[tmtalk] Tony Sedona Baloney and Macaroni via Urantia Foundation
jimcleveland at tds.net
Tue Aug 22 07:51:36 PDT 2006
Gabriel of Sedona and the Aquarian Concepts Community on NBC Dateline
Last Updated 07/19/99
Gabriel of Sedona and Dateline NBC
On February 24, 1998 Dateline NBC - a one hour news program broadcast several times a week on the NBC network - devoted the entire hour to an expose on the attraction of small religious groups in America in a program called True Believers. The story focused on The Aquarian Concepts Community and its self-appointed leader Tony Delevin - the man who calls himself Gabriel of Sedona.
Overall, the program was very well done - avoiding the tabloid-ism that sometimes afflicts Dateline shows. Dateline did not go as far as it could have in exposing what Tony is all about but it was a well-rounded piece, which gave ample evidence of the dangers posed by some of these obscure groups. You really need to watch the show more than once, or better yet get a transcript to really appreciate all the nuances Dateline explored. If you don't have either a tape or transcript handy, read below and I will try to give you some idea of what the show was all about.
Of course Tony (I try to avoid calling him Gabriel these days) would not agree with my assessment of Dateline. He thought it was a hatched job. Tony's reaction to Dateline was really something to experience. Let's face it, Tony looked like a complete idiot and a fraud on Dateline, and he knows it. As much as Tony would like to blame the Dateline producers for this, he has no one to blame but himself. The truth was obvious for any rational and free-thinking individual to see. In the year and a half since the broadcast Tony has been coming up with one rebuttal after another. It never seems to end. He has been completely obsessed, almost consumed by this one hour of television ever since.
Why did Dateline do this story? Dateline started off by asking the question: "Would you give up your job, your money, even your family? Would you walk away from it all for spiritual enlightenment?" An honest question. Most people would say no, yet hundreds if not thousands of people do this every year. Many don't even realize what they are giving up until it is too late. Do the leaders of these groups pray on insecure, unhappy people or gullible spiritual seekers? Dateline wanted to find out what makes people give up so much, and what exactly are they getting for their sacrifice. Why do Tony's followers let him control so much of their lives? They also wanted to find out if these were simply religious people, or have they surrendered their free will to a con man? Are they just a peaceful bunch of folks with unusual beliefs? Or could they hurt themselves or others like what has happened with other groups like the Branch Davidian's or Heaven's Gate where overwhelming control by a single leader caused disaster? The references to the Davidian's and Heaven's Gate are certainly relevant as both of those groups, like the Aquarian Concepts Community have made bold predictions of impending doom and have similar leadership and control structures.
To tell its story Dateline conducted an interview with Tony (Gabriel) and his common-law wife Niann as well as former Aquarian Concepts members Mark and Regina Sprague and cult expert Dr. Louis Joylen (Jolly) West. Additionally two Dateline employee's - Jeff and Sarah - went to several seminars and spent a fair amount of time in the community undercover with hidden cameras. They never became full-fledged members and at no time does Dateline say they did. The undercover footage is important because as Dateline pointed out, it lets you see aspects of the community open cameras would never be allowed to see. When Dateline was invited into the community to shoot the interviews, the Aquarian's prepared for days to make sure everything was rehearsed and perfect. What they wanted to show was not what the community was really like, but what they wanted people to think it was like. Gabriel as much as admits the need for independent undercover investigation when he says on camera 'Why would I give you information that you're going to use to make me look dirty and ugly and black and all that stuff?'. The answer is obviously that Gabriel would not do that. He will make all efforts to hide any information that makes himself look bad. But since this information does in fact exist, and since an otherwise unsuspecting public has a right to hear about this information - as much as Gabriel would like to suppress it - Dateline did what it had to do.
The use of the word Cult
Dateline was careful to point out the controversy over the use of the term "cult" and how some view it as a derogatory term used to promote religious persecution. But they also pointed out the view expressed by most cult experts who say Don't look at the beliefs no matter how far out. Look instead at behavior." Look at how power is concentrated, how it is used and if it is abused, used to control people instead of enlighten them. That is why I prefer to use the term Destructive Cult so that there is no confusion about what I am talking about. It is the behavior of the Aquarian Concepts Community that Dateline chose to explore, as well they should since the intricacies of cult recruitment and its destructive effects are relatively unknown to the general public.
