Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experiences

for ex-BKs to discuss matters related to experiences in BKWSU & after leaving.
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Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experiences

Post04 Mar 2024

Billed by her publishers, or possibly the tabloid presses as 'I visited a UK city as a tourist - but ended up living in a cult for 20 years', the former English teacher and ex-BK Anthea Church has written a novel inspired by her experiences within the Brahma Kumaris called, Liftman (ISBN: 9781739254964). She discusses her "Dance of Devotion" with the BKs in an interview below.

It will be followed, later this Spring (2024) by a more autobiographical book called ‘Out of this World’.

As a tourist in 1980, shortly after graduating from Oxford University and aged only 20 years old, Anthea visited Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival Arts Fringe, and somehow ended up becoming indoctrinated in the BKs cult instead. She then spent the next 20 years within it, living in a shared house just along the road from the then headquarters, based in a residential property on St Gabriel's Road in Willesden Green.

As reported in various newspapers, Anthea's experience mirrors what we have come to recognise as a fairly predictable pattern of young people being preyed upon at a vulnerable time in their lives, of families divided and parents' concern about the loss of their children, of the exhaustion of BK lifestyle demands and loss of physical health, but a slightly different ending as when it came to leaving, she did not really think she was leaving, but just starting a new job.

Anthea has in the past had books published for the BKs, which she makes clear she never sought not received any financial gain from; and nor were they even often well respected by the org. A stalwart of the "arts department", she would be remembered for organising many amateur theatrical productions for them.

It's fair to say, that she was feted by the BK leadership for her skills and capacities, and was well loved by her peers, and so it's fair to say that she may well have a slightly more rosey recollection of BK experience than many of the taxi wallahs, chapati rollers and even errant Western Brothers on the frontlines of BK service. She admits that for the first 10 years or so she loved it, and was glad to be free of the mundane aspects of life, but later on ended up being unable to sleep at all and the exhaustion started to kick in.
“It was incredibly magical at the beginning. I liked the certainty, the clarity and the structure.”

However, moved by some very serious events that happened within the BK London centre, including the suicides of a Brother and Sister of one family, and the mistreatment of children from others within it, she does not stray away from controversy in the book. Although she makes it clear that the book itself is a fiction and not an account of any particular individual.

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ex-l

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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post04 Mar 2024

Liftman.jpg

Liftman tells the story of Kasper who, at seven-years-old, is secreted away from London by his mother and taken, without explanation, to live in an ashram. Kasper’s life becomes dream-like: he doesn’t attend school, instead enjoying freedom and the mascot-like status the community confers on him. But then, one day, his mother disappears and Kasper is left to find his own path. Liftman is about his search for home, belonging, identity and truth. It explores the repercussions that result from him being deprived of a traditional Western education.

Anthea says the story is about his search for home, belonging, identity and truth and that it was a “huge struggle” to write the book ...
“Part of me felt like I was betraying that group by writing that story,” she explained. “I do scrutinise and show the dangers of it [and] hope that it might allow people who are on the edge of that group to feel validated in questioning the teachings.”

Themes explored by it include;
    The betrayal of innocence
    The concealing of information
    The denial of the importance of mainstream education
    How if someone is forced to abandon their own culture and are then thrown back into it they belong nowhere, and
    Suicide
Anthea has been supplied some copies of the book if individuals would like to purchase them directly, or have a dedication, for £15. She is contactable directly on the following address; email@antheachurch.co.uk. * (This site takes no fees nor commissions).
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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post04 Mar 2024

The book has received unanimous 5 star reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.
Former member of the spiritual community, E. Jones wrote:‘Compassionate, yet searing in its honesty, Anthea Church’s brilliant novel shows what happens when children are raised by religious extremists. If the disasters are not obvious or dramatic in newsworthy ways, they play out over subsequent decades where derailed childhoods lead to displaced adults, forever refugees in their own psyches.’
Andrew Hogg, former Sunday Times investigative reporter and co-author of Secret Cult wrote:‘Anthea Church’s command of fiction to explore hidden truth is as precise as ever. Liftman is a heart-wrenching insight into a world where beauty beguiles, and nothing is quite as it seems. Those who extol spiritual purity do not always practise what they preach.’
Anthea Church wrote:‘This was a difficult book to write because it is so personal though the events it charts are entirely fictional. Having been a teacher for 40 years, I feel strongly that no child should be deprived of the opportunity to flourish academically, emotionally or socially, and am concerned that there are such a wide number of cults worldwide which, pedalling an apocalyptic view of life, lead children to believe that education is unnecessary because the world is soon to end.
raykilby wrote:Elegance.

