Sects, cults and UFOs: Fringe groups The Family, Raelian Movement and 'real' Jesus Christ among those attracting Aussie followers

The Herald Sun, Australia/July 25, 2014

By Paul Anderson

From small fringe groups with wacky religious beliefs to large structured money-making organisations run by self-professed prophets, cults and sects have existed in Australia for several decades.

We take a look at the cults and sects that have popped up across the landscape or branched on to our shores over the decades.

The Family

Australia’s most notorious cult, The Family was led by self-professed messiah Anne Hamilton-Byrne.

Based in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, it traded on Christianity and a mix of Eastern and Western religious themes.

Senior cult members worked at the Newhaven psychiatric hospital in Kew, from where patients were recruited.

They were allegedly administered the hallucinogenic drug LSD.

Several children were taken into care when Australian Federal Police agents and Community Services Victoria staff raided a Lake Eildon property in 1987.

Police later found 14 children had been brought up in almost complete isolation believing they were the offspring of Hamilton-Byrne and her late husband Bill.

The children’s hair was dyed peroxide-blonde and they were dressed in identical outfits.

It is also alleged they were half starved, beaten and forced to take large amounts of tranquillisers and fed LSD when they became adults.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald Sun in 2009, Hamilton-Byrne gave the following responses.

Question: Did she mistreat “her children”?

Response: “They were normal children and they could be disobedient to a point, but not all the time.”

Question: Was LSD used?

Response: “Everything on earth has its uses.”

Her estranged “daughter”, Dr Sarah Moore, told the Sunday Herald Sun: “She is unrepentant. She is a powerful and charismatic person, and I believe she initially meant well with both creating the cult and collecting us children.”

Children of God

This sect gained notoriety in the 1970s over claims of child sex abuse and a practice known as “flirty fishing” — where female devotees were encouraged to lure new members with sex.

Children of God was formed in 1968 by US pastor David Berg, who called himself Moses David.

Secrecy and negative publicity involving overseas Children of God branches sparked controversy about the religious group in Australia.

Raids were carried out in Victoria and NSW, amid concerns about the welfare of children.

The children involved said they were never abused.

A Children’s Court magistrate in Victoria temporarily placed children in the care of Community Services Victoria.

The families, who homeschooled their children, insisted they were simply a fundamentalist Christian community spreading the word across the globe.

A child welfare worker claimed some of the children told them they were required to always smile, and crying was punished with a beating using a wooden paddle or stick.

In the end in 1994, the children were returned to their families.

In NSW, a similar legal custody battle had waged.

A damages claim was confidentially settled.

Vibrational Individuations Program

A South Australian Group, its members wore pink and white underwear, ate offal, rejected medical advice and determined strict diets by listening to the vibrations of food and bodies.

In 1999, one former member of the group provided The Advertiser with a copy of one of her food programs.

It included instructions to drink 756 glasses of water a day and eat brains and tongue 30 times a day.

The program detailed not only what a person could eat, but how it was cooked.

SA Liberal Senator Grant Chapman criticised the group in State Parliament in 1999.

According to The Advertiser article, group leaders Joan Phillips and Marie Steinke replied by saying the program did not specify what a person had to eat, but what was necessary to balance an individual’s “vibrations”.

According to a statement from the women, VIP was a “registered self-help group based on Christian principles”.

“It is not a cult targeted at pregnant women,” the statement said.

“Diet is not the core focus of the group. The agreed diets cover a full range of food and are relative to the need of weakened vibrations at the time.’’

 Magnificent Meal Movement International

The leader of this Queensland-based group, a woman named Debra Geileskey, said she survived for 14 months largely on a eucharist diet of wafers and sightings of the Virgin Mary.

Her movement attracted up to 400 followers after she moved from Melbourne to Toowoomba in 1992.

Ms Geileskey, nee Burslem, claimed to have visions of the Virgin Mary and amassed a property empire worth more than $3.5 million, according to a 2003 Courier-Mail story.

“The former schoolteacher whose Magnificat Meal Movement headquarters are based at Helidon, 80km west of Brisbane, also owns four Mercedes-Benz with matching numberplates,” the article said.

“Land title searches show she owns or part owns at least 20 properties, including homes, farms, offices, shops and units.”

It was also reported Ms Geileskey claimed to have Vatican advisers, and to be a multi-millionaire who had no need to ask for money.

According to a group website: “We are aware of the demented controllers who slander & sell their souls to cry out the fear based words of ‘cult’ against us & pump out propaganda against MMMI volunteers & founders ... bullyboys’ way to frighten saints away from the natural right to freedom of study & divine knowledge.”

The Raelian Movement

This cult is led by a French former motoring journalist and test driver named Claude Vorilhon who, following what he says was an alien encounter in 1973, changed his name to Rael and formed the Raelian movement.

