035. At that aspect, his business had reportedly all started spending $10,000 a month on fb advertising, and became charging as much as $5,000 per grownup for swanky retreats; just a few of his followers, upset together with his deviation from the mission, convened to discuss relocating Trinfinity ahead without Massaro's advice. In response, he packed up and moved to Sedona, Arizona, the place he held weekly talks at a local arts middle and have become usual for his lavish way of life.

The core tenets of Massaro's philosophy are not exciting, and might be summarized as a melange of Ra's The legislation of 1, advantageous affirmations, and the legislation of appeal as popularized with the aid of the spirituality cornerstone the key. "What he teaches is a very elementary theory, and he attire the same component up in distinct words," says Be Scofield, who hung out with the neighborhood in 2017 and wrote a enormously critical Medium submit regarding Massaro as "Steve Jobs meets Jim Jones." "It's New Age observe salad," she says. "[He'll] sit there for an hour and say issues in diverse words and his people are entranced."

bentinho massaro

bentinho massaro

Bentinho Massaro grew up within the Netherlands, however spent a great deal of his teenage years in India.

Keilan McNeil

What Massaro arguably did choicest, youngsters, was grasp social media. At this aspect, he had deserted the bad haircut and the striped-T-shirt dresser in his prior videos and pivoted towards understanding, chugging eco-friendly juice, and puffing cigars on Instagram, setting up himself as a sexier, flashier edition of a brand new Age guru. He additionally carved out a strong presence on YouTube. "a large a part of how people will get hooked into these kinds of things is just free time and the YouTube algorithm and searching up stuff on spirituality," says former follower McNeil , who in 2017 turned into a deeply depressed college dropout who spent his time experimenting with LSD and watchingYouTube.

Graham, a Canadian vegan restaurateur and mom of three, additionally found Massaro's work on YouTube. "He just gave the look of a nice, actual adult who changed into in reality wise and bought all of these teachings concerning the legislation of attraction, like the way you are liable for growing your life," she says.

lots of Massaro's followers had been longtime seekers, a few of whom had pinballed from religious organization to spiritual organization. and many of them agreed to work for Massaro for free. One of these followers, Callie Sorensen, a member of Massaro's inner circle from 2017 to 2019, had frolicked on the Brazil-primarily based spiritual-healing middle run by way of guru and convicted sex offender John of God; one more, Ayla Verheijen, a Netherlands-primarily based advertising train, had in short followed the tantric intercourse company the new Tantra earlier than fitting disillusioned with it and taking a company job. It became throughout this time, in 2016, that she came across one among Massaro's movies, curative the internal child and Awakening the Chakras, devouring his oeuvre simply per week or two earlier than she spent 600 euros reserving a visit to one among his Maui, Hawaii, retreats.

Verheijen changed into "elated" during the go back and forth. She was straight drawn to both Massaro's onstage charisma and his eccentricities, such as his habit of donning sunglasses indoors so his followers would now not approach him all the way through breaks. among his followers, she says, he would vacillate between aloofness and bursts of affection, gazing directly into people's eyes and giving them warm hugs; in return, they hung onto his each word. She recently browsed via emails she had despatched chums throughout that point and located one message: "I wrote, 'I'm so happy, I ultimately found this adult who isn't like a guru, who simply invitations you to join deeper to yourself,' " she says. "i was satisfied I had discovered someone who got here from an excellent area."

From the starting, former Massaro students inform Rolling Stone, there have been a slew of crimson flags, even though they did not establish them as such at the time. For starters, Massaro became prone to making weird claims about his own skills, corresponding to that he might handle the weather or that he turned into extra spiritually advanced than Jesus Christ. in a single 2018 Instagram video, he appears to show off his telekinetic knowledge by using moving a piece of tinfoil devoid of touching it (he hashtagged the publish #telekinesis).

When asked whether he considers himself more spiritually evolved than Jesus or the Buddha, Massaro demurs, asserting both figures "had been doubtless extra spiritually advanced than myself." Yet he doubles down on his contention that he can handle the climate, announcing he has had a "high success cost with producing rain and stopping rain upon request from some farmer chums." "here is a private belief," he says. "however I have seen enough facts of this to assert that it is correct." (In a Vice documentary, Massaro was asked to manage the weather on demand, and become unable to achieve this.)

Massaro's former students say that he would motivate them to take part in "distortion readings," where they brought up every other's flaws and insecurities. Massaro confirms this, saying he recommends "people to head to at least one a further for reflections," and that the "intention is to motivate hones and constructive verbal exchange."  however when he led such readings, it felt like a front for psychological abuse, says a former member who asked to remain nameless. "It was a bit like a video game," she says. "now and again it would be basically harsh, after which he'd say, 'Oh, but I do this out of affection,' and it sort of breaks you down." She says that she witnessed many people breaking down crying after such readings, which would frequently invoke past sexual or physical traumas.

