California is understood for its unusually large number of cults and dodgy spiritual actions. The explanations for this will likely embody the shortage of an clearly dominant Protestant institution, an economic system primarily based on get-rich-quick schemes and steadily failing companies, a various inhabitants of rootless individuals in a cultural clean slate, and even the heady results of California climate.

A few of the most infamous California cults embody Heaven’s Gate, the Folks’s Temple of David Koresh, and the notorious Manson Household.

10 Kids Of God

David Brandt Berg based the Kids of God cult, combining Christian theology with weird reinterpretations of scripture, trance channeling from angels, and a hearty dose of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Earlier, he had based an offshoot of the Teen Problem youth ministry referred to as Gentle Membership, which sought to entice flower youngsters to sermons with rock music and free peanut butter sandwiches.

In 1969, he had a imaginative and prescient that California was going to be hit by an earthquake and sink into the ocean. He led his group to wander the American Southwest for eight months, they usually renamed themselves the Kids of God.

His group adopted weird, unorthodox beliefs. Some had been comparatively innocent, such because the notion that there was no hell and all people would ultimately be saved by Jesus Christ.

Others had been dodgier, such because the notion that intercourse and masturbation had been items from God and that cult members ought to masturbate whereas fantasizing about having intercourse with Jesus. This give attention to sexual pleasure introduced excessive views on free love, together with pedophilia. It additionally inspired the infamous “flirty fishing” and “love bombing” technique of recruitment.

Berg grew to become referred to as Moses David, Mo, King David, Father David, Chairman Mo, David Fontaine, Dad, and Grandpa. He was depicted in evangelical tracts as an anthropomorphic cartoon lion, with photographs of him doctored to incorporate lion options. This was prone to associate Berg with Jesus (aka the Lion of the Tribe of Judah) and probably to obscure the truth that Berg was growing older.

Berg’s theology and elegance had been largely derived from apocalyptic Adventist preaching custom, influenced by his grandfather’s involvement within the separatist Disciples of Christ church. He made an excessive amount of failed prophecies, together with that Comet Kohoutek would trigger havoc on Earth in 1974. He additionally claimed {that a} socialist Egyptian chief would grow to be world dictator in 1986, that Armageddon can be fought within the late Nineteen Eighties, and that Jesus would return in 1993.

Probably the most high-profile former cult members is actor Joaquin Phoenix, whose household traveled with the cult round South America. Berg died in 1994, and his cult is now referred to as Household Worldwide. Karen Zerby, the present chief as of 2016, has been accused of sexually molesting youngsters.

9 The Supply Household

Self-professed guru and alleged financial institution robber Jim Baker (aka Father Yod and Ya Ho Wha) used his widespread well being meals restaurant as a vector for spreading his cult. He attracted the younger with interesting teachings, reminiscent of the concept marijuana-enhanced intercourse was the true path to enlightenment.

Baker was an ex-Marine and jujitsu professional who moved to LA to audition for the position of Tarzan. He fell below the magical steering of the Philosophical Analysis Society in addition to the proto-hippie life-style. He opened a sandal store, adopted by two well being meals eating places.

In 1969, Baker opened The Supply, a well being meals restaurant, simply as he was falling below the affect of Sikh kundalini grasp Yogi Bhajan. Baker was quickly main meditation periods in his restaurant and creating his personal teachings. He attracted followers and established a commune at Chandler Mansion referred to as the Mom Home.

His devotees wearing white robes and adopted a non secular routine of respiratory strategies, chilly showers, gender position shifts, yoga, house delivery, chanting of the tetragrammaton, ego suppression rituals, and tantric intercourse. They grew to become recognized for his or her fastidious cleanliness, financial self-sufficiency, strong work ethic, and seeming disinterested in proselytization.

The cult even had its personal psychedelic rock band, Ya Ho Wha 13, which launched 9 data. Whereas 65 albums primarily based on improvisations by cult members had been recorded, essentially the most attention-grabbing tracks have Baker giving sermons of his knowledge, together with “die to reside once more” and “I might be you and you may be me—final orgasm we are going to see!”

