Sage of Sedona: Inside the Cult of the Rishi

A dislocated jaw. Bloody scalps. Bruises. A torn ear. Violent shakings. Occult initiations. Broken marriages. These are just some of the abuses ex-followers allege by Sedona's Devra Patton West aka the Rishi.

Sage of Sedona: Inside the Cult of the Rishi

Be Scofield is the author of the new book Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons. Her reporting is mentioned in the NYtimes, Rolling Stone, People and more.


May 21st, 2023

“Lalita will become the light holder for the group," the Rishi said during an initiation event of one of her Sedona spiritual followers. "She will soon begin to bring in channeled messages."

The Rishi was performing a "rare cardinal cross Christ over-lighting initiation," according to Lalita's husband Nicholas who was present. He served as her personal assistant for 15 months in Sedona.

"It sounded like she was being crucified," Nicholas said. She "screamed for five minutes" and her "spine contorted," he told me. "Her eyes rolled back in her head, fluttering. She was convulsing uncontrollably. Her fists were clenched tightly."

With each occult initiation, Lalita Jordan became more sinister Nicholas said. Others also saw the change as she slipped deeper into the Rishi's grip. He's since escaped but his wife remains under her spell.

Lalita undergoes an occult initiation

"Lalita smack him," the Rishi said during a later episode before Nicholas left. Lalita walked across the room and slapped Nicholas, "wide swing, open-handedly across the face," many times.

Nicholas had been sitting in the middle of the room shaking intensely from the Rishi relentlessly screaming at him.

"I was debilitated and felt helpless while being hypnotized under her sorcery," he told me. "My sight had become pixelated with dark blurred vision and it felt I was in a trance."

Then the Rishi began attacking him. "She ran over to me and began to beat me, clobbering me with all her might, both fists to each side of my head at least 8-10 times, until she had no more energy left to deliver another blow."

Just weeks before this event the Rishi implied Nicholas and Lalita would be two of the "12 individual souls who she will be guiding into their full enlightenment in the coming 5-7 years in Sedona." She claimed she would "bilocate" and be in both Tibet and Sedona while she opened a portal to enlightenment.

Nicholas told me about another incident of abuse. "She grabbed the glass pepper shaker in a manic fit of rage and struck me with it behind my left ear on the back of my head," he said. "It hurt badly and left a huge goose egg lump."

It didn't take long for word to spread around Sedona given that there were other victims of the Rishi. The town has been plagued with cult leaders, fake shamans, and new age gurus eager to exploit spiritual seekers. James Arthur Ray, Bentinho Massaro, Gabriel of Urantia, and Kaia Ra are just a few. Residents are now quick to take action. Locals put up signs in town protesting her and started a Facebook group to spread awareness.

The Rishi teaching her students

When the Rishi came into a cafe where Sedona resident Emilia Rose was sitting, Emilia immediately recognized her. The Rishi began screaming at a young woman. It was Nicholas's wife Lalita Jordan, but Emilia didn't know at the time.

"She's yelling at the young woman," Emilia told me. "It's getting louder and louder and she is totally degrading, demeaning, and yelling at her."

Emilia said it was so disruptive that it prevented her from having the meeting she had planned on. She followed Lalita outside to check on her and was told, "You have the wrong idea. She's helping me. She's the Rishi."


Devra Patton West aka the Rishi claims to be “Sedona’s enlightened master-in-residence," and for years has been hosting spiritual gatherings in her home and online. She says she was first called to Sedona in 1990 to open a "divine corridor of amplified light." Thanks to her current efforts Sedona will soon become the "Shambala of the West." It will enhance people living at the "7th-dimensional plane of reality," she claims.

Like ex-Sedona guru Bentinho Massaro, she claims to have come to save the planet. Devra has "taken a limited number of earthly lives" for the benefit of humanity. She claims to be "one of seven, planetary regents," who are "assigned to the western hemisphere." Devra has arrived on earth to "bring about a restoration of original purpose and to guide the divine evolution of sentient life during optimum periods of celestial influence." She continues. "My earthly incarnations have served to ignite and evolve humanity's latent, but very real impetus to live and prosper in the supra-genius state known as enlightenment."

"My enlightenment happened in Sarasota, Florida in the mid 90's," she says in a video.

