History and Recruitment
The Control Begins
Spiritual Community or "Cult"?
Issues of Concern
Is ACC a "cult"?
Is ACC a Christian Group?
Is ACC part of the Urantia Movement?
The Synanon Connection
Attention Ex-members of ACC
The following information about Aquarian Concepts Community (ACC) in Sedona, Arizona was prepared by a group of adults with years of experience living at ACC.
Those that contributed to this prepared statement are a diverse group including male and female, old and young, married and single, living in different states.
The information is not hearsay; we have been there; we speak from our own direct experience in the group.
We have each submitted different details, which we may not all have witnessed together.
We offer our interpretation of personal experiences, but we believe that the following reflects what is really happening at ACC.
As others come out we invite you to add your own statements at this website.
It is very difficult to get even a small percentage of former ACC members to speak about what happened to them.
We believe this is because ACC has a systematic program of psychological, physical, and legal intimidation to prevent people from sharing anything negative about the group.
Ex-members and other concerned individuals have been threatened with lawsuits if they criticize the community. And if they still have family within the community, they may be threatened with the loss of further contact.
Parents who have left the ACC with their children, while another parent stayed behind, have been threatened, using their child essentially like a tool of for coercion. Some parents fear that their child might again fall into the hands of ACC. The group has used such fear tactics to scare parents into silence.
A Dateline NBC program that aired some time ago about ACC contained direct firsthand information and an interview with Tony Delevin (known as "Gabriel of Sedona") and ACC subsequently threatened to sue them.
This is typical behavior for ACC.
However, it is our hope that by breaking the silence we can help to prevent others from going through the pain and heartbreak we have experienced as a result of our involvement within the ACC.
Ten years ago ACC had about the same number of members as it does today, perhaps a hundred counting children. Many of the present members are the same people that have been around for a decade, especially those in leadership. Others have been recruited and/or have left ACC over the years, which has a significant turnover rates amongst its membership.
Our experience is that former members often leave disillusioned, troubled, and minus their money and resources.
Individuals that have significant resources, can provide needed services or favorable publicity have been recruited by the ACC. Before they join, and for a relatively short time thereafter, they may be given special attention, special privileges in the community, extensively corresponded with, told they have a key role to play in world affairs, or have an ideal mate waiting for them at ACC.
ACC seems to use the innate yearning within many people to find and fulfill a God-given destiny, to recruit them, so that they will then give of their time, labor and resources to meet ACC's needs. This apparently includes Mr. Delevin's desire to be a rock star.
At first things seem, sound and look wonderful. However, once the ACC leadership gets control over a new recruit's money and resources and that recruit has left family and friends, they will then typically exert more control. This control may include where the new recruit lives, roommates, what they eat, what media they are exposed to and virtually all the scheduling of their day.
Without supporting resources, with constant observation and under tremendous influence, members become essentially unable to leave.
Typically members are cut off from their family, friends and most anyone outside of ACC. Contact with outsiders can be approved by ACC, but it may rarely occur.
Any deviation from the "teachings" of "Gabriel," an expressed desire to see or talk with family, repeated complaints, an outward manifestation of unhappiness or sadness most often will lead to a "counseling session."
Members also play something called the "Chip Game."
This game is basically a method of encouraging members to watch each other and report any deviance from Tony Delevin's teachings.
Children watch their parents and spouses watch each other.
Reports of infractions or deviations often result in "chip" submitted to denote the problem, which may lead to "counseling."
There are also various forms of punishment, such as assigned chores, loss of "mandates" (special titles of authority) and/or a change in living arrangements.
Members have little if any meaningful time to themselves.
Typically living conditions are very crowded at ACC and de-personalizing. Several people may share the same bedroom and several be assigned to the same house.
Leadership has much better living conditions than regular members.
An ACC member's world becomes greatly restricted until all you hear, seems to come from ACC.
New members are also increasingly expected to give special deference to Gabriel, his "consorts." and children. Members often bow to them or otherwise show their respect when they meet.
Phrases such as "Good morning Prince Melfax, Princess Niann" are uttered whenever they enter the room.
Prince Melfax is one of Tony Delevin's names that symbolize his supposed future destiny to be the ruler of Earth and to repopulate it with his children.
"Niann" is his common-law wife Nancy's "cosmic name."
Gabriel claims to be the ruler of the world and that no other human being has any authority over him, nor should anyone question anything he does and/or orders others to do.
