Definitions

claims adjustor

Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness

The Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (or MSIA, sometimes pronounced "messiah") is a 501(c)(3) non-profit religious corporation, incorporated in California on June 25, 1971. Prior to incorporation, the group was founded in California in 1968 by John-Roger (formerly Roger Delano Hinkins). The church has about 5,000 active students, mainly in the United States, as well as in 32 countries around the world.

History and Teachings

According to its website, some of the basic tenets of MSIA include:

  • Out of God come all things
  • God loves all of Its creation
  • Not one Soul will be lost

Its guidelines for behavioral conduct are:

  • Take care of yourself so you can help take care of others.
  • Don't hurt yourself and don't hurt others.
  • Use everything for your upliftment, learning and growth.

MSIA teaches a meditation technique known as Spiritual Exercises. Spiritual Exercises (or SEs) are an active meditation technique based on chanting specific sacred Sanskrit words internally, in a similar fashion to the Transcendental Meditation (TM) techniques. MSIA also offers its students a twelve-year study support subscription called Soul Awareness Discourses. Discourses are a program designed to educate students on the teachings of MSIA and assist readers stay focused on their spiritual practices. Both the tones and discourses are held sacred to each student.

Often called a 'church without walls' by its members, MSIA is not a religion per se, but rather MSIA provides a set of tools and techniques to teach Soul Transcendence, to people of all religions. Soul Transcendence, as defined by MSIA, is the process of becoming aware of yourself as a Soul and as one with God. The MSIA teachings draw primarily on the ministry of Jesus Christ and include elements of esoteric Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and the Sant Mat tradition.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus the Christ said, "The kingdom of Heaven lies within, He spoke the truth and gave us one of the greatest keys to enlightenment.
If you would find the kingdom of Heaven , look within. If you would find the peace of God, look within. These things are not separate from you.
John-Roger (From: The Way Out Book)

Founder

Roger Delano Hinkins was born on September 24, 1934 to a Mormon family in Rains, Utah. Hinkins was raised in Utah and received a degree in psychology from the University of Utah in 1958 before moving to San Francisco to work as an insurance claims adjustor before getting a job teaching English at Rosemead High School in a suburb of Los Angeles.

His official web site lists his education as including a 1958 Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from the University of Utah and a 1960 Secondary teaching credential as well other credentials such as a California "secondary life teaching credential" and post-graduate work at University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California and California State University, Los Angeles.

In the early 1960s Hinkins took a correspondence course with the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis and occasionally attended the Agasha Temple of Wisdom. Eckankar asserts that Hinkins also joined their group in 1967 and was given a second-degree initiation by its founder Paul Twitchell in 1968 but this is disputed.

In late 1963 Hinkins underwent a kidney stone operation, which led to a nine-day coma and near-death experience. Shortly after this, Hinkins visited two trance-channelers and claimed to have encountered a higher consciousness named John within himself, and began referring to himself as John-Roger.

In 1971 Hinkins formally organized MSIA, a new religious movement based in California, United States.

Related organizations founded by John Roger

Criticism and Controversy

MSIA has been criticized by a variety of people over the years, but David C. Lane and Peter McWilliams provide the most substantive body of criticism, both of which focus on the role of founder John-Roger. The gist of Lane's criticism of Hinkins is that he uses spiritual teachings taken from Paul Twitchell's Eckankar, who took them from Radha Soami Satsang Beas, with which Lane is actively involved. MSIA has also been referred to as an "offshoot" of Lifespring.

Disgruntled ex-Minister Peter McWilliams wrote Life 102: What to Do When Your Guru Sues You, which was critical of Hinkins. McWilliams also dismisses MSIA as little more than a personality cult. In his book Williams asserts that Hinkins suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, possibly due to his 1963 coma. At the time of writing the book McWilliams, by his own admission, was treating himself daily with medical marijuana for chronic nausea.

Williams chronicles his extended relationship with Hinkins, accusing him of various misrepresentations and improprieties. However, McWilliams later agreed to abandon the copyright to MSIA to settle libel litigation over the contents of the book, and later asked that the book be removed from circulation in a notarized letter , stating "the content of the book is no longer one with which I would like to have my name associated".

Technically, McWilliams was not sued by his guru as the title suggests, but by his former church in which he had been a prominent minister prior to his estrangement. At the end of his life, Peter McWilliams made peace with his old spiritual teacher and his former church, MSIA.

Cult Allegations

Like many other new religious movements centred around spiritual teachings stemming from one individual's writings and speeches, MSIA has frequently been accused of being a Cult of Personality. Whether or not MSIA should be labeled a cult is a matter of dispute. Both the movement and its founder have been through alleged scandals (published in People Magazine and the Los Angeles Times among other publications) suggesting financial improprieties as well as sexual misconduct by Hinkins. MSIA gained widespread attention during the senatorial campaign of Michael Huffington, whose wife, Arianna Huffington, denied that she was a member of MSIA. [1]

Some researchers of new religions object to the pejorative term "cult" because all religions go through internal and external disputes. These conflicts are often stereotyped in the press and by others as evidence of cult practices. James R. Lewis challenged this notion in the case of MSIA as a cult stereotype in the book, Legitimating New Religions (Rutgers University Press, 2003).

On the topic of MSIA's potential to cause harm to its members or the world, James R. Lewis further asserts:

when compared with other movements stigmatized as destructive cults, MSIA is one of the most innocuous groups I have ever studied .. MSIA specifically states that ... anything ... relating to a person's physical life ... is up to each person to decide for himself/herself. In fact, as with joining any mainstream denomination, almost nothing changes in one's lifestyle when one becomes involved in this church ... Given the lack of outward requirements, I have a difficult time imagining how the organization would go about operationalizing "destructiveness" even if the group's leadership decided it wanted MSIA to start acting like a destructive cult - it would be like the Elks Club trying to transform itself into a destructive cult.

Notable persons who have studied in MSIA

References

  • Frank Rich. "Journal; Manchurian Candidate II", The New York Times, 1994-10-13.

External links

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