April 28, 1978
Disciples dismayed at Morningland rift.
By Jim Molnar, T-A Staff Writer
Escondido – Morningland is “the Truth AS IT IS.” That is the point of view of Morningland. Others, including a growing group of persons touched by the metaphysical cult in one way or another, are not so sure. Most of them, in fact, deny it. But in the majority of cases especially among former disciples, it’s not because of the tenets that Morningland proclaims on television and radio, in rented auditoriums and in the Escondido and Long Beach temples. It’s not because of the beliefs and principles, in Morningland’s two primary treatises, “The Way to Oneness” and “A Thought Away From Donato”.
The trouble with the Truth, they are saying, is Morningland and what it has done to some of its disciples and their families. Morningland officers have suggested several times that the root of their battle here is the intolerance by fundamentalist Christians who view the cult as evil, the antithesis of the Judeo-Christian Truth rising with literal fury from sundry pulpits and prayer meetings. When it’s Truth against Truth, there generally is quite a din from the clashing and clanging of spiritual armor, a holy war, or, as Morningland’s attorney puts it, a “witch hunt.”
“Well, that’s a bunch of bull,” said the former disciple. “Hey, look, I’ve been into the heavy Christian stuff, too and I’ll tell you, I’m not with the Christian’s either.” Tess was raised Roman Catholic. But she broke from that after nine years of parochial education. In between bad drug trips, she’s been a Jehovah’s Witness and a member of a least one local intense Christian sect. Then came Morningland. Now is psychiatric counseling.
“I think Donato was beautiful,” Tess said, “and I think what he taught was great, and I’m still with it. But that isn’t what Morningland is now, and we’re talking about Morningland.” Tess is keeping her Morningland name. (All disciples are given new names as symbols of their break with the past, with old thought forms or “tapes” and with the influence of the dark forces.)
Tess is bitter. She sees Morningland as the force that destroyed perhaps the most meaningful relationship she’s had with a man. They were married in Morningland. A month later, Morningland cast Tess out because, they said, her sex tapes were bad. The divorce is getting messy.
Don’t you feel anything?” she asked her husband in a conversation about distribution of property and assets. “Don’t you feel anything after what we had, after what it was?” She paused. “Do you know what he said?
He said, ‘sure. I feel something. That’s because I’m not perfect yet, because I’m not all the way clear.’ He was saying that to be perfect to achieve the Christed consciousness, to be clear, means to not have any emotions, to not feel anything.
Donato never said that. He never said that. Tess was beginning to doubt the direction of Morningland a couple of months before her expulsion. She said she thinks that questioning (“they tell you not to analyze, to use what they call logic”) plus some sex-related tugs-of-war in the group led to her being thrown out. She has left town, still holding onto her memories and her understanding of Donato’s teaching, so that she can break from any lingering associations, any identification with the cult that might have an effect on her personal or professional life.
As she pursues regular sessions with a counselor, she feels stronger than ever before “because, even with all the things I’ve gone through, Morningland is the worst. And I’ve survived. I was nearly suicidal when they kicked me out, and for a couple of weeks it was bad, really bad. But I’m okay. And I know I’m okay.”
Tess is one of the ex-disciples who feels that Morningland is playing with mind control. But she is characteristic of many more former devotees who continue to embrace the metaphysical philosophy they found in Morningland, a philosophy they feel is becoming distorted through a deterioration since Donato’s death in November 1976.
It’s not a Christian thing. You’re really missing something if you think so,” said Tess. No, I guess I don’t believe any more that Donato was the reincarnation of Jesus the Christ. I don’t ever remember him saying that though. But I guess I did believe it. But I also think that I honestly would have killed for Morningland at one time, if they asked me to. And that scares me, it really does.”
During her several years as a disciple, Tess did many things for Morningland that she regrets. At least one, helping one of the group get a job working with young persons, she wants to make sure is undone before she cuts all ties with Escondido. The process of disillusionment has been shared by many persons in Escondido and Long Beach during the past four to six months as Morningland has accomplished a sort of housecleaning with the expulsion or suspension of many disciples.
But what is Morningland, really, and why are they saying all these things about it? What is the Truth AS IT IS?” It is a curious amalgam of tarot, astrology, parapsychology, palmistry, numerology, spiritualism, esoteric healing, Hinduism, Buddhism, Lamaism, Theosophy, Christianity, mysticism, Taoism, dianetics, yoga, Zen, metaphysics, the philosophies of Elizabeth Clare Prophet and the Great White Brotherhood and Alice Bailey’s Lucis Trust and Rudolph Steiner, the new scriptures of “the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ” by Levi and “The Urantia Book” by two corps of superuniverse and local universe personalities through the Urantia Foundation.
