About the Emissaries of Divine Light
(The Emissary Foundation
The Foundation for Human Unity
Society of Emissaries
Universal Institute of Applied Ontology
The Integrity Society)
Written in November, 1993
Updated in May, 1996
The following information about the Emissaries of Divine Light (www.emissaries.org) is in response to many requests about the group, including:
Is it a cult? Is it a destructive group?
Co-author Nancy Miquelon was involved with the Emissaries from 1971 to 1984, and co-author Barbara Clearbridge was in the group from 1986 to 1993, so 22 years of the cult's development is personally covered here, along with facts about the early years of the Emissaries, and the years since 1993. Nancy was active in Emissary groups in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, New York, and Colorado, including living at the U.S./International Headquarters (Sunrise Ranch in Colorado). Barbara was active in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, including living at the Canadian headquarters (and home of the cult leader) in 100 Mile House, B.C. She also spent time with groups in Illinois and Indiana.
We have collected a variety of materials and articles about this group. Feel free to contact us if you would like more information. We are glad to help you in any way we can. The more that people know about destructive cults, the less effect these groups can have. And the more that people know, the more likely it is that members leaving these groups can find the help they need. Speaking from personal experience, thank you!
P. O. Box 599
Port Hadlock, WA 98339
P.O. Box 3517
Pagosa Springs, CO 81147
Who Are the Emissaries of Divine Light? (Back to Contents)
The Emissaries of Divine Light church was formed in 1932 by Lloyd A. Meeker, who named himself "Uranda" after a supposed 2-day conversion experience. He said he had been chosen by God to initiate the salvation of the world.
Nancy: In my time the Emissaries of Divine Light (sometimes abbreviated to "EDL") had grown to between 3,000 and 4,000 people worldwide. Most of the Emissary group homes and intentional communities are in the U.S. and Canada [see list on p.3]. The cult's U.S. and international headquarters is a community called Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. The Canadian headquarters, and home of present leader Michael Exeter, is a community in 100 Mile House, British Columbia, Canada. [see update on p. 16]
Barbara: I've heard that the number of active members remains "always" at around 2,500, but that people attending or reading copies of services has been as high as 7,000. This was prior to a partial collapse of the cult in North America which happened from 1992-94.
Nancy: Membership was largely young adults, although it ranged from children through seniors. There was quite an influx of new members in the 60's and 70's from college recruitment, and much of that age group remained in the cult. In 1987 and 1988 there was a push for more recruitment in the 18-24 age group.
Barbara: Most people now are in their late 30's and 40's.
Nancy: There was a changeover in leadership in December, 1987. Leader Martin Exeter (an Englishman formerly known as Martin Cecil) died, and his son, Michael, took over. Michael Exeter was installed as the third bishop of the Church of the Emissaries of Divine Light. By inheritance in British lineage, Exeter and his wife, Nancy, became Lord and Lady Exeter. This position gave Exeter a seat in Parliament in the House of Lords. Prior to inheriting this title, his last name was Burghley, and prior to any of these titles the family name was Cecil (pronounced "sissal").
Barbara: The Exeters separated in 1992, and then divorced. Nancy Exeter changed back to her maiden name of Meeker, and moved to a cult in southern California called Miracle of Love. Exeter had a secretary living in the house, J.*.. From remarks J.*. made to me, it became apparent she had an ongoing relationship "like a wife" with Exeter. This concubine status was confirmed by several people I asked. When the Exeters separated, J.*. moved out also. Another possible concubine was Dorothy Hughes, who lived nearby. When the announcement of the break-up of the Exeters and J.*. was made, a tribute to Hughes' role in the family was included. This confused me, and upon asking others, I was told she had a role like J.*., but kept secret except to long-time members. However, I have no direct knowledge of this.
Nancy: The hierarchy, and it is a well-defined one, had the Lord and Lady at the top. Around them and including them was the Executive Council (first called the Supreme Council), made of 13 members (to imitate the 12 disciples + Christ). This was the governing body of the organization, put in that position by divine decree.
Barbara: That council expanded to 15, then the oldest members were retired to advisor status. In 1993 it was replaced by the Emissary Executive Group. People nominate themselves and then a "worldwide representative body" of 20-30 people is selected from the applicants. They serve for a year, then must apply again, with no limit on terms served. The selecting committee (3 people) is supposed to reapply for their position yearly. It is unknown who chooses them probably it is Exeter.
The three on the selecting committee were high up in the old hierarchy, and most of the people chosen for the Executive Group have other positions of power in the cult. The Executive Committee is supposed to provide spiritual government for the Emissaries. This directly contradicts the Emissary tenet of personal responsibility for one's world with personal responsibility no one would look to someone else to provide their spiritual government.
1996 update: Some time after this the Executive Committee was replaced (or added to?) by "the Trustees."
Nancy: The next governmental level below that was the Central Council, which consisted of regional coordinators (called "focalizers") and people who coordinated (or "focalized," or "brought to focus the spiritual essence of") a particular field, such as music, drama, business, education, etc. Fifty to seventy people made up this group.
Barbara: Central Council was abolished in 1992; its role is supposed to be carried out by the regional councils, which now have open registration instead of being by invitation only. I attended the first of these "new" councils, and only about 30% of those attending had "power" positions, and had ever been invited to a council. The rest of the hierarchy stayed home! Nothing concrete in terms of government came out of these regional meetings while I was in the cult.
Nancy: The next level down would be "servers" in "centers," also called "coordinators" and "focalizers." A center can be anything from a single-family home where weekly services are held, to a large communal farm where 150 people live. It is a "center" because activities are coordinated there. In the Emissary view, spiritual expression is being focused there.
Barbara: In many North American locations, the servers (most often a male/female couple or a single male) have recently ostensibly been replaced by a team, or the entire Emissary group working by consensus. Consensus meetings are, however, subject to manipulation by the more powerful members, and to biased facilitators, group pressures, and other subtle coercive techniques. However, the Emissaries claim that they now govern by consensus.
Nancy: The lowest level are rank and file members, who can gain status by how many Emissary classes they attend, how active they are at their center, or how much their focalizer likes them (shown by being privy to secret information and receiving important responsibilities instead of dirty work).
