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From Brandon to Jesus: I Went to A Workshop Held by a Charismatic Self-Proclaimed Spiritual Leader

by Cristina Costea

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When a workshop on breathing techniques popped up on my Facebook feed, I thought it was a sign. I had just gone through a series of anxiety episodes that manifested in various ways, including a feeling of unease, not being able to focus my thoughts, terrible sleep and bad dreams, chest pains, and my least favorite, controlled breathing – it’s unpleasant and very tiring. The longest it lasted was 6 months, so when it started happening again, I was worried, which is why I was interested in attending the workshop.

The workshop itself was held by a man in his late thirties who calls himself a spiritual leader. While he himself admits that there’s something off about that, you could easily see that he took pride in calling himself a spiritual leader. He’s gifted, he thinks. He can see shapes in the air (synesthesia, perhaps), he cured himself of cancer (don’t all spiritual leaders do that?) and at one point he could breathe underwater (this was where he completely and utterly lost me).

He’s tall, slim, but fit. He has broad shoulders, visible pectoral muscles, long legs, and beautiful hands. His face is truly gorgeous. I’m sure he gets this a lot, but he looks like Jesus. You know those Catholic paintings of Jesus, with his blue eyes and light brown hair? That’s Brandon. He’s got a nice beard, a few wrinkles around his eyes, just enough to take him seriously as a spiritual leader and long, dark blonde hair, in a low ponytail; his teeth are impeccable, his smile is superb, and he’s got a glow about him. He’s wearing jeans and a distressed T-shirt and he’s what one might call… conventionally hot. He’s also very charismatic and he truly knows how to charm people. Women, to be more precise, because out of the 30 people who attended the workshop, there were only three men.

jesus coin

The workshop itself was a disappointment. The breathing techniques that he actually taught us could have been explained in 5 minutes. Instead, he took two hours to talk to us about the karmic wheel, the eternal flame, how we are everything and everything is us, how fear and anger makes us tick, and more on the same lines. His actual knowledge of these things seemed superficial. He was letting on that while he did study quite enough books, everything was actually coming from within him. He was gifted, he was special, he was enlightened. But I suspect this superficiality came from him not managing to put his thoughts in order when he was speaking. He seemed chaotic, at times. He would start talking about something and then move on to another idea and completely abandon the previous one. He would say things such as: “I don’t want to burden you with this type of information, it’s too much for you. Oh, fine, I’ll tell you.” And then he would proceed to utter a sentence or two that didn’t really make sense, or it was a silly, general truth.

All in all, he was all over the place. And so was his spiritual background. He seemed to draw inspiration from every single thing that ever existed in this big, bad world: the ancient Indo Europeans, the Sanskrit language, the Sun, Buddhist meditation, Feng Shui, Yoga, Christianity (Catholicism and Orthodoxy), philosophers, priests, monks, Physics, Psychology and Indian spiritual leaders. While one might be tempted to say that the world and maybe the truth isn’t this or that, that it’s a mixture of everything in the world, I tend to believe that structure inside a belief system isn’t a sign of rigidity, but a sign of veracity. An Orthodox priest would have a field day with Brandon.

How funny is it that almost all spiritual leaders, from Jesus to Brandon, were handsome men, with plenty of charisma, and a certain je ne sais quoi about them? In the group, there was this man, a bit older than Brandon, who seemed to share the same opinions and beliefs as he did, but when he talked, he was much easier to follow. His thoughts were more structured, his words seemed better chosen and he simply made a tad more sense than Brandon. So why wasn’t he in Brandon’s place? Why didn’t he have a following? Well, because he was 50, obese, and conventionally unattractive. You can’t be all those things and be a cult/spiritual leader. Not in the western world, at least. No, we like our cult leaders pretty.

What’s interesting and maybe a smidge worrisome is that Brandon even somewhat compared himself to Jesus. At one point, he mentioned that he used to work in construction. And then promptly said: “Jesus was a carpenter”. Well, yes, he was!

The crowd was as interesting as Brandon. There were a handful of women, around Brandon’s age, who were obviously his giggly groupies. At one point, towards the end, he got up and walked by them and they held out their hands to touch him. I had to look away, it was that painful to watch. By the end of the workshop, they were ecstatic. You could see the impact his presence and his words had on their mood. He was their feel-good pill. One of them jumped up and said she needed to twirl everyone in the room and she did just that. A nice restroom break, I reckoned.

The woman next to me was visibly sick; most likely, she had cancer. Culty Brandon does what so many have done before him: give hope and mess with people’s minds. Of course, he mentioned that you can cure cancer through breathing. I take back what I said at the beginning about how the breathing underwater irked me the most. It was the cancer bit that did it. I can’t begin to express how incredibly dangerous and irresponsible I think it is to make such statements to people in general, not to mention to sick people.

And then there was my friend, who was so taken with him, that she ended up holding his hand and even crying towards the end of the workshop. It was fascinating, yet so scary to see how much power he held over those people. The same power that can make people commit mass suicides or do things that they would never do otherwise. At one point I even felt pissed off that he was a man and not a woman. We need more women spiritual leaders! Why shouldn’t women mess with people’s heads?

What I did like about the whole experience and Brandon was that I got to see something quite fascinating. Because he is fascinating. I’ve got a good head on my shoulders and I’m not easily wooed, but he’s quite a sight. He seemed so calm and so in control that by the end of the workshop, everyone in the room was calm. People were yawning and taking off their shoes, everyone was relaxed. There was a nice energy floating around and even I left the building feeling quite energized, yet peaceful. I laughed, I joked, I felt good. Dare I say, I felt balanced. I have no idea if it was Brandon’s doing or it was the listening to someone talk for two hours about trippy things that make no sense.

When I complained to my friend that some of the things he was saying didn’t actually make any sense, she just said that I need to be more open to these types of things. And by God, I am open. More open, and I would have probably felt an urge to wash Brandon’s feet. And I’m not a skeptic. I am an avid Tarot reader, I’m into crystals, and I do believe that there is something out there that science has yet to explain. What was once magical, now can be explained by science. And that is going to keep happening until the end of time.

I don’t think I’ll be going to any of Brandon’s future events. He was a bit too chaotic and trippy for my taste. I prefer my spiritual leaders to be eloquent, focused, and responsible. I favor clear explanations, even if they’re about parapsychology.

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