The interview is a private translation.
The original interview in German was made in November 2007 by Adriana Burgstaller and Susanne Schaaf, infoSekta, Tätigkeitsbericht 2007, Fachstelle für Sektenfragen infoSekta
Mrs. Michaela Hauser (name changed) was from 1995 to 1998 a member of the "Maranatha Community" by Heinrich Elijah Benedikt.
It all started quite harmless, with seminars on philosophical and psychological issues such as for example. "love versus dependence." Heinrich E. Benedikt calls himself a teacher of Kabbalah and the universal teachings of Christ and his teachings combine elements of Christianity, Hinduism and the Esoteric. The community is little known. On the Internet are only positive (self-)images. Michaela Hauser would like to enable a comprehensive view to the public. The report shows how in a rather unknown, committed community develops a dynamic of promises, manipulation and guilt, with serious psychological consequences for those affected by it. At the same time the history shows that the leader is overwhelmed with his role of beeing like God and leaving the community. After his mental collapse Heinrich E. Benedikt steps back and the Board of Directors in 1998 is forced to disband the Community.
When Michaela Hauser coincidencentially discovered in 2004 the new book of Heinrich E. Benedikt in the window of a bookshop and pursues the matter, she finds out that in the newly established Community little has changed. So everything starts again?
infoSekta: Ms. Hauser, you can describe us how did you experience the first encounter with Heinrich E. Benedikt?
Michaela Hauser: Already after the first seminar I was on fire. We were invited for a seminar for several days to Immenstadt. (The Centre of Heinrich E. Benedikt in Immenstadt was named "House Immanuel". Important: the spiritual center which is now at the "Rinderalp" works independent from Heinrich E. Benedikt.) I had already heard a lot of Heinrich and was extremely cursious. when we entered the conference room, we were commanded to seek a place with our meditation cushions and to wait. Everyone was very quiet because we did not know each other. And then he came. I had a such a great expectation of himm, that at first sight I was very impressed. He is a huge grown man (farmer: or "a stout fellow") with enormous charisma. He behaved uncomplicated and friendly. I was very pleased with him.
What was your living situation, before you met with Heinrich E. Benedikt. How did you hear about him?
I was married, a mother of three children and had worked part-time. I am interested on the spiritual aspects of life since a long time, actually since I lost my mother at the age of 19.
I was thinking about where she would be now, what does happen when a person dies. I read books and visited various esoteric meditation groups. From acquaintances my husband and I hear about Heinrich and expressed our interest to his seminars. We were told, there was a waiting list. That of course enhanced our curiosity and hope. Then after a few months a new group was formed, we were finally allowed to participate.
Can you tell us more about the seminars?
Every year, there were for each group a maximum of three seminars. The seminars began on Thursday evening and lasted until Sunday noon. Each day included one to two blocks with meditation and exerices, a total of five blocks in three days. The long meditations were each guided by Heinrich. In the last hour, he let the people alone with his instructions. Often it was the case then that many of the attendees were deeply moved and cryed. Sometimes it was very difficult to endure, especially if you are not had to cry. Many wept so without hestiotations and despair that I sometimes almost could not longer stand it. After teh meditations Heinrich called individually and focused to tell what they had experienced.
Did the seminars each had a specific topic?
Actually, each seminar had a topic such as "the spiritual heart" or "love versus dependence". But most of the time during the seminars Heinrich spoke free and had was led by what the people told him after the meditations. He led the fears, constraints and problems the people illustrated, back to sincs in the past [meaning during earlier lifes] and made references to his teaching. Initially this happened only in hints.
The fifth block was mostly designed so that the seminar ended in a happier mood. Heinrich stressed the mercy and forgiveness of God and that we could turn to Jesus. At home the topics of the seminar were occupying me, because it was always about guilt. I had the feeling I had many "bodies in the cellar" from previous lifes, about which I have not known until then. But I learned that they had to exist, because from them resulted my problems and fears. I was occupied with the problems with the connected feelings of guilt. By the time I was also increasingly anxious, depressed and frustrated.