"Everything I do is justified," "I am the mandated ruler of the world," Gabriel has said.
He has even explained that this world is like "Nazis" and ACC members are in the role of the Jews, therefore anything done against Nazis is justified.
The control exhibited by the ACC elders over its members' lives is exhibited in various ways.
Since members are required to give up all their personal possessions and money, they are dependent upon the community for everything and this includes transportation.
If someone joins with a car, that car typically becomes group property, controlled by Gabriel and the leadership.
Each household has a few cars to use and they are shared with everyone in that house, usually between 10-20 people.
Each trip is recorded, which includes destination, purpose and mileage.
Travel records are forwarded to "Mandate Headquarters," which is Gabriel's house.
What this essentially means is that movements are monitored and unauthorized trips can easily be forbidden.
We believe that the ACC is a fairly typical personality-driven group driven by the personality of Tony Delevin.
The life of the community revolves around Mr. Delevin and his family, and he exercises virtually complete control, either directly or indirectly, over everything and everyone within the community.
We do not deny that there is a form of power at ACC.
But it seems to us that this is not the "Spirit of Truth," nor do we see it as a some special spiritual power at all. And we have come to the conclusion that ACC is not centered upon Jesus Christ.
We acknowledge that Tony Delevin does have powerful insight into the needs, desires, strengths and weaknesses of people. But we feel he uses such insight to manipulate those around him.
We feel that it is very important for anyone that may come into contact with ACC to realize the power that is there. And once you come under ACC influence, whether by letter, email, phone, or whatever, you may gradually lose control over your life.
If you go there, for what they call a "visit," we feel that you are placing yourself at risk.
The power and control at ACC is very real.
The power of undue influence at ACC we believe is a very real thing and potentially dangerous, and the unwary may succumb to it.
If your are caught within ACC, it requires great courage, tenacity and real spiritual discernment to break loose. And the longer people are there, the more difficult it may become to break free from its controlling influence.
Our prayers and hopes are that all ACC members will one day be free. We personally know many of the people who have been caught within its web. Many were once our friends and so our prayers are with them.
It seems to us that the great majority of ACC members were somehow wounded before their contact with the group. Many were the victims of bad relationships, abused and in some cases deeply depressed, Often they were the victims of tragedy who had great difficulty coping with a world that contains sorrow and suffering.
It seems to us that unhappiness and personal problems can make people very vulnerable, to a strong, authoritarian and charismatic figure like Tony Delevin.
Mr. Delevin's promises to take care of you and give you a special sense of status can be very alluring.
Many people come to ACC because they are curious or seeking an idealistic better life, which is what ACC claims it will provide. However, if they stay, it is likely they may suffer abuse through manipulation and control.
Polygamy and infidelity: Tony Delevin co-habits with two or more "consorts" with whom he has had children. He has claimed that he can heal people by having sex with them. He openly talks about the women in the community he has had sex with and claims it is an honor to have sex with him. He has promised ACC members that one day they also can have multiple mates. Multiple partners/mate assignment: Tony and Niann have assigned mates to various community members. Deception of Sedona community: ACC has deceived the local community by using social services through false addresses, driving vehicles that are not properly registered, licensed and/or insured, soliciting funds without explaining they are for the ACC and selling goods that do not specifically have ownership of. Members have been told not to tell they are with ACC if they are stopped for violations. Members often live in violation of local zoning codes (e.g. the "garden" property was not zoned residential, multiple families in a single-family dwelling etc.).
Tony Delevin's superior living conditions: Mr. Delevin lives much better than members of the group. He eats better food, has nicer clothes and he has personal property such as books, music, instruments and jewelry. Mr. Delevin also travels when and where he wants, eats out regularly and generally enjoys a very comfortable lifestyle. His lieutenants often have special privileges. The rest of the community at times has eaten stale bread and been fed from the food bank. Milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, except for limited seasonal produce from the ACC garden, are a rarity. One member recalls with shame putting butter packets in her purse from a restaurant, because butter was such a luxury in the community. These conditions exist despite the fact that the ACC is apparently worth more than $1 million dollars. Tony Delevin lives like a king, while most members subsist like citizens in a third world country.
Lack of access to outside information: Tony Delevin has satellite TV with hundreds of channels and is in touch with what is going on in the outside world. His followers are discouraged from watching television at all and can rarely tune in to the one local channel. They are often ignorant about world events except what is told to them through weekly reports filtered through the eldership. These reports typically focus on bad things happening in the world, making it appear that the world "outside" ACC is falling apart and that ACC is a place of refuge.