Alectra says that when she changed into with Massaro at a retreat in Quito, all the way through one group distortion reading a member shared sexual trauma he had experienced. Massaro, she says, acquired "grew to become on" and instructed Alectra to move upstairs, the place he prompt her to reenact the experience the member had simply shared. They then went downstairs and Massaro told the member what had simply came about, so as to see no matter if he had utterly recovered from the experience. "He [coerces] americans to get their deepest traumas out, so then they believe like they could't speak against him as a result of he has this on them," she says. (Massaro says, "I have never had anybody reenact any sexual encounter," however provides that if "it got here up in talk and that they chose to do whatever like, that this is as much as them.")

Massaro additionally encouraged followers to detach from friends and family members, a typical warning sign according to those that study coercive groups. "Fuck your relationships. All of them. To your parents. To your family, to your friends, to the americans around you, to me, fuck your relationships," he says in a single 2017 lecture. "They mean nothing. They imply nothing … don't give a fuck about your family. Don't give a fuck about your children. Don't give a fuck about your parents. Don't provide a fuck about your accomplice."

Such stark language didn't strike these Rolling Stone spoke with as odd, at least not in the beginning. On the opposite, they considered it as half and parcel with the rest of his teachings: that the stresses and attachments of familiar life have been however projections on a wall, which may well be not noted and brushed aside in the quest for self-actualization. The effects of such teachings were subtle, but deeply felt, says Verheijen. "They have been essentially a form of drug to me," she says. "The combination of 'nothing is true,' which is what he would commonly say, and 'here is all a game', is a very complicated one. which you can start to journey life greater like it is a pc online game. and also you birth to forget intuitions like 'I don't know if that's a good idea.' "

those who attended Massaro's retreats and workshops have been additionally requested to signal NDAs, a duplicate of which was supplied to Rolling Stone. When asked why retreat attendees and students have been requested to sign legally binding documents, Massaro says that he started requiring them about 5 years in the past, after someone he did not identify "infiltrated" his group. "NDAs are a very general, natural follow in any business or corporation," even non secular ones, he says. "As you ought to be conscious, people accuse me of all styles of things to take pleasure in their 15 minutes of fame and emotional validation; or to conveniently vent their repressed jealousy in insincere approaches," he says.

Massaro changed into additionally allegedly the use of that point to scan with what Benscoter categorizes as coercive intellect-manage tactics. Two of his former followers advised me that all the way through their time in Sedona, they did a 40-day fast with Massaro (although they are saying Massaro lasted simplest seven days), drinking a mixture of grape juice, bentonite clay (which has been area to warnings from the FDA as a result of its improved lead levels), and charcoal. (Massaro dismisses this as a "ludicrous declare," asserting he did a two-week grape-juice fast and that he most effective suggested students do it four or 5 years in the past, and has now not achieved so once again, as it has "nothing to do with my work or teachings.") "He talks about densities, and i feel by way of doing fasting and all of that, that it helps lighten the physique," says Sorensen, who did the juice quickly. "so that you're capable of enter into these enlightened states."

Sorensen says she lost about 25 pounds, shrinking to just 102 pounds, prompting Massaro to comment approvingly on her weight reduction. The fast, as well as Massaro encouraging his followers to interact in polyphasic sleep, a strategy during which people sleep for simply a couple of hours at a time, were framed as part of the pathway to enlightenment. Yet Benscoter says they're each standard tactics to exert dominance over followers. "The goal is definite manage: control over the person, what they eat, how a good deal they sleep, their physicality," she says. "You render them weak. It's a power factor."

Graham says Massaro become smitten by policing girls's weight. "He framed it as it could be valuable to his work if there were women around him who appear to be that," says Graham, who alleges Massaro often sent her unsolicited photographs of thin women for inspiration. one more of Massaro's ex-girlfriends, upon leaving the neighborhood, posted a now-deleted fb put up, as stated on by way of Playboy, detailing how Massaro instructed her he couldn't have intercourse together with her unless she misplaced weight on account of his perception that she stored toxins in her fat cells, leading to her eating simplest fruits and vegetables and to work out twice a day for months. (This ex-lady friend declined to comment for this piece; Massaro admits to telling her to drop a few pounds because of "toxins" in her fats cells, however denies withholding sex from her within the procedure.)