Barbara: You can also gain status by how much money you donate. You can quickly jump several steps up by being a large contributor.
Cult members living at large regional centers have more status. Those living at the U.S. or Canadian headquarters have even more.
Nancy: The hierarchy is very patriarchal. Women do have position, and are taught that each person has access to "the Truth" because of their own "response to" it, but in reality the women with power have that power because of their relation to a man. Positions and job duties were in very traditional sex roles for the most part.
Several of the men high up in the organization have both a wife and a concubine (called "secretary," and often working as one. After the founder's death, his secretary retained her position for the next leader.) In Emissary theology, the strength of the spiritual expression of some men requires two (or more) women to "handle" and "protect" it. Seemingly, several of the men high up in the organization had secretaries who filled this "need" by being concubines. I don't remember anyone taking a typing test! Not all men seemed to have this arrangement just those at the top few levels.
Classes for training and indoctrination are held at regional centers. Besides Sunrise Ranch and 100 Mile House, the regional centers are Glen Ivy in Corona, California (which runs a locally famous spa), King View Farm in Aurora, Ontario, Canada, Oakwood Farm near Muncie, Indiana [defunct but seeming to make a come-back lately], and Mickleton House in Mickleton, England. Regional centers usually have 20-50 people living there. Sunrise Ranch and 100 Mile House had 125 to 150 up until 1992, but have declined greatly since then. 100 Mile House was reduced to about 60, at last report. Sunrise Ranch will not release figures; the last unofficial report was about 90. [see update on p.16]
Barbara: Other regional centers, some of which hold classes, are Zeven Rivieren in Stellenbosch, South Africa, Hillier Park in Gawler, Australia, La Vigne in Velanne La Sauge, France, and Still Meadow in Clackamas, Oregon. Green Pastures in Epping, New Hampshire, and Edenvale in Aldergrove, British Columbia, Canada, used to hold classes but are now defunct and renting out to other groups.
Nancy: The background of cult members is quite diverse. If younger people are recruited they are often discouraged from pursuing college careers, to keep them dependent on the group. But if people come into the group with education or wealth already, they are often given more attention and position. Worldly "substance" is seen as evidence of spiritual "substance" in one's living, so that person is seen as already doing something right.
Chiropractors have always been a target group, as several early members were chiropractors. Other professions or groups have been targeted from time to time, depending on what the current "in" thing is, like organic gardening is now.
Barbara: The majority of members are Catholic or Jewish, which is the same as in most cults.
Where Are The Emissaries Located? (Back to Contents)
In the 1992 Directory of Emissary Centers, the following countries are listed: U.S., Canada, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Cameroon, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel (here it is called "The Integrity Society"), Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Zimbabwe. There are recruitment efforts underway in Russia and other countries in the former USSR.
The countries listed above may have only one center, or may have many. Centers may be as small as two people, and may be run or completely staffed by people who are not native to the country. Emissary activities may be as limited as receiving services through the mail, or they may be holding extensive activities. The Emissary community called Mickleton House is not the largest, but it is the most "infamous" it owns most of the town of Mickleton, England.
Front Groups (Back to Contents)
The Emissary of Divine Light Church has been known as:
The Emissary Foundation
The Foundation for Human Unity (which began as a program separate from the Emissaries but was overtaken)
Society of Emissaries
Universal Institute of Applied Ontology
The cult is now usually known as "The Emissaries," with the exception of Israel, where it is "The Integrity Society."
Front groups were very active until about 1993. They include:
Association for Responsible Communication (ARC): aimed to recruit people in the arts and media, including radio, the press, etc. At one time ARC was very active through an associated office (this connection was hidden) connecting Soviet filmmakers with Los Angeles filmmakers.
Renaissance Business Association (RBA): aimed at recruiting business people.
Renaissance Education Association (REA): aimed at recruiting teachers.
Stewardship Farms/Stewardship Community: aimed at recruiting organic farmers, kitchens, and people interested in proper "stewardship" of the earth's resources.
Whole Health Institute (WHI): aimed at recruiting doctors and health care practitioners.
Still operating as of 2002: The Attunement Guild (www.attunement.org)
History of the Emissary Program (Back to Contents)
Prior to founding the Emissaries of Divine Light, Lloyd Meeker had been a salesman, done a lot of odd jobs, and "ridden the rails" during the Depression. He was the son of a very strict fundamentalist preacher. He grew up in Midwest states and western Colorado. His first cult followers were in Nashville, TN, Pittsburgh, PA, and Long Beach, Oakland, and San Francisco, CA.
Historical points for the cult:
1954 Meeker dies while piloting a small plane (I think it went down into the San Francisco Bay). No bodies or aircraft parts were ever found, leading to a mystical implication that he had "ascended." Martin Cecil assumes leadership.
Meeker's three children (Lloyd, Jr., Helen and Nancy) move into the Exeter's home. (Martin is widowed or has divorced, and has married cult member Lillian ________.)
Meeker's wife, Kathy Groves, also dies in the plane crash.
1960 Bill Bahan, a chiropractor, begins aggressive national and international recruitment tactics.
1967 Michael Exeter (Martin Exeter's son) and Nancy Meeker (Meeker's daughter) marry, for "the good of the ministry." Later that was covered up and it was described by Nancy Exeter (in Martin Exeter's biography) as a love match.
1987 Exeter dies; Michael Exeter assumes leadership.
1992 Michael and Nancy Exeter and J.*. separate, the Exeters divorce, followed by an amazing number of couples in coordinating positions divorcing.
Apparent restructuring (renaming and shuffling around, actually) of Emissary government at all levels begins.
Major exodus out of the cult begins in North America. I estimate 60% - 70% of the population left. Several lawsuits were instigated.
Number of weekly services decreases to as little as once a week, after decades of mandatory "pulse" of services three times a week in centers and four times a week in units.
1993 Sunday service format changes from hypnotic lecture by the ruling Exeter, to include other speakers and a wide variety of artistic performances. I found the change in services significant because of the diminution of their hypnotic quality. There was suddenly a lot of discontent about service formats perhaps because people were now conscious during these times, instead of in a trance.