Restricted communication: Communication with the outside world is difficult. Long distance calls must typically be pre-approved and, in our experience, are limited to fifteen minutes per month for each member. There is little privacy, so members must accept that several other people will often be listening to their phone conversations. Members are required to answer call waiting, even when on long-distance, in case Mr. Delevin has a task for them; so calls to relatives are often interrupted and hasty, if they happen at all. Personal mail for members goes to a central PO Box and is distributed by one of the designated members, so there is no privacy in that area either. Personal computers also become community property, so there are no private files and Internet use is regulated and monitored.
Restricted family visits: Family members from outside ACC are regularly denied the opportunity to see their children or grandchildren in ACC. At times they have been told they can see them, but when they come to Sedona, the visit may be denied, unless they make a special donation.
Children: The children are required to go to school all year round. Schooling focuses on ACC teachings and especially Mr. Delevin's rule over the world. One member was told by a leader that she should not let her daughter miss even one day of school to see her Grandmother. When the mother let the child see her Grandmother, she was disciplined through loss of privileges and mandate.
Restricted travel: Members must ask permission to travel for a visit to loved ones outside of ACC. Permission is sometimes granted, but there is often pressure not to ask. Relatives typically fund these trips. Tony Delevin has asked family members to make a donation, in order to cover the lost labor of members who leave for a visit. He has said it is selfish to take time away from "Divine Administration" to visit family. If members manage to arrange a visit the ACC tries to maintain constant communication, seemingly to preclude outside influence. For example, a member may be given tasks such as calling radio stations to request that Tony Delevin's music be played, or going to bookstores and asking them to carry his books. One mother said that when her son actually did visit, he spent most of his time locked up in his room making phone calls and she hardly saw him.
Breaking up families: Most married couples at the ACC are eventually broken up and other "complements" (new mates) are "recommended" by leadership. After a year or so, children are generally not allowed to live with their parents. Parents who exhibit natural love for their children and who express a desire to spend more time with them are told that they are unbalanced and given disciplinary red chips for this behavior. This appears to ensure that absolute allegiance is given only to Tony Delevin. Bonds and obedience to him are thus strengthened as all other bonds are weakened or broken.
Permission slips for dating and marriage: Men and women who wish to have relationships or get married typically obtain approval from Mr. Delevin. Married couples wishing to have children must also obtain his approval. Young women that became pregnant have at times been encouraged by eldership to have abortions. In such situations women have gone to their families for the money to pay for an abortion.
Members made destitute: Once people realize that all is not well at ACC and want to leave, ACC will not give them their money or property back. Community members have been told to max out and then default on credit cards. They also have defaulted on IRS payments and other debts in order to increase community income. Leadership has sought out any jewelry or other valuables so that these items can be sold for funds. This often ends in the complete destruction of personal finances and keeps members dependent on leadership for all their needs. If members want leave, it is nearly impossible to do so, without money or outside help. Leaving made extremely difficult: An expressed desire to leave may quickly lead to "counseling," visits by leadership, threats, punishment, and intimidation. In one case a young man was physically assaulted after he indicated he wanted to leave. Tony Delevin personally threatened one individual that contributed to this statement. Pressure is frequently applied to keep people from leaving. And if someone leaves there is often pressure not to talk about what goes on within the ACC. This may include physical threats as well as "counseling," ostracizing and other forms of pressure. There may be threats that bad things will happen to you if you leave. One example, Mr. Delevin has claimed that he and the "spirits" he serves can make bad things happen to people, such as car accidents, cancer, depression, or even death. He often tells the community about the many bad things that supposedly have happened to people that left. Mr. Develin has also claimed he can send people to "Hell."
We are aware of dozens of prophecies that Tony Delevin has made, which have not come true. Many of these were put in writing.
Perhaps the most significant prophecy was that in May of 2000 or 2001 a "change point" would occur and the world would be destroyed. Mr. Delevin said he controlled a fleet of spaceships, which he would call down to save the members of his ACC "family" before the final conflagration. After this event was over, he would then return to the world with the members of his "family," who would have multiple mates and would then re-populate the earth with their children. ACC members would then rule over all the earth, under the authority of Tony Delevin.
Another prophecy was that no member of ACC had to die. However, we are aware of at least three community members, two of them young women that have died reportedly of cancer.
Yet another prophecy was that a young woman Tony Delevin got pregnant would have twins. But she only had one child.
