I have not written about J. Michael Shoemaker AKA Swami Chetanananda lately, because I have been busy.
I have had some interesting sources bring me a lot of new information about him. And I plan to trot this out.
Among the reams of new information I have is more about Liz Bazzani, who might have committed suicide after all.
More on that later.
Funny, when I stopped writing about it, people came out of the woodwork, and I now have a more informed picture of J. Michael Shoemaker and the varying credibility of some of those who have claimed victimization.
I prefer to call him Shoemaker going forward, for his pretense of being a swami does not comport with the standard idea of a swami being a monk who adopts the vows of poverty and chastity.
As I recall, Jessica Becker [above] was the first woman to tell me about Shoemaker, whom she calls Chet.
Jayne Lyons was the second. She told me about her daughter Eva, who became close to the Shoemaker.
From subsequent information, some of it quite recent, I learned that Eva appears to have replaced Natacha as Shoemaker’s ‘beloved goddess,’ and helpmate, even successor in teaching the world. This may have driven Natacha, in a drug-addled state, to attempt suicide by jumping off a bridge.
It is clear that Eva was in the same kind of relationship with her Swami as was Natacha. Following him as both a disciple and as his “submissive” in a BDSM relationship, she began an intense sexual and purportedly tantric teacher-lover interchange.
That relationship included what appears to be consensual BDSM practices, much like Natacha and Shoemaker did for years.
There now seems to be almost no doubt that Shoemaker frequently employed rough BDSM sex practices, along with the use of drugs, as his preferred sexual activity.
He was fairly transparent that this was his preference, although sometimes he would surprise a woman with a quick bold act of physical dominance. As far as I can ascertain from interviews with numerous women, many of them recent, every woman knew that it was BDSM, that it was not monogamous, and that he also said this BDSM practice would benefit her spiritual understanding.
A number of woman are sadder, but wiser.
Some are still enamored with the Swami and say he delivered on his promise; some of these are educated professionals and that BDSM is a method of learning more about oneself and about the ephemerality of the human condition and not entirely merely for the pleasure of the participants in a sexual or recreational practice.
It appears that the reason for Eva’s hospitalization was a night of BDSM sexual practice that included strangulation, or what BDSM practitioners call “breathplay” mixed with being hung in an upside down position, which led to a fall, which led to injuries that required an ambulance and hospitalization.
The reason charges were not lodged, apparently, is that it was ostensibly consensual. Like Natacha after her jump, Eva attempted to return to the Swami after her fall, but her mother fiercely intervened and in time extricated Eva.
Natacha’s mother also tried to extricate her daughter, who would have none of it at first- her mother going to the length of relocating near Shoemaker’s mansion called an ahsram, or “The Movement Center,” knowing that this Swami, her daughter’s much-older boyfriend and teacher, was leading Natacha down a grim path, one that was not healthy for her adult daughter. A mother’s intuition shouldn’t be easily discounted.
Natacha preferred her own path, and the result was not, it seems, at all good for her though who knows what growth might come from it, or already has come, in the internal being of this sensitive soul?
But at the time, she broke from her mother and sister, and, as others were rising stars in the eye of her lover, she, dejected, quite possibly deeply jealous, and addlepated by constant use of drugs, a choice she made with her swami’s encouragement, made an ill-fated trip to a bridge.
There are others who have had varied experiences, and it seems the kind of BDSM Shoemaker practices has, because it’s rough and physically demanding, has aspects, obviously, that include inherently imminent physical danger.
Some women told me they benefited from it even if they would not return for more. Many are conflicted. Time has changed the viewpoint of some.
There are many stories to tell, and a deep part of this study may lie in Shoemaker’s despair about his inadequacies and resentment toward women. Interwoven in this is the question of shared responsibility for what befalls women who agree to participate, and later regret it.
How much is she responsible for her adult decisions?
Where is the line of coercive control, brainwashing or even rape drawn against the stark opposition of factors such as adult and verbally expressed consent, respect for a woman’s cognizance, and her ability, presumed (or capriciously not presumed) in law and hoped for in fact, to cognize her own participation as an adult in her own quest in life, even if that be found solely in her own, conscious, freedom-loving choice to follow a man as a teacher or lover or both down a potentially danger-laden path, consensually, knowingly, willingly – knowing there are risks she alone must accept and bear, and not impossible impractical consent for it lacks of the ability to consent as a perpetual infant called female, and that that consent, even to the bizarre and eccentric, frightening, terror-ridden and physically dangerous, in the name of sex or religion, is just as much hers to trod as it is indisputably a man’s, and that this, nevertheless, must be construed as adult consent and a protected freedom, and that later regret does not permit retroactive withdrawal of consent – as if one is incapable of consent for she is woman, for to permit that is to invalidate the law that woman is legally capable of consent as much as she is capable of voting or working or aborting the fruit of her conception.
The women in NXIVM were able to retroactively withdraw consent because and only because Keith Raniere had palpable blackmail material held on them. In the eyes of a jury, consent was invalidated. Otherwise, the activities of he and the women of DOS were legal, even the branding.
The brand of Keith Raniere on his slaves was not found illegal.
Just as there are minimum ages of consent, there is a presumption in law that a woman who has passed this age can consent to sex, even BDSM, unless there is coercion, or some species of blatant fraud. We run into slippery territory when we say Shoemaker is a fraud as a spiritual teacher, hence a criminal, because it is not the role of American government to determine what is true or is fraud in the domain of religion, or such as threats of hell, of rewarding God or gods or goddesses or variations on a theme called life after death are capable of government intervention and bureaucratic fiat as to which is true and what is fraud. You can’t license yoga or patent or copyright it.
Which brings me back to Jessica Becker.
In our next post, Becker, the first to speak out, wants to be heard again. She has a statement.