Devra props herself up as a pure lineage holder of ascended masters uniquely able to transmit ancient wisdom. "I am especially assigned to open a new gateway for those souls who are selected to take initiation," she writes. Devra claims her method known as the "Royal Path" is rooted in ancient "Judaic, Essene, Mayan, Egyptian, Tibetan, Vedic and Indigenous Priesthoods." She claims to have "walked in their footsteps" since she was a child.

Devra Patton West in Sedona, Arizona

Devra sells the concept of enlightenment to her Sedona cult followers. She charges $50,000 for a private day-long session or $5,000 for a phone consultation. Her "Omni Meditation" programs and "Mastery Modules" cost thousands. Perhaps it's worth it for someone who lives in a "supra genius state of god consciousness" and is a "master of masters."

"This pandemic is understood by the great masters and guides as the second of three world events, all of which I have prophesized."

Devra also says she has the gift of prophecy. She predicted the COVID pandemic, climate changes, the collapse of global financial systems, and political upheaval in the US. "...This pandemic is understood by the great masters and guides as the second of three world events, all of which I have prophesized for some 20, 30 years now," she said in a talk.

Like Amy Carlson, the deceased cult leader of Love Has Won, Devra also claims to be the reincarnation of powerful historical figures. She says she is Cleopatra, General George Patton, Queen Elizabeth, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Padmasambhava the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, and Sarah, the wife of Biblical Abraham.

In videos, Devra speaks in a monotone and masculine voice. She wears white robes and a large white mala bead necklace. She'll often appear next to statues of Hindu or Buddhist deities and will be surrounded by white roses. "We of the spiritual hierarchy," she starts a talk with, referring to a group of ascended masters that supposedly speak through her. Video titles include "Prophecy on the 144,000" and "The Three Fires of Awakening." She blends Vedic thought and Western spiritual ideas into a new-age potpourri. Many of the key buzzwords that seekers recognize are there. She'll even incorporate terms like "Christ consciousness" if she knows a new student resonates with them.

In their quest for enlightenment, her followers allege they have been conned out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Devra told one woman she'd get her to the 4th stage of enlightenment for $120,000 and she almost bought in. A medical doctor who was in the group gave millions, another was coerced out of nearly a million. Lalita and her mother were manipulated into giving a $7,000 donation. Devra lost a $700,000 court judgment against former student and business partner John Watson whom she had coerced out of a large sum of money.

Over a thirty-year period, followers of Devra were left broken and bruised. Partnerships and marriages were destroyed. Bank accounts were emptied. Lives were profoundly damaged.

"The rarity of what the Rishi offers is extraordinary," reads her website. "The sacred knowledge that was once reserved solely for pharaohs, solar priests, and great emperors, is now being offered to those whose time has come...She offers rarefied transmittals of sacred knowledge, that are being revealed for the first time in our planet’s history."


Devra trained in Shamanism at the Robert Jaffe School for Energy Mastery in 1990 and 1991. A fellow student of the school said West had a following in Sante Fe, New Mexico as early as 1995. She started the Divine Unity Foundation and went by the name Devra Ji and later Surya Ma. "I lost many friends and colleagues who remained under her spell for many years," she said.

She relocated to Victor, Montana in 1995 and then to Flathead Lake near Whitefish, Montana in 2005 where she lived in her home with several followers.  

One of her students at the time, "Nancy," studied with her in Montana for nearly seven years. For the first few years, they traveled together. Nancy says it was an exciting period. But over time Devra became deeply self-absorbed. "Her visions got more and more grandiose," Nancy told me. "Her sense of herself got more grandiose, and her inability to manifest her visions led to frustration."

"My mandate is convened by the Supreme Raja of the Royal Path, which beholds the grand, universal synthesis of the ultimate omni-logic of all wisdom, knowledge, and illumination of all masters, lords, and avatars."

"She had a real knack for what your core psychological weaknesses were and she would position herself as your savior," Nancy told me. "She is very brilliant, perceptive, and clever."

By many accounts, Devra was a gifted spiritual teacher with the ability to synthesize different ideas into accessible wisdom. "She was powerful," a student told me. "People magnetized toward her." But her gifts were overshadowed by her abusive behavior. Former students describe her as highly manipulative, cunning, and exploitative, going to extreme lengths to coerce people out of money. As a result, she's left a trail of fraudulent spiritual businesses and dozens of damaged followers.

