Master Nome +/- Russell Smith:
a dark side?
(for more positive views from supporters, click here)

Short-cut to letters: 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6 . 7 . 8 . 9 . 10 . 11 . 12 (added Oct '08)
Original intro (in
navy) and insertions by me in teal (original)
red (later), letters in purple

Newzish Section:
As of
Jan '05 we had the news, somewhat old, that Russ had left SAT (in 2003), with his wife Helga and is now involved with her in a nominally Ch'an Buddhist group, the "Way of Sudden Awakening." At first only she was mentioned on her site as a teacher, and Nome not mentioned at all as an antecedent. Russ had disappeared, for all webwise intents and purposes, leaving only Nome at SAT to bear the brunt of the mounting criticisms, and/or go down with the ship. More recent additions: 
May '05, a Satsang Report on Helga, with a bit part by Russ. Stay tuned!
July '05, a rumour about house ownership, looks like Russell got to keep some property, see below in letter #5 (only the red part relates to this).
Oct '05, Russell adopted a higher profile in Helga's operation, now listed again as a Buddhist, still no mention of Nome. His teacher is now named as Nippo Syaku, though in the old SAT history it was Nome.
Nov '05, more about houses and property, see below in letter #5 (only the red part relates to this).
Jul '06, i am informed that Russ is taking Nome to court, has been since May '04, case to be jury-resolved in Oct '06. The rumour is that he is accusing SAT / Nome of denying him rightful pay for his "ministerial duties," and may be angling for some kind of pension, or severance or alimony-like settlement. Stay tuned. The facticity of the case is confirmed here, though providing only a bare-bones account of the legal proceedings. A new low?
Aug '06, the writer of letter #5 below has written to augment my understanding of the court case mentioned above. I have rendered this as letter #6.
Oct '06-Feb '08, the court case is postponed no less than five times. Letter #7 is a short report on one of those postponements.
Jun '08, while we're waiting for the results of the court case, rumoured to have actually happened but awaiting a verdict, an eagle-eyed correspondent has found newspaper reports about Nome and wife Judy's short-lived restaurant enterprise.
Oct '08, a verdict is in. The long court case drama is over, unless an appeal is launched. Basically Nome has won, Russ' complaint dismissed. A short summary.
Dec '08, oh well, it's not exactly an appeal . . . in fact, the opposite, Nome is seeking recompense for his legal fees (link as in above "court case").
Jan '09, and now Nome has won his fees, but it's not finished: Russ is appealing that. Party on!
Jun '10, Russ and Helga have disappeared, at least their "Way of Sudden Awakening" has 404'd.
Feb '11
, Appeals, Cross-Appeals, How long can this go on? Anyway, if you really wanna know, a correspondent has found an utter bonanza on the net: The whole long legalese account of the latest appeal and all the background, who claimed  and alleged what and how much merit their legal points had etc, from the Appeals court, complete with exhaustive precedent discussions. Praise the Lord and pass the popcorn! Smith v. First Principle Church, filed Jan 27, 2011. For those keeping score, Russ has lost on every point: not only losing his pension but having to pay court costs and Nome's legal fees, and even reversing the earlier decision which had declared him immune to Nome's counter-claims of Breach of Fiduciary Duty.


[The navy intro below and first letters of this page appeared in the spring of 2001]

Reports are coming in about a darker side to this formerly mostly well-thought-of pair. Their stated absence of "fascination with the form or adventures of the teachers" conceals the fact that they are biological brothers, leaving the visitor to their site to get the impression that they traveled very different paths and then came together fortuitously, only meeting as adults. Nome is actually Russell's younger brother Jeffrey. He is said to have realized first and then declared his "disciple" Russell also enlightened. In light of these facts, harmless enough in themselves, one has to wonder why such elementary information has been held back, to the point of distortion, and what else is missing.

[Jul '06 insertion: Given the acrimony (sibling rivalry?) that has developed between these intimate enlightened beings, one has to wonder about the original enlightenment transfer process between them. Russell has now undermined the original premise of that process by naming Nippo Syaku as his teacher. If that original premise was, AHEM, untrue, we might speculate that Russell saw a good business going on with Nome and muscled in on it. That would of course be only speculation. And of course we might well wonder what ELSE is untrue.]

1834 Ocean St in Santa Cruz, the address of their org/temple, called Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), also turns out to be the address of a church, First Principle Church. Nothing wrong with having a tax-free setup, but why does it have a different name? And why does this FPC exist solely in church listings, without its own web page(s) or any other web reference? Is there some shell game going on? It is listed in the MarinersGuide, and in the Santa Cruz Guide's religious org pages, (006 and 007) they even have the same post-box number.

A number of visitors have written to me of unseemly goings-on, especially around the issues of money and intimidation of ex-members and soon-to-be-exes. While i am loath to present their letters whole and uncritically, especially as most of them wish to remain anonymous, it feels appropriate to present some comments.

[More letters have come in slowly since that humble start, Russ has left SAT and Helga has been included in the opprobrium.]



1. I just have a bit of input related to Nome and Russell. I was associated with the SAT organization for about a year and considered early on joining the community. At that time Nome was the central figure and Russell sort of an operations head.

At least 7 or so years ago ['94-'95], when the organization was in full swing, they had a community manager and tended to run things very tightly controlled: applications, minimum required tithing, various group pressure activities to keep folks in line. Russell could be quite the tyrant at board meetings and a bit paranoid, lots of yelling, acting out, throwing or threatening to throw community members out if they didn't toe the company line. Nome tended to stay behind the scenes but would write letters to the community supporting Russell's views.

A couple of points:
There is no doubt that Nome and Russell are brothers as they have stated this themselves (eventually).

While he does seem to have an interesting aloofness about him, Nome's talks seem to be warmed over Ramana Maharshi teachings. Pretty dull after a while, not particularly related to present moment exploration or revealing of his direct experience. My sense is you are rating these folks a bit high. They are both fairly intelligent but both Russell and Nome appear far from Realized or even of much value to others through their teaching. I would give them half a point if it were up to me.

[They have finally arrived. They were at two buds before the feedback started coming in. It took a few years for the balance to shift, and in fact now only Nome is rated, with Russ in an unrated category, linked to this page and its info but not a big player any more.]


2. The Smith brothers' hold over SAT members is a strong one, I can say from my own experience. I was a member of SAT for several years and saw them use many mind control techniques on their followers. These included sleep deprivation, long working hours, ridicule, and ostracism. "Holy service" was not only encouraged but demanded. While nominally you had "complete freedom" to say yes or no, in actuality you were expected to submit to any request made by the brothers, no matter how absurd. Projects often had to be done and redone at their whim, and the workers were encouraged to view it as a "spiritual learning experience." They were also told they should not be attached to the results of their work, for that would be "feeding the ego." No thought was ever given to the toll the brothers' whims were taking on the group financially and physically. "Disciples" were compelled to give a sizeable portion of their earnings to support Russell and Nome's non-working lifestyle. Titheing at SAT was ten percent of your gross income – not your net income...and in addition there were the strongly recommended non-tax-deductible "donations" directly to the brothers. If a disciple didn't give enough to this fund (what the brothers considered enough to keep them comfortable in their grand lifestyle lived in their beautiful hillside home), he or she was taken aside and given emphatic instructions about how to properly honor their guru. Also, as time went along and members were instructed to avidly recruit wealthy people for membership, it became apparent to all that when these wealthier members joined, they were nurtured with frequent praise and familiar access to the "sages."

