In Native American culture, a person’s story is his gift, the offering he makes to the people. Regarding this, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, author of Healing The Mind Through the Power of Story, says that, for every story, “Its spirit will work on each person who encounters it.” Some stories have tremendous healing power. Ck Rardin’s is one of these.
Ck lives with his wife in upstate New York, where he operates his own technology-solutions company, Eagle Feather Enterprises. He has helped with research for the MTV production, The Cult Question. He offers his story at conferences and at former-member workshops. As a young man thrown by his own family into a world of tyrannical oppression, his real-life bildungsroman (a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character) rivals some of our age’s fiction about teens overcoming great challenges and suffering.
In his own words:
I am the middle child, with an older brother and a younger sister. We were raised in an exceedingly abusive household. Eventually, my parents aligned themselves with a group based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The group had highly puritanical views about sex and social relations. One day, when I was about 13, I was riding in a car with my parents. I mentioned to them that I had met and liked a young woman my age. Almost in the blink of an eye, my parents decided I was in danger of losing my soul.
Although my parents had already taken many steps to isolate me and my siblings from the rest of the world, what happened next was extreme. They emptied my bank account of money I had worked hard to earn, and used it to purchase a one-way airplane ticket [for me] to Sao Paulo, with a letter turning over their parental custody pinned to my shirt, so that one of the Brazilian leaders of their movement could become my legal parent and take over my life. Despite [my] numerous pleadings to allow me to return home, my parents literally and entirely abandoned me. I was left to spend the next 13 years orphaned in a physically, emotionally, and psychologically abusive cult.
I was around twenty-six years old when, after having been sent back to the group’s Mt. Kisco, New York headquarters, I gathered all the courage I could muster and walked away. I had spent 13 years of my life in isolation, knowing nothing but the rules of the group my parents had abandoned me to. When I emerged, it was as if I entered a different world. I didn’t know the meaning of money, had no social skills, spoke Portuguese more easily than English, and had not one single friend or relation I could turn to. I was an alien on my own planet. The others around me looked like me and talked like me, but that’s all I had in common with the rest of the planet.
Ck’s strong spirit sustained him, and he eventually found “an organization that, at the time, helped people who had been involved in cults.” He met and married a woman he says was and remains his best friend, developed a successful business, and relearned how to function in our contemporary world.
When asked what he thinks survivors of destructive groups have to share with the world, he answers, not surprisingly, “Their experiences. We live in a world that is not sufficiently aware of the existence and effects of cultic groups, and telling our stories may help prevent others from experiencing the harm we have undergone.”
Ck Rardin is a facilitator at ICSA-sponsored Second Generation Adult workshops.