"Devra would scream a lot at me, at her ex-husband Jack, at her kids, at anybody who was close to her," Nancy said. "She used to roll her papers up in a baton and swat people."

She claims Devra violently assaulted her. "She took off one of her wedges and started beating me in the head," Nancy told me. "I bent down to protect myself and I ended up with bruises on my back. She dislocated my jaw and pulled out a big chunk of my hair." Nancy soon escaped Devra's home where she and her other followers were living.

Nancy's account is nearly identical to what another Montana-era follower Dr. Patricia Cole experienced. She was the director of one of Devra's spiritual ventures and spent years with her.

Montana's Whitefish Pilot newspaper reported in 2007 that Devra was facing allegations of verbal and physical abuse. They quoted Dr. Cole. "She took off her shoe and hit me on the top of my head, causing my scalp to bleed onto my face, neck, and clothes," they reported Cole saying. "She threatened to kill me with a gun to my head, 'blowing my brains out,' and advised me to commit suicide by slitting my wrists."

They reported that Cole claimed Devra, "threw a lamp at her and hit her with a briefcase, cell phone, and her hand." Devra also told Cole that she had the "spiritual power" and authority to "take her out" and to be "composted." Cole was granted a restraining order by the court against Devra.

The Pilot said Devra faced allegations ranging from "black magic, to fraud, extortion, and breach of contract."

"She took off her shoe and hit me on the top of my head, causing my scalp to bleed onto my face, neck, and clothes."

Devra was charged with misdemeanor assault for physically assaulting Dr. Cole. She was offered a plea deal and pled no contest in 2007 which ended in a deferred 6-month jail sentence and a $500 fine.

Not long after, she was also the subject of an arrest warrant for felony check fraud. The Pilot also reported that it was due to a bad check for the purchase of a six-million-dollar home. In 2009 an arrest warrant was issued for Devra for felony theft after not returning an Avis rental vehicle.

"I observed many occasions of verbal cruelty in which she ranted at people, threw water in their faces, and caused severe emotional anguish, all in the name of assisting them in their spiritual quest," said ex-staff member A.J. White in a sworn affidavit. White also wrote that Devra physically assaulted Susana Felder, a 9-year assistant. "She attacked her and ripped clumps of hair out."

One ex-follower who spent years with Devra in Montana told me that she "screamed at everybody" and that she "gave them royal hell." He said she'd have students get up in front of the group and she'd yell at them and tear them down. "She had hundreds of people go through her organization but because of the way they were treated they didn't come back," he said.

Devra would apparently advertise for staff positions with certain terms of pay but when people arrived she would change the offer. A 2007 email from the office manager says they went through 30 employees and that only three were left. She speaks to the fear and panic among herself and others in the group in a volatile and controlling workplace.

A student of Devra's named "Ryan" told me he had loaned Devra $30,000 to be paid back in six weeks. It was never repaid, however. Devra tried to manipulate him into reframing the transaction as a donation but he refused.

Former business partner John Watson claims that Devra's husband Jack West told him, "Those who oppose my wife have the habit of dying suddenly." Watson had pushed back against Devra's unstructured finances and received a warning. Soon after Watson said he felt an incredible weight on his chest one night. "It’s like I’m paralyzed," he told me. "I couldn't breathe. After a minute I managed to break free from what was holding me." He thinks he was spiritually attacked by Devra. Other followers have said they fear her occult and energetic attacks as well.

"Those who oppose my wife have the habit of dying suddenly."

One of the major financial donors to Devra at the time was a woman named Corrine Coffin who went by Tanmayo. Her father established Coca-Cola in Brazil and she was a CEO. Watson estimates Coffin gave millions to Devra. Another member from that time also told me it was “general knowledge” that Coffin was giving large amounts of money to the group. Devra wrote a letter to her talking about getting her father’s “gold” and giving it to her as he was dying.

Coffin was featured in the Netflix series “Captive” where she told her story of being kidnapped and held for $20 million ransom in Brazil.

Former follower of Devra known as Tanmayo or Corinne Coffin appeared in the 2016 Netflix series called Captive.

A former staff member in Montana named Rebecca claims Devra "slugged" her three times in the back. She also witnessed a woman get hit with a three-ring binder.