In an e-mail to Rolling Stone, Massaro admits that he did send Graham pictures of skinny women, even though he casts this as within the context of "exploring trend and beauty ideas" and not as a means to motivate her to reduce weight. "i can see looking back how this was an ignorant and naive strategy on my conclusion, and insensitive to the sensitivity women may additionally have in opposition t their physique photograph," he says, apologizing for this "mistake" and for his outdated "lack of cognizance."

on the time of what would become widely used as the Sedona experiment, Massaro had very seen relationships with women within the community, and would proceed to build up girlfriends among his followers as his neighborhood grew, posting photographs with a rotating cast of willowy, ombre-tressed girls on Instagram. whereas it become typical among his social media followers that he was polyamorous, few discovered it odd, because it is relatively average in the non secular group. certainly, Alectra says that far from being a pink flag, Massaro's polyamory turned into one of the most compelling things about him. "simply being in a position to love so openly and honestly, it changed into an intriguing thing to me," she says.

To a opt for variety of followers, Massaro would frame intercourse with him as a therapeutic formula, a way to remedy them of their trauma, Graham and Alectra say. He was open about this along with his internal circle, asserting in a single group textual content message, "whenever I connect with a younger girl, I don't want any one's fucking doubts as a result of they can't see beyond the photograph," including that individuals should seem the other way when he "fuck[s] one [woman] into freedom." "He has this thought that he heals individuals via romantic relationships or sexually," says Graham. Massaro claims he has on no account framed sex as "therapy," "nor coerced anyone into sexual members of the family with me beneath insincere pretenses." "but yes, I do agree with intimacy, and sexual interaction, can also be curative when accomplished in the power of affection," he adds.

Jacqueline Graham(right) with Bentinho Massaro

Jacqueline Graham(right) with Bentinho Massaro

Jacqueline Graham (correct) with Bentinho Massaro. A former lady friend, she believes Massaro "receives off on the excitement of pushing the boundaries."

Courtesy of Jacqueline Graham

After Graham broke up along with her former companion, who did not approve of Massaro's teachings, Graham says Massaro approached her all through a session and instructed her she turned into not pleasing her religious competencies as a result of she turned into "too masculine."

"He asked me to lay down on a sofa, then he lay on appropriate of me. there have been other americans in the room," she says. "And my first impulse become, like, 'Fuck off. You're not going to get me to be sexual. I don't wish to go there.' but then it instantly clicked. and i became like, 'Oh, fuck, here's my masculine power that doesn't wish to surrender like this." They begun courting shortly thereafter.

Massaro denies that his relationship with Graham originated in a student/trainer means, asserting that they had been "just two human beings connecting and feeling drawn in opposition t spending time together." He additionally denies constructing an ambiance of sexual coerciveness ("wholly not genuine"), claiming, "I even have on no account been concupiscent" or excessively drawn to intercourse, and volunteering that he has no longer had intercourse in months, "although there are appealing and interested girls within sight."

no longer all and sundry within the community changed into aware of the details of Massaro's relationships with feminine students. but despite the fact that they'd been, they say, they'd have without difficulty chalked it up to Massaro's status as a extra spiritually evolved being. as a result of Massaro become a far better-density being, the good judgment went, any concern anyone can also have with any of his teachings changed into their difficulty and end result of the their own dysfunction, not his. "one in every of Bentinho's teachings is that if some thing upsets you, then you definitely're not free, you're no longer enlightened," says McNeil. "He makes spirituality a online game, nearly. and then he abuses the suggestions."

In late 2017, Be Scofield posted her article about Massaro on the website Medium. A journalist on the fringes of the religious group herself, Scofield had found herself in Sedona on the assistance of her astrologer, and was rapidly enmeshed in Massaro's circle. while she become left unmoved by his teachings — "i thought it was New Age psychobabble," she says — she become impressed with the aid of Trinfinity Academy's slick on-line presence, and realized that she may use her competencies as a picture clothier to infiltrate the neighborhood beneath the pseudonym Shakti Hunter.

Her resulting exposé, which particulars allegations concerning the polyamory, the grape-juice fasts, and Massaro's self-comparisons to Jesus Christ, was titled "Tech Bro Guru: inner the Sedona Cult of Bentinho Massaro." It become the first time the c-note had been publicly applied to Massaro and Trinfinity, and it sent shockwaves all through the community. "[The messaging was] like, 'These entities are attacking us and that they're attempting to take down this superb mission of awakening the planet because there's these darkish forces and entities which are out to get us,' " says Sorensen. "Which appears so weird and sci-fi, on reflection."

