But Lenz' main occupation was as a recruiter for the cult of Sri Chinmoy, a Hindu guru who ran an ashram in Queens. During his early college years Lenz had become a follower on Sri Chinmoy. He lived off an on at Chinmoy's ashram. As early as 1972 he was leading meditation groups as a "trusted student" of Chinmoy. For all his odd appearance Lenz became an exceptional speaker and an effective recruiter.
Lenz began to break some of Chinmoy's very strict rules. "He broke all of the rules and everyone knew it. He had numerous girlfriends. He loved violent movies like "Apocalypse Now," said Mark Laxer. Lenz also angered many of Chinmoy's senior followers. For some time his behavior was overlooked in view of his exceptional ability at recruiting new followers. Finally Chinmoy confronted Lenz regarding these issues. As a way of reconciling himself with Chinmoy Lenz agreed to go west to San Diego and open a laundromat to learn humility, and to open a Chinmoy Center. Lenz departed for San Diego in early September of 1979.
Mark Laxer was a seventeen year old high school student when he and his brother David heard Lenz speak at Stony Brook. They both became followers of Sri Chinmoy with Lenz as their mentor. They followed him to San Diego along with three women. "He is a very captivating speaker, and a very kind person inside," Laxer said. "Deep down, he's a very special person who's vulnerable and sort of a victim of himself."
In San Diego the group lived together. Mark describes it as a very happy time. He says Lenz was sincere, a really nice guy, and that they had a lot of love and "family" in their small community. "Early on, he was into trying to make millions of people happy," Laxer said. "That was a sort of rallying cry for us. In the very beginning he wasn't saying he was a demigod or the Anti-Christ. That came later." New recruits quickly built the center to more than one hundred followers.
Reverting to his past infractions Lenz once again starting breaking rules. He began again exploiting his women followers. He commenced exercising powers that were reserved to Sri Chinmoy. Lenz interposed himself between Chinmoy and the followers in his group and began to make some rules of his own.
In January, 1981, Lenz was called back to New York and had a confrontation with Chinmoy over his behavior. When he returned to San Diego he announced to the group that negative forces and entities got to Chinmoy. Lenz then proclaimed his own enlightenment. "Chinmoy has fallen and I am now the enlightened one", Laxer says he told the group. A large number of followers left, but Lenz, with a core of fifty remaining, moved first to a house near the University of California at San Diego, then later to a house in La Jolla.
Lenz began to call himself Atmananda and the group was called Lakshmi after a Hindu deity. Lenz focused on the enlightenment of women, although men were welcome also. He incorporated a company as "Lakshmi" and various other offshoot companies such as Vishnu Travel, Lakshmi Distribution and New Light Productions. He began intensive recruiting in San Diego and at the UCLA campus in Los Angeles. Later recruiting was expanded to the San Francisco Bay area. The group quickly built back to more than a hundred.
For a while Lenz' relationship with his "students" remained relatively informal with Lenz playing the role of mentor/friend and meeting with students on a daily or weekly basis. He used his house as an office and as a center for meetings. Early in 1982 he moved to a "huge, opulent mansion" on the cliffs near Del Mar which he had rented for a year. His relationship with students became more formal. The metamorphosis of Lenz was underway.
Mark Laxer observed the changes in Lenz. About the time he broke away from Sri Chinmoy he began talking about "entities" or negative forces that "would attack you in your sleep and affect your mind and your actions." Former followers say Lenz borrowed this idea, and several others, from the works of Carlos Castenada. The remaining followers were subject to all-night harangues by Lenz about the entities and other topics. "He said we were partly possessed and that he was the only one who could help us. He listed his former lives in Tibet, Japan, Atlantis, India and so on.
In the late spring or early summer of 1982 he moved his base of operations from Del Mar to Malibu and rented Goldie Hawn's house. He asked the San Diego students to move to Los Angeles. He opened a center in San Francisco.
Mark Laxer described the changes that were taking place at this time. Lenz became more remote and "God-like". The cult was becoming more commercialized with the various spin-offs and the advertising. Lenz began to use drugs, principally LSD on himself and on members of his inner circle. He became more ambiguous and contradictory in his lectures, saying, "If you think you understand what I am saying, you've lost because you don't have humility." He began to emphasize the occult more, began to use fear as a tactic to control his group, and began to use "divide and conquer" tactics within the group, group criticism and self criticism in group meetings.
Other techniques were developing, some of them bizarre. Once he took a group of inner circle students to watch an autopsy. He began to develop the idea of his desert trips, used to isolate and exhaust his followers, making them more susceptible to suggestion.
More substantial changes were beginning. Lenz had started with Hinduism but then decided to switch to Buddhism. According to Laxer Lenz "..read the market in California and decided that Zen was in." It was much more marketable. There are several sects of Zen, which in turn is one of a several branches of Buddhism. It is a school that claims to transmit the essence of Buddhism through meditation as a path to the enlightenment the Buddha experienced. In later 1982 or early 1983 Lenz dumped the name "Atmananda" and anointed himself as "Zen Master Rama". The name is that of the last incarnation of Vishnu, an apocalyptic Hindu deity. He also the laid claim to being the last incarnation of Shiva, the Destroyer, also called the Lord of Death. According to conventional Buddhists the term "Zen Master" is applied only rarely, only after many years of dedicated study, and generally only posthumously.
A unique spin is put on Buddhism by Lenz' marketing instincts. Disavowing the conventional observance of Zen, including monastic withdrawal from the world, intensive concentration and an ascetic life-style, Lenz offered something much more appealing. He called his philosophy "Tantric Mysticism" which includes meditation, out-of-body experiences, altered consciousness, but involves living an affluent life-style and enjoying worldly pleasures.
The move to Malibu in 1982 began a period of major expansion for Lenz. He began an intensive campaign advertising seminars in different locations around the country. One ad shows pictures of a sexy blonde and a Porshe. Other ads carry highly touched up pictures of Lenz taken by Hollywood celebrity photographer Harry Langdon.
