Biosphere Articles Part 4 
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 Biosphere Articles Part 4
Part 4

"When He Hits You, It's a Compliment"
Johnny Allen Rools-- and Cult Members Knuckle Under
by Marc Cooper, The Village Voice, April 2, 1991.

     After two decades of openly dominating his technocult
followers, 61-year-old John Polk Allen stays mostly in the
background of the Biosphere 2 project. But as the space dome's
most prestigious consultant, Dr. Ghillean Prance of the Royal Kew
Gardens, says, "John Allen still calls the shots. John Allen ls
still the guru."
     To the scientists at the Smithsonian and the University of
Arizona who have been contracted to work on the Biosphere, Allen
is a "visionary," a man armed with "awesome intellectual
firepower." But to others who have known and worked with him he
is an intimidating, sometimes dangerous, even {*filter*} tyrant.
When the Voice contacted several former core members of his
group, they universally declined to be interviewed-- even on an
anonymous basis- citing fear for their personal security. What
all who have known John Allen agree on is that he ls one of those
once-in-a-lifetime, charismatic, engaging, and enthralling
personalities. Custom-made to lead a cult.
     The road that the bearish, stocky Allen has traveled from
his Oklahoma hometown to hts position today as intellectual
author and so-called director of Scientific Development of the
Biosphere took him through a spate of post-World War II
handyjobs, including fruit picker, labor organizer, and railroad
worker. ln the early '50s he graduated from the respected
Colorado School of Mines with a degree in metallurgy, then spent
some time managing a uranium plant, which led to his enrollment
at the Harvard Business School.
     New Age wrlter Milo Clark, who was a Harvard classmate of
Allen's and who remains an admirer, says that after working
overseas on development projects for the David Lilienthal
Company, "John showed up one day and announced he was going to
walk across North Africa. He took off to Tangier to intentionally
pick up dysentery and anything else he could," Clark recounts.
"Then he quite literally crossed North Africa by foot, went to
Tunisia where he did some government consulting, got through
Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma, and wound
up in North Vietnam. Then he spent some time way up in Laos where
he lived like a local and developed an extraordinary interest in
Buddhism, which shows up with other influences in what he calls
     Allen was next seen in the Halght-Ashbury in the mid-'60s
where he was know as the beat poet Johnny Dolphin. Then, flitting
among San Francisco, New York, and New Mexico, he undertook an
intensive study of the Greek-born mystic cult leader G. I.
Gurdjieff. Peaking in European popularity ln the 1920'5,
Gurdjieff demanded that his followers submit to his will so that
he could more easily banish the forces that tie them to a
decaying culture. Using the same highly authoritarian and
confrontational methods of his mentor, Allen by the late '60s had
pulled together his Theatre of All Possibilities-- the embryo of
both his Synergia Ranch and today's Biosphere 2.
     "John's primary teaching method is theater, that's how he
builds his loyalties. They function with the theater group as the
very core of the core group," says Clark, who at one time was
invited by Allen to join the group's inner ctrcle. "Loyalty and
adherence to Allen's dream seem to be the prime desiderata. And
that dream has always been the same. John fully believes that we
are going to have to abandon Earth one day and go bouncing off
into space; and that when we do, we will have to take the
Biosphere with us."
     Former UC Professor Laurence Veysey, spent five weeks on
Allen's commune in 1971, has published an account of the total
domination and psychological control Allen exerts over his
followers. And there is ample evldence, compiled by the Voice and
other sources, that such abusive behavior lingered through the
1980s and continues today.
     In 1985 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran an investigative
series on Allen's group. The paper's interest was piqued when the
group opened a high profile jazz club in the city-- the Caravan
of Dreams-- financed, as are all of Allen's projects, by oil heir
Ed Bass. Bass joined Allen's theater group ln 1973. After
interviewing more than a dozen people connected to the Caravan of
Dreams, the newspaper prefaced its expos by stating that the
"accounts would be almost unbelievable except that so many people
tell similar versions" of the core group's activities, its
loyalty to Allen, the desire of group members to "escape," as
well as Allen's seemingly hypnotic hold over money-source Ed
     One former accountant for the Caravan of Dreams, Carol Line,
told the Texas paper that Allen repeatedly abused Bass, both
vocally and physically, ln front of group members. AIlen, she
said; "went lnto a tirade and started punching and kicking Ed in
the stomach. . . Ed did not raise his hands or attempt to defend
hirnself. . . Allen teaches people that when he hits you it's a
compliment. . . You're supposed to thank him." Bass, through his
spokespeople, has always denied belng the target of any abuse.
Shortly after Line made those public statements she was accused