In 1998, these albums had been rereleased in a field set by a Japanese label. The music betrays a self-aware, ironic humor that’s uncommon in most different cults.

The Supply Household started to endure unfavourable social strain following the Manson Household murders. After abandoning the restaurant in 1974, Baker toured the world with a gaggle of followers in an unsuccessful bid to discover a new house for the group.

The next yr, Baker returned to San Francisco and died after main a few of his congregation to a cliffside and leaping off with a hang glider he didn’t know the right way to use. Regardless of this, some believers stay satisfied of his non secular energy 40 years later. One acolyte mentioned, “I do know this sounds insane, however I noticed lightning bolts popping out of his ears.”

8 Symbionese Liberation Military


Escaped convict Donald DeFreeze (aka Normal Area Marshall Cinque Mtume) led this political cult of Berkeley radicals that was impressed by communist and South American revolutionary concept. The group grew out of the Black Cultural Affiliation, a black inmate group that was lively in Vacaville Jail.

The group started as a company that introduced white Berkeley college students to lecture inmates on political science, black sociology, and African heritage. Over time, they grew to become extra politically militant. DeFreeze shaped a splinter group referred to as Unisight. He attracted some pupil radicals and escaped from jail in 1973.

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Then DeFreeze and his followers shaped the Symbionese Liberation Military (SLA), which centered on ending racism, monogamy, the jail system, and capitalist establishments. Their title was derived from the phrase “symbiosis,” which referred to a union of classes and races on this case.

The group adopted a seven-headed cobra as its image and vowed “demise to the fascist insect that preys on the lifetime of the individuals.” Quickly, the group started navy tactical coaching within the Berkeley Hills.

They adopted the city propaganda concept of French Marxist author Regis Debray and believed that selective violence would entice media consideration and widespread assist. They sought to create a community of homelands for minority teams within the US.

After settling down in a secure home in Harmony, their tradition was characterised by political indoctrination, navy drills, and free intercourse. In November 1973, they murdered Oakland faculty superintendent Marcus Foster, who supported a controversial pupil identification system. The next yr, the SLA famously kidnapped Patty Hearst, who quickly joined the group.

LAPD SWAT groups killed DeFreeze and 5 of his followers at a secure home in Compton. Hearst’s father ultimately withdrew his $50,000 reward for her return because it grew to become more and more clear that she recognized with the group and wasn’t coming house. The group fell aside after a financial institution theft in Carmichael, California. The remaining members had been arrested and convicted of assorted fees of armed robbery and kidnapping.

7 The Blackburn Cult

The Blackburn cult (aka the Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Nice Eleven) primarily based its theology on a single line from Revelation: “And I’ll grant my two witnesses energy to prophesy for one thousand 200 and sixty days.”

Could Otis Blackburn, 60, and her daughter Ruth Wieland Rickenbaugh Rizzio claimed to be these witnesses. Supposedly, they had been involved with the angels Gabriel and Michael, who informed the ladies to close themselves off from the world for 3 years and write a e-book referred to as The Nice Sixth Seal explaining the world’s mysteries.

The e-book additionally promised to disclose “misplaced measurements” resulting in all the world’s gold and oil deposits, which had been apparently stolen from Noah by his son Ham. The pair secured a $40,000 mortgage from the gullible son of an oil magnate in alternate for the “misplaced measurements.”

The ladies used the money to construct the Santa Susana Knolls neighborhood in Simi Valley, which included a dozen cabins and a temple that was sealed off in anticipation of Christ’s return. Whereas devotees labored at a neighborhood tomato-packing shed, their paychecks had been collected by Blackburn and her husband.

The priestesses of the cult gathered followers in a pure clearing to sacrifice mules, and forest rangers reported seeing them dancing bare within the woods. Additionally they constructed a brick oven to “bake” a disciple named Florence Turner. Supposedly, this was to treatment her “blood illness,” however she died two days later.

Finally, the oil inheritor who misplaced his cash had Mrs. Blackburn arrested on grand theft fees. Quickly, different former cult members got here ahead with complaints. The police additionally turned their consideration to the invention of the physique of 16-year-old Willa Rhodes.

