Six years ago, Hamilton thought he'd found paradise, when he and his wife April joined the Endeavor Academy chapter, near their home in Byron Bay, Australia.
As the Howards did, the Hamiltons jumped in with both feet. They sold their restaurant chain, their BMW and nearly all of their possessions. Over the years, he gave the Academy about $20,000 of his own money, Ian Hamilton says.
After three years in the group, the Hamiltons even moved to the Wisconsin compound; Ian Hamilton quickly became a trusted deputy of Anderson's.
Within months of joining the Academy, the Hamiltons' 25-year marriage began crumbling. Ian Hamilton says that his wife told him that although she still loved him, she had to focus all of her energy on her relationship with God. Both Ian and April Hamilton say that the Academy intentionally broke them up.
After separating from her husband, April Hamilton spent hours each day in meditative sessions. Eventually this nearly drove her to suicide, she says. "I was in such hell that I just wanted to die."
Some maintain that Endeavor Academy is a cult. After reviewing Endeavor Academy teaching materials and hours of Chuck Anderson's videotaped lectures, cult expert Rick Ross says he saw troubling parallels between the Endeavor Academy and cult groups.
Cult expert Rick Ross says that Anderson could be dangerous.
Ross also says that Anderson has taken the New-Age doctrine of a "A Course in Miracles," and twisted its principles of self-enlightenment. The Academy's message is filled with psychobabble and pseudo-science, he says.
"Once you have given up your individual autonomy and your critical thinking to a master teacher, you can be manipulated to do almost anything," Ross says. Not surprisingly, Anderson disagrees, saying vehemently that Ross is wrong.
Anderson also disputes that anyone is under his sway. "I'm going to say this once more, and that will be the end of this conversation," he says. "I have no followers. Why do you persist in accusing me of having followers? No one follows me," he says.
Ian Hamilton says that in fact, people would literally follow Anderson around: "He would come in, people would sort of follow him around and hope to be touched by him or looked at or talkd to."
Last year Ian Hamilton left the group. "I gave my power away, even basic decisions about what was right and wrong," he says. "I'd given it away to such a level, that I couldn't even see it anymore."
Ross believes that Anderson's sway over those in the Academy could end tragically. Using the example of Marshall Applewhite, who led all 38 members of the Heaven's Gate cult to mass suicide two years ago, Ross says Anderson's leadership role could be a prescription for tragedy.
"Marshall Applewhite saw himself as a representative of the level above human, in the same way, very closely to what Master Teacher feels about himself," Ross says.
| Cult expert Rick Ross has his own Web site, which features|
lots of information and even more links.
Asked if he is dangerous, Anderson says that he is not. "There's nothing dangerous about me. I am the danger of eternal love."
A check of Endeavor Academy's records revealed no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Many former members offer some positive stories about their experience and say they left the group with little difficulty.
Ian Hamilton, though, is happy that he left. "It's a miracle I got out," he says.
To find out about one couple who are satisfied with Endeavor Academy, read The Academy: Miracle Or Cult?"
Produced by David Kohn;