Avatar: a cult in the company
Source: Inquiry of Thomas Lardeur, coordinated by Jean-Marc Dubois, Entreprise et carriers [Enterprise and Careers, a French Human Resources journal] n°387 -- the issue of May 13-19, 1997.
If you read French, the original article is at:
Translated by Eldon M. Braun, author of "The Wiz of Orlando."
Notes about this translation:
I ran this article through translation software, then edited it and went over it with a French friend for accuracy. Written French is somewhat more formal and flowery than contemporary written English, especially in business letters and memos, which still tend to be composed in the courtly style inspired by Louis XIV. I have tried to maintain some of this flavor, which I find charming.
The quotes from Avatar literature and Harry Palmer's revelation at the first Wizards Course are "back translated" into English from French, so they won't match the original English text word for word. I asked Harry Palmer for his original speech about the Galactic Confederacy
and his appointment as Messiah by the Estro Companions, but he did not respond.
The French are fond of bureaucracy and detail. The acronyms for companies and other organizations used in this article are common knowledge in France. I have briefly explained them throughout the text. Here is a short glossary that defines the important ones:
is "AssociationNationale PourL'Emploi," the French national employment agency.
are two of the seven national trade unions in France.
the EDF branch of another trade untion, "Confédération générale des travailleurs."
is the EDF production division, "Direction of Electrical Production and Transport."
is "Électricité de France," the government power monopoly. France's electricity generation is 80 percent nuclear.
includes "Gaz de France," the national gas company. The two sister companies form a conglomerate.
is "Federation Nationale d'Emploi," a national employees' trade union that includes many branches for specific industries and regions.
Just a year ago, at the time of a major investigation published in N°349/350, we tackled the delicate question of cults in vocational training. Many readers responded to this investigation with an obvious desire to know more. Many companies were moved to action, proving that the subject was, and is, always relevant. So we decided to continue our investigations in several directions. The one we offer today, about Avatar, is the result of several months of work, which allowed us to better understand the extent of this phenomenon, and its many effects on individuals as well as companies. "Avatar" is the first article in a series; others will follow in the next months.
Certain cults among the 172 indexed in the Parliamentary Report on Cults of January
, 1996, promote themselves to corporate culture via training organizations. One example is the Church of Scientology (1). Another movement found itself in the spotlight several times because of trainings conducted, in particular, at EDF and ANPE during the year 1996: "Avatar".
In the working documents of the parliamentary Committee on cults, it is classified in the category of the "psychoanalytical" movements which "develop diverse parapsychological techniques to cure various unconscious traumas."
Inspired by the current "New Age" movement, Avatar is comprised of 21 subsidiary companies in France. The same working documents qualify it as "harmful with regard to the individual"
(2) (due to both mental destabilization and exorbitant financial requirements); and "to the company"
(due to diversion of economic resources).
The people in charge of "Avatar" defend themselves somewhat. According to them, Avatar can even be "...a very relevant tool to avoid cults! Using methods like "Avatar" to promote instruction in freedom, founded on the knowledge of the phenomenon of beliefs, personal strength and dignity, we would naturally shelter our children from totalitarian temptations."
So why is it necessary to consider it? Which is the history of Avatar? Which criticisms are made of it? What occurred at EDF at the beginning of 1996? And which organizations which offer Avatar? Enterprise & Careers inquired.
(1) See Enterprise and Careers N°339/340 (April 29, 1996).
(2) Mental destabilization: "This expression means destabilization by persuasion, manipulation or any other common means, in order to subject the person to another's influence," Report to members of Parliament on cults, page 76.
(3) Avatar press kit, 1996.
Origin and birth of Avatar
The originator of Avatar is an American, Harry Palmer, who enjoys being described as a "poet-engineer-beatnik"
(Living Deliberately, Harry Palmer, 1994). After beginning engineering studies at Clarkson College of Technology in 1962, he decided to leave the university three years later. He took odd jobs then, becoming a cook, painting rooms of motels, visiting communes and packing food at co-operatives. In parallel, he studied Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, before receiving a Bachelor of Science diploma in 1969. He taught literature courses.
In 1972, he participated in a "spiritual guidance"
meeting, namely Scientology (1). He then opened the Center for Creative Learning, a branch of the Church of Scientology in Elmira, New York. He directed it over about fifteen years, until the day when serious financial disagreements arose between Palmer and the local disciples and, at the same time, with the Church of Scientology. Palmer separated from Scientology and left with the obligation to no longer use the trademarks "Scientology" and "Dianetics."
- A "gesture of kindness"
In an interview given in 1988 to the Star Gazette, an American newspaper, Palmer says he was the victim of an "extortion campaign"
at the same time promising to make refunds, with no obligation, as a "gesture of kindness."
He then set out "to explore many systems of beliefs, the psychedelic movement, Eastern philosophies, the hippie movement, Zen, modern psychology...."
It was at this time he began to develop a particular technique: "I create my experience according to what I believe."
To arrive to this end, he replaced the table of his dining room with a 500 kg sensory deprivation tank. He remained inside over an eight week period in a state of weightlessness, thanks to an Epsom salt solution dissolved in water.
"It was at this time,"
he states it in his book "Living Deliberately, "that the Avatar lessons appeared. I observed my consciousness become defined, starting from the void, advancing and ebbing like the tide, in this non-space ocean of inexpressible source consciousness. From this point of view, one can perceive or apprehend (i.e. to perceive without instructions) a thought form. It is something!"
Before concluding: "relativity is the ultimate truth! If Albert Einstein had had a tank, he would have understood that much earlier."
- Avatar was born
In summary, Avatar is a "technique which helps you to plunge, with delicacy and precision, into the heart of your psychic operations; it teaches you how to recognize and to demolish "programming." (2) You yourself decide which reactions seem inappropriate; so it also gives you the means to create other ways of being which fulfill your desires and agree with your values."
(Promotional documents of the Otium organization).
This "technique" fits in perfectly to the New Age ideology; the idea is this simplistic: "you experience what you believe and not the opposite"
So, to change one's life, it is enough to change what one believes. Reality, which is only a belief itself, can thus be modified at leisure. Experimental tests of the first Avatar were done in November 1986. Then expansion plans were made. There were 400 graduates in 1987, and 4000 in 1989. That year, the courses were offered in 500 centers, 26 countries and 8 languages! This idyllic scene didn't last long before undergoing some reverses. Four former Scientology employees who were in the original test group sued Palmer in 1988 for unpaid wages. At the same time, some Avatar Masters raised criticisms and banged noisily on the gate.
The expansion of Avatar's fortunes slowed down at this time. Nevertheless, today the course is still delivered in 46 countries. It may have been taken to date by 30,000 people.
(1) Church of Scientology appears in the parliamentary Report/ratio on the cults. See Enterprise & Careers N°339/340.
(2)"These programs are founded on your beliefs, what you believe of yourself and the world. By discovery them, and learning to modify them, you cease to be pawn of "autopilot" functioning on outmoded criteria (even if they were yours), to become the conscious creator of your own destiny." (Otium promotional documents)
(3) This lawsuit concluded in 1991 by a judgment in favor of the former Palmer employees. Their award: $11,729.66 US.
The text of the Avatar courses
- The basic course
Lasting from 6 to 9 days, at a cost of 12,000 francs, the basic course of Avatar claims to make it possible "to learn the principles controlling creation and the experience the dis-creation and management of reality."
It is supposed to offer such results as "The ability to perceive reality without judgment, deformation or separation, to modify personal reality, to change bodily sensations, interpersonal conflicts, dependencies, beliefs, and compulsions." It should be noted that in order to finish the course, the trainee must "become his own source"!
(The Avatar Materials)
In a simpler way, the goal of the course makes it possible to explore one's own consciousness and "to modify all that one wishes to change!"
Thus, the student is brought to learn that man creates for himself his own beliefs and his reality. The solution thus consists of creating and "dis-creating"
his ideas instead of analyzing them.
In practice, the student reads under the supervision of a Master (teacher) duplicated lecture notes, labeled "Avatar/Confidential Materials." These are divided into extracts of lectures describing Harry's experiments and a series of exercises. Some examples include repeating sentences of this type many times: "I am happy to be me ." "I decide." "I am source."
There still remains the principal exercise of Avatar called "the procedure for handling creation ." It is supposed to allow the student to dis-create his unwanted beliefs and create new ones. Since 1993, this course has been preceded by a one day training course (cost: 600 F) or two days (the Resurfacing workshop, 1,800 F).
- Then "Masters" and "Professionals"
Those which wish to continue the experiment can be registered for the Masters Course, which is only taught by teams from Star's Edge, the company in charge of marketing the method. Lasting 9 days, at a cost of 18,000 F, it enables you to receive a provisional license to organize and lead Avatar training courses.
In 1992, the "Professional" course was added (15,000 F for 7 days). The reason for this course is explained by the fact that some Masters "succeed accidentally"
and others "deliberately"
(Document of Avatar, Section IV of the Professional Course). Professionals in a field are those who can deliberately do it. This ability is attained in proportion to one's ability in the "components of life"
. This new course enables them "to activate and develop the six decisive components of success (existence, motivation, perception, action, organization, and alignment)."
- Then Wizards
Finally there remains the ultimate stage: the Wizards course [called "Magicians" in the French course version] (14 days, 45,000 F). Introduced in 1991, this course makes it possible to you to manage and extend the network of Star' s Edge.
More precisely, "The word magician indicates a master who acquired such a comprehension and such a mastery of creation that his capacities seem magic or supernatural."
(the Avatar materials, Section V--Magician). He is supposed to learn "the ability to act and perceive independently of the body, the ability to identify and establish contact non-physical forms of life, and the ability to propose and carry out a mission of aligned civilization."
Studying it, one sees it as conferring a mission: "the goal of the magician is to transmit wisdom and to develop powerful individuals who will become centers of social influence"
in order to "create a cooperating organization which can assume an enlightened AND WISE world management."
The Magicians can thus rise "above the world"
and "deliberately modify the collective creation called civilization."
But surely more surprising was the lecture at the first Wizards course
given by Harry Palmer in Orlando (Florida) in January, 1991, in which he explained the purpose of this course. He spoke about an old "galactic confederation,"
where the beings were "able to concentrate thought within themselves without effort and with a high degree of accuracy."
They thus achieved "the great scientific realizations"
. But as "each generation continued to increase the mass of knowledge,"
it was calculated "that this mass was going to become so extensive that a member of the Confederation could not live long enough to assimilate all of it. At this point in time, the Confederation adopted the technique known by the name of indoctrination by stimulus ,"
which makes it possible "to transfer in a few hours the instructions and the data"
which a person needs "to carry out complex functions."
Then, a cataclysm occurred which erased the Confederation except for one planet, "the companion of Estro."
It was "a civilization where the collective consciousness was released from the chains of beliefs and evolved into an enlightened age."
Its inhabitants, the Companions, "started to explore and colonize the intermediate areas of the Milky Way"
and "sowed seeds of life on 33 planets, one of which was our planet Earth"!
These "spiritual teachers"
were, it was said, able "to cross the bridge which links the spirits"
and "also had the secret of changing gravitational fields"!
After the Apocalypse, their mission consisted of "helping any civilization having reached its technical maturity to pass without encumbrance into an enlightened era before destroying itself."
And Harry Palmer concluded his speech in these terms: "You will discover that you have the integral memory of all the events which my words described. All you need to do is learn how to listen and look in the right place."!
Harry Palmer thus offered his students the opportunity to access these magic abilities (which we all unconsciously must have according to him), in order to form part of an elite and supreme mission to save the earth from the cataclysm which threatens it! --with the condition, however, of spending acres of green in the amount of 80,000 francs to complete the course...
No result is guaranteed. A final contract each student must sign before beginning study includes a release in which he agrees not to "copy, adapt or disseminate in any manner any of the confidential materials," "nor to take any legal action against Star's Edge" and "to pay $10,000 US (approximately 55 000 francs) in the event of violation."
Lastly, the student must "recognize that no employee of Star's Edge and/or its representative... has made any promise of results."
(Avatar document pages 122 to 124).
History of Avatar in France
Introduced in France in 1987, the Avatar seminars rapidly became successful in many quarters. At that time they did not scorn publicity. Today, discretion is preferred, and loose talk by organizers is discouraged or sometimes forbidden. The Avatar seminar was introduced in France in 1987 by Eddy Savary, who created the "first Center of Creativism" in Montpellier (Avatar newsletter N°4,April, 1988). Success was immediate. France had the strongest rate of development in the world. There were two reasons: Avatar was a new technique for personal development, a very popular trend at the time. Also, it promised money-making opportunities as part of the adventure.
Tens of participants, then hundreds, took the course at these "Centers of Creativism" that sprang up everywhere in France. Their commercial documentation is interesting: "Avatar can help you to achieve and live your dream"! "Fasten your seat belt and hold onto your hat! What you will read is likely to surprise you." "Avatar may well be what you've been waiting for." "We have the tools to avoid the destruction of the planet; why not use them?"
Moreover, in these documents we find eulogistic testimonials of advisers in human relations, heads of companies, businessmen, organizers of training courses, teachers, biologists, nurses, professors of literature, therapists, and so on.
It would be difficult to resist such bait! And by 1990, there were flocks of Masters--700 in all. Among these was Michel Langinieux
. He took the course in 1989 on the advice of a friend who was a Master, Claude Portais
. He was enthusiastic. His opinion is quoted in the book Creativism: "If you want to discover who you really are, you don't have to wait! No need to spend 50 years in a monastery! No need to reincarnate for ten thousand years! Jump in: Avatar is a gift! It is possible. Immediately! It is the fantastic thing you've waited for. Grab it; it is made for you."
Langinieux became a Master and presented Creativism free to hundreds of people until one day when a friend announced to him that the "Creation Handling Procedure," the confidential method at the core of the Avatar teachings, was the documented copy of a work written ten years earlier: "The Hidden Mind of Freedom"
. The author, Tarthang Tulku
, said to be a reincarnated lama, was the head of the Tartang monastery in Eastern Tibet. He is also founder and chief lama of the Tibetan Nyingma Institute in Berkeley, California. His book costs only 50 francs, whereas the courses of Palmer were delivered at ransom prices.
Langinieux didn't stop there, especially when he discovered soon after that a lawsuit had been brought against Palmer by former Scientologist associates who claimed unpaid wages. Langinieux addressed Palmer directly in order to understand. He insisted on an answer. The response was that he was inserting a "black worm
", and his license was suspended! He then decided to alert the other Masters, and sent nearly 5,000 letters throughout the world. He also notified French publications specializing in these key issues: Sources Nouvelles, Base of the Sky, and Third Millenium, which did not respond.
Avatar, says Langinieux, "was for me a process of awakening my awareness of the silly ignorance and extraordinary despair shared by human beings in our time; their cupidity equaled only by their naivety; their need to be acknowledged, which removes their common sense, and their desire to be loved! I saw people being taken for God. Taken entirely over the edge for months at a time. And afterwards, that turned to disaster... Avatar stirs up many illusions. And you gain neither understanding, nor solace, nor control of things. Avatar promises all! However, Avatar does not exist, it is an illusion. It is a thousand-year-old teaching with nice packaging."
- Becoming a Master who can teach.
Another example: Danièle Soulier, an independent trainer, was offered the Avatar course in October, 1990 by a psychologist in Montpellier. Soulier was enticed not only by his promotion, but also by the idea of becoming a Master and teaching Avatar herself. She paid 12,000 francs, and took the course along with doctors, lawyers, and psychologists. Satisfied, she registered for a Masters course scheduled for November in Napoule. Moreover, she was able to pay only 15,000 francs instead of the usual 18,000 francs. One of her friends, Edme Robert, a trainer in AFPA, decided to accompany her. During the Avatar course, "people said: "I have a problem," so they did the Creation Handling Procedure and their problem disappeared. But for me, that didn't work. This is why I wanted to continue,"
explains Edme Robert.
They then took the course to become teachers. "The CHP still did not work for me. However, the other training wasn't bad, like how to approach future customers, how to canvass the newspapers for people interested in personal development, how to compose mailings to companies,"
says Robert. "Then at the end of the Masters course, Palmer announced the creation of a new course: Wizards."
Danièle Soulier paid for the course immediately. Edme Robert decided to accompany her there to attend the lectures, but without paying or officially registering.
Both new Masters went back home and opened a center. They delivered the Avatar course to four people before flying away to Orlando, Florida.
They attended the first morning lecture by Palmer (see Wizards Course, above), and were astonished. Whereas the Avatar seminar "does not preach a truth or encourage anyone to believe this or that, the Wizards course imposed the beliefs of Harry Palmer on us."
Then at the beginning of the afternoon, Edme Robert was summoned by the people in charge at Star's Edge, who asked him why he had not paid. He explained to them that he only came to observe and did not wish to pass the final examination. And then, "Had Harry not stated in 1987 that there was nothing after the Avatar course, and that if there were additions, those would be available free for those who had taken Avatar?"
(according to the Avatar documents). After a few hours of waiting, he learned that he was not welcome there. Then, the next morning, Danièle Soulier was also summoned by the Star's Edge trainers, who wanted an assurance that she would not give any confidential course materials to Robert. She reassured them on this point before being told she also was being excluded from the course.
- A forced exit
She then tried to meet Palmer to get an explanation. No success. The two "bandits"
then decided to go to the course room during the next lecture. But as soon they came through the door, Avra, Palmer's partner, ordered members of the team to take them out. "I was seized, picked up and manhandled,"
says Soulier. "I shouted and kicked. Out of 200 masters in the room, only three women reacted and got them to release me."
Finally, they were offered a chance to discuss the situation at 11:30. They left the room and returned at 11:25. To their surprise, the lecture was already finished, and only twenty French people remained in the room.
- End of the story
They returned to France, having spent the cost of the trip plus their expenses for a course they could not attend.
They decided to create "The Association for Consumer Protection in Personal Development Training." They sent letters to 700 Avatar Masters and distributed leaflets in the places where the courses were held.
- Dissociation of the personality.
The judgment of Edme Robert is severe: "For certain people who are troubled by negative thoughts, Avatar as well as Transactional Analysis and NLP can give the impression of relief. In reality, Avatar ends up causing a dissociation of the personality. The student lives more and more in his head and according to his will, while worrying less and less about others. The courses become increasingly expensive, progressively conditioning and dissociating the student. The complete course costs nearly 100,000 francs. But the pleasure of of assuming the role of a creative god has no price."
According to Star's Edge and the French speaking trainers, Langinieux, Robert and Soulier "had not really integrated the Avatar data, so they turned against its author and unleashed a flood of mail disparaging the personality of Palmer to the media, specialized associations and other trainers."
(Avatar press kit). But regarding the criticisms made against the Avatar system, not a word.
- Avatar stirs up many illusions
We asked Harry Palmer, via Carole Hannequin, French representative of France of Star' s Edge, about the exact details of these criticisms and his personal history as founder of Avatar. He chose not to answer our request. As for the Wizards course, according to Hannequin, it is strictly "confidential"!
The organization UNADFI (National Union for the Defense of Families and Individuals) has received many complaints, which it summarizes as follows: "Avatar stirs up many illusions and holds out to participants the promise of controlling all their problems."
UNADFI adds: "Through this program of ongoing self-delusion, there is a danger of dissociation between reality and imagination, and deterioration of the personality through the loss of critical ability. It is about dis-creating and rebuilding everything, even morals, even love. Some participants may find themselves extremely destabilized after such courses."
Following these events, the number of Masters course graduates continued to decrease in France. Carole Hannequin explains that this decline was caused by "extreme language in the advertising materials"
and "teaching errors."
The Avatar seminar then disappeared from the magazines and was conducted very discretely until January 1996, when Avatar returned to front stage. It was EDF that made headlines in the national press. "Guru warning!"
(Le Canard Enchaine, January 10, 1996). "Cult alert at EDF!
(Le Parisien, January 18, 1996).
A few months later, another organization [ANPE, the national employment agency] appeared in the regional press. "Cults: strange training for the unemployed"
(Midi Libre); "In Céret: Magicians to the rescue of the unemployed"
(L'Independent), and then: "ANPE: smelling like a cult"
Today, you will not find more than 30 to 50 licensed Masters in France. We were not, however, able to obtain the complete list: confidentiality is necessary.
The EDF affair (The French Power Company)
Or to put it another way, "Revealing its vital inner energies: About the religious-mystical organizations within EDF"
. It was with this headline that the newspaper L'Humanité revealed to the general public on December 30, 1995. Let's review the scandal at EDF that has caused so many upsets over the past two years.
It all began in 1992. Jean Fluschére, director of the EDF nuclear power station in Bugey, Ain, asked an outside consultant, Alain Coudeyras, manager of the limited liability company CPV Conseil
, to evaluate and recommend improvements in procedures of the executive committee at the power plant. After completing this assignment satisfactorily, Alain Coudeyras was entrusted with a new project, followed soon by others at most nuclear power sites.
Among these assignments, CPV Conseil gave training courses. Two nuclear power plant employees took a first session and expressed satisfaction. Then in 1994, three more employees were in turn offered the "Leadership Energy" course. The objectives mentioned in the course literature are noteworthy:
"To acquire the technology of 'Leadership Energy'"
- total self-control in the way one reacts to upset, dealing with it and controlling it.
- discovering one's internal creative energies.
- creating positive, harmonious and effective systems of operation.
- Critical opinion
After returning from the course, two of the three employees severely criticized the seminar to their superiors. The management of the power plant investigated, and suspended any further assignments to CPV Conseil while awaiting the results. Alain Coudeyras was told of rumors circulating about him regarding "mental manipulation"
or "avatar-links with cults,"
which he naturally denied. One year later, the management of the power plant suspended all doubts about Coudeyras, and entrusted three new projects to him. In all, CPV Conseil carried out about 25 projects, and worked with 460 EDF employees.
The story might very well have ended there, if not for a phone call from a personnel department employee to FNE-cgt [local office of a major trade union] of Bugey. He informed the union of a seminar taken by employees of EDF. What alerted the union was that these employees had been instructed not to discuss the details of the seminar. Besides, their criticism of the training course was persuasive.
The trade union considered this enough reason to contact the CFDT and FO. [Other national labor unions]. They agreed to obtain more information and discovered that an investigation of the subject, for reasons of nuclear security, had already taken place in 1994. EDF Employees attest to having answered questions at that time.
At the same time, the trade unions received information on Avatar from the Association for Defense of Families and Individuals (ADFI). "There you really get the picture,"
states Serge Lefort, secretary-general CGT-EDF-Production-Transport Lyon. [CGT is yet another trade union.]
Fears arose about the mental health of the workers. There was increasing concern when stories appeared in the press about Mandarom and its extraterrestrial Messiah, about the parliamentary committee on cults, and about the lawsuit against the Church of Scientology in Lyon. Moreover, it was then that Carole Hannequin's story came to light.
- Management Investigation
After having consulted with a corporate medical doctor, the trade unions took action in September, 1995 against the new director of the power station. Their objective: to prevent the next seminar of Coudeyras scheduled for October. The director carried out his own survey then and alerted top management in Paris, which decided to call a halt on all association with Coudeyras.
This information is confirmed by a memo of October 4, 1995 from the management of the SFP (EDF's professional training service). In the memo, sub-manager Nicole Daurés says that "the operation of the Avatar system raises certain fundamental questions."
And continues: "It is obvious that such ideas are incompatible with our values and our approach to training. Thus, the decision to break with these organizations is entirely justified."
Three organizations were named: CPV Conseil, Otium
- No more association
Following this letter, tongues began to wag. Trade union CGT learned that Coudeyras planned to hold a new seminar at the college of Engineering Management Services, Rhone-Alps in Albertville at the end of October. Then, on October 17, a memo from Pierre Carlier, the director of the DEPT, (reproduced below) instructed the directors of EDF departments "to cease any collaboration with these organizations."
Internal EDF memo of October 17, 1995:
From: CARLIER, P - ED-dir
Date: Tuesday October 17, 1995 17h29
FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
The information from various reputable sources leads me to kindly request you to cease any contact and any action with the company called Conseil, directed by M. COUDEYRAS and the company OTIUM directed by Mme. Carole Hannequin. These companies deliver training courses in personal development. Our decision is based on genuine questions in terms of ethics and risks of "selling under the influence" to fragile or weakened people.
The method offered, called AVATAR, takes as a starting point the school ARICA, whose initiatory teaching rituals call to mind the operations of organizations of the "mystical religious" type.
An internal note of the SFP of the 4.10.95 confirms the decision to stop any collaboration with these organizations after obtaining "ethical and scientific" opinions.
We remain, Ch. HULLIN and myself, personally at your disposal for any further information. I count on you for an immediate halt of any relationship and association with these organizations.
At the end of December, the media announced the publication of the Parliamentary Report on Cults. Although EDF management had entirely stopped any collaboration with these training organizations, the trade unions felt that the time was right to speak out. So the FNE-cgt assembled a file called "Cult teachings within EDF-GDF? Evidence."
They notified the media, starting with L'Humanité, which published a first article on December 30, 1995. At the same time, the FNE-cgt Lyon EDF-Production-Transport decided to inform its members with a leaflet. This was picked up by the national press, which was then brought before court by Alain Coudeyras
At this time, the trade union addressed a letter to the general managers of EDF and GDF to inform them of the situation. The remarks are unambiguous. "...even the partial documents and statements which we have issued put a chill up one's spine. Leaders of the two companies (EDF and GDF) have endangered the health of employees placed under their leadership."!
For EDF on the other hand, the business was finished. "We ceased any association with these suspect organizations when we were informed of such practices, and that was long before the press ever brought it up,"
emphasized Jacques Pevet, training director with EDF-GDF.
- The future?
he continues, "has begun to improve the purchase of training services. We now have safeguards which would prevent us from being trapped in the future. In any event, we will remain vigilant for organizations which might have links with cults."
Extract of a CPV Conseil promotional brochure
- Control and positive management of stress
- Positive behavior and thought
- Annual maintenance evaluation.
- Training courses off site.
- Since 1988 more than 800 trainees
were highly motivated by our methods.
Alain COUDERAS, Founder and leader of CPV Conseil
AVATAR is the best program today to enable Leaders and lay the foundation for surfing the big waves.
- Professor of Internal Communication with the ESCOM [College of Commerce] of Lyon.
- Licensed Master of Star's Edge International, Orlando (USA)
- Impassioned by personal development...and by aviation sports.
Interview with Carole Hennequin
"I was in search of a higher level of consciousness"
Could you introduce yourself?
As a graduate of HEC in Educational Sciences, I returned in 1973 to EDF-GDF as a sales strategist. Thereafter, I became a trainer, then leader of a training for supervisors who wanted to become managers in the nuclear power industry, and finally went into consulting. At this point in time, I felt the need to free myself. I took a leave to create my own company in 1989, and formed a non-profit corporation under called "Otium" with Domenique Rochier, a former researcher at CNRS [a national scientific research organization]. We do consulting in human resources. Since then I have worked in consulting, particularly for EDF It was in 1989 that I discovered Avatar.
Why were you attracted by Avatar?
I was in search of a higher level of consciousness. I had followed the teaching of a Master Sufi and done meditations guided by him, before getting involved in a path of self-knowledge related to self, the Adva Vendanta. That was when I heard about Avatar. The promoters of this method said that it made it possible to easily achieve results that would take years with traditional methods, if ever. For me, it was worth giving it a try. When I finished the Avatar course, the high wall that seemed to separate me from the state of pure consciousness was transformed into a hedge of 30 cm, easy to jump over. I decided to teach Avatar because it is the simplest way to go right to the heart of what people really seek.
What about your customers?
I taught about fifty people in Avatar over 5 years, ten in corporate trainings (EDF, Thomson, the RATP). Like the course "Target Goal" that I co-created in 1993, it was quite successful. More than 100 trainees took it, both individual participants and employees financed by their companies.
[NOTE: Thomson is a large French electronics company; RATP is the Paris Regional Transit Authority. ]
How did you learn you had been kicked out of EDF? And what do you think about it?
The "Target Goal" seminar was very well received by a few departments of EDF. It was effective in helping some employees better define their professional projects. Then I went to Paris to offer it to a person in charge of human resources on the national level. My contact acted extremely reserved and told me that a conflict was happening in the Lyons area with the local CGT about training courses given by an office whose consultant had recommended Avatar. He was worried that the press would make trouble about it. After that, I received a letter from EDF's Professional Training Service saying that a decision had been made to stop any collaboration with me, as well as the other organizations promoting Avatar.... My impression is that there is a lot of incompetence in this area. I think there were inaccuracies and confusions, doubled by a fear of change. Those conditions don't support an objective and unprejudiced look at the facts.
You represent Star's Edge in France. What exactly is your role today?
When I was offered the chance to represent Star's Edge in France, the main role was to be the interface of Star's Edge with French speaking people: to facilitate the information flow, both within the network for trainers and the students who didn't speak English, and outside for all the people who want to know more about Avatar. So I deal with the translation of documents produced by Star's Edge and with the flow of information to the public and the media. I do not have a hierarchical position. Star's Edge is a company with very little hierarchy. Each trainer deals directly with the service company in the United States concerning his contracts and his work.
Why do you think Avatar appears in the parliamentary report?
... for my part, although I represent Star's Edge in France, I was not consulted ... in order to find out what justified putting Avatar in this report... I questioned the President of the general parliamentary Committee on Cults, the Information and Interdepartmental Observatory on Cults. The only answer I got is that the criteria are confidential. In other words, you are named, but they don't want to say why! I believe that once again, this bad work resulted from an action taken under the influence of fear and pressure.
What were the consequences for you?
With all the press coverage after the EDF affair, some people were worried, particular the families of the trainers and their friends. As the representative of Star's Edge, I had to answer many questions, but I also received expressions of support from people who know Avatar and were shocked at how it was being described.... In addition, I was excluded from membership in a regional association of consultants. The Otium company was the contact point for EDF's professional training services. They claimed they had paid for courses which weren't professional, so they asked for a refund of all course fees for the past three years.
The investigation by EDF management
Following this affair, EDF management carried out an investigation. The results, in which no training organizations are named, were communicated to the trade unions. Extracts:
We learn that "some training courses based on a method not conforming to the ethics of the company were indeed organized."
These courses were likely "to cause brutal ruptures in private and/or professional life."
In the same way, the conduct of these training courses "seems strange."
There was "a detailed personal questionnaire exploring private incidents and the psychological and emotional makeup of the trainee," "training courses sometimes carried out in the residence of the trainer,"
and "esoteric exercises with no relationship to the training needs of the company."!
On the whole, the Avatar method encroaches on the privacy of the person, using methods which involve intrusion into his emotional past in a pseudo-psychoanalytic form along with "the promise, presented as an absolute truth, that the individual will be able to create his own reality."
For all that, the study also tends to underplay the extent of the affair. Thus, the number of training courses is limited to "25 training courses of two days which seem to stem from Avatar teachings, and 16 Avatar training courses, or comparable, lasting from 5 to 8 days."
Among the employees who followed it, only two are said to be "still pleased."
Two others expressed "a mitigated, even adverse opinion,"
and another "some reservations."
However, the study concludes by recalling that "even marginally, the situation was not without risk."
Three training organizations that "infiltrated" EDF
- CPV CONSEIL
Alain Coudeyras created CPV Conseil in 1988 as a firm specializing in the activation of human resources within companies. He also teaches internal communications at the Cole Superior in Lyon. A brochure for his company in 1992 presents him as "having been initiated in chakra cures, Reiki, crystals"
and also, as an "expert in geobiology, alpha waves and positive thought."
That before discovering Avatar in 1991. He then decided to become a Master, and obtained a license within the year.
At that time he offered a series of training courses of which Avatar was, "the best program to allow Leaders and executives to surf the big waves..."
But he did not renew his license when it expired in July, 1992.
On the team of CPV Conseil in 1992, we find also a person "initiated in the parasciences,"
Corinne Maljournal, who works with "astrology, dreams, numerology, dowsing"
and practices cures by "the harmonization of energy centers"
! Plus Christiane Schoebel, sophrologist, J.M. Prudhomme, a "doctor, homeopath and osteopath,"
who "confirms the application of energy techniques as a true cure,"
and Chantal Valentine, astrologer and medium.
In 1996, Alain Coudeyras placed free advertisements in newspaper, where he invited readers to dinners with talks on the topic "hypnosis and its applications."
He presented himself as a hypnotherapist and sophrologist.
New Age gained a foothold in the corporate world! Among the customers of this organization, one saw employees of the Ministry of Finances, Renault, Compaq, CEPME, Gillette, France Telecom, Hewlett Packard, Darty, le Caisse d'Epargne, the Accor group, and the Laydernier Bank.
In a letter addressed to the person in charge of the ADFI Lyon, Alain Coudeyras stated that he "was interested in concepts like the Body-Mirror, Reiki, Geobiology, etc."
The chakra cure is the method used in the Body Mirror System. This movement is listed in the Parliamentary Report on Cults of January, 1996.
This non-profit corporation is directed by Carole Hannequin, and also represents Star's Edge International in France.
Pierre Vernet established Sensaction on October 22, 1992. Its object is "the research, promotion, development and dissemination of concepts, steps, methods and processes intended to support the emergence of human resources through a new paradigm (by deliberately changing his internal image of reality, man can change the world) for increased responsibility, freedom and conscience."
! The two other people in charge of the administration of this company are Marie-José Maurice and Chantal Vissler, both training advisors. Vissler and Pierre Vernet were Avatar Masters.
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Translation copyright © 2000 by Eldon M. Braun. Readers are welcome to print complete, unaltered copies for personal use only.