Rael believes he is a prophet from an alien race called the Elohim.

Rael’s UFO-based cult believes extraterrestrial beings will determine the fate of mankind.

It says this on their website: “The Raelian philosophy explains that all forms of life were created by human beings called Elohim coming from another planet who made us in their image.

“The original Bible clearly talks about ‘Elohim’ creating life on earth. This Hebrew word is plural and could be translated as ‘those who came from the sky’.

“It has however been mistranslated into ‘god’ leading to the monotheist religions like the Catholic Church.”

One of the group’s press releases states: “Rael to Pope Francis: ‘No need to baptise aliens, they’re the gods of the Bible.’”

The Raelians, who have achieved tax-exemption status in the US, have an earthbound cause - through “Clitoraid” the cult raises funds to staff an African facility called the “Pleasure Hospital” where women who have been subjected to genital mutilation can have reconstructive surgery.

They have also joined other worthy causes, such as the right for women to appear to topless at

North Bondi beach.

The Aetherius Society

This group, according to the website for its Australian chapter in Brisbane, “co-operates with the gods from space”.

The website states: “The Aetherius Society is an international spiritual organisation dedicated to spreading, and acting upon, the teachings of advanced extraterrestrial intelligences.

“In great compassion, these beings recognise the extent of suffering on Earth and have made countless sacrifices in their mission to help us to create a better world.

The Aetherius Society was founded in the mid-1950s by Englishman George King shortly after he was apparently contacted — in London — by an extraterrestrial intelligence known as ‘Aetherius’.

“The main body of the Society’s teachings consists of the wisdom given through the mediumship (sic) of Dr King by the Master Aetherius and other advanced intelligences from this world and beyond.” the website states.

“The single greatest aspect of the Society’s teachings is the importance of selfless service to others.”

Of its founder, the website says: “Dr. George King is not the only person in history to have had contacts with beings from other worlds, but he is definitely one of the most remarkable.

“He was in contact with the Cosmic Masters from 1954, aged 35, until his death in 1997. During this 43-year period he received a vast amount of spiritual teaching.

“Dr. King also saw and met certain Cosmic Masters, and visited an extraterrestrial spacecraft known as ‘Satellite Number 3’ in a projected state.”

North Queensland Jesus group

This was a secretive community that revolved around the philosophy of “what’s yours is mine”, according to a report published in the Daily Telegraph in January 2011.

Led by a self-proclaimed prophet, the group came to light after one of its members went public.

It fell under more scrutiny when it was revealed one of Australia’s most wanted killers took refuge with the group after escaping prison in 1996.

There was nothing to suggest the organisation knew that Luke Andrew Hunter - who changed his name to Ashban Cadmiel - was a fugitive or convicted killer.

“Members give up access to their own money,” the Daily Telegraph story said of the sect.

“They are stripped of the ability to make decisions and are told if they leave they will go to hell.

“Members must take a biblical name within weeks of joining, learn the ancient Aramaic language and study spiritual guidelines written by (the leader, Dawid Daniel Yosep Abishai Yokannan Landy-Ariel).

“Women learn their role is to serve their husbands ... and mothers are expected to give birth at the commune.”

According to the article, Mr Landy-Ariel denied he dictated how members lived their lives but said individuals abided by the rules out of “respect” for him as the “founding father”.

He said he did not condone or authorise violence.

The Moonies

This cult’s presence in Australia declined dramatically from its peak in the 1970s when it was centred in the Melbourne suburb of Elwood.

The traditional theology of the Moonies, or Church of Unification, was based on the belief that founder Sun Myung Moon was a second Jesus Christ.

This cult was best known for marrying together followers in their hordes who, in return for promises of spiritual enlightenment, offered total loyalty.

At the age of 92, Myung Moon - who turned his movement into a multi-billion dollar business empire - died of organ failure after complications from pneumonia.

So far he has not managed a second coming.

Divine Truth

In the late 2000s, a couple claiming to be the real Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene bedded down in Wilkesdale, near Kingaroy - an area known as Queensland’s “Bible Belt” - and began to attract disciples from across Australia.

In a video at the time, Jesus - real name Alan John Miller - said with a straight face: “My name is Jesus and I’m serious.”

His partner’s name is Mary Suzanne Luck.

On the Divine Truth website, Miller explains: “Just a little over 2000 years ago, we arrived on the earth for the first time. My name then was Yeshua ben Yosef, or the Jesus of the Bible, the son of Joseph and Mary.

“Mary’s name then was Mary of Magdala, the woman identified in the Bible as Mary Magdalene.

“Mary was my wife then, and the first person I appeared to after I was crucified.”

On their website, the pair thank people for their donations and offer their latest financial records for examination.

“Mary and I are completely transparent about our financial records,” Miller states on the website.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

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