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Title Centers of Light - Order of Christ Sophia
Founder Peter Bowes/Clare Watts (real name: Linda Cozzolino)
Leader Peter Bowes/Clare Watts (real name: Linda Cozzolino)
Description

FROM A FORMER MEMBER: "I am a former member of this group. They are a mystical Christian group and I want to affirm that they are indeed a cult. I experienced psychological manipulation and abuse and witnessed this take with other members on many occasions. I wish to remain anonymous. I wrote a letter detailing some of my experiences with OCS at "My Life in OCS", a blog created by another former member. Please see the "letters" section. I submitted my letter in February 2010. The teachers and leaders used each member's past and personality to individually tailor their control methods. I also saw and endured a lot of group humiliation methods as well. My letter goes into more specific details. Please understand this IS a destructive cult and people need to know what they really are like. XXX Feb 14, 201o "I was a member for a couple of years, but I left recently. There came a point when I could no longer explain away the red flags I felt about OCS, and I knew it was time to leave. I believe that most people in OCS are genuine and want to dedicate their lives to God. Point Blank: OCS is a cult. It helps some people but hurts most. They warned me about all of the negative press and controversy, so I never looked at it while I was a member. Too much of what you shared, as well as what other people are saying, mirrors my experience. I have seen priests make claims of divine guidance and blame the students when it doesn't work. I have seen fellow students humiliated at their most vulnerable moments. I have seen relationships break down. All in the name of love. While I was there, the students and teachers would joke about questions they wouldn't dare ask Father Peter. I once heard my priest jokingly tell another student, "I'll let you ask him that. We had a good laugh because all of us knew of the abuse that was sure to follow that question. When I first came to OCS, I was told that they respected and acknowledged the other paths to God. Later on my teachings became narrower and more rigid. Students were encouraged to "shelf" difficult questions or "take things in" (accept prepared answers without question). I was surprised how often relevant questions were ignored, or the student was told that there was something wrong with them for having that question in the first place. Most people in my community eventually stopped asking. No one would dare question FP and MC on anything. The teacher followed their orders unquestioningly, and all students were expected to do the same. We were often told that their words were the same as God's and that their guidance came directly from God. I once heard FP claim himself to be the "most conscious person on the planet". Not even the Dalai Lama measures up as a real teacher in Bowes' eyes. The Master Teachers are "the closest beings like Jesus and Mary on this earth." I never looked into how FP and MC were ordained as Masters while I was in the Order. If you leave, they tell you that you will lose God's Grace and protection. I can personally tell you that hearing this cuts you right to the heart. This is spiritual blackmail, and I'd bet that this keeps a lot of people in line. Anyone who leaves will, "never have another teacher again, because you have not listened to the teacher given to you" and that you will revert to whatever state you were in when you first came to the Order. According to the Bible, Grace is a gift from God, not something that can be obtained by works or association with someone. I have seen people's marriages and relationships and friendships broken because of guidance from the Priests and Master Teachers. Not abusive/toxic relationships, but imperfect, normal ones. The longer I stayed there, the more I saw this. When I would visit other communities, I never got the impression there were ever that many married people in the OCS. The moral and spiritual bar for a partner is set so high that no normal person could ever meet the standard. Once someone becomes a student, even their love life is subject to the teacher's guidance. Married people are told to watch how their spouse is holding them back from God, disrespecting and "keeping them small." Relationships where only one partner is a member are especially strained. Any conflict in that relationship is up for discussion in the OCS community, nothing is confidential or private about the relationship. You can imagine what kinds of conflicts this creates. Single people are not allowed to find a mate without express permission from the teacher. Some of the marriages that I saw in OCS were actually arranged by the Master Teachers. Does anyone know friends or spouses of OCS members who have said they now have healthier relationships? Some of my fellow students opt out of living in the "world" and only want to live at the Center. People there have lost perspective. They see ordinary people as being "dark" and "weird" and themselves as "normal". They use each person's real faults, past hurts and weaknesses as emotional leverage against them. The goal is to isolate that person and bring them completely under the influence of the Order. This happens slowly but, eventually all of one's contacts are exclusively with other members and the teachers. This happened to me and others in my community. The teachers were always advising us to look back at our childhoods to see how our parents caused our problems and to loosen ties from friends and family. The longer you are taught and further you grow, the more dependent you become on the OCS community. You are constantly scrutinized by the teachers and fellow students. Your words, your habits, your likes and dislikes, thoughts and feelings. Even you dreams and meditations are looked at to see how pure you are, how committed, and how you are taking on the teachings. You come to rely on them for approval and the teachers "guidance" to make all of your life decisions. I thought that if you were growing you'd be encouraged to use your new strength and clarity, not discount it. I didn't see much compassion within the OCS for those outside the Order, especially parents. Those on the outside, especially our families, should be given our love and patience even more. I don't think anyone had the perfect childhood or family. Contrary to what the OCS would tell you, most parents do love their kids and have done THE BEST THEY COULD with their own wounds, issues and weaknesses. I have had time to visit a couple of normal churches and I had forgotten how active you could be in the world and still be committed to Christ. We never did anything for the poor, or any kind of mission work while I was in the OCS. It was all about retreats and fundraising and the seminars. You raised an important point on your blog that I had never considered -- no one moves on from OCS. From what I could tell no one ever reached a point where they were healed enough to make their own decisions, or select a mate, raise their own children, or get over their past. I know a former priest who quit because he was tired of the Master Teachers micro-managing his every decision. He actually told me this. There were people at one Order house who had already completed their commitments there but didn't want to leave. Our discussions would often turn to how "weird" and "dark" the world is compared to the Center, and they didn't want to leave. Could the rest of the world be that painful, that dangerous that people don't want to reintegrate with it? If you are looking to get more deeply involved with OCS, I STRONGLY advise you to look into their background and ask God for guidance yourself. Please carefully consider the experiences of other people with OCS, and contact former members if you can. Also, take an unbiased look at this link from the Wisconsin Psychology Board - BOWES If you have a family member or friend involved, DON'T try to dissuade them. They are adults, and OCS doesn't force them to stay. Chances are they will wake up and start to question things on their own. If you try to force the issue, you will only make matters worse. Sincerely,"

