David G. Bromley

College of Integrated Philosophy


1959 (November 11):  John de Ruiter (Johannes Franciscus de Ruiter) was born in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada.

1976:  De Ruiter reported having his first spiritual experience.

1982:  De Ruiter married his first wife.

1983:  De Ruiter began a series of ministerial appointments.

1987:  DeRuiter left the Bethlehem Lutheran Church and began his own ministry, the College of Integrated Philosophy.

1998:  De Ruiter launched his first world tour.

1999:  Joyce De Ruiter learned of her husband’s marital infidelity and publicly confronted him at a group meeting.

2001:  De Ruiter published Unveiling Reality. Edmonton: Oasis Edmonton.

2002:  De Ruiter and his wife divorced.

2007:  The Oasis Centre opened in Edmonton.

2009 (August):  De Ruiter ended his intimate relationship with the von Sass sisters.

2010:  De Ruiter married follower Leigh Ann Angermann.

2020 (March):  The College of Integrated Philosophy paused in-person meetings in response to the COViD-19 pandemic.

2023 (January 21):  De Ruiter was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting four members of his movement.


Johne de Ruiter was born in Nipawin, Saskatchewan in 1959 as one of four children. [Image at right] The family was Lutheran immigrant, and his father was a shoemaker. De Ruiter spent his childhood in Stettler, Alberta, Canada. For a brief period he followed in his father’s footsteps, working at European Shoe Comfort in Edmonton.

As a young man, de Ruiter had numerous religious experiences. He claimed that Jesus had appeared to him on many occasions and “transferred who he is over to me” (Rinaldi 2023). When he was seventeen, de Ruiter reported an awakening, a brief “flowering inside that made everything in this existence pale in comparison,” that then immediately disappeared (de Ruiter 2001; Pruden 2017). He stated that “I was unexpectedly gifted with a knowing and an experience of oneness with the source”…“My awareness of reality expanded in ways that I could have never imagined” (Rinaldi 2023; de Ruiter 2001). However, he was unable to recreate this experience despite intense efforts of various kinds.

De Ruiter met his future wife, Joyce in 1981 in the Canadian Bible Society bookstore near the European Shoe Comfort in Edmonton where he worked at the time. The couple married the following year and together had three children (Naomi, Nicolas and Nathaniel).

De Ruiter’s religious career began in 1983 when he attended a Baptist seminary for a year, moved on to the Prairie Bible Institute and then to an internship at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Edmonton. In 1987, de Ruiter left Bethlehem Lutheran, and five couples followed him as he established an independent  ministry. After leaving the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, de Ruiter gradually began moving away from and becoming more critical of Christianity, ultimately referring to Christianity as “Satan’s Masterpiece” (McKeen 2000). His narrative of encounters with Jesus in which Jesus “transferred who he is over to me to do as he did” shifted to one in which he had “an experience of being “re-immersed in the benevolent reality of pure being” (Pruden 2017).

De Ruiter’s new message was favorably received enough that he launched an international tour in 1998. Some of those who he encountered on the tour later decided to move to Edmonton in order to be close to him. In 2001, he published a book, Unveiling Reality, through his foundation explaining his perspective on reality and truth. [Image at right] The construction of the Oasis Centre in 2007 by his followers in Edmonton provided a spacious venue for his expanding group of followers. However, the movement began to encounter turbulence by the late 1990s as de Ruiter’s involvement in controversial sexual practices led to dissolution of his first marriage, loss of followers, and, ultimately, criminal prosecution (See, Issues/Challenges)


The College of Integrated Philosophy does not have a formal set of doctrines, and de Ruiter does not present himself as a “teacher.”  The most systematic presentations of his thought are contained on his website and in his 2001 book, Unveiling Reality. A core principle of his thought is what he terms “core splitting honesty.” He understands himself as one who assists others to realize their own potential by knowing what is actually true. He describes the concept in the following way (John de Ruiter website 2023):

An uncommon honesty that splits through the core of false beliefs, no longer believing what you want to be true, need to be true, or wish were true. Core-splitting honesty is informed exclusively by a deeper, direct knowledge untouched by self-interest.

There is only one path to the wholeness and authenticity that de Ruiter professes (John de Ruiter website 2023):

Listen only to what directly speaks to what you know the truth of. You, awareness, being quietly grounded in what you directly know the truth of puts you into oneness. Nothing else does that. A teaching and a practice, on its own, isn’t going to do that. Your response to what you know the truth of in a practice or in a teaching takes you within; it connects you within. 

