I have received a heart-breaking series of emails from a reader about his wife’s experience in Dahn Yoga. Here is the first (I have changed the name and personal details and did some light editing to further disguise the emails’ origin):
Sent: Tue, June 14, 2011 1:01 PM
Subject: Dahn Information
I am a post-doc new Metropolitan and found your blog about an experiment on Dahn yoga ( http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=290 ). My wife is involved in Dahn, and I strongly suspect that Dahn is a cult. Might I know if you can share some information you know about Dahn?
The series of posts to which Mr G refers are the MIT HSP experiments, which I designed and oversaw. I summarized this experience in one post:
Dahn Yoga leader Ilchi Lee created the Korean Institute of Brain Science, a group that claimed it could train children to “read” colors of cards inside opaque envelopes, using “Heightened Sensory Perception.” Because I had experience in these matters and because I was an officemate with a physician who was also a Dahn member, I was able to run a test to see whether the extraordinary claims could be proven. They could not.
On the subject of Dahn being a cult, however, I remain mute. I do not know what a cult is; that is, I could not write a testable, operational definition of one. I have read one book of essays on cults and have discovered (not surprisingly) that many experts disagree on the nature of cults. Further, it is irresponsible to throw around the word cult. To accuse an organization of being a cult is dangerous. Cult is a frightening word. Which is why you won’t see me saying Dahn is a cult. Cult—as far as Dahn goes—is just not a word I will use.
The gentleman who runs No Dahn Cult calls Dahn a cult, and adds evidence to back this up. CNN ran a report which asked if Dahn is a cult. Rick Ross, cult classifier, says Dahn is a cult. Rolling Stone, which has money for lawyers, suggests Dahn is a cult.
I told Mr G that I did not know if Dahn was a cult. But I offered my assistance in other ways. Time passed and Mr G wrote back:
Thanks a lot for your reply.
The most important question now is if you know any people that are ex-members of Dahn yoga near the Metropolitan area that I can contact. Now my wife does not want to listen to me at all because I do not know any, so I hope that I can find some ex-members to talk to her.
I gave Mr G some more information, including that from a contact who wishes to remain anonymous. He thanked me for this. More time passed.
Sent: Mon, August 8, 2011 2:25 PM
Subject: Dahn Information
Sorry to bother you again, but my wife’s situation is getting worse, and she has made up her mind to quit her job and join Dahn.
I want to show her the blog you wrote about the experiment although I am not sure if it is useful, but I will try my best. One thing I am not sure about is that she might question how I can prove what you
wrote is not fake?
Might I know if there is any other information or proof that I can verify that the article you write is truth. I completely believe what you said about that.
I gave him more information about the experiment and my role in it, etc. Unfortunately, this was not much new. But he thanked me and said he would try it with his wife.
My plea to you is if you have any information that might be useful to Mr G to please post it in the comments. I’ll make sure he sees it.
On another front, I received an email from a woman was interested in Dahn and found my blog posts. She said she would sign up for the “starter package” of 10 classes and keep a diary of what occurred. She promised to write up her experience as a blog post. The final email (name again changed) I received from her was this:
I just thought I would check in as I am half way through my 10 sessions.
The classes I have been to are usually of around 8 people (mostly women, but the occasional guy) and last 70 mins normally but probably only about 25 mins of ‘real yoga’. I like the yoga, but I don’t feel like there is any actual teaching involved, just a case of follow the leader, with the leader occasionally correcting your position. (But then maybe it’s like that in any other yoga class!) The part I struggle with most is the enforced smiling, the chanting and belly thumping to a drum beat. I just don’t ‘get’ that part at all.
Otherwise, the fake hugs from the instructors make me a little uncomfortable when, strangely, the other people in the class don’t tend to communicate much with each other. I also feel a little uncomfortable with some of the questions the lead instructor asks sometimes, especially as it is not chatty environment. For example, I have been asked if I live alone and whether I was worried about my work right now. But maybe I am reading too much into that.
After each session there is a corn tea ritual where are invited to various other workshops, retreats and events at varying costs. They even have a new piece of kit that measures your aura for $10 a go. I wouldn’t say their selling approach is overly aggressive, but I guess they hope you’ll feel bad saying no every visit and give in one day.
So, that’s it really. Nothing of substance to report. Just a general feeling that it’s all just very bizarre!
Despite my several attempts to contact Miss R, I never reached her after this communication. She may have just tired of the whole thing, changed her email, or stopped writing for dozens of other banal reasons.
Or she could have stopped because she got sucked into the Dahn organization.