Mon-Ra-Sone / Steve: Ever Changing Perspective

by Steve Ryan, formerly Mon-Ra-Sone

 

We all have Morningland stories to tell, and this is my attempt to encapsulate one of mine.

I entered Morningland’s Long Beach Temple in July of 1977. I left in August of 1984. I was not put on sabbatical, and I was not asked or forced to leave. I will explain my process in this story.

I’d like to apologize to those I injured in any way while there. I truly am sorry.

I don’t apologize for having spent many years in Morningland, or for having left. Of this I rejoice.

Just before entering Morningland I saw my life as a living hell. My friends were few. Those I had were pissing me off. I was pissing myself off. I desperately wanted change, to belong somewhere to something. I had very little self-esteem. I was a gay man trapped in a rather shameless lifestyle that I led myself to because of all the shame I’d stored within myself from my past with family. Bathhouses, street corners, gay brothels and bars were my homes. I used and was used by the people who frequented them for sexual pleasure. I’d not yet been in a serious committed relationship with a man mainly because I was immersed in an extremist gay sex world. Life was depressing and lonely, and becoming increasingly dangerous. And AIDS was not yet a known factor.

In July of 1977 I became homeless. My roommate, the owner of the condo I lived in, had just evicted me. He was my pimp, and I his prostitute. He was also my mother’s hairdresser. My mother still has no idea about Danny’s and my relationship. But the arrangements were simple: I hold a daytime job, I service any men he brought to his home at night, and in return I was pampered beyond imagination.

I had no savings because I spent it all on friends, drugs, and things I thought were pretty, especially clothes. Danny had without notice evicted me because I had spontaneously quit my job one day. My remains were outside on the porch and the locks were changed before I’d even returned that last day at work. He knew I’d quit my job within minutes of my leaving, unbeknownst to me. I at least had my own crappy car and pretty clothes to move on with.

One of my only options in the moment was to bunk the night at my dad’s house after assuring him I would behave and not cause any stirrings in his home. He allowed me to stay just that one night with the promise I’d be gone the next morning. We had a very tense relationship. At that time we were totally at odds with how to be with each other, and I spurred this tense relationship on mainly to verify that he didn’t really love me. My dad I made sure earlier knew I was a whore. Anything I could do to make him feel responsible for how I turned out I used against him. Besides, my mother had convinced me that he wasn’t really my father at all, that I was a bastard, and he was responsible for her misbehaving, which I believed.

Early the next morning at my dad’s I received a phone call from an old girlfriend, Debbie. She and I had grown up together. We were very good friends. Debbie had grown up with me just across the street, and she was calling to track me down that fateful day. We were two oddballs who depended on each other in our childhoods a lot. When I think of the pain of her life, mine in comparison is minute to say the least. We understood each other’s unspeakable pain and helped each other immensely. During her fateful call, I realized that not only was my best girlfriend back in my life, I might also be looking at a possible solution to my sudden homelessness situation. I explained to her what I was going through in a vague way, and she had me meet her in Long Beach to talk.

Aside from telling Debbie of all my problems, she told me about Morningland where she was an “aspirant”. She’d described it as a spiritual community that accepted gay men and lesbians. This was one of the things that hooked me first off, a place where spirituality and sexuality meshed, and were not necessarily at odds as in most major religions. I had not yet heard of such a concept before, so it meant the most to me.

I spent that night at Debbie’s apartment just around the corner from Morningland. The next day I attended a Festival of Light where the Gopis (head ministers) and their assistant disciples did astrology and other “telepathic” readings. I interpreted my reading as very accurate. I also noticed that the atmosphere in Morningland was for the most part pleasantly unusual. There were also stirrings of discomfort behind the smiles of some of the disciples, but what that discomfort was I was not certain. Of that I would later find learn.

Donato, the man who began Morningland a couple years prior had died in November of 1976. At the time of his death, his wife, Gopi Sri Patricia, proclaimed Donato to be the Christ, and took charge as the Spiritual Leader of Morningland: Gopi Sri Patricia, the Divine Twin Flame and Direct Representative of Donato the Christ; quite a title. In time Sri Patricia changed her name to simply ‘Sri Donato’. I’ll simply call her Sri or Patricia.