Then, in early 1983 he published his book The Last Incarnation. The book was published by Lakshmi Publications, Malibu, California, a Lenz company. It is a series of testimonials to Lenz' supernatural powers supposedly written by his followers. There are descriptions of Lenz variously turning his right hand into a flaming torch like the Statue of Liberty, of Lenz levitating or filling rooms with golden light and similar feats of legerdemain.
The first casualty of the group occurred in February, 1984. UCLA student Donald Cole committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife. Cole left a note saying he is sorry that he is unable to reach the level of perfection expected by Lenz. The note concluded, "Bye, by, Rama. See you next time."
Former followers say Lenz was very shaken and upset by this episode, but by July he commenced a series of series of workshops on meditation, reincarnation and tantric yoga at the Beverly Theater in Los Angeles. Crowds of several hundred people, mostly in their '20s and '30s paid twenty dollars each to attend the three hour sessions. While many of the audience were impressed with Lenz' supernatural abilities he maintained a modest demeanor for the press, describing himself as a "teacher", not a guru. According to Lenz he lost money on the series of seminars, spending more than $100,000 for advertising and $2,500 per night to rent the theater. Lenz claimed to have more than 500 students at that time, a number which he had recently reduced from 1,000.
By this time Lenz has perfected the techniques of recruiting followers and dominating and controlling their minds. Keeping them dominated and under control was something else again. Restlessly seeking ways of keeping active and intelligent people occupied Lenz decided to open a new center in Boston.
Since the early 1980's Lenz had talked about computer programming as a desirable profession, saying it was both lucrative and conducive to the Zen mind. By 1985 he made it clear that "advanced" students should be actively studying computer languages. He considered Boston a center of computer activity so half his students were sent off to the East. The center was not successful. Some of the students returned to California. Others moved to Colorado. For a while he considered starting his own computer software company in Denver. Efforts were made to open a center there, and another in Phoenix, but these too failed. In the meantime he continued his program of public appearances which were now conducted under the name "Rama Seminars, Inc."
In February of 1986 he incorporated Vishnu Systems, a computer software development corporation. Insiders say this was a new hope. At his urging many of his followers had gone into computer programing and they figured heavily in his plans for the new company. One source thought he had plans for what Lenz called a "mobile electronic tribe" of wandering computer experts.
A mass meeting of his followers, including those who had been kicked out, was called in May of 1987. They were told, "Failure to attend will disqualify you from Rama Seminars Inc. activities for the rest of your life." It was a threat not taken lightly. Lenz told the assembled followers it is time to get serious. He separated his followers into beginning and advanced "students". The advanced students, he said, had been fooling with enlightenment for years. Now they had to agree to move to Palo Alto. Lenz called Palo Alto a "power center for success", a favorite phrase of his to be heard many times in the future. The had to get into computers, take martial arts four times a week, and leave their friends and families behind. Only those who had a personal excuse from him were exempt. Lenz had them file past, accepting some who went out one door, rejecting others who went out another door. When he was through he had between 300 and 400 followers firmly under his direct control. The monthly "tuition" was now raised to $600 per month.
In February of 1987 he had purchased a house in Stony Brook, New York, an area which he had always envied from his days at SUNY, Stony Brook. Lenz lived there over the summer with one of his followers, Mercedes Hughes. As the summer passed his behavior became increasingly bizarre. Mercedes believed he was using LSD. He became more abusive, accusing her of harboring demons. In September she finally worked up the determination to leave. In October he sold the house.
During the year it is estimated that he had spent more than $500,000 on advertising his seminars which have been held in the New York area. In November and December alone he has spent $400,000 on ads in the Sunday Edition of the NY Times.
Starting in the fall of 1987 Lenz things turned sour for Lenz. Mercedes Hughes and other former followers went public with accusations of forced sex and financial exploitation. Newspapers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego carried detailed stories of his activities. Newsweek magazine picked up on the story and carried it nationally, as did several television program.
Startled by the publicity and apprehensive of the possibility of official inquiries, Lenz ceased all public appearances and decided to move again. He purchased another, larger, home on the waterfront in Stony Brook and had it remodelled. He told his followers on the West Coast they were moving East. "He decided that God was calling him to Washington, D. C. to oversee the coming election. "I thought it was a little sudden and odd, but he always changed his mind suddenly," said Fran, a former follower. She followed him to Washington, briefly, and then on to New York.
His followers, nearly all of whom were now engaged in computer programming, began to work their way into the computer industry in the greater New York area. Some of them were very capable programmers and software engineers. Many others, however, had only a few months of training and had barely mastered rudimentary skills. Within a year or two this unknown group coming from California began to be referred to within the industry as the "California Raisins" for the chaos and confusion they caused.
Lenz himself maintained a fairly low profile, giving no more public appearances. He abandoned the names Rama Seminars, Vishnu Systems, and others he had used on the West Coast and incorporated "National Personal and Professional Seminars", "Advanced Systems, Inc.", and "Infinity Plus Consulting". Under these names he established a relationship with the State University of New York at Purchase where he rented space to conduct his meetings. He commenced a routine of monthly seminars, together with more frequent instructional meetings where some of his more competent people would conduct classes on computers.
During this period he apparently concentrated principally on exploitation of the core group which had followed him East, estimated to be between two hundred and two hundred and fifty. Some recruiting was carried out, but on a small scale and by personal invitation only. Over the years his demands for tuition increased from $600 per month to $3,000 per month and as high as $6,000 per month from his advanced followers.
By the spring of 1992 Lenz seems to have decided that bad publicity was of no consequence. For all practical purposes he could afford to totally ignore any adverse publicity. It had caused no governmental agency to inquire into his activities and had not the slightest impact on the devotion of his followers. So he commenced a new recruiting program on both the East and West Coasts. Exercising some caution Lenz made certain that his name did not appear on any poster or advertising. Instead he had his "monks" advertise free seminars under the name of some fictitious "meditation" society. The "monks" then invited promising prospects to a coast-wide meeting Lenz conducted at which the prospect might be invited to "study" with Lenz and become an "apprentice". A second wave of publicity was triggered by Lenz' latest recruiting effort. Newspapers on both the East and West Coast carried stories about the recruiting effort and the deceptive practices involved. Lenz no longer appeared in person or on the telephone to give interviews or answer any questions about his activities. Instead his public relations spokespersons arrogantly denied any and all bases for concern. Through a campaign made up partly of threats by his libel attorney together with vicious attacks upon his critics Lenz was been able to soften some criticism.
