Allow me to take a moment to inform you about a dark part of my past that I have kept from quite a few people; while I was a child I was an unwilling member of a cult known then as Human Service Alliance and after quite a few name changes (to include the University for Human Goodness) it is now known as the Center for Purposeful Living. I was young and when you’re in an environment like that you don’t know any better regardless of your age. Shortly after my now disowned biological mother divorced my father she started taking my brother and I to a strange place in Boomer, North Carolina (the then campus of Human Service Alliance). I was so young at the time that I didn’t really care where I was but my ultimate goal was to spend time with my father. There were kids at HSA in Boomer, NC and I had people to play with so I was as happy as a boy without a permanent father figure could be.
Eventually, Human Service Alliance moved to their current location in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It was not too long after this move that I realized something was afoot because HSA moving also meant that I was moving. So off I move to Winston-Salem where I lived for quite a few years and over those years the rhetoric of Human Service Alliance grew to an overwhelming level. While living in Winston-Salem and being forced to serve at HSA I was subjected to an unwanted religious based weekend class as well as quite a few significant events that made me learn to dislike the organization now known as the Center for Purposeful Living. Something was very suspicious about the fact that toward the end of my involvement with Human Service Alliance all of the permanent members moved into a subdivision outside of Walkertown, North Carolina. Shortly after my mother moved into this neighborhood I moved in with my father and step-mother in Florida. At first, they encouraged me to have a healthy relationship with my mother; the same mother that had spent years breaking down my respect for her.
My second summer living with my real parents (father and step-mother) it was mutually agreed upon amongst all those involved that I would spend the summer with my biological mother. A lot had happened in that year or so while I was gone. Human Service Alliance had grown its controlling power to an unbelievable level. If I wasn’t welcomed at HSA then I wasn’t welcomed in my own mother’s home. So there I was stuck spending a summer doing what amounted to slave labor for either HSA or my mother and step-father. It got to the point where the supreme being at Human Service Alliance, Derwyn Lackey, realized I was not going to be a helpful influence for the organization and its cause to control my peers and I was shunned from participating in activities such as trips on the board member owned Always Tours. I’m not sure what action gave Derwyn Lackey that impression but I wasn’t under his thumb for quite some time and was now back after being out in the real world. At the point I was shunned from the few cool activities HSA did I realized my summer was going to be a battle for my independence from the totalitarian led cult that is Human Service Alliance. I was relegated to doing some of the less desirable tasks around the 15 acre compound and eventually after I was asked never to return HSA I was doing chores such as operating a chainsaw to cut up trees around my biological mother’s home (an unsupervised 14-year-old with a chainsaw). That was actually some work that I would now enjoy but then it was a supreme punishment because at that point I was an outcast from HSA and had nothing to do during the days while my mother was hard at work “volunteering” for the cause.
Eventually, something happened between my mother and brother and there I was already an outcast from the organization so revered by my mother that she would risk destroying her family for so I chimed in with what I thought of the entire situation (defending my brother). It wasn’t long before my real mom and dad extracted me from the situation after that incident. Not too long after that I cut all ties to my biological mother.
Years past and not too long before the birth of my daughter my mother tried to re-establish ties with me. One late night in Virginia I locked myself in a room and called my mother. I informed her that the cult she was in was the reason she wasn’t going to have the luxury of communication with me or my new family. She denied the fact that she was in a cult (of course) and at that point I informed my biological mother that she was essentially dead to me.
A few more years go by and she attempts to contact me through this blog (a communiqué that was ignored). Then I’m starting the process of moving from Florida to Colorado and an online contact starts getting inquisitive about my past so I inform that person of my mother’s involvement in a cult and how it destroyed her and her family. The online contact asked for more information and that’s when I found a thread on FACTNet regarding the cult activities of Human Service Alliance and the Center for Purposeful Living. I started interacting with members of the message board and have now decided to blow the whistle on what quite a few people know is a cult and what quite a few people in the Triad area of North Carolina suspect is a cult.
The messages and statements on the FACTNet message board have been noticed by the senior leadership at the Center for Purposeful Living and have been responded to via an FAQ at the Center for Purposeful Living’s web site disclaiming the fact that the organization is a cult. What I’m now going to present to you is what is widely considered a “fisking” in the blogging community of that FAQ. It would behoove you to read the FAQ before continuing but it’s not required because I will quote what I am responding to:
Though not a religious organization…" and "Is CPL a religious organization or connected to a religious organization? No.
No, of course their front isn’t a religious organization. However, I distinctly remember a large temple complete with an altar (in the center of this temple) containing statues of Jesus Christ, Shiva, and Buddha. I also remember a very interesting visit from Sivaya Subramuniyaswami author of “Dancing with Siva: A Hindu Catechism”. If memory serves me right Sivaya Subramuniyaswami criticized the Center for Purposeful Living (at that time Human Service Alliance) for not being totally truthful about their religious alignment(s).
The first thing to understand is that CPL's work is intentionally different because it is an EXPERIMENT.
How long is this “experiment” going to last? It’s been going on nearly twenty years.
Is CPL a cult? The reader can make his or her own decision. For those who are convinced that CPL is a cult, nothing written here will matter.
That’s very true. But those of us that have been there and then have later analyzed what a cult is fully believe the Center for Purposeful Living is a cult. I wonder why that is? Also, can anyone name a cult that acknowledged the fact they were a cult? CPL must keep denying the fact they are a cult to appease the community, the government, and more importantly themselves.
