Handling the Path of Truth

In this post I deal with the [for most people ‘usually’] intensely painful process of dealing with departure from Victor Hafichuk’s Path of Truth. It follows from a call for help from someone clearly hurting as a result of engaging with this Christian Ministry/Cult. I discuss the different challenges that those who have been involved in some way face. Engaging can be as simple as a few emails that turn nasty to full-on commitment, through to a marriage bust-up and then live in – then a rude wakeup when hypocrisy is revealed and the sun stops shining out certain peoples’ behinds! The affects can be devastating and my aim here is to help people in pain get a good grip of reality – basically understanding what is happening to them when they pull out of adhering to the Path of Truth Ministries.

Viktor Hafichuk and Paul Cohen run an Internet-based Christian Ministry called Path of Truth. Many call it a cult, but while there are elements of their conduct that do tend towards the cult-like, it is not your quintessential Jonestown-style cult at all. PoT find this cult label incredibly offensive and I advise against using it against them too. It’s not constructive and is inflammatory.

Their operations essentially engage those seeking truth online, drawing them into email exchanges, weekly chat sessions, occasionally into their physical presence (although this is less common) and sometimes (as far as I understand it, even less commonly) into their financial circles.

Their leader Victor builds his core teaching on an eclectic collection of fringe [Christian] theology and he speaks with an air of supreme confidence and authority. His strength is in presenting his experiences and faith in an ultra- strong coherent manner and tackling the apostasy as he sees within mainstream Christianity head-on. His weakness is in dealing with people where systemic hypocrisy and his perceived insensitivity makes him a hard, perhaps brutal man. He is hated by many and actively seeks to be seen as Mr Contrary, proud of picking the holes in the theological position of others, particularly the “big” or famous names, past or present.

His ultra-loyal off-sider Paul Cohen has the gift of the gab and amplifies Viktor’s strengths but also his weaknesses. Paul is the primary writer with huge ego who takes Victor’s teaching into personal dialogue (usually always confrontational) with the outsiders, with Victor chipping in as required. They can be extraordinarily nasty. They work together very closely in a digital sense but are physically separated.

A typical engagement is to commence discussion about some theological issue with an individual. Agreement and theological affinity will usually lead to a degree of “love bombing”. Disagreement which is more common by a factor of multiples, will often lead quite quickly to caustic, sometimes quite obnoxious exchanges leaving many an enquirer in shock – sometimes huge shock. Most will either retreat unable to mix it with the incredibly talented tag-team of Victor & Paul, who have their theological arguments and negotiating processes down pat from decades of ministry.

My past blogging has shown their weaknesses in logic and integrity when outside of theology. I generally don’t argue theology, but personally, just quietly, I actually concur with much of PoT’s core teaching having come to many of the same conclusions as Victor has in his walk of faith. The best way that I can and have described Path of Truth is to say that they err in excessive judgmentalism – put another way, they trash love in favour of truth. I, like many others have been cast off as an infidel – one who loves the sound of his own voice, thus they consider themselves above reproach – certainly from yours truly!

Seeking Help

People come to me to read up about Victor and to some extent Paul as I have a high SEO rank for Path of Truth. General feedback is that I’m pretty much onto it. Ex Path of Truthers generally report the things I say are pretty accurate and reasonable. Those who have lost loved ones to their ‘spell’ consider my words are a little generous. Others who are still inside, or who are recently engaging tend to support their leader over my words, but in general, while PoT are highly divisive, I do not accept that PoT are operating totally from the pits of Hell, and they certainly have had success at bringing some elements of Truth into the world.

It’s not as simple though as Victor and his team present to the world. Many a person has come and gone from their folds. The following words are from a man who is struggling with the grief from an engagement with them. You can see from his words that we have engaged previously. I do the best I can to help those struggling with grief in various ways.

It seems as time goes on I try my best to forget about TPOT but I still feel burdened and haunted with how I was treated on their site.

Yes! The hardest thing for many to understand is how people who claim to know, love and serve Jesus (PoT) can be so vicious. There are a couple of sides to this – the first is that we in the West are generally quite precious about things. We will call the police and expect the government to intervene and do the right thing rather than deal with it ourselves constructively. The world is ruled by crooks and we are hoodwinked into thinking that our leaders are benign. We live in a dream-world.

