The Centrific Circles of My Cultist History
Two degrees of separation: from Dr. Lalich to Morningland Church to Me
As I prepare for an important interview with professor emerita of sociology at the California State University, Chico, Dr. Janja Lalich - bits of my own history with a cult are being unearthed. I am forever tied to the history at 2600 E. 7th St. in Long Beach, CA. Not by choice, since I went there as a kid, I was indoctrinated and separated from my family.
I started reading Dr. Lalich's book "Bounded Choice" in prepartion for her upcoming podcast appearance, and it's so densely informative that I have filled each page with notes in the book margins, of which there are spacious areas in the book. She knew.
But the story of Morningland keeps getting more entangled for me. I was doing some reasearch on Morningland Church now named the Monestary, in case you readers do not know, that's where I was involved from age 8-22.
I was on the Chamber of Commerce website and found reviews that had been up there for years and some were new. Morningland has been around since 1972. The reviews were scathing. That's not what surprised me. What surprised me was the Lalich connection. And I was already talking with her when I found this.
In one of the reviews, a writer said that Dr. Lalich had written a book partly covering the lives of children ditched by cult leaders. And that one of the people she interviewed was the child of Sri Donato, leader of Morningland. Lalich had interviewed the daughter of Sri Donato, I was stunned reading this.
What's so strange is that my master would traffick and take to her bosom (in more ways than one) two young red-headed twins, my sister and I. And she would come to treat us like spiritual daughters, training us, enslaving and indoctrinating us. All the while neglecting her own children and rejecting them 100 % (she had a son as well).
I never met the daughter of the church's leader. But I replaced her. Though Morningland was considered a dangerous cult, as dangerous as Heaven's Gate during it's time back then, the world does not know that. And I am about to speak to someone who does. Dr. Lalich. This is significant.
Sri Donato had called my sister and I reincarnates of Egyptian lineage (so much bunk) and created a spiritual order for us called "The Daughters of Isis". We were hand maidens to her and other female clergy, in all senses. What a hypocrasy to her children who did not have access to a mother.
In turn, the leader separated us from our mother, all to gain full acess to these little minds and bodies of ours, and she went on to treat her new daughters, incestually. And this seems so insane to me now.
Finding someone who knows the smaller cult I survived is some serious serendipity. During this future interview I will be sure to ask her of the interview for her book. The cult leader’s daughter also wrote a memoir on this topic.
I am not sure her name though Sri Donato's name legally was Patricia Sperato (when married to Dan Sperato - her maiden name was Patricia Diable and findagrave.com was a good place for the memorial details of her and her mate Donato aka Dan Sperato.
I am more convinced than ever that the size of the cult or religion is not as important as their lasting impact. Morningland had a lasting impact in the area, its members, it's member's families and on several generations of friends who lost members to the group by death (fake healing etc.) or by emotional catastrophe caused by psychopathic tendencies of the leaders, especially Sri Donato but they started it together. It also pushed out publications and travelled to USA locations as well as Canada that I am aware of.
One note about the gravestone of Donato is chilling. Avesha: 1971, Maha Samadi 1976 we are all one. I found a local blogger who commented that this person looks like they lived only five years on earth. A bit funny that.
In addition to the odd historical element of reviews listed on the Chamber of Commerce website, there is an article which was written in 1997 after Heaven's Gate had committed mass suicide ('96) which I found at ex-morninglanders.com.
The article was entitled
Just Like Heaven’s Gate - (Like Heaven’s Gate) Some Members Also Believe a Spaceship Will Deliver Their Souls From Earth
Sunday, March 30, 1997 BYLINE: By Susan Pack- Long Beach Press Telegram
Morningland has had its earthly problems. In 1980, the state investigated the church for allegedly trying to bribe a former lieutenant governor (nobody was convicted). Accusing church members of harassing his sister after she broke up with a member, a Bellflower man confessed to planting a dynamite bomb at the church in 1986.
Former members told the PressTelegram in 1986 that sham marriages were arranged for immigration purposes, and husbands and wives were persuaded to split up. Some members donated thousands of dollars to the group.
Jeff Paul, who lived next to the church from 1980 to 1995, said he heard a female voice haranguing members throughout the night.
In addition there was this quote from neighbors who would watch the goings on at the church located at 7th and Molino in Long Beach, CA.
...The 40-year-old teacher said a woman used to sit in her car outside the church, hoping to catch a glimpse of her daughters. Ties with families were discouraged, said a 54-year-old Long Beach businesswoman who was a church member during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
That woman was my mom. Those daughters are me and my twin sister. It is one of the most cruel and sad things I ever participated in, the shunning of my mom at the direction of Sri Donato. In fact my mom has a recording of clergy coming to her car and harassing her verbally. All the while we were hidden from her inside, and never knew of this.
