„Sucker Love is Heaven Sent” – A Romanian Yoga Cult Under Investigation
In Romania, MISA has a dark and worrying public image: an orgiastic, pee-drinking yoga movement, full of strange, incomprehensible practices, spiral meditations, brainwashing and master-worship. The Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute, founded in 1990, has often been featured in the media after it came into public attention in 2004 when the police broke into and searched a number of MISA homes in Bucharest.
The legal prosecution against MISA and its guru, Gregorian Bivolaru, includes accusations such as sex with a minor girl, tax evasion and illegal crossing of the border. Bivolaru escaped to Sweden, where he managed to convince the Swedish court that the violence of the media against him, as well as the context of a post-communist country and the unexpected and rough treatment MISA received in 2004 at the hands of the police involved in the searches were proof enough of his being persecuted in his home country. Due to this, he received political asylum and he supposedly lives in Malmo, Sweden – although former members point out that his actual location may be Paris, France.
The (In)Famous MISA and Its Even More (In)Famous Guru, Gregorian Bivolaru
Although the media boom concerning MISA happened in 2004, riding a wave of scandalous sex stories and abhorrent pee-related practices, a bit of journalistic digging revealed it as an unsafe religious movement much earlier on. One article published in 1993 in the Tinerama magazine was illustrated by a picture of the great guru Gregorian Bivolaru involved in a sex act with a faceless woman. The article informs us that the photo was used by Gregorian Bivolaru as tuition material for new yoga students – and that Bivolaru was involved in trafficking pornography and seeking out women for perverted practices.
While other articles were published about Bivolaru and MISA over the years, they had little effect when it came to informing the general public and the guru and his ever-growing yoga movement. Thousands of people of all ages were attracted by the possibility of learning about yoga and Eastern practices from what seemed to be a legitimate school. Little did many of them know that the printed courses and brochures they received were plagiarized and that their master was ‘initiating’ his young female yogis sexually.
Those who started attending MISA yoga classes were first presented with entrancing ideas about spirituality, among which were Tantric sexuality and the idealized, divine romantic love. The concepts served as the foundation on which later on other ideas were added to construct a world-view in which sexual energy is the basic energy of life, which must be controlled in very specific ways. Sexual ecstasy became a spiritual endeavor. Once sex became entirely regulated by MISA, women would be invited to sleep with Bivolaru or to become erotic videochat workers, masturbating online for the pleasure of paying men. At one point, women started being sent to Japan to work as hostesses in night bars or even strip dancers – following their success in earning money for MISA, these „spiritual activities” became widely spread and women were also sent to strip in European bars, or even the Bucharest Lucky Love, MISA’s own night club.
A Lucky Love promotion video:
This involvement in sex biz, initially kept secret from the world at large and from many low-level members, started being revealed after the police interventions in 2004, when members and former members of MISA profited from the anonymity of the internet to share stories of their yoga school and their yoga teachers. After long debates about the better and worse sides of MISA and the founding of the Exmisa forum, a large amount of information was gathered and shared with the press. This eventually led to MISA tightening its grip on members and introducing strong thought-control methods to force its students to stay in place. Bivolaru’s conferences started speaking out against the „gossip” around the questionable activities and eventually against „demoniac doubts” which made yogis doubtful about his authenticity – and, implicitly, that of the school. Some members were punished for their beliefs – such as kicking out high-profile student Mihai Rapcea, once Gregorian Bivolaru’s lawyer, who published a number of articles voicing his concerns about MISA’s policies and activities on his personal blog.
Over time, the Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute provoked new scandals internationally by its continued involvement in sex biz and its shady practices. In India, the MISA yoga center was closed when Mihai and Adina Stoian, the leaders of the Denmark branch of MISA, were supposed to hold a yoga camp there. The two yoga instructors, and also porn stars, had to flee the country before they could be caught by the police. MISA was also involved in a media scandal in Argentina and it was the sex biz side of the organization that got it kicked out of the International Yoga Federation. Currently, MISA is being thoroughly investigated by the Italian Antimafia Commission.
The Italian MISA Investigation: 25 Locations Searched, Gregorian Bivolaru a Suspect
The Prosecutor in Florence, Angela Pietroiusti, filed charges of conspiracy, enslavement, human trafficking and sexual violence against MISA – charges not much different from the human trafficking and sexual perversions with a minor that Gregorian Bivolaru has been accused of in Romania.
According to former Italian MISA-affiliated instructor, Virgil Cătălin Călin, the investigation started when a number of MISA students filed complaints because somebody had placed porn DVDs of MISA students on their cars while they attended Mihai Stoian’s conference in Italy. Instead of getting the wrong-doer arrested, they found themselves under investigation after they admitted that the porn actors were their colleagues. While Călin doesn’t specify which MISA porn film this was, it should be mentioned that Mihai Stoian starred in „The Magic Passage” and „Ecstasy Water” along with his wife, Adina Stoian.