In the fall of 1993 Lenz again made a radical change in the format of his organization. All of his older followers were ordered to move to Chicago. Most of those in the Bay Area of California and in New York complied. Then he ordered his new crop of recruits to move to the New York area, supplying them with informational material on how to find an apartment, how to get around, and where to find computer training. The new and old groups were to be kept strictly segregated. He is reported to have told his new group, imaginatively called "Star-Trek, the New Generation", that his older followers were "weird" and that he didn't know where they got such strange ideas as evil entities and the lower occult.
It appeared that Lenz was trying once again to disassociate himself with some of the more strange and excessive ideas and behavior he had generated over the years. In a number of ways Lenz has shown that he desperately wants to be known and respected as a successful businessman, to leave behind his seamy reputation as an exploitative cult leader. He had often referred to his enterprise as a "business". At the same time he has been unable to give up his desire to dominate and exploit his followers.
Most recently, in the summer of 1994, Lenz has either been asked to withdraw from use of facilities at the State University of New York at Purchase, or has done so under pressure. As a result he is reported to have announced that he will no longer give public instruction, but will be available for private counselling. He is also attempting to form his new group into a company to develop software for which they will receive a percentage of the profits.
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Lenz was born in San Diego on February 9, 1950 as Frederick Philip Lenz, III. The family moved to Stamford two years later.
There is no indication of what the family was doing in San Diego. In a biographical interview Lenz' father, Frederick Philip Lenz, Jr., said he was born in Stamford and lived there all his life except while in college, (from 1940 to 1942) and for two years as an able bodied seaman in the merchant marine during World War II. The seven years from 1945 to 1952 are unaccounted for.
Frederick's mother was Dorothy Gummar Lenz. There is some question about whether Lenz' parents were actually married. In 1961 Fred Jr. married Joyce Slavin, a widow, in a ceremony conducted by the Rev. Daniel J. Foley, a catholic priest. Fred Jr. stated on the marriage certificate that this he had never been married before. Other reports say that Fred Jr. and Dorothy were either divorced or separated some time around 1954 or 1955 when Fred was four or five years old. No records pertaining to the marriage or divorce of Lenz' parents have been located.
The picture we get of Frederick Philip Lenz, Jr. is that of a big, good looking, outgoing and likeable man who is curiously shallow. He was described in 1974 as a big, good looking man, about six feet tall, weighing about 190 pounds, and with white hair. A city hall worker described him as "...a big, very good looking man, very, very charming." He was born and grew up in Stamford, son of the stock room foreman at the Yale and Towne Manufacturing Company. On graduation from high school in 1940 he entered Holy Ghost College in Cornwell's Heights, Pennsylvania. "I wanted to be a Holy Ghost priest...but then I found out that to belong to the order you had to take an oath of poverty, chastity and obedience. I didn't want to do that," he told the Stamford Advocate in 1974. He left college after two years then spent two more years in the merchant marine.
Apparently, about 1952, when the family moved back to Stamford, Frederick Jr. went to work for a series of magazines in New York involved in selling advertising, in production and publication. About 1956 he went to work for Advertising Age, a trade publication, and remained with that for the next fifteen years, commuting daily to New York. He was eastern sales manager for the magazine when he left in 1971 to become associate publisher of an insurance magazine in Stamford. With the time previously spent commuting he began to take part in local affairs, was elected to the Stamford City Board of Representatives and, two years later, was elected mayor, serving until 1975.
In the series of four interviews stretching over a total of five hours during his first year as mayor in 1974, Frederick Jr. appears as a curiously bland person, although he appeared impressed with himself for becoming mayor. According to the reporter the most animation he shows is when he describes the strategy he uses to convince his young daughter, Lisa, that there really is a Santa Claus. He couldn't remember how long it had been since he had read a book but thought the name of it was Jonathon Livingston Seagull, but did say he read everything he could get his hands on about "...what's his name, the English spy." (James Bond). When asked if his son, Frederick III, had been elected to Phi Beta Kapa, he wasn't sure and had to place a hasty call to the college to find out.
From the time of his divorce, or separation, about 1955, until his remarriage in 1961, there isn't much information on who had custody of their son or how Frederick Jr. cared for his son. His job involved daily commuting and a good deal of travel. Frederick, III, apparently spent a quite a bit of time with his mother.
Dorothy Gummar Lenz has been described as somewhere between a wacky, free spirit to a persons with true mental and emotional problems. One source believes that she was an alcoholic and suicidal. Supposedly Fred found her one day when she had attempted suicide. It had a very great impact on him. There is once story about an unhealthy fruit tree. Dorothy got some plastic fruit and tied it on the tree. According to one source Dorothy and young Frederick, as his family called him, experimented together with LSD and alcohol.
Dorothy Lenz died about 1964. This was just after Frederick, III had graduated from middle school. According to Lenz' Aunt Helen, Helen Padersky Lenz, Dot, as she was called, died from a sugar or cholesterol problem of some kind. "It was very, very sad and she was so very young to die," Aunt Helen said. She thought Dot was about forty two years old. On her death bed Dorothy's parting words were to tell Fred to go see the movie MASH. Whatever kind of impact his mother had on him it must have been powerful. Years later in a moment of self pity he was to tell another young woman, "No one ever loved my like my mom."
Young Frederick did not get along well with his new stepmother. There were three other children in the family from her first marriage, and, the year before, 1963, Frederick, Jr. and Joyce had a child of their own, Lisa. So it appears that during the remaining three or four years of high school Fred moved around among various friends and family, staying with his father for brief periods of time.
In high school Lenz was known as an eccentric, funny, character, affectionately nicknamed "Crazy Fred". He stood six feet three inches tall and moved awkwardly. One of Lenz' former teachers at Rippowam High School described him as a product of the '60s.
