Who Is Chris Butler, The Elusive Founder Of The Science Of Identity Foundation?

Heads up, people. If your friend — let's say his name is Chris Butler — ever comes up to you and says, "Oh no, you can call me Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa, world-renowned yoga spiritual master and head of the Science of Identity Foundation," that's what we call a giant red flag. This is an especially red flag since Butler has been described as an "abusive, misogynistic, homophobic, germophobic, narcissistic nightmare" and isolationist Hawaiian "surfer dude" with hundreds of people prostrate at his feet declaring him "basically God," as the Independent quotes, along with sources such as former foundation member "Lalita" on Medium.

Even though Butler and the Science of Identity Foundation have been around for decades, they've come into recent public light following remarks made by former Hawaiian House of Representatives member Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard recently denounced the U.S. Democratic party for being an "elitist cabal of warmongers, driven by cowardly wokeness" that "[stokes] anti-white racism," per NPR. She's also denounced U.S. involvement in Ukraine's war against Russia because Ukraine "isn't actually a democracy" and is allegedly involved in U.S.-funded biolabs, per the Independent.

And what is Gabbard's connection to Butler? Gabbard grew up under the sway of the Science of Identity Foundation, with her earliest memories being the "fragrant aromas of both Christian and Hindu celebrations." She also said that she never heard Butler "say anything hateful, or anything mean about anybody." That's a glowing description in comparison with Lalita's, which begs the question: who is Chris Butler really?

Cloaked in mystery and old photos

Because Chris Butler is the (somewhat unseen) face of the Science of Identity Foundation, it pays to look at the foundation to try and understand it. According to the Science of Identity Foundation website, it exists to promote how yogic wisdom provides, "practical answers to the personal and social issues of today such as racism, sectarianism, hatred and conflict, fear of death, the causes of crime, how to have a peaceful, progressive society." Their Facebook page discusses "how to add [Kirtan] to your life," which is a, "deep reservoir of all-satisfying waters ... The more you drink from this reservoir, the more your heart will be filled with spiritual love and comfort."

On YouTube we get a glimpse of Butler himself. The foundation's channel contains little clips of Butler speaking about issues tagged with titles like, "Our Natural Function," "The Soul Possesses the Body," and more. Many of the videos of Butler, while posted within the past six months, look like they were recorded more than 30 years ago. Most of Butler's photos, barring the occasional recent photo on another Science of Identity Foundation website, look similarly aged. Old photo examples include Twitter threads and, well, yet another Science of Identity Foundation website

Quaint photos and a legion of websites add to the mystery of Chris Butler and his foundation. Is it just a harmless gathering of some white-clad folks on a beach wearing leis around their necks, or is it a for-real cult?

From the lips of the master

If we want to get Chris Butler's version of the Chris Butler story, we can always listen to Butler himself on Chris Butler Speaks. The webpage contains reams of biographical info about Butler's "historical spiritual lineage," which he states goes all the way back to Srila Vyasadeva compiling the Hindu Vedas some 5,000 years ago. From there the thread of "yoga luminaries" passes through the 14th century and all the way to when "Jagad Guru appeared in this world as Chris Butler" in 1948. It was during Butler's teen years that his "spiritual quest" began. By the time he joined the Science of Identity Foundation in 1970 and "offered himself and all his possessions at the feet of his guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami," he'd already founded the Haiku Meditation Center in Hawaii and had a separate following.

And yet once again, we've got competing versions of the Butler story. Former Butler follower Lalita on Medium labels herself a "cult survivor." She describes how Butler couldn't compete with the Hare Krishna movement of the 1960s, and instead joined it with a $20,000 "donation." There he wrestled with A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami for dominance. She discusses Butler's absolute, deific authority and how all decisions went through him, down to one's choice of marital partner, saying, "I was raised to believe Chris Butler was God's voice on Earth, and if you questioned him or offended him in any way, you were effectively offending God." Offending God meant starting the cycle of reincarnation back at the lowest rung possible.