Last week a man was found dead in a cave in Arizona. The local newspaper reported that the man was Ian Thorson, 38, who was the husband of Christie McNally.
If the names are not familiar -- Christie McNally was once the spiritual partner of Michael Roach, an American man who was ordained in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. I believe Roach still considers himself to be a monk, although Gelugpa would disagree. His Holiness the Dalai Lama considered Roach's relationship with McNally to be a breach of his monastic vows and barred Roach from further involvement with the order.
Not quite a year ago McNally's retreat center was threatened by wildfires, which is when I learned that McNally had left the much older Roach for Thorson, someone closer to her own age. Yes, this news possibly triggered my mother instincts -- I felt this was probably for the best and hoped the two young people would have a long and happy life together.
So I was sad to hear that Thorson had died. But what happened in the cave?
McNally and Thorson had been leading a three-year retreat, but they had left the retreat venue to live in a cave, apparently at the request of the other retreat participants.
McNally's attendants published a statement saying that the couple was asked to leave "After the events of Feb. 12th." The cave is on public property within the retreat boundary, but away from the area where the other retreat participants were spending their time. I'll come back to this in a bit.
They had run low on water and were too ill to get more. Thorson died of dehydration, they said. The news story linked above did not say how Thorson had died, but did say that McNally was treated for dehydration.
There had been an earlier incident in which McNally stabbed Thorson with a knife. This was accidental, she said. I infer this was part of "the events of Feb. 12th." If you read McNally's rambling post (written before the death) closely, it appears quite a lot of things were going on to cause disharmony in the retreat, plus (reading between the lines) Thorson had some aggression issues.
Finally, Michael Roach weighed in, and said that in a talk on February 12 McNally had described "what sounded like repeated physical abuse of herself by her husband." This was reported to the local police, who declined to follow up. The couple were asked to leave the retreat center campus for one year.
According to Roach, the retreat center offered the couple transportation to anywhere they wanted to go. It was their own decision to hole up in the cave, apparently. It appears no one knew they were there.
That's all I know. I am too far away from any of this to offer an informed opinion. It's easy to say that people shouldn't be teachers until they get their personal acts together, but how many of us ever do that? I've known of great teachers who had messy personal lives sometimes. So for the moment I'm telling the mother in me to shut up and not offer advice until asked for it.