Oct 23, 2016

Hermes Far Eastern Shining: Call for probe into cult-like secret society


Danielle Gusmaroli
The Daily Telegraph
October 23, 2016

A CULT-like group nestled in the hills near Byron Bay which attracts members by “love bombing” them and sells a wide array of spiritual products costing up to $13,000 should be investigated by a French-style “anti-sect” government watchdog, according to Senator Nick Xenophon.

The South Australian powerbroker has branded the actions of Hermes Far Eastern Shining “disturbing”, amid claims its charismatic leaders condition devotees.

Once the fastest-growing spiritual community in the US and Australia, Hermes Far Eastern Shining — formerly known as Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — was prevalent in the mid-1990s.

A band of members sprang up in Maroochydore, Queensland, led by clinical psychologist Gerald Attrill, who reinvented himself as an alchemist and Jesus-figure called Jessa O’ My Heart.

He instructed gurus to recruit at New Age Festivals and target Brisbane University students before he moved members to Sydney and then to a property at Tyalgum, 70km north of Byron, in the shadows of Mt Warning, more than decade ago.

Jessa proclaimed he was the Messiah who possessed the power to bless water and was sent to bring God to Earth. He died of a suspected stroke, aged 72, in December 2012.

The group sells alchemic workshops and products such as wands, coasters, Saturn bubblers and energy houses costing up to a staggering $13,000.

The group sells a variety of items, marketed as healing and spiritual aids.
They have a slick website with a long list of products such as a complete set of Archangel Wands for $1000 or a “Temple of Man” Octahedron which contains “soulfire”.

The products “empower water” and “awaken the heart”, they claim.

As the society ramps up its recruitment drive across Australia, Mr Xenophon believes a law enforcement agency mirrored on France’s Miviludes is needed to crack down on groups using psychological pressure on members.

“It’s vital that cult-like organisations such as Hermes Far Eastern Shining are put under the microscope,” Mr Xenophon said.

Senator Nick Xenophon has called for a full investigation.
“The allegations involving them are disturbing and highlight the need for state intervention to protect individuals.

“In 2012, I called for a dedicated agency to intervene in cases of psychological coercion and [Hermes] underlines the need today. The damage these groups can do is immeasurable.”

One devotee, Jackie Gate, recalls her introduction to the community through a Gumtree advert she answered to work at its Flutterbies tearooms in Tyalgum.

The 31-year-old cook and her electrician boyfriend left their life in Bondi and relocated with the group in Tyalgum, where they secured a room in a house the organisation owned for a $150 a week.

Friendly tearoom staff explained gold-coloured stickers on the till and on her fridge in her unit cost $50 because they “block out negative energy”.

The same was said of the wands staff wore as pendants.

Things quickly took a turn when Ms Gate fell pregnant last year and was overheard telling her partner the news.

A shot taken from the group’s website shows believers in meditation. Picture: Supplied

The Hermes Far Eastern Shining property just outside Tyalgum Picture: Supplied
Within days, HFES director and company secretary Salsa Junior asked to speak to her about her pregnancy and told her “the community will support you”.

Soon afterwards a member took her aside, saying: “You know this baby is yours and not the dad’s, no matter how much you say you will be ­together. You don’t need him, we will help raise your baby as one of us … don’t rely on a man for help.”

Days later Ms Gate says she was told by one group member 70 per cent of pregnant women die at the hands of their violent spouses.

“Suddenly they told me they had big plans for me in the company and I felt anxious. I felt they were trying to drive a wedge between me and my boyfriend.”

Ms Gate handed in her one-month notice, telling senior members she was going to the UK to attend a funeral. “In the last week different people started coming to the house asking for me. I panicked and booked a flight a week before I was due to leave and flew home. I feel I had a lucky escape,” she said.

“When you’re open to new opportunities, you come across good and bad, and I stumbled across something that I thought looked wonderful but felt dark.”

A support group that helps families of victims lost to cult-like groups has issued a stark warning against the “real dangers” of Hermes Far Eastern Shining.

President of the support group Ros Hodgkins said: “This is a warning for people to be aware of the very real dangers of getting involved with Hermes Far Eastern Shining. We hear from many people all year who have been ­financially and emotionally exploited, often spending huge amounts on special products and vials of coloured water blessed by leaders.

“It has the hallmarks of a group that isolates members to control their lives through thought-reform.”

When The Daily Telegraph contacted community director Drew Porter at her Tyalgum cottage, she spoke from behind a door exclaiming: “Go away, I’m naked.”

Moments later, Ms Junior arrived with a woman and man who refused to give their identities. “We are allowed to exist. This is private property, you will leave now,” she said.

She later sent an email to The Daily Telegraph, saying: “You are dealing with disgruntled members telling untruths.”

‘I WAS WORKED LIKE A SLAVE’

FORMER devotee Anna Fitzgerald claims she was “love bombed” by recruiters for Hermes Far Eastern Shining after meeting devotees at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in London’s Olympia in 2002.

“The devotees were enthusiastic and young and intoxicated me with kindness,” she told The Daily Telegraph. “I was being loved bombed.”

The then 38-year-old British Airways flight attendant was visited by senior representatives of the group at her home in Ireland to relay the teachings of Jessa and his wife Showme Seven Showers.

Anna Fitzgerald at home in Tumut.

After regular phone contact, and two years later, Ms Fitzgerald, who is now 50, quit her home and job to join the organisation in Australia, where she was bestowed the “alchemy name” Perplexity Swings This And That.

She spent the next eight years working voluntarily up to 16 hours a day for free in the group’s Flutterbies tearoom in Tyalgum, at The Little Shop next door, dispatching artefacts and working as Jessa’s housekeeper at his cottage.

She says she suffered “colossal torment” and exhaustion “working like a slave”.

“I realised I was being conned,” she recalls.

Shopkeepers Ken McGrath and Anita De Leeuw helped her escape and drove her to a hotel in Coolangatta where she hid until her family sent money in October 2011.

“It saddens me to think there are some wonderful people who still believe,” she said. “It has taken me until now to recover.”

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/hermes-far-eastern-shining-call-for-probe-into-cultlike-secret-society/news-story/8948c2830971fb8ff90e945d4a3d4d8c

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