My Perspective on Controversy Associated with John de Ruiter
Controversy around John de Ruiter often raises concerns about spiritual organizations and authority figures, as John’s life-story suggests to some a gap between John and the integrity he speaks about. I suggest that John’s integrity is demonstrated in his life and work. If you factor in the cultural lenses that influence our perception, you will see a profound quality matching John’s meetings, bringing out a clarity more essential than the question itself. It’s beyond this short essay to explain why the controversies around John’s name are water off a duck’s back, but I’ve outlined qualities which I believe speak truer than newspaper reports. Aside from the details that show John’s nature, I’m highlighting a clarity of heart which forms belief from quiet knowing rather than the temporary constitution of our societies and our minds.
Some of the questions surrounding John are easily answered, like ‘does John manipulate people using silence and charisma?’ Less easily explained are John’s relationships with two women from 1999 to 2009. The format of John’s meetings makes the labels of ‘manipulation and charisma’ rather unrealistic. The silence is self-relftive, the speech neutral, conducive to neither persuasion nor projection. In the seemingly uneventful quiet, John’s appeal is his respect for each spoken word, letting a person’s awareness work in stillness. A pertinent definition of ‘charisma’ might be ‘using style or personality to attract and persuade.’ By contrast, John makes way for the questioner to speak, and for everybody in the meeting to be aware of the profundities which open up within their hearts.
Regarding spiritual teachers, the concern for charisma typically revolves around the misuse of power. In John’s case, even defined as ‘a gift or power of leadership or authority’ or ‘the capacity to inspire devotion or enthusiasm,’ charisma comes from lack of power. ‘Contrary to what you experience,’ states John, ‘your greatest strength is the most delicate touch of being within. Your greatest strength within is in your weakest weakness.’ And within such weakness is ‘pure vulnerability…through which everything that you are as a being moves. The result is beauty.’ Through cynical eyes, John sits on a pedestal above others. Appreciated as an example of his own philosophy, John is vulnerable to his slightest knowing, sitting in front of many who can read every detail in his face and nuance of his presence. Through his vulnerability, John brings an inspiration that I would call pure beauty, and deeper.
Beneath the warmth of meetings is no premise of reward or punishment, no preconceived notions of enlightenment. The basis of John’s meetings is living by what you know in your heart, and the practical terms follow accordingly: no rank, no material return for commitment, nor punitive undertones. Meetings and the supporting organization are based on respect and consideration, resting on a magnanimous and applicable philosophy. John offers a pure communication, not overlaid by style or charisma. By attending a meeting, you can discern the quality of John’s communication, but its purity comes from John himself, who is defined by the way he lives.
John became controversial when he confirmed his relationships with two other women while he was married to his wife of 18 years with three children. For many people, John’s relationships signified hypocrisy, and cultural assumptions fed doubt and suspicion: it had never been easier to liken John to the notorious guru. There are points of comparison. John claims to provide unique access to a ‘greater reality,’ a dedicated following attribute superhuman qualities to him, and lastly, John’s unorthodox relationships complete the image of exploitation.
However, the comparison, like analogy, doesn’t verify conclusions, but creates a visceral response to those already formed. Within the concept of ‘the guru’ is a download of emotional information. Buy it and you have imagined John into a box. It isn’t until emotionally loaded beliefs subside that you can distinguish the resemblances from the essential differences, as the core determines the extremities. Even John’s relationships, dubbed at worst ‘infidelity,’ are defined by their essence and the honesty of our perceptions. We tend to see what we’re looking for, rather than what the heart quietly recognizes.
Yet disparate perspectives would agree on the obvious, such as John’s unusual character, which is congruent with the extra-ordinary dimensions of his teaching. These speak to deeper places of the heart which may seem alien to our own minds. The transcendental nature of meetings, plus John’s words about ‘the more of reality,’ affirm his unorthodox life, but the concern is integrity. What good is the extraordinary without integrity and love? In my experience of understanding John’s character, I find that detail is crucial. There is love and integrity in his manner, his words, and his actions. John’s former employer at European Shoe Comfort remembers that ‘John was a hard worker, dedicated to the finest detailed workmanship, and his care in shoe making only begins to show how he is as a person. I’ve known him thirty years.’ Since he began holding meetings full time in 1989, John’s commitment has grown to include hundreds of meetings, with no diminishing care for each individual attending. Like an artisan, John prizes quality. What follows are countless hours of application, a million kind words, and each person treated like the only one.
John is consistent with all questioners. His words are authentic, his focus singular and relaxed: ‘I don’t go into a meeting and think, “I hope it goes well. I hope it turns out a certain way.” I feel the responsibility, but the outcome isn’t important on a personal level.’ If it were, the innovation in meetings and the opening of the heart, wouldn’t be possible, as they are responses to a pure inspiration. After the summer vacation of 2014, I asked John what he felt about meetings starting up again. He reflected and smiled. ‘It’s uneventful and matter-of-fact, and it’s kind of like the winds are gathering and a deep meaning is coming in, and I’m ready to put my hand to the plough.’
You might wonder whether John is as as constant in everyday life as he is in meetings. In the last 6 years, John has attended events from supportive dinners with couples to larger gatherings sprinkled throughout each month, and while accounts of John at his most familiar are not appropriate for this essay, here’s how one person, invited on an off road expedition, recalls John in a bind: ‘The truck was stuck in deep mud. John rigged up a pulley system with a cable and a jack-all. He had to winch the truck by hand, using the jack as a lever, which moved the truck about an inch at a time. He worked for seventeen hours straight and barely paused to rest. I thought it was incredible but I guess he can access an exceptional energy for physical work as well. He was responsible for another person, and there seemed to be nothing else in his mind but the task at hand.’ This shows a man of application, who meets difficulty without drama.
John is known to be inexhaustible in his care for others. The online schedule shows about 300 formal meetings per year, not to mention informal gatherings, and the cafe conversations, one to one and around small tables before every meeting in Edmonton. John’s work schedule indicates his commitment, and no jet lag delays him, even if he goes directly from the airport to a Sunday afternoon meeting; he will be in at the café an hour prior. Unlike stereotypes of teachers, preachers, and speakers, John’s words are based on his actions and his actions reflect his nature. John’s life-turns can be difficult to understand, but ‘how you do anything is how you do everything.’ Visible from the way he repairs the sole of a shoe to his care in meetings, John’s integrity is essential to his most significant decisions, even if our culture labels them as taboo.
The concrete reasons for John’s relationships are elusive, as John is oriented no more to convention than to his own personal preferences. But the results are definite – John holding his vision under public disapproval, learning from simultaneous relationships in separate homes, and caring for the impact on his family, which I absorbed from the age of 11. Beneath the appearances are the details of John’s actions. John’s integrity is in the universal qualities that touch the heart, not in the wrappings subject to cultural bias. The crux is accepting that the origins of John’s deepest knowing may run beyond comprehension, as yours and mine do.
I’m suggesting that the less you think you know, the more you see, that set conclusions don’t help to discover John’s nature, and that issues around power and authenticity stir feelings that may cloud discernment. If you are inspired by John, you’re already open to the unfamiliar. The awakening within the heart is deeper than concepts. A quiet openness will recognise truth, which, like a fanned ember, glimmers in the meetings. Controversy aggravates mental issues – and doubt, even burning suspicion, doesn’t show you what is true. The controversies surrounding John can be confusing, but only if you fear the unknown. If you see no possibility in living spiritual beacons, there is no reason to investigate. But if John seems to answer some deeper clarity, then your deepest, finest sense can find its own way. As long as you ask yourself, ‘what do I really know?’