■ The False Prophet of Edmonton, Luc Rinaldi, Maclean’s, November 20, 2023: “In a suburban industrial park, John de Ruiter built up a spiritual movement, mashing up Christian theology and New Age mysticism. Today, eight former followers claim he brainwashed them into sex. The case against him will test the boundaries of consent.” This article appears in the December, 2023 print issue of Maclean’s. [Also archived in the WayBackMachine, and at Archive.Today]
■ Edmonton ‘spiritual leader’ John de Ruiter charged with four sexual assaults, police seek additional complainants, Edmonton Journal, January 23, 2023
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
- John de Ruiter – Johannes Franciscus de Ruiter
- John de Ruiter claims to be the “Living Embodiment of Truth”
- Confusing Mix of Mysticism, Empty Rhetoric, and Group Therapy
- John de Ruiter: ‘Jesus Transferred Who He Is Over To Me’
- Video: The Gospel According to John (de Ruiter)
- News Archive
John de Ruiter – Johannes Franciscus de Ruiter
Former shoemaker and former fundamentalist Christian preacher John de Ruiter (Johannes de Ruiter) is a Canadian author and philosopher considered by many to be a cult leader or cult guru. His new-age philosophies are marketed by his company, Oasis Edmonton Inc. The company built the Oasis Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It is the home of De Ruiter’s “College of Integrated Philosophy.” Also known as the Oasis Group.
De Ruiter travels around the world, conducting meetings in Denmark, Germany, India, Israel, and other countries.
People also travel from around the world travel to the college in Edmonton, where they attend three-hour meetings that are conducted largely in silence, with long periods of intense gazing toward the front of the room.
Though he also offers podcasts and live streams, most people want to make eye contact with John de Ruiter, who sits on the stage and stares.
John de Ruiter claims to be the “Living Embodiment of Truth”
He claims to be the “living embodiment of truth.” According to court documents he has also claimed to be “Christ on earth” — a blasphemous delusion.
John de Ruiter used to be a shoemaker in Edmonton. Now people come from all over the world to hear him preach his New Age gospel or just to be near him. Some even call him the Second Coming of Christ. Native groups call him the “lost white brother.”
“I’ve seen a lot of spiritual teachers,” says Benita von Sass, a follower, “but . . . he’s the one.”
Stephen Kent, a University of Alberta professor who specializes in cults and new religions, accompanied a National Post reporter to a weekend session with Mr. De Ruiter. “This is the beginning of a new religion,” Prof. Kent says. “This is how they start.”Shoemaker to Messiah? National Post, Canada, Dec. 7, 1998
Confusing Mix of Mysticism, Empty Rhetoric, and Group Therapy
Only five years ago, John de Ruiter was still preaching the Christian Gospel to a handful of friends inside a small bungalow he shared with his wife and three children in Edmonton’s east end. But, gradually, his message changed. His references to Jesus stopped as he developed his own peculiar religion, a confusing mix of mysticism, empty rhetoric, and group therapy. He now dismisses critical thought and, aside from his own authority, leaves everything open to question. “If you were to follow me,” he teaches, “all I would teach you and show you is how to be compassionate. . . . You would learn to lay your head down inside, warmly, in the midst of anything. . . . You would always acquiesce. You would never, under any kind of pressure, kick or fuss. . . . Then I would be able to teach you more. Then I could take you to deeper places.” He touts this elusive, self-promoting message in a book, called Unveiling Reality, a series of edited transcripts from his meetings.
