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Walk #247: White Sulphur Springs Road, The Hoffman Process--a California Cult?

Posted Sep 05 2009 12:00am















Tried to work a double today, but alas, the hours were not there. Fine. A work colleague had told me about a walk to an old hot springs spa on a picturesque road that starts in downtown St. Helena. "There is a retreat center there that does stuff for businesses". Piqued with curiosity, I decided to explore it.

The road starts just outside of downtown St. Helena. A one lane, black topped road that goes for a few miles up the side of a mountain (the Maycamas). Mailboxes on the side of the road advertise daily delivery of the New York Times. I wonder how many small towns in California have daily delivery of the New York Times?

Up the road we go. A eucalyptus tree on the side of the road. There are many eucalyptus trees in the Napa Valley. They were imported from Australia and are water hungry fiends. They smell like cat piss to me.

After awhile I come to the White Sulphur Springs resort entrance. An old gate across the road advertises that it was started in 1852. Wow. I walk through the resort and continue up to the road. My goal is to explore to the end of the road.

Up the hill.

I come across some redwood groves. Even a two or three hundred year old redwood is impressive. Some of it has been logged. In this area the logging was selective. They would take down one off shoot of the redwood, but leave the forest pretty much in tact. A better way to log if you ask me.

I have often thought that logging should be harvested according to the life span of the tree. For example, if a tree's lifespan is 2,000 years, then take one tree every year for every two thousand that are in a specific area. If an oak lives to be 200 years, take one oak down per year for every 200 that are in a particular region. Simple. Sustainable. A smarter, selective way to log without compromising the forest. While you are at it, have the trees cut and hauled by hand and horse. Do it the way our Grandfathers did it.

I come to an estate. A fence guards it, but by reaching my camera over my head and above the fence, I can see what lies behind the enclosure. An opulent meditation garden. I get the feeling this is one of those places that celebrities rent for a month when they come "to do" the Napa Valley. By voyeuristically putting my camera over the fence, I have become a paparazzi. Shame on me.

Up to the end of the road, with a sign to announce such. I turn around with the intention of exploring this resort from 1852.

When I get back to the resort (where a sign states they teach the "Hoffman Process"), only one car is around. I can see a few cottages. An Inn. I go to the office and peek into the windows. Closed.

I walk around some more when a very thin man, quite pale, with effeminate qualities comes down to see what I'm doing.

"I'm just on a walk and I was looking around the resort". I tell the emaciated man (I had gone by one car, a newish Beetle with Marin County on the license plate). I assume the whippet thin, fiftyish man is the owner of such. "What is this place?" I ask him.

"This is a private resort". He emphasises the word "private" as in YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE.

I ask the man who the resort is for? He tells me it is for doing eight day self awareness seminars.

Intuitively, I say, "You mean like EST"? and I added a negative description of that group.

The man says "yes", and in fact, many of the board of directors were involved in EST. I can tell he can read my skeptical look. He is amongst the unfriendlies. Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned sitting in a group, holding hands and peeing into our trousers to describe EST?

I comment on the beauty of the grounds, and ask him if there are any buildings left from 1852? He tells me there is one cottage left...up on the hill.

"Do you mind if I look around and take a look at it?", I ask him.

He responds by telling me that I was NOT welcome to look around. He adds that I could only view the grounds from the road. I guess he could feel a certain negativity from me. And perhaps he didn't trust this Michael Moore look alike, walking and poking around with a camera and a walking stick that has a wild turkey feather hanging from the end of it.

To be considered looking weird in California is a special feat. Takes practice.

I obey the ghostly waif of a man's command and return to the road. I walk down the hill the mile or more to my car.

The Hoffman Process was invented by a man by the name of Bob Hoffman. He started doing some heavy interpersonal, intensive group experiences in 1969. The gist of it is that we all are negatively programmed when we were kids. The Process is designed to quickly undo the programming, in a very short time...releasing us to greater health, vitality and love.

Isn't it just like a baby boomer group to blame our pathologies on our parents? Good grief what a self absorbed generation we are!

When EST got into trouble and was sued, one of the EST people took over the Hoffman Group. This group has been accused of being a cult...and shows up on cult awareness websites. I think these cult awareness folks can be a bit hard on legitimate efforts by people who are developing alternative religious and psychological paradigms. Not that groups like the "Hoffman Process" aren't dangerous.

The emaciated man should have let me look around. I meant no harm. If he would have used his highly developed, intuitive and spiritual skills (that the process advertises a person develops after giving them $6,500 dollars for a week of intensive programming)---he should have known that I am harmless.

Or perhaps the Hoffman Process folks have something to hide?
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