Who is Gabriel of Sedona
Dateline delved into a little bit of Tony's history and how he went from being a street preacher to the Next Planetary Prince of Urantia. Dateline recounts from Tony's own autobiography how he began to hear voices after two traumatic divorces and the death of his daughter (usually this is an indication of psychosis). Following his rejection by the music business the voices in Tony's head became stronger, telling him what a wonderful person he was and about all the glorious past lives he has had (George Washington, St Peter, King Arthur, St Francis of Assissi, Alexander the Great, Martin Luther and so on... the list keeps growing).
What Dateline is describing here is the making of a psychopath. Think about it, Gabriel has had a tough life full of rejection and tragedy. Then suddenly in the midst of this funk he starts hearing voices in his head that tell him how perfect and wonderful he is. With nothing else going for him Gabriel starts to believe these voices. Most people would see a shrink and get checked out if this sort of thing started to happen, but not Gabriel.
Dr Louis West was a man who had been researching Destructive Cults for 50 years. He was one of the very first people to speak out about what $cientology was doing and had perhaps more experience in this field than anyone else. He told Dateline that based on his experience, in his professional opinion Gabriel 'is as phony as a $3 bill, and you can tell it right away...I know a sly con-artist when I see one.' Of course Tony (aka Gabriel) is no ordinary con-man because at least at some level he actually believes at least some of his claims. This is what makes it possible for him to be so convincing to some people.
Mind Control and how it is used by Gabriel of Sedona
While not going in to excruciating detail, Dateline did point out some of the basic tools which experts claim cults use to recruit and control their followers. They used the Aquarian Concepts Community as an example of these controls in action.
Dateline examined some of the control mechanisms Tony uses. Tony controls every aspect of his followers lives; where they live, who they live with, marriages, custody of children, travel, work, education, sex - Tony controls it all. How does he do it?
On camera Tony warned that if people did not pay attention to him they could "die of diseases. We have terrible plagues happening today, terrible viruses that are caused by the negative thoughts of people." Dateline also explained how Tony believes that sometime between May 5, 2000 and May 5, 2001 much of humanity could be destroyed, with only those faithful to Tony guaranteed safety by evacuation in alien spacecraft. This is another element of control. Follow Tony or die! Leave Tony and die! God will take revenge on you if you do not do what Tony says.
Tony gives his follower's new names, new histories, and new identities to help them distance themselves from the outside world. These new identities as Dateline points out ...tend to break the natural bonds of affection between family members so they can create a larger cult family. Since Dateline aired the Aquarian Concepts Community has only become more withdrawn from family and the outside world as Gabriel's paranoia has increased.
For his part Tony claimed on camera that the control he has over his followers is one of "love, respect and honor." Funny, I have never heard of those words being associated with CONTROL. If Tony had real love, respect and honor for his followers, he would not do anything to control them. Control is a product of the lust for power mixed with greed, ego, paranoia and fear. It is not a product of love, respect and honor. It never has been and never will be. There is nothing evolved or noble about control. Control is used to keep people down, not lift them up. Control is intended to impose, not enlighten. Control is inevitably destructive, not constructive.
Tony maintains this control of "love, respect and honor" by publicly embarrassing his followers, letting them think that because he is mad at them, God is mad at them. Since nobody wants God to be mad at them, they sit there and take it, not saying anything and letting Tony have his way - browbeating them into submission.
Control extends further as Dateline points out. All mail is centrally controlled, all children are home-schooled in the community, travel is severely restricted outside a "5 mile protected radius" from the community, and only a few people are allowed into town to shop. Personal relationships, marriages, children and sex are all up to Tony's whims. Tony breaks up families, he tells members to leave their spouses and give up their children because they are in what he calls "inappropriate relationships." Regina Sprague recounted her experiences and her fear when this happened to her. Dateline failed to point out that often members are told this is a rare occurrence in the ACC. This is what they told my family, when in fact this happens to all couples and all families who join. When Niann says 'When people come here, we don't tell them who to be with and who not to be with.' that is an absolute lie. The Sprague's exposed that as a lie and I know plenty of others who will do the same if you still don't believe it.