What Do Emissaries Believe? (Back to Contents)
Nancy: This part is hard to make sense out of! I will try to present a general picture here. If you are interested in the intricacies of the system of rationalizations, I have literature and notes from classes by the reams. I'll be glad to furnish you with copies at your expense!
The Emissaries is a religious cult. Meeker said he received a message from God that he was to usher in the "Third Sacred School." The First Sacred School was the first means of salvation for man after having fallen from the garden state, as described in the Old Testament. The Emissaries said Lemuria and Atlantis were the garden state. The First Sacred School started with Abraham and continued through Moses. This school failed. Then God came himself in the Second Sacred School, through Jesus Christ. This, too, failed. According to Emissary doctrine, it was not Jesus' failing, but the people's "failure to respond" and the disciples failure to "hold the vibratory pattern." The Third Sacred School is going on now, initiated with Meeker (always just one man).
The history and explanations were quite elaborate, and were called "sacred science" rather than religion. (Barbara: I didn't know for some years after joining that the Emissary group was really a church it was presented as a philosophy with Martin Exeter as the "main spokesperson," not the Bishop.) The Emissaries is a "vibrational ministry" with the purpose of restoring man to his true position in relation to God. We were practicing "the art of living," and "revealing the truth of love in living."
Barbara: The purpose, as stated in the Articles of Incorporation: to bring about the spiritual regeneration of mankind. After that, the ultimate purpose for man, as revealed to me by two different high-level people as knowledge kept only for the very advanced, is "to help planet Earth become a star."
Nancy: All things being vibrational, this was how you effected change through being sure your vibratory patterns were correctly in alignment, or attunement, with the Truth. The Truth was discovered as you built up "spiritual substance," which actually took form on all levels spiritually, mentally, and physically. At the physical level it was called "pneumaplasm."
The Emissaries don't believe in traditional reincarnation, but invented their own version. Each person has a god-being which is intact always and has incarnated on Earth many times. Meeker claimed to be the same god-being who incarnated as John, the only disciple who stayed true to Jesus (according to Meeker's interpretation). He said he was also Joseph in the Old Testament. Martin Exeter called himself "Aumra" in one book he wrote. He said he was the incarnation of the spirit of the disciple James.
There was lots of talk of cycles, vibratory patterns, the "design" of things. Elaborate time lines were taught in the advanced classes. The Bible figured in heavily, though with an Emissary interpretation. The transcripts of services of Meeker and both Exeters have been printed and bound, to be the third portion of the Bible.
Barbara: In my later years, the Bible was used less frequently. This is partly because of an influx of people from non-Judeo-Christian backgrounds (East Asia, Eastern Europe, etc.) and partly because of people feeling the Bible is old-fashioned. Exeter now quotes extensively from the Bhagavad-Gita (of which Meeker published his own version), the Tao te Ching, and modern writers such as M. Scott Peck and Robert Bly.
I recently discovered that many beliefs central to Meeker's sacred science are actually Chinese Taoist beliefs. The person explaining Taoism to me even used many of the exact words and phrases Meeker claimed were his revelation.
The Emissary View of Sexuality (Back to Contents)
Sexual abuses and cover-up's were made public during the first "open" council (described earlier). Exeter and his wife denied knowing about the abuses, though I personally knew two people who had informed them in writing about particular abuses. Women have told me they were seduced, coerced, threatened, and even stalked by men in leadership positions. They have told me about sexual abuse of children. I have heard that in central and eastern regions of the U.S., teenagers were forced to lose their virginity to their group leaders, with the explanation that this guaranteed a spiritually sound beginning to their sex life. I don't know if this was done in all regions and in Canada. In classes people were taught that women were "more fallen" than men, and the only way they could regain spiritual purity was to "share their man." In this way, "triangles" (one man and two women or more in the case of the Exeters) were encouraged at middle and upper management levels. According to doctrine, not only did it "handle and protect" the man's spiritual expression, but it spiritually purified the women. All top hierarchical relationships were threesomes, with the third partner sometimes changing periodically. The third woman usually played the role of the secretary.
I was told by a woman that she, and others, acted as "spiritual prostitutes" for men who "needed to work out sexual problems." She said she chose to do so, but since one was always under the obligation to "agree" with one's group leader, choices were not actually possible. [see doctrine of "upward response" under One Law, below]
Besides the view of women as "more fallen," there were a number of Emissary tenets which made abuse easy for cult leaders to do, and difficult for others to stop. Most of these are included in the Specific Doctrine section below.
Classes also implanted beliefs that made abuse easy. For example, a videotape of Martin Exeter in one of the advanced classes advocated masturbation "if it served the Lord." Exeter said the way to make it do that was to imagine he (Exeter) was your partner. This set you up for sexual coercion from cult leaders.
Spiritual Psychiatry(Back to Contents)
Another important Emissary belief is that of ersatz psychological counseling. "Spiritual psychiatry" was Meeker's phrase for using manipulative psychological methods to change the beliefs of other people. In his textbook, The Divine Design, he describes how to do this during attunements or other ministering functions. All group leaders were deemed to be competent in whatever kind of counseling they thought was needed.
Attunement (Back to Contents)
One particular recruitment tool was a supposed healing technique called "attunement" (not related to non-Emissary techniques of the same name). The Emissary used his hands to focus energy through the recipient's endocrine glands or spine. Most often the hands were held near the recipient's body, without touching.
Barbara: As I am now a professional energy worker certified in a number of eastern and western healing techniques, I can factually state that attunement is bad news. Healing may occur from the presence of a therapeutic relationship or from relaxation, but the technique itself is worse than useless: because energy work is improperly understood in the Emissary program, the technique fails in several fundamental ways. It even has the potential to cause harm.
In addition, people have told me about "attunement abuse," which ranged from inappropriate touching by the Emissary, to feeling that nothing at all occurred during the treatment, to having confidential information told to other people. One person was told she could not provide attunements for others unless she had sex with the coordinator of attunements in her location.