This is a really beautifully crafted book. It is simply written, which means of course it very well written and written with great care. There is an elegance that reminds me of Isherwood, one of my favourite authors, but unlike him, this story has more empathy and heart. There is no showing off, just wonderfully observed action that indicates the character's motives and emotions. Apart from the cleverness of language, style and authorship, it is, in the end, a really good yarn.
Emily wrote:Thought-provoking and reminiscent of India

This story captures all the madness of Indian culture spiritual devotion, with a detached eye. For me, it brought back memories of both travelling in India, and staying at various different ashrams. It also captures the alienation someone can feel after being immersed in completely different cultural environments sequentially. I relate to all of this on a personal level and it’s very thought-provoking! Recommended for anyone travelling to India for spiritual or tourist reasons.
Robert Nurden wrote:A spiritual thriller

If ever there was such a thing as a spiritual thriller, this is it. All at once, 'Liftman' draws with painful psychological accuracy the struggles of its young protagonist's search for identity while at the same time exposing the hypocrisy of the spiritual community he finds himself in. This powerful tale is relentless in its unravelling of the twists and turns of Kasper's journey towards the truth. Gripping, unusual and highly recommended.
Emma Innes wrote:A beautifully written, deep and thought-provoking book

Liftman is a beautifully written, deep and thought-provoking novel about a British boy who grows up in an Indian spiritual group. It explores themes of spirituality, identity, education, growing up, parenting and culture. It is rich, textured and engrossing; in my view, Anthea Church's best book to date. No doubt the author's own experience of life in a similar community, and in education, has given this book its power and authenticity. Despite not having any specific interest in spirituality, I was gripped and engaged from start to finish. Highly recommend!

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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post04 Mar 2024

Thank you so much to the founder of this site for posting this with such care. I have really appreciated the care he takes in all that he does. I never ever thought I would end up on here but I am committed to caring for young people and anyone who has suffered as a result of being worked to death (literally and metaphorically) by life as a BK.

Having left over 20 years ago, I am not really in touch with what is going on now, but I get the impression that people just take what they want and do whatever else they want. This was not how I was brought up to understand BK life. I am not the cherry picking type of BK. That's why I left. Because I couldn't hack the whole thing without being a failure.

I hope I can support anyone who wants to talk and wouldn't it be great to get a group of the original BKs and talk together. I had a fabulous chat with one BK who joined right at the beginning. He left after four years, I think. Twenty years is completely life-changing. I was ill most of the time but was ashamed of it. I don't believe in self-pity but I do believe in the duty of care that the organisation has to those who suffer.

Honestly, I would die to make that point! I feel passionate about it.

Incidentally I am not keeping anonymity, though I understand why some prefer that. But I shall always stand behind my words.

With love. Anthea
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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post05 Mar 2024

Welcome Anthea.

You were quite well known (maybe still are?) globally among BKs because of the books you wrote. To be honest, I never read any, just flicked through a couple of them. I did appreciate though, in the little I did see, that they were filled with universal ideas and values rather than BK dogma or attempts to rationalise the irrational.

My first contributions here were using my own name, then later I rejoined under this pseudonym. I did that because although I gladly also stood by my own views for quite a while, the responses from some people who either disagreed or misunderstood my meaning in some posts,especially those who knew me, would sometimes be "ad hominem". Mind you there's nothing to prevent anyone posting both under their own name and as a pseudonym, that is, logging in as a separate user!

I look forward to any contributions you make here, they're bound to be full of wisdom and compassion. And when I get a few spare coins, will purchase your book.


PP
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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post06 Mar 2024

Pink Panther wrote:Welcome Anthea.

You were quite well known (maybe still are?) globally among BKs because of the books you wrote.