John Mark Young worked for Devra in the office. In 2007 he sent a letter to the Flathead police documenting his concerns.  In addition to being paid only half of what he was supposed to receive, he said he, "experienced her volatile personality and demanding perfectionism, dictatorial style, constant micro-management and mind-control tactics of interrogation and coercion, as well as using influence, and hypnosis."

Young said he witnessed numerous attacks on Dr. Cole in a process called "core-impacting." He said Dr. Cole "endured hours of verbal and near-physical abuse continuously." She would emerge "in tears." Young also saw Devra "viciously berate, badger and insult" his friend for 40 minutes.

An ex-member named Carlida Finch said she heard Devra Patton West tell Dr. Cole that she would "take a hammer and break every bone in her hands." Devra also said that because she was enlightened that she wouldn't care if she killed Dr. Cole.

Tanya Hurley worked for Devra for a year and said she would "rage, rant, scream, yell, sometimes growl, and point out all our shortcomings." Hurley said she was "very damaged" from her involvement with her.

"She violently pulled the hair of three female staff members and the heads were shaken forcefully from side to side," said former student and employee Deborah Coffey in a written statement. She claimed Devra would hit followers. "She hit a man in the forehead," Coffey said. It left "an abrasion where her ring cut the skin." She also said Devra shook a woman's head so violently that it tore her ear and she had to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Coffey also witnessed "two occasions in which Ms. West threw water in peoples' faces."

"She said afterward that she didn't do it," Coffey said. "God or a deity of God did it. This was the rationale she often used to justify her own violence."


Sedona residents "Patrick" and "Sarah" met Devra in 2019. Patrick told me Devra began love-bombing them and telling them how important they were. Soon after, Sarah started talking about being celibate for the rest of her life and being a disciple of Devra. Patrick watched as his girlfriend quickly slipped away from him.

"I watched Sarah get entranced with Devra," he told me. "Then she suffered 40 or 50 hours of shaming, battering, guilting, shouting, screaming." Some of it he witnessed. "She told me it went on for 8-10 hours a day, every day. Devra separated us so she could attack Sarah."

I spoke to someone who worked in the home at the time and witnessed Devra abuse Sarah. Devra "yelled at Sarah for hours," she told me. "She degraded her, saying 'You better do this. You better do that. Get this done.'" She said Sarah believed the abuse was good for her.

When Patrick finally got their computer back he opened it and saw an email correspondence between Sarah and Devra. Sarah had agreed to pay Devra $120,000 to reach the 4th stage of enlightenment in a year. She also talked about giving Devra their ranch and home.

"We talked on the phone and Devra was coaching her on what to say," Patrick told me. "Eventually Devra curses and screams at me for ten minutes," he said. "That's when I knew what was going on. It was the nail in the coffin."

He sent a letter to Devra and her team and included many of the negative stories about her he had found. He threatened to go public if Devra didn't release his girlfriend. When that didn't work he filed a restraining order against both Sarah and Devra.

The court sided with Patrick and he kept the ranch. "It foiled Devra's plan to take the property," he told me. Shortly after, Devra decided that Sarah was too much of a liability and she kicked her out.

"We were soul mates," Patrick said. "She's into wellness. I worked in organic foods and gardening for years. All that was destroyed by Devra."

The two have been estranged ever since.

Not long after Sarah was kicked out, Devra was evicted from her Sedona home. She needed help moving and her team posted on Facebook. Kaitlin Smith and her friend saw the post and spent several days helping them move.

"The first red flag was that we were told not to wear black," Kaitlin told me.  "We were then told Devra was a profoundly holy figure. She came out dressed in all white and began intensely gazing at us." She said Devra grabbed her hand and brought it to her forehead to rest in her energy.

I interviewed another person who worked in the home and was told "dark clothes brought dark energy around Devra." They had to stand outside for 5-10 minutes and clear any negative mental energy before entering.

Kaitlin told me the energy in the house was "intense" and made her feel uneasy.

At one point she witnessed Devra shouting at Nicholas. "She was yelling and cursing at him, just totally demeaning him," Kaitlin told me. "It was the loudest yelling ever."

"He looked beaten down," Kaitlin told me. "I knew something was off." Later, she witnessed Devra laughing while drinking red wine in front of him. She also mocked an assistant who was vegetarian by asking her to make some chicken. Devra then put her hand up to be kissed.

"I was getting weird vibes," Kaitlin told me. "Her eyes were black, just black beady eyes. It was scary. I felt evil. The energy was really intense."