of embezzlement by the Caravan of Dreams management. After
recanting her accusations against Allen, she paid the Caravan
$5,000 and went back to work at the club; in 1986, all charges
against Line were dropped. But in a 1989 CBC documentary, Line
sald she was forced to recant and was now standing by her former
     After her initial declarations, a Washington Post reporter
secured a rare interview with John Allen-- a one-on-one that ran
some six hours. Allen denied the allegations of domination but
said he had struck group members "six times" in the previous 18
years, mostly when one of the "upper-middle-class American
diddlehead[s] in the group .was doing somethlng that's going to
imperil the group." Allen specifically denied beating Ed Bass but
admitted that he had scolded and yelled at him when Bass "was
acting like a snotty Yale millionaire." Referrlng to his primary
financial backer, Allen continued: "Ed Bass is a problem because
he's deferred to all his life. Now this is very dangerous. So I
have yelled, yes. I have yelled hard. But these {*filter*}s have
never, I have never put anyone through, I would say 25% of what I
went through in [army] basic training."
     But accounts of {*filter*} perpetrated by Allen persist.
"Everyone we know who got out of the core group was frightened to
death," Rosemary Nishida told the Voice in an extended intervlew.
Nishida, and her husband Makio lived with Allen's group in 1983
when he was employed as general manager of the Caravan of Dreams.
"Makio's nephew was married to a woman that had been in the
group, this cult around John Allen. That's how we got introduced
to them. But before Makio took the job, she left the group and
warned us about John's bullying. We laughed her off, thinking she
was hysterical. She told us how John broke her ankle
deliberately. About how she was pregnant against his will because
he tells people who they can sleep with. She was forced to give
up her child to the group for three years down at their ranch in
Australia. [Allen denies that any children have been forcibly
separated from their parents by his group.] And she claimed she
was threatened when she tried to break with them. We just didn't
believe her."
     At least not until the Nishidas lived in the group's
apartment complex for a year. "They are pretty scary people,"
Rosemary Nishida says today. "After we left it took me like six
months to free myself from the paranoia. John Allen is the
driving force in the group and he exercises a sort of ongoing
intimidation. He's menacing. And he's {*filter*}. That much we
     "l saw him hit 'Flash'-- you know, Marie Allen. A good clear
shot to her face," says Makio Nishida. "But what he does best is
verbal {*filter*}. All he has to do is change his tone of voice or
give a certain look and everything would stop cold." Makio says
his first serious doubts about Allen's group arose shortly after
he was employed. "1 really noticed something was wrong when I was
invited to dinner with the group several times," he says. "People
would stand up, everyone, people even like Ed Bass, and there
would be this kind of testimonial/confessional. They would say
how wrong they were, how bad their lives had been, but how they
were now on the right track because of the theater group."
     Rosemary Nishida claims that Allen sought out
psychologically insecure individuals and then masterfully
exploited thelr weaknesses. "They're mostly misfits in the group,
people who can't make it alone in society," she says. "He finds
these low self-esteem people and then gives them important
titles, allows them to feel superior, lets them travel among the
group's projects. But they are very controlled. They are told
what they can do and where they can go. One technique Allen uses
is to put foreigners in America and Americans overseas. They get
a minimum amount of money for work they do, but never enough to
get their independence. The core group is always forced to live
     Nishida's portrayal of group life matches very closely that
of Milo Clark who, as a much more intimate collaborator of John
Allen, had been asked to join the group. "I didn't want to join.
To do so means you live on the room and board of the group with a
little walk-around money and that you live within the group's
facilities. Members of the core group oscillate around the planet
in the different group projects."
     But there are other reasons why Clark said he "couldn't
handle" full integration into the group though he still reveres
its leader: "John Allen is truly one of the outstanding polymaths
running around the Planet today. And Mark Nelson is the other guy
who has done his homework. Ed Bass at least puts his money where
his mouth is. But the rest of the group is as phoney as
three-dollar bills. There is this constant cast of characters
that is the core group throughout the years and almost to a
person they are totally incompetent. The people in the core group
are given management responsibilities and just don't know what
they are doing. The hardest part for me working at the Caravan of
Dreams was to have to be around all these people, supposedly wlth
credentials, just making the most basic mistakes. It was amazing.
Like the Biosphere. It's a wonderful, dazzling project. But it
has a fatal flaw: the same old cast has reappeared to run it."