At SAT, people were continually kept off balance, praised one minute and tongue-lashed the next, to keep them in line. If you didn't submit to the brothers' will, and began to use your own critical mental abilities, you were not allowed to remain in the group – rational, practical thinking was definitely not encouraged. Open questioning of the brothers' methods or decisions was quickly cut off, with regular purges of those who dared to question (all this, even though the literature said, "Questions are encouraged."). Those who had been expelled from the group were considered as pariahs, and, under pain of expulsion themselves, the remaining members were forbidden to communicate with them. Gradually, I and many others began to see that these brothers had no peers to give them corrective guidance (and they weren't about to allow any peers, either) – and in 1992, almost a hundred followers left the group en masse. From reading Steven Hassan's book "Combatting Cult Mind Control" after we left, many of us came to see how controlled we were while in that group. I recommend this book to anyone who may be thinking of joining SAT.

For those who are desiring enlightenment, and don't want to spend their lives as worker bees in the Smith brothers' hive, there are far better places to learn the teachings of Advaita Vedanta and Ch'an Buddhism. If I were rating it, I would give this group a 0. In addition, I would ask anyone entering there to imagine the following sign posted on the SAT temple door, saying, "WARNING! This place can be hazardous to your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Proceed at your own risk."


3. In what seems like a past life, I spent approximately 6 years in the 1980s and 90s with the now infamous Smith Brothers. I was originally very attracted to Nome by what was being presented as the teaching of Shri Ramana Maharshi. One of the lines that had me hooked was: The Truth is Free, You are Free, Satsang is Free.

This was what I had been looking for, a spiritual teacher who wasn't in it for the money or power. I later came to realize that this was all a big facade in an endless game of manipulation and empire-building.

As it turned out, I arrived just at the very end of one of what I will refer to as one of their "house-cleanings". I later came to know that this was an occurrence which happened every few years to "weed out" those who were not towing the party line. Any questioning outside of accepted lines, was grounds for being severely ostracized.

I came to be a close assistant to Nome and Russ during my time there in Santa Cruz. I saw many things there in the "inner-circle" that finally made me wake-up and realize that these guys weren't "Realized Masters", they were just "Masters of Manipulation". I'm not into Guru-bashing, but I feel it to be a duty of conscience to warn people to look out for these two brothers. They have single-handedly turned more people away from true spirituality than anyone I know of. Most people who end up leaving there leave with such a bad taste for spiritual teachers that they are lucky if they ever open their minds to another teacher again.

I won't go into details about the worst of the things that I saw, but I will give an overview of what to look for if you plan to spend time with Nome or any other teacher claiming to be Self-Realized. Not to say I'm an expert, just experienced.

Nome and Russ had at that time developed an elaborate security apparatus which stemmed from deep paranoia. They were afraid for their bodies, their money and possessions, and worst of all afraid that someone would steal their teaching! I myself was involved in many martial arts training sessions conducted by Russ and approved of by Nome, which included the use of simulated attack scenarios involving knives, guns, stunguns, and lethal martial arts strikes with the hands and feet. For what purpose would a real master employ such trainings for his disciples? These trainings were coupled with their high level of secrecy regarding their personal lives and habits, not to mention the state of the art security system at their mansion. A real master has no worries about the body, his possessions, or what anyone thinks about their teachings. Nisargadatta Maharaj himself upon several occasions challenged people to kill him on the spot. And he wasn't joking either. He truly had no fear or attachment to the body or this world. At one point he was asked if it bothered him about the British occupation of India and them taking all of the wealth. He said if I take a few rupees from one pocket and put them in another, of what concern is it? Indicating his thorough understanding that all is one and there need be no undue concern over worldly possessions or wealth.

During my time there at SAT, I witnessed no less than 3 of these "house-cleanings". Each one was accompanied by numerous slanderous allegations and outright criminal accusations coming from both of the Smith Brothers towards those being ousted. At one point they even accused some of those on the way out of poisoning a supposed enlightened disciple of Nome, and wife of Russ, named Lane. Her passing was certainly a tragedy, but it was devastating for those of her close friends who were accused of poisoning her. 

During a subsequent "house-cleaning", multiple incidents occurred which resulted in one of the mass exoduses which was referred to by one of your other reviewers. Of course there was the sex-scandal which shocked everyone. Nome had been found out to be having a sexual relationship with one of his married female disciples. That in itself probably wouldn't have been so bad, it was the attempted cover-up and chastisement of anyone who dared question the purity of the "celibate" master that turned so many people away. This incident was accompanied by a whole host of slanderous accusations against a large number of people who had begun to question the validity of Nome's teaching and 'enlightenment'. I personally witnessed Nome lying about and slandering some of those who had been his closest, most loyal disciples. Even to the point of comparing them to Hitler's Nazis. To have your guru look you in the eyes and tell you lies to your face. Wow! What a mind blower! That was the last straw for me. 

This brings me to the point of examining a guru or spiritual teacher. Two points on this. One, look at their teaching. Is it consistent with their Master's teaching or is it validated by ancient scriptures? Nome says many nondual words, yet upon close scrutiny, there are many inconsistencies in what he says. He definitely uses some minor siddhis involving shakti and mass hypnosis techniques in his satsangs. Having this type of "energized personality" does not make one a True Master! He also has a bad habit of using quotes and references of true realized Masters out of context in order to fit into his own brand of Advaita Vedanta teachings. His teaching is NOT the same as Ramana Maharshi, and nowhere near that of Nisargadatta Maharaj. It's sad to see how so many teachers these days throw around these two names to try to lend credibility to themselves. One of Nome's best tricks is to get the disciple strung out on "Guru Approval". He builds the disciple up and then knocks them down, keeping them confused and coming back for more. Real Masters tear down the ego, and the whole illusion with it, they don't keep the whole game intact. He also says that he gives a "transmission" of the teaching, indicating that you can only get it from him, further stringing the aspirant along. Real Masters tell you that you don't exist, they don't exist, and you already are what you seek, the Guru just points you in the right direction. 

The second point to consider in evaluating Nome or any other spiritual teacher, is look at his life. Self-Realized Masters are not professional spiritual teachers! Northern California in particular is host to dozens of such types who have made a living off of commercializing the teachings of Advaita Vedanta. They can parrot the words, but they can't help you get free. Nome and Russ have probably both attained millionaire status at this point from the mandatory "donations" that they have received. 