Devra tried love bombing and grooming Kaitlin and her friend but it didn't work. Kaitlin said her gut was telling her to leave early on but she didn't listen and they needed the money.

After witnessing Devra mocking and abusing her students it clicked. "These people are clearly in a cult," she remembers saying to herself at the time. "I felt like she was taking over their souls."

And she continued to haunt Kaitlin even after she left. "Devra would come to me in my dreams. I'd wake up panicked, in cold sweats."


“I am going to have to push Lalita to the edge, and I am going to have to break her," Devra said to Nicholas one afternoon. "You need to let me do it, and don’t interfere."

During another initiation, Devra said to them, “Lalita has now fully surrendered to me, haven’t you Lalita?” Lalita said yes and then "started to tremble and fell to her knees," Nicholas said. She went "into convulsions, crying, screaming with her eyes rolling back in her head." She went home exhausted and then shaved the long hair she had grown for the previous decade.

Fortunately, Devra's cult influence in Sedona has waned. But Lalita is still trapped. She's living with Devra and Devra's son. Nicholas is worried about her mental and physical health. He said she has been spiritually taken over by Devra. He sent me a photo from before she joined the cult and after.

LEFT: Before Lalita joined the cult RIGHT: After she joined the cult

"Anyone with intuition and discernment can sense it's not the same person, she's obviously been possessed," Nicholas told me. He said she has become her "minion," even going so far as to say he's seen demonic energy in her.  

Lalita recently posted on Facebook in defense of Devra. "After several years of working in close proximity with Dr. Rishi Devra West, here in Sedona, I am someone who can give a first-hand account of her impeccable integrity," she wrote. "I want to make a public statement, that recent resurgence of old 'rishi slander' was caused by my very disgruntled ex-husband, known in the Sedona community as Nanda Roberts."

Many ex-followers refer to being afraid of Devra's occult and psychic attacks upon them. They claim she uses hypnosis, sorcery, occult magic, and mind control to render victims powerless. Some think she can induce illness, injury, or death with her Shamanic powers. After breaking them down by screaming, cursing, and demeaning them she then energetically takes them over. Nicholas said she would scream and curse for hours at both of them, calling them names and demeaning them. And just like Devra appeared in Kaitlin's dreams, she also appears in Nicholas's dreams as well as the dreams of other followers.

“I am going to have to push Lalita to the edge, and I am going to have to break her."

A person who worked in Devra's home told me they witnessed a strange occult-like event with Lalita. She said Lalita was speaking in tongues as Devra sat in a chair and watched smiling. Lalita threw her hands in the air while mumbling. Devra was chanting and invoking a deity. "Then it looked like something hit Lalita, or went inside of her and she collapsed and lost consciousness," she told me. A few others had to lift Lalita off the floor and place her on the couch. It was all being recorded on camera.

"Devra would scream at Nicholas a lot," the worker told me. "She'd say he's worthless, he's scum, he won't ever amount to anything, he'd never be good enough for Lalita." She said Devra would "scratch the chair and scream," and she saw the scratch marks left. She also witnessed blood spots on Devra's shoes and saw a bloody laundry tub full of Devra's clothes.

A second person who worked out of the home also witnessed Devra's verbal abuse of Nicholas. They also told me Devra misused a $150,000 PPP loan during the pandemic, spending much of it on expensive clothes and a $9,000-a-month mansion. Ex-followers say she had a love of jewels and luxurious items.

Nicholas recalls another occult attack on Lalita. Devra said to her, "Lalita, I am going to remove a class 8 entity from you, you can scream into a pillow." He said Lalita was lying on her stomach on the floor as Devra performed her magic. Lalita was screaming intensely into the pillow and then Devra West said, “Lalita stare into the entity’s yellow eyes, hold your gaze with it, stare into its yellow eyes." He said Devra then "pounded Lalita on the back once very hard." Lalita lay there in a weakened state and had to go home and sleep for the rest of the day. She told him after, "I could see the entity and it was nasty."

"I now firmly believe that Devra was actually forcing the yellow-eyed entity into Lalita at this time, as opposed to removing it," Nicholas told me. "I feel Devra is a dark arts con artist, a master of deception and manipulation to the highest degree." With each occult initiation, Nicholas said, "Lalita was no longer the loving personality" he recognized. "She simply disappeared."

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