The path to the truth therefore is not the mind; it is not understanding. It is becoming one with your essence, your soul (Hutchinson 2001):

When you no longer consult with your mind, when you consult only with what you are, in everything you are doing, then you’ve found the source of life within, which frees us from always having to get something from this life.

De Ruiter’s message had a deep impact on some of those who attended his meetings. As one follower, who later disassociated from the group, recalled (Mulcahy 2023):

I believed that he was a profoundly spiritual man who had deep access to knowledge and wisdom, who could see into my soul, who was going to guide me to the truth of myself, who was going to guide me to freedom. I thought I’d found my connection to God.

Participating in meetings, which offer the opportunity to form “silent connections” with John, facilitates moving along this path. The path, of course, involves choosing based on this pure knowing. As de Ruiter puts it, “I do not navigate fundamentally by the effect on others or myself. I follow the thread of pure knowing” (de Ruiter 2023). It was precisely this proclivity, of course, that informed his decisions on sexual relationships, which created the personal and organizational turmoil in which he became enmeshed.


The primary rituals in the College of Integrated Philosophy take place in spaces accommodating several hundred participants, which for many years was the Oasis Centre is Edmonton. The room in which the ritual takes place contains an elevated stage with a comfortable chair that de Ruiter occupies. [Image at right] Immediately in front of the stage is a designated area that contains a “dialogue chair” from which selected participants are able to speak directly with de Ruiter, presenting issues they are personally confronting and, often, appreciation for his guidance. De Ruiter may or may not respond to particular comments and queries, and responses often are limited. Responses tend to lead back to the basic principle that individuals should trust what they truly know, what is actually true. For example, Hutchinson (2013) reports one such exchange:

I’m not tuning in the way I used to and something’s wrong with me,” said a woman who took “the chair” on Sunday. “There are larger things going on here, but I don’t have any evidence. I’m just not sure.”

“When you know the truth, you need no evidence,” Mr. de Ruiter replied after a long pause.

“I mean this in a kind way,” the woman said, “but my real self doesn’t have a foggy clue about what’s going on here and will never be able to figure it out.”

“You don’t need to understand what you know for you to believe in what you know,” said Mr. de Ruiter.

There was more cryptic banter and the woman seemed to come around. “All I know is that something’s happening and that’s enough,” she said.

The guru spoke: “If you knew that you were going to die in one minute, you would say that you’re ready now.”

Much of the remainder of the meetings involve extended periods of “silent connection” during which de Ruiter silently and unwaveringly maintains intense eye contact with some or all the participants. Numerous accounts of these silent connections indicate that they can sometimes produce intimate, powerful psychological experiences such as weeping, visions and hallucinations, transcendent and even near-death experiences, auras, and visions of religious figures (Pruden 2017 Hutchinson 2001).


John de Ruiter is clearly the central figure in the College of Integrated Philosophy (Joosse 2006). Committed followers attribute beyond human capacities to him, such as shape shifting, bilocation, and  dream visitation (Rinaldi 2023). He is regarded as a messianic figure who is ushering in a new, advanced level of human development, which is sometimes referred to as a “living embodiment of truth” and view him as a “new messiah. He thus embodies a model of what they aspire to be.

De Ruiter is surrounded by a coterie of volunteers, assistants, tour organizers and event administrators. For a time, wealthy  Calgary businessman Peter von Sass, his wife Ilona, and their daughters, Benita and Katrina, were important members of de Ruiter’s inner circle, and the von Sass family provided de Ruiter with financial support (Hutchinson 2013). De Ruiter’s son, Nataniel, has also participated in movement financial operations.

After de Ruiter established an independent ministry in 1987, the movement gradually developed meeting venues, first in the home of one of the couples and then in his own home. These home bases continued through the first half of the 1990s. His ministry then moved from private residence to a New Age bookstore, to the Royal Acupressure Clinic. to the spacious Edmonton Oasis Centre in 2007, which was constructed by his followers. [Image at right] His venue remained the Oasis Centre until 2021 when, in response to a pause in in-person meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was sold to the Aga Khan Foundation for $6,650,000.

De Ruiter then purchased the Mosquito Lake Campground for $1,000,000 and converted the former campground into Midnight Sky, a center of the movement (Crawshaw 2022). Cabins were constructed and support facilities upgraded  A number of followers, including de Ruiter’s son Nathaniel, purchased properties and local businesses in the nearby community of Fort Assiniboine (McWilliams 2022; Pruden 2023).