Scofield's story, youngsters, would no longer just about have the same have an impact on because the activities of Dec. 9, 2018, when the physique of Brent Wilkins changed into discovered at the bottom of a ravine in Sedona. Wilkins, 34, became a well-known member of the group, a longtime Massaro acolyte who had adopted the community from Boulder. He became boyishly handsome, a former all-American faculty tennis player, and had a history of depression, staying in a psychiatric medical institution presently before following Massaro to Sedona, in response to Sorensen. lately, he had been primarily scuffling with his intellectual fitness, says Verheijven, who coached Wilkins all over a 2017 session to determine his religious calling. "He had a lot of questions," she says. "He was seeking, but in an excessive means and whole of doubts."

In recordings of calls with the Sedona police after Wilkins' demise, his parents without delay attributed their son's struggles to his devotion to Massaro. "He's a member of a cult," Wilkins' mother says, together with his father adding that Wilkins "came returned a distinct person" after going to a retreat led by using Massaro in Asheville, North Carolina. Wilkins was attending the retreat called the Sedona test and turned into wearing a flow for the adventure when his physique became present in the ravine.

What attracted the most scrutiny from local police, who wondered Massaro presently after finding Wilkins' physique, become a lecture Massaro had given at an extra retreat before Wilkins' death, in which he gave the impression to encourage nonbelievers or these scuffling with their religion to end their personal lives. "Wake as much as anything vital," he says within the clip. "otherwise, kill yourself." (Massaro by no means faced expenses for Wilkins' demise, which turned into handled by police as a suicide, in line with distinct followers conventional with the situation and an investigation by way of The Arizona Republic.)

Wilkins' loss of life rattled the community, especially following Massaro's response to the news. whereas Massaro posted an announcement mourning Wilkins on fb two days after his loss of life, some members of the neighborhood have been puzzled by his seeming "lack of compassion and coldness," as considered one of his former followers, Celine Brun, describes it. whereas Sorensen, who turned into friendly with Wilkins, does not at once blame Massaro for his death, she does take situation along with his response in a while, and his obvious unwillingness to take accountability for his remarks. "He didn't make an apology," she says. "He didn't say, 'I'm so sorry. That's now not what I intended to convey at all.' There was no regret in that feel."

When requested specially about Wilkins' demise, Massaro mentioned, "i love Brent. His suicide changed into totally unlucky, painful and a stunning surprise to us all. Had I considered it coming by some means, i might have carried out my premier to intervene or get him expert help." He did not ask for forgiveness for his exhortations for followers to "kill [themselves]" in the event that they were dropping faith in the mission, claiming that he had made the remarks years in the past and that that they had been taken out of context. "The intention at the back of that statement or equivalent observation, changed into quite simply to inspire individuals to cost their lives (no longer devalue!), and the valuable chance all of us have of being alive…my intention became to encourage people to prioritize their existence extra consciously," he says.

Sorensen says Massaro's reaction to the tragedy become to close ranks. After unaffiliated Sedona residents left posts questioning Massaro and Trinfinity on Massaro's fb web page, Massaro left Arizona in 2018, taking a lot of his followers with him, which he says become the outcome of him receiving threats on his existence: "It felt safest and smartest" to leave, he says. He displayed little endurance for those still grieving Wilkins' demise, says Sorensen. "He was already feeling attacked before the Brent aspect. I suppose he just completely went into upkeep mode," Sorensen says. She stayed within the neighborhood for a yr afterward, only slicing ties with Massaro after an argument whereas he and a number of contributors of her internal circle had been staying at her apartment in la. but the manner he had dealt with the aftermath of Wilkins' death left an acrid taste in her mouth. as opposed to guide his followers grieving the loss of a community member, for Massa ro, "it become all about him," she says. "It became all in regards to the mission."

Following their departure from Sedona, Massaro and his followers pretty much went on the run, notwithstanding one wouldn't have customary that from his social media presence. On his Instagram feed, he posted lush photos from quite a lot of a ways-flung locales: sandy shores, Caribbean islands, the Egyptian pyramids. many of his followers, together with Sorensen, deploy shop in a monastery within the Netherlands. It was meant to be a edition of a utopian group, but the "vibes" were off automatically, according to Sorensen. "every person was drowsing with every different," she says. "It's now not an excellent power to have in a group, when individuals are trying to heal and going through these huge processes and everybody's very susceptible. It felt dangerous."

