Matthew Remski – Cultic Mechanisms and After Effects of High Demand Group Life

April 30, 2019
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In this episode, Joe talks with Matthew Remski, yoga teacher, consultant and author. In the show they talk about high demand group life and their cultic mechanisms, and the after effects of living in a high demand group setting.

3 Key Points:

  1. Matthew Remski shares his experience of spending most of his 20’s in cults, and his healing journey afterward.
  2. Cults aren’t defined by their content (political, religious, psychedelic), they are defined by their element of control. Another term for a ‘cult’ is a high demand group.
  3. High demand groups can be very appealing from the outside, no one signs up for the rape, torture, or manipulative experiences that happen inside of a cult. And the after effects from high demand group life can be extreme, such as PTSD, inability to form romantic relationships, etc.

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Show Notes

About Matthew

  • Yoga was a safe space of retreat and recuperation after being in cults
  • He was in a cult for 3 years led by Michael Roach at the Asian Classics Institute
  • He was in Endeavor Academy for 6 years in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
  • These experiences gave him group dynamic perspective
  • Yoga gave him somatic autonomy, and allowed him to feel himself again after the cultic nature of the groups
  • He spent age 22-29 in these groups where we would have built some sort of career, and he didn’t
  • He became a yoga teacher and opened his own yoga studio as a part of his healing


  • People end up doing harm to themselves, or do things that they didn’t sign up for
    • An organization misrepresents itself, and presents itself as a safe haven for people who may be vulnerable for any reason
  • High Demand Organization, along with other synonyms, are other words for ‘cult’
  • ‘Self Sealed’ implies that everything that happens within the group is to have the individual think it’s for the ‘good’, a ‘bounded choice’ environment (saying that sexual advances or torture are a part of the development toward enlightenment, for example)
  • The high demand group rewires a person’s attachment patterns to make them ‘unattached’
  • Steve Hassan’s BITE model
    • Behavior Control
    • Information Control
    • Thought Control
    • Emotional Control
  • The content of the cult doesn’t matter (religious, psychedelic, political, etc), it’s the element of control that is the same amongst true cults
    • There can be political groups that aren’t cults, but the element of control is what defines it as a cult
  • Octavio Rettig and Gerry Sandoval
    • They are perhaps responsible for multiple deaths (maybe not directly but through negligence)
    • They use 5-MEO-DMT with abuse and malpractice

Cult Impact

  • The impact from a cult can be cognitive, labor related, relationship/family oriented, etc.
    • Matthew says the estrangement from his family has taken over a decade to repair
    • The relationships he had prior, has been unable to restored
  • His identity was changed for him through social coercion
  • “The cult takes its best possible part of you for its own agenda” – Matthew
  • The after effects from high demand group life can be extreme, they can have PTSD, they may not be able to form romantic bonds, they may become estranged from their family, etc.
  • Recent estimates in the US alone say that there are 8,000 high demand groups
    • These dynamics can be found in many organizations
  • Wild Wild Country – When a controversial cult leader builds a Utopian city in the Oregon desert, conflict with the locals escalates into a national scandal

Psychotherapy Cult

  • Psychotherapy cults look like a Buddhist or yoga cult but with different group practice techniques
    • They will depend upon group psychotherapy that break down and humiliate members and create fear that looks like love and acceptance
    • It includes members revealing intense secrets so they become vulnerable

Practice And All Is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, And Healing In Yoga And Beyond

  • Matthew’s book is applicable in many different community constellations
    • His intention is to help foster critical thinking and community health
  • Joe says that anyone in a group dynamic or especially those leading groups (such as an ayahuasca circle) need to read this book

Practice And All Is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, And Healing In Yoga And Beyond



About Matthew

Matthew Remski

Matthew has been practicing meditation and yoga since 1996, sitting and moving with teachers from the Tibetan Buddhist, Kripalu, Ashtanga, and Iyengar streams. Along the way he has trained as a yoga therapist and an Ayurvedic consultant, and maintained a private practice in Toronto from 2007 to 2015. From 2008 through 2012, he co-directed Yoga Festival Toronto and Yoga Community Toronto, non-profit activist organizations dedicated to promoting open dialogue and accessibility. During that same period, he studied jyotiśhāstra in a small oral-culture setting at the Vidya Institute in Toronto. Matthew currently facilitates programming for yoga trainings internationally, focusing on yoga philosophy, meditation, Ayurveda, and the social psychology of practice. In all subject areas, he encourages students to explore how yoga practice can resist the psychic and material dominance of neoliberalism, and the quickening pace of environmental destruction.