Another was that Mr. Delevin is the greatest musician to ever live and the whole world would come to listen to his "sacred" concerts. In one related prophecy there would supposedly not be enough people at ACC to take all the phone calls for orders of his first CD made some years ago.
After each of these prophecies failed, Mr. Delevin would always have some justification.
Tony Develin once said that the reason the world was not yet destroyed, was because of his prayers. And the reason the young woman did not give birth to twins, was at the last minute one of the children was afraid to be born into this world, because it was so terrible.
One of the foremost books about cults is Margaret Singer's Cults In Our Midst (Jossey-Bass, 2003). Dr. Singer, who died in last year, was a clinical psychologist and an emeritus adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Singer has stated, "The label cult refers to three factors":
Regarding Singer's first criteria she says, "Cult leaders are self-appointed, persuasive persons who claim to have a special mission in life or to have special knowledge."
"Cult leaders tend to be determined and domineering and are often described as charismatic."
"Cult leaders center veneration on themselves."
We believe all of these criteria apply to Tony Delevin, also known as "Gabriel of Sedona."
Regarding Singer's second criteria she states, "Cults are authoritarian in structure." "Cults appear to be innovative and exclusive." "Cults tend to have a double set of ethics."
We believe all of these criteria are likewise met by the ACC.
Regarding Singer's third criteria she says, "Cults tend to be totalistic, or all-encompassing, in controlling their members' behavior and also ideologically totalistic, exhibiting zealotry and extremism in their worldview." "Cults tend to require members to undergo a major disruption or change in life-style."
We believe all these are also characteristics of the ACC.
Concerning "the use of a coordinated program of persuasion," see Dr. Robert Jay Lifton's book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of 'Brainwashing' in China. This book is the definitive work that explains the precise process used for psychological manipulation. It is based upon Dr. Lifton's research regarding Korean-War POWs and Chinese civilians subjected to "brainwashing" programs in the early 1950s.
Dr.Lifton is a psychiatrist and past instructor at Harvard Medical School. His book details eight psychological aspects of thought reform that can be seen in an environment of systematic brainwashing.
Lifton's criteria include milieu control, the demand for purity, the cult of confession, the sacred science, loading the language, doctrine over person, and the dispensing of existence.
We believe that the Aquarian Concepts Community reflects all of Dr. Lifton's eight criteria and that it is a classic example of thought reform.
It would take a book to cite every example of thought reform at ACC.
We recommend that anyone interested in ACC read both Dr. Lifton's book and Dr. Singer's before becoming involved in any way.
Many of the features of ACC life, which we have already mentioned, seem to closely parallel the thought reform criteria cited by Dr. Lifton. This includes the control of communication, encouragement to report behavior to others, creation of new words, isolation from family, the "Chip Game" and so on.
Lifton explains that through total isolation and control of a person's environment, it is possible to control his or her mind as well, even without physical force.
We believe this is why it is potentially unsafe to even go for a short visit at ACC, because in our opinion they begin the thought reform process immediately upon a person's arrival.
ACC has gone to great lengths denying it is a cult.
After the "Heaven's Gate" tragedy ACC tried very hard to distance itself from what could be seen as rather obvious similarities between itself and that group.
ACC has used literature distributed by the Church of Scientology to refute the idea that it is a cult.
In this regard, we think Shakespeare said it best, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
Tony Delevin claims to have previously been a Catholic Priest. However, he openly teaches polygamy and reincarnation. Mr. Delevin also teaches that Jesus Christ did not create the world and is not his "father" or creator. He also claims the authority to send people to hell and says he can channel spirits. Mr. Delevin does not report to any church group or denomination.
We believe that Tony Delevin is not a Christian in any definitive traditional sense and that the ACC is correspondingly not a traditional Christian group.
ACC recruits from readers of the Urantia Book (UB) and conducts classes based upon that material.
However, ACC claims that the UB is only one-tenth of the intended revelation and that Tony Delevin is "transmitting" the remaining nine-tenths. The first volume of this supposed remaining revelation is The Cosmic Family, which has been produced. This and at least two other non-published volumes are being taught to "advanced" learners at the ACC.
But a great deal of what Mr. Delevin teaches seems to contradict the UB.
For example, he teaches reincarnation, but calls it "repersonalization." He teaches channeling, but uses other words. And he says that most of the "universes" are in rebellion. He teaches polygamy and sex outside of marriage; that there is a "hell" and that he has authority to send people to hell planets. He also taught at one time that the world was going to end in 2000 or 2001. He teaches that he is going to be and already is, the ruler of the world and that everyone must be in submission to him.