Sorensen and Verheijen each say they have been made uncomfortable via sexual feedback made by one among Massaro's appropriate-hand men, Anurag Gupta, who teamed up with Massaro to supply utility-only religious coaching periods for "wealthy individuals" in 2018. Verheijen, who viewed Gupta as some thing of a mentor, says that she changed into bowled over when she messaged him a photo of a property she desired to buy and he wrote again, "seems like a superb location to have intercourse towards a window." "I noticed him as a safe grownup who would certainly not attain out in that means," she says. "I trusted him." They later all started a consensual sexual relationship, though she says she won't have finished so had she now not been so deeply involved with the neighborhood. (She later splintered off from Massaro to be a part of one in every of his different followers, who had centered a rival neighborhood.)

"Boundaries had been in no way a concern in the teachings, which I suppose is critical," Verheijen says. "for those who go into these deep-meditation teachings that may take you out of your physique, it's vital to focus on protection, grounding, checking in. That became by no means a part of the teachings. It turned into all the time about going extra and deeper, but now not [boundaries] and safeguard."

bentinho massaro

bentinho massaro

Massaro with a follower's tattoo.

Courtesy of Jade Alectra

as a minimum three former followers tell me that Massaro cultivated an atmosphere the place intercourse with diverse partners was inspired, regardless if americans felt relaxed with it or not, although he didn't make this specific in his teachings. "It become delicate, very delicate," says the previous follower who asked to stay anonymous, who lived at the monastery for a time. "The leading aspect that took place after ages of residing there's that you are being brainwashed to consider that your boundaries are incorrect." Massaro denies this as "yet another bogus claim."

this is no longer peculiar for coercive spiritual organizations, says Benscoter, the former Moonie who now focuses on psychological manipulation. "in case you wish to manage a person, it's definitely vital that you simply by some means find a means to control their most intimate relationships," she says. "in the Moonies, you couldn't have sex unless you were married, so abstinence is a type of manage. right here, it's so crucial to manage sex lives and intimate relationships, as a result of in any other case, if they are dating americans backyard the neighborhood, they'll be drawn away through americans who say, 'Oh, [those teachings are] shit.' "

these in Massaro's circle absorbed his teachings that sex with assorted people is usually a sort of spiritual fulfillment. in one textual content sent to Verheijen, Gupta advised her an additional female friend became planning a "sensual rejuvenation getaway" for him, in which "2 or three beauties can step in to this from the correct space and love looking after and replenishing me … to position a enormous surge of feminine into me to match my output." She left the neighborhood shortly thereafter. (Gupta didn't reply to requests for comment.)

For Graham, it took her lots longer to awaken from under Massaro's spell. After an initial spate of what she describes as love-bombing, wherein Massaro advised her he wanted to marry her and have little ones together with her, she followed him to the Netherlands, the place, she says, he advised her he was having difficulty establishing a bank account. After about per week, she says, he sat her down and pointed out he wanted to skip the dating phase and go straight into marriage, but he notion that merging their financial institution accounts would be greater effective than in fact signing a marriage license.

"When he said that, my coronary heart sunk," Graham says. "part of me felt like, 'here's real. i'm intended to be with him and i can aid him, and we will also be a partnership, and here's so fabulous. I've in no way felt this amount of love and devotion from someone earlier than.' but a further a part of me became scared that I'd be giving away anything of mine for this." Massaro, she says, defined that he wanted to be in a position to invest cash so he may supply away his teachings for free of charge, and that they'd both share in the residual earnings from the investment. He then requested her for a whole lot of hundreds of dollars (she requested that Rolling Stone no longer post the exact amount due to security issues). As quickly because the cash was transferred, besides the fact that children, she says, "his energy in opposition t me shifted. I came into his room one day and he turned into type of quiet with me, and he turned into like, 'You know what? r apidly I'm now not feeling very interested in you.' "

a number of weeks later, she says, while they were in Panama on a retreat, Massaro came to her crying, asserting he had lost all the funds in a bad crypto funding. Graham forgave him, however she says that while he at last agreed to pay her a fifth of the cash back when she left the community, he nevertheless owes her a whole lot of hundreds of bucks.

For his part, Massaro claims that Graham by no means loaned him any funds, sharing a document signed by Graham that refers back to the volume as a "gift for intention of investing" and a "switch." He says that the cash became "evidently a gift, a donation, for the functions of investing," which he says she wholeheartedly agreed to. He additionally claims he did not lose pastime in her sexually after the donation, as a substitute losing activity in her "relationally [italics his] — and for this reason sexually as neatly — because of definite persona patterns that all started displaying up in her habits which i will not reveal here as a result of i like her and appreciate her privateness and dignity."

