Man who claimed he was brainwashed by religious group wins back house he gave away

A man who claimed he was ‘brainwashed‘ into signing over his £800,000 home to a spiritual guru has won a court battle to get his property back, the Daily Mail reports.

Richard Curtis, 53, and his wife Fiananda were active members of a the guru’s controversial ‘healing centre’ and donated their farmhouse and possessions to their leader, Rena Denton.

Miss Denton – who prefers to be known as Mata Yogananda Mahasaya Dharma – is the 79-year-old ‘spiritual head’ and founder of the Self Realization Meditation Centres movement, which has been described by some critics as a ‘cult‘.

Denton is said to have viewed herself as next in line to Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self Realization Fellowship. When the movement did not recognize her claims she started her own ‘spiritual healing group.’

[The Self Realization Healing Meditation Centre] is run by self-styled guru leader Denton, and professes to teach life skills, yoga and philosophy, from its base in the village of Queen Camel, near Yeovil, Somerset.

On the centre’s website she is described as a ‘Master’ who was ‘asked by the Divine Power […] to be a Guru in this age, to the many souls who are awakening and seeking Universal Truth, Unconditional Love and Wisdom, within and without’.

It has been using Mr. Curtis’ house as an alternative center for its activities.

Mr Curtis left the religious group after discovering his 48-year-old wife was having an affair with another man, the Daily Mail says.

The intelligence specialist then sued the organisation, a registered charity in which followers are referred to as ‘disciples’, to get his house back, claiming he had been ‘brainwashed’.

In July 2009 another former follower sued Denton for the £750 he gave her:

Dr Yehu Azaz says he was ‘unduly influenced’ by guru Rena Denton into donating all his money and assets.

The 50-year-old also gave up a promising medical career to work at the centre for little or no pay, the High Court in London heard. […]

He was allegedly discouraged from speaking to family and handed his assets to the centre – a registered charity, run by Mrs Denton, also called Mata Yogananda Mahasaya Dharma.

A judge dismissed the overwhelming majority of Dr Azaz’s claim on the basis that these claims had been brought many years too late.

“Brainwashing” or “mind control” refers to the unethical use of persuasion methods with the aim of recruiting people into joining or remaining involved with a group, movement, relationship or cause.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday January 28, 2011.
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