by Anne Scott, Auckland, New Zealand
My stomach and bowels were heaving: I felt completely devoid of energy. I was feeling pretty desperate. I had what backpackers in 1980 called ‘Montezuma’s revenge’. I arrived thus at what I thought was the youth hostel in Denver, having come straight from the airport and a flight from Mexico.
Except it was no longer a youth hostel. Unbeknownst to me, the building had been purchased by the Denver branch of the Reunification Church, known to many as the “Moonies” because it was founded, and was headed at that time, by a Korean man, Ken Moon (who has only very recently died). I had inadvertently placed myself into the hands of an organisation that I would now, without question, describe as a cult, as a result of the attempt to ‘convert’, ‘control’ and ‘brainwash’ me.
My time with the Moonies was short, and it was a long time ago, but it has stayed indelibly in my mind. I felt it might be interesting for readers if I shared my experiences with the Moonies, which according to my experiences is what I would describe as a brainwashing ‘cult’, with those of Universal Medicine (UniMed) which I know and feel to be the very antithesis of a cult.
So, what happened to me in Denver in the ‘youth hostel’?
My time there (a few days) was quite vague, as I was still very sick. I remember the young people there were working on the house – cleaning, painting and decorating. I stayed in a bedroom on the top floor and mainly slept. I ate very little, but the people there looked after me – mainly by giving me water to drink, from memory. Once I began to recover, one of the women who, with hindsight, may possibly have been delegated to ‘convert’ me, questioned me about my life and my aspirations. I was a qualified lawyer, although I hadn’t practised law yet, and they seemed very interested in that. They told me there was another New Zealander in Denver who was a member of the organisation. He was a mechanic and looked after the Denver group’s cars. I remember being told that he was discouraged from contacting his family in New Zealand because they did not ‘understand’ him and were trying to get him to come home.
By this time I was starting to recover from my illness and all this rang alarm bells in my head. However, I was watched the whole time and I began to feel afraid that I would not get away from them. This feeling was exacerbated when they asked me to travel with a group of them into the Rockies for a course of some sort. Although I felt uncomfortable with this, I decided to agree to go as I felt it was better to play along at this stage. I duly travelled into the mountains, but it turned out not to be with ‘a group of people’, just one woman came – the woman I mentioned earlier. I was very surprised to discover, on arriving at a quite fancy lodge, that there was no ‘group’. I was in fact the only ‘guest’ there… so there was only the woman who drove me, myself, and a man who seemed to be based there.
That man then proceeded to do what I can only describe as ‘brainwash’ me. He sat me down and spoke to me at length (for two or three days). I remember he had a chart that compared the life of Jesus to the life of Ken Moon, with dates that he said correlated, implying clearly that Ken was Jesus. By this stage I had completely recovered from my illness and I knew this was brainwashing and nonsense, and that I was caught up in some sort of weird ‘religious’ cult. It was very scary. I could feel the immense power of the man talking to me and he felt quite yucky. However, I remember I had decided to play along and pretend that I agreed with what was being presented, as I felt this was the best way to stay safe and get away from him.
At the end of the few days, the woman and I returned to Denver and I devised a way to get away. I told them that I had two weeks left on my ‘chickenfeed pass’ (which was a pass I did indeed have, which allowed me to travel anywhere that Continental Airlines flew in USA and Mexico for a month), that I would complete the 2 weeks and then return to them to work as a lawyer for the organisation. They drove me to the airport, checking that I did indeed leave on a Continental Airlines flight, and I said I would see them in two weeks time.
Of course, I never went back. I had written to my family about who was looking after me when I was still sick, and from my description, they recognised the group as the Moonies. The group had featured in the newspapers in New Zealand since I had been away, with stories about members not being allowed to ever contact their families and other awful things, such as members being obliged to hand over all their money and goods to the organisation. They were therefore extremely concerned for me.
Compare this real life cult experience to my alleged (according to the media) cult experience with Universal Medicine over the last 18 months.
My first Universal Medicine event was a retreat in April 2011 at Lennox Head in Australia. I must admit that before going I was a little nervous about it as I would know very few people, and everyone I had spoken to in New Zealand about Universal Medicine seemed to hold the founder, Serge Benhayon in such high esteem. However, as soon as I saw Serge, and when he was on stage ready to present the retreat, I knew he was what my parents would call ‘the genuine article’. At no time did I feel, or at any time since then when I have been to courses and events run by UniMed and presented by Serge, afraid – as I had felt with the Moonies. Indeed, I felt exactly the opposite of fear when I was at these events: I felt huge LOVE. I felt this love just being in the same room as Serge, let alone when I actually met him, which was the most amazing experience. I could feel not only his love for me and everyone in the room, but his sincerity, his dedication to the wisdom he was presenting, that he actually lived this wisdom, and on a personal level I could feel his genuine interest in me, such that I felt I deserved to be loved and that I was equal to not just him, but everyone in the room.
At no stage has Serge Benhayon ever compared himself to Jesus, or indeed to anyone else. He presents himself as being no different to any of us – no more ‘enlightened’, no more ‘special’.
At no stage did I feel any pressure to do any of the courses offered by Universal Medicine, or to have any esoteric healing. I have been to several practitioners at the Universal Medicine clinic in Goonellabah and they have all been completely professional, loving and indeed absolutely amazing.
I have never been expected to work for Universal Medicine, for free or otherwise, and have never felt pressured to give any money or possessions to Universal Medicine. Indeed, neither of those things is ever mentioned. I pay for the courses I attend and for personal sessions with Universal Medicine practitioners, and both of these give me excellent value for money. Indeed, I could not put a value on what I have got out of attending the events and having the sessions. They are priceless in terms of what I have learnt, and the difference they have made in my life.
From my (brief) real taste of a Moonie cult experience, I can state with certainty: Universal Medicine is definitely NOT a cult, and Serge Benhayon is definitely NOT a cult leader. Nor is he a guru, as the word is commonly known now. He is indeed the ‘genuine article’ my parents recognise and love. Serge Benhayon will forever be an inspiration to me and I thank him profusely for all the hard work he does for ALL of us.