Alectra, too, says she ultimately got here to peer how Massaro was the use of her as a means to obtain greater influence. In WhatsApp messages from 2021, he revealed to her that he had approached her on account of her enormous following; he additionally advised her that he wished to recruit influencer Alexis Ren, after researching that Alectra turned into chums with her sister. Massaro was laser-concentrated on attracting a more youthful, greater captivating viewers, she says, and he explicitly recommended her to trot out his photogenic followers entrance and middle to forged that net. "Have them have the GQ face/vibe and ensure they could speak lightly yet ecstatically to the more youthful era," he urged Alectra and McNeil by way of textual content in April 2021, after they have been both engaged on a promotional video for his No Limits Society (NLS).

each Graham and Alectra say that over the course of just a few months, it grew to be clear that Massaro become no longer very interested in them as individuals, but more drawn to them as vessels wherein he might undertaking handle. One evening, Graham alleges, whereas they were out at a cafe with a gaggle of Massaro's followers, Massaro asked her all of a sudden if she would take her properly off in public. Embarrassed, Graham talked about no. Later that evening, she says, Massaro despatched her a textual content explaining that the request become a check. ("this is either now not proper or I don't be aware it in any respect," Massaro says.) "with the aid of me not trusting him and doing this component during this public vicinity and risking my very own embarrassment, i used to be proving that I wasn't all into this relationship," she says. "Embarrassingly sufficient, i wanted it to take place again, so he may tell me to take my clothes off in the restaurant, and t hat i would do it."

but that, she says, turned into the beginning of the end. After confiding in another member of the group about Massaro dropping the investment, she says, she acquired messages from Massaro asking if she became an "evil entity" or a "secret agent coming here to are trying and separate all and sundry and plant seeds of doubt in the group." "He advised me that if i needed to dwell, I'd have to confess to our little group any bad aspect I'd ever lied about, ever performed, ever talked about, basically to prove that I'm on the appropriate aspect," she says. Graham did so, however a couple of days later, while scrolling via her Instagram feed, she got here across an ad for HBO's The Vow, a documentary collection about NXIVM, a multilevel advertising scheme and self-empowerment cult run by way of self-proclaimed smartest man in the world Keith Raniere.

"i used to be like, 'Holy fuck," she says of observing the documentary. " 'All of here is the same. the entire characters had been the identical, Keith and Ben had been the same — of their disposition, in what they discuss, in how they speak. And it truly became like, 'Oh, my God, I'm not a part of some thing particular with some special chief. I'm in fact simply part of this weird, narcissistic abuse circle.' "

Graham left in September 2020, on the top of the pandemic. She nevertheless struggles with the aftermath of Bentinho's teachings. "He claims to be a mirror," she says. "every thing that you feel about him, you're trained to suppose is truly something about you. So something ugliness you see in him is ugliness about you. So even after, I kept thinking, 'Oh, my God, if I'm feeling these horrible issues about him, what need to that mean about me? And am I an evil entity? My mind turned into so fucked for ages."

At that factor, Massaro had pivoted a bit from posting indistinct self-aid aphorisms to capitalizing on the tumultuous sociopolitical climate via leaping on the conspiracy-theorist bandwagon, posting Covid denialism, baseless speculation in regards to the origins of the virus, and YouTube videos by using cited antisemite David Icke on facebook. In fresh Instagram posts, he has said the coronavirus as a "ruse," as well as inspired followers to stop their jobs over vaccine mandates. Massaro declined to touch upon such posts, mentioning that Rolling Stone's questions about them "indicates a excessive probability of at the least some measure of insincere/unfair intent in the back of this reporting."

In June 2020, at the peak of the Black Lives depend stream, Massaro posted a photo of himself observing pensively into the space with the caption, "in case you truly want what's surest for you — don't linger in blaming your oppressors. That's no longer authentic courage. Thank them for showing you your weakness; where you agreed to now not love yourself and then alternate accordingly." aside from a handful of comments criticizing Massaro for conveniently dismissing centuries of old oppression (in replies, he denied that the submit was about race in any respect), a lot of his white acolytes applauded the sentiment, showering the facebook feedback section with heart and fireplace emojis.

On Jan. 7, 2021, Alectra flew to Quito, Ecuador to fulfill Massaro and his crew. all over her first week in Quito, Alectra and Massaro started fitting romantically concerned. these first few weeks, she says, were idyllic. "He became touchy. He became publicly affectionate," she says. "we would go out to these high-quality dinners, and he would have me sit down on his lap and lightweight a cigar and simply seem into my eyes like he simply changed into enamored with me, like i used to be probably the most captivating energy he had ever encountered." When he advised her that she had the code for enlightenment, and would need to continue along with her spiritual teachings by means of accompanying him to Panama metropolis, she gladly agreed, forking over $1,300 in lodging and airfare in the procedure.