"They were into a lot of protests, do your own thing." says Sondra
Metlzer, chairman of the Westhill High School English Department. "
None of them ever got out of that - if they were bright - without it
having a great impact on their lives. I'm sure he was affected by
The 1967 yearbook of the Rippowam High School described Lenz as "a streak of the unusual - chasing the beautiful, hiding from the known. Cut-rate philosopher. Monopoly on the side."
Seeking a taste of the '60s life, Lenz left home after graduation and headed westward to the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco. He spent a year following the hippie life on the west coast. In a taped lecture Lenz said he used psychedelics and "power plants...based on the Tibetan book of the Dead, to experience Enlightenment." In San Diego the "power plants" were his undoing. He was arrested for selling marijuana and sentenced to a work camp at Warner Springs. His job there was putting out fires. His ex-wife relates a story Lenz told her about the work camp. "He was doing meditation and things and this old black man who was in jail with him watched him a while and said, 'Well, I'll tell you son. You will go back to Jesus someday'". It was while he was in the work camp that Lenz came across some literature describing the teachings of Hindu Guru Sri Chinmoy. He became interested.
The short tour in the work camp seems to have had a sobering impact on the young Lenz. He returned to Stamford and in the fall of 1969 entered Connecticut College at Storrs. Sri Chinmoy had an active Connecticut ashram, probably in Hartford. Shortly after entering college Lenz also began his studies with Sri Chinmoy. Within a short time Lenz became one of Sri Chinmoy's star recruiters. Sri Chinmoy sent him all over the world to recruit and used him in training other recruiters. It was during this time that he got into his "Christ dimension". He lived in a log cabin, became a carpenter, had a workshop in his basement, had a pet toucan and made dulcimers.
In 1971 Lenz met Pamella Wardell at a meeting of the followers of Sri Chinmoy. They were both typical flower children of the '60s, high on Eastern mysticism. "Eastern philosophy was supposed to be groovy. Everyone would sit around in a room and meditate. He came over to me and said, 'I saw your aura across the room and just knew you were the woman for me' or some such lie", Wardell said. "He just seemed really far out there, somewhere on a different place, she said. "...he had braces and pimples all over, but had a silver tongue."
They were married at the Stamford Arboretum on the 15th of May, 1971 by the Rev. Harry L. Peatt, Jr., a Congregational minister from Stamford. "I don't remember how I came to do the wedding, but I'll never forget it because it was so extraordinary," Peatt said. "I had to meet them under a tree in the woods. At the reception afterwards they went into some kind of trance." Within a year they were divorced. As Lenz explained it later to one of his close associates, Mark Laxer, he said that he left Pam, that he felt that rather than loving just one person he could love many.
Whatever talents Lenz was beginning to develop one talent he had at this time was a prodigious capacity for work. He completed his undergraduate work in three years, graduating with honors in May of 1973 and being elected to Phi Beta Kappa. All this was in addition to his studies with Sri Chinmoy and his recruiting efforts.
That fall he entered the State University of New York at Stony Brook pursuing advanced studies in English under a fellowship. He completed work for and earned a master's degree in 1974 and earned his doctorate in August of 1978. His thesis was on "The evolution of matter and spirit in the poetry of Theodore Roethke."
At Stony Brook Lenz' nickname changed from the "Crazy Fred" of his high school days to "Goofy Fred" as his professors knew him at Stony Brook. He spoke with equal fervor of mysticism and money and wrote books on psychic phenomena that he plugged on the Joe Franklin TV show. "He was always coming to me with these book ideas and asking me, 'Do you think it will sell?'", says Professor Gerald Nelson, a member of the university's English faculty and the supervisor for Lenz' doctoral work. "My honest opinion was that he was a hustler. But I thought he was goofy and harmless."
Lenz applied himself diligently to his course work and the subject of his thesis, but outside of class he was the English department's resident mystic, telling friends about their past lives. "I got a sense of someone who would read an audience carefully and give it what it wanted," Professor Paul Dolan said. By 1978 he had formed a group of some twenty Sri Chinmoy disciples at SUNY Stony Brook.
Throughout his post-graduate work Lenz carried on his study of Eastern religions and his recruiting for Sri Chinmoy at his ashram at Jamaica, Queens. Chinmoy was teaching a westernized version of Hinduism, promoting physical fitness, and claiming near-supernatural powers for himself.
Lenz was not particularly popular with the other members of Chinmoy's group. At various times they would hold "carnivals". Fred would always dress in costumes and be the fortune teller. He was quite good as this. He put of lot of effort into female members, trying very hard to impress them. Alan Buchman, a follower of Sri Chinmoy, knew Lenz during this period. He said he was "arrogant" and "slick"... that when it came to women Lenz had no qualms about using "deception" to seduce them. "When Fred was forming Sri Chinmoy meditation groups at the camps", Buchman recalled, "He used to encourage infatuations with his female students. A responsible spiritual person would never have done that."
Not long afterward Lenz came into conflict with Chinmoy, moved to San Diego to open a Chinmoy center, then broke with Chinmoy, announced himself as enlightened and commenced his independent career as a contemporary guru.
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In 1984 a Realtor in Malibu was contacted by a group of Lenz' students. They were looking for a "castle" for their guru, as well as housing for themselves. The Realtor said he did a lot of work trying to find a place for Lenz to rent, but was uncucessful. he said Lenz ended up directly renting the home of Bill Hudson, Goldie Hawn's husband.
Some time about 1985 it is believed that Lenz bought or leased a house in the Boston area while he was pursuing his abortive attempt to establish a center there.
Finally, in February, 1987, Lenz settled on Stony Brook, a very pleasant and up-scale area on the north shore of Long Island, as his base of operations. He purchased a relatively modest home at 193 Christian Avenue in Stony Brook for $247,000. At closing the house was paid for with four cashiers check from Boston area banks, two from the Shawmut-Needham Bank for $90,000 and $10,000 respectively, one from the First National Bank of Boston in the amount of $47,500, and one from the Boston Federal Savings Bank in the amount of $100,000.