As Dateline report John Larson pointed out, Tony's giving out marital advice based on his own 'clairvoyance' seemed rather odd as Tony himself had been through several bad marriages and relationships. It also seems odd to me because of Tony's pathetic demonstration of his clairvoyant skills, which we will get to a little later.
Travel restrictions are another way for Gabriel to control his followers. While Gabriel claimed on Dateline that his followers were free to leave at any time, this is absolutely not the case. I don't know of any ACC member who has ever left the community without permission that did not get some form of retribution in response. Gabriel even said on tape that people who went without his permission ...got in accidents. One broke a leg. One broke an arm.' The threat here is obvious. He is basically telling his followers that if they leave without his permission they will get hurt. Gabriel even thought it was funny, he laughed. Obviously Dateline used his own words to prove Gabriel's claims of free travel are quite false.
Even if they could travel, where would they go? Gabriel has taken all of their money and in most cases caused his followers to severely restrain relationships with friends and family.
Gabriel also teaches his followers that if they do not obey him, God will be mad at them. Dateline showed how this starts early on. Dateline showed undercover footage of a Mandate ceremony where a woman is accepted as a full fledged member of the community. The inductee is required to take a vow that seems very much like a threat not to break away from the group for fear of evoking God's anger. 'The actions that Celestial Overcontrol will have to take upon you will be more critical and harsh.' Now nobody wants to piss off God, so they do what Gabriel tells them to do.
The effects of these control techniques can be devastating, leading to great anguish and in extreme cases mental breakdowns or suicide. Regina Sprague made that quite clear when she said; 'I'm losing myself. I don't know who I am anymore. They changed my name, I didn't hear from my family in a long time. They told me I couldn't visit my family. I was scared. I was scared to death.' Regina further went on to describe an incident in which she was publicly humiliated by Gabriel of Sedona in front of the entire community. Apparently for whatever reason, Gabriel was far more interested in Mark Sprague than he was in Regina and took every opportunity to put her down. During one transmission after Gabriel had broken them up as a couple Regina asked if she and her husband would be getting back together ever again. As shown on Dateline, Gabriel - while channeling one of his celestial personalities - told her in response 'You're never - you've never been grateful for anything. Here you have a great husband and you don't appreciate him. And you are the one who ruined your marriage." I guess this is an example of the highly evolved Morontia counseling available in Aquarian Concepts. I call it humiliation and brow-beating.
The real danger of these control techniques is that Gabriel has such complete power over everyone that he could literally get them to do almost anything by telling them that God wants them to do it. We have seen the kind of damage this can do in situations like Heaven's Gate, Jonestown and Waco. Regina Sprague spoke of this kind of danger when she said 'I think he's creating his own doomsday. The more people believe in him, the more power he gets, and the more greedy he gets, and the more greedy he is going to get. And he's thinking of himself as a God and a God can do anything.' This is a genuine fear from someone who has been there folks, not some academic sitting in his air-conditioned office.
Dateline points out the different sophisticated marketing techniques and mechanism's groups like the Aquarian Concepts Community use to attract new recruits. Web pages, video's, CD's, front businesses, and so on. People attracted through these means often have little idea what they are getting into until it is too late. It is a common tactic among groups using mind control techniques.
The attraction of the message, the promises made to recruit people were also detailed by Dateline and are also quite common to many groups - certainly not unique to the ACC. How Tony makes them all feel like they are part of one extended "cosmic family". They say 'Come here, you'll be healed. Come here, you'll find true love. Come here you'll find your perfect career. You'll find your true Cosmic Family, your (real) brothers and sisters. If you don't have a great family life, this is your real family.'
