Below are some insights we gained after we left Morningland about the many inconsistencies in their indoctrination.
Sri and the Gopis said to us repeatedly that religions were full of dogma, but in Morningland there was no dogma, which made Morningland more appealing. Is Morningland dogma-free? According to Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries, dogma is “a belief or set of beliefs held by a group or organization, which others are expected to accept without argument.” In Morningland, anything Donato or Sri Donato said is taken as the truth at face value and became Morningland’s teachings. It was not questioned and cannot be reasoned with or changed. The words of the current leaders, Gopis, also appeared to be considered “the teachings” and taken as absolute truth (dogma). They were video or audio-recorded, transcribed to ensure and preserve their “purity.” Yeah, no dogma, really?
We thought that spiritual life was that of inner freedom from worldly attachments. We did not notice that by detaching from our former friends, family, and other social supports, we became trapped in emotional dependency on the leaders. Those working more closely with the Gops/ or Sri Donato (not fringe members) were trained to seek their counsel and approval for every major life decision – who to marry, where to live, what job to take, when to take a vacation, etc. We were not encouraged to make our own decisions, which is what being an adult is all about. Our self-esteem was dependent on their approval.
PUTTING WORDS IN YOUR MOUTH
The Gopis told several of us that they teach us HOW and not WHAT to think. After careful reflection, I realized that this is not entirely true. From the beginning, they told us what to think and expect in Morningland. For example, one of the first things many of us heard was manipulation through priming, “You will feel peace (or love) here.” They also told us, ‘You had lunch prepared by a devotee? You must have felt that love in the food they prepared for you.” They also told us what to think about their theology. We did not come to Morningland exclaiming that Sri Donato was a saint – Seraphic angel – or spiritually 1000% correct. Instead, we were instructed by the Gopis or Sri Donato about what to think about them. The instructions on HOW to think were given to keep the WHAT rolling smoothly. This is one way how (in my personal opinion) they influenced our perception and created our collective experience.
As new guests, our inquiries about Morningland and other members were met with vague and evasive answers. “Vague, evasive, deceptive, or manipulative answers are a huge red flag!” says cult expert Steve Hassan and he is correct. Here are some pretty nauseating examples:
- How long have you been in Morningland? Ah, it feels like forever. (or) Not nearly long enough.
- What is the program like here? Well, you just keep following the Gopis’ guidance, and it will all be unfolded perfectly for you.
- Is this a cult? Oh, if you are looking for a cult, I am afraid I will have to disappoint you. Some other groups may offer that.
- I hate what you just said here; it felt so wrong. Why don’t you go with love instead?
EVERYTHING THEY THINK IS TRUE
It appeared to many of us that whatever perception Sri or Gopis had about us, they believed it was a divine insight and, therefore, true without any doubt. They did not ask us about ourselves, for they already had “the truth” from “above” and even tried to convince us about it. This arrogance is a fast way to gaslighting.
DOUBT YOUR SENSES AND GASLIGHTING
The Gopis told us that the eyes are the biggest deceivers. We were supposed to doubt our perceptions, especially our eyes and what we thought. For example, if we saw Gopis being rude to another member and confronted them, they denied our reality. “You had no idea what you saw., you can’t read the Gopis.” In the community, the Gopis were considered to a large degree, enlightened. No one dared question them. They claimed their actions or words were for our good with a deeper spiritual purpose, which we do not yet understand and therefore cannot judge. It was made clear that we did not see correctly because we were not sufficiently developed. Every time our experience did not match the party line, it was automatically invalidated. This overrode our judgment and trust in what we saw, felt, and experienced.
TAKE NO PRAISE AND NO BLAME
The Gopis and Sri Donato/Patricia said they take no praise or blame. Essentially, they do not take responsibility for their words and actions! They did not apologize to those they hurt or acknowledge their unwholesome or abusive actions. I imagine that doing that would mean losing power and infallibility, which are necessary conditions for not having to take responsibility in the first place.
