Attorney Jay Cumming Explains Why Gail Tredwell’s Character is the Main Issue

We received this analysis from Jay Cumming, Senior Research Attorney for the California Supreme Court. 

“If you cannot attack the message, then attack the messenger.”

That simple catchphrase is used by Gail Tredwell to rally both support and sympathy.  She is clever to do so.  With one statement, any criticism of Ms. Tredwell is enlisted by her as an implicit validation of her claims.  And with one statement, Ms. Tredwell once again casts herself in the role of victim — first, the victim of abuse by Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma) and Swami Amritaswarupananda (Swamiji), and now the victim of a character assassination by anyone who comes forward to tell a different story.  In this cynical and superficial age, many people find Ms. Tredwell’s “attack the messenger” statement to be a compelling answer to her critics.  But it is not.  The hypocrisy of Ms. Tredwell’s position is that she has not hesitated to attack the character of others, and yet she wants her own character to be off limits.  This case is all about character, and Ms. Tredwell does not get to choose whose character is at issue and whose is not.

The phrase “attack the messenger” refers to a debating tactic that experts call “fallacious ad hominem argument” (ad hominem is Latin for “to the person”).  According to the classical theories of rhetoric, a fallacious ad hominem argument is one in which: (1) a debater responds to the claims of an opponent with a personal attack, ignoring the merits of the opponent’s claims, and (2) the personal attack is irrelevant to a fair evaluation of the opponent’s claims.  (See Johnson and Blair, p. 101.)  But not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious.  Rather, such arguments are very often an appropriate form of debate that furthers the pursuit of truth.  That is so, for example, when the person who is the target of the ad hominem criticism has made his or her own character an issue.  (See Brinton, pp. 213-222.)

“In this cynical and superficial age, many people find Ms. Tredwell’s “attack the messenger” statement to be a compelling answer to her critics.  But it is not.  The hypocrisy of Ms. Tredwell’s position is that she has not hesitated to attack the character of others, and yet she wants her own character to be off limits.  This case is all about character, and Ms. Tredwell does not get to choose whose character is at issue and whose is not.”

If Ms. Tredwell — known to many as “Gayatri” — were a relatively unknown seeker who found her way to Amma’s ashram in India, stayed for some time, became frustrated and disillusioned, and then left, few people would care about her 330-page, self-published gripe.  But Ms. Tredwell actively promoted her book by emphasizing her former high status within Amma’s organization, a status that offered her intimate association with Amma and that implied great maturity and trustworthiness.  Thus, Ms. Tredwell deliberately injected her own character and background into the debate concerning her allegations, and, by doing so, she opened herself to an ad hominem response.  Ms. Tredwell cannot rely on the prestige of her 20 years with Amma to promote her opinions and then complain that others describe the events of those 20 years in a way that undermines her credibility.

It is true that some of the criticisms of Ms. Tredwell concern isolated incidents — moments when she reportedly lost her temper.  One might argue that occasionally losing one’s temper and bursting out with an abusive word or act does not make a person into a liar, and therefore such events are petty diversions from the main issue.  Not so.  When a person has made cruel and unsubstantiated allegations against highly respected public figures, the character and background of the person making the allegations are not diversions from the main issue; they are the main issue.  Of course, no one should take pleasure in criticizing another person, and any criticism of Ms. Tredwell should be honest, fair, and compassionately expressed.  Nonetheless, by making unsubstantiated allegations, Ms. Tredwell has brought her credibility into issue, and her reported tendencies (1) to act immaturely, (2) to conjure false versions of reality based on her personal fears and insecurities, (3) to impute base motives to others, and (4) to respond to stressful situations with vindictive acts of abuse are all important aspects of her personality that are relevant to a fair evaluation of her claims.  Thus, Ms. Tredwell is the one who is trying to divert attention from the main issue — by turning the focus away from her own credibility and insisting, instead, that her unsubstantiated allegations be accepted at face value.

“When a person has made cruel and unsubstantiated allegations against highly respected public figures, the character and background of the person making the allegations are not diversions from the main issue; they are the main issue.”

In evaluating Ms. Tredwell’s character and background, we should not, however, rely solely on the accusatory reports of her critics, for then the whole matter is reduced to a mess of competing accusations, and it is difficult to see the way to truth.  So let us find out a little about Gail Tredwell — based on her own words.  An excerpt from an autobiography that Ms. Tredwell published in Matruvani (an ashram periodical) in 1993 is set forth below.  The most important lines have been highlighted in bold text.  These are Ms. Tredwell’s own words, describing her own character:

