What is a sect?

NOe sect center wants dialogue

St. Poelten, Austria
December 14, 2000

St. Poelten (NLK) - What is a sect? That will be the topic of an Enquete of the NOe state center for issues of sects which will be on the floor at the St. Poeltner Landhaus at 6 p.m. on Monday, December 18. Groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses will be there for discussion with representatives and experts from sect centers and people who have been involved with the theme. "The state center for issues of sects will moderate the dialogue and smooth the discussion," said sect commissioner Peter Pitzinger. He said the point was not to put sects on the spot, but to smooth out areas of conflict together. Naturally there were also groups with whom dialogue was not possible and which people needed urgently to be warned about. Pitzinger said, "Sects are not a fringe group problem. About 30,000 residents of Lower Austria describe themselves as "sect member."

The Sect Boom and Alpen-Shamans in the "Holy Land" of Tyrol

Rush for counseling

Sect specialist Mischitz lists 36 groups increasingly active in Tyrol

Innsbruck, Austria
December 11, 2000
Die Presse

by correspondent Robert Benedikt

Innsbruck. "I've observed a trend toward secularization leading to people no longer being able to cope with religion." Ever more frequently Wolfgang Mischitz, a sect specialist in family counseling for the Tyrolian Caritas, says he is confronted with people seeking advice who had expected all their life's problems to be solved by sects or denominations, but were instead very disappointed.

These people have to be put back on a life path in which religion is an important aspect of existence, but by no means is the dominant aspect. The field of denominations and sects in recent years has grown faster than anyone can keep track of. "In an analysis for the Families Ministry not long ago I listed 36 religious categories which I have been confronted with here in the Tyrol," reported Mischitz in a "Presse" interview.

These groups range from movements like "Fokolare," "Engelswerk" and "His People" in the Catholic Church to Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology. Mischitz reports that most of those seeking counseling wanted to keep on being members of their respective groups, but they wanted defense against the way they were being treated.

They want to fight for the freedom to make up their own minds, but still belong to a community which gives them with orientation. Mischitz gets more and more people who sought mental relief or spiritual comfort from spiritual healers. Those "Alpen-Shamans," as Mischitz calls them, can turn into nightmares for those who get involved with them, "Many who sought spiritual help end up feeling persecuted for years and afraid that the alleged healer had negative influence upon them."

Wanting a serene state

In 1997, the families and pregnancy counseling of Caritas was expanded into sect counseling. Doing that was a reaction to a new field of conflict which Mischitz describes as, "More people are recognizing the causes of their problems in life in spiritual views and practices." 80 percent of those seeking advice are between the ages of 35 and 55: "Spirituality at this stage of life, which has been marked by the stress of the work place and family obligations, is an attempt to gain a state of serenity. Therefore esoteric practices in sects and denominations have been stamped, also in the Tyrol, by an increase in trend.

Boss "prescribes" massages and more

Linz, Austria
August 28, 2000
Oberoesterreichische Nachrichten

Today an acupunct-massage, tomorrow nutrition counseling and motivation training the day after: "Toni & Guy" hair salon in Linz invests in the wellness of its staff. Successfully.

"If I want my staff to feel well while they're here and identify with the business, then I have to do something to bring that about. I knew that from the very start," said Ursula Schachinger, business manager of the "Toni & Guy" hair salon in Linz.

She's been running the business with 13 staff since 1996. 9,000 customers visit the 35-year-old executive a year. "There is often hardly any time for the staff to eat. We are on our feet the whole day long and handle chemicals frequently. No wonder we sometimes have tension, stomach problems or a rash breaks out." She said further, "Therefore it's part of my business philosophy to also think of the welfare of my staff."

Ursula Schachinger pays for massages and sends her women - all between the ages of 15 and 35 - to motivation seminars by Juergen Hoeller and Ulrich Strunz. There is also a wellness program: lectures and dental hygienic treatment from a dentist, tips from one of the orthopedists she does business with and training from a nutrition consultant.

"If the staff feel well, then that carries over to the customers," said the hair stylist, who regularly sends her employees to London for continuing education seminars where they are trained to be top stylists. The reward for her involvement: a pleasant working atmosphere, cheerful staff, sales increasing at 30 percent per year in an otherwise bankrupt field and an award for her particularly innovative training system.

And because every day brings new possibilities with it, there is a motivational "Morning Wake-up" at "Toni & Guy's" first thing every morning with loud music. "After that we exercise the left and right sides of the brain. Then come the first customers," said the boss, who also closes shop once a day to visit a seminar with her crew.

The fact that more businesses are seeing to the wellness and health of their staff was confirmed by Oskar Meggeneder, acting director of the OOe. The field of health insurance. He has been involved in projects to promote health in corporations since 1992. "Our approach is whole health. It concerns healthier food in the canteens, a wellness program and a healthy work place. We support the business with know-how and send in our experts," said Meggeneder. "Companies who use these projects obtain many diverse things - but one thing for sure: promotion of motivation."

In "Pro-Kaufland" in Linz, small re-organizations were done in the course of the health promotion project. The enthusiasm of the entire team after graduation moved management on to newer, healthier ground: the company paid for personality training for all.