The College of Integrated Philosophy has had a variety of sources of financing through its history. In the early years of the movement the Oasis Centre served as an attractive event venue that generated revenue  as well as serving as a home base for the movement. The sale of the center in 2021 Shah Karim Al Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, who is the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, later buttressed movement resources. In addition, the College fundraises through sale of livestreams, podcasts, transcripts, YouTube videos, downloads, books, seminars, meeting admissions (John de Ruiter website 2023; Pruden 2017). De Ruiter’s personal wealth has been estimated to be well into seven figures.


John de Ruiter faced both controversy and success through much of his career. He began to openly take issue with Christian doctrine by 1987 when he left the Bethlehem Lutheran Church to start his own independent ministry with his own unique doctrines and rituals. The ministry began slowly as he met in private homes and then in small venues. In 1998, he launched his first international tour. Not only was his movement expanding, but followers were moving to Edmonton from as far away as Europe. By 2007 the movement had grown to the point at which his followers established the Oasis Centre in Edmonton, a venue large enough to accommodate several hundred followers.

Even as his movement was expanding, de Ruiter began to develop and implement ideas on sexuality that ultimately created crisis within the movement. Most significantly for future events, de Ruiter distinguished between “superficial lust” and “higher forms of sexual energy that resided in the heart” and claimed his sexual relationships were supernaturally inspired (Finaldi 2023).

The first chapter in this unfolding drama occurred in the late 1990s after de Ruiter was introduced to the von Sass sisters, Benita (34) and Katrina (26). In November 1999, de Ruiter informed his wife that he would be taking the von Sass sisters as wives, with the parents’ approval. Joyce de Ruiter decided to challenge John’s decision publicly and appeared at a group meeting where she read a letter that she had written to him. The letter read in part:

“My sweetie. You are not god, you are not deity,” Joyce said that evening. ”You are a normal man who has been seduced by power and adoring women….You are sleeping with two of your disciples,” said Joyce, ”and you can’t recognize how far off you’ve gone. Sex with Benita and Katrina is not truth.”

There was no visible response to her presentation within the congregation, and the von Sass family remained in the movement (McKeen 2000; Hutchinson 2001). Joyce de Ruiter subsequently initiated divorce proceedings and then moved to the Netherlands with the children. When John de Ruiter addressed his congregation on the matter he simply stated that that “truth” had told him to sleep with the von Sass sisters (Leon 2015).

A second chapter in the drama began in 2009 when de Ruiter abruptly ended his relationship with the von Sass sisters and shortly thereafter legally married follower Leigh Ann Angermann. The sisters responded to the rebuff by filing lawsuits against both de Ruiter personally and various movement entities. They asserted that the were owed compensation for their roles as spouses, employees and benefactors. In her suit Benita von Sass alleged that de Ruiter invoked spiritual authority for their sexual relationship (Pruden 2017):

“The defendant convinced me to sexually submit to him, reminding me that this was ‘God’s will,’ ” she wrote. “The defendant stated he was the ‘Christ on Earth’ and that defying him was to defy truth, goodness and God. Accordingly, I obeyed and submitted.”

She also alleged that de Ruiter had been teaching marital fidelity while having affairs with married followers. His account of this apparent contradiction was that “his ‘burden from God’ was to act against his own message and to violate his own marriage so as to prepare him inwardly for his upcoming battle with Satan” (Rinaldi 2023). Benita von Sass subsequently settled her suit out of court, along with a nondisclosure agreement.

As questions about his sexual activities mounted, de Ruiter offered explanations that invoked the logic of his teachings on his website (John de Ruiter website 2023):

However this may look on the surface, I know that it comes to me through my response to what I most deeply know on a metaphysical level. I invite anybody in proximity to me to draw from the equivalent clarity within them. In addressing the woman to whom I have given the invitation, I asked nothing but that each finds a response that is deeply rested and true to their own clarity…. Knowing is a point of no question, no further choices, just the love inherent to awareness at rest.

The controversy swirly around de Ruiter’s sexual relationships led to an erosion of the movement’s membership base and the formation of an “Accountability Committee” (Horsley 2017; Pruden 2017; Rinaldi 2023). The committee reported that “the committee spoke for many meetings about “the movement of the calling through sexuality” but that, “Through John’s opening this up in a deep, delicate, sensitive, discreet and forthcoming manner” the committee was able to reach “new understandings” and “a depth of restedness.” The committee also established an ongoing presence for itself, stating that “The members of the Committee have seen that what comes from John has always been good…and we continue to meet every month or two, looking at what is moving in the community and how we can all take care in the best way possible.” Committee report signatories included John de Ruiter, Leigh Ann de Ruiter, and Nicholas de Ruiter.

