L.B. – borne religious movement has 1,000 members in S. Cal.
By Mark Gladstone, Staff Writer (for Independent)
Aug 15 1977
A religious movement that started in Long Beach storefront with 15 members in 1973 is spreading across the Southland and now claims to have more than 1,000 members.
The group, Morningland, was started in Long Beach four years ago by a former North Long Beach Boys’ Club official, Donato Sperato, and now has centers in Long Beach and Escondido and a retreat in Crestline.
Members held an “Aquarian faire” Saturday and Sunday as an introduction to their ideas at their new headquarters at 2600 E Seventh St., the former home of Temple Sinai in Long Beach.
The new faith is based on achieving a kind of transcendental understanding of the world through Donato’s main message, “We are all one.”
The faire included readings in astrology, numerology, tarot cards, palmistry and auras. These fields are used as the way to achieve oneness with oneself and others, according to members of Morningland.
The founder, known in the faith as Donato, died in Escondido after a heart attack last November. Church members believe he “ascended,” meaning his soul was released into the heavenly planes.
Donato, in his mid-50s when he died, was a master teacher or mediator between heaven and earth.
According to a Morningland publication, the religion was “established . . . for the soul purpose of assisting mankind in transcending the limits of matter, time and space” to reach an eternal state.
Morningstaar, one of the original members, said Donato held a number of satsangs, or teachings, in his home before opening a headquarters in a storefront down the block from the current location. His wife, Sri Patricia, is one of the nine women ministers.
Only women are ministers because of “problems” created by men who tended to be domineering teachers.
Donato was unlike “masters” of other faiths because he was not from Asia and did not wear robes or turbans, Morningstaar says. His philosophy was a blending of Eastern and Western thought.
The cultural mix can be seen in the altar of Morningland’s new headquarters. There is a Buddha next to a picture of Jesus surrounded by plants and the symbol of Morningland, a triangle with a rising sun and a flame in the middle.
Morningland is organized as a nonprofit church, according to Ananda, Morningland’s chief of public relations. She has an outside job in public relations for a hospital. Her former name is —- [removed by admin]. She says Morningland raises money through donations and contributions to the attending its extensive list of classes in “divine sciences and metaphysics.” It is in the process of purchasing its Long Beach headquarters.
Ananda and Morningstaar say Morningland members have a variety of backgrounds and ages. There are no membership dues. Morningstaar says she graduated from college in the East in 1972 and came to California to find spiritual peace. She says Donato had a vision of her arriving and she met him through friends in Hermosa Beach.
She and Ananda say there was something about the “energy” in Long Beach that was conducive to the formation of Morningland. It now has 5,000 names on its mailing list, they say, and soon plans to open a branch in San Bernardino.
Ananda views Morningland as a “self-development growth center” in the astrological Age of Aquarius. Aquarius is the 11th of 12 signs in the Zodiac which charts the imaginary course of the sun.
Many of those interested in Morningland and those just interested in fields like astrology or healing came to the faire during the weekend.
On Sunday afternoon, those arriving were greeted by a half dozen or so pickets carrying signs such as “Jesus Saves from Hell.” They said they were from various area churches, and one young man who would not identify himself said he wanted to see Morningland “thrown out of town.” However, the followers of Donato say they welcome members of all faiths to their Sunday evening services.