Specific Doctrine (Back to Contents)
Nancy: I'll go through some of the ideas that directed behavior: the principles by which we were trying to live a spiritual life. These were actually the tools Emissaries used for mind control. I will state the purpose of these beliefs in the way we were taught them.
The One Law: positive action, negative response. This is supposedly the way everything works. Something or someone is positive, a source of "right expression" or "right vibration," and someone or something is going to respond to that. The One Law was also called the sex principle, and a model for the way things work between man and woman. Spirit comes down from above to the man, "positive action," into the earth; it returns from the earth through woman, "negative response," and up again. The male was higher in the spiritual hierarchy.
The One Law was used as mind control with the simple slogan: "Where is your response?" Is it "upward" to your spiritual leader, or somewhere else (i.e., earth, downward, to human nature instead of divine nature, to your husband/wife)? Your response upward wasn't just to your local leader, but to everyone above you in "the design" of hierarchy.
In my case, what this ended up meaning was that my attention could not be given very much to my husband or I would feel guilty about not giving my response to my cult leader. A lot of normal intimacy and bonding between us therefore never took place.
Primary concern is for the welfare of the whole group rather than the self. This is a version of the mind-control technique called "Doctrine Over Person." [see p. 14]
What is right with you is the starting point, what is wrong with you is beside the point. Similar to the One Law, this idea pointed out the necessity of giving your attention to what was "right." Any "wrong" or human nature feelings, questions, or doubts were ignored.
The beginning of the evidence of wisdom is when a person stops asking questions. When you first came into Emissary classes, you were encouraged to question everything. But the answer was always the above statement, or the phrase below:
Spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. This meant that if you have to ask, you don't have the spiritual maturity to understand. So everyone acted like they understood.
If you are questioning or disturbed, who is it that's questioning? Who's disturbed? Your human nature, of course, because your divine nature KNOWS THE TRUTH, and thus has no cause for disturbance.
Barbara: The above three doctrines summarily stop one from questioning anything.
What is your Spirit (one of seven: love, truth, life, purification, blessing, single eye, new earth), Attitude, Motive? When in a jam, check with S-A-M! This idea was used to direct behavior. This slogan is used in other contexts outside the Emissary cult, but was redefined for their purposes.
Be thankful. In other words, accept everything. Don't question.
Let it be. Don't question or analyze. All things are working out perfectly in the divine design. As quoted from the bible: "All things work out perfectly for those who love and serve the Lord." If you question, then you are doubting. If things are not working out, then you are not properly loving or serving the Lord. Besides controlling the rank and file, this belief kept leaders from "interfering" no matter what abuses their subordinates were doing.
The Four C's:
Confess I'm bad, wrong, confused, etc.
Climb contact your group leader
Communicate confess where you've erred or what's troubling you (being troubled is an error in itself)
Concede yield to the group leader's direction
Barbara: This idea was introduced in class as a credo from an aircraft flight training school, by which we should govern every daily problem.
When in doubt, check it out. This created the illusion of being able to ask questions if you really had to, and to be able to think about things critically. But, of course, the person you checked it out with was your group leader, so you ended up dropping the doubts because you had to be in agreement with him in order to stay in correct alignment in the spiritual hierarchy.
Keep the heaven and Stay steady. Translation: stay "centered," keep calm. Don't respond to something of the earth, or someone UNDER you in the "design" (hierarchy). If you release a "right vibration" it will help correct the situation, whereas if you react to the situation, that will magnify it vibrationally, and add to the destruction in the world. And on top of that, if you're feeling an emotional disturbance it may not even be your own; you might just be picking up on someone else's vibrational disturbance. The effect of this kind of thinking was not only to make you responsible for "returning the earth to the divine design," but if you DID let something affect you, or you did get off-center, you were responsible for destruction in the earth. This is a VERY guilt-ridden position if you do something wrong, and very arrogant if you stay calm!
Barbara: The idea of not responding to things "of the earth" also partly explains the leadership's lack of concern about sexual abuse.
Right action for right action's sake and Let love radiate without concern for results. Do not think about the results of your actions, do not exercise discernment or critical judgment. Be automatons.
Be patient with the Lord, and honest with him ONLY. Don't be honest with human nature (i.e., people controlled by non-Emissary ideas) because human nature is dishonest. "Human" = "bad." This is a concept similar to the Moonies "heavenly deception," which promotes lying to non-cult members to serve "heavenly" cult purposes.
Trust the Lord. Except the Lord build The House, they labor in vain that build it. This is a bible quote used to describe the process of going through a class and thereby willingly being remade in the Lord's design; one WAS the "House," and Meeker's doctrine was to provide our "foundation."
To serve God, move in obedience to external control. This meant that in order to find out what spiritual expression is, you have to follow someone else's direction (i.e., everyone above you in the hierarchy).
Barbara: There was always the necessity of complete obedience to those above you. Even if you knew they were making a terrible mistake, you were supposed to give them your complete "agreement," which meant support and help. The idea was that if you did that 100%, they would be able to see their mistake as its results became apparent, and then they would learn and change, and you would have remained centered. Whereas if you didn't agree/obey, they would only see you fighting against them, and be even more attached to the thing they were trying to do, and even blame it on you if it worked out badly. Plus you would have been going against the divine design which put that person in a position of authority over you. This is one of the ways coercion and abuse were not only tolerated, but everyone ended up participating in them. And after you participated, of course, you could not criticize them or stop them.
How Do the Emissaries Operate? (Back to Contents)
Nancy: The Emissaries recruit members much as many groups do through friends and family, one on one. Public recruitment is also done, although Emissaries claim not to do any proselytizing. Those who join are the "chosen" ones of God. People come at first to a weekly meeting, a dinner, a picnic, a carnival, or sometimes a lecture or performance. Some of the meetings were set up as book study groups. (The general public didn't know that most of the people in the group knew the author personally, and that the author was an Emissary.) The first contacts are with a group of warm, accepting, apparently magnificently happy, loving, people. This technique is called love bombing, and is a staple of destructive cults.
Barbara: The front groups were also a recruitment tool.