Did you get the impression that is was something special if the participants were allowed to tell or confess in front of Heinrch E. Benedikt?
I can only talk about myself: At that time I had at already recognized Heincrich as a person who knows more than others and as somebody who can show me the way. That is why I sucked in his comments and allusions like a dry sponge and tried to find an access to it. First I could not see a connection at many comments. But I was convinced that would come then later.
Did in addition to the seminars in Immenstadt further meetings take place?
Once a week we had meditation group in Zurich. Although Heinrich was not there, he was still deciding who, for example, would kindle the menora lights at the beginning of the editation or who was allowed to strike up a song. That may sound trivial now, but for us it was that of great meaning. During the week, we met people from your own group and meditated together at someone's home. Overall, we met two to three times a week.
How many people were involved at that time?
Each group consisted of 50 to 90 people. There were about five or six groups. In addition, there was a team - about 15 people - living in Immenstadt. In India and Israel were another about 20 people. The participants were grouped together in groups and met also a closed groups in the seminars. New members to already existing groups were hardly seen.
How much does it cost to attend a seminar in Immenstadt? How was the center financed?
When I was there the cost of a seminar was around 250 to 350 US-Dollar, including food and lodging. The property belonged to Maranatha Club. The centre Immenstadt and and the properties in India and Israel were bought and financed with the assets of the
adherents. Some of them sold their own houses, dissolved their pension money and handed everything over to Heinrich. Today, in Immenstadt, there is an education center for seminars and courses in the spiritual area. But it is no longer affiliated with Heinrich. However, the present female leader is under a lot of pressure, since Heinrich takes court action against her and wants to seize the center back.
Can you describe how your life changed after you went the first time to Immenstadt?
I tried every day to meditate, early in the morning and in the evenings before bedtime. Inwardly one had always to align oneself as one would have Jesus at one's side and would be able to ask: 'What should I do now? How would you act?' We also tried to keep certain dietary rules. For me it was not difficult, as I was also previously already a vegetarian. Additional to this was: no alcohol, no coffee, no cigarettes, no drugs, no onions and eggs. This was not taught dogmatically, but we were taught that compliance with the rules was important to the purificaton process.
How did this new direction affect your job and your private life?
Concerning my job my commitment didn't have big impact, but in my private life. By the time I lost interest in worldly Entertainment. I found a lot just mundane and I had no desire anymore for shopping, going to the cinema or to go out for a lunch. I tried to care in my spare time besides my children with spiritual reading, meditation and prayer.
How did your friends and relatives react on that?
My sister and my father asked me several times, whether I was not feeling well, I was somehow sectarian. But I took attention not to tell too much of my world. I had the feeling that they could not understand it anyway and would everything devalue as a cult. I for myself was obviously convinced that this would not be a cult. To former acquaintances and friends developped increasingly discrepancies, my husband and I were no longer to be seen at social occasions. That is why we were increasingly together with the people, who also were with Heinrich.
Do you have the impression that the participants were addicted to Heinrich E. Benedikt?
Addicted to Heinrich? Yes. Although we have rarely seen him since the seminars for each group were not more frequently than three times a year. Most would have appreciated to see him more often and even tried him to meet him somehow in addition, since they had accepted him as a spiritual master.
It was requested that we should become more active, organize for ourselves meditation meetings or do voluntary tasks. Many started for example, to work in old people's homes. There were also participants, who gave up their jobs for it, and those who started a health care education. Heinrich said that we should use the time that is still given for us. We should learn something that is useful and helpful for the period of tribulation. Heinrich went so assume that the judgement day was soon to happen.
Does Heinrich E. Benedikt set a date for the end of the world end?
At that time, he set no precise dates, he was taking heed of that. But again and again he gave hints, and then we went to assume that in 10 years it would be over, so actualy today.
Who does Heinrich E. Benedikt imagine the judgement day?