Nome lives in a very expensive house in an exclusive part of the Santa Cruz mountains just outside of Capitola, one of the richest suburbs in Northern California. Many of his disciples have put themselves in poverty to support him and his brother's lavish lifestyle. Neither one of the two brothers has had a "real" job or has supported themselves in any way other than by selling the teachings of Non-duality in at least the past 25 years. His life in no way resembles or reflects that of Shri Ramana Maharshi or Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Both of whom have real "Self-Realized" disciples, some of whom I have met personally. These true Masters or their disciples didn't care about money or even the world for that matter. A far cry from the example that Nome sets for his followers.  The comments from one of your reviewers about Nisargadatta Maharaj's and his disciples poverty are ridiculous, we should all be so rich in Self-Realization or to have the great treasure of a being with a True Master!

One may ask, why this seemingly self-incriminating revelation after so many years. In other words, if it was so bad, then how could I have stayed so long. I have to say, it's partly because I wanted to believe, and that it's hard to admit one's mistakes, especially one as personal as choosing a guru. Additionally, the "Smith Brothers" are very manipulative. If you look up some of the cult literature that is mentioned by one of the original reviewers on your site, it's true what was said, they have a way getting the earnest aspirant to think in the way that they want them to think. The Guru holds such power over a disciple that can be so easily abused. BE WARNED! 

The final reason I have remained silent about these two is that I also wish to remain anonymous.  I have no desire to be on the receiving end of any of the types of retribution that I have personally seen the Smith Brothers dish out.


4. This letter, which wrote of Nome and Russ' alleged manipulative use of shame and unworthiness issues for self-serving reasons, has been removed, as the writer has come to accept more responsibility for that process than previously.


5. [This letter is so far the longest and in some ways the harshest of all the letters and had at first some other problems (since worked out) but since the writer alerted me to Russell's exit and corroborated a lot of the earlier material, i am including it here, minus some potentially libelous stuff. 

A big inconsistency in this fifth letter with regard to the previous ones is its exoneration of Russell, who the writer says was as much of a dupe / tool of Nome as anyone. This exoneration does not fit with the testimony of some of the other writers, nor with his claimed awakening 15 years ago, so grains of salt are encouraged, though of course this is so with all the letters. The reader is invited to come to her own conclusions. In that respect, it is not unlike weighing the letters on this page against the letters of support from people still with Nome (link at page bottom.) 

(July '05 addition, modified Nov '05) Correspondents have confirmed that the Smiths' personal house in the SAT heyday, some eight miles away from SAT HQ, in big bucks Soquel, is actually owned now by Russ and Helga, so it seems that Russ didn't leave empty-handed. It has been in his name since 1992, according to two separate sources. The sources differ on how opulent it is but we can assume it is not a shack. It is said to be a well-appointed hillside property in an exclusive part of Soquel where homes go for well over a million dollars. It is not the place, ironically only a half-mile from SAT, where Russ and Helga hold their WOSA meetings.

Meanwhile, where is Nome living? Speculation centers on SAT HQ, where some real estate shufflings have been rumoured lately. The so-called "middle house," in former times used for offices and/or aspirant residences and now a bit run down, has been carved out of the compound and sold to a devotee for a hefty $800K, said to be overpriced even by Santa Cruz standards. 


Whatever. For me, the collective picture painted by all the letters and the fact of Russell's departure – leaving aside the question of Russell himself – can now be said to have considerable credibility. Here come the letter . . . ]

You have received and published several other letters on your web-site that have to do with the guru figure Master Nome and his organization at the Society for the Abidance in Truth or SAT. I sincerely hope that you will print this letter in order to warn other spiritual seekers of some of the truly corrupt things that I have seen go on around Nome. In this way other seekers don't have to make the same mistakes that I did. Perhaps we can help someone not waste their precious time when they could be doing serious spiritual practice elsewhere that could truly help them instead of harming them. I am the first person coming forward who was in the real inner circle around Nome. I need to remain anonymous for my safety. You are correct in saying that there is on going "intimidation of ex-members and soon to be ex-members of SAT". Everything I am about to say is 100% true. If you post this letter I am sure other people from the inner circle will come forward and verify it. 

I was at SAT for over a dozen years, during which time I was a disciple of Nome. I was close in and spent a lot of time around Nome and Russell Smith so I was privy to a lot of what occurred. I did enormous amounts of work for both SAT and for Nome personally. I was instructed to do extensive service and I did it. I was instructed to give all my money, which I also did. I was very intimate to a great many of Nome's interactions. I hope to clarify and add additional information to some of the statements made by these previous writers concerning Nome and SAT. It is not that these writers were wrong; the situations created by and surrounding Nome were very confusing and extremely hard to read. His personality is convoluted and his actions are built around deceiving people with layers of plots and endless double talk. In a moment he could go from a slick spiritual talk to becoming angry and vindictive. 

Because I was part of the inner circle around Nome and spent a lot of time around him, I had the opportunity to see behind the outer show that most people only saw. I personally saw hundreds of examples of lies, violence, manipulation, misuse of spiritual teaching, and cruel abuse towards the people there. 

I want to make it very clear that this letter from me is in no way a criticism of spirituality, Vedanta, guru figures, saints or spiritual teachers throughout history who have honestly tried to better themselves and help others. 

[ . . . ]

Everyone at SAT was dispensable except for Nome. During my years at there I witnessed quite a few "house cleanings". A previous writer also referenced this. Nome would get rid of anyone that was not a fanatical follower or who caused any ripple in his image. Often his methods would be swift and cruel. It did not matter how much time, money, and energy you had given, you were dispensable when you were no longer useful in someway to him. With this kind of cruelty towards others Nome became very paranoid. He was always concerned that someone might blow his cover or attack him. So there was a group formed to defend him (as was mentioned in a previous letter) in case this should it happen. A male disciple who had studied martial arts for many years instructed the group in self-defense. Russell was only there as a spiritual advisor to make sure that the group stayed in balance and spiritually focused. 

In Nome's paranoia if he felt that you were no longer a completely loyal disciple he would start slandering, criticizing, and creating elaborate stories to discredit you. One of the letter writers stated that Nome compared certain people he was getting rid of to "Hitler's Nazis". I also was present that day and heard this to my great shock. 

[ . . . ]

There was a strange darkness that plagued many of the celebrative get-togethers that the disciples had with Nome. One of the classic functions of these evenings would be a ritual called a puja. These pujas however, unlike the traditional Hindu ceremonial form of worship of disciple to God, were composed by Nome and worked out between him and a female disciple. There was a very dark sexual vibration to the performance, with Nome beaming while being worshiped in this way. 

In letter #1, which you received, the writer brings up that in 1995 there was "tyrannical behavior at the board of directors meetings and Russell had thrown community members out". However, Russell had already left the Board in 1992. Russell Smith was a disciple of Nome. He filled the position of SAT's director at one time, he also managed households, organized meetings, planned holy day events, taught at Satsang, and he also headed the Board of Directors for a few years. During those years everyone knew he did Nome's bidding. Russell gave all his time, energy, and money to Nome and SAT. But by the end of the 80's he was backing off from Nome and SAT. He quit the Board of Directors because he disagreed with Nome's ethics and the pressures Nome put on people financially to pay for the multimillion-dollar property of SAT. However, by the time mentioned by the previous writer, Nome was the head of the Board and would have been responsible for the "tyrannical behavior". Every meeting I attended at SAT where Nome was present or leading it, he had to have the complete agreement and praise of everyone present or would become quite hostile. In the first few years that Nome was head of the Board he literally went through 30 Board members - removing and replacing until he could find the people who would be unconditionally favorable towards him. 

