Anti-cultists started attacking Loup Blanc in the 1990s, but only after the 2020 their campaign gained momentum. He was arrested in December 2021.
by Massimo Introvigne
In a book published by Oxford University Press in 2011, Canadian scholar Susan J. Palmer explored the roots and reasons of the French campaign against the “cults” (called in France “sectes,” a French word to be translated in English as “cults” rather than “sects”). Old tensions between secularism and religion were combined with new fears that “cults” had developed sinister brainwashing techniques. While anti-cult movements are active in other countries as well, in France the main groups combating the “sectes,” including the UNADFI (Union nationale des associations de défense des familles et de l’individu victimes de sectes, National Union of Associations Defending the Families and Individuals Victims of Cults), are subsidized by the government. There is a governmental Inter-ministerial Mission for Monitoring and Combating Cultic Deviances (MIVILUDES, Mission interministérielle de vigilance et de lutte contre les dérives sectaires) and special anti-cult police units such as the one that dealt with the case of Loup Blanc.
The ideology inspiring both the MIVILUDES and the UNADFI are frequently criticized by international scholars of new religious movements and non-French governmental institutions such as the USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom). They note that the anti-cult ideology is based on the pseudo-scientific theory of brainwashing, which assumes that otherwise mentally competent adults may be deprived of their free will through sinister and mysterious techniques of mind control developed by evil “gurus.” Most scholars of religion and courts of law in several countries, from the United States to Italy, have concluded that these techniques do not exist. Claims that they are used by the “cults” are simply tools to discriminate against unpopular minorities. Anti-cultists insist that some doctrines and practices are so strange and socially unacceptable that they can only be embraced by victims of brainwashing or mental manipulation.
Loup Blanc has poked some fun at the associations that combat the “sectes” but behave themselves as “sectes” according to their own definition. He has observed that “soccer, hunting, political parties, religious parties, they are ALL cults but are authorized by the government,” which only hits those who dare to think unconventionally. However, he could not escape the malevolent attention of media that adhere to the definition of the “cult” prevailing in French society, of the UNADFI, and finally of the MIVILUDES.
In 1992, a local newspaper from Alençon called “L’Orne hebdo” published an article slandering Loup Blanc as the typical “guru” of a “cult.” The information came from the local affiliate of the UNADFI. Harmonia, the association that gathered at that time the disciples of Loup Blanc, decided not to react (although Loup Blanc personally had suggested a legal action). However, on April 22, 1993, a national newspaper, “France-Soir,” used the report of “L’Orne hebdo” in an article where an ex-member hidden under the pseudonym of “Christian” accused Harmonia of “destroying families and individuals.” The article in “France-Soir” reported the UNADFI’s opinion that Harmonia was one of the most dangerous “cults” in France, and suggested a comparison between the disciples of Loup Blanc and the Branch Davidians that three days before, on April 19, 1993, had died in Waco, Texas, in a confrontation with the FBI. The same and the following day, the TV network France 3 broadcasted the same information.
This time, Harmonia sued. On March 14, 1994, the Justice Court of Paris found “France-Soir” guilty of defamation for not having checked the accuracy of the story of “Christian” and having proposed a slandering comparison with the Branch Davidians. The newspaper did not appeal, and the judgement became final. The TV network had been sued separately before a different court, the Tribunal of Caen, which on June 12, 1994, concluded that the broadcasted content was not inherently defamatory, but France 3 was nonetheless guilty of having presented it in a malicious way aimed at slandering Harmonia. Unlike “France-Soir,” the TV Network appealed. On June 25, 1996, the Appeal Court of Caen ruled in favor of France 3, and on December 17, 1998, the Court of Cassation confirmed the appeal verdict. These decisions stated that the defamation issue could not be separated from the one about how the information about Harmonia was presented. However, by that time Harmonia no longer existed. The Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, for a technical reason, were not persuaded that the new association, Oxyon 777, can replace Harmonia and exert all its rights. They thus found against Oxyon 777, based on a technicality that the disciples of Loup Blanc imputed to a mistake of their lawyer.
Meanwhile, in December 1995, a French parliamentary commission had published a report on “cults in France,” which included a notorious “list of cults” that was heavily criticized by international and French scholars and the French government itself later disavowed. The list included “Oxyon 777 (ex-Harmonia).” This was not surprising, considering the role of the anti-cult associations, directly or through their contacts with the French police intelligence service Renseignement Généraux, in the preparation of the list. In 1997, “L’Orne hebdo” published a new vitriolic attack. Some exchanges of letters followed, but once again the disciples of Loup Blanc decided not to pursue a local newspaper.