Heinrich said, and wrote very clearly that at the judgement day every individual will be confronted with Jesus and would then recognize, how he behaved towards Jesus and especially in the pre-flood times. To illustriate he cited from Revelation of. John: "And each eye will see where he pierced Him". Henry warned us: we should prefer to better begin to recognize now, so that at the big moment we would not be overwhelmed by the horror and then would be lost. He said that now we would have still time to turn back. The seven years of tribulation would be like the Rev. John described, predicted Heinrich. This transition would be a very bad time for all people. Then would come the battle for Jerusalem between the supporters of the Anti-Christ and those who follow Jesus, the people of God, the priests.
Are "the people of God" meant only people that follow Heinrich E. Benedikt, or all Christians?
All who are Christians, but are it at heart for real, not just baptised as a child. It is a question of attitude. Also very devout Hindus can belong to here, because Heinrich considered men from India not loaded with the same amount of debt as people born in the West. As Hindus are born in another different cultural area, they would not have to deal to the same extent with their debt. Heinrich has often said that the gentle flute of Krishna is good and right - we also sung many Krishna- songs - but this would be a little escape. Ultimately, everyone must be be confronted with the hard facts of the cross.
By the way the new members today expected again the tribulation, which soon arrive. Heinrich lives partly in Israel - he has the Israelian citizen right - because he expects that it will be there, where everything will take place in short. He makes himslef a home there, because he sees himself as Representative of God on earth in the new Reich, when everything is over.
Where would you put the teaching of Heinrich E. Benedikt in the World Religions scale?
The Christian teaching is sure Christian and is based heavily on Judaism, similar to the new messianic Judaism. Heinrich himself is half-Jew and maintains contacts with Jews on Israel, who belief in Jesus as God's son and Messiah.
A key topic is what happened before Noah. Heinrich combines the flood mit dem drowning of the island kingdom od Atlantis. After his word, did the badest sins happen before this time, for example the murder of God (murder of Osiris) or the creation of the Antichrist. However, he speaks not about this in the first of these seminars, and also later he speaks only in hints about these preatlantic events.
Heinrich also creates parallels to other religions, for example, to the Indian Vedanta, a direction in Indian philosophy. But he fights strongly the Islamisation, although he is also looking for contacts with Islamic clerics.
Another important element of Heinrich's teaching is the reincarnation. He put many biblical figures in relation to each other, for example John the Baptist to Elias. He also drew parallels to Egyptian mythology, where he identified Mary with Isis, an Egyptian goddess, and Jesus with Horus, the Egyptian Sun god.
What sources give a basic to Heinrich E. Benedikt in his teachings?
He put these parallels so convincing and plausible, that nobody asked for sources. The members accepted him as their master and did not question his speech. Heinrich gave himself within its teaching a special position to make such questions unnecessary.
What is the position Heinrich E. Benedikt took within the teaching and the community?
Henry saw and still sees itself as a priest king of Israel, as Incarnation of Adam and the Egyptian god Osiris. This was presented by him only openly when the people were so far, that they recognized it on their own. By hints he made clear that he identified himself as such. He urged participants to repeat sentences and looked them intensively into their eyes. Thus, each recognizes after a while, that Heinrich speaks of hinmself.
But he would never speak it out om fromt of students, who are not subject to the closest circle and who took a vow on him.
What this included vow?
I can not say in detail, since I myself have did not vow on him. It is perhaps about abstinence and absolute obedience to Heinrich. To profess a vow the people layed themselves on the floor in front of Heinrich.
What was the obedience refering to? What behavior has been requested?
It was mainly a matter of follow exactly the instruction of Heinrich and to be totally available for him totally (German: "with skin and hair"). People from the team should be silent on certain contents. This included for example oral teaching by Heinrich, his identification as the incarnation of Adam and Osiris, his self-assessment as annointed priest king and his concrete plans and whereabouts.
Once a woman had to stay in silence for an entire week, to learn obedience.
Or suddenly it was announced, we were no longer allowed to go to Israel on our own. Eventually suddenly one started to bow before Heinrich and to say "Om Namah Shivaya ", a mantra in honour of the god Shiva. They called Heinrich newly Gurudev, a respectful salutation for a divine master. That developed very subtly, by one of the elder pupils starting with it, so that when someone did not follow this, he was gently approached and asked why he did no longer show respect towards his teacher or whether Heinrich was not so important to him any longer.
