Beware of the guru

Irishman's empire hits Scotland

The Daily Record, UK/August 28, 2006
By Annie Brown

Scots are being targeted by a "cult" which charges £12,000 for mind-training seminars.

Educo, led by hypnotherapist and former butcher Dr Tony Quinn (below), has been accused of manipulating the minds of its followers and plunging people into debt.

A cult watchdog in Quinn's native Ireland claimed yesterday that people who sign up for his programme could be putting their health and sanity at risk.

And now one of the lifestyle guru's most devoted admirers is bringing his teachings to Scotland.

Dr Mhairi Livingston, an immunologist, is recruiting members to her new franchise, Educo-gym Scotland. She has set up one gym in Glasgow and hopes to open 500 branches across the country.

Those who sign up pay £300 for a 12-day health and fitness course - £200 for a dozen 15-minute weight training sessions, and £100 for five nutritional supplements bearing Quinn's own health label.

Educo members are encouraged to be obsessive about fitness and diet, to use Quinn's supplements, and to drink his own brand of distilled water.

But Dr Livingston also talks enthusiastically to those who sign up about the benefits of Quinn's £12,000 self-help seminars.

She claims that Quinn, a former adviser to boxing champion Steve Collins, has used faith healing to cure cancer.

And she encouraged an undercover Daily Record reporter who joined the gym course to borrow £12,000 on a credit card so she could attend one of his mind-training events.

The central theme of 60-year-old Quinn's teachings is that people can make things happen by believing in them strongly enough. He claims he can help people to tap into their unconscious minds and become a "super you".

He holds his two-week seminars once a month in exotic locations. The next event will take place next month in a luxury hotel on the French Riviera.

Dr Livingston speaks in glowing terms about Quinn's power to change the lives of his followers.

She said: "He has cured people of cancer and all sorts of things.

"There was a girl at one of his seminars and she had a lump under her arm She said her mum had died of it.

"Tony said, 'What lump?' He refused to acknowledge she had a lump under her arm and the next day it was gone."

Dr Livingstone also claimed that during one of his seminars, held in the Bahamas, Quinn popped out in the lunch break to "heal people".

She told our investigator: "Not many people in Scotland know about Tony. I want to let people in Scotland know about him because I believe that what I learned has made me much more certain of my success and now I don't have any doubts.

"He just makes it all seem so simple. His main ethos is do nothing, let your unconscious mind show you where to go."

Dr Livingstone said she had borrowed £12,000 on a credit card to go to one of Quinn's seminars, and encouraged our reporter to do the same.

The Record investigator said she worried about getting into debt, but Dr Livingstone told her that was "a short-term focus".

She said: "Interest-free credit cards are begging you to take them out. They give you a year's interest-free credit, so you can just pay that off as the year goes on.

"Some people remortgage their houses. It's a great way to get money because you get the lowest possible interest rate.

"You don't even notice the difference in your monthly outgoings."

Some people who attend Quinn's seminars go on to take part in his more intensive "Mind Masters" course, where the guru reads the "auras" of his followers to reveal their true destinies.

The Mind Masters course costs £40,000 for two weeks. A personal consultation with Quinn costs £100,000.

Quinn's website claims that he commands the highest fees of any mind trainer in the world. He is rumoured to have made £1million in a month.

Supporters of Educo claim that Quinn's techniques help followers become happy, wealthy and successful.

But medical psychologist Dr John Butler, of King's College London, said it was "more than fair" to refer to Educo as a cult.

He added: "Many people have been drawn to the organisation hoping for a miracle, financially, physically and mentally."

Mike Garde, of cult watchdog Dialogue Ireland, has blamed the "cultish" activities of Educo for traumatising followers and their families.

He said: "It has affected many Quinn followers psychologically.

"They are taught to believe only in positive theory and not to take account of anything negative, so they don't see failure coming.

"When it does come, they blame themselves rather than Quinn."

Garde said Quinn's seminars create "an enclosed environment, where the person gets only one source of information".

He added: "Any other information is seen as negative and evil. That's how you get followers to see black is white and white is black."

Critics have questioned whether people attending Quinn's seminars are placed under a hypnotic influence. A female follower talks on the guru's website about being placed in a deep state of "unconscious attention".

Garde believes Educo Gyms are used as recruiting grounds for Quinn's seminars. And he warned Scots to beware of getting involved in Quinn's organisation.

He said: "Bear in mind it's not just a bit of exercise you are taking. It may be an exercise that could cost you your time, your health, your wealth and your sanity in the longer term."

The Record spoke to a man in Ireland who said his marriage collapsed after his wife joined Educo.

The man, a teacher who asked not to be named, told us: "You don't want this organisation in Scotland.

"It's very destructive. It ruins people's lives."

The man said his wife spent all her savings to attend three Quinn seminars, and took a 60per cent pay cut to go and work for him.

Her obsession plunged her into debt and left her estranged from her family.

The man said: "Her whole loyalty, all her focus, was on things Tony wanted her to do. I couldn't get through to her.

"When my nephew recovered from meningitis, she suggested Tony had healed him. If I got a promotion, Tony had done it.

"When I told her it was Tony or me, she said she had to follow her beliefs.

"Tony says he changes lives. He changed mine for the worse."

Quinn worked as a butcher in Ireland before reinventing himself in the 1980s as a body-builder and yoga guru.

He studied hypnotherapy, and rose to fame in 1995 when he worked as a psychological trainer for Steve Collins before a title fight with Chris Eubank.

Since then, he has made millions from his fitness and self-help empire. He owns a palatial home in the Bahamas with two swimming pools and a private beach.

One of Quinn's senior aides, Martin Forde, denied that Educo was a cult.

And he insisted that Quinn has never claimed to have cured cancer, saying: "That would be ridiculous."

Forde, who is responsible for the Educo Gyms operation, said Quinn was the highest-paid and most effective mind trainer in the world.

Asked if anyone had suffered from becoming involved with Educo, he repeatedly insisted: "The level of satisfaction is incredibly high - about 97 per cent."

Forde said any dissatisfied customers could "come and talk to us".

When confronted by our reporter, Dr Livingstone insisted Tony Quinn had changed her life for the better.

She said: "I can imagine that someone who is so unbelievably successful in what he does is going to be under attack from people who don't want to believe what he does."

Dr Livingstone said she was only offering people options when she advised borrowing money to go to Quinn seminars.

She told the Record's investigator: "All I was telling you was the benefits of the business. I have absolutely zero concerns. I think the guy is fantastic.

"If you get into debt buying a three-piece suite, do you blame the shop?

"I think Tony comes from the heart and is the most honest guy I have ever met. You are trying to sabotage my business."

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