I could sometimes be rather possessive of Amma and competitive for her attention, in a way that was clearly not beneficial. . . .  Rukmini was about 16 years of age . . . .  I was amazed at the innocence which radiated from her. . . .  I began to feel a little bit jealous. . . .  I also had an inner desire that Rukmini should not sleep in the hut with Amma and myself. . . .  At night . . . Amma would often allow me to sleep with my head on her shoulder.  It was a wonderfully intimate time, and the only time when I had Amma all to myself.  The last thing I wanted was to share that space with another devotee. . . .  [A few days after Rukmini came to the ashram,] Amma invited Rukmini to join us in the hut.  I was inwardly furious, but I did my best to keep my feelings hidden. . . .  It was not easy for me to suddenly accept the idea that I was going to have to share that precious time with another devotee! . . .  I was feeling a growing inner torment about sharing Amma with this new girl. . . .  [One weekend, I had to be away from Amma for a few days, staying in a nearby house.]  [T]hat particular weekend was especially excruciating, because the whole time I was anxiously thinking, ‘Now Rukmini and Amma are alone!  While I am over here suffering, Rukmini will be giving Amma her bath, Rukmini will be doing all of Amma’s service.  Rukmini will have Amma all to herself!’  Although I could hardly admit it to myself, I was secretly terrified that I might be losing Amma to Rukmini. . . .  Wistfully peering out through the window of the house, I was crushed by the sad sight of Amma and Rukmini leaving the ashram together [on their way to visit a devotee], Rukmini carrying a bag with Amma’s belongings.  This was just too much for me to bear.  I lay down and cried, and I continued crying for most of the next two days. . . .  [When that weekend was over,] I hurried over to the temple and was just in time to see Rukmini leaving the shrine, carrying Amma’s jewelry box.  I was suddenly overcome with such jealousy, that I ran over and yanked the box out of Rukmini’s hands.  She was, of course, quite upset by this and ran off crying. . . .  That night, . . . I lay there next to [Amma and Rukmini] in tears, doing my best to muffle my sobs.  I was feeling so sad and angry, so alone and abandoned, that after a while I even started pulling the hairs out of my head. . . .  Finally the anguish became too much for me.  In desperation, I gave a loud, strong kick to the wall of the hut.  Dust and leaf particles floated down upon the three of us.  [When I calmed down,] I apologized for my foolishness, saying that I would never again let jealousy get the best of me.  [¶]  Amma slowly turned to me with a look of tender compassion and forgiveness.  Then she smiled.  ‘Never again?’ she asked, her eyes twinkling. ‘My poor daughter, your battle has only just begun.’

“. . . I wanted Amma all to myself, forever.  [¶]  This is why the arrival of Rukmini, a second female disciple, had been such a painful shock for me.  The worst part of it was that I secretly felt Rukmini was more naturally inclined to spirituality than I; she seemed to have an inborn purity and innocence which I felt sure I’d never be able to match.  It made me furiously jealous.  [¶]  So, although I had successfully tolerated Rukmini’s presence in the ashram for over a month, I was still not inwardly willing to accept the fact that I had to share Amma with this new young prodigy.  There was a fierce, unspoken competition between Rukmini and I regarding who got to spend more time with Amma; and a large portion of my mental energy each day went into anxiously wondering where Amma and Rukmini were, and if they were alone together.  Naturally, I realized this was a foolish use of my energies, but my feelings were so strong that the thoughts were impossible to control. . . .  [Another time when, again, I had to be away from Amma,] I . . . heard Amma starting to give the pre-lunch prasadam to everyone, as was her custom in those days. . . .  [I heard Amma call out each person’s name.]  [F]inally, the name I dreaded to hear — ‘Rukmini.’  I shuddered to hear Rukmini and Amma laughing together . . . it made me feel sick with jealousy. . . . After an hour had passed, I began feeling so jealous and humiliated that I just couldn’t keep still any longer. . . .  I decided that if Amma felt I wasn’t worthy to receive her prasadam, then I didn’t want any food in my stomach at all.  So I stuck my finger down my throat, and vomited my entire lunch into the river! . . . Finally I rose to my feet, and headed towards my little hut.  When I went through the doorway, I was startled to see a covered plate sitting on the mat.  I hesitantly lifted the lid and discovered . . . a ball of curried rice!  Amma’s prasadam. . . .

[At that time, there was trouble from local ruffians who opposed Amma, and, one night, a brawl erupted.  After that, Amma had to take precautions when traveling on weekends to visit devotees.]