What were the consequences if someone could not abide by the obedience?
Persons who did not belong to the closer core or who seemed still undecided, were treated by Heinrich with kindly distance. He asked them rarely to communicate abot themselves, and paid them little attention. Persons close to the team, were critizised when lacking in alleging obedience. If one rebelled to Heinrichs instructions, one got partially harshly rebuked By indicating where the disobedience of mankind lead the people, namely to alienation from God, he made his adherents submissive quikly.
Was there also threatened with exclusion?
No, it was all voluntary. Heinrich has always insisted on this. But he also clearly states that the participation was an irrevocable chance because the final judgement was standing at the door. That sparked fear and thus compliancy. One received the invitation always just for the next event. But who was particularly eager, could perhaps receive an invitation to a seminar of another group or a to a spiritual educational trip to Israel, Egypt or India. Since we saw Heinrich so rarely, an additional invitation was something very special, a reward.
What kind of picture of man represented Heinrich E. Benedikt?
Henry described the man as spiritual beeing, fallen into matter as the result of his disobedience against God (Fall). The death of Jesus on the cross was the big turning point in the history of mankind, which lead back to the origin and should culminate in the final judgement. The aim was to restore the original conditions: a theocratic society, led by priests, headed by the annointed priest king of Israel. Heinrich saw himslef as God's deputy on Earth. During the seminars, the members recognized themselves a the priest people of Israel. For Heinrich it was about to recollect these priest people.
Are there people, that - in the eyes of Heinrich E. Benedikt - are predestined to belong to these priest people?
Heinrich says that every person has his call, since his soul was created. Changes are not foreseen, you can not choose. The aim is to rediscover this call by confessing and clear away the rubble, which has accumulated during the many incarnations in all people, all the many debt and the heaps of sin. This would bring one back to the source, where the pure water flows. Then also the call would be again evident.
How do you get away this rubble?
By opening in the meditations on Heinrichs leadership and bringing to light what is seen there. Often found the participants themselves in frightening situations: for example, they saw mountains of corpses of children or were part of a satanic rituals. The internal images were so overwhelming that the persons concerned erupted in tears, full of fear and terror. Heinrich always said: 'There is no "I just came to see it". "This means that if you see something, then you were also present in the process, as perpetrator and not as an uninvolved observer. Once I had to repeat the following sentence from Heinrich: 'I have Him and His body fragmented, but His face is indelible in me." I almost could not bring the first sentence over my lips. But there had to be something right with it, if Heinrich said it. When I realized what he meant by this, I was overwhelmed of immense feelings of guilt: I had killed God and helped to beget the Antichrist! This was extremely frightening. But finally, all should come to the place , where they had been as perpetrators. Heinrich said you should not repress these things
any longer, but communicate, even if it is so disgusting.
How were the participants looked after? There were a lot of people in a group and in the meditation everybody was on his own.
The care was deficient. Many people could not communicate, even when they wanted to catch the speakers eye. Other sometimes called Heinrich to say something, even though they did not signalize this in advance.
Placed Heinrich E. Benedikt physical illnesses rin relation to debt from previous lifes?
To this he did not express himself a lot. He often referred to the Indian Ramana Maharshi spiritual master (1879-1950), who had cancer. In this context, Heinrich told us that the body and the soul are not necessarily linear linked. Who was healthy, was not necessarily psychologically or mentally more advanced than others. I had already to do with esoteric concepts and I think, Heinrich stands out here from traditional esoteric ideas.
Does Heinrich E. Benedikt speak of energy? Has, for example, Kundalini a place in his system?
Yes, that one knows the chakras or energy centres of the body isa prerequisite. The Kundalini snake slumbers in the lowest Chakra, the root chakra, and should be conducted to the top to the the crest or crown chakra. Heinrich gives in the meditations a so called Shaktipad: a kind of energy transmission. He is progressing in the seminar room around and touches individual participants at various parts of their body and gives them by this Shaktipad.