Lenz did not appear for the closing. But four attractive young women did appear, each bearing one of the above checks. Two of the women were Christine Comaford, now a west coast computer consultant and part time columnist for P.C. Week magazine, and Cynthia Woodring. Local sources say the women had been living in rented homes in the area for some time, but all left shortly after closing the purchase of the house, two or three departing with their rent unpaid. The house was purchased through Maureen Anderson, a broker with L. C. Clarke Real Estate in Stony Brook. Lenz was represented at the closing by George Rice, an attorney in Rockville Center, while the sellers were represented by Anthony Mercep, a Stony Brook attorney.
Within less than a year Lenz put the Christian Avenue house on the market and purchased another, much more expensive and prestigious waterfront house at 183 Old Field Point Road in Old Field, New York, a very small and exclusive village immediately adjoining Stony Brook. The sale of this house was closed in early 1988 at a price of $949,000 with a down payment of $300,000 with the balance from the proceeds of a mortgage held by Prudential Bache. Again the sales agent was Maureen Anderson of L.C. Clarke, real estate, and George Clarke representing Lenz. The sellers were represented by Nicholas Del Guercio, another Stony Brook attorney.
Immediately after the close of the sale the house was gutted and lavishly rebuilt with an oriental appearance by his contractor, Walter Sternlieb. Once the remodelling was complete a security system was installed, cyclone fencing installed on the side boundaries, a view obstructing fence installed along the road and the property was extensively landscaped so that the house was no longer visible from the road. The estimated cost of the remodelling and landscaping approaches $400,000. Initially Lenz' security arrangements included bright security lights around the house. However, neighbors complained of the glare and village authorities required Lenz to remove them. Lenz, fences and elaborate security system are the only ones in the village and are resented by the neighbors as being out of place for their quiet and close knit village.
Two incidents in his dealing with the contractor tell something about Lenz. When the house was nearly comlete he asked the contractor if any of the workment had used any of the toilets in the house. The contract said they had used the toilet in one small upstairs bathroom. Lenz made him replace the toilet. Later, a dispute arose about some other aspect of the work, and Lenz commenced litigation with the contractor.
Lenz has always been fascinated by the desert and the southwest so in November, 1990, he purchased a home in Tesque, New Mexico, a very low key by very up-scale community just north of Santa Fe. Tesuque was once an area of modest but pictureque homes and small ranches along a creek running north through this small valley along Bishop's Lodge Road. It all has a pleasantly low key "old west" atmosphere. Wealthy Easterners have moved into the area, purchased much of the property, and driven values up considerably.
Lenz paid $895,000 for the house, a traditional Santa Fe adobe building, and, once again, immediately had it remodelled and redecorated, this time at a cost estimated to be close to $1,000,000. Again an extensive security system was installed, requiring either a magnetic card or the entry of a sequence of numbers to open the gate. An odd twist is that the security company monitoring and maintaining the system is owned by a large "Sikh" cult living in the vicinity of Santa Fe, perhaps a bit of "professional courtesy" between cults.
Despite his commitments in Long Island and Tesuque Lenz has always retained a fascination for the West Coast, particularly Malibu. In talking about his conciousness of past incarnations he once told an interviewer, "I don't really remember past lives so much as a sense of eternalness. I have a sense of feeling. I can remember countries - Japan, Tibet, India, Malibu...I'm serious...I remember Malibu a long time ago."
So it is not surprising that he has tried to keep a foothold here, particularly during the winter months and where he is convenient to the place where he conducts his West Coast meetings. From March, 1991 to March, 1992, he rented a waterfront house at 49 Malibu Colony Drive owned by Fred Sands, the prominent Los Angelese area Realtor. When his lease expired he moved again to the Malibu Colony home owned by Gordon Sumner, who performs professionally as a musician under the name "Sting", at 23544 Malibu Colony Drive. He pays between $25,000 and $30,000 per month rent.
Madeline Wright, Pritchett Realty Corp., has acted as Lenz agent for the rentals. Lenz is said the keep an "incredibly" clean house and pays his rent on time, but is very careful to maintain his privacy. He would not let the Sands house be shown to additional prospects until the last thirty or so days of his lease. Whenever Lenz is looking for a place to rent he arrives in the evening in a limousine and walks through the house without making any comment except to say yes or no to the rental.
Lenz has no live-in servants, security people, or anyone else in his homes, other than the companion of the moment. At Stony Brook he has a maid come in once a week and a gardening service come in for the day to take care of the yard. At one point he did have students come in from time to time to clean the house - supposedly to learn the "zen" of cleaning the toilet, but has ceased that practice.
Early in his career Lenz wanted his followers to live near him and required them all to move to Malibu. Since the initial wave of adverse publicity in 1988 Lenz will not permit any of his followers to live near him. They cannot live on Long Island. According to former follower Mark Lurtsema "He said he didn't want us to lower the vibe." The high-vibed Lenz claimed to be so sensitive the proximity of normal people can cause him psychic distress.
Other observers think the real reasons why he does not want his followers near him, and why he has chosen the North Shore of Long Island, Santa Fe and Malibu, is that they are quiet places where he is not known and where he can pass himself off as simply another well to do business person, enjoying the the money from his followers without the taint of its origin. He has unconciously acknowledged the odium attached to his peculiar calling by introducing himself to business people and neighbors as a "teacher", or the owner of a software company. There is no question that Lenz longs for respectability.
In the laudatory biography of Lenz distributed by his publicist, Lisa Lewinson, she lists Lenz hobbies and states, "He has collected a number of imported cars." According to motor vehicle records in New York state Lenz collection of imported cars consists of:
In Santa Fe Lenz keeps a lower profile with his cars, settling for a Range Rover there. In California he keeps up appearances with a Range Rover and a Bently. However, for most public appearances Lenz prefers to be driven in a hired limousine.
In 1992 a young woman named Kristie Patten, at Lenz invitation, spent a week with Lenz at his home in Old Field. She has given us a picture of how Lenz spends some of his time.
