But his education in religion at Princeton and a successful career in the diamond industry gave him important tools that fostered his influence in the Buddhist sphere. Thorson too traveled the world on a spiritual pilgramage, and like Roach went to Tibet and sought a worthy teacher in the states to follow. The spiritual consensus in Tibet for both these men was to send them to the holy city of New Jersey. So what brings this relationship from tangential to a more solid collision course? Together, she and Thorson set a path for themselves that clash not only with Diamond Mountain University, but with the sustainability of life in general.
From meditative visions, to a religious intervention, to conflict diamonds, to the Apache Indian wars in the southwest, this book is an epic journey.
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Like his first book, The Red Market , this is an intriguing read on some potentially obscure subjects. But I liked it anyway. Check out The Blist for more reviews by genericwhitegirl. Your email address will not be published. Thorson had belonged to a religious splinter group, headed by a charismatic leader, that had holed up in a remote, isolated enclave.
There were rumors of sexual shenanigans, weapons and highly secretive practices. In that respect, it was an old story. Three people died. Even so, the idea of a Buddhist retreat turned cult-like and deadly is a far cry from the popular American view of Buddhists as wise, modest and gentle souls who warn us against attachment to the fleeting things of this world. At his side for over a decade stood his consort, Christie McNally, a willowy, pretty woman 20 years his junior. In the early s, during a three-year silent retreat, Roach claimed to have realized that McNally was in fact a goddess — specifically, the embodiment of the Tibetan goddess Vajrayogini.
Still McNally remained within the group. So how then did Thorson and McNally end up sick and dehydrated in a cavern up on a hill overlooking the center, so weakened that Thorson would ultimately succumb to exposure? Thorson had a history of anger-management problems and had been known to exhibit the occasional outburst of violent rage.
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Roach and the board in charge of Diamond Mountain freaked out and told the pair to leave. McNally and Thorson decided they could keep their retreat vows by moving into a cave on a nearby mountain. Two loyal retainers agreed to leave supplies at a nearby drop-off point. Nevertheless, the couple ran out of clean water and seem to have gotten sick drinking snowmelt. They believed they had the power to clean the water with their minds.
Both got dysentery; only McNally survived it, although she did finally resort to activating a satellite device when she realized that neither she nor Thorson could conquer nature with the force of their own enlightenment. The story would be told in several scandalized magazine feature articles. Carney wrote one for Playboy. Only a select few are allow to participate in the retreats. The individual who did manifest cult-leader behavior in this story was not Roach but McNally. She introduced violence, in act and thought, by espousing Kali and kitting up her quarters with knives and guns.
When the board of Diamond Mountain expelled her, she became paranoid, sending secret messages to the remaining retreat participants and treating her choice to set up housekeeping in the cave as something Roach had forced on her.
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She knew Thorson was psychologically fragile. Protecting the rest of the group from the escalating craziness of the couple, however, was manifestly the right move. Carney thinks everyone involved underestimated the power of practices like extended meditation and vows of silence. Leading an abroad program for American students in India in his postgraduate years, he took his charges on a day silent retreat in the sacred town of Bodh Gaya.
The experience left Carney with a healthy respect for the slower paths to enlightenment recommended for most students of Buddhism, and the rules laid down by Tibetan lamas and observed by the many generations who have passed down the faith. Their followers gobbled up these extravagant quick-fix testimonials. For whatever reason, Americans search for inner peace like they are competing in a sporting event. But think about it: Who grasps the dangers of alcohol more completely than a drunk? By tipping, however briefly, over the edge of spiritual seeking into delusion, he could not offer better proof that that edge most definitely exists.
Laura Miller is a senior writer for Salon. The haunting, multilayered story that he comes away with is one that will resonate with anyone who has ever pursued even the smallest measure of spiritual peace. His should serve as a warning about self-styled, so-called teachers and how their misinterpretation of meditation and yoga techniques is not only unskillful but can result in tragedy.
But in this search for Nirvana, some find insanity. Others find death. Carney takes you on a perverse spiritual journey that ends tragically on an Arizona mountain whose soil has long soaked up the blood of wanderers. He currently lives in Los Angeles. Obsession and Madness on the Path to Enlightenment In pursuit of a story about the enigmatic death of a Buddhist retreatant, a writer risks his own mind as he digs into the heart of the mystery.
Scott Carney. A fascinating yet very sad read about people being led astray by their own delusions and by deluded fake leaders with tragic and wasteful results. Accept Learn more and manage my choices Close and accept. Display results as : Posts Topics.
Advanced Search. Mon Mar 16, pm. Fri May 15, am. Scott Carney How much should someone strive to know their own soul?
Obsession and Madness on the Path to Enlightenment
It is a question I have struggled with for the better part of a decade after an incident that taught me that intensive meditation has the potential to unleash unexpected consequences. In , I took a job leading American college students on an abroad program through holy sites in North India. The highlight of the program was a ten-day silent meditation retreat in Bodhgaya: the spot where Buddha achieved enlightenment almost three millennia ago.
She said it was the most profoundly moving experience of her life. That night, while the other students chatted enthusiastically in the temple, Emily climbed to the roof of one of the dormitories, wrapped a khadi scarf around her face, and jumped. A student on his way to bed found her facedown on the pavement. I was charged with returning her remains to America. Somewhere along the way, the Indian police gave me her journal.
There are many explanations for why Emily decided to take her own life. For all I knew, she was a Bodhisattva and continuing on her journey in another realm. However, here on earth I worried that enlightenment might not be all that it promised. The death of a second meditator, Ian Thorson, this time in the mountains of Arizona, made me suspect that there was an unspoken mystery at the heart of these transformational techniques.
Roach soon acquired a large following of students who saw value in the belief that great wealth could be a sign of good karma.
When Roach emerged from his retreat in , he announced that he was on the way to enlightenment, had performed miracles, and that his girlfriend and student, a woman half his age named Christie McNally, was an earthly incarnation of the goddess Vajrayogini. They had spent the retreat together inventing tantric rituals based on their own idiosyncratic readings of ancient texts. Roach and McNally began touring the world, giving lectures on the spiritual realizations they had during their great retreat in the desert.
There, in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona, McNally and Roach planned to lead a second silent retreat together, this time with more than 40 students in tow. Soon the two split, and each found a new partner. She began to teach Hindu tantra, invoking the goddess Kali as a protector of the retreat.
A Death on Diamond Mountain: Book review
But all was not well in their meditative paradise. In March , just three months after the retreat began, Christie and Ian descended from their house on the hill, Ian limping and holding a [banned term] cloth to his side. Together they knocked on the door of a nurse-practitioner who was on the retreat with them and asked for help. Blood oozed out around the cloth from three separate stab wounds.
The nurse turned Ian and Christie away, worried the damage was beyond her abilities—or that she might be viewed as an accomplice to a crime. Afraid the wounds might result in a police report if they went to a hospital, the couple hobbled to their second choice: a dermatologist named Renee Miranda, who reluctantly tended to the slashes and stab wounds with precise stitches. The wounds were supposed to be a secret, but rumors of domestic abuse still circulated. A sense of unease permeated the retreat valley. A year later, McNally finally explained what happened at one of her few public appearances during the silent retreat.
She told the assembled crowd how she had been possessed by Kali. He was supposed to stop me. He was supposed to grab my wrist, but for some strange reason he just let go and stopped fighting.
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