Wednesday, 5 December 2012

All in the Mind

The Psychology of Cults:Listen to the radio show. Transcript available also.

Kenja: - watch trailer.

The sect which attracted Cornelia was established in 1982 by a charismatic World War II veteran, Ken Dyers, and a failed actress, Jan Hamilton. Kenja was formed from the first letters of their Christian names; they later discovered that in Japanese it meant wisdom. At the core of Kenja was a piece of Scientology-derived pseudo-psychological hocus-pocus called Energy Conversion. It embraced the idea of combating inner blockages to spontaneity through participation, on a regular basis and at a considerable cost (presently $130 a session), in two-way meditations. Dyers, or a “meditation consultant”, would lock into prolonged eye contact with a client – called “holding a person still” – and, after listening to their secrets, supposedly reach and unwrap the deepest recesses of the soul. In addition to the Energy Conversion sessions, members were expected to attend expensive workshops (about $50). They took part in eisteddfods and sporting events, in singing, dancing and – in order to renew contact with the spirit of the innocent child in all of us – what Jan called Klowning.

Kenja created for its members an ersatz community. The state of mind to which all aspired was called “havingness”. Nothing said in Kenja was confidential; information was centrally controlled. Those who left were thought of as failures and known as “security risks”. Inside Kenja, despite the leader’s occasional bursts of rage and his mania for control, Ken Dyers’ wisdom, authority and goodness were the unquestionable postulates. No one dared ask where the money went.

By the time of Cornelia’s involvement, Kenja had already attained considerable notoriety. In Nov-ember 1992, a Liberal parliamentarian in the New South Wales upper house, Stephen Mutch, brought the sect to public attention after two constituents came to him with the story of their daughter’s recruitment. Mutch described Kenja as “a sinister organisation designed to fill the pockets and stroke the egos” of Dyers and Hamilton. Kenja promised to offer its followers “unique insights into the meaning of life”. Dyers claimed, Mutch said, to possess “God-like knowledge”. In reality he was a “seedy conman” and “a liar, a cheat and a bully”. Having raised the question of Kenja in the NSW parliament, Mutch now became the recipient of a great deal of testimony about Kenja from the already long list of its victims. In April 1993 he returned to his theme, on this occasion speaking for more than three hours.

Mutch claimed that “recruits are required to confess and write down their darkest secrets” which were later “used to blackmail them if they attempt to leave the group”. He claimed that former Kenja members saw Dyers as a threatening presence who “promotes himself as [an] … expert in the use of violence”. The sect, he claimed, preyed upon psychologically vulnerable young people, especially from the educated middle class. 

He read into Hansard written evidence from former members who claimed that Kenja deliberately and systematically severed links between members and their families and required them to deliver sizeable parts of their income to the sect. One former member described the one-on-one Energy Conversion sessions like this: “His eyes would be looking into your eyes … you’d think he’s reading your mind and he knows what your thoughts are.” Several wrote about the unhealthy dependency relationship that had developed with “Ken”.

One young man, Michael Beaver, who had been inside Kenja between 1988 and 1990, informed Mutch that he was now “a diagnosed schizophrenic who had been hospitalised five times due to Kenja”. Beaver had heard of four other people who suffered severe psychological difficulties following time inside. “What right has this unqualified man, Ken Dyers, got to screw people’s minds up the way he does?” Shortly after writing this letter Beaver killed himself. A number of ex-Kenja women spoke of Dyers’ sexual predations. Bev Garlick sent Mutch a diary entry containing details of Dyers’ fondling of breasts during a collective workshop. Another anonymous informant wrote of her seduction. “During our weekly sessions, Ken became more and more interested in exploring the sexual hang-ups he felt I had. This involved more touching in the genital area, mutually … This escalated to oral sex on my part …” Dyers suggested Energy Conversion lying down. “This led to sex and he thanked me for it.”

Shortly after Mutch had presented his evidence, Dyers was charged with sexual offences against four girls between the ages of eight and 15, including unlawful sexual intercourse and digital penetration. At his first trial – where one of the accusers claimed Dyers had offered her cough lollies after oral sex to destroy the germs, and another that he had offered to solve the problem of her virginity – he was acquitted of some charges while others remained unresolved. At his second trial he was found guilty of indecent assault. An appeal in 2000 failed. A second appeal to the High Court in 2002 succeeded on technical grounds. The director of public prosecutions decided against a third trial. By now the case had dragged through the courts for almost ten years.

It seems clear that some of those involved with Kenja were equipped to survive the mind games, the creation of dependency, the undertone of violence and the sometimes sexually charged meditation therapy. It is equally clear that others, including Cornelia Rau, were not.

Cornelia was closely involved with Kenja for five months in 1998. During that time her family watched Cornelia grow both moody and remote. As her sister Christine explained to me, their parents became increasingly concerned about the amount of time Cornelia was spending with Kenja and the money it cost. Kenja members moved into Cornelia’s flat. Cornelia became infatuated with a Kenja man, Michael. She became obsessed about the threat to her wellbeing posed by a female friend of Michael’s known as Alison. (Four years later Cornelia actually moved out of her Rose Bay flat to get away from the evil spirit Alison had cast.) Cornelia attended a Kenja eisteddfod held in Melbourne on October 3 and 4. On October 6 she was picked up in Sydney by the police, driving erratically. She was taken to a hospital where the first diagnosis of psychosis was made. When the family visited her in hospital a physical scuffle took place. Cornelia tried to flush her mother’s handbag down the toilet.

Read more here:

Scientology Training routines:

Kenja communications:

Life in Kenja:

Mind Control:

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