Renee Suberi was among more than 30 people who attended Sunday's meeting of ex-Ramtha students.
Coordinated by David McCarthy, the "Life After RSE" meeting at Millersylvania State Park was aimed at former members of Yelm's Ramtha School of Enlightenment, where JZ Knight purportedly channels a 35,000-year-old warrior from ancient Lemuria.
Suberi abandoned her student status 10 years ago, after 10 years in the school, and never returned.
She estimated she spent about $13,000 for "events" during that time.
"The second best thing I ever did was go to that school. The first best thing was when I left," Suberi said.
McCarthy arranged the meeting because, he said, there are people who don't seem to have an easy time after leaving RSE as Suberi did.
Some feel shunned by friends who stay in the school. Some feel anger because they claim they were duped, abused and "bamboozled."
Current students were invited Sunday as well in an e-mail sent by staunch Ramtha supporter Steve Klein. A copy of the e-mail, was provided to the Nisqually Valley News by an ex-student. In it, Klein urged the fellow students to attend and "assist this group to move on with their lives by listening, learning, and wishing them well in their endeavors."
By the time the meeting started, about 20 current students, some of whom brought their children, were on hand.
"There was no exhibit, by one Ramster present, an iota of warmth or love - only false and superficial shallow smiles," said a former student who asked that she not be named.
Mike Wright, an official representative for RSE, said he attended the meeting "on the clock."
Wright, interviewed at the Nisqually Valley News office Tuesday with James Flick, JZ Knight's "significant other," said he attended because of questions last week posed in the NVN coverage, and also because he read allegations on message boards on anti-RSE Internet sites.
Wright called Sunday's meeting a "tempest in a teapot," and said McCarthy's call for accountability was not addressed, "at least while I was there."
McCarthy said Wednesday that he plans to make a big pot of tea and "it will be called 'truth.'"
"And we're going to make a lot more tea, too."
The Life After RSE group will continue to meet and is planning more public meetings in the near future, McCarthy said. "It's important to get the information out there and let people make up their own minds."
"There will be further tea parties."
Speaking on behalf of Knight, Flick said the story in last week's Nisqually Valley News about Sunday's meeting was "over hyped" and shouldn't have been on the front page of the newspaper.
"It's unfortunate that a small group who have not been in school for 10 years get the front page," said Flick.
"We have reports on people who have healed themselves and come through the halls of the school who have made a better life for themselves. When are they going to take responsibility and move on?" he asked.
"There are lots of people who don't like us," Flick said, among them neo-Nazis.
McCarthy challenged Flick's statement and said he wants to see evidence from RSE as to how people have used the teachings to achieve "remarkable things."
"Although they say the teachings do not work for everyone, show me who they do work for," he said. "Show me how one person created an extraordinary healing or is 20 years younger, anything."
"Remote viewing doesn't cut it," he said. "That's not remarkable."
When Robert Menna, the father of a former student, asked for the documentation several years ago, he never received it, said Menna's daughter, Alexandra.
She left the school five years ago, partly because of the school's lack of response to her father's request for documentation.
Flick also criticized the Nisqually Valley News for not publishing the good things RSE students do in the community. For instance, the students passed a hat at an event several years ago and raised money for a soldier, whom they did not know and who does not live in this community.
The story did not run on the front page.
Flick believed that story should have had a more prominent place in the newspaper.
Wright said he didn't attend Sunday's meeting to intimidate anyone, nor did he think any other student was there for that purpose.
If the intent was not to intimidate, an ex-student asked, "why did they find it necessary to ask questions with the specific, and obvious intent of sabotaging the speaker, put him on the defensive, and discredit anything he had to say?"
As speaker Joe Szimhart spoke and answered questions, Wright took copious notes.
Before Szimhart spoke, however, McCarthy addressed current students, "I've been told to have a wine ceremony and get over this."
Just because he'd been out of school for 10 years, McCarthy said, "That doesn't discount my experiences. I was one of the radical few just like you think you are."
A former "exit counselor" and theosophy authority, Szimhart said his knowledge about groups such as Ramtha followers was gained through study and experience.
He gave an extensive portrait of his background as a "seeker" and spoke of the history of new age gurus.
