MasterPath: Leader calls it a path to God, but members say it's a cult movement

The Fargo Tribune/July 19,1990
By Bill Pond

Jill Hutchinson did not die from a disease, nor from a tragic accident.

She is, in fact, very much alive.

Hutchinson is attending college and holding down a job at a Fargo hotel. She lives with her long time boyfriend, Andy Haugh.

But to her parents, A.G. and Lois Hutchinson of Fargo, talk of their daughter comes in the past tense. They speak as if they had lost their 24-year-old daughter to some cruel whim of nature, much like some people talk of losing loved ones to premature death.

In the Hutchinson's living room, Lois points to a jeweled crown in a curio case. She recalls the day when Jill won the North Dakota Miss Teen beauty contest.

It was a time when Jill pushed ambition to the limit. She was curious about the world, quick to exercise the independence of youth.

now the Hutchinsons say their daughter's drive is buried. For two years she has been involved in MasterPath, a fringe religious movement started by Detroit Lakes native Gary Olsen.

"It's funny how Jill has changed," Lois said Monday. "She always wanted to do what she wanted to do. I want her to have a free mind and not have someone else make all her decisions… We want to be a part of her life, but we are not. I don't know what we can do now."

The Hutchinsons have taken drastic measures to resurrect the daughter they once knew. They contacted Rick Ross, a nationally known "cult deprogrammer" from Phoenix, Ariz., in an attempt to free Jill from what they claim is a religious sect that robs followers of their mental independence.

It failed.

After four days of isolation with Ross and her parents at a Lutheran parsonage, Jill was released a day before the deprogramming process was completed.

Jill told her parents that she wanted to be alone for a few days to sort out her life. Yet she was ushered away by her boyfriend, Haugh, a MasterPath devotee of two years.

The Hutchinson's have not heard from their daughter since.

"We love our daughter," A.G. said. "She should be given the opportunity to sort her own life. But instead those people are putting their iron will on her…This is bad, real bad."

Jill Hutchinson is not the first area youth to reach the attention of Ross. In May, he successfully deprogrammed Fargo residents Brock Satter and Beth Silver, both 19.

News of an alleged cult has caused considerable consternation on the plains of the Red River Valley and beyond, a portion of the Upper Midwest noted for its general religious conservatism and mainstream morals. But according to Ross, MasterPath fits the very definition of a cult.

In an interview Saturday, he said MasterPath was simply a new variation of a well established cult known as ECKANKAR, of which Gary Olsen was a member. (See related story.)

"There is nothing unique about MasterPath," said Ross. "Gary Olsen is trying to pass himself off as a spiritual kind of guy. It's just bizarre."

Olsen's perspective

Olsen was born in Grand Rapids, Minn. To Clayton and Ruth Olsen, both members of the Baptist faith. The family eventually settled in Detroit Lakes.

Olsen is vague about the discovery of MasterPath, but claims to be a 25-year devotee. His affiliation, by his account, should have started as a student at the Detroit Lakes High School prior to his graduation in 1966.

In an interview Saturday, Olsen said, "I was raised as a devoted Christian. It ceased to fulfill my deepest spiritual aspirations…"

According to Olsen, he was chosen by a high power to serve as a conduit between MasterPath followers and a greater spiritual world.

"I was selected to be the current representative of the divine. I was selected by the spiritual hierarchy. It's not a physical phenomenon."

He dismisses the allegations of mind control and brainwashing. Olsen says MasterPath is for a chosen few, and not for everyone to understand.

That message, however, is somewhat contradicted by the sect's literature, which states, "The MasterPath is for all people…"

Olsen empathizes with the concern over his faith, but adds that those seeking a greater calling will recognize the wisdom of his beliefs.

"I fully understand there will be animosity and misunderstanding of the MasterPath. People with the eyes to see and ears to hear will know the truth."

MasterPath, he indicated, is actually an age-old teaching known as the true means to contact God. Critics, like Ross, say this is nothing more than cult double-talk.

Olsen, however rejects the "cult" label. He contends that, by definition, all religions are cults.

"Through the eyes of Webster (dictionary), the definition of a cult are the currently existing relations, which primarily worship Jesus the man. MasterPath has nothing to do with the worship of Gary Olsen or his personality. …(article not complete)

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.