Was one touched at those places affected, of which Heinrich E. Benedikt believed that there shall increase the flow of energy?
Yes, he never expalined it really. He just did it, and all were glad when they got Shaktipad. We hoped that he would loosen blocked areas and would trigger us to a mental breakthrough. Shaktipad was like a grace, which he gave us -- or not.
Were there any guidelines on how to treat each other as a couple?
Not in the sense as guidelines. Couples, coming into the organisation, were separated, they lived and worked not at the same places. It could be that one person was in India and the other lived in Israel. Heinrich was shying away from seperating families. But for spouses who did not have any children or did have adult children this phase of life had as a couple wasfinished. The people should now go alone and solve themselves apart. Heinrich himself was married and lived together with his wife.
When did you have your first doubts?
About a year before Heinrich's psychological collapse, I was confronted with the fact that my husband had had an affair. That was a very difficult time for me. I had the feeling that suddenly nothing of what we had seen together was true any longer. I lost the ground under my feet, but I did not talked a lot about it because I wanted to protect my husband. During this time, I asked Heinrich in a letter for help but got no response. Eventually, I had a breakdown in Immenstadt and someone from the team told Heinrich about it. He called me from Israel. On the t elephone I told Heinrich about my situation and that my ex-husband had a problem so that we currently live without sexuality and that distance is currently important to me. Then Heinrich said to me - and I wa flabbergasted - why we would have no sex, we should do it as Shiva and Shakti and mutually saintify each other and bring our sexuality to a divine level. Then everything would be allright. This was his reply, the telephone conversation was over. I was completely confused. This was an inconsistency in teaching and also to my feeling. The first time I had doubts. Nevertheless I have overcome, against my feelings. I thought that the problem is with me, and I must now learn to deal with, instead walking the primrose path. I trusted that Heinrich would seen more than I did. After Heinrich's collapse at the end of November 1997 was the second time when great doubt appeared, when I visited him in February 1998 in the hospital and he was very confused.
How did this to collapse?
He collapsed after he had officially taken a new partner, a young female student, he proclaimed as the new Isis. Until then his former wife was treated as Isis, she was the one we should worship as the incarnation of Isis. Two weeks later he broke down, became ill and had to be submitted to the hospital. From his new partner, he separated again. He was three or four years paralyzed, psychologically and physically ill. He sat in a wheelchair, a shadow of itself
How was his collapse perceived in the group?
When there was talk, that he had separated from his wife and (there was) a new partner, there was a total crack inside the community. Some immediately turned up to him. Others broke out into tears, and others smiled. I belonged to the later. We thought that was a big test, whether we follow Heinrich really, whether we really trust him, even in this difficult time. The only thing I did in this time, was that I remained faithful to Heinrich.
What happened then?
Over the years I realized that everything was total humbug. There were members who sepreated from their partners because of Heinrich. I know of a woman who had lost the custody for her children because of the group. Others had abandoned their professions or broken with their families. A lot of people from the inner circle had strong feelings of guilt, because they had passed on Heinrichs instructions to others, and had others dragged into it.
There were several persons, the need psychiatric help and are still suffering from theconsequences. First individual members still had contact with each other, especially those who had lived and worked at his house own their own expenses. Other retreated back immediately or gradually, some disappeared. Some Persons, for example, the former center director, disappeared totally of the face of the earth. The pain, loss and confusion were so big, that most had themselves look for themselves, how to survive.
So the loss of Heinrich E. Benedikt was at the same time a loss of the social environment?
The Community crumbeled gradually. Each one had to check for himself where he was standing and how he wanted to avoid all this. Heinrich wrote about two or three months later in a letter to all groups, he had been mistaken in all, could not be teachers and would backdown from the leadership. Everyone would now have to go his way alone. With many people had felt very connected. Not least because many in the community had suffered, as the dynamic in the group hadn't been always easy. Despite these close ties and narrowness the group quickly disintegrated. It is amazing that after it, little was common among the participants. It was a great loss.