De Ruiter claims to want nothing from his acolytes, but he charges money for his lectures, and sells an ever-expanding line of merchandise — his own book, flattering portraits of himself, audio and video tapes. He has managed to cultivate a broad following and is a rising star in the international guru circuit. Several times a year, he flies to cities in Europe, India, and Australia, where he fills auditoriums with hundreds of seekers, most of whom are white, middle-aged, and affluent. Some will leave their lives behind and move to Edmonton, joining approximately 250 full-time devotees from around the planet. Most board with other members. All of them accept that de Ruiter is, as he claims, “the living embodiment of truth.”The gospel according to John de Ruiter, Saturday Night Online, Canada, May 5, 2001
John de Ruiter: ‘Jesus Transferred Who He Is Over To Me’
The story goes that John de Ruiter was 17 when he had an awakening, a “flowering inside that made everything in this existence pale in comparison,” then disappeared as quickly as it arrived. The story goes that it took several years of searching for him to find it again, but once he did, it would change everything. He was born in Saskatchewan but grew up in Stettler, Alberta, one of four children of Dutch immigrants, the son of a shoemaker who later took up the craft himself. He met his first wife, Joyce, in 1981 after walking into the Christian bookstore where she worked. He was 22 years old, tall and handsome. She would later say she was drawn by his eyes.
He spent some time in Bible school and later preached at Edmonton’s Bethlehem Lutheran Church, but he clashed with church leadership and strained against the bounds of the established institution. During one sermon, he stood weeping, repeating “God wants to set you free.” Another day he didn’t deliver a sermon at all, telling the congregation, “There’s no word. God has no word for you.”
But delivering his testimony to church leaders he spoke for nine hours straight, and those present knew they’d witnessed something exceptional. When he left the church, a handful of couples followed. He began preaching to them in his home, and soon, they started giving him money.
In 1996, he gave up shoemaking, and by the next year the first news stories began appearing. “Messenger of Beingness: Believers think Edmonton man is conduit from Jesus Christ,” one headline read. “Blue-eyed savior: Followers of this charismatic guru say he’s the real thing and Edmonton may be the new Jerusalem,” read another.
He was an unlikely messiah, a long-haired man from rural Alberta who liked monster trucks and drove a motorcycle. But his following grew into the dozens, then the hundreds, and their devotion intensified. Sometimes his followers wept and clung to him, kissed his feet, supplicated themselves before him on the floor.
In early interviews, de Ruiter described meeting Jesus on a highway in Alberta, and said Jesus then appeared to him thousands of times and “transferred who he is over to me to do as he did.”
But before long de Ruiter’s preaching drifted toward a more new age message, his second awakening becoming not a meeting with Christ but an experience of being “re-immersed in the benevolent reality of pure being.”
He also adopted the approach for which he would become known: Prolonged periods of staring and “silent connection” with his followers. During the staring sessions, some who looked into his eyes had intense visions and hallucinations, transcendent and even near-death experiences. Sometimes de Ruiter would stare intently at one person for half an hour or more, his gaze never wavering.Jana G. Pruden, Are a spiritual leader’s sexual relationships a calling or a dangerous abuse of power? The Globe and Mail, November 26, 2017
Video: The Gospel According to John (de Ruiter)
■ Are a spiritual leader’s sexual relationships a calling or a dangerous abuse of power? The Globe and Mail, November 26, 2017. By Jana G. Pruden.
For decades, Alberta’s John de Ruiter has styled himself as a spiritual leader, a Messianic figure with a piercing gaze who could lead his followers to enlightenment. But over the years, allegations of sexual impropriety have surfaced and a young woman has gone missing, leaving her family — and a growing number of adherents — seeking answers.
■ The Canadian Man Who Commands a Cult with His Gaze VICE, February 25, 2015. Harmon Leon.
■ The Gospel According to John de Ruiter, by Brian Hutchinson, Saturday Night Magazine, May 5, 2001.
■ I was God’s wife, National Post, May 16, 2000. By Scott McKeen.
Joyce de Ruiter had accepted the fact that her husband saw himself as the Messiah. Then he introduced his two new “wives’.
Joyce de Ruiter says she supported her husband’s quest for truth for 18 years. Not anymore.
De Ruiter says the only reason a relationship with three women wouldn’t work is “because of egos.”
■ Dark Oasis: A Self-Made Messiah Unveiled, by Jasun Horsley.
