I’ve been interested in the so-called spiritual search for quite a while and have been involved with zen meditation and advaita vedanta for many years. Recently however, I’ve discovered Candice O’Denver’s project called the Great Freedom teachings which has more recently been repackaged as Balanced View.
“For the benefit of all.”
(Image provided by alex slocombe)
This is an image of Candice O’Denver giving a talk. She supported the Barak Obama presidential campaign (Candice O’Denver (Great Freedom/President and Founder), (Zip code: 94924) $2300 to OBAMA FOR AMERICA on 07/31/08 ), so I imagine that she is a committed Democrat.
My first impression was “Wow, this is great!” but over the months have become sceptical and wary of it’s super-professionalism, it’s internationalism and multiculturalism with its sights being on the 18 to 35 year age group. The typical image is of a smiling twenty-something year-old with dreadlocks and an apple mac. What’s wrong with that? I ask myself. I don’t know, but I find the whole thing scary. Is it a sect? I also ask myself. Well, I decided to do a bit of research on the web and found some interesting blog comments and images from their publicity video which in themselves say quite a bit. Maybe one should have an open mind and not be too judgemental.
Mmmm! No! He’s not my type, exactly, but he doesn’t have dreadlocks.
The Faces I’d Like To Punch Thread: That sounds a lot like Balanced View, formerly Great Freedom, a nasty money grabbing cult that has stationed itself in Hamilton House. Several if not all directors of Coexist are spokespeople for it. They peddle this “awareness” crap and charge hundreds and thousands of pounds for courses and retreats. They’re bad news and need routine outing before they become worse news.
The Great Freedom
I’ve been to a couple of the open meetings for The Great Freedom, and so far I am less than impressed. Still thinking I’ll try their “Basic Awareness” program, starting on the 22nd, and go in with low expectations. The woman who runs it, Candace Somethingorother, seems like she’s been stuffed to the gunnels with valium (at least that’s how she comes over on the video presentation). The real live Great Freedomers didn’t seem much better. A depressed looking ex rock musician told us about how the Great Freedom had cured him of depression, and made me wonder what the fuck he must have been like before The Great Freedom. There were a few women with supernatural glows to their eyes, which smacked of the manic phase of bi-polar disorder. I didn’t see too much happinesss or freedom. But that was just my impression (and I think my impressions are rather tainted by nicotine starvation). I’ve been beginning to think, fuck it, there are no answers. Might as well just go back to Scotland.
The Great Freedom???
Well, I am totally disenchanted with “The Great Freedom” or “Balanced View” (as it is soon to be re-branded as). I was not at all happy with their introductory four day programme, but was re-assured by friends that “The Twelve Enquiries” would blow my mind. Well, it hasn’t blown my mind: on the contrary, it has bored me rigid; and it has annoyed me with its proscriptive programme of what appears to be nothing more than brain-washing. Okay, not all brain-washing is malign; and I am sure that Candice O’Denver and friends are well intentioned, but brain-washing and re-programming do not sit well with me. I am totally against it, and wherever I perceive such techniques are being used, my hackles rise. It was why I hated Allen Carr’s smug little anti-smoking book, and it is why I hate The Great Freedom. The last straw for me was being asked to write an appraisal letter of the first three enquiries, but having it turned down because it was not positive. That was bad enough.
Jerry Katz on Nonduality website comment: …heard one of Ken Wilber’s inner-circle tele-interviews of Candice. Said her teachings were very advanced eastern stuff, even secret teachings. Wow!
How worrying. All we need is more praise by the likes of Andrew Cohen or the so-called Genpo Roshi, whose term Big Mind® is stolen from Shunryu Suzuki’s book Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind.
On a yahoo blog, Naked Gary writes:
The name of the cult is Balanced View
Some things they say just aren’t true
But like all cults they want you to trust
What the leader says- that is a must
But I have called her on her shit
And her followers don’t like it, not one bit
But I say, Fuck em if they can’t take a joke
At gurus and cults and I love to poke
They say one thing and do another
We’ve been through it all before, haven’t we, brother?
More smiling faces! I wonder if they smile when they sleep…or when they’re on the john.
Another blogger (Anonymous) said…
“It’s the Candice O’Denver cult that really needs to be exposed … She emphasized critical theory in graduate school. Her thesis Metaspace specifies the basic state of phenomena as a ground of natural perfection in which all appearances are equal. The basic state is the comprehensive order of all phenomena:
‘Rather than referring to the non-existence or to the existence of everything, the emphasis of the basic state is the absence of the independent nature of phenomena. The key point is that all phenomena have two aspects: the basic state and a vivid appearance that is the dynamic energy of the basic state. The phenomena of the basic state are countless, ceaseless and indeterminate, arising spontaneously without any effort, without anything needing to be done.’ As you can see this is straight out of Dzogchen …”
Another image of Candice O’Denver giving a talk
Genpo Roshi isn’t the only person to have stolen a term from another teacher, and then called it his own.
According to a certain person called ‘Kyogan’, Candice O’Denver seems to have copied and used terms belonging to the Dzogchen tradition:
“There is some confusion arising from the distinction between “Copyright” and “Trademark”, as regards this issue of “Short Moments…”.
What Candice O’Denver did was to Trademark the traditional term “Short Moments…” (and several variations)
But she did this despite the easily established fact that the exact same term and it’s exact same use have been published in books by Tibetan Lamas years before. These Lama’s books were surely where she took the term from of course, as she obviously also took a great many other distinctively unique and iconic perspectives, images, concepts, terms, metaphors that were virtually unique to Dzogchen texts, and presented them as her own work, from 2007 on.
The fact is that Candice O’Denver has trademarked the traditional Tibetan Dzogchen instruction “Short Moments” and “Short Moments, Many Times” (and several other variants). On 5/April/2011 she successfully bought that right from the company ‘Trademarken’, before any of the Lamas thought to protect it for the tradition.”
