Why I joined a new religious movement (1981-1984)

picking fruit 1983

A search for authenticity

The search for a new religious movement was more about searching for an authentic experience. A means of revitalisation the spirit. I had deferred my diploma in horticulture for participating in the production of organic produce in 1983. There was a growing unease within a small cohort of students that farming practices needed a radical over-haul. That entailed reduction in the means of production through pesticides and fertilisers as well as machines. I found activism interesting as a mode of individualism in a libertarian arts sense, and so I signed up the Australian WOOFER association and hit the open road.

Social saturation encounters

Having left Far North Queensland for a life around Brisbane I was immediately immersed in the plethora of sub-cultures on offer, from Punks to hippy and subdued Goth, to name but a few. This no doubt had a dizzying impact. So for a moment, I no longer had a firm sense of being a small town rural country ethnic identity with a name Italo, but floated free for a time, in the rapidly transforming society of Brisbane. The city was afresh with libertarian ideals from the sleepy decades of the Joe BJELKE-PETERSEN era. So I too updated my name as a sign of the times. No longer ‘Italo’ (why ) but took a slight poetic licence to my middle name of Nicola. This conversion happened after I formally stopped playing ruby at the age of 19, sparked by a football incident, where I was placed in a neck brace due to receiving a fracture on my upper spinal, neck region.

An introduction to meditation.

I had acquired from another student books on the numinous and esoteric. These were eagerly devoured in a dormitory room with neck brace and tea. It so happened I noticed an oriental student in the opposite dormitory pacing from one corner to the other. Eventually, I drew the courage to have a chat, I knocked on his door. Graciously I was given an introduction to Buddhism of the Theravada tradition along with a slim book (A taste of freedom) and a meditation practice. I found the theory of examination- given my being in a neck brace for month on end- of impermanence fascinating and for years followed this guide as a way to refocus my mind. Also the readings and encounters gave me a sense of what was to be associations with new religious movements.

Rapid social change and the new age.

The rapid social change encountered was correlated to leaving the wet tropics of Australia. This was initially in the dry tropics of Australia, though we moved to the tropical northern rain forest near a the small township was like a tropical fruit Arcadia (wiki) for me. The orchard planted by father (Orchardist), and mother who taught at Tully primary school (1970- 2010). Suddenly this uncomplicated country identity, advocating tropical fruit trees, had to engage with sub cultures, formal lectures, philosophy, Eastern meditation techniques, injury trauma, alienation to rugby, average grades, lack of connection with academic mentors. It was whilst in the Gold Coast after dropping out of college and cycling south that I noticed a sign along the highway at Broad beach.

A course in Raja Yoga

I entered the centre and immediately felt it had a special sense of an authentic experience of simplicity harking back to my lost Arcadia. It might have been the whole white scene and a friendly face around my age of 20. Possibly the coarse too, that was enunciated in clarity and with lots of laughter. I took to the theory as if it were some profound revelation to rock the world. By the time we came to the section of the cosmic cycle I was riveted at the possibility of a golden age. My meditation had a vision of such a place and it convinced me of its plausibility. It was distinct from my Buddhist phase as it involved a group. The cosmology involved elements I found appealing to my imagination. The garden of fruit, eternal youth, happiness, but most of all, the complete unified sense of personal identity through time of at least two ages. Eventually I became a participant member of the Brahma Kumaris, (wiki) a believer akin to the typical new religious movement aspirant and started my career as life of a raja yogi