In retrospect, the campaign led to some police or Renseignement Généraux surveillance of members and events of the group, but did not last for long. Its most annoying consequence for Loup Blanc’s disciples was the use in some divorce cases of the argument that the parents who were members of a “cult” were not fit for the custody of their children. As mentioned earlier, Oxyon 777 was dissolved in 1999, and the campaign slowly subsided.
However, a worse storm started in 2019. As mentioned earlier, the student who had built the website of the group, T., was becoming progressively estranged from Loup Blanc for personal reasons. In March 2020, T. left the group, according to some of my interviewees after Loup Blanc had started confronting him about his manipulatory, aggressive, and inappropriate behavior toward several other students. Soon, he started campaigning against it on social media and inciting some female ex-members to contact the MIVILUDES. His aim was to submit a report to the MIVILUDES and file a complaint against Loup Blanc. This was eventually done (although on the role of T. my interviewees had different opinions), accusing Loup Blanc of using techniques of psychological manipulation (the typical “cult” crime in France), including on women who accepted to participate in the Tantric work without realizing that, while they consented, they did it because they were “sous emprise” (under psychological control), which eventually led to his arrest on December 8, 2021.
While the criminal investigation continues, his lawyer, whom I interviewed, complains about the conditions of his detention, first in Nîmes and now in Béziers, where Loup Blanc is prevented from meeting his students and his relatives, following his vegan diet, and using his usual natural health remedies. According to the attorney, he lost 15 kilos since he was arrested. The lawyer also complains that 140 witnesses ready to testify in favor of Loup Blanc, including women who went through the Tantric work, were substantially ignored. Some students were heard, but they complained that the interrogations by the anti-cult police were quite aggressive. One even claimed that when she said that Loup Blanc “always respected the women,” her sentence was transcribed in the official report as “never respected women nor men.” She adds that when she asked to correct the report she was threatened by the agent. Requests to convert Loup Blanc’s detention into house arrest for humanitarian and other reasons were rejected.
Let me repeat once again that I do not condone sexual abuse, nor do I believe that freedom of religion or belief should protects abusers. In cases like this, which are not infrequent when a Tantric work on sexuality is part of the teachings, we are always confronted with irreconcilable narratives. Those who remain in the group are persuaded of the leader’s innocence. “Apostate” ex-members—“apostate” being here not a derogatory term, but a technical category W used by sociologists to indicate the minority of ex-members who turn into militant opponents of the group they have left—insist he (more rarely she) is guilty.
While leaving to courts of law the difficult task of ascertaining the facts, based on several decades of experience with groups and teachers who perform Tantric sexual work, I would only suggest that prosecutors and judges consider their peculiarities. Their practices, while typical of a century-old tradition in Asian Tantrism, may look bizarre, strange, and even subversive in the West. The question is whether this should lead to the conclusion that the consent of any woman participating in these practices with a male guru should be regarded as necessarily and by definition vitiated by mental manipulation or mind control.
It seems to me that such a conclusion would be offensive to the highly educated women I interviewed who insisted that they participated in a Tantric work with Loup Blanc that included several sexual practices, some of them unconventional, perfectly understanding what it was all about and after having concluded it was an experience they wanted to try. They emphatically claimed they were never coerced to do anything, and stopped the experience when they wanted to and believed they had already reaped the fruits they had expected from it. They then continued as members of the group in good standing to this very day. They are not aggressive when discussing the accusers, but believe that, having left the group, they are now ashamed of experiences they undertook freely and even described enthusiastically to other students at the time they were taking place. Now, however, they rationalize them through the convenient brainwashing argument easily available in the French anti-cult culture they are being socialized into.
Abuse, of course, is always possible. Although sexual abuse is statistically more prevalent in mainline religion, including the Roman Catholic Church, than in new religious movements, it can occur everywhere. It is a risk in groups including among their teachings Tantric sexual practices too, and there have been cases of unwilling women forced to have sex with the leaders. On the other hand, assuming that willing women are never really willing, notwithstanding how they tell their story, and can only be under the spell of mind control, implies that experimenting with Tantric sexual work is forbidden in general in France, and is just another incarnation of the old and discredited theory of brainwashing.
As for the fate of Loup Blanc, he would probably answer our questions, according to an unpublished poem a student sent to me, that “TIME… the Great Weaver, tirelessly weaves the wool of our experiences” and, in ways we do not always understand, weaves “the FABRIC of each creature’s destiny, Giving the best to each according to their merits.”