It has been decades since some of the events written in the stories below took place. These events changed and defined Morningland's face and its underlying culture. Today, Morningland is both, the same and different from its early versions in the 1970s and 80s. For this reason, this brief unofficial history serves as a contextual placeholder for the stories below. The unofficial history is a culmination of several former members' recollections and opinions and does not represent the views and opinions of the Morningland Monastery.
THE UNOFFICIAL HISTORY
Daniel Sperato (b1925), and Patricia Wood (b1934, née Diable), moved from New York to Southern California. They got married in 1964. Before moving to Long Beach, they lived in Ramona and also near Laguna Beach. This little artistic town used to be one of the largest hippie and LSD centers. A local Mystic Arts World store sold health books, art, smoking paraphernalia, and a brand of LSD called Orange Sunshine. It was distributed by a group called The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, who owned the store and used it for meditation-tripping groups. There are published articles, books, and documentaries available on this topic! These New Age, mind-altering circles attracted Timothy Leary, the famous Harvard psychology professor who studied LSD and its effects on the mind. It is no wonder that Daniel and Patricia moved to this area. They were deeply interested in religion, the cutting-edge metaphysical movement, and the expansion of consciousness. Interestingly, one of Sperato's former disciples and Patricia's assistant Quota states, “She [Patricia] frequently told us how Donato achieved enlightenment on several hits of Orange Sunshine.” This is the only explanation for his "enlightenment" in 1971, as we were never told any tales or saw records of him studying under an actual teacher or the method he used to achieve the said state.
In 1973, Daniel and Patricia opened a metaphysical center called Morningland in Long Beach, CA. Daniel Sperato was called Master Donato, and his wife, Sri Patricia. He allegedly had a special connection to “Upstairs” (the Ascended Masters). Donato was the main leader of the Morningland hierarchy, with 11 Gopis (Sri Patricia, Morningstaar, Pathena, Nasantta, Gyan, Tanene, Aria, Karisibane, Celta, Melikia, Viontri) working as his emissaries. They performed energy healings, read auras, astrology, tarot, numerology, and rune, gave people their mantra names, acted as spiritual counselors, etc. Morningland had hundreds of people and even opened a center in the San Bernardino mountains and another one in Escondido. Donato was the central figure, a soft and kind teacher but kept his secret activities with the Gopis hidden. In 1976, three years after the grand opening, he unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack, presumably from failing to take his heart medication. He was 53. His death created massive confusion and intensified the preexisting power struggles among the Gopis and other high-ranking members. The avatar was gone. It was the end of the original Morningland.
Based on the testimonies below, Donato’s secret of sleeping with the Gopis came out. Without the unifying figure, the power struggles between the Gopis intensified, as did the cruel clearing sessions and excommunications. Morningland also came at odds with the Escondido residents who accused them of controlling minors, breaking couples, and claiming medical cures (see ML in the News). After power struggles between several high-ranking members, particularly Sri Patricia and Gopi Melikia, the Escondido temple closed its door for good.
Only a few hundred people loyal to Donato's widow, the charismatic Sri Patricia, remained at their Long Beach location. Sri Patricia renamed herself Sri Donato, and became the authoritarian leader of Morningland. She proclaimed Donato was a Christ for the New Aquarian Age, hovering above Morningland in a UFO, while she was his direct link on Earth, and together, they formed the vortex. Sri Donato did not empower people like Donato did, but - as written by Quota - took over, co-opted their lives. She took credit for their meditations and anything good in their lives. She excommunicated the original Gopis (one of them, Pathena/ Dorie writes about her experiences) and changed Morningland’s culture. Perhaps to prevent the formation of subgroups and another betrayal, Sri Donato allegedly - as written by several individuals below - continued with the traumatizing clearing sessions, excommunications, encouraging vasectomies, spying on disciples, controlling sexuality, separating couples and families (many disciples cut contact with their children), including sexual coercion (two allegations below). Sri Donato did not parent her two teenage children, who eventually left Morningland and never saw their mom again.
Most of the stories below speak about this time of transition in the late 1970s, and 80s, filled with traumatizing clearing sessions, and excommunications. Former members did not find one another until after Al Stone created the original Ex-Morninglanders website. It served as a connecting point for former members to connect, share, and process our experiences.
To secure the succession, Sri Donato assigned a job title of a Gopi to two of her most trusted disciples Saravati (Margaret) and Chokru (Mary). Sri Donato passed away in 2003 in a Long Beach hospital from a heart attack at age 69. Gopi Chokru, Saravati, and male sub-leader Kamazi X5 continue Sri's legacy and a softer version of her leadership style. The two Gopis trained Gopi Ona-Ali (Lara) and Gopi Vajra (Wendy) as the next generation for succession. About a decade after Sri’s passing, Gopi Vajra left, leaving Gopi Ona-Ali as the single (known to us) “next in line” for Morningland’s future leadership.
CREATING A MYTH
The Gopis portrayed Sri as a saint, continuing the cult of personality. Those of us who never met Sri Donato were told that she was the most compassionate, spiritually a thousand percent correct, peaceful, loving guru, beloved by the Gods. They also added that she was the most misunderstood, wronged, and rejected guru simply because she was so advanced. What a contrast to the reality of those who worked with her and knew her intimately. A major part of our recovery process has been sharing and processing our experiences.