There were countless meetings held at SAT most of which were in some way about money or volunteered labor. The "Friends meeting" was the members of SAT who were very active in financial contributions and/or performing extensive service. The "Community" meeting was when the members of SAT would receive information about the financial status of SAT. 

I was a regular attendee of both and present for hundreds of examples of variations of tyrannical behavior. I really began to observe how Nome was very deliberately manipulating the people present for his own benefit. These meeting were loaded with glances, winks, and smiles from him in order to reward a person for appropriately volunteering or donating money. Adversely, there were equal amount of glares and subtle put-downs at someone not volunteering, donating, or for making an inappropriate comment. Most of the time Nome never publicly said a word of overt direction. However, privately he dictated and controlled everything. In his system a mark of closeness to him was you would know exactly what he wanted without him having to say it. This was an integral part of the training in the inner circle. 

Nome had a very different public versus private side. Most of the exposure that the members of SAT and general public had to Nome was at Satsang where he gave slick intellectual Hindu or Vedantic spiritual teaching. Even many of his disciples only knew him in this way. Most often people knew nothing about his private side. So people came and stayed (or left) SAT without really ever knowing who really was responsible for what and never suspecting Nome's real motives. In order to understand how people would tolerate all this manipulation, the reader needs to understand that all these people believed Nome's own proclamation that he was the same as Ramana Maharshi, Shiva, and God in human form, as the Guru, come to save them. I might quickly add that I read and studied Ramana Maharshi for years and I do not see any resemblance between them. Often out of the seekers devotion, instead of observing manipulation, they would rationalize Nome's behavior by believing things like "this is just the masters love" or "he is just teaching us a lesson". 

Nome also manipulated people by giving the reward of his acceptance for being his "eyes and ears"-- keeping him informed of other peoples conversations and actions. Nome was so well informed through his spy network that he had people totally fooled into believing that he had supernatural powers. Some people believed he could read their minds and tell the past or future. One day I was walking with some other disciples who were expressing their awe of Nome's power and glorifying him because he knew very personal things about them, which they had not told him. Coincidentally, I had been present during a conversation where Nome was accessing this information from another person. I knew that he had received this confidential information and was purposely using it deceptively to gain power. Often he would use the information to embarrass or prove that you were spiritually inferior. People were very afraid of him. Several disciples were so afraid of what Nome might say that they would not seek medical attention when they needed it and suffered severe physical damage to their bodies. 

After a number of years at SAT I began to realize that although people were giving tremendous donations and contributions it didn't seem to matter to the SAT budget. Quite a few people, young and old, (including myself, most of the inner circle disciples, and Russell Smith) gave their life savings not to mention the constant flow of free and often very skilled labor. At the "Community" meetings the message was always the same - "No money, SAT will go broke in (blank) months without a marked increase in donations and more service given!" No one dared to question the credibility of this information. So despite an incredibly large income SAT was always "broke". Once I was present right after a refinancing meeting with a bank. I remember the bank representative commenting about how SAT had an unusually high-income ratio for such a small group. It should be noted that Nome also functioned as office manager in charge of all financial records. 

Nome set up a private donation system from the disciples, but he demanded that all the donations were to be given in Russell's name. Writing the checks to Russell reinforced the facade of Nome's asceticism. Nome liked to be seen as a Yogi or renunciate. It also made it doubly difficult to ascertain the true financial picture. 

[ . . . ]

Also, I want to clarify some incorrect facts and assumptions that seem to align Russell Smith with Nome. In sections of the other letters you received the writer seems to view Russell, Helga (Russell's wife), and Nome as a single unit; sharing identical past practices, holding the same values, holding the same regard for other people, and teaching the identical spiritual teachings. It is true that Russell and Nome are brothers as someone mentioned in one letter (a fact that Nome wanted concealed for some reason). However, in their life's values, spiritual course, decisions, and actions I have found no similarity. Russell took peoples problems and suffering seriously. It was obvious that he truly believed that the only real answer in life had to be a spiritual one and he would be so interested to talk about it with you. One of his primary goals was to try and instill a better set of values in the people. Russell would insert talks on karma (where as Nome actually claimed to be above karma and acted out without any regard for karma or ethics). 

Numerous times I heard Russell object to the unethical things Nome was doing and what was going on at SAT. Russell functioned as a guest meditation teacher at SAT until 2003. I have heard that Russell left SAT because he disagreed with Nome's abuse of disciples in many ways. Helga, Russell's wife, left SAT because she also did not agree with either the teaching there or Nome's ethics. Last I heard, Helga and Russell were teaching Buddhism through a group called "Way of Sudden Awakening". 

Now as for the women who came to SAT, there was one casualty after another. Throughout my years at SAT I saw many women be flirted with, manipulated, and sexually used by Nome. He enticed women by giving them the message that to be in some form of relationship with him meant that their chances for Enlightenment were greatly increased or guaranteed. 

Nome received hundreds of (love) devotional letters from women praising him and pledging undying love. He never discouraged this or directed people in a more serious beneficial practice. But rather, he would answer in such a way to encourage this glorification. He would write to each woman as though there really was this exclusive bond. Once I mentioned to him that it looked like he was flirting with a woman at Satsang, he answered quickly and forcefully that it was just my own jealousy allowing for such accusations. There became more and more accusations by other women. But, Nome was always ready as though he had the defense prepared before the instance. He would discredit the person by painting a picture of someone very unstable and confused, so that no one would believe the accusations against him. It was cruel how he would encourage someone to fall in love or flirt with him, only to tear her down when he was through with his fantasy. I saw women after women take on the cycle of elation to crashing depression. I also saw Nome encourage the women to compete and spy on others to receive the "masters grace". 

These examples went on and on, all of these women being distanced from each other and if they had husbands- then distanced from their husbands. The husbands could do the service or make donations and the wives were fair game sexually. Unfortunately, divorces were not uncommon at SAT due to the women becoming infatuated with Nome and treating their husbands neglectfully. Nome encouraged some of the male disciples to have several female partners at once and even commit adultery, because that is what he often did. This was a way of Nome diverting attention off himself by encouraging his close male disciples to freely share his irresponsible actions and lack of concern for the feelings of others. 

Nome taught that spiritual teachings and teachers such as Vedanta and Shankara, Self Enquiry and Ramana Maharshi, the Saints like Kabir, Buddhism of all kinds- Tibetan Buddhism with Milarepa, to Chan Buddhism with Huang Po or the Buddha, were the same Teaching as his, the same Enlightenment as his, and that he was identical to all of them. 