When I was a BK, there weren't any of the ... how would you describe them ... "diffusion range" of BK books for Western audiences. There was Adi Dev, a hagiographic account of Lekhraj Kirpalani's life re-written by Robert Shubow, which we debunked as high inaccurate and largely fictional, and a small cigarette packet sized book summarising the BK lore. All the rest were written by an eearly follower, Jagdish Chander, in an Indian style.
Anthea wrote:Having left over 20 years ago, I am not really in touch with what is going on now, but I get the impression that people just take what they want and do whatever else they want. This was not how I was brought up to understand BK life.

Can you comment on the development of the alternative literature within BKism?

How the 'New Age-ification' of BKism into a more universal style of spirituality happened?

Was it conscious or discussed? How did it evolve?

The 1970s Indian stuff was really funky, written in a sort Victorian Hinglish, full of lurid descriptions about everything from demons to what Destruction was going to be like, to C19th accounts of STD symptoms to warn adherents away from the evils of lust. I actually used to like the illustrations they used; very graphic, hand drawn or painted, the then contemporary billboard advertising style of drawings. I think part of me liked the offbeat, primitive nature and shock value of them.

In fact, I once got into a LOT of trouble putting such posters up on the wall in an office I worked in at the time. Jeez, the stupid things I used to do as a BK ...

Around the time I left, some Australians, I think, had just brought out some modern, Western-style magazine that was passable enough. "Confluence", was it? I think a lot of the Westerners were grateful for anything that did not make them look like a total crank cult adherent.

I have read absolutely ZERO of the new works sold by the various BK publishing houses.

Were you (you and other authors) consciously trying to give BKism a new language, or obsfucate it's weirdness?

Was there some kind of deal where the one in London was given to one of the Sister, Jaymini, to run as a fiefdom?

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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post06 Mar 2024

Hi,

well, in answer to your question about writing, I studied English at Oxford and so writing was my natural way of making sense of the world. I wrote entirely intuitively with no direct reference to the Murli or anything, the language of which I found rather bizarre. As I will be writing in my memoir, the act of writing itself gave me a sense of autonomy.

A few months ago, a friend of mine bought a copy of the book Angels. I thought I would find it to be utter nonsense but when I read it, I could see a power in it. I was given the freedom to write what I liked. It was deep and intuitive.

The time when I got into trouble was when I wrote my first novel. Novels weren't encouraged, of course, but I am/was an English teacher so I am interested in that form. Now, as far as I know, every man and his dog with some degree of articulateness writes books on self-development, some of which are published through the BK publishing system and others not. Mike George's books for example and, I am sure, many others. I now veer away from reading anything that has a didactic element.

I like memoir (which I shall be shortly be bringing out) as a genre and fiction too. But books to teach how to think, I avoid, probably as a reaction against having had 'teachings' drummed into me for so many years!

Best wishes. I hope all is well in your world, wherever it may be. Anthea
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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post06 Mar 2024

Anthea wrote:A few months ago, a friend of mine bought a copy of the book Angels. I thought I would find it to be utter nonsense but when I read it, I could see a power in it. I was given the freedom to write what I liked. It was deep and intuitive.

That's a copy of your own book from 1997?
As the world descends in to ever increasing chaos, many take comfort from the idea that there is the presence of divine beings who offer through subtle interaction their protection, comfort and help. This little book - just popping it into one's pocket or under one's pillow in itself makes one feel somehow 'protected', provides an amazing 'identikit' of the essential qualities and attributes of an angel. Each chapter looks at one of eight specific aspects of an angel - personality, intellect, face, brain, mind, heart, form, life.

How many for the BK audience books did you write?

You don't think there, perhaps, there was a concerted effort within the BKWSU to softened the edges of "the Gyan", to make it more attractive or 'normal' to outsiders?

angels.jpg
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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post07 Mar 2024

Mike George and Brian Bacon both brought their advertising/marketing hype style to the BKs. And there's nothing more 1980s neoliberal Law of Attraction "if you ain't a success its your fault/all in your mind " bullsh** than the "You too can be a winner/enlightened being, just follow these few simple steps" style of self-help books. The global success of one of these How-to-Monetise-Commonsense tomes turned Jordan Peterson from a half-decent psychologist into a formulaic, predictable mediaslut (pardon the mysoginistic language - its a term used down under for people of any gender).