Lenz does not cook at home. He eats all of his evening meals out, mostly in the local area such as the Italian restaurant in Stony Brook, and in other places, some nice, some ordinary. Patten said that Lenz does not eat a very good diet. He drinks a tremendous amount of coffee (caffeine shot), eats "Sun Chips" and Yoplait yogurt. He has juice and junk food for breakfast and lunch.
For company he has three dogs, a black scottie and two "wheaton" scotties. Lenz told Patten that the black Scotty, Vishnu, was an enlightened dog, that he is advised by Vishnu. He is very devoted to his dogs. Lenz send out to the delicatessen in Stony Brook for food for the dogs. When Lenz flies he orders catering service for the dogs. Patten said that all the followers she met had dogs also.
Patten said she went a number of places with Lenz. Although he has several credit cards with high limits he habitually pays in cash for everything. He bought her some expensive clothes and paid cash for those also. He has "tons" of blisses in his house. He talked a lot about cars and music, said he likes cars, dogs and plays music most of the time especially the Zazen music.....she thinks they are professional musicians who are in the cult. They watched lots of rented movies and went out to movies. She said he particularly likes Arnold Swarznegger movies and movies with violence in them. Some of the movies he particularly liked are "The Hitcher", "Exorcist III", "Deep Blue", the "Predator" and "Drop Dead, Fred". He said that is what he is like, the last one. He said that those movies are what the world is like - violent and apocalyptic.
In addition to the movies Lenz has been observed at fashionable discotheques and other trendy places.
He still recommends Carlos Castenada and Steven King. He said Carlos Castenada's books are "a guide for living." He also liked books by Clyde Barker, the "Imagica" (sp?) in particular. He is not worried about environmental concerns. Says his followers will not even be on this planet in our next lives but will be reincarnates on a higher level, that this is almost a purgatory planet.
She said Fred was a "fashion hound", wearing trendy clothes, and thinks women should too. He doesn't like Calvin Klein, but likes Armani. He thinks all women should look like Lynda Hamilton, with muscles, or like Pauline of Este Lauder.
Patten was given free run of the house, except for one room, the library, which she was forbidden to enter. Some sources believe that Lenz has an extensive collection of texts on psychology with particular emphasis on manipulative techniques, as well as an extensive collection of works on the occult and Buddhism.
Lenz maintained a regular schedule of meetings with various groups of followers. While the schedule doubtless changes as his followers move around, at that time he was conducting meetings in New York on the first Monday of the month and in Los Angeles on the third Monday of the months. In between he would stay at either his house in Santa Fe or in Malibu.
All his commuting between different homes and meetings places is by chartered private jet. He takes the dogs along and orders catering service for them.
In the past year or two Lenz has altered his appearance somewhat. He is still troubled by acne and sees a dermatologist in Los Angelese regularly. His normally dark hair has been bleached blonde and he appears, at least in a recruiting video he had made, to use some makeup in his public appearances.
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What are these charges?
Just when the gangly kid from Stamford with his blooming crop of pimples developed this powerful lech is not known, but he was demonstrating it regularly during his days as a recruiter for Sri Chinmoy. Not long after his arrival in San Diego he developed a special appeal to women in his lecture "Why Don't More Women Attain Enlightenment". His heavy womanizing was known at least by members of his inner circle even then. With his emergence as a self conferred enlightened being and his assumption of the Rama persona his techniques for sexual exploitation became refined.
As a spiritual leader he gained trust. To the believers, and there were many, he exuded mystical power as a person who had lived through many past incarnations. His standard line was that, whoever the woman of the moment was, they had been lovers in past lives and that having sex with him again now would speed their spiritual development. The other approach was that he needed to bump them up to his energy level and that sex with him was not really sex.
Over the course of the past six years four women have been willing to publicly describe in substantial detail their bizarre sexual encounters with Lenz. Others have anonymously confirmed and elaborated on the reports of the four. Exit counsellor Joe Szimhart said he has worked with ten to twelve former students of Lenz and has counselled five women who said "that he had affairs or were his mistresses." Szimhart said the women told him that this was sort of an exercise for their enlightenment, to be with him and ...they were pressured into this act because of his stature as an enlightened teacher."
In 1982 he demonstrated his technique on Annie Eastwood, a 36 year old dental assistant and graduate student in psychology. Eastwood was newly arrived in Los Angeles, saw one of Lenz ads listing all his previous incarnations and decided to attend as a lark since she was curious about meditation. She had a "blissful" meditation and became a regular attendee. She was impressed by his witty talk, by his resistance to religious ritual, and by his emphasis on women and enlightenment.
A month later Lenz approached her during a break and invited her to his home in Malibu for a "special" meditation. She said she was "thrilled" that her enlightened master would trust her with his address. Lenz had warned her not to let anyone else know about the invitation, but she was startled to arrive at the isolated beachfront house and find no other cars in the driveway. "I had a funny feeling, but I said 'Don't be silly, you're going to see your teacher,'" she recalled.
Lenz took her inside and "for hours and hours and hours" showed her various rooms of the house and quizzed her about mystic subjects and her worldly attachments. "He was very intimidating, very authoritative", she said. "Was I good enough? Was I ready? I was getting more and more weirded out." "He worked on my head for seven or eight hours, setting himself up as superior, " she says. Lenz had her massage his back and feet, she relates, all the while telling her that it was a "great spiritual opportunity" for her to be there.
Finally Lenz offered to show her the bedroom, took her there, and locked the door behind them. Eastwood quickly sized up the situation and said she didn't want to have sex with him. "The hell you don't," Lenz replied. He described a sexual encounter they had had in Egypt in a previous life. Then he sat on the floor watching the ocean for more than an hour. Finally he went into the adjoining bathroom and emerged with a towel wrapped around him and a gun in his hand. The gun, which he set on the floor beside the bed, was for "protection from intruders."
"I was out of my body at that point I was so scared," Eastwood said. I was terrified for my life. My guts were saying 'Get out of here' and another part of my mind was saying 'Don't be ridiculous, this is your spiritual teacher.'" Eastwood submitted.