Like many other destructive cults, Tony and the Aquarian Concepts Community are very warm and friendly to potential new recruits. They are rarely left alone. As Dateline producer Jeff pointed out There are a lot of hugs and kisses and a lot of 'I love you's' and a lot of 'You really belong here, this is God's mission for you.' They do everything they can to make you feel important, perhaps more so than you have ever felt before. In essence, even though Tony claims they do not recruit people, an intense effort it made to persuade people to join. And as the late Dr Louis West points out 'They're being so wonderful to you, the least you can do is hang around - as they are urging you to do.'
Intensive seminars where the potential recruit is given little time to rest or reflect and is virtually never alone are also an important recruiting tool of many cults. The Aquarian Concepts is no different as was shown on the Dateline undercover footage. We are shown a group therapy session that is really a bonding session which encourages people to open up in a group setting (with group pressures to participate). This is designed to make you feel close to each other and to the people in the community, further creating the illusion that these people are like "family." The more you open up as a new recruit, the more you are inclined to trust those you open up to.
Much as fear is used to control members after they join, it can also be a strong recruitment tool. Mark Sprague was told his home in Houston would be underwater soon from the Earth Changes and that he needed to get to Sedona as soon as possible. That would have been something like 6 years ago or more now and Houston is still high and dry. But the fear and urgency Tony attaches to such predictions really scares people. They believe they are only safe if they join him.
Dissension is not tolerated in the Aquarian Concepts Community. Everybody must agree 100% with Tony or they are not welcome. Dateline producer Jeff found this out when he was told he would not be invited to the "Transmission" because he was told he had problems with authority and it was felt Jeff did not have enough respect for Gabriel. Only when Jeff kissed some ass and said he thought Gabriel was a nice person and he had no problem with the power structure was he told it was OK for him to attend. Not surprisingly when Jeff is later given a "Personal Transmission" it says he is a spritual beginner who needs to change his attitude. From this incident we can see that the most important factor in being allowed to participate in Aquarian Concepts is not a desire to serve God but rather a willingness to submit to Gabriel. This is not exactly the most noble of motives.
Gabriel of Sedona's Music
Dateline did not pay a huge amount of attention to Gabriel's music. This may be due to the fact that the promotion of Gabriel's music had not at that time become the driving force of the community that it is today (or maybe they just thought it really sucked). Dateline did however include in its undercover footage a snippet of Gabriel's "transmission" from The Bright and Morning Star in which the BMS goes out of his way to praise Gabriel's music.
Gabriel's Cosmic-Pop is Cosmo-Pop because it is universally popular.
How conveniently self-serving for Gabriel that Celestial Overcontrol should go out of its way to validate Gabriel's own personal musical ambitions. BMS then goes on to sing one of Gabriel's songs in a voice even more squeaky and high pitched than Gabriel's normal tone. Yikes!
Another interesting aspect of the transmission is the chanting of the word "stabilization" which according to Dateline went on for some 20 minutes (how could anyone stay awake through that?). I say this is interesting because many cult experts have cited repetitive chanting as a tool sometimes used in mind control. Niann had previously in her "Treatise on the Word Cult" denied that any organized chanting was done in Aquarian Concepts.
Sex, Lies and Videotape
As Dateline points out, in his book 'The Divine New Order', Gabriel says polygamy - having multiple husbands or wives - is common on other planets and is good for higher souls (this is in direct contradiction with the Urantia Book upon which much of the ACC theology is based by the way). Before the Dateline interview, Gabriel had always maintained publicly (such as in his interview with the San Diego Union Tribune)that polygamy was not practiced on Earth in the ACC. This as Dateline found out was a lie.
Tony is not unique among cult leaders in having a keen interest in sex. He is also not unique in trying to hide that fact from the public. While he freely admits to having multiple sex partners now, that came about only because of his public exposure on Dateline.
During the interview with Gabriel Dateline reporter John Larson asked Gabriel 'Are people here having multiple sex partners?' To which Gabriel replied 'No because they are not ready...'. Yet Gabriel who has a common-law wife (his "compliment in ACC speak) Niann with whom he has three kids, also has a girlfriend among his followers named Tiende with whom he has also fathered a child. One of only a very few children ever born into the community. Also from the interview, it appears he has at least one more girlfriend from among his followers who is not named.