The "church" was acting more like a cult than anything, and I often wonder why it was always tolerated by the neighbors. Perhaps because like so many, they didn't know what to complain about or report. Not even the people living there illegally in a commercial zone.
As I seek other survivors of Morningland I am in a desert of speaking out. Though I am not in contact yet with fellow survivors of the cult which Sri Donato would call "the cult of cults" many a time, I am not alone. I am in a community online of many survivors of New Age Religiuos cults, and other such people. It is amazing to connect with people who have had similar experiences. I am grateful to finally unburden myself. I also have a lot of wisdom to share, it only took me 35 years to get the courage. I have it now.
So, Morningland was proud to be associated with The People's Temple (Jim Jones based in San Francisco originally) and other California organizations during that time. Sri Donato would even mockingly have people drink cool-aid in a small Dixie paper cup during certain classes, to test people's loyalty. My mother recounting just such a time (and yeah she drank it) was thinking this was some sort of joke. That is very disturbing to me, and something I had never heard until recently.
The dangerous cults during the 60's and 70's have infected many ways of thinking in the United States. That is what we as society are now dealing with. The sheer neglect of people and kids that took place in these cults needs to be used as a cautionary tale. Morningland (renamed The Monestary) is a great cautionary tale to learn from. I am here to fascilitate that using my podcast and this column. Of course I am reporting on more than just my cult, but this particular story is a long strange journey that I now am forever tied to.
At least now I am public about it, no longer have to hide, and no longer need to keep the secrects of the sadistic leader who once reigned over many true believers (deceased 2003). Exploiting the weaknesses of leaders to amass a following of thousands before there was an internet ( the church was founded in 1972, some say 1973 - present). The damage is not yet over. They are now advertising themselves as an intentional community of yoga.
The new grift and name are par for the course for cults that face legal trouble, regime change, or bad reputations in the press. You may find their new words and public image interesting. They are trying to live forever. [See https://www.ic.org/directory/morningland-monastery/]
Though stating that they do not maintain a web presence, they are. They now have a one page site at MorninglandCommunity.com - which is confusing to me. For several years the branding for these next generation leaders following after the founders died has been The Monastery. Now I see they are using both. I guess they cannot make up their minds? What is driving the indecision. Inquiring minds want to know.
Are you trying to ditch the name or not? And yes I have tried to contact them but no one answers the phone anymore. The one page states their Sunday service time and their phone number, as well as their location.
I'd like to think that my consistent posting of detailed information about what I survived there and how it destroyed my family is raising flags about its activities. I hope citizens nearby are concerened as I am. They should be.
To set the way-back machine, one of the things this 'church' is known for is a bomb threat that failed to detonate. Let me tell you this story now.
In the 80's a guy planted a bomb at the church. He was mad because the church was aggressively bothering his sister, trying to recruit her. He left a device there and drove away. The rain dampened the device to prevent the dynamite from exploding.
I was asleep 100 ft. or less right above where it was planted. He hadn't heard an explosion, so he started coming back to plant another one.
One of the leaders on premise (Gopi Saravati) heard an odd click (the detonation failing) and called police. My sister and I were not supposed to be illegally living there, and mom had been kicked out. The clergy had us go across the street where we watched the scene unfolding from a window. Close enough to the bomb to still die from it if it exploded.
Police evacuated a two mile radius and the bomb squad came and took the device. The man was aprehended when he was arriving to do it again, with another detenator and another set of explosives.
Being so young I didn't think a thing about watching the whole block around me be evacuated but stupidly still hiding across the street within explosion range. I was scared and did what I was told.
This memory shows so much about Morningland cult. They are aggresive in recruiting. They care zero about their devotees, and put my sister and my life at real risk that day. I personally - at 100% risk of this thing exploding while I slept in the upstairs level of the building. And not because of anything I had done.
Later that day the bomb squad took the device to the beach a few miles away and buried it in the sand to explode it safely. It made all the news. The explosion was huge. Check Google for that, circa Dec. 1986. See for yourself.
These same people -minus the original leader, she's buried under the building - are on the property living illegally and behaving in the same way with their mind numbing beliefs in spaceships, new age consciousness, meditation and such. They own the city block and have never been successfully charged with anything to my knowlege.
What cult do you want the awareness raised on? What does the public need to know?
August Is Interational Cult Awareness Month - What Cult Do You Want People to Occupy and Learn The Dangers Of? List Yours in reply here, or contact me to be on the Frankie Files Podcast.
See https://thefreedomtrainproject.org/ in California
Frankie Tease is the writer of Cult Madness News and host of The Frankie Files Podcast, and is a 12 year religious cult survivor.
Send story tips to firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen via Spotify | iHeart Radio | Apple Podcasts | Youtube | Audible
Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Anchor⚓ | Pocket Cast | Radio Public
Thanks for reading Frankie Tease ~ Cult Madness News! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.