Likewise with our religious leaders. We expect religious leaders to be good, kind and honest when in fact they are often the worst hypocrites out there. Reality for millennia is that the only way to get justice is to get it ourselves – to stand up for what is right in our own community working with those we know and trust around us (and visa versa). Expecting Christians to be firm, divisive and decisive is a lot more healthy than having unrealistic expectations. It will hurt this young man when I say it, but he has to grow up and toughen up.

Now that said, PoT are brutal and direct and if they are speaking the truth [who knows actually here] then they have a responsibility to call a spade a spade. Here is the rub – IF they are right they should be speaking it out with confidence. The problem though is often not WHAT they say but HOW they say it and these guys struggle to balance love with their aggressive stance for the truth as they see it.

The first lesson for those hurt from PoT words is that often PoT are right in what they say, but err in how they say it. It behooves us, who are stronger and wiser to take from them the truth when they do speak it and ignore their own sinful selfish manner of speaking it.

I’ll give you a personal example of how to do this constructively from my own situation. PoT and I had a little set-to. Victor and Paul cast me off in a hissy-fit of patronising condemnation – basically, “You’re on the way to hell as you only love the sound of your own voice!” sort of thing. My reply, “You’re right . . . that I do indeed . . . but I am opinionated and speak the truth just like you do because I engage brain and do the research!” then know to myself that their words of condemnation to hell have no authority – they are the one that have a problem as I’ve just proven them to be hypocrites.

It just seems to linger, that if they think I’m a heretic, then maybe God does too, and I have yet to be comforted on this. Perhaps though that’s not an issue to talk further with you, I appreciate what you have said to me so far.

Well no . . . I am responding here because the guy asked me – directly – and while I could naturally let him go on his merry way and ignore him, it’s easy for me to respond here and try to help.

These words this young man has spoken are chilling for me. His self-doubt is most likely as a result of life experiences prior to meeting the PoT team and he has obviously taken a battering after a tongue-lashing from the PoT team. I hate this when it reinforces self-doubt. It is also a recurring theme for those who come to me post engagement with the caustic PoT tornado of viciousness, probably because people they engage with are insecure and lack self-confidence – they are in a ‘seeking’ phase.

In real-life I would probably need to sit down with this guy and spend some quality time building him up; teaching and mentoring him to have a few successes; to trust in his judgment; to reinforce the teaching that if Christ died for him, perhaps He might be able to trust him and visa versa. Here though, all I can suggest is that if one is genuinely concerned about being a heretic then he sure as eggs ISN’T one!

There are many scriptures that teach that it is He who helps us to confess faith; that it is He who has us in His hands and that His love for us will not permit us to fail as long as we step up to the calling in faith with a pure heart.

This may be an odd request, and I know you keep your other sources anonymous, but is there any more information or testimonies you can inform me of for those who have decided to move on and away from Victor and Paul without much regret?

Oh yes, and so many there are too! We [this writer and me] have spoken previously about some high-profile PoT followers who have gone and why they left which explains what he has said, but I wish to highlight here the insecurities that this young man has. Even a long time after having left PoT he is desperate to gain insight into what others think and to understand what they went through and are going through.

It is a brutal and harsh experience to engage with the Path of Truth people – to build up expectations – to believe the marketing spiel and then to find things less then perfect behind the scenes and/or a violent rejection from those that you have just come to trust.

I understand if this seems to be pressing too much on personal information but I haven’t found much on your site in regards to those who have decided to move on from them. Perhaps I could be the first. When I’m asking, I suppose, just as you asked Paul for proof of the 6 million, here I’m asking for proof of those who have moved on with their lives from them. I do not seek to find anything to tarnish their reputation either, it seems God has provided enough grace for them to move along, and I do not seek to know the specifics like the name or age of those who have moved on, but maybe just as you posted my reply to you on the tipline in a comment anonymously on your site, you could say more?

As those recovering from heart attacks share with others in the same position; or those with alcohol addictions can gain encouragement sharing with and seeing others deal with the same issues; or as those perhaps under persecution can build their strength from seeing others ride through their challenges, so too could it help for recovering Path of Truthers to share among themselves.

Unfortunately it will never happen. I cannot facilitate such communications.

Otherwise it seems the only other option would be to contact them again and I feel that perhaps God has dragged me away from them for the better.

I don’t see the Lord’s nature as being one to “drag” anyone anywhere but perhaps indeed the Holy Spirit has engineered a desire within you to move on.

My advice is to back yourself. If you doubt that there are others, calculate the number of years PoT has been in ministry; read Victor’s auto-biography and see the number that have come and gone, and then analyse the number of people in the group at the time you were involved and the length of time that they had been involved. This will show you the rotating door of adherents at the time you were ‘in’, and you can extrapolate that out over the decades.