It was only because of Dateline's undercover investigation that they were able to unearth this lie. This is something Gabriel definitely did not want the world to know about. In his book Gabriel claimed this was not going on. Just a few months earlier he had told the San Diego Union Tribune he did not have multiple sex partners and if Dateline had not gone undercover, he would have passed the same lie off again. Here is how it went down.
John Larson: You don't have more than one compliment?
Gabriel of Sedona: I have two spiritual compliments here in this community right now.
Larson: But these are spiritual compliments?
Gabriel: We are not in - we are not - we are not in a sexual relationship, but they are spiritual compliments.
Larson: Hmm, have any children with these other compliments?
Gabriel: Past lives?
Larson: No. Currently. Here.
Gabriel: Yes I have children with one of these compliments.
Larson: I thought you said it wasn't sexual?
Gabriel: It was sexual. Yes, it's a - I have a very beautiful, lovely little daughter. Her name is Eleanora Desmore.
See how evasive Gabriel and Niann were both being? They both started out claiming Gabriel had only spiritual compliments other than Niann among his followers, when if fact Gabriel had been engaging in sexual relations to the point where he had even fathered a child. But it gets better. Next Niann throws a curve ball Gabriel wasn't expecting.
Larson: Niann, is this alright?
Niann: Yes. When I first met Gabriel and we began learning this, I wasn't ready then. I didn't want to hear about that.
Larson: Why is it always the guys who are spiritually advanced to the point where they can have multiple partners and it's rarely the women?
Niann: I could
Gabriel: I did say, you know, a woman could have several husbands.
Niann: It's just that there's no one I am interested in.
Ed note: Why is it that Gabriel and Niann can chose "who they are interested in" while everyone else is assigned a partner based on the whims of Celestial Overcontrol? Larson: And if she does, Gabriel it's all right? Gabriel: No, it's not OK with me. Many men...
Ed note: Here we see how highly evolved Gabriel really is. It's OK for him to knock around with whomever he pleases but Niann must stay in her place.
Here is where the real fun begins.
Larson: This is what confuses me. I ask you about your compliments here and you tell me something that's not true. I ask you about your compliments - sexually - you tell me something that is not true.
Gabriel rapidly changes the subject
Gabriel: I have clairvoyance. I knew fully well where you were headed before I even sat down in this chair.
Then why did you even agree to the interview you moron? And why did you try to pass off so many lies if you knew where this was headed?...Ed
Larson: Clairvoyance? You know this is coming?
Larson: We've had a few Dateline employee's come join your community.
Gabriel: (Shocked, like he knows he's in deep shit now) Dateline employee's?
Larson: Employees. Employees of Dateline. Do you know who they are?
Gabriel: Umm Hmm.
Niann: Would you like to name them?
Gabriel: Yeah, I'm curious to know.
I bet you are! Can't you just conjure up the names using your clairvoyance Gabriel?
Larson: Well, you're the clairvoyant.
Did that hole just get deeper?
Gabriel: John, uh, uh, a fellow from Florida?
Oooh, close but no cigar. But I know why you guessed that particular person Gabriel and I know it had nothing to do with clairvoyance.
Oh my that was fun wasn't it kids. Let that be a lesson on how to catch a con man in the act. Next.
Gabriel's attitudes on multiple sex partners kind of remind me of the Mormon's who still practice polygamy. Almost always it is middle aged men (40's or older) who are trying to hook up with younger women. Hmmmm, a little mid-life crisis perhaps. Dude, just buy a Corvette like normal people.
As pointed out on Dateline and in his autobiography, Tony claims that the sperm injection from a well-balanced male can heal a female. This I think is Tony's way of getting into a woman's pants. If he managed to recruit some hotty he can tell her 'I want to get you into bed but it's only because it's good for you.' Tony is after all, the most spiritually balanced male on the planet. Therefore it stands to reason his sperm is of the highest quality. And if Gabriel gets to have a little fun in the process then hey, what's the harm, right?
