Excerpts: About Sri Donato/Sri Patricia

There are many stories about this woman who co-created and changed the face of Morningland. She affected the lives of hundreds and will be remembered by many. The Gopis (Chokru, Saravati, Ona-Ali) and Kamazi X5 presented Sri Donato as a bonafide spiritual teacher, sharing only the good about her while couching the rest in a label of a “crazy guru” – as if that makes her actions somehow spiritually valid, somehow acceptable beyond ethics, beyond broken hearts and wounded minds. Below are excerpts from Our Stories revealing painful, even traumatic experiences recorded by her former disciples.

Patricia was, in appearance, the polar opposite of Donato. She was very attractive, extremely articulate and charismatic, with long blonde hair, huge dark eyes that seemed to gaze right into the depths of you, a penchant for long flowing gowns, inspirational sermons and obscure theosophical literature which she could discuss with great erudition. Unfortunately in retrospect it seems she also had a lot of psychological baggage that had never been dealt with. Of course that last is my own personal opinion, so take it for what it’s worth, but I can say with certainty that the good and innocent times of Morningland that were established by Donato were pretty much in the rear view mirror within a couple of years.” (Lee, ML)

Donato empowered his ambassadors by connecting them to something greater, themselves. Patricia sought to connect everyone to herself for the purpose, in my opinion, of empowering herself with our belief and powering herself with our energy.” (Quota, Empowerment)

In my mind Sri rescued me from an extremely abusive family life. She did that, she pulled me out of one abusive family and brought me in to her family, an even more abusive one. (Copatos)

Patricia’s reality had too many inconsistencies for me to swallow whole. The closer I got to the core, the more I saw that shocked and upset me.” (Quota, Excommunication)

I was always being pushed onto other members of the church and being dissociated from my mother [Sri Patricia/Sri Donato]. It got to the point where she said, “I have no children.” Well, people knew that we were her children, but to us in private, she would let it be known:”You don’t call me mother. You call me Sri. You have to look to other people for mother figures.” That’s when I finally shut myself off, because then I knew – oh, God. At that point I was about 14, so I got myself a part-time job because no one was supporting me or giving me money anymore. . . . And when I was 15, she had me emancipated. And that was the last time I saw her. (Sri Donato’s daughter. Interview for the book Escaping Utopia)

Marcus says he strongly believes his mother’s greed corrupted the church — and damaged him. He describes how, as a child, his mother made him spy on the other members of the church, and how she disowned him after he chose to leave, even though he was only 18. “My mom saw the power that was there,” he says, “and she took it to the extreme. Everything got twisted around, and everything went down real quick. … Dad wouldn’t have supported it” (Bones of Contention, PT article)

The following paragraphs reveal traumatic moments during clearing sessions in late 70s and early 80s, when disciples were placed in a circle and accused of various “thought crimes,” before they were thrown out, or put on a sabbatical.

Patricia was extremely controlling and manipulative, demanding absolute loyalty. She was not above breaking up couples and marriages and creating matches more to her liking. My wife at that time told me of a conversation she’d had with Patricia over the weekend. They’d been sitting together watching the Morningland band, of which I was a member, rehearse on stage for an upcoming event. Patricia had said to her, “Wouldn’t you just love to see him (meaning me) grow and flourish as fast as possible?” Celine of course said yes. (What else would one’s loving partner say?) Patricia then said to her, “You know, he really has just one major obstacle. Do you know what that is?” Celine said no. “Well,” she said, “that obstacle is you. If you want to see him grow you need to divorce him in order to remove that obstacle from his path.” (Lee, Marriage)

It was different before Donato died, said Alan and Hannah and about 16 other former disciples interviewed by the Times-Advocate. Hannah said she could not imagine such a clearing session before. She could not imagine the chanting of the group, “Choose . . . Choose . . .Choose . . . “ between her husband and Morningland. “Tell me one church,” Alan says, “any church that wouldn’t try to take a bad marriage and fix it. But this, not the opposite – taking a beautiful marriage and trying to break it up.” (1978 Cult Core Unraveling or Fusion)

One Sunday night between March & August, 1983, Sri Donato said, “You had all better get ready for big changes coming to this Ashram. It’s going to start snowballing around here and if you are in the way, you’ll get plowed under.” During that time I had been removed from my original ‘thought grouping.’ Next they cut back all of my classes (not allowing me to attend any except for a beginning Oneness class which I had already been through before I became a disciple). Very degrading. Then came September 5, 1983; the day I was finally placed on Sabbatical. I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the military, but I didn’t know about it and therefore I couldn’t tell Sri that I had a problem that needed healing. It wasn’t called PTSD back in 1973. I had it then, and got another big dose of it again when I was dumped out of Morningland. All they did was make an existing problem worse.” (Darma Ra)