The investigation grew in scope from this initial report and, on the sixth and seventh of December 2012, it led to 25 raids across Italy against the Italian branches of MISA – searches were performed in MISA quarters and suspect homes in Bologna, Florence, Milan, San Benedetto del Tronto and Bari. Eighteen people, ‘spiritual master’ Gregorian Bivolaru included, are suspected for enslavement and sexual abuse.
The official MISA website, Yogaesoteric, blamed the Italian investigation on vengeance from Virgil Cătălin Călin and disclaimed any connection with either prostitution or pornography. This might simply be a matter of the MISA perspective: members will be more likely to consider their own explicit films art rather than pornography. While the „Making Off”[sic!] for „The Magic Passage” (starring Mihai and Adina Stoian) has been taken offline, another film, „Ecstasy Water”, carries forwards MISA beliefs about sexuality and spirituality.
„Ecstasy Water” depicts pee games, spiritual teachings and group sexual practices. The storyline revolves around a disciple learning the Tantric path under the guidance of a true spiritual master, played by renowned MISA actor Ioan Pohariu. There are some connections between the spiritual master in the film and Gregorian Bivolaru himself – Pohariu’s character demonstrates his paranormal abilities by making a compass spin through the power of his thoughts alone, something that Gregorian Bivolaru himself has claimed to be able to do. (Sequences of the film can be found on pornhub – please do not click the link unless you are over the age of consent in your country)
However, the Italian investigation is not about the morality or immorality of these practices. As an investigator puts it, “Liberation through sex? That isn’t a problem.” Although MISA yogis seem to believe that they are persecuted because of a misunderstanding of their spirituality or because the evil Satanic cult of the freemasons is afraid of them, the Italian investigator says, “sex itself is certainly not under investigation. But if it becomes a tool to commit abuse against other people, to enslave some, exploit others, the issue changes profoundly. Especially if it turns out that some people are emotionally fragile on a psychological level.”
One of the problems with psychological abuse, however, is that it is hard to find the fine line between consent and coercion. According to December 10 article in Firenze Today, students and instructors from the raided centers described MISA sexual practices as “necessary for spiritual evolution”. However, 10 witnesses, aged 20 to 30, both men and women, discussed psychological subservience, violent sex acts and being filmed without their knowledge or consent during sex. The usage of the secretly filmed footage is under investigation, but there is a theory saying that they were sold as adult films.
A worrying case is discussed by former instructor Virgil Călin. One of the women enrolled in the MISA courses in Italy was invited to meet with Gregorian Bivolaru. Călin warned her no to go, but she had heard from other women that meeting her spiritual master was a ‘great occasion to evolve’ – thus, wanting to get closer to God and to her own self, she accepted the invitation. Popular stories in MISA say that women sleeping with Bivolaru evolve very rapidly, because their auras mix with their master’s and his spiritual achievements will be partially transferred to them. However, the Italian woman’s story was not one of divine sex – once she was face to face with Bivolaru, she was offered two large glasses of strong liquor that got her intoxicated. During sex, she felt ill and asked him to stop, which he didn’t do. When he asked her to pee on him and she couldn’t, he told her she was „a very stupid person” and blamed her inability on demonic possession.
Obviously, this was far from the spiritual and enlightened behavior she had expected – far enough for her to share her story in front of a yoga instructors’ meeting in Italy, prompting others to share their own worrying experiences. This very quickly led to most of the Italian branch of MISA splitting away from Bivolaru’s tutelage.
MISA Demands Justice
Despite the evidence of abuse and of immoral practices, MISA students continue to demand justice and freedom of thought and religion. A number of core believers profess their love for Gregorian Bivolaru, their trust in him as a spiritual leader and their persecution at the hands of the authorities, of the media and of the world in general. They believe that their phones are tapped, that their activities are under surveillance, that at least the Romanian Intelligence Service is trying to bring them down by fabricating evidence.
On the 18th of December, they caroled in front of the building where one of their lawsuits was judged, demanding justice and favorable verdicts. Today, on the 21st of December 2012, they expect a worldwide transformation which doesn’t yet seem to be happening. One cannot doubt the earnestness with which most strong-going MISA members support their favorite causes, the strength of their beliefs and their love for MISA and their spiritual master. While I am certain that they see these as qualities, looking back on some who claimed to have donated tens or hundreds of thousands of euros, or goods and time and money, to MISA and Gregorian Bivolaru, and on the women who slept with their master from love of the man himself and from love of God, I cannot help but hum, along with Placebo, „Sucker love is heaven sent”.