It also seems Gabriel may have wanted to inject a little of that magical sperm in the attractive young Dateline employee Sarah. It is not exactly shocking to hear that she was told in her personal transmission that Sarah was told she should break off from Jeff. Nor is it at all surprising that Sarah was told she'd had an interesting sex life in her past lives, including having been involved with husbands who had more than one wife. Also not surprisingly Sarah was told she had given Gabriel all of her parent's money in a past life. This led to an interesting exchange between John Larson and Gabriel.
John Larson: The gist of what you are saying to her here is 'You knew me is a past life. You liked me a lot. You gave me a lot of money. You had a lot of (sex) partners in one of your lives. You're comfortable with pluralistic marriages...and you need to come here.
Gabriel: Well, it'd be good if she still did.
Larson: I mean, word of God or cosmic come-on?
We see a pattern developing, a really self-serving pattern developing here; Money, Sex and Power. Jeff is regarded by Gabriel as someone who is a skeptic and who does not show Gabriel sufficient respect. He is a potential troublemaker. Jeff also stands between any chance of Gabriel hitting the rack with Sarah. In his personal transmission Jeff is told he is a young soul who needs to leave Sarah and get an attitude adjustment. Sarah on the other hand is quite attractive and quite open and accepting of Gabriel. Not surprisingly she is given a very flattering personal transmission where she is told she is an old soul, has known Gabriel before and been very generous to him financially and she has a history of going for guys who have other sex partners (like Gabriel for instance). This is simply too convenient to be a coincidence.
Another thing that calls the Personal Transmissions into question but is not mentioned by Dateline is that Gabriel claims Paladin and the other Celestial's he channels can not tell a lie. In Jeff and Sarah's personal transmissions the Celestials identified them as a couple. This is how they had presented themselves to the community. To the best of my knowledge Jeff and Sarah were not a couple, just co-workers. If this is the case, then it proves Gabriel is a fraud and is making the transmissions up because he did not catch this falsehood. Even if Jeff and Sarah were in fact a couple, the fact that the Celestials did not identify them as undercover reporters for NBC Dateline calls into question just how intuitive these supposed beings are.
John Larson asked Gabriel if he was dangerous to his followers, to which Gabriel responded that he was not, that it was not like they were sitting around waiting for some spaceship to come and rescue them. But in Gabriel's autobiography Gabriel does write about aliens who are waiting to save all of his followers in spaceships when the Earth Changes really come into full stride. Gabriel even goes so far as to tell his followers if they leave the "5 mile protected radius" that they may lose the protection of the spaceships. Why did Gabriel not give an honest answer to Larson's question?
We have already discussed how Gabriel lied to Dateline about members being free to travel. There is a "protected five mile radius" from which they are not allowed to exit without permission. That permission is very difficult to obtain (sometimes it takes months) and even if granted, members can not go far because they have no money.
Money and Power
Dateline gives us a hint at the extent to which money is a driving factor in the Aquarian Concepts Community. It is even worse now than when the story was originally shot. Mention is made of the rather large recommended donations for everything. What is implied but not specifically mentioned is that if you don't make the "recommended donation" you don't get that service. Therefore these are not recommended donations at all but rather required fees. To my mind this is not a subtle distinction and is very misleading.
Mention is also made by Dateline of how quickly Gabriel takes an interest in prospective recruit's finances. At the end of the seminar Dateline employee's Jeff and Sarah were given a questionnaire to fill out. This required them to list all financial assets and to turn over those assets to the group when they join (it is illegal for Gabriel to force members to turn over assets within the first six months by the way).
Gabriel is always looking for ways to bring in new funding, and if he's as clairvoyant as he would like us to believe he is, I know where he can get $1,000,000.00 easy. I'll set the whole thing up and I wont even ask for a percentage. Magician and paranormal researcher James Randi has $1,000,000.00 sitting in a bank and he's just waiting to give it to anyone who can prove supernatural powers, such as clairvoyance. What do you say Gabriel? One million American dollars just sitting there waiting for you to prove your amazing abilities. Are you up to a public demonstration of your amazing powers?
Somehow I suspect, no matter how desperate for cash Gabriel becomes, he won't be taking me up on this offer.