He has openly taught that the UB movement consists mostly of "fallen star-seed" and that other groups such as the Teaching Mission are allied with Caligastia (the devil).
The UB teaches that people should be patient, but Mr. Delevin teaches that he has the authority to radically changes things now.
The UB teaches that the world needs religious persons who will "depend solely on Jesus and his incomparable teachings" But Mr. Delevin teaches that everyone must depend upon and obey him.
The UB teaches that the religious genius of humanity lies with the common people who "hear Jesus gladly," but Mr. Delevin teaches that it is the so-called Star-Seed and certain "genetically superior" Urantians that are the religious geniuses and destined authorities of the world.
We believe that Tony Develin's teachings are often in conflict with the UB.
Tony Delevin's reincarnation claims
Mr. Delevin has, at various times, claimed that in previous lives he was a Jedi knight, Van (of the UB), Confucius, Lao-Tsu, Buddha, Moses, Abraham, Alexander the Great, the Apostle Peter, King Arthur, St. Francis of Assisi, Mozart, William Wallace (after the movie Braveheart came out), George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Joseph Smith Geronimo, Chief Joseph, and many, many others.
As reported in an article in the San Diego Tribune (November 11, 1997) by LaVelle and Klinko, one of the "top ranked officials" at ACC is a clinical psychologist who was formerly part of the leadership of Synanon.
Formerly known as Linda Cunningham, she now uses the name "Marayeh."
According to Dr. Margaret Singer Synanon was "the alcohol and drug rehabilitation program that evolved into a multimillion dollar cult as it moved from nominal charitable corporation into a religion."
We believe some features of Synanon are being used within ACC.
The following comment was once made by a Synanon PR man, "No one is ordered or forced to do anything against their will - Diederich may advocate it - yes, he's a great advocator. But he is very careful not to order it."
This quote could be applied easily to Tony Delevin.
Mr. Delevin appears to carefully avoid going on the record formally ordering that certain things take place, but he does seem to go to great lengths to ensure his intentions can be understood and readily obeyed. He also employs effectively a chain of command to pass orders down.
One of us was once questioned about something Mr. Delevin instructed, which was getting rid of family photographs, and when the response came back that those orders had been followed leadership responded that it was not an "order" but a "teaching,"
Nevertheless Mr. Delevin's "teachings" are obeyed.
We see this as an example of the cultic practice of "loading the language" with thought-terminating cliches.
The "Chip Game" used by ACC also seems reminiscent of Synanon tactics.
The separation of couples, reassignment to new mates and the separation of children from natural parents were also once Synanon tactics.
Marayeh does not normally have members call her for counseling as a regular psychologist does. Instead, she decides when members need counseling or apparently when Mr. Delevin tells her to do so.
Thus members often come to dread "calls from Marayeh," because this means that they have done something wrong for which they need "counseling."
It appears that Marayeh shares all of the information she gathers from counseling sessions with Tony Delevin and/or his chief consort.
It also seems that Mr. Delevin and Nancy prompt Marayeh, as to what she should be telling her "patients."
Apparently confidentiality is not an important principle for ACC counseling.
Marayeh told one person who helped to prepare this statement that she had a "soul problem" because she wanted to live with, and take care of, her daughter.
Marayeh told this woman about her own experience in Synanon and how she too had been separated from her child while there. Marayeh explained that this was difficult at first, but she came to realize the wisdom of collective child rearing.
Marayeh said this was the way that children were raised on "higher worlds" and the woman she was "counseling" had a problem with the "higher way," even when she lived on other planets long ago.
This type of "counseling" can be seen as a deliberate process to separate parent and child. Within this framework the normal way of raising children is relegated to a lower status and anyone who has normal paternal feelings may be labeled negatively.
Marayeh also told how she was split from her husband at Synanon and assigned to another mate. She said that this often happened to married couples there. Again, she appeared to use her experiences at Synanon as a model for ACC.
One might conclude that Marayeh has refined the techniques she learned at Synanon and is now using them at ACC.
We might also might surmise that thought reform, apparently used in Synanon on Marayeh, may have distorted her personality and way of thinking.
If you would like to communicate with former ACC members and/or others in an effort to sort through your experience, please feel free to share through the Open Forum provided through this website.
We will be watching for posts and will help in whatever way we can.