Jade Alectra with Bentinho Massaro

Jade Alectra with Bentinho Massaro

Jade Alectra's February Instagram post in which she spoke about her experiences with Massaro.

Jade Alectra/Instagram

Massaro denies that his relationship with Alectra blurred the lines between pupil and romantic activity, claiming that Alectra flew to Quito "as a potential collaborator and buddy," and it became she, now not himself, who aggressively sought a sexual relationship. "She became very sexually lively, initiatory and involved. greater so than myself. Which is usual," he says.  

immediately after they started napping collectively, Alectra says she realized that she had attained special popularity within the group. To be Bentinho Massaro's new female friend became to achieve a kind of non secular ascendancy in itself, with others in his circle commonly commenting on how "nourished" Massaro was in Alectra's presence, and how restorative she changed into to his power. "Whoever is in Ben's desire becomes like the queen, and everyone treats the queen such as you walk on air," she says. "The danger is, if you fall from that position, you then're clean meat."

For Alectra, that happened fairly without delay. She says tensions quickly arose between her and Katuna, Massaro's female friend, who had invited her to Quito in the first area, and they would frequently vie for Massaro's time and attention, which Massaro appeared all too chuffed to motivate. Alectra says she would should be invited to spend time with Massaro in his bed room, and her social media posts had been additionally field to his approval, as had been her reading substances: only books with the aid of him or Bentinho-accredited spiritual leaders were allowed in the condominium.

Alectra, too, says she turned into asked by means of Massaro if she would take her outfits off in public, on a separate occasion in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. (McNeil, who become also latest, confirms this.) all over a condominium birthday party, she says, Massaro was giving a lecture to the different visitors about masculinity when he advised Alectra to come back over and take all of her clothes off. "My stomach dropped. I felt unwell," she says. "[But I thought], 'i will't think this is happening to me. I need to consider it is occurring for me. every thing is a instructing to him.' "

Humiliated, Alectra says that she complied, and changed into told to take a seat on Massaro's lap whereas he felt her breasts, an adventure she describes as probably the most demeaning of her existence. "See?" she says Massaro told the community. "here is masculinity." ("here is either no longer actual or I don't be aware this happening in any respect," Massaro says.) Alectra also alleges that Massaro always flouted or left out the boundaries of sexual consent. as soon as, she says, he instructed her he wanted to have a threesome along with her and an additional girlfriend when she didn't want to, however she felt she had to comply; over again, she changed into meditating when she felt him pull her pants down and start having sex with her from behind. When she protested, she says, he instructed her to "leave her body."

Alectra did not agree with it assault on the time, and nevertheless is not sure if she does. (Massaro denies that anything nonconsensual happened between them, or between him and Graham, and says he does not "make use of [sex] except in reality aligned, applicable, obviously communicated previously, and consensual.") however she does comprehend that it constituted a violation, and now feels that each one of her time with Massaro became marked by means of his want to exert dominance over her. She says he'd informed her he already had a brunette female friend, so he asked her to dye her hair blond; he favored her hair straight and not curly, so she'd straighten it day by day. once, he shouted at her that she became "placing the total mission in danger" as a result of she folded his underclothes incorrectly.

in line with textual content messages, when room service at a lodge they have been staying at took away particular pillows his group had requested, Massaro had a meltdown, writing, "Can someone call and have them ship 1 edition of each of the non-general pillows returned and maintain THEM THE FUCK here"; when Alectra pointed out she would hold them in her room, in preference to depart them on Massaro's doorstep, as he had designated, he grew irritated, mentioning, "Feeling poor entity attack came through me catalyzed by Jade, or via Jade. consider a unexpected cold sore coming on and excessive warmth in my physique increase."

"That man is simply in view that of vigour and manage," she says through tears. "[It] simply looks like he needs to claim dominance over whoever is within the room. all of the girls that were there, it was like they'd been stripped of any vigour they had."

Alectra begun working with McNeil on a considerable number of Massaro-accepted inventive tasks; regularly, the two grew to be nearer and began to share their considerations concerning the community with every different. (McNeil and Alectra later started relationship, notwithstanding they have got due to the fact that separated.) At that point, Alectra had been pushed out of the internal circle by way of considered one of Massaro's new girlfriends, and changed into not living with him. When Alectra received an invitation late remaining yr to teach meditation on the Esalen Institute in massive Sur, she says, Massaro didn't want her to go, however that she changed into no longer residing with him. "He observed, 'You'll lose every little thing in case you depart now,' " she says. "That was always his factor with me." After promising that she would promote Massaro at the retreat, he allowed her to leave.