After the first night of purges, I asked about the purpose of clearing sessions, and I stuck up for my best Morningland friend, TiOva. I asked why she attacked TiOva. Patricia told me it was to break her, her ego – in order to rebuild it. I told her I did not understand why it was necessary to “break” people or toss them out if they did not break, which she said was what they were doing. I wanted to help my friend and I wanted these nightmare clearing sessions to stop. What Patricia heard and saw was betrayal – that my loyalty to my friend was evidence that I was not 100% committed to Patricia. She heard my questions and confusion about what was going on as criticism of her. In her increasingly warped perspective, that translated as a betrayal of Morningland.'” (Quota, Excommunication)

Shortly thereafter, I was the focus of a savage clearing session set up by Patricia, orchestrated by Melikia, and played out by my “friends.” . . . I wasn’t doing a very good job coming up with “the right answer,” because my mental processes and physical senses began to shut down. First my peripheral vision disappeared, then my hearing became reduced, and I began to go numb. I didn’t even feel it when a man I thought was a good friend hit me in the face. I was mentally paralyzed by the shock of what was happening, and I couldn’t think. I was completely unable to defend myself and Patricia then told the group that the reason I couldn’t speak was that I was totally controlled by the Dark Forces. . . . The emotional pitch increased, crazy-fear spiked, five men jumped me and dragged me, struggling and fighting for my life, out the door which they would have slammed on my fingers if Chang hadn’t frantically pried them out of the door jam. [Thanks Craig.] During the worst of this, Patricia’s eyes sparkled. What sickness, and perhaps even evil – she actually enjoyed watching them do this to me.” (Quota, Excommunication)

[a gay man married to a female as per Sri’s influence] I took a deep breath and blurted out that I needed to be released from my marriage vows because we were not sexually compatible, that I had to be with a man. I could hear Sri saying to the class things like, “Ignore him”, “how quickly someone so high can fall so low’, “he learned nothing in all the years he’s been here”, “We’re removing his circuitry”, and “He’s but a ghost.” I was being shunned. I’d never seen this in Morningland, let alone experienced it.

[A few days later] A Council member summarily informed us [several other disciples] that we were contaminating the pure disciples, aspirants and guests. We were not one with Sri Donato. We would not be allowed to enter the Temple proper until we became clear. If we were in relationships, we were to have no physical or verbal contact with our partners. The same went for those with disciple roommates. We were not to talk about Morningland with others, not even at our workplaces.

It was a sickening, mind-shattering night. I may have been sitting in that room, but I knew I was no longer in Morningland, and I’d never suffered that form of shaming again. I was now done with it. (Steve Ryan)

When we [the Gopis] returned to Long Beach, we had to go through an excommunication ritual in the temple . . . We were stripped of our positions and medallions by Sri and Melikia, and told that we had to leave the state. We were accused of failing in our commitment to the Plan and told that our knowledge would eventually dim and we would return to our ‘pre-Morningland’ level, . . . It was a devastating and humiliating experience that I can barely begin to describe” (Pathena: Former Gopi’s Insider Perspective)

… all I can give you is the feeling most of you would recognize of utter horror as someone began tearing into you and demolishing your concept of reality by negating it from their position of higher ‘clarity’, etc. The outcome was – you gopis are OUT! Gather your possessions, all Morningland property and meet at the temple at midnight for a ceremony. You will all leave the state within two weeks. You will have no contact with any disciples. You will return to your pre-morningland state of awareness. I can’t remember what is said, but it’s a tear-down and ultimatums are given. We remove our medallions and turn them over to Sri. Some time – feels like about a week – later, Sri called me and in that sweet voice that could soothe your soul, said, “It’s all right now, Pathena, you can come back. Everything is OK.” All I could say was, “I don’t think so, Sri.” And I didn’t…..(Pathena, Donato’s Death)

Final thoughts by Sri Patricia’s former close disciples

I’m not at the point that I wish to feel sorry for her, but my experience in the world and in psychology after Morningland tells me that Patricia was a sociopath. Either because of childhood abuse and/or an imbalance of brain chemistry, she did not have normal human emotional responses. The hallmark of sociopaths – and also child molesters — is that they have no empathy for their victims. They show no remorse for their actions. That she could cut off people so completely and feel nothing for them is creepy. She did not mourn Donato’s death, she abandoned her own children including Donato’s fragile and beautiful son, and she cast out Morningland’s spiritual children.” (Quota-Excommunication)

I believe Donato, Dan Sperato, wanted to build a spiritual community. I believe he meant well. I believe he was a narcissist. I believe Sri, Patricia Diablo-Sperato, unfortunately was a narcissistic psychopath incapable of empathy, emboldened by her charismatic abilities and others’ obedience. I admit I am thankful she’s passed away, and no longer able to create others in her image. And I’m thankful Morningland has dwindled to meager numbers.” (Steve Ryan)