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NRC Response EN NRBelow is a summary of the reaction sent by Avatar to the NRC Handelsblad, in response to the recent articles in this newspaper.


Dear Mr De Jong,

Since the 9th of March of this year, the Avatar organization can pride itself as the recipient of special attention of your newspaper, and in particular that of Mr. Joep Dohmen.

We have followed this reporting with increasing astonishment.

Let me first introduce myself. My name is Pieta van der Ham. Since 1991 I have delivered many Avatar courses in the Netherlands and beyond. I am the owner of International Avatar Courses B.V. and responsible for the coordination of the Avatar courses in Europe.

To start at the beginning. “Mapping an esoteric-spiritual movement that has a behind the scenes influence on public governance, is a legitimate task for journalism that puts the public cause first, also without any criminal facts.” Your quote from the NRC last saturday. I agree with this. Let me help you.

In the Netherlands, Avatar courses have been delivered for over 25 years. Since then thousands of Dutch people have participated in these courses. Many are enthusiastic about it and experience personal growth and development. Exactly as intended by the courses. Some find it 'not so much their cup of tea' (to formulate it modernly) and there are also participants who really did not like it at all.

I believe it right away if, among those thousands of participants, there are people who, in the eyes of others, are over-enthusiastic and appear 'pushy' to get them to take such a course a well. In marketing books these is also called 'brand ambassadors' which is usually presented as something commendable.

It will also have occured that people who have completed the Master's program try to interest others in a course that they organize themselves. If in these situations the perception of a conflict of interest has been created, this is regrettable and unintended.

Should your newspaper wish to publish about the above cases, although not very newsworthy in my opinion, then that is fine.

However, where it goes wrong, is that your newspaper reports on this from a 'tunnel vision' which says that Avatar is a “sectarian movement” that “drives the souls of the deceased out of people, predicts the future” and believes in “the theory of Palmer's that the earth is colonized by extraterrestrials." In doing so, journalistic principles such as hearing all parties involved and the verification of facts have not been applied or at least have insufficiently observed.

A summary of the most important findings…

  1. Fact checking: It is nonsense that in Avatar courses the souls of de deceased are driven out, the future is predicted or that there is a belief in aliens. In the approximately 1500 pages of course materials, nothing is mentioned about predicting the future or allien beings.

    Accusing Avatar of driving out the souls of the deceased is very short of the truth. In part 5 of the Wizards Material there is a theoretical discussion about sjamanism and a discussion on Paracelcus. Perhaps this is where the confusion is created. A paradigm is presented for research purposes for the handling of what is known in Avatar terms as entities. In the context of this letter a full explanation about this is a bit too much but the intention of this part of the course is that everything is offered to the participant for exploration.  

    Avatar is not religion or religious persuasion. So I do not know what every individual person who has ever taken an Avatar course thinks. I do not preclude that there are people who are involved with the above subjects, but it is not part of the curriculum of the Avatar courses, nor what Avatar stands for.
  1. Fact checking: Mr. Dohmen reports that Avatar claims to be able to cure physical ailments. That is also nonsense. This claim is not made anywhere in the Avatar materials. On the contrary even: if a student registers for the training, it is explicitly stated that the training is not a replacement for medical treatment. This is also clearly stated on the registration form (included as attachment). 

    For clarification: participants who finish the Avatar self-development course with good results, in some cases feel, popularly said, “more themselves” and can experience that as a positive influence on their health. However, that is completely different than the allegation of your newspaper on what Avatar claims.
  1. Hearing and rebuttal: Mr Dohmen could have found out the above fairly easily by contacting Avatar. Whoever enters that word in Google in the Netherlands, arrives at Avatar.nl. For many years the mail addresses, and even my o6 number can be found. However, this did not happen prior to the publications of 9 and 10 March.

    In a Radio 1 broadcast of the NPS on April 3, Mr Dohmen argues on the question whether he had heard Avatar,  that Avatar was not reachable: "[...] No, these are all individual Avatar Masters who do individual courses, [...] yes we try to call and we call his boss, so [......] they are all separate Avatars."

    All other Dutch media, such as for example the NOS, AVROTROS (Dr. Kelder & Co), but also the Belgian newspaper 'De Standaard', could reach me easily by phone and I answered them with an explanation about Avatar. Your colleagues at the BBC didn’t even have any problem to get the developer of the Avatar Materials, Harry Palmer, to respond to their questions on the 27th and 28th of March within a few hours.
  1. Hearing and rebuttal: it also appears that Mr Dohmen is rather selective with the processing of the rebuttals he received in his articles. Many of his interviewees report that there is rather suggestive 'shopping' in what has been used. Those involved do not want to be mentioned by name, but from what I have been allowed to see it seems that despite supplied facts and information that refute his suspicions, Mr. Dohmen again and again chose to use his own wording and frame anyway, in this way for example ‘supporting’ his position that the "sectarian grouping Avatar infiltrates education and public governance" and, in between the lines, raise the suggestion that the children in schools are being brainwashed and the country is secretly being governed.

 

Come on, NRC. Avatar is a self-development course based on the principles of personal responsibility, compassion and service to others. You can have an opinion on Avatar or you can think nothing of it, but to suggest a sort of comprehensive plan of indoctrinating and brainwashing schoolchildren, civil servants and police officers is nonsense and every medium unworthy, especially a quality newspaper. Mr. Dohmen is not able in any of his articles to prove why Avatar would want this, or what the purpose of all this should be.

Taking all this into account, I would like to ask you if you want to take another good look at the methodology of your newspaper in this series of articles. The intentions and motives of the source(s) and quoted internetexperts are worth a second opinion.

Finally, I would like to support the invitation a previous letter writer already made to you and offer you or one of your colleagues a two-day ReSurfacing Workshop (part 1 of the Avatar course). All that is needed is an open mind and the willingness to look at oneself honestly.

Of course I am available for further clarification, if desired.

I look forward to your reaction.

Kind regards,

Pieta van der Ham

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