John de Ruiter, a self-described spiritual authority, has been accused of sex offenses

John de Ruiter

A messianic leader of a multimillion-dollar spiritual organization in western Canada has been accused of four counts of sexual assault.

John de Ruiter, 63, has been in charge of the College of Integrated Philosophy in Edmonton for many years while avoiding controversy and claims that he is in charge of a cult.

He will contest the charges in court, a representative for Mr. de Ruiter told the BBC in a statement.

According to the organization's website, he will start working again at the College this week.

Described as a "self-appointed spiritual leader," Mr. de Ruiter was detained by Edmonton, Alberta police and accused of sexually assaulting four women in separate incidents between 2012 and 2020.

Police received information stating that Mr. de Ruiter told some of the group's female members 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 with an opportunity to achieve a state of higher being or spiritual enlightenment.".

Police have urged any additional victims to come forward as they believe there may be more.

Mr. de Ruiter will be represented by legal counsel, according to Zaba Walker, a spokeswoman for him, who wrote to the BBC in an email, adding that he "intends to vigorously contest these charges in a court of law.".

For those who know Mr. de Ruiter, she said, "this situation is deeply impactful.".

Events with Mr. de Ruiter scheduled to start this weekend, including in-person gatherings in St. Albert and Edmonton, will proceed as planned, according to the group's website.

Before creating his own teachings, Mr. de Ruiter—whose full first name is Johannes—worked as a junior pastor and a shoemaker in rural Alberta where he was raised.

Insisting on "core-splitting honesty" for his thousands of devoted followers, he has referred to himself as the "living embodiment of truth.". Mr. de Ruiter, the College's president, is not a psychologist or therapist and lacks the necessary training or certification.

He gained notoriety for holding lengthy periods of silent attention for his followers during weekly meetings.

Unknown is the precise number of his adherents, some of whom have traveled abroad to join his community.

The Globe and Mail newspaper conducted an investigation in 2017 that featured interviews with several of Mr. de Ruiter's supporters who questioned his sexual relationship with some of his female followers. The Globe claims that Nicolas de Ruiter, the late Mr. de Ruiter's son, published online about his father's extramarital liaisons with local married women.

The Globe reported that according to Mr. de Ruiter's son, he had a "knowing" that he was meant to "be with a number of women in sexual relations with a purpose of meaning.".

A frequently asked questions section with a "controversy" section can be found on Mr. de Ruiter's website.

One inquiry inquires, "Are some of the most harsh criticisms of John de Ruiter accurate?".

The article states: "John did not and does not use sex as a method of controlling or forcing anyone else to submit.

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