Mudita Journal

What Is an Avatar Master?

July 21, 2006 · Filed under: Intellectual, Personal

Yesterday I had lunch with someone I met through a social networking web site, who bills himself as an “Avatar Master.”

Before meeting with him, I did a tiny bit of research on the net, saw that Avatar is some form of spiritual training, and didn’t think much of it.

The gentleman was pleasant to talk with, and we had a nice enough lunch. I quickly gleaned it is important to him that other people sign up for the same Avatar courses he has taken.

I asked him if the Avatar organization was ever accused of being a cult, to which he replied, “Yes, in France. They accused us of being a cult in France.”

This afternoon, after noticing a brief mention of Avatar by Elliott Benjamin — whose full story “On Avatar” is available on the web — I took the opportunity to do a bit more research.

Here, incidentally, is one excerpt from Benjamin’s summary which seemed indicative of his even-handed approach to evaluating the Avatar trainings:

Harry Palmer has come up with some significant and effective ideas and techniques to help people actualize their dreams. But the procedures are to be repeated verbatim according to Palmer’s instructions, from Source List, to the Creative Handling Procedure, to the Initiation Session. This verbatim repetition most certainly reminds me of the Dianetics Auditing sessions of Scientology, and I have no doubt that it is far more than a mere coincidence that these similarities of procedure exist between Scientology and Avatar, given that Palmer himself is an ex-Scientologist.

So the viewpoint I choose to adopt (in Avatar language) is that my low status of Assistant Avatar Master enabled me to make a narrow escape from yet another New Age spiritual organization. I had spent roughly $8,000 on Avatar, and there was an intensive sales pitch at the Avatar Masters’ course to sign up for the next Avatar Wizard’s course, the 13-day training in Florida that costs $7,500 plus all the extras.

It turns out that the organization which produces Avatar trainings does have quite a few cult characteristics, including: appearing on many cult lists, being considered a cult by people who study cults, stifling criticism, promoting “secret” techniques and doctrines, promoting a cultic utopia, condemning science and critical reasoning, using mind control techniques, getting in trouble with various national governments, and using policies that can be financially exploitative of its followers.

So, in sum, I think it’s safe to say that Avatar is a cult. (Objectivism, which was accused of being a cult in the 1960s, seems pretty pale by comparison.)

I’m posting this information here as a breadcrumb trail for others who may be wondering what an “Avatar Master” is. It is someone who has paid a few thousand dollars, and attended a couple weeks worth of trainings, in the techniques promulgated by former Scientologist Harry Palmer.

The gentleman I had lunch with was kind and obviously intelligent, and I think he has only good intentions. The organization he is involved with, however, seems very prone to abusing its members.

I hope that people who choose to attend Avatar training will do so with full knowledge of both the hazards and benefits of becoming involved with that organization.

  • sharon

    thanks for the info on Avatar masters. It’s good to have people like yourself looking out for others on the net.
    best regards,

  • David G.

    Hey Joshua,

    It’s me, the other Avatar Master you met at McGrath’s.

    I’d like to weigh in on your blog post with a couple of observations.

    The internet is one of the coolest things imaginable in terms of being able to find information on almost anything in mere moments.

    The caveat is that just because someone posts something on the internet doesn’t necessarily make it true, accurate, free from their own projections or any personal agendas they may have.

    If you are just looking for random information about something, fine; take it with a grain of salt and move on.

    If however, you say you are doing “research”, then I think you need to apply some higher standards than simply reading a couple of quick articles and taking them as gospel.

    Webster’s defintion of research is:

    a careful search or investigation, systematic investigation towards increasing the sum of knowledge

    While I can appreciate your taking action to do a search about Avatar I would question the validty of your qualifications to make the pronouncment that you did in saying, “So, in sum, I think it’s safe to say that Avatar is a cult. ”

    You are certainly entitled to an opinion but if what you are basing it on is Ronald Cools’ website… well that’s a little bit like reading Ann Coulter’s raging screeds against people of a liberal persuasion and thinking that you now have a complete, sane and levelheaded defintion of American politics.

    As for Elliot Benjamin’s report on his Master Course experience, may I offer you another perspective as part of your research efforts on Avatar?

    I took the time to read his entire report that you were thorough enough to provide the link to. I have to chuckle at how clever we humans can be in rationalizing our own viewpoints and then making a case against someone or something to validate ourselves. He did a masterful job.

    Coincidently, I was also at the Masters Course on Coronado Island he wrote about and recall meeting him.

    The reason I recall meeting him, out of the several hundred others who were there, is that he was (what is called in Avatar parlance) “in a creation” and actively seeking agreement for it from other students in the course room.

    When you are in a synergistic environment where as the days roll on everyone is shedding more and more levels of defintion and relaxing into an easy state of relatively pure beingness, someone who is asserting a self-important and troubled identity sticks out like a sore thumb.

    When you arrive on an Avatar Master Course, it is assumed that you are there to pursue the course work as it is intended (ie. learning what it takes and developing the skills and abilites to deliver a high quality Avatar Course) and the staff is aligned with the purpose of supporting everyone in keeping everyone on track or helping them return if they veer off into some lesson that’s waiting in consciousness as part of their integration.

    Now everyone hits something at some time or another when pursuing work at this level of depth and an allowance for this veering off phenomena is built right in to the course. How long someone stays stuck in a creation will have a lot to do with what their true intentions are in engaging the work.

    From the short but rich time we spent together I’m aware that you are a person who has been pursuing awakening in consciousness through various paths and methods for some time so I know that you are well familiar with the fact that one’s beliefs and agendas tend to have an effect on their perception.