How did you go with the dissolution of the group?
For a long time I thought, that it would be clear soon, why all this must be good, and that it might go on again. I had dreamed about that such testings would come, and that is why I initially waited and waited until I eventually realized that there will be nothing. After a year of waiting and hoping and especially after the separation of my husband I then plunged into a new life: I went back to dance, celebrated parties. I played again theater and activated old contacts. I pushed the whole story completely aside, could not actively process it, it was too confusing and painful. I tried to look into a very different direction.
What happened to your spirituality?
I did not want to hear any more of spirituality. Although deep within me I had always yearning seizures. I hoped nothing bad might happen, throwing me off the track. Because I had nothing on what I could hold on to. I was at the limit and hoped for a time in which everything is clarified.
How is it that you are now back with the topic?
Once I discovered the new book by Heinrich in a shop window, I was very disturbed. On the Internet I found then new website. I got back in touch with him to finally to hear his personal opinion on the whole and determine where he is today. He then called me, and there was a meeting at my home.
Did you have the hope that it could give a continuation?
I hoped that Heinrich would stand today at another point, refined and no longer arrogant. I hoped his experience would have been softening him. But I must honestly admit that in the back of my mind I thought perhaps that all what happened could make sense from a new perspective.
In our meeting Heinrich told me, that he is presiding over seminars again and would re-build the organisation. I was in consternation, no word of regret or remorse over what happened by him and that he made derogatory remarks about former members. Among the new participants there would be also a Swiss. Heinrich asked me if this Swiss could get in touch with me, because he was quite lonely, because he is the only participant from Switzerland. But it should please not mention the old stuff. To this I could of course not agree. In begin of 2007 the contact was established. The participant enthused, how beautiful everything was. As I noticed that it was exactly the same as before: the same themes, same structures, exactly the same. Passionately he told me, that he would discover his call and that he would cancel his job, to enter into the organisation. I told him very clearly what I thought of the matter and what I had experienced. He was very interested and moved, had many questions and also expressed doubts.
Do you know something about what is actually going on in the group, and how many people participate?
As far as I know, there should be in Germany about two or three groups. This can be the seen on his homepage, Heinrich writes of the group dates in Jülich and from the group Bonlanden.
In the group Bonlanden are approximately 30 persons, and in Jülich should be another 30 to 40. The group in Jülich has an association with the name "Peace in the Holy Land" ( www.peace-in-the-holy-land.org ). They collect money and are intensively putting themselves out for the new Heinrich organisation. A big project is also the "Jerusalem Peace Academy" (www.jerusalem-academy.org ) , which was founded by Heinrich. But actually it is not secular peace work. He wants to invite representatives of various religions to a spiritual summit. Here again he has his old goals: to realize his claims for spiritual power as a representative of God on earth.
How do you rate today from a distance, what you experienced ten years ago?
From my point of view there happened worse abuse and religious exploitation. I think Heinrich abused the longing of the people. I wish for nobody to make this experience. One should not remain silent about the incidents, mainly because now everything starts again. Heinrich expanding its new activities in this silence. I reached with this experience often my limits. I had to see how I could survive. Others had to take worse injuries. I just don't want to finish dealing with spirituality and pretend as if it would not be longer an issue. I try to distinguish and to keep my independence and to strengthen it. I want my self-awareness and self-confidence, which by this whole story was heavily damaged. When I look back now, I see of course, there were also certain things that I could learn, although I have to struggle with the wounds. Now, I try to care about these wounds in meeting regularly with a fransiscan nun, which with I can share. She understands my spiritual quest and supports me in the processing.
I always say, I got away with a black eye, thank God.
from German source:
«Plötzlich wurde mir klar: ich hatte Gott getötet»,
Tätigkeitsbericht 2007, Fachstelle für Sektenfragen infoSekta
The interview was made in November 2007 by Adriana Burgstaller
and Susanne Schaaf, infoSekta,http://www.infosekta.ch/is5/gruppen/benedikt_infosekta2007.pdf