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For 25 years, Radhia Gleis was a key part of a chilling "cult".
During that time, some male members of the group, known as the Buddhafield, were allegedly molested by the leader, or guru, Jaime Gomez.
The grisly claims were aired in a disturbing documentary, Holy Hell, which is now available on Amazon.
Filmmaker Will Allen claimed he and others spent years being sexually abused in the Buddhafield, which is something Gomez denies.
He told Vulture: "I was around him for so long. I knew him better than most people, I saw more, I filmed more, and he also had an abusive sexual relationship with me that he called a consensual relationship.
"Those were all secrets and lies that he was very, very protective about."
In another interview, Will told CNN: "I would have to get ready for sex with (Gomez). You guys were all at satsang, singing.
"I would come over, and he would do his ritual with me.
"He was sitting in a chair, and I was kneeling in front of him.
“There was no intimacy; there was no real love. People say we were in some sort of relationship? There was no relationship…
"I didn't register it as abuse. I just thought, 'It's my problem. Why am I not surrendered?
“I just didn't ever know what was happening to me. And then I had to love him like he was my guru. I had to honour and respect him as my guru, and that's when I started hating him. I was PTSD without even knowing it."
Will was just 21 when he joined the "cult" – after being recruited by Radhia.
Radhia says hearing about his experiences in Holy Hell was like "watching a horror film" – and it's also spurred her to talk about her own experiences.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Star, she said: "When the documentary came out I was traumatised.
“We were at the Sundance Film Festival and my life was spilling out on the big screen.
“I did not know the real nitty gritty details of the sexual abuse because the guru was homosexual. The women were not sexually abused like the men.
“I brought Will to the Buddhafield and I didn’t know the graphic details of his abuse until I watched the film.
“These were all my brothers, I had known them all my adult life. I sat in a state of shock.”
If you are impacted by any of the issues raised in this story, you can reach out to these services for support.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
Despite her anger towards Gomez, who she calls a sociopath, Radhia believes the followers of the "cult", the disciples, built him up.
She admitted: “The likes of Hitler and Mussolini could never do what they did without the followers.
“It is the followers that build and feed the narcissist.
“I had to analyse how we created a monster.”
And that’s exactly what Radhia, now 67, did in her new book The Followers: Holy Hell and the Disciples of Narcissistic Leaders.
Radhia grew up as a Catholic in Los Angeles and went to private school with the wealthy but never felt fulfilled.
“It was all very superficial and as a teenager I was always looking for something deeper,” she explained.
“In LA at the time there was a cult on every block. I never thought I would fall for anything like that.
“Nobody wakes up one morning and decides ‘I’m going to join a cult today’.”
But after her education, commercial illustrator Radhia joined the Buddhafield in the 1980s.
It was led by Gomez who offered spiritual healing and fulfillment in a healthy lifestyle free from sex and drugs.
And Radhia said the early days were bliss.
She added: “It was utopia. Everybody was gorgeous and they called us the cult of the beautiful people.
“Gomez was just a lovely guy – smart, funny, good looking and charismatic. I loved him.
“Here was this contemporary guy who was gay. I fled Catholicism and wasn’t interested in old traditions, I wanted something deep and intimate and he filled all of those things.
“We had such a good time.”
Radhia said there were only 15 in the group when she joined but it eventually expanded to 150.
Members, who all had careers and separate lives, lived together in houses in West Hollywood.
But as the years slipped by – Radhia believes Gomez changed.
She said he became paranoid and his spiritual teachings were no longer coming from God, they were coming from him.
Radhia added: “We saw him 24 hours a day where he would sit at his chair with us at his feet and he would ruminate saying ‘they are coming to get me, they are coming to kill me’ and we saw something was happening.”
The group eventually moved out to Austin, Texas, where things took a darker turn.
Radhia was suddenly desperate to leave.
She said: “In Texas everything became secretive. We were taught to lie and I wasn’t getting what I was originally getting.
“I wanted to leave in 1995 but I stayed until 2006. That’s how conflicted I was.”
Radhia explained: “These was my family and my best friends. My parents were dead, my brother had disowned me, there was nobody on the outside who understood my clandestine life.
“These people knew me better than any of my family ever would.
“You create a bond that makes it extremely painful to think that you would not be with them any more.
"You have shared intimate secrets with each other – very convenient for a narcissistic sociopath who we pay and hand over our psyche to every week.
“He knew all our fears, the skeletons in our closet, our deep dark things. He controlled us.”
Radhia said she was also afraid to leave because she feared Gomez would turn others against her.
She added: "We saw what Gomez did to people who had left.
“He demonised them and turned their best friends against them. We knew that if you left you had betrayed the group – you would lose everything.
“Life was getting weirder but it was better than the outside.”
Radhia eventually left in 2006 after a “sand in the line” moment.
She believes Gomez tried to seduce a straight man in one of his hypnotherapy sessions.
The man refused his approach only for the leader to allegedly then spread lies about him.
Radhia fled and more accusations against Gomez started to surface.
The group was in tatters and Gomez, now almost 80, moved his remaining loyal followers to Hawaii – where the "cult" remains.
Radhia was a nutritionist after ditching the group but she lost her clinic and house before going bankrupt.
And she is now warning others that anyone can be manipulated into joining a cult.
She said: “My new book is also about people who think it could never happen to them – which is bulls***.
“It may not be the same people or picture, but we can be manipulated no matter how smart or educated you are.
“You can and very often are, whether it is political, religious or an ideology.
“A good con man figures out what you want and they figure out their game and they will play you.
“The book is a warning but also an explanation.
“If anyone thinks you cannot be played then you’ve already been played.”
Gomez, who was previously known as Michel, has denied allegations outlined in the Holy Hell documentary.
He responded: “It is heartbreaking to see how history has been rewritten. Holy Hell is not a documentary, rather, it is a work of fiction designed to create drama, fear and persecution; that is what sells.
"I am saddened by this attempt to obscure the message of universal love and spiritual awakening. It is devastating to see these friends, who were once so filled with love for the world, become so angry.
"I wish them only the best, and hold each one close to my heart. If any of my actions were a catalyst for their disharmony, I am truly sorry. May all beings find peace, Michel."
- In the News
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