GURU – DISCIPLE JUSTIFICATIONS
This excerpt from the book the Guru Papers (p. 50) is fitting as it portrays many justifications we heard in Morningland:
People justify and rationalize in gurus what in others would be considered unacceptable because they have a huge emotional investment in believing their guru is both pure and right. Surrender of great magnitude requires correspondingly great images of perfection. It would be difficult to surrender to one whose motives were not thought to be pure and whose mistakes could have a significant impact on one’s life. Consequently, the guru can never be wrong, make mistakes, be self-centered, or lose emotional control. By holding guru perfect and thus beyond ordinary explanation, their presumed specialness can be used to justify anything. Some deeper occult reason can always be ascribed to anything a guru does: The guru is said to take on the karma of others, and that is why his body has whatever problems it has. The guru is obese or unhealthy because he is too kind to turn down offerings; besides, he gives so much that a little excess is understandable. The guru doesn’t get angry, he “uses” “anger to teach.”
BEING ABOVE EMOTIONS?
We were told that Gopis/ Sri/ Kamazi are fully anchored in their higher minds and no longer affected by emotions. Really? How many times have we heard them yell at us, clearly exemplifying anger? When we sought clarification about this public display, they answered that there was negative emotion “in the air” that belonged to another disciple. They explained they took these emotions onto themselves (their sacrifice) and acted them out before someone got affected by them. In essence, their yelling at us was “cleaning the atmosphere” and a warning to us to better control our thoughts. How convenient! This way, they can never own unpleasant emotions but project them onto us. In this game, the guru remains infallible, and disciples carry the blame by default (see more about this shame projecting in Shaw’s paper on gurus).
PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE
The Gopis told us that our goal as disciples was to see what they were doing and validate it. “Aren’t the Gopis amazing!” This was perhaps one of the first and most persistent statements we heard from older disciples, and we pretty soon began emulating it. Praise was the quickest way to social acceptance in Morningland, but it often felt so empty and dull, so uninspired and fake. And yet, everyone did it. Praising them demonstrated spiritual awareness and shared ideals. It reaffirmed a shared reality, however misguided.
THE SACREDNESS OF MARRIAGE
Gopis said to us over and over again that marriage was sacred and no one should interfere with a couple. They even held couples classes in Morningland (gay couples were excluded, but since no one spoke about these classes, those excluded were unaware of their exclusion). However, it appears that marriages were to be considered sacred only for their members because they (Gopis, Sri Donato) had no problem meddling in them or even trying to break up some!
Morningland has a teaching that says, “True friends will follow you to Morningland,” which the Gopis repeated frequently. They added that being on this spiritual path meant we were outgrowing our old friends. This propaganda cut us off from our former social support and attached us to those in Morningland. This propaganda also created an illusion of a close-knit community but, for many, had no real substance. Friends are loyal to one another, but in Morningland, members are only loyal to the Gopis, not each other.
- Socializing one on one, sharing personal information, and knowing one another was discouraged and not seen as spiritual
- When we got sick, or something happened to us (broken leg etc), and we had to stay home for several days, none of our “friends” called to see if we were ok.
- If something happened to us and we needed a friend’s help, the Gopis would decide if we deserved it (possibly based on the merit attained by our free labor).
- When we left Morningland, we were shunned without a second thought and considered a potential enemy by default. The loyalty of our “friends’” was to the Gopis.
When we first came to Morningland, many of us felt as if we woke up spiritually. Our view of the world was so new. The good feelings we felt during our meditations, feeling accepted and seen by the Gopis, and gaining a sense of belonging changed how we saw ourselves and everything about our lives. But when we left, we felt the same changed perception, only this time, it felt like we woke up from an illusion. The cherished bubble of a group fantasy was gone, and we felt we were waking up from someone else’s story (the guru’s). We were no longer IN looking out but OUTSIDE looking in. Waking up from the guru’s deception may be the most significant healing of our lives.
Mantika, June 2023