Australian Federal Police, acting on an international alert, have begun interviewing former members of the sect, Sukyo Mahikari, who have spoken out against it. Sukyo Mahikari has, behind a facade of benign spiritual enlightenment, a doctrine based on world domination and veneration of the Emperor of Japan. It is also profoundly anti-Semitic, drawing part of its teaching from the discredited and fraudulent Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.
Sukyo Mahikari (Japanese for True Light Supra-Religious Organisation) enjoys charity-religious status in Australia, courtesy of the Australian Taxation Office, as a non-profit organisation and is therefore exempt from income tax.
Many people who have left the Mahikari sect have complained about the constant pressure to make donations, all of which are remitted back to Japan where a lavish world headquarters has been built.
According to former members, some of whom held high office in the organisation, untaxed funds running into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars have been converted into yen and sent back to Japan.
Total Australian membership, now thought to be around 2000, is falling, largely because of an exodus of members uneasy over links with the Aum Supreme Truth sect. Both share a worldview based on the Protocols; both believe the end of the world is at hand. Sukyo Mahikari Australia Limited is registered as a non-profit company whose principal activity according to the articles of association is "conducting and maintenance of religious worship."
The sect is asset rich, a fact not known to many of its members, overwhelmingly middle-class professionals. According to records, it owns several thousand hectares of property in NSW, including a rural property near Canberra.
A high-profile member of Sukyo Mahikari is Jo Court, the wife of the WA Premier, Richard Court. Sect members in Perth say he has accompanied his wife to many gatherings at the centre in Second Avenue, Mount Lawley.
An inquiry to Mr Court's office confirmed Mrs Court's membership. The Premier said: "My wife is a strong practising Christian. I respect her beliefs."
New members are introduced to the sect's philosophy slowly. For example, they are not told that Sukyo Mahikari is based on the concept of the Japanese emperor being the divine supreme ruler of the world. Nor are they told of the belief in Japan's imperial right to reclaim world sovereignty based on the notion that the world belonged to Japan in ancient times. Nor that Australia was named after a Japanese god, or that the Japanese people are the chosen people of God.
Not only does the sect adopt most of the discredited Protocols, alleging a Zionist conspiracy for world domination, it also teaches that the Jewish Star of David actually belongs not to the Jews but to Sukyo Mahikari, and that the Jews deserved the Holocaust because they betrayed God by letting Solomon's temple be destroyed.
There is a chilling link with the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway by the Aum Supreme Truth sect contained in the advanced members seminar texts for Sukyo Mahikari, obtained by The Review. A chapter drawing on the writings of one Kido Honda, extracted from his book The Future Course of Japan, makes reference to an "awesome plan which will terrify the bravest hero: it is the subway. Before long the capital of every country in the world will have a subway, and we will be able to destroy all the government institutions and the important papers of these governments at the same time." This is also a virtually word-for-word repetition of Protocol No. 9, of the Protocols of Zion.Sukyo Mahikari has long planned a national headquarters in Canberra and last December documents were signed with the ACT Government for the lease of one hectare of prime community-use land for, as the documents say, "a place of worship, religious association and community activities." The sect has five years in which to build on the site.
The cost of the lease is $81,000, which represents a substantial public subsidy. ACT Government officials say they have made no assessment of Sukyo Mahikari, relying on the status conferred on it by the Taxation Office.
A major thorn in the side of the sect has been the defection of its former number two in Australia, Garry Greenwood.
Greenwood, who now lives in northern NSW, has published a damning critique of Sukyo Mahikari on the internet, entitled All The Emperor's Men, in which he alleges financial irregularities and the systematic brainwashing of members.
"The Mahikari organisations (there are several) hold the Jews totally responsible for man's downfall," writes Greenwood.
"In their opinion, it was the Jews who led mankind away from God, only to become obsessed with materialism. In order to appease God, Mahikari came into existence to construct God's temple in Japan. Hitler was justified in exterminating six million Jews, since this was God's purification, or judgement, according to Yoshikazu Okada" (the former Japanese military officer, present at the rape of Nanking, who founded the sect). The head of the sect's Oceania headquarters in Canberra, Latvian-born Andris Tebecis, strongly denies the organisation, saying many Jews are members, including a rabbi in Melbourne. However, in Tebecis's own book on Mahikari (Mahikari: Thank God for the Answers at Last, 1982) he wrote: "It is clear from the Bible that the Jewish race would only prosper if they strictly kept the promise they had made with God. Obviously, the promise has been broken. It is no wonder, then, that the Jewish race is still being persecuted."
In Belgium, a parliamentary commission is investigating the sect's activities, especially after it was found to have infiltrated the police force; similar investigations are also under way in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In Singapore, the government is reviewing the sect's status under the Charities Act which requires that 80 per cent of all collections, after expenses, to be spent on charitable activity in Singapore. Former members say not one cent is spent locally.
The World Of Sukyo Mahikari
What is known today as Sukyo Mahikari was established as recently as June, 1978, but its acknowledged founder is a high-ranking Japanese army officer, Yoshikazu Okada, who took part in one of the most brutal events of the century, the rape of Nanking in 1937.
A fervent believer in the divinity of the Japanese emperor, which he never denied, he became after the Japanese defeat in World War II a minister in a Shinto-based religion called Sekai Kusei kyo (SKK) but was asked to leave after ten years because of his growing interest in the occult, notably exorcism and magic.
He then founded a new religion which he called Sekai Mahikari Kyusei kyo (SMBK), promoting "divine revelations" essentially the same as SKK, and the practice of radiating light from hands as a healing force.
His adopted daughter, who took the name of Oshienushisama, became his chief devotee, and when Okada died in 1974 a bitter court case was fought over who should succeed him, with Oshienushisama losing and breaking away to found Sukyo Mahikari. All property of the sect is in her name making her one of the richest people in Japan where she has built lavish memorials, shrines and a 45-metre tall pyramid, most of which are closed to members.
An American academic, Winston Davis, who in a 1980 book entitled Dojo, made a comprehensive study of the sect and its practices of magic, described Mahikari thus: "as a religion ... virtually slow magic, and ... as magic it is fast religion."
It has spread all over the globe, with its Australian regional headquarters based in Canberra looking after a mini-empire stretching as far as South Africa.
The head of Sukyo Mahikari here, variously described as spiritual director, president and chairman, is Latvian-born Andris Tebecis, a highly-qualified scientist who was once at the John Curtin School of Medical Research where he carried out micro-electrode research on the cat brain and studied altered states of human consciousness in the Psychology Department at ANU.
It was while he was in Japan in 1975 as a visiting professor that he came across Mahikari.
Dr Tebecis, with his Japanese wife Yasumi, and a Luxembourg-based Japanese man, are the listed directors of Sukyo Mahikari Australia Limited, a company incorporated in the ACT, and set up as a trustee of four trusts - Sukyo Mahikari School Building Fund, Sukyo Mahikari Australia Fund, Sukyo Mahikari South Africa Trust and Sukyo Mahikari School Operation Fund.
According to the latest detailed returns lodged with the Australian Securities Commission, Sukyo Mahikari Japan is "the ultimate controlling entity of trust funds" and in 1995 $90,242 was remitted to Japan, and $196,832 in 1994. In 1995, $105,922 was paid to the directors, one of whom received an amount exceeding $100,000.