Category Archives: cults
Hello, another short column just to tell you about what’s going on in the latest Tea’s Weird Week podcast. When my book American Madness came out last year, one of the podcasts I appeared on was Failed State Update, hosted by author Joseph L. Flatley. He told me he was working on finishing a book about a cult for Feral House, publisher of American Madness.
That book, New Age Grifter: The True Story of Gabriel of Urantia and his Cosmic Family is out later this month. I was able to read a copy and it’s great. It’s a breezy read, but I mean that in a good way. Flatley tells the story in intriguing but concise chapters. The book is a dive into the cult surrounding Tony Delevin (Flatley discovered that he and Delevin share Pittsburgh roots) who is better known to his followers as Gabriel of Urantia. The cult’s name sounds like an phone service provider, Global Community Communications Alliance. They have a trippy hippy New Age look straight out of the 1960s/70s and live in a compound in Arizona.
One important part of the GCCA is their music. Gabriel leads the cult jam band, TaliasVan & The Bright & Morning Star Band, who plays in a genre he calls “CosmoPop.” This how the door opened for Flatley– he was at a party with some friends, and someone busted out a video of TaliasVan & The Bright & Morning Star Band rockin’ away with their song “Energy Master.” It is…hmmm…well, check it out for yourself.
Ok, so what, there’s a New Age jam band somewhere in Arizona– what’s the big deal? Well, GCCA also checks all the boxes on the lists of signs of a destructive cult. Members are told to turn over financial assets when they join, they toil away at GCCA’s various business endeavors without being paid, cut off ties to friends and family, have their communications restricted, and seem to serve the purpose of fulfilling Gabriel of Urantia’s ego.
I had a chance to talk to Flatley about all this as well as his interviews with those who escaped the cult and his visit to the GCCA compound for the latest Tea’s Weird Week. And be sure to get a copy of his book, it’s a great read, especially if you have an interest in cults and insight into how they operate.
Find out more about the book and links to buy it: Joseph L. Flatley (lennyflatley.net)
Please Clap Dept.: I’m thrilled to say that initial work on adapting my book American Madness into a documentary has begun. I always knew it would translate well to a doc and talented producers Eric & Kim Hayden are passionate and working hard on the project, and I’m so happy that it’s happening. I’ll be giving regular updates along the way, but the first step took place a week ago with a long interview session with me, which we filmed at the the beautiful Lion’s Tooth bookstore here in Milwaukee.
Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep12, Get in the (TaliasVan)
I interview Joseph L. Flatley, author of the new book New Age Grifter: The True Story of Gabriel of Urantia and His Cosmic Family. Me and Heidi share the week’s weird news, trivia from Miss Information, and we close with a new track from Chris Tishler off his new album Reach For The Sun titled “Wave To Me From The Shore.” An epic episode from start to finish!
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S2 ep12: Get in the (Talias)Van (podbean.com)
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Check out my latest books:
Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers (2019, Chicago Review Press)
Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press)
I like to think I got my finger on the pulse of all things weird, but none of us are omnipresent weird, so I was boggled and amazed by the story of the Love Has Won cult, which I had not heard of. I missed their appearance on Dr. Phil last year (along with every episode of the show). This is why I value the Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group so much– it’s become a great clearinghouse for sharing weird news and I, of course, love every second of it.
Let’s start with this scene– May 23, 2020. A man named Alex Whitten was found “naked and dehydrated with cactus needles in his feet wandering through the desert north of Crestone (Colorado, a small mecca of Buddhist and Hindu temples, New Age and other spiritual centers). He appeared to be hallucinating,” according to an in-depth article on gurumag.com titled “Crestone Cult Love Has Won Leaves Man to Die in Desert.”
Whitten’s wife said that he “brainwashed” himself watching livestreams from Love Has Won. Whitten was so compelled by the group’s message– that the “Mother God” was living in human form in Colorado, that he abandoned his wife and two kids in Ohio and flew West. But he did something to piss off the Mother God and her group, because days later he was drugged and left exposed in the San Luis Valley. Fortunately, a family-led search party found him. A core member of Love Has Won’s response to the incident: “We are not Alex’s babysitter…we are here for God, not whores that desert God.”
