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WHCCAMP Chair James S. Gordon, MD, is is upset that his 2-year pet project is under attack. On March 26, 2002, the Washington Post printed a letter in which he defended his irresponsible behavior. This letter is a response.
To the Editor:
Yesterday, Dr. James S. Gordon, Chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (WHCCAMP), complained in your paper (Interactions, page HE02, 3/26/02) of the unfairness of his critics in the scientific medicine community. I am one such critic, a health care consumer advocate who has researched and published materials about Dr. Gordon's checkered past. A great deal of my research focused on Dr. Gordon's 12 year involvement with the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh cult from 1973 through 1985 as well as other fringe beliefs and bizarre activities of Dr. Gordon such as his collaboration with "alien abduction" theorist, Dr. John Mack. Both the National Council Against Health Fraud and the Quackwatch websites have posted my research for public review. My research has also been published in the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. I am also a signatory to the letter that requested the disbanding of Dr. Gordon's Commission last fall that was mentioned in last week's Washington Post article, "Alternative Health Panel Under Attack".
In my articles and in other critics' comments no one has ever, to my knowledge, accused Dr. Gordon of being directly involved in the 1984 salmonella poisonings attributed to Rajneesh followers, as he has incorrectly stated in his letter. However, Dr. Gordon's 1987 book, "The Golden Guru", written soon after the poisonings, is full of elaborate apologies for Rajneesh, the movement and Gordon's own close involvement with what even Gordon himself admits the State Department considered a "Jim Jones" type cult.
Gordon's protestations of being a mere New Religions "researcher" ring hollow as his book describes his joyous participation in "rebirthing" at the hands of a naked Danish woman at the cult's free love commune in India in 1979, his at least partial approval of violent psychotherapies used to convert persons to the cult and his regular attendance through the 1980s at the Devadeep Rajneesh Meditation Center in Washington. At this cult center oriented toward the recruitment of African-American youth, Gordon participated in hallucinatory "Dynamic Meditation" dancing which he also offered to his patients as psychiatric "therapy". The Devadeep Center also offered rebirthing, Reichian orgone treatments and immersion in isolation tanks. Gordon recruited patients from Devadeep and wrote on page 92 of his book that "some of my most lonely patients found friends there."
During the time of the salmonella poisonings in Oregon, in Sept/October 1984, Gordon claims (Chapter 7 The Share a Home Campaign) that, purely as an NIMH researcher, he was accompanying Rajneeshee recruiters in Washington as they herded hundreds of homeless men - many recruited from the Devadeep Center - onto buses in an attempt to rig an election for the Rajneesh in Oregon. The salmonella poisonings were another tactic in that election-rigging. Later in the chapter, he defends these recruitees' treatment at Rajneeshpuram as superior to what they would have received "in city and state mental hospitals and shelters" and that "those who stay are functioning, useful members of a loving community."
Gordon, who despite his enthusiastic participation portrays himself ex-post-facto as a secret critic - for years appears to have had unprecedented access to the highest levels of the Rajneeshee movement. Over and over in his book he praises Rajneesh's philosophy and brags of his access to the inner circles. Clearly any criticism he may have had was muted indeed.
Indeed, Gordon's 12 years of close association with Rajneesh appears to have been both as a follower AND as a researcher. Indeed the two activities may have been synonomous. Gordon's own former psychiatric supervisor, Dr. Andy Ferber, renamed Bodhicitta, became a prominent Rajneeshee. In fact many of Rajneesh's core disciples were psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who ran the cult's transformational "therapy groups" - Esalen Institute inspired therapies that Gordon deeply admired. While Dr. Gordon's book does criticize quite severely the Oregon poisonings, one can only imagine what he would have written had the commune not been immersed in scandal and had he not his own reputation to defend. Despite the authoritarian turn of his guru, Dr. Gordon in the closing paragraphs of the book still refuses to condemn him, writing of his appreciation of Rajneesh's "remarkable talents and gifts" seeing his - the Rajneesh's - "unfinished journey as a mirror for my own."
Dr. Gordon prefers to have the readers of the Washington Post view his dalliance with Rajneesh as ancient history, or a mere minor aspect of his "New Religions" research, irrelevant to any questioning of his qualifications or judgment to determine national CAM policy. However, even today he has not cut all his connections to his Bhagwan. On the web site of his Center for Mind Body Medicine, he advertises and sells two of Rajneesh's meditation tapes under the deceased Rajneesh's pseudonym of OSHO. The tapes, Dynamic Meditation and Kundalini Meditation are sold under his center's section at Amazon.com. So, even as I write this letter, Dr. James S. Gordon is directing "seekers" to the circles of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
Is it not entirely understandable that we in the consumer health community question the qualifications of Dr. Gordon to expound on any aspect of United States health care? Given that this same Dr. Gordon loaded his commission with CAM zealots and ideologues in order to rig perhaps the most corrupted, anti-scientific commission report in US Medical History, I would hope that the Washington Post will call for the total rejection of the WHCCAMP report.
Documentation is listed below.
E. Patrick Curry
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