What Dateline Got Wrong
Dateline was wrong about a few things. Tony is not low-key or quiet and the group does not keep to itself. Tony often interrupts town meetings and constantly harasses the local newspaper with articles and letters to the editor.
Dateline did not go far enough with the money issue. It is true that Tony requires members to turn over all assets, which Tony claims is necessary to allow them to get closer to Jesus. What Dateline did not describe, and which may not have been apparent to them at the time, was Tony's absolute obsession with money and how to acquire more of it. It is not true at all that the community members have all their material needs met in exchange for all of their money. Food is scarce, there is no money to buy anything such as adequate clothing or even diapers for the children. Members often beg family to send these items. Housing as we will see in a moment, is also far from adequate. Meanwhile Tony goes about building his music studio and buying up more land.
Many community members do live in communal housing as shown by Dateline, but it is usually far more than 'several to a standard tract home'. The reality is that up to 17 may live in one house with many sleeping on the floor. Others less fortunate might live in unheated garages or tool sheds with no running water. Still others - those lowest on the pecking order - live in cars, or Yurts (a mud hut) that is considered by members to be the worst possible way to live.
Tony also claims the incident in the Sunday service where Tony allegedly confronts an ACC member who questioned him was largely fabricated by Dateline and taken out of context. I have no proof one way or the other if this is true. I frankly don't trust Tony's account. He has been known to alter transcripts before and I so no reason why he would not do so again. I am also suspect of Tony's account because Dateline did play him the tape of that incident during his interview and he did not have a similar rebuttal at that time.
It is not true that Tony sometimes separates children from their parents. It is true in every case. I have no knowledge of any children in the ACC besides Tony's that have not been removed from their birth parents at some point or another.
I am either insane or egotistically mad, or I am who I say I am.
Gabriel of Sedona on Dateline NBC
I vote for the former options personally.
The image Tony gave on Dateline is one of a man who is a liar. He lied about members being free to travel. He lied about his sexual relationships with his followers. He lied about being clairvoyant. Tony tried to lie to Dateline NBC because he wanted to present a false impression of what he and his community are like. He also lied because he knew that people who were not under his direct control would see his behavior for what it really is, a selfish mans psychotic indulgences.
On Dateline Tony showed that his much-touted Transmissions seem to be motivated far more out of self-interest than they are of actual contact with higher powers.
The evidence of mind control technique's at work was also quite obvious in the footage from the Dateline program, even with the limited amount that was shown.
The initial bombarding of love and attention later replaced by fear and paranoia.
The restrictions on travel and family contact. Tony claims that requiring members to get permission from him to venture outside the "protected 5 mile radius" is to protect them from possible harm due to earth changes. The real reason is obviously so he can control his followers movements and therefore their routines. It fosters a dependence on Tony among his followers. They fear that if they do not consult him, if they defy him, bad things will happen to them.
The surrendering of all assets, insuring that any decision to leave will be a difficult one. The creation of new names, identities, histories and the promise of a new improved family.
Gabriel exerts a level of control over his followers that is entirely unnecessary in a truly spiritual, Godly environment. This control seems to exist not to bring people closer to God but rather to prop up Tony 's own privileged position of power, wealth and authority. Tony interprets attacks or questions about him as an attack on God, which is simply not the case. Once can question the messenger without questioning the message. Tony 's inability to separate his own personality from God is at the least disturbing.
This level of control has lead Gabriel to do some pretty awful things to a lot of people. Regina Sprague recounted on Dateline the effect being in the community had on her daughter. How for a long time afterward she would have panic attacks fearing her and her mother would die because they had left the community.
I appreciated the bluntness of the late Dr. Louis West, a man who studied mind control and groups that use it for more than 40 years. Dr West was a man of impeccable reputation with nothing but praise from his peers. He even did the official psychiatric evaluation of Jack Ruby and Patti Hearst after they were arrested. It was obvious he thought Tony was such a lousy con artist that he could barely contain himself. And the man knew a con artist when he saws one.
