A "personal development" group listed in a book about Britain's cults is to receive £180,000 of public money to create a maximum of two jobs.
Last night, Ceredigion AM Elin Jones called for an investigation into how The Template Foundation came to be allocated £100,000 of Objective One European aid money and £80,000 from the National Assembly's Local Regeneration Fund for its project at Waunifor, Capel Dewi, near Llandysul.
The group, formerly known as Emin, was founded by a bankrupt encyclopaedia salesman called Raymond Armin who died in Florida two years ago. Material produced by the group says he discovered "the Eminent Way", later shortened to Emin, while sitting under an oak tree on Hampstead Heath in London.
A book by William Shaw called Spying in Guruland: Inside Britain's Cults described how the author attended an Emin meeting at "a rented hall in a gloomy old Welsh Chapel school".
Mr Shaw says he paid £45 for a 10-lesson course called "The Search For Truth". He learned "to sense the extent of his aura by chanting 'nerve, nerve, nerve' with" his hands extended. He says the information put forth at the meetings got stranger. He learned about "natural laws that govern the planet, a mystical system of numbers and colours, the Law of Two or opposites, and something called Electrobics.
"To learn Electrobics, members must wear loose clothing and soft shoes, and perform T'ai Chi-like exercises used by Emin members to cleanse their aura and bodies of destructive electric forces. Some members claim that they can see these forces. When they do, the infected persons are instructed to gather the electric forces with their hands and flick them away."
Ceredigion AM Ms Jones said, "I am baffled as to how such an organisation is intended to contribute to the GDP growth of Wales. Scores of businesses tell me how difficult it is to receive Objective One or any public support. Wefo (the Assembly's Welsh European Funding Office) has confirmed to me that basic eligibility checks have been undertaken and have confirmed that the project will create only one direct and one indirect job for £180,000 of public investment.
"I have written to the Economic Development Minister, Andrew Davies, enclosing my file on The Template Foundation. I have asked him to fully investigate The Template Foundation and its Objective One project, and to provide a full explanation to me of this organisation's workings and their project's expected contribution to the economic regeneration of Ceredigion and West Wales."
Ian Haworth of the Cult Information Centre, an organisation that offers advice about fringe religious and therapy groups, said, "This is a group about which we have received a number of complaints. To think that taxpayers' money is being given to it causes me great concern."
Colin Cook, who manages the project for The Template Foundation, said, "We need a purpose-built centre on our estate that will be available for the local community. The whole process of applying for this funding took a year and a half, during which we had to provide all the information required. We have had letters of support from local councillors and local residents.
"The economic benefit to the area will be more than just one job created. People will be visiting the area and spending money in local restaurants etc."
Asked about the criticisms of the group, he said, "You can make anything of anything if you like. The sort of people that come to our centre are professional people in their 50s and 60s. They are not young and impressionable. We are not into the occult - our courses involve a search for the meaning of life."
An Assembly Government spokesperson said, "Wefo carried out several checks to ensure the company's eligibility for funding. The Template Foundation is a registered charity and also registered as a private company limited by guarantee. The project was also supported by the [Ceredigion] county council and Ceredigion Local Partnership.
"Objective One is not just about raising GDP levels in Wales. It is a diverse programme helping to create positive benefits including training and skills, social inclusion and community development. The new facilities at Waunifor will be available for use by the local community and will encourage tourism and craft industries locally.
"The application and approval letter set out restrictions in terms of what funding can be used for and Wefo undertakes physical verification visits to ensure that European funds are only used for the agreed purposes."