Sirisa / Collette: I Dreamt Once That I Was There

“I dreamt once that I was there. I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to the earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy.” Emily Bronte

I was deceptively recruited into Morningland in August of 1976. I say deceptively because I believe the true nature and purpose of this group was deliberately hidden from almost all that came into the group. I had just graduated from high school and moved out of my mother’s house in June. The person who recruited me was a family friend, a mentor and a woman that I admired, principally because she seemed the antithesis of my own dysfunctional parent. She was articulate; she seemed very rational, responsible, neat & tidy. She was learning to fly airplanes. She seemed to take very good care of her two daughters one of whom was my age. Maybe you have to come from a similar background to understand how attractive these qualities can be.

I don’t blame my friend (who I will call Jill) for recruiting me. I believe that all the blame rests with the founders of what many experts and I believe to be an extremely destructive group; Patricia Diable and Daniel Sperato. They used deception from the beginning, that is very clear to me. From what I have read and learned about cults in the last few years someone with my background would be the exception rather than the rule in these groups. Most people who end up in cults are ordinary people with average backgrounds.

Another friend of mine had dragged me along with him to a psychic fair, which I was not very impressed by. Jill found out about this and almost pounced on me to go to Morningland. I had never heard her talk about the place before. I don’t think I would have had any interest in going if Jill hadn’t suggested it. I was eighteen years old and like a lot of people I had no clear idea of what I was going to do with my life. But I never thought I needed to find a new age group. In fact I had a couple of friends in Laguna Beach that were into some Ram Das, new age sort of philosophy which I thought was a wee bit lame. In fact it seemed to me that these particular people liked to think that having this special knowledge somehow made them superior and that was not attractive to me. I was not really interested in psychic phenomena or astrology which were, at that time what Morningland was hanging its’ hat on. I have read recently that there are many of these “new age” type groups popping up these days. It seems to me that many people are attracted to these type groups and even more traditional religions, which claim special knowledge, because it is the last politically correct way to be superior to others. Or maybe it’s just a need to feel special. Whatever the attraction, I don’t think that I am going out on a limb if I suggest that a really legitimate path or religion is not going to offer you instant knowledge, powers, etc.

So I went. And I became enthralled on the spot. Should I describe what attracted me? The music I would say was number one. The atmosphere, lighting, incense, candles, pastel clothing, people had a way of speaking that drew you in. There was a sort of 60′s vibe (the Moody Blues’ were always playing) going on which was very attractive to me.

Of course in all of these groups you are told that this is your spiritual home and that you can be understood here like nowhere else. You can become involved in a noble “cause” which is never really explicitly described. You can become one of the chosen, one of the special ones. You can have knowledge and powers that only the very few have. You will have a ready-made family. You become part of the “group”. You don’t have to think about what to do with your life, your life becomes the group. From then on and for a very, very long time afterward I was lost to myself.

I am sure that many people have described how quickly this happens. I am equally sure that most people have difficulty grasping that it is this easy to take over the life of a human being. For those that have no conscience it really is this easy. Whatever flaws I had that led me to be attracted to this group I do not believe that I deserved what happened to me there. No one deserves this. And no rational person would “join” a group like this if there were any type of disclosure about what would happen to them or what was truly required of them. It is very difficult for me to hear people mocked who have lost so much; children, many, many productive years, their health and even their lives. To say that they somehow deserve what happens to them because they were ostensibly foolish or gullible is hard. Very hard.

For the six years that I was in Morningland, I see now, I subconsciously struggled, almost continually, against what they were doing. I was a failure as a “disciple” not because I consciously tried to fail but because something in me just couldn’t do what they wanted. I never recruited anyone, I never taught, I never counseled anyone and I never gave a healing testimony. All the hallmarks of “good” disciples.

Because of this, I was extremely unstable during almost the whole time I was there and at one point I was very close to having a psychotic break, which is really not unusual in cults. I have reason to believe that my “minders” in the group were discussing the possibility that I would kill myself and how they would explain or deal with that event. I think that most who are familiar with a mind control environment would agree that it is much easier if you don’t struggle (if this sounds like rape that’s because it is rape). I genuinely do not mean to malign the ones who did not struggle in the same way that I did. I am only trying to tell my story. I am not qualified to judge how any other human being copes with what can only be described as a fundamental violation of their humanity.

The type of psychological pressure that is exerted is so extraordinary that it really is amazing that most of us are able to cope with it as well as we do. These types of predators are so successful because, like child abusers and wife batterers, they make their victims their accomplices. The victims are filled with shame and don’t feel they have the right to complain about what has been done to them.

This is wrong. You do have the right to complain. We all did things that we would not do in any type of rational situation where there is not this extreme psychological pressure. I will personally struggle, on some level, for the rest of my life with how I could have supported something for so long that was and is so wrong. But, ultimately none of what happened would have been possible without what I believe were the essentially malevolent intentions of the founders of this group. Their actions demonstrate a total disregard for individual freedom, dignity and even life itself.

I was ultimately kicked out of Morningland and for a very long time afterwards I did not speak to anyone about what happened to me there. Ultimately I was able to sort out and to some degree process what happened to me there. I suppose I have been more fortunate than some and less fortunate than others. I survived. I “know a hawk from a handsaw”. I am reasonably successful. I enjoy my life now. I think that I wanted to tell my story because I hope that it will move some people to be more compassionate to the anguish and struggle of those of us who have had our trust violated in such an unexpected and harsh way. It truly can happen to anyone.