Eastwood said she dismissed the humiliating incident because she wanted her search for a spiritual guide to be over. "I was mixed up, confused. I wanted to believe in Rama," she said. "She said she was convinced that Lenz had occult powers," and didn't tell anyone about what happened. Twice more she had sex with Lenz. "I felt so powerless, hated myself, humiliated. I could not get myself out," she said. She filed no charges, although she later characterized the incident as rape.
She admits she decided to stay on with Lenz for another year, eventually becoming a trusted part of the inner circle that managed the seminars. Later Eastwood said she spoke out "because I would like the public to know what is coming down the pike, so people have some choices." After leaving the group Eastwood said she talked with three other women who reported sexual encounters with lenz, two involving a handgun. "It took me years to get over it," she said.
In a long, rambling and self-righteous "Statement to the Press" issued in early 1988, one of Lenz few media responses, Lenz tried to deal with the public charges Annie Eastwood had made. He points out that she had never filed any charges against him, and claimed that she seemed intent on getting as much media exposure as possible. The statement says that they had a wonderful evening together and that at no time did he brandish a hand gun.
Lenz goes on to say that Eastwood described her night with him in glowing terms to her roommate, Karen Lever (another follower) and to several other persons including her friend Ermano Rambaldi (a follower then and still a close follower). "She told them our night together was wonderful and that she was in love with me", Lenz statement says.
Further, Lenz' statement claims that Eastwood pursued him:
"She called me repeatedly asking if we could get back together. I tried to explain that I felt our relationship had run its course, but that did not seem to satisfy her. In her phone calls during the months that followed, Annie became more and more demanding. She told me that she had had visions of us together and that we were destined to be 'soul' mates'. I spent many hours on the phone trying to reason with her. This only seemed to make matters worse. Finally I stopped returning her calls. In our last conversation I suggested she see a therapist."
Lenz' statement claims that Eastwood is only reviving her accusation in "concordance" with a group of persons affiliated with Cult Awareness Network. "Her story is absurd and untrue." The statement runs to twelve single-spaced typewritten pages. The portion referring to Eastwood takes up only one of those pages.
By 1987 as Lenz was weeding out some followers and establishing a high powered intermediate group it began to be generally know that he was hitting on some of the newer female followers in the beginner's group. "You have to understand that he always stressed that he way beyond sex," said Steve Putnam, one of his followers at that time. Lenz' information network among his followers must have carried these rumors to him. Shortly thereafter, in one of his lectures, he chided disciples for gossiping "that I was making love to millions of women." In that lecture, which was taped, Lenz said there was a great tradition among Eastern spiritual masters for prolific sexuality. He said that he himself had outgrown monogamous relationships. "The relationships got better and better, and they meant less."
In the spring of 1987 Mercedes Hughes was an attractive twenty four year old woman who had just graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She had been taken to a Lenz seminar by her boyfriend, and became "absolutely enamored with Lenz philosophy, particularly his feminist beliefs. In May Lenz approached her at one of his seminars and said he thought she had "great spiritual potential." He invited her to visit his penthouse suite at the Westwood Hotel to talk, but told her not to tell anyone. She was flattered. She said she thought "I was going to be his disciple."
Hughes absolute faith in Lenz as her spiritual mentor was the leverage he used, against her protestations, to seduce her. She claims he said "that I would progress at a much, much, faster rate than if I didn't sleep with him." She said he told her that he could "empower her with his high vibratory energy" and that "sex with him was not really sex at all." Later she said she considered it a rape. "I was not an easy person to seduce. I was in love with my boyfriend, and it took a long time for him to convince me that this was the best thing for me spiritually."
Lenz also convinced her to break up with her boyfriend and further instructed her that her new "job duties" included "making him feel better after seminars, and sex was one of the ways."
Tracy, a former follower who wished to remain anonymous, said Lenz gave her the same rationale in 1990 when he invited her to his home and pressured her into having sex with him. Mark Lurtsema, who joined the group in 1984 said he has spoken with five female former followers who had sex with Lenz. "It was the craziest thing. All of the women knew, but none of the men", said Lurtsema, who compared his ex-guru's sexual exploits to "a psychologist having sex with his patients."
That was the start of a relationship that nearly drove Hughes insane. Lenz told her to throw out all her old clothes and took her on a shopping spree. They spent more than $17,000 on clothes at exclusive stores in Beverly Hills. Lenz peeled off $100 bills without blinking an eye. They stayed in the nicest hotels and traveled by limousine and chartered jet. Lenz was paying her way to fly back and forth to New York to his new home on Long Island. In June she moved in.
The idyll continued. They spent their days kayaking, bicycling and window shopping. They went to the movies at least three times a week, dined in the nicest restaurants and constantly watched rented videos. Meanwhile, according to Steve Putnam, Lenz was telling his advanced students he was toiling for them night and day.
Slowly the ugliness crept into their relationship when Lenz began efforts to convince her that she, like his new intermediate students, was possessed by demons. She was given letters to read from disciples in mental hospitals talking about being possessed. One letter from a woman said her husband had just been committed because he believed that entities had taken over. Lenz repeatedly gave her LSD, then made her sit and stare at him for hours while he shouted and raged at her about being possessed be demons and entities and accused her of forsaking him.
By the end of the summer Hughes said, "I didn't care whether I lived or not. I cried a lot". In early September after a long telephone call to her parents and to a friend she packed her bags and slipped away while Lenz was in New York giving a lecture on meditation.
Eventually Hughes learned that Lenz had been having a simultaneous relationship with her and with two of her best friends who had attended his seminars. To convince each of them of his psychic power and omnipotence he kept in close touch with all three women and traded information with them. Lenz would casually ask one about the other. Hughes once told Lenz that one of her friends, Mary Alice Putnam, had lost a computer file in a blackout. Later that same day he called Putnam, telling her he could "feel" that she was having troubles. Putnam was amazed at his all-seeing ability and believed him when he told her that her boyfriend was "psychically attacking her" and that she should break up with him.