"Groups like this are not immune to controversy," he said. "They are either on the leading edge or the lunatic fringe, depending how you look at it."
Ramtha claims to be part of the "Great White Brotherhood," Szimhart said, a movement which began 400 years ago with the Rosicrucians.
People join such groups, he said, because they are narcissistic. Narcissism is necessary to a point, but it can turn into a disorder that's not healthy.
"If we experience it," he said, "it must be true."
They think if they first reach self-realization, he explained, then they can help the world.
Szimhart told the crowd that "cult" is the proper word to use, in the academic sense, for a variety of situations, because in that sense, "it's not pejorative."
A student challenged Szimhart on that comment, and insisted RSE is a school. His response; "There is the cult of Ramtha."
There are also cults within mainstream religions, too, he said, like Bible cults, cults within the Catholic Church.
Szimhart said he is Catholic, and unapologetic for it.
Between 1987 and 1998, there were 450 different kinds of groups, and Ramtha was one of them, he said. Brainwashing and thought reform "is something you do to yourself to stay in the group."
"If you know so much, what is your solution to life? What's the truth?" a current student asked Szimhart.
"You asked the wrong question," he said. "Refine your quest, expand your notions." Whether RSE is a school or a religious organization, "In the academic world it's part of the new religion movement, and a for-profit organization."
Szimhart suggested many books as reference materials and invited people to read them for more information.
One student asked what Szimhart offers in place of RSE. In response, he held up a book called, "Take Back Your Life."
The student said Szimhart was just telling students to give up one book, an RSE publication, for another.
Suberi said she stopped thinking for herself while attending RSE, and used Ramtha as a cloak of protection.
Exit counselors help people expand their circle of influence, but the stages of recovery can last for months and years, Szimhart said.
Wright dismissed Szimhart's qualifications as an exit counselor, however. He said there is no certification or any such organization to validate someone who calls themselves that.
Szimhart hasn't been to the school, so he's not qualified to speak about that either, Wright added.
After the meeting, Szimhart said the exit costs to address are the same in RSE as in other groups he's dealt with.
"Any group that suggests a member needs to immerse themselves completely to succeed and to leave everyone who holds them back will accrue a huge social, emotional, intellectual and financial investment," he said. "The lingering beliefs (of ex- RSE members) tend to be more magical and paranormal than most ex-members."
Afterward, Szimhart said RSE students are not very different.
"All new religious groups are unique but the behaviors that define them as a totalist society or thought reform system or 'cult' are the same as other groups with the same behaviors.
The basic behaviors he listed are compliance with a group, dependence on a leader, avoiding dissent, and devaluing outsiders.
Suberi said leaving RSE forced her to look within and become her own inner teacher. Though fellow students shunned her, she found she didn't want to be around them anymore, anyway.
"They had nothing I wanted."
She went to Ramtha, she said, because she wanted to find God.
The complete emphasis these days at RSE is on science - science became the god, quantum field and physics," said Suberi.
Wright and Flick maintain that the basic core message of the teachings have not changed over the years.
The school is progressive, and after a student learns the philosophy, they need to learn how to apply the techniques.
By calling it "progressive," McCarthy said, they have an excuse for turning the teachings away from something that doesn't work.
Suberi said the teachings changed because "they exhausted their bag of tricks."
"Science is impressive and ever unfolding."
If McCarthy feels like a victim, it's his own fault, say current students, but McCarthy said he finds no shame in being a victim.
"They say that to discredit me," he said, "but with a victim, there is a suspect, and the focus should be on what the victim is saying."
Victim or not, however, he wants to deal with Knight directly, but has received no response.
"Her people are not responsible for her actions. She is."
"I respect 95 percent of the people in school, I know where they are in their hearts, I know why they came here, but they get corrupt in the end. She does great harm to people's spiritual lives."
Having received all types of negative response for speaking out, McCarthy said he wonders why RSE is so concerned about him.
"If I'm nobody, why are they bothering to smear me? If I'm wrong, who am I, (going) up against an ascended master?"
"If what I'm saying is a lie and false, can't the ascended master clear it up? Or am I one of the villagers that did not do his disciplines?"