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 & PATRICIA
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 not hippies but 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 alleged "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.
MORNINGLAND IN LONG BEACH & ESCONDIDO
Before the grand opening, the couple worked from their home. They gave spiritual readings in their living room, Donato performed spiritual “healing,” and gathered their first disciples. In 1973, Daniel and Patricia opened a metaphysical center called Morningland in Long Beach, CA. Daniel 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 healing, read auras, astrology, tarot, numerology, and rune, gave people their mantra names, acted as spiritual counselors. Morningland had hundreds of people and even opened another center in Escondido and a retreat lodge in the San Bernardino mountains. Donato was the central figure, a kind unpretentious teacher who kept his secret activities with the Gopis hidden.
THE END OF MORNINGLAND IN ESCONDIDO
In 1976, three years after the grand opening, Donato unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack, presumably from failing to take his heart medication. He was 53. His death created massive confusion and exposed his alleged sexual activities, alcohol and drugs with the Gopis. The avatar was gone. It was the end of the original Morningland.
Without the unifying figure, the existing power struggles between the Gopis intensified, as did suspicions. Since Donato’s death Sri Patricia was allegedly preoccupied with fears of the dark side taking over the community, and excommunicated (the big clearing sessions) those she suspected of being influenced by it. In 1978, the number of disciples in Long Beach and Escondido went from 1,000 to an estimated 250 to 400. Most were expelled, and in some cases, even physically thrown out by Rainbow Soldiers (guard men).
Their actions had ripple effects on the community at large. Morningland came at odds with the Escondido residents who accused them of influencing minors, breaking up couples, and claiming medical cures (see details in published news articles in ML in the News), and even murder (unfounded). That prompted police investigation, which resulted in harassment of Morningland members, and led to Morningland's lawsuit against the city of Escondido.
At the peak of the internal power struggles, Gopi Melikia allegedly manipulated Sri Patricia to excommunicate the remaining original Gopis (one of them, Pathena/ Dorie writes about her experience), which eventually led to the liquidation and the end of Morningland in Escondido. Melikia and her friends allegedly tried to start a group in Arizona but failed.
MORNINGLAND IN LONG BEACH
(late 70s, 80s)
Only a few hundred people loyal to Donato's widow, the charismatic Sri Patricia, remained at their Long Beach location. For the first time Morningland had a single, authoritarian leader. Sri Patricia renamed herself Sri Donato, claimed 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. Perhaps to prevent the formation of subgroups and another betrayal, Sri Donato allegedly - as written by several individuals below - continued with excommunications, encouraging vasectomies, spying on disciples, controlling sexuality, separating couples and families (many disciples cut contact with their children who did not choose Morningland), 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.
Sri Donato's issues with authorities continued. In 1979, she and her lawyer Masry were accused of bribing a government official, which resulted in government raid on the compound. In 1980, Sri pleaded innocent and in 1984 her case was dismissed (more in ML in the News).
Most stories below speak about this time of transition in the late 1970s, and 80s, revealing traumatizing clearing sessions, and excommunications. Former members did not find one another until after Al Stone created the original Ex-Morninglanders website (1997). It served as a connecting point for former members to connect, share, and process our experiences. There are many perspectives and voices. Some wondered whether anything in Morningland was real, others continued to believe in Donato as a real spiritual teacher whose mission was ruined by Sri Patricia's power games. A few see both as cult leaders with different styles.
(80s, 90s, 2000s)
The website exposed Sri Donato’s actions and she appeared to have kept a low public profile. Sri Donato assigned a job title of a Gopi to two of her most trusted disciples Saravati (Margaret) and Chokru (Mary) who she trained as her successors. She also trained Gopi Vajra (Wendy) and Gopi Ona-Ali (Lara Ona) to secure future succession.
In 2003, Sri Donato passed away in 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. 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. It is possible that she will rebrand and present a very different facade to break the connection with her teachers' troubled past.
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.