John de Ruiter’s Stare
The cult of John de Ruiter is an example of a new religious movement that has emerged out of Edmonton, Alberta. Harmon Leon a representative at Vice ventured to Edmonton to report of the craze of de Ruiter. John de Ruiter was a humble Christian preacher and orthopedic shoemaker in rural Alberta before he founded the College of Integrated Philosophy in Edmonton. The followers of de Ruiter participate long sessions, that they call “meetings,” where de Ruiter sits in a large armchair, upon an elevated stage where he intensely gazes into the crowd for hours. Massive projection screens show images of his gaze close up, while de Ruiter stares into the crowd of his followers and his followers stare back quietly. Then, briefly, yet intense, a session begins near the end where de Ruiter talks with people and answers their unanswered existential and personal questions. These talking sessions from de Ruiter are sparse with words, deep in depth, intense, and brief. His followers have said that de Ruiter can look straight into their soul; that he’s like acid and something about his stare clicks with them. Together, all of his followers ultimately consider de Ruiter to be the “living embodiment of the truth,” and is worshipped by his worldwide followers, which number in the thousands, as a new messiah. John de Ruiter even has a world tour of his “meetings,” including places like Israel, Germany, India, Holland, and England. His followers that attend the meetings weekly in Edmonton are too, from all over the world. One member stated that, “you’ll find that there are less Edmontonians, and more people from elsewhere, it’s very international.” There are many criticisms regarding John de Ruiter, his followers, and his beliefs and practices. One of the criticisms is regarding the end of sessions where de Ruiter interacts with his followers, which involves a prescreening of the individuals who get to talk to de Ruiter; if the questions aren’t favorable, then they aren’t chosen. This then means that some questions are more favorable and may appeal to de Ruiter’s followers more and thus, making de Ruiter seem much more insightful and wise. The cult of John de Ruiter, or the “meetings” held by the College of Integrated Philosophy are definitely odd because there is no doctrine or beliefs, it is rather just a cult of personality where followers mistake de Ruiter’s relative silence, scarcity of words, and intense gaze as indications of profound depth.
Leon, Harmon. “The Canadian Man Who Commands a Cult with His Gaze.” Vice. February 25, 2015. (http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/inside-a-canadian-staring-cult-224