Sagamore 1979-11-19

Dr. Jay Cohen - Deprogrammee

Divine Light Mission loses devotee to Patrick

(Note - next to last in a series on religious deprogramming, this article continues the story of Ted Patrick's deprogramming of a local doctor.)
By William A. Barton

Cohen was taken to a house in Indianapolis where he was held by the deprogrammers for several days. In contrast to many deprogramming reports, however, he states that he was treated quite civilly by his captors once they got him there.

"They made it clear again that they weren't going to do anything to me. If I wanted to sleep, I could sleep. If I wanted to eat, I could eat whatever I wanted. If I didn't want to talk, I didn't have to talk. If I wanted to, I could. Whatever I wanted - fine, except the one ground rule. I couldn't leave.

A couple of hours after Cohen's abduction, Ted Patrick arrived. "He wasn't in on the abduction," Cohen explained, "because of the legal difficulties he's been having recently. But he was the main deprogrammer.

"He worked with me until ten that night, and all the next day until I finally 'opened up.'"

Cohen was pretty angry under the circumstances, as he believes anyone would be.

"So for a couple of days I refused to talk to them."

All the time, however, Patrick and the other deprogrammers continuously asked him questions he refused to answer and confronted him with facts about DLM that he refused to admit to - approaching those things that will work in breaking the programming of a cult member.

"Patrick really confronted me with the facts and with the finances of DLM, which I already knew, but here I was in a position where I couldn't shut it out, where I couldn't meditate it away. He confronted me with the truth and asked me questions that would make me think."

Though he resisted at first after a while Cohen began to think about what they were saying, that maybe it made a little sense. "I thought, OK, I've been here two days. They don't want to hurt me. All they want me to do is start thinking for myself. They want me to look objectively at what I've been doing. After that they'll let me go. That's when I opened up and started talking …".

After they initial success, the deprogrammers kept him at the same house another four or five days. Patrick, however, had to leave after the third day. He had had another deprogramming to attend to.

"They were talking to me, asking me questions - only now I was answering their questions. It just got more obvious as the days went by that, my God, I've been living a lie for four years."

He stated that they kept reinforcing that had been tricked by the cult. They helped him to believe that he hadn't done anything bad, that he'd only been deceived. He feels they really supported him in the transition from cult member to ex-cult member.

"You can't imagine what it's like," he explained," to have your whole life pull out from under you, which is exactly what happened to me in this situation. You can't imagine how traumatic that is."

The deprogrammers continued to support him in this manner for about a week. Then he went from what deprogrammers called "rehabilitation," the transition period from "cult life" to "normal social life."

"You're in a relatively controlled environment," Cohen said. "There's someone with you all the time who takes care of all your finances said you don't have to worry about it and to see that you have a good time."

He says he was taken to bars - someplace he hadn't gone in three years - and other places that have been forbidden to him as a DLM member, as part of his rehabilitation "buffering."

This went on for a few weeks, after which Cohen was allowed to go off on a vacation. By then he felt he really needed it.

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Unlike many deprogrammed ex-cult members, he escaped any serious confrontation by DLM members when he moved his things out of the Ashram.

"I was the community coordinator when I got kidnapped. That means I was the highest-ranking DLM official in the city. So I came back and I confronted all of them. Of course, most of them tried to talk me back into it, but - no way. I know too much now."

Now that is out of Divine Light Mission, Dr. Cohen has no wish to become involved with any other organised religion, even though he still has strong religious convictions of his own.

He finds too much similarity between every religion and the cult he was in.

As for the Constitutional question of deprogrammers violating the rights of their victims, Cohen has very strong feelings.

"The physical abduction that took place in my case, although it appeared to be a violation of my rights, was in no way such a thing.

"Reason is that all of my rights as a human being had been taken away from me by my involvement with DLM. I had no right even to think for myself.

"I was trapped by the cult and would still be trapped if it weren't for the efforts of the people who loved me and did what they had to do to get me out."

In spite of his support for deprogramming, Cohen does still wonder if there isn't a better way. Until one is found, however, he intends to speak out strongly for deprogramming.

As to whether the deprogrammers themselves are practising the same type of brainwashing they accuse the cults of using, Cohen admitted that he did know of some deprogrammers who do brainwash the people they work on, but that wasn't what happened to him.

"Or maybe it did," he laughed, "but I feel like a free man now. There's no one perpetually reinforcing the brainwashing if that's what actually took place."

Cohen believes that much depends on who is doing the deprogramming, as well as what group the person is being deprogrammed from as to its success. "Some deprogrammers are worthless. They don't do the job right - they do damage instead.

That is why he thinks that, although they worked in his case, something better than current deprogramming methods are needed, something where kidnapping and breaking the law won't necessary.

Until such a substitute comes along, however, Dr. Jay Cohen will remain an ardent supporter of deprogramming. He believes that, thanks to his deprogramming experience, he is free for the first time in almost five years.

Next - final legal wrap up.