The Rhodeses had been devotees of the Blackburn cult. Daughter Willa, a priestess referred to as the Tree of Life, died of a tooth an infection in 1925. On Blackburn’s orders, her physique was positioned in a bath with ice, salt, and spices with a promise that the girl would be resurrected in 1,260 days.

Finally, Blackburn was convicted of eight counts of grand theft however later launched on $10,000 bail. The group departed for Lake Tahoe and was never heard from again.

6 Mankind United


Photograph credit score: BiblioBazaar through Amazon

Based by Arthur Bell through the Nice Melancholy, Mankind United believed that the world was managed and manipulated by a conspiracy of hidden rulers and cash changers. Stealing from older philosophies like Theosophy, Bell claimed {that a} hidden order of sponsors labored in opposition to the conspiracy of the worldwide slave state.

After the sponsors revealed their presence, they had been going to create a utopia primarily based on common employment with a brief workweek, an economic system of economic credit score, and a man-made language. Bell taught that solely when 200 million individuals accepted the Mankind United plan would the sponsors emerge from hiding.

Mankind United reached its apogee with a number of thousand members in 1939. Bell claimed that he could possibly be in a number of locations directly and had entry to ray weapons that would knock out individuals’s eyeballs from miles away.

In actuality, Bell was exploiting his followers for money whereas hanging out in luxurious residences and spending his nights at widespread bars and golf equipment. In the meantime, cult members labored lengthy hours in cult-owned resorts, ranches, and retailers for minimal pay.

The e-book Mankind United appeared between 1936 and 1938, turning into the holy text of the group. It described the plan of the hidden rulers as 40,000 principalities, one billion slaves, and demise for all the world’s educated and spiritual peoples. Solely by way of Christians becoming a member of the Mankind United imaginative and prescient may this be averted.

Throughout World Struggle II, Mankind United was reincorporated because the Church of the Golden Rule as a tax dodge. The unique group fell aside when Bell left in 1951 following authorized battles with disillusioned former members and eventual chapter.

A core membership of round 100 individuals survived and settled in Palomarin Ranch close to Bolinas in Marin County. The ranch grew to become helpful and was purchased by the federal authorities in 1962. The cult then purchased the well-known Ridgewood Ranch, home of renowned racehorse Seabiscuit, and stays there to today.

5 Aggressive Christianity

Aggressive Christianity was based in 1981 as Free Love Ministries by Jim and Lila Inexperienced. Earlier, that they had joined a gaggle referred to as the Bear Tribe that sought to emulate the Native American life-style. Whereas scouting for land for the group in Montana, they had been picked up by a driver who talked to them about Christianity, they usually “felt the drawing presence of Jesus.”

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After spending time in a Kentucky church, doing missionary work in Central America, and dealing at a Miami Salvation Military shelter, they felt disillusioned by the “corruption” of different church buildings and based their very own in Sacramento.

By 1984, their group had attracted round 50 members. They lived in 4 communal homes below the auspices of the church. Their theology was extremely militant, and their month-to-month publication Battle Cry: Aggressive Christianity was replete with photos of warfare in opposition to demonic forces.

Additionally they had a neighborhood radio program, the place they exhorted Christians to affix a military of God to struggle the demons accountable for the world’s ills, which included karate, homosexuality, psychoanalysis, and fairy tales.

The radio station ultimately stopped the published because the content material grew to become extra disturbing. The station head Tom Wallace mentioned:

Mainly, what Inexperienced was saying was that any specific drawback was managed by a demon. Colds had been brought on by a cold demon. And should you wanted deliverance, you simply needed to attend a Jim Inexperienced service. He taught that Christians could possibly be demon-possessed. We had been involved that many could possibly be misled into considering the one resolution can be to go to Inexperienced and they’d construct up a Jim Jones–kind emotional dependence on him. We didn’t need to be related to a type of cultish teams.

The group refers to its dwellings as barracks and makes use of navy uniforms and ranks for members. The Greens started as colonels, later turning into brigadier generals of Aggressive Christianity. Their unorthodox perception system is nearly Gnostic, instructing that God and Devil battle by filling up the empty vessels of humanity with their respective wills.