Nancy: People are accepted unconditionally at first. They are encouraged to attend weekly meetings (or more often) and get on the mailing list of introductory material. (Originally this was called the Universal Institute of Applied Ontology; later it became the Emissary Opening Series.) This literature says nothing about God at first. Several "mailings" down the road, God and spirit begin to be mentioned. Eventually the booklets change from being published by the Society of Emissaries or the Emissary Foundation, to the Emissaries of Divine Light. You also begin to receive transcripts of currently weekly services. In order to progress through the series, you need to write letters answering the questions posed.
After the initial series ends, you are officially on the mailing list. In order to stay on it, you formerly had to write a monthly "letter of response" telling how you agreed with what you read, and were applying it in your daily living. In the 1990's it became permissible to send a monthly donation instead of writing a letter. As of 1993, one could get on the mailing list by purchasing a subscription, skipping the introductory series altogether.
Members are urged to attend series of classes. Originally called GPC Training School (for: God, Patient, Chiropractor), then Art of Living Classes, then a variety of names, they begin the more systematic indoctrination. Attendance was encouraged by many means, including increased status from each class attended (which led to increased position and power), and the elite position of students during classes, which included receiving love and care unequaled since the original love-bombing when one was first recruited, and sometimes giving Sunday service with Exeter.
Barbara: The first classes were six months long residential programs. Over the years they got shorter and shorter, but remained residential, even if you lived nearby. When I attended, they lasted from 4 days to 3 weeks, at a cost of up to $1000. In 1993, they were shortened to 2 days to 2 weeks. Class content was secret only those who had been through them had access to class materials. You were not supposed to tell people what you learned there.
Classes used to consist of hours of listening to audiotapes of Meeker and Martin Exeter. They were heavily hypnotic formats within highly controlled schedules of study, work, and some play. In 1994, classes began experimenting with mostly "live" presentations.
Daily Life As An Emissary (Back to Contents)
Living in the Cult Communities
Barbara: Emissary communities are called "units." I will explain what they were like until recently, when things changed due to the tremendous drop in the number of residents at most of them. I will describe life at 100 Mile House, which was typical of the larger units.
Some people "worked out," meaning they had jobs in the larger community (except at Sunrise Ranch, where no one was allowed to work "off the property" lest the "vibrational impact" of the Emissary ministry be diminished; this rule changed with the exodus of residents). The rest of us did all the work required to provide a home for 125 people: cooking, cleaning, reception, office, accounting, gardening (vegetables and herbs), landscaping, construction, repair, machinery (everything from furnaces to industrial kitchen equipment to cars and tractors), day care, management. 100 Mile also did transcriptions of weekly services and published other materials. Most people began their assigned work at 9:00 and worked until noon, when we all had lunch together. Some went back to work at 12:30 cleaning up after lunch; others began again at 1:00. The more physically strenuous jobs ended at 4:00; lighter jobs went on until 5:00, and day care until parents got home. Nearly all these jobs went on 6 days a week. On Sundays, "work pattern" was "voluntary": you were supposed to sign up to work three Sundays out of four. Many Sunday shifts were short. In addition, there were large organic gardens. In harvest season we were often asked to pitch in for early morning, evening or Sunday harvests, and throughout the day for canning, shelling, snapping, etc. of produce. [See below for other required duties.]
Dinner was communal except for Tuesday nights, when it was officially sanctioned for families to pick up their food and eat at home together, and Friday nights when everyone picked up their food to take home.
There were horses and cows, pigs, chickens and goats, and at certain times we were surrounded with chicks, kids, foals, piglets and calves, in a gorgeous rural setting. There was a grassy play space in the center of the community, often filled with volleyball games, a trampoline, hockey goalposts or other games, adults and children. There were swings and climbing things, forest trails, a marshy bird sanctuary, and cross-country skiing right out our back doors. There was a swimming pool, sauna, and a very modern performance hall with video and sound equipment and a state-of-the-art organ synthesizer.
Sometimes I would walk through the community and it was such an idyllic scene children laughing, people playing volleyball together, a work party, or just people going about their business there was such an appearance of joy, safety and sense of family, that I felt I had finally found Utopia. The land and lifestyle seemed heartbreakingly beautiful and I was filled with Thanksgiving that I lived there. I had always yearned for a community like this.
When I knew the program was rotten at the core, when I knew I was leaving, these scenes of such beauty and apparent love were among the most difficult things to give up.
Nancy: I have to admit there are elements of this kind of lifestyle I miss. To be so consumed with purpose felt good! Knowing your neighbors, sharing a common goal, performing simple tasks side by side, having daily schedules planned for you. The ambiguities, isolation, and independence of modern adult life weren't there. Enforced dependence didn't seem bad.
Barbara: I loved not having to do everything myself someone else took care of the cars, equipment, snow plowing, shopping, cooking, and much more.
We were all considered "church volunteers," receiving a place to live (ranging from a bedroom with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities for most single people, to sumptuous homes for those high in the hierarchy), board, and a monthly stipend of $250 Canadian dollars. Out of this stipend had to come everything else you needed. You could petition the Finance Committee for money for things, such as a trip, buying clothes, having dental work done, and so on. If you got it or not, or how much you got, was supposedly democratic, but people in power positions got more.
Nancy: During my time at Lake Rest and Clear Water, the monthly stipend was $35 to $50. Sometimes there was no stipend. We were even encouraged to make a donation to Sunrise Ranch out of that money. No medical or dental care was provided, even for children, unless life was threatened, which on at least two occasions while I was there, it was. And during that time a million dollar jet was purchased for Martin Exeter.
Barbara: Sundays were a sandwich between morning and evening services. Usually the morning was a harvest bee, or some people were rehearsing performances for the service, or decorating the chapel, pre-cooking Sunday dinner, etc. Until just recently, the service was precisely 60 minutes long, and was entirely a lecture. More recently performances began to precede, then end, then be interspersed with the speaking.
Afterwards, 30 or so people who felt most strongly "compelled," walked up the road to Exeter's house for a "response period." There were only a few chairs, so most people sat on the floor at his feet. His wife and "secretary" always sat close by. People spoke about what "resonated most strongly" about the service, either in vague terms or with personal confessions. With Michael Exeter, sometimes people asked how to apply something he had said, and he would answer. At the end of my involvement, the response period was held in the chapel and everyone except the lunch cooks were expected to take part in it.