Prior to my arrival, there were six Gopis in Long Beach: Morningstaar, Tanene, Gyan, Pathena, Karisibane, and Aria; and, five Gopis at a sister temple in Escondido: Sri Patricia, Melickia, Celta, Viantri, and Nasanta, and a Gopi in training no one but Sri and a few others knew about, Selendra. So, there was a total of twelve Gopis (counting Selendra) in all prior to Donato’s death. There was also a lodge retreat in Crestline.

By the time I’d arrived, Viontri had simply left, then Donato died, and then Nasanta was summarily excommunicated by Sri, and labeled as ‘Satan’, leaving nine Gopis and a tenth Gopi in training.

According to Debbie at the time, one of Morningland’s rules was aspirants were only allowed to roommate with other aspirants, and disciples were to only allowed to roommate with disciples. Being that I had no roof over my head and no finances, I decided right after the Festival of Light to become an aspirant, and Debbie and I became roommates. Weeks later Debbie was to be accepted as a disciple. It was a thrilling time for us both, but it also meant I had to aspire to discipleship or move out soon.

The under-stirrings in Morningland were uncomfortable and confusing to me as an outsider. Still, I remained. I felt compelled. I was also hopeful of finding a lover from within the congregation. The followers were all living much healthier lifestyles than the one I’d just relinquished, so my interest was definitely constantly piqued.

I had just turned 21 and was having many difficulties with my sexuality. I desperately wanted to be in a relationship. I began dating an acquaintance of Debbie’s, a non-Morningland man named Rick, just after entering Morningland. Rick had just moved to Long Beach from Pittsburgh, PA. He was a 35 year old college professor and had just ‘come out’, and he felt Long Beach would be the perfect place to start his life over. He was quite a catch. It wasn’t but a few weeks after we were dating when he announced he had no desire to make any commitments with me, and of course I was crushed. I decided then and there that I would become a “celibate”, something I’d heard about in Morningland. Rick left me, and the next day I made an appointment to speak to Gopi Tanene about my distraught-ness and to combine it with an astrology reading.

It was in this reading that Gopi Tanene pointed my astrology chart showed I was not a “celibate”, and that I’d find my soul mate here in Morningland. She explained my chart showed I had both “gay” and “straight” tendencies (I do not have any “straight” tendencies), and that my soul mate might possibly be female, to look around the “ashram”, suggesting I date women for a little while before making a decision as to which I was, gay or straight. She also said that I could not “fence sit” for long without dreadful spiritual consequences. I did not question her suggestions or statements regarding my sexual nature, and determined that I would look about Morningland for datable women.

One day Debbie left to go on a weekend disciple retreat to the Morningland Crestline lodge. That was pretty much what made me ask for discipleship. I too wanted to go to the lodge because it sounded so incredibly awesome, plus Debbie kept spurring me on to ask for discipleship or loose her as a roommate. I’d heard from others that to get discipleship one only had to ask a Gopi, particularly while in a reading, “How do you become a disciple?” and it would probably happen. I did ask, it did happen, and I don’t deny that I felt a great rush of acceptance.

A few weeks after the excitement of being dumped by Rick and also of being accepted as a disciple, I met Sri in Long Beach in the hallway of the main temple reception area (this was prior to Sri having moved into the Long Beach temple to live, which happened when the Escondido temple was destroyed by the membership.) For some reason Sri told Gopi Tanene right there in the hallway to “Keep this one by your side and protect him. This one is special.” And Tanene obeyed, and my ego soared.

Soon after I was promoted to assisting the instructors of a “Oneness” class, and it was there I met a female aspirant, Avi-On. We dated for over a year, and we married in September of 1979. Prior to our marriage I had had a vasectomy as was “suggested” of all male disciples in certain ‘orders’ at that time. I use the term suggested very loosely. If you didn’t have a vasectomy, you would find you were no longer in the upper echelons.

I was troubled by the fact that I was still attracted to men sexually during my entire relationship with Avi-On. It was not something I felt I could discuss with Avi-On. What made our relationship ‘spiritually’ unique was that, as Sri pointed out over and over, I was not trapped by my human form’s sexuality and was able to find my soul mate that had incarnated in female form. Avi-On supposedly had incarnated in female form because there was no time left for her to incarnate in male form, and that even so we recognized each other regardless of my same-sex nature. This became more and more embellished as time went on. Regardless of the embellishments, my desire to be with men sexually never did cease.