Behavior
Control
1. Regulation of individual's physical reality
  a. Where, how and with whom the member lives and associates with
  b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
  c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
  d. How much sleep the person is able to have
  e. Financial dependence
  f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations

2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals

3. Need to ask permission for major decisions

4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors

5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).

6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails

7. Rigid rules and regulations

8. Need for obedience and dependency.

"I personally experienced restriction in where I could go, and who I was allowed to communicate with. Before I decided to leave I was no longer allowed to communicate with my family or close friends. My only associations were with fellow cult members. It was so extreme that I never saw any other students talking with people outside the cult either, not even for business reasons, let alone outside friendships.I was required to "seek guidance" on financial matters, where to live whom I could associate with, where I would live what I could watch. I was strongly encouraged to spend as much free time with fellow members as possible. All members were pressured to report our complete emotional life to the teachers, Sometimes we were rewarded for doing so, others, publicly shamed for it. You never knew what reaction you'd get. Sometimes a "good cop, bad cop dynamic" would ensue to manipulate us. I only realized this AFTER I left. We were required to report even our dream life to teachers and to follow their interpretations of them. We were made to feel guilty for the slightest disobedient or sinful. Even sex in a dream was considered willfully sinful and we were held responsible... No one dared to express their individuality unless it served the interests of the cult. Doing so would result in being pressured and or humiliated into getting back in line. People were discouraged fro using their own talents and labelled as being too prideful if they enjoyed their talents. People outside the cult were viewed with suspicion and mild contempt. We used words such as "dark" or weird to describe outsiders and outside institutions. Seeing ourselves as of the light and striving for purity, this fostered judgement in us and isolated us from community. It also instilled a false sense of pride where we felt more pure than regular people. If we were taught to think like this as low level students them imagine what higher ups are taught. I saw Peter Bowes in particualr blasting normal people for their stupidity, pride, etc. He has a lot of contempt for ordinary people, seeing them as hopeless, moronic, stupid and utterly sinful. Like passive weak-minded cattle."

Information
Control
1. Use of deception
  a. Deliberately holding back information
  b. Distorting information to make it acceptable
  c. Outright lying

2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
  a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
  b. Critical information
  c. Former members
  d. Keep members so busy they don’t have time to think

3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
  a. Information is not freely accessible
  b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
  c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what

4. Spying on other members is encouraged
  a. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control
  b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership

5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
  a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
  b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources

6. Unethical use of confession
  a. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries
  b. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution

"I can tell you that OCS told me and the others to view their ideology as superior to other religions, and deeply superior to normal Christianity. On one particular occasion in 2009, I heard Peter Bowes declare himself the "most conscious person on the planet", at this time. The people in this cult are sincere spiritual seekers. They are altruistic and humble and industrious. The leadership is totally ego-driven and abusive."

Group
Websites

The Order of Christ Sophia Centers of Light Sophia Peace Center Ask Father Peter Ask Mother Clare Sophia Radio

Critical
Websites

Cult or Church Woman questions Order of Christ Sophia Is the Order of Christ Sophia a cult?

Other
Resources
(articles, videos, information)

Centers of Light - Church Group Ignites Controversy In Quincy Centers of Light - Families: Religious Group Uses Cult-Like Methods Sex, God, and chocolate ice cream BY CHRIS WRIGHT Centers of Light - Open Letter to Odyssey Study Group Centers of Light - Anonymous article from a former top leader of OCS Centers of Light - Susan Moss, A Therapist and Former Member Speaks Out Against the Abusive Practices of the OCS