An anonymous woman filed a federal lawsuit against J. Michael Shoemaker, AKA Swami Chetanananda, claiming he subjected her to unwanted fondling, digital insertion into her vagina several times, and choking her one time for a “next level orgasm.”
Shoemaker, 74, who wears the orange robes of the Hindu Order of the Swamis, is the founder, spiritual director, and “guru” of the Movement Center.
The adult woman, identified only as GM in the lawsuit but known to the Frank Report, claims Shoemaker “groomed, repeatedly sexually exploited, trafficked, and sexually assaulted” her.
Shoemaker claims they were engaged in consensual adult sex and had a misunderstanding.
GM lived at the Movement Center and now lives in Indiana.
FR has previously written over 50 stories about the Swami, including mentioning GM’s allegations of abuse, and others as bad or worse.
GM maintains she should be allowed to sue anonymously while naming Shoemaker because “the sensitive and incredibly personal nature of the allegations,” would cause her “personal embarrassment, harassment, stigma, and retaliation.”
At the time GM met Shoemaker, he lived with about 70 followers in a historic 61-bedroom mansion in Portland, Oregon. He had lived there from 1993 to 2019. She arrived in 2019.
After selling The Portland mansion for $8.9 million in 2020, he “retired” and moved to a Pacific mansion in Gold Beach, Oregon. GM followed him there along with about 30 of his followers.
Over the years, Shoemaker has accumulated millions of dollars as followers donated money, edited and sold his books, and other merchandise, performed free labor, recruited others, taught classes, and maintained his properties.
Shoemaker, who is well known in the new age spiritual communities as the Swami Chetananada, began his guru career in 1971 when he set up an ashram in Bloomington, IN, called the Nityananda Institute.
In 1982, Shoemaker moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, with some of his followers. He moved again with followers to Portland in 1993, where he purchased the 3-acre, 62,000-square-foot, 61-bedroom mansion and called it the Movement Center.
GM moved into the Movement Center in early 2019 and, in exchange for free room, board and spiritual teachings, she performed work in the office, kitchen and at the Center’s front desk.
The lawsuit alleges:
GM learned from the beginning that Shoemaker was sexually involved with students. One woman told GM that “it was not really sex, it was a spiritual practice and teaching.”
In January 2019, she met Shoemaker, and he invited her to his apartment in the Movement Center.
According to the lawsuit, “He advised her that if they ever were to engage in sexual acts together, it would be a spiritual experience, with the sole purpose of exchanging energies and allowing tension to be released.”
GM left Shoemaker’s room frightened. Later, she started crying.
When GM discovered a female follower was sexually involved with Shoemaker, another follower explained he was “working with her,” and the sex acts were part of “deeper spiritual teachings.”
GM attended meditation classes, spoke with followers, and viewed Shoemaker as an enlightened being “who could not harm anyone because of his exalted spiritual position.”
His purpose was to help followers “work through their tension” to achieve spiritual ascendance.
One day, Shoemaker read GM’s astrological chart. He advised her that if she left the Center to pursue the master’s degree she had intended, she would “be lunch,” meaning something bad would happen and she would be unemployable.
GM expressed concerns about finding a job. Shoemaker told her she could live at the Center rent-free.
The lawsuit alleges:
The only beneficial activities involved her volunteer work at the Ashram, meditation, yoga, and spending time within the Center’s community under the absolute tutelage of Shoemaker as Swami Chetanananda.
GM shared private stories about her life with some of Shoemaker’s followers.
When Shoemaker happened to mention specific details of her life, which coincidentally GM confided to some of his followers, GM confronted those people. They denied telling Shoemaker any of the stories.
GM then believed Shoemaker could read minds and perceive a person’s innermost feelings.
Shoemaker taught that everyone outside the Center, especially those not practicing his teachings, “could not understand the true nature of reality.”
Followers told GM that the world was getting worse, and “people who did not have a spiritual practice would be ‘ground up by the pressure.'”
GM believed her life would be in peril, spiritually, morally, and literally, if she left Shoemaker or disobeyed him.
The lawsuit alleges:
- She felt “coerced into not making any decisions without consulting Shoemaker first, including with whom to have relationships, what career to pursue, and what purchases to make.”
- GM believed “the more she surrendered to Shoemaker as her guru, the more spiritual progress she would achieve.” This surrender was called ‘guru yoga’ and the key to “spiritual progress and ultimately enlightenment.”
- GM had a boyfriend at the time, another follower at the Center.
- She claimed she “was not interested in Shoemaker sexually and saw him only as a spiritual teacher.
She “consulted Shoemaker about her relationship with her boyfriend,” believed “she was blessed to have access to a person as enlightened as Shoemaker, and “trusted he would guide her towards enlightenment.”
On occasion, GM received ‘osteopathic treatments’ from Shoemaker, which entailed her lying down on a massage table, while Shoemaker placed his hands on her tailbone, and under her heart, and the nape of the neck.