Additionally they educate {that a} group alternately referred to as the Manifest Sons of God, Man-Youngster Firm, or the Overcomers will depart the church, attain sinless perfection and divine powers by way of dedication to Christ, and ultimately smite Satan and death.

4 Hua Zang Si


Photograph credit score: huazangsi through YouTube

The Worldwide Artwork Museum of America in San Francisco opened in 2011. However it had already been famous within the media for its hyperlinks to the Hua Zang Si, an obscure Buddhist sect working out of the previous St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Deconsecrated in 1992, the constructing was purported to be turned into condos when it was bought and transformed by the United Worldwide World Buddhism Affiliation.

Hua Zang Si is led by His Holiness Dorje Chang Buddha III, who was born in China’s Sichuan province and was initially referred to as Wan Ko Yee or Yi Yungao. His followers consider that he’s the third incarnation of the unique Buddha.

However he’s additionally distrusted as a result of his teachings differ from these of different enlightened beings. Some establish him with the rising variety of tulkus (“residing Buddhas”), who’re granted certification for his or her enlightenment by bribing religious officials.

His followers paint a unique image:

Each people and nonhumans have prostrated to H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III and have listened to His Holiness’s discourses on the dharma. Sentient beings, non-sentient issues, birds, aquatic animals, land animals, flowers, grass, timber, tiles, and stones have all expressed respect for His Holiness’s dharma discourses both verbally or by way of bodily actions. His Holiness taught a disciple the right way to transmit dharma on His behalf. When the one that was transmitted dharma by that disciple died, that particular person’s physique emitted gentle. Thunder rumbled within the sky in response to the voice of His Holiness.

The museum largely holds artistic endeavors created by Dorge Chang Buddha, full with idolizing descriptions. The museum is crammed with examples of his esoteric and considerably psychedelic art work, with a number of token items by others to showcase range.

In China, the Buddha is a needed man. In accordance with a spokesperson from the Chinese language embassy in Washington, DC: “From 1984 onward, Yi and his accomplices dedicated fraud via deception, inflicting losses of CNY 60.8 million ($7.32 million).”

There was a worldwide warrant for his arrest till it was overturned by Interpol. His lawyer had efficiently argued that the Chinese language authorities was solely motivated by political considerations.

3 Marcus Wesson Cult

We’ve already mentioned the illness and tragedy of the Wesson household however haven’t coated the weird pseudo-religious beliefs that held all of it collectively. Marcus Wesson noticed himself because the chief of a brand new faith combining Christianity with vampire lore.

He wrote a spiritual textual content referred to as Within the Gentle of the Gentle for the Darkish, which said that he and his household had been vampires and that “incest . . . produces the seed of perfection of one’s self.”

Although he was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, he later claimed that God was talking by way of him and that the Finish Instances had been almost right here. He moved in with an older girl in San Jose, had a toddler along with her, after which married her 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

Finally, he had 17 youngsters with Elizabeth and her sister. The household grew to become an insular cult that was primarily based on homeschooling, corporal punishment, and sexual abuse.

Wesson separated brothers from sisters, forcing the ladies to put on head scarves and lengthy skirts. He would start to sexually abuse them at age eight, claiming that “Jesus was a womanizer and God’s individuals are turning into extinct. We have to protect God’s youngsters. We have to have extra youngsters for the Lord.”

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He married a number of of his daughters and nieces in house ceremonies, forcing every woman to learn wedding ceremony vows along with her hand on the Bible within the bed room. He gave every woman a marital necklace and gold band.

Wesson was obsessive about vampirism, forcing his youngsters to sleep in coffins he had collected. He referred to as himself “Je Vam Marc Sus Pire” and named one among his sons Jeva, a portmanteau of “Jesus” and “vampire.” The cult broke up when two nieces returned with family members to retrieve their youngsters.

Wesson was calm through the confrontation, though a few of his daughters verbally defended him. Nonetheless, by the point the police arrived, Wesson was coated in blood. 9 of his youngsters had been slain, apparently a part of a preexisting suicide pact in case the authorities threatened to interrupt up the household.