The closing nighttime she spent with Massaro, she says, she may tell that he sensed a long way on her half. They cuddled collectively in his bed, with him telling her she had the most healing, alluring palms he had ever seen. For a second, Alectra says, her get to the bottom of wavered. She questioned if she might muster up the energy to depart, or if she can be in a position to live on outdoor of Massaro's circle. "I went lower back to Keilan and i stated, 'I feel I deserve to live,' " she says.

Alectra ended up with Massaro on account of a tarot card, and she or he determined to depart him as a result of one, too. Her chum had given her the artist Kim Krans' tarot deck The Wild Unknown as a gift, and that nighttime she consulted it, considering that whatever it instructed her, she would do. She drew a card known as the field, with the description, "The field is sneaky, insidious and far and wide. … Breaking through its confines requires cognizance, endured effort, and bravado."

"when I study it, I acquired chills," she says. "And it jogged my memory to trust what was left of the small whisper of my instinct." She went to big Sur. And apart from replacing a few texts shortly after she left, she and Massaro haven't talked to or seen every different given that.

For his half, Massaro remains lively on social media, posting selfies of himself puffing on cigars and reclining on idyllic, footprint-dotted shores, his heels perched atop stretches of white sand. he's continually posting, and his messaging has not gotten any much less abstruse. "i'm organically human. Energetically, what you can name alien. very nearly God," he wrote in a recent Instagram stories Q&A, over what seems to be a photo of crepes in a pan. "much of this is applicable to all of you, BTW."

what is much more uncertain than the content of his posts is the place, precisely, Massaro is posting from. though he is nonetheless offering reside training for his No Limits Society for $199 a month by the use of Zoom (which requires all enrollees to sign NDAs in the past), he does not submit his geolocation. There are whispers amongst former followers that he is heading to South Africa and attempting to comfortable land there to start some sort of an intentional community, as he attempted to do in Sedona. On this point, Massaro is predictably coy: "We visited South Africa for a number of weeks and i taught some classes there, that's all," he says. but wherever he's, his almost 970,000 followers on facebook and 102,000 subscribers on YouTube are gazing his every move, and hanging onto his each word.

And it's for that motive that Graham, Alectra, and many of Massaro's other former followers say they've chosen to speak out towards him: to ensure that these looking for answers to lifestyles's largest questions, specifically right through these tumultuous times, don't discover themselves drawn into his net. "There are vulnerable americans out there searching for help," says Alectra. "and they're finding the wolf jogging into the hens' den."

shortly after she left Massaro's circle, Alectra moved back into her mom's residence, living in her ancient childhood bedroom. She spent most of her time in mattress, looking at Netflix or looking at her ceiling, pondering how lots her life had modified in view that she met Massaro. She became 35 kilos over her standard weight, and he or she says she changed into $10,000 poorer as a result of her time with Massaro and his group, having squandered her cash on high priced dinners and hotel stays in some distance-flung locales. "He'd brainwashed each little bit of me," she says. "He'd erased who i was. He made me doubt every powerful concept I'd ever had."

It become round this time that Alectra saw The Vow, the 2019 HBO documentary about NXIVM and Raniere. unlike Graham, she didn't automatically see her story mirrored in these of NXIVM's now-disenchanted followers; the young, fascinating, a hit, prosperous religious seekers who had determined to drop everything in their lives to comply with the self-proclaimed smartest man alive. "i assumed it changed into foolish," she says. "i believed, I'd on no account fall for a person who seems like Keith Raniere.' " (For his half, Massaro declined to touch upon any parallels between his corporation and NXIVM "I have no potential of them, what in fact transpired, and even what the allegations made against this community are. As such, I can't comment intelligently," he says.)

however as Alectra has processed her time with Massaro, each as his scholar and as one in all his companions, she has come to look parallels between him and Raniere. She sees it in the method Raniere's acolytes would trail him like pups, eyes shining with the reward of newfound wisdom, hanging onto his every word. She sees it within the approach Raniere assigned women circumscribed gender roles, urging them to prevent being too "female" or "masculine"; and she or he sees it in Rainiere's polyamory, the way he ultimately used an unconventional sexual subculture as a guise for exercising manage over his partners.

however when Raniere was subsequently arrested in a Mexican fishing village whereas on the run (he changed into convicted on expenses of sexual exploitation of a baby, intercourse-trafficking conspiracy, and greater, and changed into sentenced to one hundred twenty years in penitentiary), he was 58 years historical. Massaro is 34. When she concept about that, Alectra realized: "we've a chance to pull a weed out," she says, "earlier than it turns into whatever so that you can't eliminate so quite simply."

0/Post a Comment/Comments