GM often worked out with Shoemaker at the Center’s gym. When they were alone, Shoemaker explained that “sex should be shared freely, and that she should not feel guilty for being intimate with others besides her partner.”
GM was resistant, but she believed that “if Shoemaker provided instruction that she disagreed with, this conflict constituted ‘tension’ that [she] needed to release for her own spiritual growth.”
In February 2021, when her boyfriend was out of town, GM and Shoemaker went to the gym. Alone, Shoemaker told her to kiss him. GM gave Shoemaker a light kiss, but he demanded she ‘kiss deeply.’
She complied. She thought these “commands” were “testing her loyalty to the guru, which was necessary for her spiritual journey.”
Throughout the session, Shoemaker alternated between exercising and fondling her breasts.
Though “disgusted,” GM felt he was being sexual to take her to a higher level of spiritual practice. She felt “blessed by the grace of the guru.”
The next day Shoemaker told her to come to his room for osteopathic treatment.
When she arrived, Shoemaker began the treatment, then kissed her, fondled her breasts underneath her shirt, slid his hands down her pants, penetrated her vagina with his fingers, and put his mouth on her nipples.
GM “had a boyfriend and did not want to have sex, but she froze. She did not fight back because she trusted her guru, and he told her that his actions were another spiritual exercise.”
GM developed anxiety after this. She had trouble sleeping. However, she felt guilty if she did not return to Shoemaker for more.
GM wanted to understand how Shoemaker’s sexual teachings aided her spiritual growth. She listened to over 30 of Shoemaker’s videos on YouTube. The videos reassured her that Shoemaker’s teachings and practices were legitimate, and he did not sexually abuse her.
She honored that her sexual acts served a higher purpose.
After the sexual encounters, GM got to sit next to Shoemaker at dinner and was given unrestricted access to him for one-on-one time, which she considered a blessing.
Shoemaker also offered GM the role of editor for his next book and promised he would pay her. GM felt honored because of her background in writing and editing.
In or around February or March 2021, Shoemaker commanded GM to come to his room for treatments. When she entered, Shoemaker was sitting on the massage table. He gestured for her to sit with him and began kissing and digitally penetrating her vagina.
Suddenly, Shoemaker put his hands around her throat and choked her with enough pressure for GM to lose consciousness.
When she regained consciousness, she asked her guru what happened. Shoemaker told her it was a “next-level orgasm.”
She noticed Shoemaker grabbed her hand and put it on his penis. Shoemaker laid GM down on the table, kissed her, and fondled her breasts. Then Shoemaker walked to his bedside table, pulled out approximately $250, and gave it to her.
GM wanted to tell others about these encounters, but students had told her that “speaking about her relationship with the guru would impede her spiritual growth and make her lose spiritual energy that she had worked to gain over her time at the Center.”
The other students would then compare their spiritual progress with hers, which could create bad karma, for which she would be responsible. GM did not tell anyone.
Shoemaker requested GM send him nude photographs. GM felt free not to comply and did not send the photos.
Shortly after the choking incident, Shoemaker invited GM to see him in his room after lunch several times. On one occasion, they discussed her astrology chart. Suddenly, Shoemaker pushed GM onto his bed. He explained that sexual intercourse was essential to spiritual practice.
“While she remained frozen, Shoemaker ignored her lack of reciprocation and forcibly placed her hand on his crotch, groped her, and penetrated her vagina digitally with his fingers.”
Shoemaker did this on another occasion following an invitation to his room after lunch.
GM “finally summoned the courage to set aside her worries about spiritual and physical retribution and left the Ashram in March 2021.”
In her lawsuit, GM claims:
- Because of Shoemaker sexually, physically, and emotionally abusing her, she suffers, and will suffer in the future, psychological injuries, including low self-esteem, loss of faith, anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, stress, insomnia, nightmares, depression, distrust of authority, shame, disassociation, intimacy issues, fear, anxiety, trust issues, challenges in building and sustaining friendships.”
- She “also suffered and continues to suffer economic damages in the form of loss of past and future income and costs of medical and mental health treatment.”
She seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Shoemaker denied the accusations and told the Oregonian, “Every bit of this is complete and utter nonsense.”
He said he and GM had a “misunderstanding,” and he “took responsibility” and apologized “for whatever she was upset about.”
He explained, “Here’s what I’m guilty of — I’m guilty of having sex with women. I have never choked anybody in my whole life…I have never, ever in my life, had to coerce anybody in my life to have sex with me. Why would I be interested in sex if coercion was involved? That’s not connection. That’s not nourishing. I’m a human being trying to grow myself and help other people grow.”
New York-based attorney Carol M. Merchasin, who specializes in cases that allege sexual abuse in spiritual communities, is one of the attorneys representing GM.
Attorney Stephen English, who represents Shoemaker, said, “We categorically deny … the… malicious allegations made against a man who had spent his adult life trying to better the lives of others.”
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Swami Chetanananda, AKA J. Michael Shoemaker, is the abbot of the Church of Divine Energy. He ran his church at the Movement Center in Portland from the 1990s…