It’s all put together with a lot of vocabulary that comes from Buddhism, Hinduism, “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.” (The latter movie, said Sri Patricia, Donato’s widow and twin flame and current leader of the cult, in a July 1977 review of the film, “is of space, expanded experience and Aquarian truth. The new Messiah is now off the white donkey, out of they Chevy Nova, and commands a starship.”) There is nothing really new about Morningland, even the most desperate search into the philosophy reveals, except Donato himself. Donato, Daniel Sperato, experienced his avisha in 1971. That is, Daniel Sperato, became the incarnation of the Christ for the Aquarian Age, a Master, by common definition.
“I knew Danny and Patricia before all this happened,” said an old friend from Long Beach. They had all attended the same metaphysical church together, Universal Mind Science, she said. A spokesman for the church declined comment on the Speratos, but said the organization could not recommend involvement with Morningland. The same comment has been generally true of other metaphysical and spiritualist organizations and local students of those philosophies. One Escondido resident who had brief contact with Morningland through her past studies of metaphysics and spiritualism, said the cult disturbs her.
“It’s great stuff if it’s used right,” Marlene said, “but I would call it witchcraft if it’s used in the wrong way. Fool around with the astral plane can be dangerous, deadly. I’ve taken course in programming, but they were focused on programming yourself for positive purposes – health, vitality, memory, productivity, meditation and relaxation, combating depression. The mind can be used positively. And in groups, with all of that concentration and energy, it can be very powerful. But when you have a group of people brought to that relaxed state, worn down, well, they are highly suggestible, open and you can pour in any kind of garbage you want.”
The friend in Long Beach said the Speratos had suggested that a minister of their acquaintance declare himself an “Ascended Master.” “They were into that Ascended Master stuff,” she said. “But he (the minister) said something like no, he couldn’t do it, that he wouldn’t because we were all here struggling to be human beings, not masters or high priests or something. It’s an esoteric trip that’s sad.”
At her Thursday news conference in San Diego, Sri Patricia was asked what her background in metaphysics and esoteric philosophy had been before Morningland. She picked up a water glass and said, “You probably could pour it all in here and take it into the bathroom and flush it down the toilet.”
She said she was an ordained minister in Morningland. But an early Morningland pamphlet says she was ordained as a minister through the Church of the Revelation in Anaheim. She was asked how she met Donato. “How does anyone meet Donato?” she asked in return.
The basic Morningland philosophy jerrybuilt from words and concepts from Eastern religions, occultism and metaphysics, is that disciples, members of the light forces, should strive to clear their minds and reach a higher consciousness based on logic and free will to achieve Oneness with the Holy Father.
“We are all one with Donato” is the common chant of disciples. The Holy Father, defined in “A Thought Away from Donato,” is “who we are all working to become one with.”
Healings (not faith healings said Sri Patricia, which are hit and miss) occur by the power of Donato, who is in the Mother Ship about 25 miles above this planet, through direct channel with the gopis. The gopis (originally shepherdesses in Hindu mythology who were Krishna’s handmaidens) are nine women who establish the matriarchal base of Morningland. Directly below the gopis in the hierarchy is the Mind Lock, a group of particularly enlightened, clear or devoted disciples. Some members of the Mind Lock, according to former disciples, act as guards of the gopis – Rainbow Soldiers.
But all the power of Morningland, the way to oneness and eventual samadhi (ascension) and the higher consciousness is based on free will and logic among disciples. Logic is defined as “taking the true and false, the yes and the no, the right and the left; put it all together to make one.” Free will, defined through a parable, basically can be interpreted as the power to choose truth (“when you use logic and free will, you will never make a mistake”). Based on those definitions and on Morningland’s definition of itself as “the Truth AS IT IS,” a syllogism or logical equation can be established. The syllogism corresponds to the related experiences of former disciples:
Free will is the power to use logic to accept Morningland. Lack of belief or too much analysis or questioning of Morningland, according to former disciples, is determined to be the result of programming from the outside – old tapes, negative tapes that must be discarded on the way to Oneness.
Everything is now, according to Morningland. The past and the future exist outside the confines of the practice of the group’s teachings. Tarot, numerology, astrology and aura-reading are considered divine sciences and are used to determine the state of the disciple’s minds and spirits in relation to the world.
And Morningland says, the battle has been engaged between the forces of light and the forces of darkness with Morningland as the brotherhood of light.