In General

There’s really nothing different in moving away from Path of Truth to any other grief situation. Essentially, we’ve placed our faith in something that has let us down.

We marry someone and find that while we were looking elsewhere, they have betrayed us. We join a church or religion and find that there is something hidden – the Pastor is mucking around with a girl his daughter’s age, or the Priest is playing with the choir-boys. We believe that a certain theological point is non-negotiable, only to find out decades later that there is a sector of society that quietly believes otherwise. We build our life and family on one belief system yet find in retrospect that perhaps we really should not have been quite so dogmatic and if given a second whack at it all we’d probably do it a little differently.

Such is life.

People generally do NOT want to regurgitate bad experiences so unless there is an external force (such as an authority figure) coming into the equation, most people will move on with their lives and bury the past.

The process of dealing with grief constructively though requires us to come to terms with reality – we must accept that we’ve got into a scrap with these guys. We need to see our role in the conflict and where the other guys are coming from. Sure, I know this is hard but we MUST do this to deal with it constructively. We have to work through the loss or losses. Whereas previously we may have loved having someone like Victor Hafichuk do the theological thinking for us, now we are on our own. It’s not always easy taking responsibility. We may have to admit that we were wrong – first that Path of Truth did represent the truth – in full. Oops! Now we can see that the gloss maybe wasn’t realistic and there’s a few skeletons in the closet . It can hurt. We may be embarrassed, especially if others have warned us prior to getting caught up. Perhaps we’ve left family, children, spouse and paid a high price to commit to PoT. Such extremes of behaviour are certainly present with Path of Truth adherents I can assure you. About turning is VERY unlikely to be a public affair! Add in some self-doubt and the caustic criticism from the Path of Truth people hurling curses (quite literally) at you for betraying them [!] and it can be VERY hard to deal with it. You’re on your own whereas previously you had friends ready to help and support you no matter what.

These are all aspects that eat away at people like this young man.

I do not want to advise people to either go into or to get out of Path of Truth. Victor strikes me as a difficult man to live with and a guy with serious human relationship problems going back to his childhood. Some of it will be his culture and up-bringing but he has uniquenesses that will make anything he does traumatic and problematic. This is simply the reality of who he is and can be established from reading his online autobiography/tome with an open mind and a critical eye.

All should be aware of the reasons that others have come and gone, and the way that people come in and get caught up in the Path of Truth business. Aside from Paul Cohen who has a soul-tie relationship with Victor, no-one else has survived a long-term relationship to this day. His wife has gone her own way more than once. His long-termers have all gone and relative newbies run the show as far as I can tell.

Final thoughts

Leaving need not be “terminal in all counts”. Even though Victor’s approach is to ‘cast and curse’ when a relationship with him breaks down, this may not be the best way to handle it for you. By this I mean that if good things happened at the PoT ranch or chatrooms, then embrace that positive stuff when you leave. Just because PoT highlight your failings in a way that brings total condemnation does not require you [a departing convert] to replicate their errors of judgmentalism. At the very least if there was something that you appreciated while involved then for that period of your life this is valid. Remember that hypocrisy and deception exists the world over. There is no such thing as perfection on this planet when it involves people, despite any claims from religious leaders like Victor!

There is no shame in leaving even if you felt you were sucked in with glassy eyes and deception. There are MANY people who have come AND gone over the decades that PoT has operated.

Leaving is seen as a form of betrayal to PoT. They do attack and undermine those that leave, and this can be very hurtful. People who have been part of the PoT community, brand and system know very well how vicious they can be, so they naturally fear that torch turning on them. This is doubly hard when the religious/spiritual faith is factored into the departure. PoT is primarily a religious organisation so adherents who leave are deeply challenged at all levels (physically if they are live-in; financially if they were employed; socially if they were simply part of the online chat-groups; and always the faith and religious aspects of life).

It is quite possible to build deeper relationships with the Master regardless of others. Ten lepers got healed yet only nine went on their merry way – one returned for a closer encounter. The other nine were still healed though.

There’s no issue for me with people hurting, pining or letting the anger out over a grief-laden experience, as long as we are honest about it and are moving forward.

It’s a real tricky one this Path of Truth withdrawal . . . my take is that this young man has a challenge on his hands but will make it, if he can see the reality that there is indeed Life beyond the Path of Truth.

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