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The Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA) was founded in 1971 by John-Roger.


"Because of the MSIA's tolerant religious ideology and relatively low-intensity profile, the movement largely escaped the attention of the anti-cult movement until the late 1980's. There have been three controversies in particular that have caught the attention of the media.

"The first controversy revolved around the allegation that the MSIA has plagiarized Eckankar, the religious group that supposedly plagiarized a number of Radhasoami teachings and texts. David Christopher Lane has been at the forefront of these allegations; he is a member of the Radhasoami Satsang Beas group and an anti-cultist dedicated to exposing certain religious groups, among them the MSIA, that he "regards as unorthodox and unauthorized Western derivations of the legitimate Radhasoami tradition" (Introvigne: 2). The Cult Awareness and Information Centre in Australia has a website exploring the extent of the alleged plagiarism, but according to Introvigne at CESNUR, the accusation that the founder of a new religious movement is a plagiarist is far from new. Indeed, new religious movements often borrow from other traditions and their teachers, manipulating old ideas so that they convey new, significant ideas to their followers. "The authors of the Gospels borrowed both from each other and from the Old Testament...nothing in religion is really entirely new" (Introvigne: 3). Introvigne readily admits that "a credible case can be built for an influence of Eckankar (or of Radhasoami through Eckankar) on certain teachings of John-Roger, particularly sound meditation (Ibid: 7). MSIA's Discourses, however, are similar in concept and format to AMORC's monographs. MSIA's Discourses and AMORC's monographs also have similar connections with a chain of subsequent initiations. One may speculate that -- had David Christopher Lane been a champion of Rosicrucian, rather than Radhasoami orthodoxy -- he may have perhaps written a book accusing John-Roger of 'spiritual plagiarism' from AMORC" (Ibid: 7-8).

"Thus, "literary borrowings and borrowings of terminology (or adoption of a slightly different terminology) have taken place" (Ibid 7). On the other hand, "the idea that, in order to be properly initiated [into a higher realm], a connection is needed with an unbroken chain of masters dating back to very ancient times is as old as the esoteric tradition" (Ibid). Eckankar has its Masters, Freemasonry has its Great Masters, and AMORC has its Imperators. (Ibid).

"The second controversy erupted in 1994 when conservative republican Michael Huffington was campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat against democrat Dianne Feinstein in California. Those hostile to Huffington's campaign released to the media that his wife, Arianna Huffington, a nationally syndicated journalist who was involved with the MSIA, was a member of a "dangerous cult" (Introvigne: 3). The Doonesbury comic strip devoted a week to lampooning Arianna, and Time featured the MSIA in an article entitled, "Should the Huffingtons be Stopped?" Even though Arianna told the Los Angeles Times that the MSIA is not a cult and that John-Roger was merely her friend, not her spiritual guide, rumors continued to plague her husband's campaign. Whether or not it was because of the media focus on his wife, Michael Huffington's run for the Senate seat was ultimately unsuccessful ( Sipchen, LA Times).

"The third controversy emerged close to the time of the Huffington issue, but it extends back almost two decades. Peter McWilliams joined MSIA in 1977-78, and in the 1980s, Williams and John-Roger wrote a series of self-help books that were explicitly secular (Introvigne: 8). The books "show the willingness of John-Roger to somewhat claim the heritage of positive thinking and the self-help tradition" (Ibid: 7-8). Among the books, Life 101 and You Can't Afford the Luxury of Negative Thought made the best-seller list. In 1993 and 1994, however, McWilliams left MSIA and joined David Lane in writing a bitter expose of the MSIA entitled Life 102: What to do when your Guru Sues You. A royalty litigation ensued between McWilliams and the MSIA, and Life 102 was consequently pulled from circulation (Introvigne: 3). Lane posted the text on the Internet, but in August and September 1998, a court ruling forced him to remove it because of an infringement of copyright. McWilliams, in the meantime, has completely rejected the MSIA; in a 1994 article run by People magazine, he says that "J-R is a master of manipulation" (Rosen, People). [1]

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  1. MSIA: Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, organizational web page, accessed July 17, 2013.