Last week, on April 28, seven members of Love Has Won were arrested and charged with “abuse of a corpse,” after the mummified remains of the group’s leader, Amy Carlson, aka “Mother God,” aka “Mom,” aka “Mama G,” were found in a trailer in Crestone. The corpse was reportedly “mummified,” slowly decomposing, wrapped in a sleeping bag, and adorned with Christmas tree lights, glitter around her eyes. Well, where her eyes used to be– they were missing. Her followers say she has now “ascended” and that “First Contact” is imminent. The group is ranked into the “Galactic Federation of Light Team” and the “First Contact Ground Crew,” both here to initiate and age of love. One of the members described the cult’s critics as “void engineers,” which is my new favorite term.
The mugshots of the 7 disciples arrested have a kind of Manson family vibe to them, or as Tea’s Weird Week group member Billy suggested, “some Midsommar-meets-Leatherface type of White Nonsense.” Well…
So many questions. How did she die? Where are the eyeballs? Where did these cult members come from? I don’t know the answers to all these and there’s a lot to take in with the story. I did fall down a little bit of a rabbit hole on this one, so I’ll share a few notes on some things that I found and how some of this relates to the Great Age of American Madness.
Who is Love Has Won?
“Among the teachings of Love Has Won is that Carlson is the 534th avatar of God on earth, and that she has revoked the free will of humanity as a failed experiment,” Raw Story reports. In past lives Amy Carlson says she has been Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth, and Marilyn Monroe. Not bad! She says her father is disgraced ex-president-turned-angry-blogger Donald Trump (or in his past life he was her father in her past life I think is more accurate–maybe.) This incarnation of Mother God was born in 1975 in Kansas.
What if God was one of of us? as Joan Osbourne once sang. Well, looks she spent some time managing a McDonald’s and bouncing around between Colorado, Texas, and Florida. There is a “Father God”– actually, there’s been a few over the years. Father Gods come and go. The latest Father God (aka Jason Gilbert Castillo), has a criminal record including child neglect, criminal mischief, two DWIs, trespassing, and breaking and entering.
Love Has Won, which describes itself as a “non-profit charity spiritual institution” includes conspiracy in their teachings. They talk about Reptilians and other extra-terrestrials, and they promote many beliefs that mirror QAnon, but in a more “crunchy” variation. You have your far-right, MAGA hat sporting Q followers, and then there’s this more New Agey version that leads to things like parts of the yoga and wellness community (sometimes inadvertently) peddling the same “Deep State cabal of satanic cannibal pedophiles” and other conspiracy ideas. It’s QAnon in downward dog position.
Another way to see the two sides of the same coin is the way far right conspiracy sites like InfoWars and dippy “wellness” sites like Goop and Moon Juice market the same health supplements, albeit very differently. Both InfoWars and Goop sell products based on cordyceps mushrooms, for example, but Goop markets it as “Sun Potion,” while InfoWars uses it in a coffee blend called “Wake Up America Immune Support.” Maca, which boosts libido, is used by Moon Juice as “Sex Powder,” InfoWars calls it a “Super Male Vitality” supplement. It’s classic marketing– the generic grocery store sells a can just stamped BEANS, Trader Joe’s has a colorful label for “100% organic artisan red beans.” Same shit, different pile.
Love Has Won developed their following– possibly thousands of people– in the same way most cult groups do nowadays– YouTube, Facebook live, and other streaming videos. This is the same way the modern Flat Earther and the QAnon movement gained traction. Random observation– I noticed that there’s a strong contingency of young Australian stoners in Love Has Won. They host a live YouTube show called “United Nations,” there’s also a “DAILY ENERGY UPDATE” show on Love Has Won’s YouTube page. People are hungry for something meaningful in their lives and YouTube becomes the vacuum cleaner of lost souls.
To make money, Love Has Won has offered services like “5-D astrology” (between this and QAnon always saying that Trump was playing “5-D chess,” I got to say I’m kinda over the 5th dimension these days) which will “help those on an Ascension path obtain a deeper understanding of themselves…done through the higher 5-D consciousness perspective.” Ok. They also perform “etheric surgeries” to remove “inorganic material,” over Skype, which sounds to me like just a rebranding of reiki. Love Has Won’s website also sold various candles and supplements, “Plasma Healing Spray,” “Gaia’s Salt Soak,” and a “Mother of of All Creation Divine Trait Oracle Deck” ($44.44) which includes cards with Carlson’s face photoshopped onto a classic depiction of Jesus Christ, and an Egyptian pyramid, and other mystical locations.