    For your consideration of that fact I present Mr. Benjamin’s biography as it appears on his website:

    Elliot Benjamin is a mathematician and philosopher, with a Ph.D in mathematics and a Master’s degree in counseling. He is the author of Numberama: Recreational Number Theory in the School System, Modern Religions: An Experiential Analysis And Exposé, and a number of articles in the fields of pure mathematics, mathematics education, and spirituality & cults. He lives in Swanville, Maine and offers discussion/support groups and counseling for ex-members and family & friends of members of spiritual cults. His “Modern Religions” book describes his experiences with Scientology, est, Unification Church, Divine Light Mission, Gurdjieff, Eckankar, Self-Realization Fellowship, Course In Miracles, Reiki, Avatar, Conversations With God, Neopaganism, and more.

    So here we have an ambitious guy who is making a name for himself in the world as a self-described philosopher specializing in expose’ and counseling members of spirtual or religious groups that he has added to his list of cults, which by the way he has supposedly immersed himself in to find out what they truly are.

    Hmmmmmm………… how objective do you think he can be in evaluating something when he is occupying the asserted identity of Cult Buster and Cult Member Rescuer? Methinks he had other fish to fry when he “tried out” all these various groups and organizations.

    I don’t know what kind of mole stuff he may have gotten away with in some of the other groups but I speak with thousands of hours of authority and 15 years experience of Avatar work under my belt and I can guarantee you that the fail safe structure of the courses will perturbate and reveal identites unaligned with recovering the pure motivations of source awareness every time. It’s not something that you can pretend and as I mentioned above, when the environment is resonating at that high vibration, hidden agendas and asserted identites are like neon signs.

    For the sake of time and excess verbosity I won’t take the time to crtique Mr. Benjamin’s entire report here although I will suggest to readers that it might be an interesting exercise to go over it paragraph by paragraph asking the question, “What beliefs are being asserted here and by what identity? To justify what?”

    I will however point out one thing from his report that gives me a large neon clue as to what kind of creation Mr. Benjamin was in at that course.

    “I was one of the first ones to finish the actual course (which, in terms of content, was little more than the original Avatar training course). I received many compliments on how I was working with other Avatar students and masters, and many people who were not completing the course as quickly as I were given the higher licensing status of Intern Master, which enabled them to teach the Section 1/Resurfacing weekend.”

    Well, imagine that. Other people were taking longer to finish the course and they were the ones to get a higher level of licensure? How curious….

    Hmmm……. could it be that the markers for advancement have something to do with how deep and how sincerely the participants are willing to delve into taking personal responsibility for their various ego creations of separation?

    Could it be that “a checklist sprinter” is glossing over issues that really need deeper self-inspection?

    I think he was sitting there thinking he was done when actually he hadn’t even yet begun.

    In all fairness I should give him more credit than that though. After all, he did invest in himself enough to pursue the basic course twice and get himself to the Master Course. He seemed sincere enough in his desire to learn this work that he’d found so valuable.

    His problem came in when he hit some self-mportance not aligned with the higher-self orientation of the Avatar Master’s identity.

    Actually the problem didn’t happen when he hit it, it happened when he refused to integrate it as his creation. Rather than using the Avatar tools to dissolve that identity and move into a deeper level of connection which was the opportunity he was given by the trainers, he chose instead to defend his position and attack Avatar as a cult and here we are on this message board discussing it 5 years later because anyone can put up anything they want on the internet.

    All I’m saying here, Joshua, is that true research must consider the source of information and pursue a due dilligence in comparing and contrasting what they find with other information and viewpoints about it before an informed opinion can be arrived at.

    I think you may have scattered those breadcrumbs of warning a little irresponsibly this time, or at least a little prematurely.

    Knowing that you admire and respect Ken Wilber, I did a search on his name and the word “cult.”

    I got back tons of stuff that wasn’t very flattering to Ken.

    Does this mean that I should now go out and warn people to steer clear of him or go in to his work with a certain wariness?

    I think not.

    May I suggest Joshua, that you read some of Harry Palmer’s written works and judge for yourself whether he sounds like a cult leader?

    Here you can find many short articles that take only a minute or three to read:

    This one has to do with the subject of identity that I wrote about in this comment.

    Knowing that you are a meditator I think this one will be of interest to you.

  • David,

    Thank you for your comments. I think you make some very good points.

    I have posted a reply here.

    In general, the topic of whether Avatar is a cult is clearly a hot topic among the various interested parties on the internet — hotter than I had realized. I’m now getting some snarky comments from both sides.

    Many of the comments are deteriorating into a kind of he-said she-said muck that I’m uncomfortable hosting, so I’ve deleted some of the other comments on this thread and I’m not likely to post other comments unless they seem particularly constructive.

    I would be especially interested in seeing comments that address the questions I raise in my reply to David.


  • Pingback: On Preventing Cultish Behavior :: Mudita Journal()

  • Hi Joshua,

    The link (to “cools092”) you mention in your first message isn’t active anymore.

    At this new site there’s a section on the subject “Is Avatar a (psycho) cult?”

    With kind regards,

    Jeta Eggers
    The Netherlands

  • Harvey Pacht

    I took the basic course. Wonderful. What you call secret techinques are nothing more than very detailed excerises of directing your attention. To get it right you really have to build up to it slowly over time. The instructions sound like a bunch of nonesense until you actually sit down and do the exercises. Ironically, there is nothing really new about the stuff – but Harry should get credit for getting it over to people. It is not a cult unless you want to turn it into one. By the way, no one comes after you if you want to leave.
    If you want to say that there are inherent beliefs imbeded in the technology, like all experiences are valid, then this is a place to have a discussion.