The Martian Chronicles
How the Media Spaced Out on the Biosphere
by Marc Cooper
The Village Voice, April 2, 1991

     Hundreds of prlnt and broadcast reports on the Biosphere
have appeared worldwide over the last five years. And though many
were conducted by supposedly expert sclence reporters, the
product has been almost universally uncritical. A small sample:

The New York Times: The worst offenderby far. A total of six
pieces (including aSunday magazine "Works in Progress" blurb)
since 1986, including two large takeouts by science reporter
William Broad. ln his first piece, in 1986, Broad does refer to
John Allen's "apocalyptic applications" of the Blosphere as well
as to Veysey's account of life on Synergia Ranch. But in a
follow-up piece in November 1990, Broad has promoted Allen's cult
to the status of "space enthusiasts" and lauds their work as an
example of how privately funded "science" can be more efficient
than the stodgy government hacks over at NASA. When asked if he
might be lending just a bit too much credence to what appears to
be a cult, Broad told the Voice, "Oh no! In terms of dollars,
they are doing much more than NASA in this field. Even if one
were to say the experiment is bogus, there are real scientists
there who will be squeezing it for every and all data possible."
Broad was familiar with their theoretical writings on a doomed
Earth and colonization of Mars-- material not mentloned in his
1990 plece-- and said:
     "Yeah. l've got one of thelr books. It's just a riot to
read-- they lay out their whole plan about Mars. It's just wild."

The Los Angeles Times: Science writer Tom Maugh II filled more
than a page and half with his puffery on the Biosphere back in
1987. Calling the project an "unprecedented attempt by venture
capitalists," he described the 13 people then chosen as
precandidates to be part of the Biosphere crew as "young,
well-traveled, highly motlvated and idealistic. . . [people who]
expressed strong views about the need to protect and nurture the
environment." Apparently making no attempt to verify the
scientific credentials of this gaggle of mostly cult core group
members, Maugh went on to say that "before joining Space
Biosphere Ventures, most were involved in other ecology-oriented
projects operated by the London-based Institute of Ecotechnics."
That Institute, it should be remembered, is the shell credential
factory operated by the group itself. Maugh did note that Ed Bass
was financing the project, just like he had done for a "serles of
ecologically oriented projects conceived by John Allen and Mark
Nelson," who are identifled only as "principals" of the Institute
for Ecotechnlcs.
     ln his second full-page apple-polisher published in 1989,
Maugh drops any characterizatlon at all of the originators of the
project, referring to them only as "Biospherians." The only
sources quoted by Maugh in this "scientific review" are employees
of the Biosphere.
     "It's a fascinating story and I'm just getting ready to do a
third plece on them," Maugh veritably bubbled over the phone line
when reached by the Voice. When asked why he didn't delve deeply
into the group's background in his first piece and mentions them
not at all in the second, Maugh answered: "Well, in the first
article I did touch a bit on Bass and so on. But by this stage it
seems that sort of background stuff is no longer relevant. By
now, when you go there and see they are actually going through
with it, it's really quite stunning. I'm sure they are all not
Ph.D.'s. But they are doing something real and lmpressive."

     The Washington Post Magazine: ln January 1990, the Post
turned over its magazine cover and more than nine full pages for
a piece of fawning fuddle from writer Curt Suplee. By focuslng on
local favorite son and star consultant to the Biosphere, Dr.
Walter Adey of the Smithsonian, the screed gave the project
world-class scientific credibility (though the author claimed in
an interview that his approach was a "fun, magaziney-type
article" without scientific pretensions). Again, the cult command
center, the Institute for Ecotechnics-- was described as an
"avant-garde idea-hatchery in London that for years had been
developlng and managlng ecological projects around the world."
That's roughly equivalent to calling The Washington Post Magazine
"an unimpeachable source of the world's most reliable scientiflc
reporting." Ironically, The Washington Post-- six years ago---
ran one of the handful of articles (written by Paul Taylor) ever
printed in the United States that detailed the background of John
Allen. Magazine writer Suplee couldn't recall if he had or hadn't
ever read that clip but said that if Taylor had written it, it
must be "pretty solid" informatlon. Pity none of it made it into
the nine pages he took over in the magazine.

     Newsweek: Two pages in 1989 described the project as
concelved and bullt by a "group of scientists, engineers and
entrepreneurs." And "Biosphere 2's greatest use [will] be as a
lab for the planet itself." No scientific critics of the
experiment are asked to comment and all quoted sources are
Blosphere employees.

     National Geographic World: A "down-to-Earth space station"
planned by "more than 200 scientists from all over the world" is
how the people at National Geographic used four or five pages to
describe the project in their "World" edition, which millions of
unwitting American schoolchildren have foisted on them by their
teachers. Special attention is pald to Bernd Zabel, the
"sclentist." National Geographic apparently ran short of space to
describe Zabel's more colorful background as the owner of the
.357 Magnum pistol that was fired against the refrigerator full
of dynamlte at Allen's Synergia Ranch (see main story).