Barbara Rohrhofer

Sect Guru dies in exile

Bregenz, Austria
January 7, 2000
Salzburger Nachrichten

Bregenz (SN, APA).
70 year old Guru Swami Omkarananda passed away on Tuesday in his Austrian "exile" in Langen near Bregenz. That was verified for the APA by the Vorarlberg security directorate on Thursday. The Swami had founded the "Divine Light Zentrum (DLZ)" in Winterthur, Switzerland, and was deported in 1986 as an assailant. The DLZ maintained a sect center on a farm in Langen, "but no special activity had been noticed lately," said the security officials.

Exhibition in Graz explains about sects

About the spread of authoritarian religions

Graz, Austria
September 16, 1999
Kleine Online

The travelling exhibition, "So-called sects. Authoritarian currents and preventive alternatives" can now be seen in Graz until the end of September at 4 Albrecht Alley. Besides a lot of text-intensive posters, the meaning of products from the esoterica market was also addressed. In addition, one may listen along with the appropriate text at the exhibition with a walkman. For two years, the presentation has been touring Styrian schools in the form of a work shop.

City youth representative Tatjana Kaltenbeck looks forward especially to the attention of youth and their parents being put on the problem of sects, esoterica and satanism. That is because she believes that the sects' power of attraction is getting increasingly stronger.

According to Roman Schweidlenka, Director of the ESO Information Agency, young people who often suffer from a lack of orientation slip particularly easily into sects. This is where information work pays off. It is important, however, to differentiate between movements, because not every current presents a danger.

A particularly high demand continues to come from the Styrian schools, where the travelling exhibition is already booked until 2001.

hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Accused of dangerous psycho-practices by German "sect researchers"

Community of Bad Gams

Sect Guru comes under critics' fire

Graz, Austria
July 15, 1999
Kleine Online

For years seminars have been given by the "Study Circle for Health and Personality Development, Inc." in the community of Bad Gams. Headquarters of the association is Meschede in Germany, the chairman is Gordon Freeman Fraser. For sect researchers the "system" of the 85 year old American has long been a thorn in the side: "It behaves like a small but dangerous sect which can bring people into mental and other dependencies."

Bitter accusations are coming primarily from Germany, but here at home [Austria] the Catholic Church is not sparing the "very serious" warnings either. These are based on information from Germany which categorizes Fraser among the circle of so-called "Behavior-Gurus." Objections have also been expressed about a special seminar for trainers, teachers and management. "Frequent dramatic psychic influence" is spoken of, and among the accusations one also finds references to destroyed partnerships and existences, ruined health and neo-nazi tendencies. Fraser has people venerating him as an incarnation of the "Holy Spirit" and has willing "disciples" gather around him.

Herbert Pauly, the vice-chairman of the association, who is currently seeing to the 30-50 people who are taking summer seminars in the Bad Gams Kipper Hotel, of course sees things differently: "We are aware of the accusations, but there are many misconceptions. All Mr. Fraser is doing is giving advice and presentations from the rich experiences in his life. Mostly health and nourishment form the basics."

From: "Kleine Online", Graz, Austria
Saturday, February 13, 1999


"Therapists" shoot from the hip with magnets

After my report on Dr. h. c. Guenther Schrank, several magnet "therapists" had it out with each other, and, naturally, also with the Ombudsman. That was good; I learn a lot that way.

Especially sensitive was a certain "Doctor" Schrank from Leibnitz. On letterhead paper to the Ombudsman from a "MAS-Future Medical" company for "Production and Sale of Medical Devices" he stated, "... furthermore there are reasons to believe that [a competitor's name] is sponsored by the Scientology sect."

Pretty tough words. In response, we have reason to believe that "Doctor" Schrank is not an H.-c.-Doctor in Austria. His title comes from a "Cosmopolitan University." [This is a reference to a diploma mill.] The learned diploma hanger "Dr." Schrank, together with a Dr. Sundinger, are "Magnet Therapists." After a one-day seminar, one receives the certificate of "Magnetic Field Therapist."

It is nothing new that a therapist is someone who is supposed to have a well-founded education. As to another [medical] device dealer, incredible information was given: the other dealer was supposed to have advised patients to stop going to the doctor.

The Leibnitz men send out a pile of test and verification results about their devices. Despite this, the advertisement that these are good for all illnesses from A-Z is surely misleading; this kind of statement is not professional.

The Elmer magnet field company keeps their distance from "MAS-Future." Their company boss stated that he had nothing to do with Schrank

Magnet therapy salespeople state, "We are not peddlers." Several magnet therapy "salespeople" ("therapists") rang up the Ombudsman's telephone in order to communicate that they were not "peddlers." All swore that they behaved with professionalism. Some stated that they would tell their customers in advance that the devices do not always work against all illnesses. A seriously ill woman reported to me that the magnet therapy treatment had done her more harm than good. There is no question that some salespeople broadcast the miracle cures of their devices, then grab their money and run. There are also doctors who praise the results of magnet therapy. However, it is no longer a secret that there are certain doctors who are looking to make a fast buck.

[Ombudsman summer hours are given.]