Paradecius was one of my closest friends in Morningland. He was elevated to the order of Kamazi, the highest ranking male order in the ashram created by Sri, akin to the female order of Gopi created by Donato. Disciples in these higher orders were in what was called the Inner Circle. Even though Paradecius and I were in different echelons, we shared everything we experienced privately unbeknownst to any others except Sri. He’d tell me about how he was placed with others sexually, changing week by week, and how frustrated this made him. He also shared about drug use in the Inner Circle, about who was sleeping with whom in the Inner Circle, and a lot of other secret going’s on within the Inner Circle. None of this surprised or really bothered me, and through all my “personal; talks with Sri privately I was already aware of this. I understood the other disciples simply were not developed enough to understand or be able to handle knowing such goings-on. Eventually, Paradecius just left Morningland and I wouldn’t hear from him until years later outside Morningland. Paradecius has since passed away, and I think of him often.

As time flew by, I was elevated to the order of Lama, which consisted of ten men. There was a similar grouping of ten women as well. We were the “Outer Circle” of the “Inner Circle”. Avi-On was not within these circles while I was in Morningland. A few months after my elevation, I found my constant proximity to and isolation with these other men in my order to be too much for me to handle sexually any longer. I was very attracted to a couple of these men. I’d become more and more frustrated, and my relationship with Avi-On suffered even further because of my frustrations. I had hopes that perhaps I would get to experience, now that I was in the Inner Circle, the sexual escapades of which Paradecius had experienced. It was that or that my desire for men would some day have to just go away. Fortunately, neither happened.

On Sunday, July 29, 1984, while driving home from Crestline after having been on retreat with the other Lamas and other male Council members (others of various orders within the Inner Circle), I’d determined that I must dissolve my marriage. Since my desire for men was not waning and in fact waxing, I’d come to the conclusion that Sri must know that I was falling apart inside and couldn’t last this way any longer, that she must be waiting for me to proclaim this since she “saw” all, and that through my honesty she would release me from my marriage. It simply wasn’t fair or right to Avi-On or to me. It had to be true that Sri knew, otherwise it meant that Sri was not who she was made out to be, that Morningland was not what it was made out to be, that it was overall a fraud. Regardless of the consequences, the only way to move forward in my life was to announce that I must be released from my marriage. I must be with men, and not Avi-On, though I loved her very much. I also knew divorce was an excommunicable offense. I was about to risk everything.

The following Friday, August 3, I came to the temple from work. I’d arrived late to my class in the Council Room. This was the evening I determined to make my announcement as I was simply too distraught mentally and physically by the damage I was experiencing from denying my sexuality. I paced the temple hallway until I had enough courage to enter my already-in-progress class. Finally, I entered and was beckoned by Sri to sit by her side on the floor to her right. She was seated in her ‘Throne’ wicker chair. I took my place silently and Sri began to twirl the fingers of her right hand in my hair. When there was a pause in the classes discussion, Sri asked me to share what I was experiencing. I took a deep breath and then announced I needed to be with a man sexually and to be released from my marriage.

Sri’s response was that I had not learned or accepted anything in all my time in Morningland. She told me to go and follow the others who’d left before me out the door. Sri did not speak directly to me any further. In fact, she simply ignored that I was even present in the room for the rest of the evening. She did speak of me to the class briefly, explaining that they were all witnessing my ‘circuitry’ being removed, and to continue on with the thread they were on before I’d entered, and that I was now just a ghost. I remember all sound being sucked out of the room like I was in a vacuum, becoming extremely dizzy and confused, and unable to follow what little I could hear being spoken in class. Class continued on in what seemed eternity. I was in shell shock, frightened, and a part of me was wondering if I actually had circuitry that was being removed. Eventually class ended, everyone either stayed or left the class, no one spoke to me as I drifted off, and I meandered home alone. When I got home I feared the phone would ring or there would be a knock at the door to inform Avi-On that I was no longer a disciple.