During Sunday afternoon some people would write letters to Exeter about the service. Sometimes these were read at the evening service.
A lot of things vital to Emissary lives were considered voluntary, so no work time was allowed for them. This included all artistic or musical activity (at one time there was a choir and a symphony orchestra), preparations for services (especially strenuous at 100 Mile House and Sunrise Ranch, where services were videotaped for distribution around the world), and various farm and garden work. Also, you were supposed to receive, and some people to give, attunements [see What Do Emissaries Believe, p. 5].
In addition, there were often classes or meetings in session. Sometimes people came from other regions to help staff (receiving no pay, of course), but usually we all just worked longer and more intensely. We provided three meals and twice-daily snacks during these times. There were also many visitors who needed hosting and various kinds of special attention, all of which was done in addition to one's work time.
A few families had private homes and did not host guests, but most of us shared living spaces which included guest rooms. There was a variety of people coming in and going out, sharing your bathroom, using your furniture and supplies, and wanting to discuss their lives, thoughts, and Emissary aspirations with you. You hosted them, kept the fridge stocked, cleaned up after one and before the next, provided tours, attunements, etc. In a way it was fascinating because people came from all over the world. But mainly it was fatiguing, and you never felt you had your own home at any hour someone could pop in to live with you for varying lengths of time.
Plus, you had your personal Emissary duties: reading transcripts of all the services, "communicating upwards" through letters or meetings, and participating in or helping run front groups and public events.
Thus our free time was quickly filled. One had a sense of continually rushing to get things done, and always neglecting something, usually one's home or private time with one's family. Practically no one had time for hobbies.
(Back to Contents)
The majority of Emissaries do not live in units. They live either in their own homes or apartments, or in communal homes. Emissary "centers" are often communal homes.
Life was quite full for people involved with the Emissary cult. You had your work full-time for most of us plus the care of your home, and your family or other relationships, plus Emissary responsibilities. There were 2-4 meetings/services a week, each needing: a "surround" (artistic presentations, flowers, etc.), sometimes hosts for guests, sometimes food for communal lunches, attunements, and sometimes actual service content if there was no transcript, videotape, or telephone conference connection. Many groups had monthly men's and women's meetings. Many had special events such as visits or talks by powerful Emissaries, or week-end events. Some groups put on seminars. Nearly all groups had public meetings fairly often, for these were the major recruitment tool.
Many centers had Junior Training School (JTS), the Emissary Sunday School. Many had teenage groups called YES (Young Emissary Servers). These groups also had week-end events.
Plus you had to spend time "communicating upwards" through letters or meetings with your group leaders, both local and regional, and with Exeter. There were also Board positions, secretarial work, Emissary literature library, mailing list duties, even cleaning the center.
If you lived at the center you had additional other jobs preparing for guests, chauffeuring them around and to and from airports, train and bus stations, feeding them, cleaning up after them, entertaining them.
Plus you received four service transcripts, and often other materials, in the mail every two weeks, about which you were supposed to write "response" letters. New books by Emissary authors (generally the Exeters) were being published regularly, and if you were a "good" Emissary you bought and read these. Some of them had study groups form about them.
And then there were all the front groups; good Emissaries belonged to at least one of these, and so had associated reading, duties, meetings, and conferences related to them.
Many people also felt required, and/or enjoyed, visiting their regional centers. You spent a weekend away providing free labor to these places and attending services, events and meetings.
Life was a whirlwind of Emissary responsibilities, demanding to be more important than your family, home and career. After all, what could be more important than "the spiritual regeneration of mankind"? Life was even more frantic-feeling and rushed than life in the Emissary communities.
Elements of Mind Control Used by the Emissary Program (Back to Contents)
[NOTE: In the future I hope to add how the Emissaries match Margaret Singer's elements of mind control, and the unfreeze/refreeze system.]
Nancy: These points are from Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, by Robert J. Lifton, Chapter 22.
Milieu Control. This is a major control factor. Classes are held in remote, rural settings, usually in an unfamiliar part of the country, and you are with people you don't know. Communication with the outside world is limited. You experience complete immersion in Emissary culture and world view.
For unit members, Emissary community life is so full of duties that there is little time or desire for the outside world. At 100 Mile House, except for those with jobs "outside," almost no one has any involvement with the town at all.
Milieu control through thought control was also prevalent. During classes, many hours were usually audiotapes of Martin Exeter or Meeker, usually very hard to stay awake through, very hypnotic. [Other thought control techniques are explained in the "Specific Doctrine" section, p. 7.]
Mystical Manipulation. The elaborate history of the group contributes to this process, as well as the "planned spontaneity" that occurs at public meetings and lectures. At any public meeting, at least half the crowd are Emissaries. "New" people don't know this, so comments which agree with and further the speakers' points seem spontaneous and convincing. This is also done in classes by having as many members of the staff as can be spared sit in and add to the pressure of the session.
Demand For Purity. One of the introductory booklets is called "Be Thou Perfect," after a bible quote. Perfection is held as attainable and required. The quest for perfection is the carrot after the initial love-bombing, and you can't ever quite get that unconditional love again. Control by guilt and fear sets in. You are constantly striving for correct spiritual expression which you gauge by external feedback. (This directly conflicts with the Emissary dogma of non-judgment!) This striving for correct spiritual expression is also a factor in very black and white thinking us/them, divine/human alienating group members from the outside world.
Cult of Confession. As you confess the ways of human nature in your life, you can "rebuke" them and reject them to make room for heavenly nature. One common line is, "get thee hence, Satan!" Satan being human nature or the human mind. There is constant vigilance to give spiritual expression. If something troubles you and needs confession, you go to a leader or you confess to the whole group during a service response period. The effect of this is to undermine your basic personality, because a lot of the things you rebuke and reject are very real parts of being human, such as feeling fear or having doubts or being angry. So you begin to deny a large part of yourself, stuffing emotions and thoughts deep inside. A very thorough illusion is created through guilt and denial that we really might get rid of all this nasty human stuff and become divine.