Another way the group makes money is classic cult 101– shake every dime out of your followers. Hand it over– trust funds, car titles, social security and disability checks, checking and savings accounts. Love Has Won checks every box to being a cult– according to ex-members, they were sleep deprived, had their food rationed, were verbally abused, and if they pissed off Mama G, they were sent to “Desolation Row,” a barren part of the woods on their property, where they had to fend for themselves. One member, Vice discovered, was berated and punished when he brought Mama G meatballs instead of chicken parmesan. Big mistake, God did not order the meatballs! Remember, Mother God said there is no free will– only her will.
God Loves Vodka
Part of this cruel punishment from Mother God might have stemmed from the fact that she has a vodka problem that transformed her from zen-platitude-spewing-guru to rage drunk pretty quickly. In fact, members believe that the amount of alcohol that she consumed was proof that she was otherworldly as a normal human couldn’t consume as much alcohol as she did and survive. One ex-member says that he saw Mother God drink 24 shots of tequila in a row. Another former member (an ex-Father God) said that starting around dinner time she drank a steady stream of highball glasses filled with vodka with a splash of water on top and would transform into a completely different and awful person.
Here’s a video from the Love Has Won YouTube page, listed as being recorded December 16, 2019. It’s an excruciating 10:25 long video where Mother God attempts to tell a story of how she discovered angels were communicating with her. It’s immediately obvious that everyone in the video is completely stoned out of their fucking gourd. You can even tell the people off camera are stoned. Mother God, drinking out of a copper cup (probably vodka), attempts to tell a story (at the pace of someone extremely fucked up) of how she was watching The Wizard of Oz on TBS, when she was captivated by a bumper segment of the screening that asked trivia about the film. Via this trivia, angels revealed that she was “the Holy Grail.” At least I think that’s what she’s trying to say–?:
Other videos show her inebriated, shaking a cat and yelling at it, calling it a “bitch” (her favorite insults are “bitch,” “banshee,” and “whore”) and some other not quite profound videos featuring her saying (or screaming) things about her critics like “yeah bitch, carry on with your banshee fucking self. Fff, what a whore.” and “My own life workers BATTLE ME! Serving love and bringing in a new paradigm you fucking dick whores. You’re about to get it!” and “you just fucking got me on the–fucking motherfucker. Fucking wow.”
Robin Williams is Standing By
Love Has Won’s website (which is down, but a YouTuber called Sepulcher Geist, who lost a co-worker to the cult, has a pretty hilarious video tour of the site HERE) says that one of their etheric surgery staff is none other than Robin Williams. Yes, Mrs. Doubtfire Robin Williams. Dead Poets Society, Jumanji, Hook, Patch Adams, etc., etc.,etc. beloved comedian and actor Robin Williams. The website says that on the day he died (Aug.11, 2014), Williams appeared in Mother God’s bedroom, told her he had been murdered, and that he is also Archangel Zadkiel, and that he wanted to be part of Mom’s team. Side note: notice how these mystic figures like to have Z names. But this story is making our QAnon Bigfoot friend Zorth look tame by comparison. In 2017, according to the Love Has Won website, Robin Williams finally got the props he deserves and was awarded as “Etheric Ambassador of the Ascension of Planet Earth=Heart” by Mother God. Nanoo nanoo!
To quote the Mother God, “fucking wow.”
I’m interested to follow this story and hear more details as cults have long fascinated me. But I want to say that beyond the jokes and morbid curiosity I’ve dropped in this column, I sincerely do hope some of these people are able to reconnect with their families and friends, many who I’m sure are destroyed with worry. It’s easy to understand why– cults like Heaven’s Gate and the followers of Jim Jones ended up killing themselves.
I understand the appeal a cult like this must have– the world is a sucking black hole of awfulness, a world of “void engineers,” I get it. Imagine finding a group that will act as your family of “love,” that will give you direction and a home, that will cure that loneliness. It all sounds beautiful til “Mama G” gets mad at you and strands you naked in the desert for forgetting her chicken parmesan… or you’re being asked to help hide a corpse.
Good luck out there.
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