Re: angels - I was just reading social media post today where the author said we need to stop calling Evangelicals that and instead call them fundamentalists or Christian extremists because thats what we call people of other religions who are similarly fascist... and that the - angel- part of the word "evangelical" softens their image based on the fact of what the idea of "angels" has evolved into over the years. [one comment on he post suggested they be called "evangenitals" because they seem to be overly-concerned with what's inside other people's pants!!! :D )

{For those who don't know, the word "angel" originally meant "messenger" (kind of like the jewish equivalent of Hermes or Iris) and the messages that angels brought weren't always "good" or desirable.
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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post07 Mar 2024

Pink Panther wrote:Mike George and Brian Bacon both brought their advertising/marketing hype style to the BKs.

I don't remember Bacon being involved in the early days. In fact, I don't remember him at all. Mike's first partner-in-crime in remarkering the BKWSU was Nikki de Carteret, scion of an old, distinguished family from the Channel Islands. I think her background was in TV production or the media.

I am thinking more about the literature department rather than the corporate consulting crew.

I question whether it was consciously done but one of the advantages is that BKs could be promoted as "authors". I remember a joke once that went something like, "the definition of an expert, is someone who's ha written a book and traveled 3,000 miles".
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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post10 Mar 2024

Brian Bacon was from Melbourne, worked for one of the top advertising agencies and works at the highest levels of corporate and government sectors.

He became a BK early 1980s. I remember first meeting him in Madhuban where he ran various workshops of the kind that were the done thing in those days, butcher's paper, brainstorming, mind mapping, etc that were aimed at helping the various centres develop ways of organising hemselves and promoting themselves. Last I heard he'd partnered up with a woman he'd met in the BKs and they both ex-ported themselves out of the crazy alternate universe of mainstream BKism (that's for the plebs) to settle in Hawaii.

As a BK he was instrumental in setting up Oxford Leadership Academy based out of the BK Oxford retreat centre I believe, or it was formed there. His partner is part of the OLA board.

It had a double mission - make contact with corporate high fliers to make them "Cooperative souls", ie donors and advocates for BKs, as well as actually work in the corporate world doing "positive thinking" workshops and bringing values-based thinking into organisational structures (because its more profitable). BKs like Ken O'Donell (BK Brasil in charge) and Marc (is it Foucard? not sure of his last name) from Paris were both involved as were some other BKs and all have made a good living out of it.

Their contribution to shifting BK culture included shifting what was published in their "literature dept", material that in earlier years would have been deemed not actually BK so would have been rejected. These "high flyer" BKs taught both the BKs and their VIP targets/clients the art of virtue signalling and perfomative ethics. What might be called neoliberal spirituality.

Screenshot 2024-03-10 at 4.41.48 pm.png

Brian Bacon and his team worked with renewing the public image of McDonald’s and this led to a more focus on the environmental work of McDonald’s, as well as changes to the products and the supply chain.

McDonald's as an environmental role model corporation? Pulled pork. Now pull the other one. This is the agricultural PR equivalent of "clean coal".

Screenshot 2024-03-10 at 4.53.06 pm.png

For the BKs, that came in the shape of changing how they presented themselves to the world. No more dawn marches through city streets announcing that the world was about to end and that God had come.

Now they were presenting themselves as ecumenical inclusionists, proto-feminists, peace activists, environmentalists etc while never ever revealing their exclusionist, hierarchical apocalyptic dogmas which actually considered the very dangers and injustices they supposedly campaigned on were the proof and the welcome fulfilment of their Baba's prophecies.

He/they must be very good at what he/they do because we now have a whole world of corporate and political leaders who say the right things and sometimes will even initiate programs that pay lip service to the serious issues ("lip service" is a justifiable description given that the problems they are meant to ameliorate continue to get worse, just as the BKs predicted!).

Are they actually Baba's masterful instruments whose task is to undermine real action, to ensure the prophecies are self-fulfilling?

Screenshot 2024-03-10 at 4.35.32 pm.png
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Re: Liftman: A Novel by Anthea Church Inspired by BK Experie

Post12 Mar 2024

Pink Panther wrote:Their contribution to shifting BK culture included shifting what was published in their "literature dept", material that in earlier years would have been deemed not actually BK so would have been rejected. These "high flyer" BKs taught both the BKs and their VIP targets/clients the art of virtue signalling and perfomative ethics. What might be called neoliberal spirituality.

OK, but I'd be interested in Anthea's impressions and recollections, as one of those authors who 'benefitted' from the regime change (albeit not financially).

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