Barbara: I was told it was vital to confide everything about my life, including my finances and sexual life. At first it was spelled out completely, to whom I was to tell what. Later the instructions were revised and one could communicate to anyone "upwards." After that I discovered that reports were written about us locally and sent to regional coordinators, who then reported to Exeter. Class faculties also wrote reports about each student. I don't know if these practices continue.
Sacred Science. There is quite an elaborate scheme built up as to how this group had The Truth. Totally logical, we are told, and very scientific. The ideas became God. Because we are told it is all logical, and no one else is questioning it, and questioning is human nature anyway, you don't. You build up your own rationalizations because you want to believe it. That is easier than the fear and guilt you feel if you can't reconcile it.
Barbara: I have seen elements identical to Emissary "sacred science" in literature from the Moonies, Scientology, and Taoism. So much for being the chosen ones of God! [See an example of sacred science writing at the end of this paper.]
Loading the Language. This is a major tool. Language is an incredibly powerful mode of manipulation. It is such an integral part of our perceptions and our thought processes. To manipulate language can change a person thoroughly. The Emissaries have lots of jargon, and when you learn a new word it is like another step towards inclusion in the group. It is like a password, magical. What is so dangerous is that there is a hidden agenda. The positive reinforcement you get for using the word outweighs the value of real understanding. You begin to believe you know the experience because you know the word. It restricts your thinking.
It also gives you membership in the group, in an elite society, in the Priesthood. It further separates you from anyone NOT an Emissary. It restricts and constricts your thinking through the use of slogans to keep you thinking in Emissary terms what is called "thought-stopping." Powerful stuff.
Doctrine Over Person. This is the idea that the mission must go on regardless of any person. The good of the whole, the fulfillment of "the divine design," must continue. Individual needs are totally repressed and ignored for what is perceived of as the larger good. All efforts go upward in the hierarchy; very little returns back to the common people.
Barbara: "Thou shalt not want" in the sense of you should not desire was emphasized at some length in the early classes.
Dispensing of Existence. Emissaries speak of THE truth, THE way, of Martin Exeter as being THE Word. They think they have exclusive access to the truth. So Emissaries, by divine ordination, deserve more respect, more status. Value is dependent on group membership. Anything or anyone outside the group, even one's family, is less important and even dangerous, because it leaves you susceptible to human nature to have contact with it.
Present Disintegration of the Emissary Program in North America (Back to Contents)
[Written in 1993. See 1996 update at end of section.]
Barbara: In the last two years, the population in the North American Emissary communities has dropped drastically, and continues to do so. 100 Mile House, for example, went from 125 people to about 60. Part of the reason for this was the revelation of power abuse and sexual abuses. But I think there is a deeper reason.
The Emissary church had been running as a cult under Meeker and Martin Exeter for many years. When Michael Exeter took over he announced that "we were all in it together." Gradually he brought other people into presenting services with him. Eventually Exeter did not govern the 100 Mile community, and from what I could gather, did not govern the Emissary cult. Following the doctrine he had been taught as a follower in the group during his father's reign, he "let things work out" among the rest of the hierarchy. He asked advice from, and obeyed, a small circle of his friends. I discovered this when, for a number of months, I was the Manager of the Transcription Department, responsible for a team of people which, in tandem with another team at Sunrise Ranch, turned Exeter's Sunday sermons into written essays. These were then mailed to thousands of people and centers around the world, where they were read aloud for services and used for personal study. They formed the heart of "the Word" of the Emissary program. Working personally with Exeter on the content of these sermons, I discovered how easy it was to tell him what to say. In discussing this surprising lack of leadership with some longtime members, it became evident that Exeter was under the influence of others (and sought this) in many areas of his function.
Exeter denied leadership in subtle ways. If people spoke of using his services to determine how to act, think, talk, etc., he often said that they had misinterpreted his words. It was as if ANY concrete way you justified your actions by his words could result in him saying he had not said to do that exactly. He was rejecting his father's, and Meeker's, direct rule over followers.
So Exeter did not become the leader of the cult when he took over nominally. It had no leader; we were being enjoined by him to become our own leaders. However, classes and services continued in the old way we were still taught to obey those above us in the hierarchy. The instruction was still hypnotic in form. As Exeter brought more people into presenting services, the hypnotic style of the services began to dwindle. The people who had been Emissaries for many years were often confused or angry about the new ways of doing things. With Exeter's "abdication," those in upper levels of the hierarchy became more powerful still. New consensus forms of unit and center government were begun, teams were elected and so on, but these teams were more controlling than what had been there before. There was subtle manipulation of the consensus process. Plus, now those in power were pretending they were following the group's consensus.
I see the Emissary church as knocking itself senseless against a wall. Its members have been trained to act as cult-members, but there is no strong leader controlling things. There is chaos. People in Emissary communities cannot agree on what their purpose together is in a practical sense, now that no one is telling them.
Some people are fervently wishing that Exeter would take the reins and lead. Others are wishing everyone would just agree about SOMETHING so that they can have a sense of direction. Exeter is asking members to do something they have been trained by years of "Doctrine Over Person" NOT to do: think independently and take control over their own lives. Yet at the same time, they are supposed to work coherently together as a unit with a single purpose. And yet again, they must "agree" with those above them in the hierarchy.
Exeter altered the foundational belief system in another way. He made it suddenly all right to acknowledge one's feelings, in order to rise above them. Facilitators have been brought in from outside the group to lead highly dramatic, emotional workshops. This is a radical shift in doctrine both to admit feelings, and to let someone else lead a workshop for Emissaries. (Also, one therapist who participated thought the format of these workshops was emotionally dangerous.)
Because of these conflicting requirements on members, I see no chance of the program evolving into a new form, as Exeter has said is happening. The most recent report about Sunrise Ranch, by a visitor at a "carnival" to recruit new members, said they are reverting in several important ways to the orthodox, tightly controlled ways of the past. Community membership is down by at least half; the actual number is kept secret.