“Amma insisted it would be best for me to stay behind.  Of course, this made me [very] mad — I could not bear to be away from Amma for even a few hours, let alone two days.  What was worse, Rukmini, who had no part in the brawl, was being permitted to go.  This made me sick with jealousy.  Seeing my [unease], Amma said, ‘Be patient, daughter.  It would be a sin for us to provoke [the ruffians] into doing wrong.  It is only to avoid trouble that Amma is telling you not to come.’  My jealous [nature], however, was deaf to her wisdom.  I became quite [angry] and started crying, declaring like an impetuous child that I just wasn’t willing to stay behind.  Seeing my determination, Amma reluctantly gave permission for me to come, but added a word of warning. . . .  I stubbornly insisted on coming. . . .  [We set out on our journey, taking a route that would avoid attracting attention.]  It then occurred to me that because of my white skin and blonde hair, people were immediately recognizing us, and that if I had not insisted on coming along, Amma would have been able to travel much less conspicuously.  I began to regret my stubbornness. . . .  [When it was time to return to the ashram, Amma instructed me and another girl to take a different route from the one Amma and Rukmini would be taking.]  Intellectually I understood; but my jealous feeling blinded me, my mind spinning into a whirlwind of bitter complaints.  ‘Because Rukmini has dark skin she’s allowed to travel with Amma, while I, like an outcaste, have to travel separately with some other girl.  Just because I’m a Westerner, I have to suffer like this!  How unfair!’  [¶]  As this other girl and I began walking along the road towards the village, I began feeling more and more dejected.  Off to the right, in the distance, I occasionally caught glimpses of Amma and Rukmini slowly making their way across the paddy fields.  Seeing them together made me even more upset.  The circumstances made no difference — the fact was, Amma had cast me aside for another.  Hadn’t I given her my life?  Was all my service for nothing?  My mind began seething with anger, a string of jealous accusations arising one after another.  ‘Amma why are you being so cruel?  You claim to be impartial, but obviously Rukmini is your favorite!  Is it only because I am white that I have to suffer like this?  Are you prejudiced as well?’  By the time I made it back to the ashram, I had reached an extreme state of anger and bitter sorrow.  I dumped myself onto the sandy floor of the hut, my despair growing by the minute.  Finally, I said to myself, ‘If my white skin is separating me from Amma, then let it come off!’  I dug my fingernails into my arms and started trying to scratch off the skin. . . .  [When Amma saw the bleeding wounds, she] embraced me, slowly rocking me back and forth as if I were a little baby. . . .”

So now we know a little about Gail Tredwell — based on her own words.  We see her (1) acting immaturely, (2) conjuring false versions of reality based on her personal fears and insecurities, (3) imputing base motives to others, and (4) responding to stressful situations with vindictive acts of abuse.  And that same Gail Tredwell is now, twenty years later, accusing Swamiji of serial rape (although she never happened to mention it to anyone during the many years that it allegedly occurred), and that same Gail Tredwell is now jealously speculating about a base love affair between Swamiji and Amma.  Ms. Tredwell complains that her critics are diverting attention from the main issue by focusing on her character, but she has not hesitated to attack the character of others.  No one revels in criticizing Gail Tredwell, but, any way one looks at it, this sad case is about character, and until Ms. Tredwell presents some corroboration for her cruel allegations, her own character remains the main issue.

Note: The author is not a medical expert, and he does not intend to imply any opinion regarding Gail Tredwell’s current or past psychological health.  Nonetheless, Ms. Tredwell’s revelations in her 1993 autobiography might indicate a tendency toward depression and self-injury.

Respectfully,
Jay Cumming
Senior Research Attorney, California Supreme Court

Links regarding self-injury disorder:
PubMed Health entry on trichotillomania (pulling out hair)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002485/

PubMed’s abstract of an article about self-induced vomiting and its relationship to self-injury disorder
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8352042

MedlinePlus entry on self-harm, including self-scratching and self-cutting
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/selfharm.html

Links to Gail Tredwell’s 1993 autobiography:
(1) https://ammascandal.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-matruvani-october-1993-in-the-service-of-love-a-battle-with-jealousy-begins-p9-to-p12.pdf
(2) https://ammascandal.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/19-matruvani-november-1993-in-the-service-of-love-ammas-love-is-for-all-p5-to-p9.pdf
(3) https://ammascandal.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/20-matruvani-december-1993-in-the-service-of-love-all-are-ammas-children-p9-to-p14.pdf

Bibliography:
Alan Brinton, “The Ad Hominem,” in: H.V. Hansen & R.C. Pinto (editors), Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings (1995).
Ralph H. Johnson and J. Anthony Blair, Logical Self-Defense (International Debate Education Association 2006).
Matruvani, Oct., Nov., and Dec. 1993 (Mata Amritanandamayi Math).



Categories: Amma Controversy, Amma Lies, Amma Scandal, Amma Truth, Amritanandamayi Lies, Amritanandamayi Scandal, Gail Tredwell

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Oh my God.

    Thank you, Jay. I find myself shocked about what I read… but have to say: excellent, Jay. Thank you once more.

  2. what a pity, nobody can prevent the truth by laying

  3. Thank you Jay for your astute analysis. I found it very helpful.

  4. Jay,

    You have done it again. What a superb analysis and presentation! I bow to you with respect. Namah Shivaya.

    C.V.Rajan

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