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Abode of Peace
March 29, 2011 4:56 PM   Subscribe

The Santiniketan Park Association, known informally as "The Family" was a group founded around 1964 after Dr. Raynor Carey Johnson began hosting regular meetings of a religious and philosophical discussion group led by the yoga teacher Anne Hamilton-Byrne on his property on the outskirts Melbourne, Australia. The group began to recruit potential new members from Newhaven Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital, owned and managed by Marion Villimek, a Santiniketan member, and staffed by other Santiniketans psychiatrists who would administer LSD to patients.

Later, Anne Hamilton-Byrne acquired fourteen children between about 1968 and 1975. Some were the natural children of Santiniketan members, others had been obtained through 'irregular' adoptions arranged by lawyers, doctors and social workers within the group who could bypass the normal processes. The children's identities were changed using false birth certificates or deed poll, all being given the surname 'Hamilton-Byrne' and dressed alike even to the extent of their hair being dyed uniformly blonde.

The children were kept in seclusion, home-schooled, and regularly dosed with an array of pharmacuticals. On reaching adolescence they were compelled to undergo an initiation involving LSD: while under the influence of the drug the child would be left in a dark room, alone, apart from visits by Hamilton-Byrne or one of the psychiatrists from the group.

Ultimately after a 1987 police raid on the school, leading to an international manhunt, the adult Hamilton-Byrnes were fined $5000 each on lesser charges. One adoptive daughter, Sarah Hamilton-Byrne, later wrote a book, Unseen Unheard Unknown, and a rumored son may be Julian Assange.
posted by wcfields (23 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The discussion page on the first link makes the last link look more like "wishful thinking" than a real rumor.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 4:59 PM on March 29, 2011


Kind of burying the lede with this post.
posted by Edgewise at 5:02 PM on March 29, 2011


more like "wishful thinking" than a real rumor

That's not what I heard.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:03 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This jumped out at me:

However, she [Anne Hamilton-Byrne] later became disillusioned with Muktananda and helped other disaffected members of his movement to disconnect.

I'm just envisioning her saying "This is just wrong." Bummer to have this woman as the person that gets you out of your scarey cult though.

(based on assumption that wikipedia article somewhat accurately describes what happened).
posted by el io at 5:07 PM on March 29, 2011


tl;dr: Julian Assange has claimed he suspects his estranged step-father might have been somehow affiliated with The Family.

That's a whole lot of maybe.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:08 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is one scary picture.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:09 PM on March 29, 2011


Edgewise: "Kind of burying the lede with this post."

I didn't want the post on this very bizarre cult to be primarily focused on Assange since the connection is murky at best.

Though, when one wonders where a character like him could have come from, a Yoga based LSD kidnapping Children of the Damned cult seems plausible.
posted by wcfields at 5:10 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Though, when one wonders where a character like him could have come from, a Yoga based LSD kidnapping Children of the Damned cult seems plausible.

I don't follow - Assange is a person, working with an organization, that shares material from whistleblowers. Why the suggestion that he is from a cult?
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:24 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a picture of Assange back in the day, around 1990 at a guess. Observe remarkable absence of platinum hair, soup bowl haircut.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:24 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, they're not saying (wink wink), that he's a Nazi, but they'd like to show you (a Glenn Beckesque) roadmap showing his Nazi connections. Or something similarly sinister.
posted by el io at 5:32 PM on March 29, 2011


I don't follow - Assange is a person, working with an organization, that shares material from whistleblowers. Why the suggestion that he is from a cult?

it's almost all conspiracy theory based upon a few pieces of circumstantial evidence: he looks like as a young boy he could have fit in with the look of the children and his step father was a member.

Why I think it's plausible (maybe not the right word) is that he has become an international man of mystery that seemingly came out of nowhere to break the secrets of the worlds most powerful puppet masters. The truth is probably extemely blasé, but a childhood of LSD yoga cult... Now that's a myth back story that fits the battle against the extestential FUD forced upon society by those in power that I can get behind.
posted by wcfields at 5:51 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is the difference between what the Family teaches and any other group, religious or not in the world today? I include them all. From Islam and Christianity to Scientology and the Reverend Moon.
posted by Splunge at 6:43 PM on March 29, 2011


Font size of the pamphlet.
posted by clavdivs at 7:14 PM on March 29, 2011


Did Assange drink alcohol? I heard that in some weird cults, alcohol is served to young people during mystical indoctrination rites.
posted by telstar at 7:38 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


this is bizarre. there are people close to me in the Australian mental health system and stuff like this just keeps getting creepier and creepier. like some Batman story about Arkham Asylum.

there's another secretive Aussie sect i keep hearing about, but they're more Christian. or is this them?

has ABC's Compass (their religious affairs program) done a show on them?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:36 PM on March 29, 2011


You might be thinking of the Exclusive Brethren, LiB.
posted by harriet vane at 9:37 PM on March 29, 2011


yes. yes i am
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:50 PM on March 29, 2011


Sorry, cut myself off there. I meant to add that although their beliefs aren't much more or less crazy than the major religions, the 'irregular' adoptions and dosing kids with LSD and other drugs is well outside the standards we hold for religion in Australia.
posted by harriet vane at 9:50 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fascinating post, thanks wcfields.

Post-cult trauma is a richly interesting topic.

Pity to sully the name of Santiniketan, a beautiful, peaceful place I think of with much affection.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne sounds like a classic malignant narcissist. Len Oakes has written insightfully about cult leader narcissists in his book, Prophetic Charisma.

I've enjoyed reading about LEX De Man, the policeman who spent five years bringing The Family cult leader Anne Hamilton-Byrne to justice<>/em>

Tragic and heart-rending abuse survival story. Hope he does not himself now become a cult leader.

posted by nickyskye at 10:57 PM on March 29, 2011


Frankly, I can't stand Assange, and have gone into serious online flamefests with his cultists here and elsewhere, but this stinks of groundless character assassination. Douchebag? Quite probably. Self-centered egopath? Almost certainly. Misanthropic sociopath? Very likely. "Child of the Damned"? You've got to be kidding me.
posted by Skeptic at 1:30 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good grief, Karl Stefanovic is a crappy interviewer. Asking a known child-abuser "are you a monster? are you evil?" is a waste of airtime. Asking them to justify their actions is more revealing, might help someone avoid an abuser like this in future, and had the dubiou benefit of giving just as many sensationalist grabs to use when promoting your tv show.
posted by harriet vane at 3:19 AM on March 30, 2011


But does this explain why he's such a poor house guest ?
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 6:52 AM on March 30, 2011


wtf is an egopath
posted by LogicalDash at 7:37 AM on March 30, 2011


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