Outside of North America things are quite different. The cult is still healthy in some places and, in others, even growing. Growth is especially apparent in countries newly opened to democracy.(Back to Contents)
1996 Update: Basically the same old doctrine is being touted in services. Many of the communities decimated in 1993 have new "core" groups, seemingly very rigid, as in the early days of the church. Many of these groups have a majority of men; the women (and their children) have not returned. It seems that two communities (Green Pastures in New Hampshire and Edenvale in British Columbia) are no longer functioning. There may be more that I have not heard about.
May, 1996, report from a person just out of the Emissary cult (confirmed by only one other person so far): Exeter has moved out of his 100 Mile House home and is living in Vancouver, B.C. He is on his way to leaving the group entirely.
I can't comment on this, as it's too incomplete. I do know that many people remained Emissaries only because of Exeter they still felt he was the spiritual leader of the world. I expect that if he leaves there will be a mass exodus. The cult will eventually either disintegrate completely or re-form around a new leader. One strong possibility is John Gray [not the famous author] of the Glen Ivy community in Corona, California. (Others are Lou Rotola or Don Hynes of Sunrise Ranch, or one of the European regional leaders.)
Another possibility is absorption of the Emissaries into another cult. Lately the Emissary leadership has been promoting a sort of simultaneous membership in a cult called "The Miracle of Love." (Some people who have left the Emissaries have remained in or joined this cult.) Without exit counseling, cult members are likely to look for a familiar, authoritative system within which to live. (Back to Contents)
2002 Update: The cult still exists and is still putting out services. They have a website: www.emissaries.org. They have some very slick new promotional materials, especially about the "attunement" program. This program now operates separately as a front group named The Attunement Guild (www.attunement.org).
Leaving the Emissary Cult (Back to Contents)
Nancy: Involvement in this totalistic group can be described as loss of personal freedom, loss of freedom of thought, loss of independence and self-determination. Many people do not pursue careers they otherwise might have, in order to more fully dedicate their lives to the group. Health care and nutrition are often very low quality. Some people, even in the midst of organic farms, were always hungry, feeling pressure not to take "too much" at meals. Basic human needs go unmet.
Perhaps the greatest personal violation is that a person is attracted to this group because of strong moral and spiritual values, a high personal vision for humankind. This ideal is used to attract people, then twisted to the ends of the cult. A fellow ex-member calls it spiritual rape. You don't see until you leave, of course, how you've been victimized.
People leave the cult through confrontation from their families, or, most often, just walk out. Either way, the process is traumatic. The loss is devastating; the need to rediscover who you are and what you believe is painful and arduous.
One of my concerns now is for those who walk out and don't have access to information that will help them identify their experience as destructive and wrong. The Emissaries are so good at making members believe any shortcoming is the individual's fault, that those who do leave often see it as their failing rather than the group's.
Barbara: If one doesn't learn about what really happened to them, about mind control, they are left open for future victimization.
Nancy: We were taught that we had the truth, that the truth was the source of life, and why would anyone leave life? That translates into membership in the group being life, and so to leave the group means you will die. (It doesn't take physical fences to keep people in.) Those who do leave, I feel, must live with intense guilt, either conscious or unconscious. And without the tools to identify and unravel the mind control, it's likely people will function in some sort of grey zone between reality and the fantasy the group created. I think a lot of people would be emotional time bombs. It is so vital to be able to name the experience.
Barbara: I would like to emphasize that the "common" rank-and-file Emissaries for the most part are GOOD people individually. Like members of most cults, they are loving, intelligent, and dedicated to doing something practical towards the betterment of the world. They put their money where their mouths are in that they profess to dedicate their lives to God, and then they actually DO it, thinking the Emissary cult is the right hand of God. No matter the economic cost, the frustration and confusion, the breakup or twisting of their family life, the contradictions of doctrine and leadership...no matter what, they earnestly, sincerely, try to live their ideals, some ever since the 1950's.
I love many of these people. I very much miss living and working with them. I yearn for the dream that we tried to realize together. I regret that by leaving the group I've lost the friendship of most of these people, and that this paper will alienate me from many more. It hurts that I have to put in writing things that were told to me as personal confidences. I mourn for these imprisoned friends.
I worry about the elders, who have no place to live if their "units" disintegrate or if they are told to leave some have little money, some have no families. The rights of the elders were being steadily whittled away when I left 100 Mile House.
Nancy: The issue is so much one of freedom. It is not an issue of religious freedom, but of freedom of thought. Without that, a person cannot exercise any of the other freedoms of choice we treasure in this country. It is an issue of concern to all of us, and it's not going to go away for a long time. We hope that this paper will help a few more people regain their freedom.
Agreement Between Lloyd Meeker ("Uranda," the founder of the Emissaries of Divine Light) and Martin Exeter (his successor) (Back to Contents)
[an example of "loaded language" and "sacred science"]
"1. We agree on earth that the Currents of divine Power must now properly focalize to allow all obstacles to be removed by correct procedures, at the earliest possible point in the cycle consistent with the Divine Plan and Will in order to permit the manifestation of the ideal balance and blending of the Positive and Negative phases of the focalization of the spirit of Life* on earth.
2. We agree on earth that it is absolutely essential to the fulfillment of the Commission that rests, by Divine Decree of the LORD of Lords, upon the ordained focalization of the Spirit of Life on earth, that he shall draw to himself, by the irresistible cords of Love, the ideal negative aspect of himself, that there may be a manifestation of perfect balance in the expression of the spirit of Life on earth, as ordained by the Creator from the foundation of the world.
3. We agree on earth, that the culmination in manifestation of the union of the positive and negative phases of the focalization of the spirit of Life, in the Negative Triune World, is properly recognized as symbolizing, and as being essential to, the absolute focalization and initial creative climax of the union of the Lord of the Sacred Seven and His Bride, the One Christ Body on earth."
* The "Spirit of Life" refers to Martin Exeter. The spirit of truth was Meeker; Michael Exeter is the spirit of purification, and Jesus was the spirit of love. Each of these spirits was tied to an endocrine gland and to a primary personality characteristic.
(Back to Contents)
The above article is solely the opinions of Barbara Clearbridge and Nancy Miquelon and is reprinted here for purposes of information and to act as a discussion document. See Disclaimer