Lake County -- Worship in the Johannine Daist Communion is centered around its prophet, Franklin Jones, also called Da Free Jones.
The church faces a $5 million lawsuit from a Marin County woman who said Jones and the group's members were responsible for brainwashing and assaulting her.
Each day, group members must recite certain "prayers" said former member Mark Miller. The prayers include "Da is the Living Truth. Da is the Way of Salvation. Da is the eternal Master of Man.
"Surrender the heart to Me, and to no other. I am Da, the Divine Person, the Eternal Master, the Radiant One, Who Pervades the Machine of Nature as the Blissful Current of Life Energy, and Who Transcends all experience as Infinite Consciousness, the True Self."
In the "Spiritual, Religious, and Institutional Principles of the Free Communion Church," the initiate is told "the primary approach to all practice, including meditation, is simply to surrender to the Form and Presence and Person of the Spiritual Master."
In cult literature, Jones is seen striking followers, and floating down on sleeping women. "The true Guru must torture, cajole, love, trick, and tease you into realizing this relationship to him as consciousness," he is quoted as saying.
Miller said Jones calls his followers ego-bound, and self-absorbed. The religion calls for followers to subordinate themselves to Jones, to surrender their lives to him.
Explaining the acts described in the O'Mahony suit, Miller said, "He says he gets you to transcend yourself by offending you utterly."
Only once did Miller see someone even appear to defy Jones. At a meeting in the group's Clearlake center, a man stood up and asked Jones why he appeared to be so arrogant. "I only do this as an act," Miller quoted Jones as saying. "It could be much worse."
In a January 1984 issue of Crazy Wisdom magazine, published by the cult, Jones said, "I never stop Teaching. No matter what I may appear to be doing, I am always Teaching."
The religion has a school, called the Garden of Lions, in upstate New York. In one JDC magazine, a 13-year-old child describes how his class adorned and venerated a bowling ball.
"I always felt a love-connection towards the ball and served it remembering that the Master would touch it someday and give it his attention."
The complex writings and teaching of the sect appeal to intellectuals, said Miller, himself a science student at the University of California at Berkeley. The intellectuals enjoy the complexity of the religion and its mythology, Miller said.
The membership includes many doctors and attorneys, Miller said.