The truth about Mercedes Hughes is almost exactly the opposite, according to Lenz' long and turgid "statement to the press." He only gave her money and rented an apartment for her because she was deathly concerned that someone who had attacked another coed a few weeks before might be after her. He only bought her a some clothing and luggage which she "desperately needed" when they travelled together. It was Hughes who sought LSD, and cocaine, and became enraged when she couldn't get some. It was Hughes who was concerned that her parents were trying to psychologically control her. And it was Hughes who became increasing obsessed with demons over the summer. Lenz, he says, was the one who decided it was time for them to part.
Francis Kohl, a follower of Lenz for several years, said that some of her younger female roommates would get telephone calls from Lenz at midnight and come back the next day, or several days later. " It was pretty obvious he was sleeping with a lot of the girls," said Kohl. "He said it was 'tantric sex' and that he could transfer a great deal of energy to the women and accelerate their development."
One of the young women who received a summons from Lenz was Barbara Sherman. She said it was not her place to question a telephone call from Lenz one night to pack her bag for a three day stay and come to his Long Island home. "I had a ball of fear in my stomach," she said, but he had taught us that 'Anytime you doubted him it was because of entities.'"
"I got to his house - he had this huge estate," she said. Lenz locked the gate surrounding the estate, locked the front door, brought her to his bedroom, and "locked that door, warning her not to open it because it would set off the alarm." He was very friendly, Sherman said. He told her she had incredible karma of a type rarely seen on earth. He gave her a diet coke.
Then the situation deteriorated into a nightmarish three days. Lenz gave her pills to take, assuring her they were safe, claiming there were over-the-counter Benadryl. She took them because she said Lenz has taught his followers not to trust their own feelings. It was part of his mind control tactic. For the next three days, she said, "He basically had his way with me", which was not at all pleasant. "He did weird sexual things, and I couldn't respond. I was paralyzed in some weird, funky state. I had no control."
He repeated this the next night. The pills kept her in a dreamlike state from which she could not escape. "I felt like I was wrapped in cotton candy. I could barely talk....the walls were melting around me." She said that he started yelling at me and badgering me for hours. She heard him as if he were speaking in a tunnel, she said. By the third day she was reduced to hysteria. He yelled at her for crying in front of the "enlightened one." Then, he dismissed her with the wave of a hand. "He shooed me away like he had a gnat in his face."
Sherman, like those who had gone public before, came in for her share of criticism. This time Lenz did not speak himself, leaving that to his publicist, Lisa Lewinson. In a press release distributed widely Lewinson, and unidentified Lenz followers, accused Sherman of thinking of herself as a "femme fatale", and, even worse, of not wearing underpants.
The last person to go public with a description of Lenz sexual approaches was a young woman from Seattle, Washington, Kristie Patten. Patten had been recruited into the group in San Francisco by Sue Young, a dedicated long-time follower of Lenz. Patten said she was stunned in February of 1992 when she received a telephone call from Lenz inviting her to fly back to his Long Island estate at his expense "to find out if I wanted him as a teacher."
Not long after her arrival, Patten said, Lenz began making sexual advances. "I went numb because I was so scared and confused...things got totally out of hand." She said that Lenz claimed that sex with him would aid her spiritually. He said, "I'll take you to places you've never been before, baby. We were naked together and at the point of having sex. I told him I didn't want to. He kept saying 'It's OK, come on.' I was shocked. He was desiring me like any other man would desire a naked woman. It was just lust. There was nothing enlightened about it. I thought I was going to meet someone like Gandhi and was hit with this."
"It's pretty comical to think of now, but it was very frightening at the time," Patten said. "He made me feel like I had sexual hangups. He said I was playing games with him." Patten said Lenz left her alone for most of the week, but at the end of the week he became angry. "He said he'd give me another chance if I improved. What was I supposed to do? Work on my sexual hangups."
Patten returned to the West Coast with the intention of continuing her affiliation with Lenz but her family became alarmed at her withdrawal from them and obtained some counselling for her, convincing her to withdraw.
Like the other women who have gone public concerning Lenz sexual predation she has come in for her share of vilification. In a lengthy signed statement circulated by Lenz' publicist, Lisa Lewinson, Patten's recruiter, Sue Young, pictures her as a flighty young flirt, infatuated with Lenz, eager to sleep with him, and bitterly disappointed and frustrated that she did not have sexual intercourse with Lenz. Young's statement has to be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism since it is dated at just about the time Patten left the group in March. Patten did not go public with her story until late July.
Other former followers affirm that Lenz regularly arranged to have some young woman spend time with him at home. The pattern is pretty much as has been described above ... wine, dine, spend lots of money on new clothes for her, sometimes travel, then the abuse begins. One source reports that at one time Lenz had an inner circle of some twenty women, called the "Debs", who regularly, and willingly, spent weekends at his house.
Lenz ambivalent attitude toward women is apparent from this history. On the one hand he preaches enlightenment and empowerment of women and, on the other hand, regularly exploits them and abuses them physically, mentally and emotionally, accusing them of plotting to injure him. At the same time he regularly complains that, "My mother was the only one who ever really loved me."
It is apparent that Lenz, despite his charismatic power and the influence he has over his followers, feels very unsure of his ability to deal with competent and capable women who might be a challenge to him, or be able to deal with him on an equal footing. He seems to be comfortable only with more submissive women whom he can more easily dominate. Even so, he seems to be unable to form a continuing close relationship with any women. One reason may be hinted at by several women who, understandably, did not want to be otherwise identified, stated that Lenz was not a particularly adept or satisfying performer.
Tantric sex, or sex between the teacher and student is not unheard of in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. At a symposium with twenty two Western Buddhist Teachers the Dali Lama was asked about teachers having sex with women students, claiming to enlighten them. Surprisingly the Dali Lama said there were a few cases where this might be possible. H illustrated with a story about Drukpa Kunley a famous medieval yogi of Bhutan. The Dali Lama explained that Kunley could do this because he had reached the nondual insight known as "one taste." All experiences were the same to him: He could enjoy excrement and urine just like the finest food and wine. The practice of Tantric sex is permitted only to practitioners who could match Kunley's insight. As for modern teachers who sleep with their students the Dali Lama said, If you put into their mouth some urine, they will not enjoy."
Few believe that Lenz could pass this test.
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