Outside of religious orders, the military, and athletics, this type of commitment and focus is unusual. Admittedly, the unusualness can give rise to suspicion.
And for good reason.
Paragraph 2) of “CPL differs from a cult in at least five significant ways” essentially explains how the mental breakdown of a person works at CPL. It’s a simple psychological game; confuse the many, intrigue the few. The few go on to “serve the cause” while many flee. A breakdown of one’s psyche only to be built back up is an often used method in athletics, the military… oh and cults. This also implies that those at CPL are experts on what people should be doing to accomplish their goals. The reality of it all is that those at CPL know what people need to do to serve the needs of the organization and to bolster their rhetoric. I’ve seen and experienced it; they portray what the only “soulful” thing to do is, apply incredible pressure to the student or member (children included) to abide by that “soulful” thing and if the choice made by student or member is not to CPL’s liking then the person is banned, condemned, criticized and shunned. Those in charge of the Center for Purposeful Living are also not shy about trying to break up families either. Go deeper into the rabbit hole if you want but just don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
Students who dislike the program are never dissuaded from leaving. Cults, on the other hand, do try to hold on to people.
But why would CPL try to hold on to people who resist their “teachings” when it becomes obvious that there’s no chance of conversion? The folks there might be unstable but they’re not idiotic enough to commit a crime that would certainly blow their cover. As a matter of fact people who resist the “teachings” are often pushed out or (in my case) asked never to return to the CPL compound.
Leadership is diffused at CPL, not centralized around a single individual.
If that’s the case, then who is Derwyn Lackey or Derwin Lackey (the “guru”)? He’s diffused himself from the financial/business aspects of CPL; that’s for sure. He’s the ringleader, that I know, but as far as legally in charge of the organization there is nothing with his name on it anymore (from what I’ve found). When the stuff hits the fan where will he be in the grand scheme of things?
No member of the board or participant in the program receives any money…
What about housing? How many board members, volunteers, etc. plan to move to the CPL compound? How is that not a cult capacity? Monetary gain of CPL members can be analyzed in the sense of money they aren’t spending on a mortgage or other various things. If they are paying rent to live there then I’m sure it’s not nearly what rent in a comparably equipped facility would be. Also, having members live there will also increase the overwhelming control that Derwyn Lackey has over the group as a whole. I would say that Derwyn Lackey living on the compound without paying rent is a sign of that powerful control he has over the board of directors. What’s next for the cult that is the Center for Purposeful Living/Human Service Alliance?
It is, however, recommended that students not leave during the year. Many follow the recommendation, some don't.
What percentage of those that don’t follow that recommendation return? Why recommend they don’t leave? Simple; interaction outside of CPL might threaten what is being taught at CPL and that outside interaction might pull the wool from the eyes of the student that is incased in what many believe is a cult.
Experience has shown that if they stay in the CPL environment for the one-year without going back to familiar surroundings, their chances of changing old habits and creating new ones are substantially enhanced.
What habits would those be? I’ll tell you. The habits instructed by those that wish to bolster their following. This leads back in to cult operations and the breaking down and building back up of one’s psyche.
Why do the students have to work so hard? At CPL hard work is seen as a virtue.
It is a virtue. But why after being in an auto accident was I digging a ditch that only inflamed the pain in my back? Yes, this was one of the last “service projects” I performed at Human Service Alliance (now known as the Center for Purposeful Living).
The number of service hours is adjusted considering the person's age and physical abilities or limitations.
Obviously that wasn’t taken into account during the “service project” I mentioned above.
To date, none of the excess revenues of [California Fresh Buffet] have gone to support the Soul-Centered Education program of CPL.
Then how are you building and upgrading facilities? If that statement is true how much money has gone to other charities since the restaurant opened? I’m sure a substantial sum of those excess revenues have been invested in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds (like the ones listed in the HSA and CPL tax returns; some real blue chip stocks I might add). Also, isn’t it true that it has been said that many charities aren’t worthy of the money that CPL could donate to them?
I’m sure after all of this information I’ve presented to you might generate questions and/or comments. Please feel free to post those questions and comments. I will answer all the questions I can. If you wish to contact me privately please do so via one of the methods at the bottom of this page.
UPDATE 10 JULY 2005: I have a few more tidbits of information for those that still might be skeptical about some of these things I’ve mentioned here:
The temple. It would appear that the temple is now gone from the site of the Center for Purposeful Living however don’t take my word that there was a temple there, take the word of Hinduism Today and the Himalayan Academy:
… About one in every fifteen people who come in contact with [Human Service Alliance] senses there is more to the group than meets the eye. These people are gradually introduced to the group’s teachings, first through Lackey’s book. Discoveries of the Inquiring Mind, and then through the teachings of Alice Bailey and various Hindu sources. Eventually they would be invited to the top floor of the HSA’s center, a Siva temple (not open to outsiders) where simple but regular rituals honoring the deities are performed, along with meditations and chanting. …
Discoveries of the Inquiring Mind can be found on Amazon
Note: chrisshort.net may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.
- Also, a lot of people have been making comments about Derwyn Lackey; allow me to put a face with the name:
Derwyn Lackey, Supreme Ruler of the Center for Purposeful Living