Furthermore, his message to the inner circle was that your closeness and total surrender to him was the sign of your state of consciousness. His biography is published in the Ramana Centenary. I have read it and there is no mention of any practice he did from any of those systems that he claims to teach.
[Sarlo: The writer also mentioned in a subsequent letter in response to my enquiry that Nome's contribution to this volume was an autobiographical article entitled "Timeless Presence," which is available as a reprint from SAT. The occasion was the 100th anniversary of Ramana's arrival at Arunachala. The writer also alleged that Nome "influenced" his way into inclusion in this prestigious publication by a strategic large donation to Ramana's org.] There is also no teacher that he studied under. After being at SAT for all those years I can easily state that I never heard any of those teachings taught there in their entirety. I don't believe at all that Nome is an accurate reflection of Ramana Maharshi, whom he claims as guru, nor Shankara, etc. What he teaches is his own version of these teachings. I have heard Nome claim to know the true meaning of each of them and so that gives him the authority to pick and choose sections from these teachings and claim that his is a true representation. In his own description of Enlightenment he claims to be specially connected on the astral plane to the Maharshi and "exited the palace of learning". This meant never having to change and grow. Nome continually asserted that it was impossible for him to be wrong in any of his motives or actions, and that he is all- knowing (or knows everything). 

Beneath the surface there were no real spiritual practices given at SAT by Nome. It isn't a good place to get training if you are serious about spirituality. The only person who ever recommended serious spiritual practice was Russell. He would encourage the people at SAT to explore their spiritual potential. He taught classes encouraging the people to really think things out spiritually and not be subject or bound by authority figures, fear, or dogmatic spirituality. He also became very outspoken on behalf of the women in the community, encouraging them not to be attached to Nome, but rather pursue a spiritual path. It is a shame to see Russell lumped together with Nome by people who don't really know what happened behind the scenes. 

I strongly encourage spiritual seekers to look deeply into their goals and motivations and hold true to them. There really are true spiritual paths and practices with honest and sincere teachers who really care about their students Enlightenment. 

I have told only part of what I could without disclosing my identity, even though there is much more. I encourage other people to also write their experience in order to shine real light on their experience with Nome.


6. [Could have been you, but turned out to be the writer of #5 above, clarifying issues involved in the presently upcoming court case between Russell and Nome. See Newzish above, Jul '06 entry, if you haven't already]
I too have heard that Russell Smith is taking Nome to court. However, the way I have heard it from several different parties - it is to retrieve his rightful, promised pension - not “a new low, angling for some kind of pension” as you have been led to believe. Someone who either wants to see this situation with a certain fanatical bias, or who has no real understanding of the situation has given that impression to you. 

[Sarlo clarifies: “A new low, angling for some kind of pension” is not what is written in the Jul '06 item, nor suggested by anyone to me. I do indeed write that he is angling for a pension, but "a new low" is a comment at the end meant to apply to the sibling relationship, not to Russ' maneuvers]

I can help give some factual information based on first hand experience. During the 1980's and 90's when I was at SAT, everyone in the inner circle knew that Russell had been repeatedly promised a pension from SAT by Nome. In 1987 Russell had been asked by Nome to give over the entire life insurance money from Russell’s first wife’s death ($100,000), with the promise that this money would benefit SAT at a very critical time and would be instrumental in making SAT financially secure. In exchange Nome promised Russell that he would be cared for later by SAT through receiving a pension. I heard that Russell agreed to give other large sums of money later as well; such as substantially over-paying for the house he bought from SAT. In fact for many years throughout the 70's and 80's Russell didn't even have a private bank account, but rather out of trust and dedication to a spiritual cause, gave all his money to Nome. The fact that Russell was promised his pension as future security in exchange for giving up his own money was not secret information. My sources at SAT tell me that Nome also had their parents invest large sums of money into SAT with the understanding that it was to help both Russell and Nome in their life’s work. 

I know that the pension was given sometime in 1995 when Russell retired from SAT. However, a few years ago Nome instructed SAT to stop paying Russell's pension! I have heard rumors that Russell's and Nome’s parents have also joined in the suit against Nome for trying to cheat Russell out of the remainder of his pension. 

The reasons for Nome's action against Russell are unclear. Most people I know feel it was because of Russell's objections to Nome's [libelous allegations snipped]. I hope and am sure that someday the complete story will emerge. Once Nome could see that Russell was aware of these things and objected so strongly, Nome started going after Russell in a variety of ways - usually trying to cripple Russell financially or using scare tactics. “Going after people” is a typical aggressive action that Nome has displayed more than a few times. [More libelous allegations snipped]

I also want to address another point that you mentioned in the July update. Russell has been teaching Chan Buddhism outside of SAT for at least 15 years that I am aware of. Even when teaching at SAT he introduced and showed great care and love for Buddhism. In the early 90's Russell’s was giving Dharma Talks at the Subud House independent of SAT. I attended a few of them. At that time I heard Russell already clearly stating that Nippo Syaku was his teacher. Your entry that Russell only recently distanced himself from Nome and declared Nippo Syaku as his teacher is incorrect. Russell was connected with Nome as a teacher during the 70's to the mid 80's and that is a fact. The news you have been given is 20 years old - (nothing like 20-year-old news being reported as the latest development). Several people who I have talked to confirm that indeed Russell did study under Nippo Syaku in the 1970's and that he has been proclaiming Nippo as his teacher for at least 17 years. 

I hope this additional information will help you to understand the situation of Russell trying to reclaim his own pension in a more balanced light. A pension that was truly and undisputedly monetarily paid into, worked hard for, and fully deserved. Many times at SAT I heard people say that if it were not for Russell’s energy and attention there never would have been the manifestation of SAT because Nome lacked the altruism and care to carry that out. 


7. Looks like they are still trying to resolve it without a jury trial.  Yet another "Case Management Conference" is scheduled for January 29, 2007.  Note that Nome is now "unrepresented."  Previously he had a lawyer but I guess he let the lawyer go and is now going to represent himself once again.  The last time he did that the judge in that case told him, "Sir, you don't know what you are talking about."  And the beat goes on....
[Sarlo adds: If you came in here, might be best to go back to the top to find out what this is about. And note that the trial is now put off till end of May '07, and it is now a jury trial.]


8. [This was another very long letter and as it was somewhat chaotic i have edited it, retaining its basic flavour and omitting some potentially libelous material. The author has consented to this. Sarlo]

I noticed that most of your letters 'shied away' from Russ discussion, but I won't. He wasn't enlightened by the standards of the people who left between 1987-1992 that I knew and talked with after leaving. His actions and counter actions, in the opinion of those gathered (in our meetings), showed someone who was very angry, money driven, and erratic. 

Russ always made comments that were pretty outlandish, but my favorite was given one day during an inner circle meeting; “Your job is to get them here. Once they’ve been here, they only have to come three times, then bam, we’ve got ’em, and they’re hooked.” (Whoa! What the heck is that!)? I didn’t trust him after that! 

He was constantly pushing people, making 'jokes' - (masking rude anger) about peoples flaws. Of course, all nasty criticism was meant to "speed your way to enlightenment"—the nastier the better—and if you lived at a Satsang household, you got it, 24/7, nothing was sacred or personal. 

After Satsang he would sit in a chair and people would gather round him like pigeons, to 'chat with Russ.' More like gossip. Anyway, he would love this time, which was clear by his actions; he would smile, talk easy, rock in his rocking chair and flop his Japanese sandals. He would start picking at people, usually by opening the mail or talking about other people questions, laugh and make jokes, usually at someone not there.

