Bentinho Massaro has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, supporters the spiritual guru gained through his teachings about “self-realization,” “enlightenment,” and the idea of “upgrading civilization.” While some of his ideas are pretty standard, like the importance of silent meditation, others are controversial: He’s said that 9/11 was an inside job, that he can change the weather, and that humans might one day join forces with aliens.
To his devout followers, he’s an inspiration—but his critics have accused him of “cult-like” practices and peddling fringe conspiracy theories during his retreats, which run up to $2,000 a pop. For an inside look at Massaro’s teachings, we went to one of his retreats in the Netherlands, speaking with his colleagues, his followers, and Massaro himself to try to understand exactly what the appeal is—and what he makes of the accusations against him.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.