This is all so routine to me, I feel bizarre even writing about it:
A guru has gone on trial in France accused of keeping three generations of an aristocratic family under his 'mental spell' and defrauding them of their £3.6million fortune.
Thierry Tilly is said to have persuaded the Védrines family that he was a Nato 'master spy', a confidante of presidents, a financial genius, and the representative of an ancient order which fights the forces of evil.
The 48-year-old, from Oxford, is accused of using brainwashing techniques and violence to convince them that they were in mortal danger from a cabal of freemasons, a European secret society and paedophiles.
Prosecutors have called Tilly, who told 11 members of the family that he could protect them, the 'Leonardo da Vinci of mental manipulation'.
If convicted, Mr Tilly could face a 10-year prison term and €750,000 (£600,000) fine. Jacques Gonzalez, 65, his alleged accomplice, could face a five-year sentence.
The court in Bordeaux heard that Mr Tilly used his 'superior intelligence' to ingratiate himself with the family.
His alleged victims included Guillemette de Védrines, who died in 2010 aged 97, her three children Philippe, Ghislaine and Charles-Henri, the two brothers' wives, Brigitte and Christine, and five adult grandchildren.
It is alleged Mr Tilly's first victim was Ghislaine de Védrines, 66, whom he met as an employee of her Paris secretarial college in 1999
After barely registering the 'uncharismatic' man for the first year, she gradually found herself drawn to him, and introduced him to relations.
The family claims he brainwashed them into believing they were the lost descendants of an ancient society called 'The Balance of the World', and locked themselves into the family chateau in Monflanquin 100 miles east of Bordeaux. For five years, they barely left the castle, terrified they would be killed.
Mr Tilly allegedly claimed they were protected by a global network of secretive grandees, whose head, Mr Gonzalez, was a cousin of King Juan Carlos of Spain.
They were allegedly persuaded to part with property, savings and jewellery worth €4.5million (£3.6million), which were funnelled into a Canadian 'charity' that Mr Tilly claimed was set up to pay their 'protectors'.
As scrutiny intensified in France, Mr Tilly allegedly convinced most of the family to decamp to Oxford, where they often failed to pay rent and were taken to court.
Anyone who resisted was allegedly punished severely. Christine de Védrines, 62, says she was locked in a room for several months, deprived of food and beaten.
She says he insisted she knew the number of a bank account that would lead to the lost treasure of the Knights Templar.
When Ghislaine's husband, Jean Marchand, a journalist, denounced Mr Tilly as a charlatan, his wife and two children branded him an 'agent of evil'. Mr Marchand alerted the authorities who refused to act because there were no legal complaints from the rest of the family.
Mr Tilly was finally arrested in Switzerland in 2009 following a complaint by Christine, who escaped after confiding in her employer in Oxford.Oh, forget it. In a country where we've elected a president who promised to lower the rise of the oceans - and are seriously considering electing another guy who claims Jesus is returning to Missouri - there's nothing strange here, except it's happening in France, a country that we're told had supposedly done away with superstition during it's revolution. Sure. Whether in America or France, the seeds of madness are firmly planted and, like weeds, are sprouting up daily:
Our society has witnessed the unprecedented expansion of its scientific horizons into the realms of the infinitely great and the infinitely minute. It has seen an extraordinary growth in the knowledge of neuropsychology and neurophysiology, where human intervention into the very structures of heredity has become so routinized that the procedures of genetic engineering are of as great an interest to the stockbrokers as the scientist. This same society has witnessed a paradoxical efflorescence of interest in the occult. Moreover, the very adolescents whose parents form the avant garde of this scientific elite are avid consumers of a new obscurantism with its systematized argot of “magick“ and the satanic.
The increased interest in the occult and the nonrational among adolescents parallels the growth of New Age paradigms in society as a whole. New Age boutiques spring up like mushrooms, hawking ordinary crystals at truly extraordinary prices because of their “healing powers.“ New Age channelers, such as J. Z. Knight and Penny Torres, “communicate” with “entities” named Ramtha and Mafu, who inhabit locales as diverse as Atlantis and Pompeii. On a more malignant level, individuals desert their homes and families in fear of an impending Armageddon, seeking shelter in Montana or joining organizations that promise temporal power in the “new age of enlightenment.”Yes, "the growth of New Age paradigms in society as a whole" is what's happening in "our society" - not just in France - and we welcome it like each new day's dawn. There's nothing to fear from Mitt Romney, another 'uncharismatic' man, with his "church" filled with "prophets," ready to tell him (and us) what's-what. No, no, no - they're going to protect us, from ourselves, as surely as Thierry Tilly was protecting the Védrines family. That's what you all "believe."
So it is written, so it will be done,...