He and Nome were obsessed with women and weight control. They were obsessed with fasting, also, we would fast for a month every year on nothing but cut apple juice and double osmosis filtered water (another big time Avadhut expense - every household had one that was a Satsang temple. No one was to tell anyone about these month long fasts, as that was 'considered by the outsiders' as starvation! Another Russ-ism-paranoid don't tell a soul.

His favorite topics: Fallen teachers, false religions, fake followers, fallen followers, blunders by aspirants, aspirants doing 'worldly things' (list below). Letters from fallen followers trying get closure with them, (that was the BIGGEST one—this would draw the BIGGEST crowd and laughter—they were MEAN). Meditation of course, bad meditations, but really the most questions were about 'worldly' things not 'spiritual' and they really did split them up. 

About the conditions: This was the double edge sword best explained by the meat-eating question: Eating Meat --they would tell you in Satsang, "oh the world is an illusion and what you eat doesn't matter." BUT, they would tell aspirants your body is a temple and you have dedicated it to your Guru—would you feed Nome meat?'

Aspirants were never allowed TV's, radios, newspapers, magazines (other than 'spiritual' or of that ilk); music that wasn't considered spiritual was un thought of! I mean, geez, you didn't do it! We would have to walk 10-20 paces behind Jeff. No one could wear orange except Jeff. We had to wear white at all times, including cooking, walks in the woods, (mud), and so on.

Eating food out was frowned upon really, it was considered 'worldly', make-up, hosiery, professional haircuts, anything to 'draw attention to yourself' was 'bad' 'worldly'. There was a time when most of us women went 'bra-less' because of our denial of our bodies. Of course, that had to change! Many of us weren't 'equipped' to be braless, but that was the whole thing—denial of your needs. Which was strange because you were "supposed to treat your body like a temple" yet you were supposed to deny it! At one point, Candida was a big thing; many of us went on Candida-free diets—treated by someone in the group, 'til Russ thought it was over kill. (Mostly because it involves meat eating, I think).

Talking to your parents - Worldly! Making friends on the 'outside' for sake of friendship and not bringing them 'in' - Worldly! Listening to Music not approved - Worldly, Going to movies—Worldly. Wearing leather—worldly! Enjoying the day for the day sake—Worldly. (Not in meditation). Enjoying work (at your job)—Worldly. Enjoying food too much—Worldly. Having seconds of something—worldly. 

Aspirants were to look at the lives of the saints and the other 'enlightened' beings, if they denied their bodies, we did. If they took pleasure in the cold we did, if they went without, we did. Look at "Ramanuja!" Look at "AnandaMayi-Ma" (She never washed her own body or fed herself or cared about her looks), "Look at Milarepa!" (He ate only nettles, denied his body, lived in a cave, starved himself, and never clothed himself—he could keep his one mindedness—what's the cold? What's a little blood?) Many aspirants read and re-read texts to obsession to 'identify themselves' (I've learned later, that this is common, because when you take away someone's sense of identity, you have to replace it with something). I remember Russ giving us the comparison of St Francis's "Poor Clair's Order." (We were told that at St Clair's, women are so 'holy' they share their underwear (!!!)) Once again, about how we were expected to share everything as a householder and not be 'selfish' and have personal goods. This also included clothes.

Russ and Nome would even 'pair' aspirants to saints and enlightened beings. Follow this twisted logic if you can: after all, if the world's not real, AND we are on the 'speedway to enlightenment' because we have two enlighten beings (later 3), AND they constantly are telling you that you are "like" a certain saint (or have that saint qualities) then you should focus your reading and devotion on that saint. Some members began to have psychotic breaks because they began to THINK they were in some WAY that saint. It got so constant with some members (the discussion about them and their 'saint discussions' at Satsang, that some members nothing else was discussed with them about their devotions or sadhana).

After I left the Avadhut, I learned that this belief is known as "sympathetic magical thinking" at best, at worst, it becomes schizophrenic delusion.

Back to the list of behaviors, because I want you to know that some of stuff we did got us in big trouble with Russ and Jeff: Talking to outsiders about your problems—(punishable). Telling other householders about Russ and Jeff being at your house last night for dinner—(punishable). Falling asleep or nodding during Holidays was punishable, you would be sent directly home (in front of every one and admonished) as well as not allowed to any further Holidays until you could 'prove that you could stay alert and have enough energy to sustain the 5:30 am rise to 2:30-3:30 am marathons, with 2 and 3 hour meditations in between. The work would be relentless on these days. Grout would be washed with toothbrushes and bleach in the kitchen and bathrooms. Activity would not cease for anything except meditations. 

If you lived in a Satsang household—your life was monitored to Russ and Jeff period. Every action every detail was told. If your meditations were off, and you told the household about it, as was the custom (because you meditated 3 times a day together) not to mention what you did on your own, you talked about it afterward. This went to them. 

If someone didn't like your 'unclear' behavior at dinner, this went Russ and Jeff. If someone didn't like what you said in the car coming home (because we always carpooled-you were not alone-ever) this went to them. If you ate something that wasn't quite 'approved' this went to them. If you did something "worldly" this went to them. It was the 'duty' of the aspirant to 'correct' the behavior of the other aspirants by criticism. And it was done in Abundance. No topic was too big or too small. And everything was suspect. Every action, including accidents were 'purposeful' (remember; "the world's not real" you created your action! This included everything from neglect to violence—if it happened to you ­you created it—it was your fault)—and you are responsible for it in your life. There was a case when a boss was sexually abusing a coworker, that coworker was responsible, because they were an aspirant and they created that environment! Tough luck. This the 'highway to enlightenment' you expected a bumpy road, it was hard, it was mean and the meaner it was, you were supposed to 'praise it' because it meant that you were on the 'right path'.

Another 'function' of living in a Satsang household was "control" over everything you buy. Nothing you bought ever was determined by you. Your clothes were determined by Russ. They had to be functional. White clothes only for household, solid (not as in color, but not 'fancy') for work, also because again, you shared your belongings. Shoes were to be made not of leather but fabric or synthetic. Women used cotton tampons only, or liners no synthetic material. All clothes were cotton. Socks were cotton. No shoes in house or slippers. Underwear had to be cotton and white, brief no hip lower. 

The kitchens were outfitted with Bounty white kitchen towels, no print. Toilet paper was Northern no dyes, white only, and there was no deviation without Russ's approval. The list was bigger, trust me; this included every food, every drink, every herb, every condiment, every toiletry, you name it. If it lived in the household, it was Jeff/Russ approved. There wasn't a thing you could do without their approval, and if you did—it was heard from in the meeting after Satsang.

These were known as 'circles.' This was time to sit and unload after Satsang with Russ and Jeff. This was also the dreaded hour that they would do their 'psychic' thing. I put it in quotes because I do believe in ability, just not theirs. They had spies. They would sit during 'circle' and start laughing about 'pizza' or something or another—usually related to something somebody had done. This was done intentionally to 'prove' their omnipotence' (again, the world's not real—they are!) They see all; know all—sort of like a bad Santa. This would "Amaze" us (we'd all talk afterward about it) but it got to be crazy, because later on in time, they would get personal with their 'abilities'. As one ex-member told you, they would have spies tell you about your daily habits, and that wasn't cool.

