Death on Diamond Mountain: A True Story of Obsession, Madness and the Path to Enlightenment
An investigation into the life and death of Ian Thorson, a devotee of controversial Buddhist teacher Michael Roche. An examination of the interplay between mental illness and spiritual practice. A journalistic retelling of the way Buddhism (especially Tibetan Buddhism) has been translated in the west with an emphasis on the Roche’s extremely unorthodox teaching.
A compelling read from start to finish. In the hands of a lesser journalist, this could have been trashy, but Carney knows what he’s doing, and he treats Thorson’s life story, from New York City kid to thirty something Buddhist dying in the wilds of Arizona with compassion and journalistic rigor.
Like real life, there’s no real heroes here – everyone is deeply flawed and at least a little broken. If anyone is a villain, it’s Roche, who created a cult-like atmosphere around him which, arguably, lead to the extreme behavior of some of his followers, and Thorson’s death. But, of course, like real life, even this is complicated.
If Buddhism in America, cults, or new religious movements are you thing, this is worth a read.
Recommended for the Enthusiast.
I’ve long been interested in the out edges of the running community – ultra runners, streak runners, and mega-mileage runners are all areas of the sport I’ve written about frequently. A fascination with those willing to take the sport to the edge coupled with a lifelong interest in new religious movements* has lead me to a years long investigation into a group of runners and spiritual seekers known as the Community or Divine Madness.
Over the years I’ve had the chance to speak with ex-members of the group, and have done quite a bit of research online. I thought I’d read just about everything written about them. And then last night while googling around, I came across this article by Daniel Glick which appeared in Women Outside. For today’s reader, Glick’s article seems prescient. Written in 1999, it predates the tragic death of Mark Heineman, but it includes detailed discussions of the accusations of cult-like behavior which would follow the group for years to come.
As in most articles, Marc, “Yo” Tizer does not come off well. At best, he appears to be a misguided guru, at worst, he’s a manipulative, abusive cult leader. While most of what I have heard from ex-members of the group is deeply critical of Tizer, I’ll give Glick credit for finding members, and ex-members, who were willing to stand up for the man.
If you’re interested in the Community, this is well worth a read and as always, I am looking to learn more. If you have any information about Divine Madness, the Community, Marc “Yo” Tizer, or any of the other members or former members, please get in touch at miloandthecalf at gmail
*or cults, depending on your view of the group.