On my part, I’d like to quote from Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind:
“That everything is included within your mind is the essence of mind. To experience this is to have religious feeling. Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure; it is just like clear water with a few waves. Actually water always has waves. Waves are the practice of the water. To speak of waves apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one. Big mind and small mind are one. When you understand your mind in this way, you have some security in your feeling. As your mind does not expect anything from outside, it is always filled. A mind with waves in it is not a disturbed mind, but actually an amplified one. Whatever you experience is an expression of big mind.
The activity of big mind is to amplify itself through various experiences. In one sense our experiences coming one by one are always fresh and new, but in another sense they are nothing but a continuous or repeated unfolding of the one big mind.”
That puts it very nicely for me.
So, concerning Candice O’Denver’s project, you’ll just have to make up your own mind.
On March 24, 2015 alex Slocombe said: “If you’re going to call something massive, make sure that it actually is massive first.”
What will Balanced View do about the hundreds upon thousands of flyers and huge posters and banners that have been left behind scattered all over the Goa streets ? Everywhere I look I see these flyers for ‘Massive Vibe Live’ littering up the road .. its an utter disgrace. You come to this beautiful sacred country, treading all over its precious culture and incredible heritage with your pseudo spiritual financially motivated brainwash and as if that wasn’t enough you leave the place LITERALLY COVERED with all your phoney religious propaganda. Balanced View is a disgrace to this mother India. and All who subscribe to BV YOU ought to be absolutely ashamed of YOURSELVES.
Two responses to an article in The Bristol Post, “Sect in the city? A visit to Bristol’s Balanced View movement”:
JohnDee says, “Whatever you think of Balanced View, you can’t knock something which makes people smile this much. Can you? I can only say that the author Louis Emanuel, is deeply naive and clearly ill informed as to how cults operate, and frankly sounds like he has been living in a hobbit hole. For a start – smiliness is the number one criteria for any cult. There are umpteen resources online and in bookstores about identifying cults, how they attract customers, how they allay fears, how they manipulate and reassure, how they retain you, what emotional issues they play on, how they exploit you and the long term effects on your psyche, both obvious and more subtle. Yes – this is very much a cult – stealth or otherwise- I highly suggest the ‘journalist’ does some proper research rather than being dangerously sloppy.”
Catta says, “I have to agree with JohnDee. Balanced View has a modus operandi which is reminsicient of a cult. In my circle of friends, we all know someone who has been brain washed by this group at Hamilton House. Luckily they have not influenced any of our close friends as yet. The group charge £150 – £900 for attendees to be able to progress through the next “level”. The group say it is a suggested donation but people do pay. Members are expected to write gratitude letters to teachers and leaders which are then published on their open forum. I also know people who have turned up to the Sunday morning session out of curiosity, asked a lot of “difficult” questions and were immediately shut down by the group organisers. Difficult questions, about the logic and meaningfulness of what is actually being taught, are discouraged. Another friend of mine was asked to provide child minding services to the Sunday group, to enable members to attend. They were asked to drop prices on the proviso that the group “were like a charity” and therefore should benefit from a reduced rate. The group is not a charity and they should not advertise themselves as a charity. They make a lot of money. I think Balanced View influence people who are vulnerable and looking for meaning in their life. If you listen to what this leader woman says, it’s actually meaningless. The journalist should look into the group in a bit more detail – come on Evening Post, try a more investigative approach!”
Update on March 27, 2015
This space/blog-posting [extra-file-space is my personal memory-stick online] has now been here for over two years, I think, and with the increasingly numerous comments both in favor and against Balanced View things seem to be getting out of hand. So far, these comments appear to have served some purpose but I think it is now the time to disallow more of them…if I am able to! Maybe Balanced View should have its own well-balanced notice board where people can make their posts and express grievances anonymously or otherwise. For now, this blog post will be left as it is for the sake of posterity.
New update on October 5, 2015
Since my last update on March 27, I have continued to receive requests for more feedback comments on this blog – some from current BV members who obviously support the organization, but many other requests from people with a different story to tell. I have allowed one of them to pass through as an example, and am also pasting it below. I myself find it both interesting and amusing to read the somewhat sycophantic love-letter style endorsements of BV and Candice O’Denver herself, the kind of thing a teenager would write to their favourite pop singer, but I also think that it’s perfectly okay. There’s plenty of space in this world for all types of folk, and on the whole it’s harmless enough. I’ve also noticed that Candice and her trainers have videos on youtube, and that they even get as many as two or three hundred views. Of course, they aren’t in the same league as Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, Catherine Ingram or Gangaji, but youtube caters for all.
I would finally like to reiterate that disgruntled ex-BV members form their own forum in order to express grievances instead of expecting me to post more of them.
James Dunn comments: I’ve known Candice O’Denver for many years–long before she reached High Priestess status and before any of this new freedom/balance view thing existed. At the beginning the way I heard it she was an “inspirational speaker”. My vision was something like Suzy Ormond giving pep talks at business meetings and thinking maybe she’s one of those people that do well on stage because the Candice I knew didn’t really seem to have the personality for it! Her teachings seem to be mostly stolen from Tibetan Buddism from what I have read although I understand that she claims to have arrived at this independently and claims to be unfamiliar with Tibetan teachings. The above post “Valium” comment is something I always thought true about her. I know her husband much better than her and I really doubt that he himself is a follower. This is a direct quote from him. “Candice is such a genius, she’s making so much fucking money!” as he drives away in his new convertible!
Recent news update (January, 2018):
To all interested to read alternative narratives on what it looks like to be involved in Balanced View, there is now a dedicated blog available. You can find it here:
The secret of Balanced View finances – Anthony: