Scientology Lite at the University of Texas

Beware of the pernicious pseudo-religion known only as Avatar.
By Roahn Wynar (Texan columnist)

The University of Texas would like to introduce you to Harry Palmer. Palmer is the creator of Avatar, a red hot personal growth religion. Avatar has the University's seal of approval and is preached as an Informal Class called "Living Deliberately." It is taught by Mary Helen Kuehner, an Avatar "Wizard" which is one level above Avatar "Master."

There are some things the University doesn't know about its pet religion and its founder. Palmer was a Scientology mission leader in Elmira, N.Y. In 1987, he was simultaneously providing "auditing," the basic technique of Scientology, and his own spiritual concoction, Avatar.

He closed down the Scientology mission, keeping over $60,000 of advance fees paid to him by churchgoers. The Church of Scientology sued, then his former followers took legal action. Avatar is a "squirrel" organization. That's scientology-ease for a group that rips off L. Ron Hubbard's teachings.

Austin's senior Wizard, Cata Low, explains that they are not "followers" of Harry Palmer because Avatar, unlike Scientology, does not demand several lifetimes of institutionally supervised commitment. Students should be able to exist as growing independent persons after the materials are delivered. This leaves no room for a guru.

Nonguru Harry and his legion of nonfollowers will tell you they understand things like "source beingness", the "tools of consciousness" and "Persistent Mass Handling." To the rational mind, these are meaningless ramblings of victims dragged through days of mind-numbing exercises and "Rundowns".

Avatar collides Scientology and Total Quality Management. It's a wacky religion designed to appeal to those who are skeptical of wacky religion: college students.

Like Scientology, Avatar is multilevel, each level being more expensive than the last. Initially, in 1987, there was only one level. Then there were three. And despite Palmer's promise not to keep lengthening the bridge to enlightenment, he raised it to six in 1991. Stargate, the name of his headquarters, is still doing "research," so expect more levels soon.

Early Avatar contained the complete lexicon of Scientology, but has since been edited to avoid lawsuits. "Rundowns," "mass," "processes," and "delivery of materials" remain, reminding us that we are dealing with a "squirrel."

Avatar teachings can be directly linked to either Scientology, the famous 1970s channelings of imaginary entities known as Seth and Bashar or a certain Tibetan refugee in California named Tulku.

There is a disarming customer orientation to Avatar. The spending cap is currently $20,000 for promotion to Wizard. Wizards like Mary Helen are licensed to "deliver" Avatar and keep 85 percent of the tuition they charge students. Wizards get a bonus for each of their students that go on to become Masters or Wizards themselves.

Palmer learned from his four-year legal fiasco in Elmira: don't exploit people so much that they complain forcefully.

Wizards subject themselves to mind-boggling rationalizations. For example, Avatar techniques called "Universe Handling" and "The Serious Drill" obviously require telepathy, but Wizards deny Avatar involves ESP.

The Avatar Journal includes obvious health claim testimonials, but Wizards deny that Avatar makes health claims. Wizards will tell you how Avatar can change your life, but remember, they keep $2,040 of each basic course tuition payment. Avatar is the Amway of religion.

Mary Helen is inviting you to join, and the University is facilitating the whole disgusting show. Avatar is the only cult known that is actively promoted and taught at the University. If you have a problem with this call Adrienne L. Dickey, informal class coordinator at 471-0270 or better yet, acting President Peter T. Flawn at 471-1232.

(Wynar is a physics graduate student.)


Hello, Roahn,

I just looked at your Scientology articles and see that you've done one on Avatar. I assume you're seen my lengthy expose from 1991 The Wiz of Orlando which is [was?] webbed at

Just one little correction I would suggest

"Avatar teachings can be directly linked to either Scientology, the famous 1970s channelings of imaginary entities known as Seth and Bashar or a certain Tibetan refugee [monk] in California named [Tarthang] Tulku. "

Tulku is a title similar to Buddha, not a name. It means "an elightened master" or "reborn master" in Tibetan Buddhism. Tarthang is the guy's name. Tulku is his title. He heads the Nringima Institute in Berkeley. I actually met his daughter a few years ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair where she was talking to publishers about foreign editions of his book (there is some dispensation whereby Tibetan Monks actually can get married).

Also, you might want to add something that someone pointed out to me: there are also close similiarity between Avatar and psychic Jane Roberts' writings... and she lived only a few miles from Harry in Elmira during the time he ran the Scientology mission.

Nice piece by the way.

Best, Eldon Braun


NoteGettin' That New Age Religion: Cults at UT.

By Roahn Wynar

One thing we don't want to worry about when discussing cults on the campus of the University of Texas is the question of definition. Since many group members are bound to be deeply insulted by inclusion of their organization on the "List of Cults" we cannot take the definitions lightly.

The definition we shall use is rather simple: any organization promoting falsifiable notions that directly conflict with physical law shall be identified as a cult. Notice that this definition never mentions mind control, money, charismatic leadership, or isolated living compounds.

Although these things are often coincident with pseudoscientific or supernatural claims made by cult organizations, we do not want to get bogged down in details of group structure or history.

Also this definition serves to exclude groups like the Marine Corps. The Marines exercise isolation and restriction of its members, mind control, has charismatic leaders, and makes its members shave their heads and wear funny clothes. Since the Marine Corps makes no paranormal or pseudoscientific claims, it is not a cult.

The Russian Orthodox Church, however, makes the claim that many "icons" are miraculously weeping tears. This is a falsifiable claim which runs counter to scientific principles and they refuse rigorous investigation in order to hide their obvious lie. Thus the Russian Orthodox Church is a cult although not one we will discuss here.

Catholics? The Vatican currently makes no falsifiable claims known to this author that run counter to basic scientific principles. Even in the miracles involved in beatification and canonization of Saints are so wishy washy that no meaningful test can designed to falsify the claims. Although many small Catholic cults exist, the central church does not make the cultic cut.

Okay. So how about cults at U.T.? There are many, but we will discuss only our four favorites. In our list below we first discuss the central pseudoscientific or supernatural claim the organization makes and then will we comment on the group itself.


Avatar - We have no way of knowing how many people are connected to Avatar, which we like to call "Scientology Lite." It is promoted by the Texas Union Informal Class Program as "Living Deliberately" and "Transitioning Old Paradigms."

It is the creation of Harry Palmer, an ex-Scientologist mission leader from Elmira, New York. After ripping off as many New Yorkers as he could with Scientology, Palmer got sick of sending all the money upstream to higher levels of the CoS [Church of Scientology] and decided to branch out on his own.

Apparently this happens often to CoS and they even have a word for it. Avatar is a "squirrel" organization. Avatar makes its money by sell-ing various courses, books, and tapes that explain all kinds of nutty ideas about the true nature of consciousness. It is this claim to a special understanding of consciousness that firmly puts them in the cult category.

Unlike most cults, Avatar seems to have a participation limit. Palmer realized that sucking all the blood out of a few egregiously stupid people is more trouble than it's worth. Sometimes they sue (Palmer was sued by former Scientologists). Palmer decided a good living can still be made by just sucking a little blood out of many slightly stupid people. Thus he created the more palatable New Age product called Avatar.

Much of the CoS structure still remains. Avatar has a hierarchy of training that promises to deliver more the higher one goes. Each step of Avatar is made by executing "Rundowns," just like its mother, CoS. Avatar's self assurance that they have discovered a systematically engineered method to optimize your mind is deeply reminiscent of Hubbard's similar claim in Dianetics.

The first level promises "a better understanding of the nature of personal reality," and the last course promises, "The ability to understand and manage creation." Total cost: $20,000 after which you are permitted to call yourself an Avatar "Wizard." Yes, even if you're a girl. In fact, especially if you are a girl. All the avatar Wizards we know in Austin are women.

Avatar is a deal compared to Scientology, which charges well over $100,000 to cross its "Bridge to Total Freedom." Once you are a "Wizard" you are licensed the right to teach Avatar courses. For money.


The Church of Scientology (CoS) - Of all the campus pseudoscientific cults this one has no equal. Space prohibits us from listing all the pseudoscientific howlers CoS panders as fact, so we can only sample their nutty universe here.

They believe that all personal problems are the result of an "implant" that evil aliens forced upon us over a trillion years ago. They believe that the MEST (Matter, Energy, Space and Time) was created by bored, immortal all-powerful beings called "thetans." The implant will not allow you to recognize your true nature as a "thetan." We are all thetans.

They believe that an electronic device called an "E-meter" can detect the presence of repressed memories from pre-birth or past lives. These repressed memories, called "engrams," cause all the "aberrations" that keep us from realizing our full potential. Luckily we can be systematically "cleared" of these engrams by undergoing the process of "auditing." After becoming clear the Scientologist will have a perfect memory, superior mathematical skills and perhaps even a few supernatural powers.

In the early days of Dianetics the claim was made that clears could grow new teeth. Scientology uses the classic "bait and switch" technique. CoS promises remarkable things, gets suckers to pay for courses that don't quite actually give them the things they were expecting, and then CoS promises that all the cool stuff is in the next course.

As far as we know the ultimate series of "rundowns" that most Scientologists assume will give them the super abilities they are seeking are called the "L-rundowns." They cost $1,000 an hour to audit. If you would like to look at them go to Scientology's Secret Library at Be prepared to laugh.

In fact if it were not for the stories of limitless exploitation, mysterious deaths and destroyed families, reading about the nature of Scientology is an amusing pastime. Over the years some very big guns from the CoS have defected and we now know almost everything worth knowing about the highly secretive CoS.

Jesse Prince was the number two man in the Religious Technology Center, the core of CoS, and has revealed shocking stories of illegal activity, intimidation and just downright dumbness that occur within the highest levels of power of CoS. His story can be also found at

Xenu, by the way, is the name of the horrible alien warlord who gave us the implant.

Some Scientologists get to sign a trillion year contract to join the elite Sea Organization. Sea Org's mission is to "clear" this planet and then to go on to clear other planets who presumably are stricken with the same implant.

A wonderful sample of CoS pseudoscience can be found in its "axioms." Axiom Six, for example, is, "Time is basically the postulate that space and particles will exist." Notice the scientific feel of the axiom, yet the utter lack of usefulness or clarity. Scientologists do not question, or even seem to notice.

Lest readers think this is a fluke, we present Axiom Three: "Space, energy, objects, form and time are the result of considerations made and/or agreed upon or not by the Static, and are perceived solely because the Static considers that it can perceive them." All of Scientology is riddled with nonsensical drivel of this nature.

In Texas at least, CoS is in retreat. The missions in Garland, Casa Linda, San Antonio and Woodlands are dead, leaving only El Paso and Houston. Austin has a full fledged "church," which is bigger than a mission.. There is much more to say about this indefensible brain tumor of a religious group, but other cults await.