About ex-member fear it is real and why it is more insidious than most groups, why more people won't come forward with letters.

I want to tell you about the last meeting that many of us had that was directly horrible in most of our minds that was unconscionable to most of us. This was Lane's 'dedication'.
[this refers to services held for Russ' first wife, after she died of cancer] We were gathered at the St Francis household and we were to speak into a microphone (which by the way, is ironic, because recording were never allowed in the Avadhut). We were to tell our name, what we remembered most about Lane, the date and what she said to us, and so on. Seems innocent enough, until the form letters that Russ dictated came back. We were warned in the first paragraph. "Lane communicated all of her talks that she had with all of you with us (Russ/Jeff) either directly or in diary. Word for word, if you deviated in any way from the truth we will know." How scary is that! Do you remember every topic, and discussion you have ever had with anyone word for word without embellishment or omission without paper, tape recorder, etc? We were expected to and then the paragraph continued with this checklist (not complete, and not word for word but to give you an idea). 

"You are obviously clear about your spirituality and loved Lane"
"You are having issues that are clouding your mind and you need to look at your commitments."
"You have problems with your memories about Lane, possibly stemming from your lack of spiritual commitment, if you spend more time meditating on this you can get back to us."
"It is clear to us that you are seeking attention and are lying about your connection to Lane. Your mind cannot be trusted. You are not spiritually minded, and probably need to leave the group."

There were more checks, but I don't have the letter.

[The author suggests a couple of lines of possible research. If anyone reading this has this info, i shall be pleased to hear about it:]
Here's some stuff for you to find: The Guru Book. Or Lane wrote the Chela book. Someone's got to have one. I don't. It contains all the stuff about what is expected of anyone once they get involved with the Avadhut from 1983-1990. (Before Inc and just after). This 'book' talks about hours of Seva, hours of Holidays, Rules of Dress, etc. It goes from causal attendees to renunciates. The deeper you go in the book the less you are as a person, the more rules.

[The author had mentioned that Paul Reps visited SAT in the 80s and wrote a critical article in East-West Journal:]
About Paul Reps, I am deeply sorry to hear of his passing. An Address Sign in Book was kept for all attendance at 123 Archer Drive, in Santa Cruz. (Address before 1834 Ocean) This is where Reps met with Jeff. He signed in. Anyone who lived at Archer Drive would remember this meeting. 123 Archer was a Mansion with marble floors—I washed on my hands and knees with MILK and a RAG weekly took hours. Slept 11 with 8 bedrooms. Russ referred to it as the 'Country Club'—because it had an empty pool in the back. We still slept on the floors and only had altars in the rooms.

Lane. The question, was she enlightened? I don't know. Many times I watched her 'at the front' of the room after she 'got enlightened'. I remember the 'moment' when Jeff declared her enlightened. He watched her like a hawk and then took her pillow and threw it up front on the other side of him at the Dojo.

I know she was self aware, I know she was a wonderful friend, and she was wise. Was she happy? That I couldn't answer. She didn't always look it. She often looked bored up there. She looked like she was in 'another world' daydreaming and she looked aloof, not dis-attached from the world, displaced. There is a psychological term for it, but I am not a psychologist. She just didn't look "here". She didn't look blissful, and that's the main point. I treasured her and I miss her.

As some further thoughts on how close mystical experience and psychosis are and why many of the former Avadhut suffer from mental torments I have included this article about those experiences. This article is by no means all inclusive but it can show that even the academic experts have their share of problems getting a handle on these two ideas.

[It's online at DIVINE MADNESS:
Understanding Authentic Mysticism and Discerning it from Psychosis 
by Richard N. Neumann 

A snippet:]

The distinguishing features between mental illness and mysticism may be 
simple, but not simplistic. "By their fruits you shall know them." The two fruits of authentic mysticism are compassion and balance.


9. [An unusual "letter" here, from me this time :-)]

I have received a number of official SAT documents from a correspondent concerning doings there, mostly in the earlier days. One of the most interesting is a questionnaire to be filled out by those who wished to become disciples. It is "dated," in the sense that Nome ("the Sage") is the central figure and Russell his chief functionary.

There is a detailed set of 264 psychological profile-type questions, followed by a set of 18 essay-type questions requiring long answers, such as this:

Please describe the path of Self-surrender as you now understand it.

Some of the psych-profile questions follow. Save a few, most of the questions seem "innocent" enough on their own, but taken together they mean a serious commitment of trust has to be made before full information is available.

There ARE a goodly number of straightforward who-are-you questions like the essay questions, but only requiring short answers, though i have to say even these kinds of questions would be unusual in joining a spiritual group. The first is one such:

1) What are your hobbies, interests, and recreational activities?

Interspersed with such "normal" questions are deeply probing questions into the applicant's darkest areas. Exploring these areas is of course part of the spiritual path but not upon applying to enter. Given the stories we have heard about how information was used against disciples falling out of favour, to embarrass, shame, keep them in line or worse, it is impossible not to imagine these questions used for an ulterior purpose:

9) Are you currently receiving psychiatric care or psychological counseling? Are you currently receiving treatment for drug or alcohol abuse? If so, please describe your history and present treatment. Have you ever received such care or treatment in the past? If so, please describe your history. Do you have or have you had an untreated alcohol, drug, or psychological problem? If so, please describe your situation (past or present).

24) Did you ever have thoughts of suicide? If yes, how did you deal with, integrate, or resolve them? Did you ever take action based on or expressing these thoughts?

35) Do you have a problem with being in balance in regard to food, sleep, or sexual life? If yes, please explain the difficulty, what happens physically, mentally, and emotionally, and how you are attempting to integrate, resolve or deal with it.

36) Did you ever have a problem in the past with being in balance in regards to food, sleep, or sexual life? If yes, please explain that problem, what happened physically, mentally, and emotionally, and -how you have integrated, resolved, or dealt with it.

48) Have you ever been arrested? If so for what? (Your answer will be kept confidential.)

49) Have you ever been involved in an activity for which you could have been arrested? If yes, please describe. (Your answer will be kept confidential.)
[Yeah, right, though it may be used against you!]

55) How do you respond if you see another person involved in some activity that is spiritually or ethically inappropriate or incorrect?

102) Do you view yourself now as honest or dishonest?

103) What happens physically, mentally, and emotionally that makes you say so?

104) Did you view yourself in the past as honest or dishonest?

105) What has happened physically, mentally, and emotionally that makes you say so?

171) Are you ingesting any medication, prescription or non-prescription, in an ongoing manner? If yes, please describe.

187) Describe the worst moment in your life. Describe the outer and inner factors.

207) Did you ever feel regret concerning anything you have done? If so, please explain.

208) Do you often think thoughts for which you have regret? Please specify what these are.

209) Do you ever refrain from relating with another person because you fear you might do or say something for which you might have regret afterwards?