No one who belongs to a cult believes they are in a cult. Most people who join cults are seeking freedom, truth, and happiness. They are trying to get free from the (mostly unacknowledged) cult-like nature of society. Desperate for spiritual orientation, they fall prey to the first charismatic guru who crosses their path and meets their emotional needs.
Dark Oasis documents how the sincere search for meaning can cause us to mistake the allure of a mirage for a genuine oasis. It reveals how the desire for deliverance can lead to psychic servitude, loss of autonomy, and cult-like dependency. Inspired by the author’s experiences with spiritual philosopher and self-proclaimed ‘living embodiment of truth’ John de Ruiter, Dark Oasis is an in-depth exploration of religious doctrine, language manipulation, and misplaced devotion. It provides informed inoculation against the many subtle forms of power abuse and exploitation found within the spiritual marketplace.
■ Alberta spiritual leader John de Ruiter facing new sexual-assault charge, [Archived] The Globe and Mail, September 8, 2023
The man, John de Ruiter, is now charged with eight separate counts of sexual assault in relation to alleged incidents dating back to 2012. His wife, Leigh Ann de Ruiter, is also facing a new sexual-assault charge, bringing the total number of allegations against her up to six.
■ Alberta spiritual leader John de Ruiter charged with four counts of sexual assault, [Archived] The Globe and Mail, January 23, 2023
Mr. de Ruiter, a former shoemaker from Stettler, Alta., has for the past 25 years drawn devoted followers from around the world. He describes himself as the “living embodiment of truth.” His empire, which began with in-person meetings, pamphlets and cassette tapes, has grown to include a sophisticated spectrum of paid livestreams, social media channels, conferences and “John de Ruiter TV.”
While the number of followers Mr. de Ruiter has – and the amount of money he makes from them – isn’t clear, court documents filed in 2009 estimated his personal assets then at almost $9-million, including a house, a $75,000 truck, personal income of $232,000 a year and his stake in the Oasis Centre, a lavish custom meeting place in west Edmonton.
■ ‘Self-styled’ Edmonton spiritual leader of Oasis charged with sexual assault, [Archived] Emily Mertz, Global News, January 23, 2023
Stephen Kent is an emeritus professor in the department of sociology at the University of Alberta who has been following de Ruiter and Oasis for decades.
Kent told Global News he even attended some of de Ruiter’s meetings back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He said followers “believe that de Ruiter is the living embodiment of truth and being around him and trying to follow his teachings will lead to their own spiritual enlightenment and advancement.”
The Oasis group operates on two fronts, Kent said — as a spiritual organization and as a business.
“de Ruiter portrayed himself as a spiritual teacher and his followers saw him in those regards. The Oasis organization, however, is a business. de Ruiter never sought charitable status for his so-called religious and spiritual teachings.”
Kent estimates there are less than 400 devout followers — some in Edmonton, some further north, and around the world.
He says generally, in groups like this, a spiritual leader using claims of advancement as a reason for members to have sex with them is very common.
“What happens in these groups is there may be other people who have been victimized. They’re often, however, afraid to come forward. They still have family members in the group, they’re afraid of retaliation by fanatical members, they’re afraid of the power they believe these leaders hold over them,” Kent explained.
■ Self-styled spiritual leader John de Ruiter charged with sex crimes, [Archived] BBC, January 25, 2023
Police in Edmonton, Alberta said they arrested Mr de Ruiter – who they describe as a “self-appointed spiritual leader” – and charged him with sexually assaulting four women in different incidents between 2012 and 2020.
According to reports to police, Mr de Ruiter told certain female members of his group that he “was directed by a spirit to engage in sexual activity with them, and that engaging in sexual activity with him will provide them an opportunity to achieve a state of higher being or spiritual enlightenment”.
Police believe there may be more victims and have asked them to come forward.
■ John de Ruiter [Not recommended] Official website of John De Ruiter.