     The Whole Earth Review: The cover, plus 12 more breathless
pages on the "autonomous world, ready to go." To his credit,
writer Kevin Kelly at one polnt asks: "Who are these folks? A
former theatre group; beyond that they are not saying much." To
his discredit, he never follows up his own tantalizing query
except for heaps of self-serving quotes from the Biospherians
themselves-- all of which are taken at face value. The parting
shot comes from Peter Warshall, who says: "l highly recommend
that everyone build a biosphere." And why not? Warshall is not
only an editor of the Whole Earth Review, but is also a paid
consultant to Biosphere 2.

     Honorable Mentions: Lennox Samuels of the Dallas Morning
News and gayle Reaves formerly of the Fort Worh Star News (and
now with the Dallas Morning News) are to be credited for breaklng
the original stories on the connectlon between Ed Bass and what
Samuels called Allen's "intellectual cult." The handful of other
articles and broadcast reports critical of the Biosphere that
have appeared in the U.S. since then-- includlng this report--
would not have been possible without the groundwork laid down by
the two Texas papers.

Profits of Doom
The Biosphere project Finally Comes Out of the Closet-- As a
Theme Park
by Marc Cooper (Followup to a previous article._
The Village Voice, July 30, 1991

     Even as "final enclosure" for the eight-person Biosphere 2
crew was being scrubbed last month, several dozen members and
guests of the Tucson Advertising Club filed into the Doubletree
Hotel and plopped down $15 for a lunch with and lecture by
Biosphere 2's Robert Hahn. Now presented as "Marketing Director"
of the experiment, Hahn is a long-standing member of the New Age
cult that runs the Biosphere (in which he is known as "Wjole
Rat"). Ten years ago, Hahn was accused of falsely passing himself
off as a Ph.D. during one of the group's other "research
ventures"; but today, he's being more straightforward, pushing
aside all scientific pretensions and casting the Biosphere for
what it is, a bald-faced commercial front. The title of Hahn's
lecture is "The Marketing and Promotion of Biosphere 2." On the
leaflet promoting his talk, the prospective audience is enticed
with a challenge to "Win some out-of-this world Prizes! Be sure
to buy plenty of raffle tickets! You could be the lucky winner of
a pair of World of Discovery Tours as Biosphere 2! Also. . . some
great T-Shirts!"
      Raffle tickets? Great-T-shirts? Isn't this rather tacky,
strange language for what Discovery magazine called "the most
exciting scientific project to be undertaken in the U.S. since
President Kennedy launched us toward the moon"? Hardly. Because,
as Hahn boasted during his lecture, Biosphere 2 isn't just
struggling shoulder-to-shoulder with the Smithsonian and Yale to
secure humanity's future, but is also "working with the Arizona
Office of Tourism. . . and the Tucson Visitors Bureau" to
guarantee that the Biosphere maintains its position as the
"second most popular tourist-attraction" in the state, after the
Grand Canyon.
     The Biosphere 2 project is the $100 million "ecological
experiment"-- financied mostly by Texas billionaire Ed Bass--
supposedly designed to give us a better understanding of the
earth's balance of nature while simultaneously providing useful
information for transferring human habitats to outer space. The
final enclosure-- once set for September of last year, then moved
to to December, then to March 1991, then to June-- has now been
tentatively rescheduled for September 26. And while the eye-
dazzling experiment has won volumes of slavishly laudatory media
approval-- not to mention the imprimatur of several prestigious
public and private institutions (including Yale, the Smithsonian,
and the University of Arizona), the Voice revealed last April
that the enterprise is the decades-old brainchild of a bizarre
cult, headed by a sometimes-{*filter*} leader, that believes the
earth is dead and humanity must now colonize Mars.

New Sig File Under Construction-- Light and Compact for your Usenet Pleasure.
"The recent problem with the satellite retrieval managed to prove one thing;
DeVries graduates really _do_ work for NASA."

Wed, 09 Nov 1994 10:50:37 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

 Relevant Pages 

1. Biosphere Articles Part 1

2. Biosphere Articles Part 3

3. Biosphere Articles Part 2

4. Biosphere Articles Part 5

5. Biosphere Articles Part 6

6. Biosphere Articles Part 7

7. Biosphere Articles Part 8

8. The Biosphere II articles

9. The Biosphere Articles

10. Looking for Biosphere II articles

11. Biosphere Part II

12. Biosphere Part III

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