2 Fellowship Of Buddies

Robert Burton was an elementary faculty instructor who sought enlightenment by way of the Quakers and philosophy when he grew to become enamored of the Fourth Manner teachings of early Twentieth-century Russian mystics George Gurdjieff and Peter Ouspensky. The Fourth Manner states that the majority human beings are spiritually asleep and may solely regain true consciousness by way of a strategy of self-remembering and refraining from expressing unfavourable feelings.

In 1970, Burton started to draw a gaggle of followers, figuring out himself as a “man No.5,” a being with the next degree of feelings and data than most individuals. His group was included in 1971 as a spiritual group referred to as the Fellowship of Buddies. They bought property in California’s Yuba County to ascertain a vineyard.

This property was house to many members of the church, though there have been smaller facilities throughout the US, Europe, and Latin America. The cult is supported by tithes from members in addition to donations of tremendous art work, which supposedly help within the strategy of self-remembering.

Burton is called “the Instructor” and has strict guidelines of conduct, together with bans on swimming, joking, and smoking. In a single 1981 interview, he was requested if he was Jesus Christ. Burton replied, “Thou sayest it,” which is what Jesus informed Pontius Pilate when requested if he was King of the Jews.

Burton taught his followers that the neighborhood would function an ark defending his flock from a cataclysm that will devour outsiders. He has claimed to be an angel in human kind who communicates with 44 different angels, together with Benjamin Franklin and Jesus Christ.

Regardless of banning homosexuality locally till 1994, Burton sexually preyed on younger male members of his flock. In accordance with claims in a 1997 lawsuit: “Burton spoke brazenly about his sexuality within the type of jokes at all-male dinners. [ . . . ] He would boast that ‘100 boys would not be enough [for my sexual appetite].’ ”

The cult’s Renaissance vineyard and vineyards have produced (*10*). They had been as soon as served to Ronald Reagan and on the Ritz-Carlton Resort’s restaurant in San Francisco. Nonetheless, their spiritual historical past has made it tough to advertise these wines and has led to tax disputes with county officers.

In 2012, some cult areas had been raided by the DEA on suspicions that cult members had been selling marijuana and utilizing the proceeds to assist the church, which the Fellowship of Buddies strongly denied.

1 Berkeley’s Psychic Cults

In 1973, Lewis Bostwick based the Church of Divine Man and its subsidiary, the Berkeley Psychic Institute. Their creed contains the next: “We of the church consider in limitless area, timeless endurance, endless acceptance, eternal persistence, and steady comprehension.”

Many have criticized each organizations as cults. One reporter from SFGate reported that he went to the Berkeley Psychic Institute for an aura therapeutic and ended up with a “male therapeutic session” by which he was requested nonchalantly if he needed his balls drained. He felt stomach pains and was allegedly hustled out whereas being informed that one thing had gone flawed.

Former members have claimed that Bostwick stole his concepts from the Dianetics of Scientology after a falling-out with L. Ron Hubbard. Adherents are put by way of lengthy hours of “clairvoyant training,” the place they’re inspired to obey orders and never ask questions.

One other bizarre psychic cult within the space is the Religious Rights Basis, based by William Baldwin (aka Reverend Invoice). Influenced by the works of 18th-century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg and con artist psychic Marc Reymont, Baldwin shaped his cult on the premise of fundamentalist Christianity and New Age considering.

One ex-member described it as “concern God and really feel your chakra.” Ministers give lessons on power therapeutic, meditation, and trance hypnotherapy. In the meantime, members are anticipated to work over 40 hours per week for the group and tithe as much as 80 p.c of their earnings.

Baldwin taught that each one individuals had been surrounded by an aura governing actions, sickness, and achievement. This could possibly be disrupted by “foreign energy” coming from different individuals, household historical past, or the earthbound spirits of useless family members. One article described the hierarchy within the church as: “God. Girls. Kids. Canines. Males.”

Hugging was discouraged as a reason for power switch, and sexual relations had been strictly monitored. Nonetheless, Baldwin referred to himself as a “non secular pimp” and took sexual liberties with feminine members of his flock whereas denigrating the males.

If David Tormsen had to decide on, he would positively go together with the Supply Household. E mail him at [email protected].


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