210) Do you feel there are some topics about which you have so much emotion, strong feelings, or unintegrated feelings that you cannot talk about them?

215) Do you ever feel that someone is trying to influence your mind? If yes, please describe the experience.

216) Do you ever feel, or have you ever felt, that you are being plotted against?

238) Do you frequently feel as if you have done something wrong or evil? (Explain fully.)

243) Do you occasionally think of things that you feel are so bad that you cannot speak about them? (Explain fully.)

Right! And to wind it up, the questionnaire ends with a few meta-questions. Now answer honestly!!

262) Please describe your feelings about filling out this questionnaire. Were you glad to do it? If so, why? Would you rather not have done it? If so, why not?

263) Do you regard these questions as relevant or irrelevant? Please explain your answer.

264) Did you learn anything about yourself in answering these questions? If yes, what did you learn?

It takes courage to explore and process this kind of material, but this is just the wrong time (upon entry) and, apparently, the wrong people. The trust to expose / share such stuff has to be earned, not demanded.

It resembles in appropriateness an advertisement from Maitreya Ishwara. He says something about trust being a sacred quality and then: "Every day is an invitation to let go, to trust. Jump! I will catch you. I am love." It may be sound guidance to one who is already a disciple but as a pitch to newcomers or the general public it is positively creepy. 


10. [This is a public letter making the rounds in Santa Cruz from Kathleen Hanna – presumably not the Bikini Kill Kathleen Hanna – regarding her experience of being subpoenaed by Nome's lawyer in the ever-increasingly ignominious court case nominally over Russell's pension. I have received a pdf image-format copy from a correspondent who has also now graciously sent a typed-out text version:]

January 19, 2007 

Dear SAT community,

My name is Kathleen Hanna. I was a member of SAT from 1994-2000. I joined SAT searching for peace of mind, spiritual growth and a more harmonious compassionate life.

During my time at SAT, I became a disciple of Nome's and attempted to follow his instructions. Consequently, I was involved in much SAT service, SAT businesses and donated all the money I could afford. Many of you surely remember me and I have fond memories of you as well.

Toward the end of my time at SAT, I started questioning some of the actions of Nome's that I saw. As a result, I decided to leave SAT and cease my discipleship with Nome. My honest intention was to leave quietly and peacefully and to go on with my personal spiritual journey. Although I had serious ethical concerns about various matters, I left with no ill will towards Nome or SAT. 

A couple years ago, I became aware that Russell Smith was being denied the SAT pension promised to him by Nome. I did not get involved with the legal proceedings at that time preferring to go quietly on my own way. Certainly, I had heard Nome assure me that some of my donations would go towards Russell's pension. However, many other disciples were also aware of Nome's promise. I am sure more of them will come forward as time goes on.

To the best of my knowledge, my participation in the legal matter was not needed since from what I had heard, Russell's and Nome's parents (they are brothers) knew about the pension and were prepared to testify if Nome reneged on his promise. It is my understanding at the present time that Nome's own mother (his father has passed on) is testifying to the validity of Nome's pension promises to Russell, along with other former disciples. 

I was upset and very surprised when Nome and Jim Clark had their attorney, Derik Allison; suddenly subpoena me for deposition in October. Russell's lawyer did not depose me, nor at any time was I being called as a witness for Russell.

You may wonder if I was subjected to deposition because of what I had observed during my stay at SAT? In any case, I was subjected to an intensely hostile, mean-spirited interrogation for seven hours! I was picked on, verbally abused, cynically insulted and made fun of. Under Nome and/or Jim Clark's direction their attorney was heartless, belligerent and extremely unkind. All I could do was to tell the truth and try in my heart to hold feelings of compassion and forgiveness.

Do you want to know what really happened and what was really said? Why don't you demand to see a copy of the unedited complete deposition from Jim Clark or Nome? You will be shocked and outraged as was I. As a result of that extremely mean treatment, I have decided to start to speak out. Although I previously only wanted to go quietly on my own way, I now feel, after serious contemplation for the past few months, that I must raise my voice and do the right thing.

Consequently, I have decided that I will join Nome and Russell's mother and the former disciples and testify honestly regarding Nome's promises to Russell of a pension. Many of you are aware of those promises as well. You should know the fact that Russell donated the entire amount of his first wife's life insurance money ($100,000) to Nome and SAT as well as that Russell overpaid SAT for his residence ($120,000) and so on for his pension. I have also heard that Nome's and Russell's parents also contributed large sums (almost $200,000) in donations to SAT with the expectation of Russell receiving a pension in return, not to mention Russell's twenty years of selfless service to SAT. Why don't you ask Nome or Jim Clark for a copy of Gloria Smith's (Nome and Russell's mom) sworn affidavit in addition to my own deposition? You will see the truth beyond a doubt. 

In conclusion, all the facts and my own personal direct experience are compelling me to stand up. People should be able to peacefully leave a spiritual group without being bad mouthed, harassed or to have their rightful pension removed. 

I strongly urge you to investigate for yourself what is going on behind closed doors at SAT, not only in terms of this pension suit, but the other issues I raised in my deposition. Question! Pry! Demand answers! Examine carefully. Arrive at your own conclusions. Most of all think twice before giving any donations or monies to any spiritual group before you are aware of all the facts. 

I am aware that there may be those among you who have knowledge of unethical or illegal or questionable activities regarding SAT's Board of Directors, Jim Clark or Nome. If so, please write to me and share your information. You can even write anonymously to me at: 

[contact details snipped]

It is important as spiritual beings that we always stand up for what is just, fair, ethical and good karma. I will always remember all of you fondly and I am certain that together we will proceed towards a beautiful and peaceful future. 

Kathleen Hanna


11. [A shortie put together by yrs truly from supplied info]

Rumour has circulated about a cafe / restaurant being operated by Judy, Nome's wife, in Gilroy, about 25 miles east of Santa Cruz, called Judy's Cozy Coffee. As an investment it looked like not in the Smiths' style, as it would involve a lot of hands-on work. A new day job? Anyhoo, here is the official story: "Gilroy First Vegetarian Restaurant Opening Soon," Aug 31, 2007. Bonus: clickable pic of Nome and Judy! 

But then ! ! . . . 

"51,173 and going strong with a new downtown deli," May 9, 2008 is not mainly about Judy's Cozy Coffee but has this snippet:

"The new deli owners, the Velasquez's, from Hollister, are buying the business at Judy's Cozy Coffee and recasting it."

Well, that didn't take long. Whew! Even better than the day job may be making a fast buck with some real estate flip. One little factoid from the first article: "The Nomes [sic] 'saved thousands' because the city waived their development fees in its ongoing effort to lure businesses downtown." How about that!


12. [Another shortie put together by yrs truly from supplied info] 

The Court decision finally came down, and Nome (First Principle Church) won the case. They don't have to pay Russ anything. Congrats to Laura Innes, Nome's lawyer, who is deemed to have done the better job. When more details come, i will expand this letter.


13. [Will this be you? Stay tuned] 

See also FEEDBACK, a +ve partisan assessment

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