Movement damage control did not end the controversy, however. John de Ruiter was subsequently charge with sexually assaulting seven group members between 2012 and 2020 (Mulcahy2023). Leigh Ann de Ruiter was implicated in five of those incidents. In those five cases Leigh Ann allegedly invited women to the de Ruiter residence and was present while de Ruiter explained that “’the calling’” was directing him toward them and that, by having sex with him, they would achieve a higher state of being” (Pruden 2017; Rinaldi 2023).

The couple has been charged, entered a not guilty plea, and been granted bail pending trial. Given the erosion of group membership, the move to a more remote location, and pending legal proceedings, the future of the movement and its leadership appears to be precarious.


Image #1: John de Ruiter.
Image #2: Front cover of de Ruiter’s book, Unveiling Reality.
Image #3: John de Ruiter conducting a ritual.
Image #3: The Oasis Centre in Edmonton.


Crawshaw, Caitlin. 2022. “Controversial Spiritual Leader John de Ruiter Sets his Sights on Rural Alberta.” Urban Affairs, August 29. Accessed from https://urbanaffairs.ca/dirt/controversial-spiritual-leader-john-de-ruiter-sets-his-sights-on-rural-alberta/ on 25 November 2023.

De Ruiter, John. 2001. Unveiling Reality. Edmonton: Oasis Edmonton.

Horsley, Jasun. 2017. “The Casualties of “Truth”: Deconstructing John de Ruiter’s Sexual “Calling.” Anticulture, April 10. Accessed from https://auticulture.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/the-casualties-of-truth-deconstructing-john-de-ruiters-sexual-calling/ on 5 December 2023.

Horsley, Jasun. 2017. Dark Oasis: A Self-Made Messiah Unveiled. Anticulture.

Hutchinson, Brian. 2013. “When lovers turn litigants: Edmonton sisters sue spiritual leader for support.” National Post, April 26. Accessed from https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/edmontonspiritualleader on 1 December 2023.

Hutchinson, Brian. 2001. “The Gospel According to John De Ruiter.” Religion News Blog, May 5. Accessed from https://www.religionnewsblog.com/14341/the-gospel-according-to-john-de-ruiter on 26 November 2023.

John de Ruiter website. 2023. “Don’t Listen to Teachings.” Accessed from https://johnderuiter.com/ on 1 December 2023.

Joosse, Paul. 2006. “Silence, Charisma and Power: The Case of John de Ruiter,” Journal of Contemporary Religion 21:355-71.

Leon, Harmon. 2015. “The Canadian Man Who Commands a Cult With His Gaze.” Vice, February 25. Accessed from https://www.vice.com/en/article/xd5eqz/inside-a-canadian-staring-cult-224 on 5 December 2023.

McKeen, Scott. 2000. “I was God’s wife.” Religion News Blog, May 16. Accessed from https://www.religionnewsblog.com/14340 on 26 November 2023 on 5 December 2023.

McWilliams, Joe. 2022. “Midnight Sky the new kid on the block in Hondo.” Lakeside Leader, May 30. Accessed from https://www.lakesideleader.com/midnight-sky-the-new-kid-on-the-block-in-hondo/ on 1 December 2023.

Mulcahy, Karyn. 2023. “John and Leigh Ann de Ruiter to plead not guilty to sexual assault charges.”  CTVNewsEdmonton, September 21. Accessed from https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/john-and-leigh-ann-de-ruiter-to-plead-not-guilty-to-sexual-assault-charges-1.6572240 on 5 December 2023.

Pruden, Jana. 2023. “Alberta spiritual leader John de Ruiter charged with four counts of sexual assault.” Globe and Mail, November 25. Accessed from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-alberta-spiritual-leader-john-de-ruiter-charged-with-four-counts-of/ on 25 November 2023.

Pruden, Jana. 2023. “Embattled spiritual leader John De Ruiter selling home as followers continue migration to northern Alberta.” Globe and Mail, June 25. Accessed from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/alberta/article-embattled-spiritual-leader-john-de-ruiter-sells-home-as-followers/ on 27 November 2023.

Pruden, Jana. 2023. “The Outsiders.” Globe and Mail, March 17. Accessed from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-john-de-ruiter-alberta-followers/ on 1 December 2023.

Pruden, Jana. 2017. “Are a spiritual leader’s sexual relationships a calling or a dangerous abuse of power?” Globe and Mail, November 25. Accessed from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-john-de-ruiter-oasis-centre-edmonton/ on 27 November 2023.

Rinaldi, Luc.  2023. “ The False Prophet of Edmonton.” Macleans, November 20. Accessed from https://macleans.ca/longforms/john-de-ruiter/ on 1 December 2023.

Publication Date:
14 December 2023