Confusing to me at the time was that no one made any attempt to ask for or remove my discipleship medallion, and that I’d not been escorted to the door while in class as I’d seen and participated in so very many times before. What was happening to me was not normal routine, and I didn’t know for sure how to respond or act. So I presumed it might mean that I was still a disciple, and that this was just a warning for me to desist from the direction I announced. And since there was no phone call or knock at the door later that evening, I chose to hold out for hope with this possibility. As I said, I was in shell shock. And later in the years I would learn what it meant to live with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. What a nightmare.

On Saturday, August 4, I stayed away from the temple during the day. At 2:45pm I went to work at the hotel. Avi-On had gone to the temple early that morning and hadn’t returned by the time I left for work. I figured she probably had been informed of my situation in some manner. I was still uncertain of my discipleship status.

I returned home from work after 11:00pm. Avi-On still was not home, and so I went to bed. When she came home later that evening, she crawled silently into bed and we made had no verbal or physical contact. I sleeplessly lay apprehensive the entire night.

Sunday the 5th, I lay in bed while Avi-On got up and left early to the temple without a word. I then went to work and didn’t return home until 3:15pm. I sat at home, peering through the front window, which faced the temple, concerned with what might happen if Avi-On returned. I had decided I’d go to Sunday Service that evening and get this over with one way or the other. Either I would be let in or refused entry.

Avi-On didn’t return prior to Sunday service. I put on my appropriate Morningland clothing, waited until I saw the people gathered at the temple doors entering the temple, and made my way over. All non-disciples and guests were being escorted away from the disciples and to the parking lot and then to the Zen Garden in back. I wasn’t stopped at the temple door when I arrived, and all the disciples were seating themselves in the dome room. I spoke very little and purposely steered clear from sitting next to any other Council members. Avi-On had finally arrived and sat in a seat far away from me.

A class of sorts began in the dome room. All the disciples were being separated into two groups: if your name was called you were to go into the temple. Avi-On’s name was called, and mine was not. Those of us remaining were escorted through the kitchen and down the hallway to a storefront room on 7th street. The room was lit only by candlelight, and no music was playing. We were surrounded by silence. No one dared speak.

A Council member summarily informed us that we were contaminating the pure disciples, aspirants and guests. We were told we would not be allowed to enter the Temple proper until we became clear. We were to listen and absorb what was being given to us. We were told we were as new disciples, and this was our Oneness class. It was an evening of foreboding fear. We were told that if we were in relationships, we were to have no physical contact, and we were to have no communication regarding Morningland with each other. The same went for those with roommates.

We were told our class would resume on Tuesday, and then again on Thursday. We were to stay away from the temple except for our attending class, and we were dismissed from all our other prior Morningland duties. We were not to come to Sunday Service. We were to arrive on time or not come at all. If we did not come to class we would be considered to have left Morningland. We were to spend the remainder of our time away from Morningland reflecting on what it meant to us to be disciples of Donato the Christ, to get back “on beam” or leave.

Finally, we were given the opportunity to speak. Two disciples “saved” themselves, got back “on beam”, and were ushered out of the storefront, I would presume back to the Temple proper. Sri paraded into our group four times, each time with a solitary Outer Circle disciple. Sri and the disciple would stand just inside the doorway, and make comments such as, “Can you smell the fear in here? What do you see? Don’t be afraid to speak, we won’t let harm you.” And of course the disciple beside her would say horrible things. Then they’d leave, and Sri would reappear with yet another disciple. It was sickening, sickening night. I kept my mouth shut that evening, and had decided then that I would leave, and never suffer this form of shaming ever again. I would not go another night like this. It was over.

Class came to an end. I went home feverish and angry. Avi-On was still at the temple. I went to bed, and Avi-On came home, and we spoke not a word to each other. The next morning, Monday, she got up before me, didn’t say a word, not even good bye, and rushed off to work. As soon as I heard her car pull away from the driveway, I jumped up. I called the hotel to set up an appointment to speak with the manager at the hotel I worked at. He and I met. I told him that I was in the midst of divorce, and asked if I could stay at the hotel for awhile until I had made other arrangements. He allowed me to remain indefinitely until I got my feet back on the ground. I was in management as well, and offered to add additional duties for the favor. I remained at the hotel through to the end of my shift at 11:00pm that evening.

When I returned home, Avi-On again was not there, and I just curled up in bed and finally slept. I don’t remember her coming home.

