Aug 27, 2014

Read the secret diary that reveals the bizarre beliefs of aliens, super human powers and twisted child mind control inside The Family cult

Stephen Drill
Herald Sun
August 22, 2014

A SECRET diary uncovered after more than 30 years has revealed how notorious cult The Family trapped people in a web of fear and dependence.

The 47-page document, obtained by the Herald Sun, shows how cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne convinced followers that she was Christ who had returned to save the world.

Her cult was based on a mix of warped Christianity, Eastern mysticism and threats of alien invasions.

Followers were ensnared from her yoga classes across Melbourne and through psychiatrists who referred on patients.

The warped teachings included:

* ALIENS were going to invade the earth to cleanse the world of evil.

* NO-ONE should intervene if children were suffering because they should not interfere with God’s plan

* HAMILTON-Byrne told followers that she died for a few minutes and rose from the dead to prove her power to a sceptical psychologist.

* A FOLLOWER believed he was John the Baptist reincarnated, and,

* MIRACLES were delivered during yoga practices.

The diary was written by Raynor Johnson, an academic who lived at Melbourne University’s Queen’s College for decades before joining the cult on his retirement in 1964.

It was kept hidden in a National Bank safety deposit box but was later given to one of the cult members who typed out the handwritten notes.

Mr Johnson, who was a qualified physicist, left his job and followed Mrs Hamilton-Byrne believing that he was John the Baptist reincarnated.

“I imagine some of those first disciples must have been when called upon to face the incredible reality that the long expected Messiah of the Jews was among them now,” he said.

“The first disciples must have felt the same as I had felt. They were right, the others were wrong.”

The cult made world headlines when it was raided in 1987 — the same year as Mr Johnson died.

Under Mrs Hamilton-Byrne’s command, children were kept isolated at rural properties and forced to take LSD and other drugs in her search for enlightenment on their behalf.

Many of the children were allegedly brought into the cult under forced adoptions.

But the grip that Mrs Hamilton-Byrne had on her cult members was complete.

Mr Johnson and his wife Mary bought a property at Ferny Creek in 1964 at Mrs Hamilton-Byrne’s request.

The home they called Santiniketan, and which became a key base for The Family which included a chapel with seating for 120.

The diaries also give an insight into what may have driven Mrs Hamilton-Byrne to devote her life to controlling others.

She told Mr Johnson the grief over the death of her first husband Don was a punishment for being too close to him.

As a result, she devoted herself to her version of God, which meant that she did not have strong attachments to anyone to avoid being hurt.

“Anne said it was because she had attached herself too closely in love to Don; so She had to learn the hard way again, and God, by taking Don, had taught her,” the diaries say.

Mrs Hamilton-Byrne, 84, is now living in a Wantirna South nursing home — a fight is expected to occur over her $20 million estate when she dies. She was only ever charged with perjury.