I awoke no longer afraid of the direction I’d determined to go. I got up, made coffee and breakfast, and determined that by noon that day I would be starting my life over. Avi-On got up, grabbed a cup of coffee, showered, dressed, said goodbye, and headed off to work. I gathered what few belongings I would need, wrote a simple farewell letter, which I knew would be misconstrued no matter what I’d say, and placed the letter, my medallion, wedding ring and other jewelry on our alter. I put everything in the car and drove off. Even though a part of me felt lost and sick, a greater part of me was exhilarated that I’d begun to take the steps to start living my life as a gay man again. I’d given myself back to myself and my true nature.

I still love Avi-On very much. I would love to see her again. I’ve attempted and am still attempting to communicate with her, so far to no avail. I respect her right to her privacy. She knows where I am, and she knows how to reach me if she ever chooses to. She is by far one of the most magnificent women I’ve ever had the honor to know, and I wish she were still in my life as a friend to this day.

I have neither returned nor been invited to return to Morningland. I would probably visit if invited as I hold no animosity or fear toward or about anyone or anything “Morningland”. It’s simply a place made up of people with their own spiritual purposes. I have been fortunate to be in communication with other previous members of Morningland since the beginning of this website, and those connections have helped change my life and my perspective.

When I was in Morningland, I, like others, claimed I “knew” Donato was the 10th and final descent of the Holy Father in human form. And yet I never physically met Donato. It wasn’t until after his death that we began calling him “Donato the Christ” upon Sri’s direction. Donato never made this proclamation himself. I “knew” Sri Patricia, later to be called Sri Donato, was one with Donato the Christ. I “knew” Morningland was the final plan to rescue the 144,000 incarnated light-bearers, and that there would be no further attempts at soul-rescue of these 144,000 being that there was practically no time left for this planet. I remember devoutly proclaiming I “knew” all of these things, and much more.

I now know that what I say I know is often what I do not know at all. I’ve witnessed how hard I work at defending what I know. Today I feel secure in where I have come from, who I was, who I am, and some clarity of whom I am becoming. None of this requires of me to know anything more than what I experience. Even my own interpretation of my own experience is subject to interpretation. My view of my life is of an ever-changing perspective.

I take responsibility for my perceptions, actions, interactions, reactions, and how I think and feel. I create and decide all things in my life. Inevitably, I determine who I want to be and I become it or I don’t. I place no belief in outside forces caring or directing me in what I do or do not do with my life. To me, all is simply energy and the intent with which energy chooses to create.

I rely very little on words. And I have no belief that an outside force is concerned that I serve it, worship it, or obey it. The energy it takes for me to believe in such things is a distraction to me from maintaining who I am, becoming who I can become, who I will myself to be. I don’t have a belief in Karma, a Creator, Forces of Darkness, or Forces of Light. This non-belief of course doesn’t make me very popular. From some people’s perspective this makes me a member of the “other side”. I truly don’t care what anyone believes about me. It isn’t relative to my reality.

I control me. I call to myself that which I experience. Even Sri was truly and perfectly herself. She was her own creation. She created herself as the Spiritual Master of Morningland, and those within Morningland, and even those outside Morningland, obeyed orders given by Sri or her representatives, and propped up her reality. We all make or made these choices while in Morningland.

I am not disciple of Donato the Christ. I am in service only to myself.

Many of us share this common denominator within ourselves called Morningland, and I in no way attempt or desire to cancel out my time there. Morningland is and will always be an important part of my past, my history.

For me, saying what I feel and sharing my experiences are vital in the process of my personal growth, which to me is healing. To not do so is wasteful energy. Facing my past totally allows me the choice to return the energy left behind in my past and to do something with that energy. Or not.

I’m also very happy to say that my dad and I are now very close. I love my dad completely. What a great, great man he is. And what a great, great man I have become.

And to end this, I must admit: I have had a couple wonderfully intense relationships with men, and am in the midst of the most incredible relationship with a man right now. Funny, he too is named Rick, a retired schoolteacher. Could it be that my life is a living recapitulation? I think so.

I embrace reconnecting with all from my past to be a part of my present. May all your lives also be full and extraordinary…

Respectfully,

Steve Ryan