The tale Mark and Regina Sprague told was also quite chilling. About how Gabriel targeted them at a vulnerable low point in their lives and how Gabriel instilled a fear of God rather than exemplifying God's love in their little daughter. What Tony did to that poor girl was child abuse pure and simple. The man should be ashamed of himself. The mere fact that even after being subjected to heavy manipulation and mind control techniques, the Sprague's were still able to see through Tony does at least provide hope for others who have loved ones in the community. But this is tempered by the knowledge that things have become a lot worse in the community since then.
Nobody else really mentioned it to me but the segment that really shook me was the perverse glee Tony took in recounting tales of those ACC members who had been injured while outside the community without his permission or blessing. That was creepy and it spoke volumes about the man's character.
Life After Dateline
Tony had everyone in the community watch Dateline together as a group. No one was allowed to watch it alone. Before they watched the program the entire group was extensively indoctrinated about how they should view the program. No ACC member was given the opportunity to form his or her own opinions about the show. A heavy degree of bias was introduced well before the show aired. After the show was over, everyone got another debriefing just to be safe. Within the next 2-3 days, most ACC members had called loved ones outside the community. I'm not sure what the motivation was but it was definitely not spontaneous. It had to come on Tony's orders. I suspect some of the calls were taped. Perhaps this was a test of loyalty to Tony that he put his followers through. I'm really not sure. Just about every ACC member then sent nearly identically worded letters to their respective families. I suspect this was just a form letter that Tony had them sign and mail out. I got one of those letters from my dad. It was literally the same stuff that was on the ACC web site but my dad tried to make it look like he wrote it. Tony always claims ACC members are encouraged to think and reason for themselves but that's a bunch of crap. The evidence definitely points in the other direction. It is really unfortunate that Tony couldn't allow his followers to watch it on their own and come to their own conclusions, but it just goes further to prove that Dateline was right about Tony.
Tony 's attorney claimed on Dateline that the document they displayed describing the travel restrictions was "out of date", although they did not explain what the new policy was. It does seem that some restrictions were eased for a short time after the Dateline broadcast. Members are freer now to venture into town, but this may be more for community business than personal. Since members have no money to shop and most have no transport of there own its kind of pointless. It's one hell of a walk in the hot Arizona sun.
Restrictions on family visits were eased for a short while after the broadcast, with those highest on the pecking order allowed the most freedom of travel. This ended after only a few months though when members came back with substantial psychological problems caused by having to adjust back to life in the community after spending time again in the real world. This is a typical response of people who are under the influence of mind control techniques and spend time away from the cult. Even for the time travel was allowed, it was mostly self-serving for Tony. Members allowed to travel outside the community were sent with materials and instructions on how to promote the community and Tony 's music in stores and on college campus's. Even though these trips were paid for entirely by the members families (Tony would not even provide a ride to the airport in one of the ACC's dozen or so cars) and these families expected to spend the entire visit with their loved ones, Tony had quite different plans. Tony 's followers were forced to spend time they should have spent with family promoting Tony instead.
I have talked to a lot of people about the Dateline program. As significant as the lying and manipulation are, many people have told me those were not the main reasons they had a negative impression of Tony after watching the show. Most said it was in Tony 's face that the truth about the man appeared. It was the look in his eyes, not camera angles or supposedly loaded questions that Tony claims influenced people - that left them with a bad impression of the man. The eyes don't lie and what people saw in Tony 's eyes was the truth - that he is a con man and a liar.
Tony 's initial public response the Dateline program was shall we say, under whelming. It consisted of nothing more than a printing of some of his song lyrics on the ACC web site. When I saw this I thought to myself "OK, he's finally cracked." But within a few weeks he managed to recover somewhat and began posting what seemed like an endless series of drivel and nonsense. One of the first posts was a supposedly "unsolicited" letter from the parents of an ACC member, chastising Dateline for an unfair treatment of Tony. You'll forgive me for pointing out this letter was dated several days before the broadcast took place. One could hardly say the letter was unsolicited.
For months on end, Tony was completely obsessed by Dateline. All through the following spring and summer the only updates to the ACC web site were Tony 's responses to the Dateline program. One marvel's about how Tony was able to accomplish anything during this time he was so obsessed with his badly damaged public image. It is an obsession that persists to this day. In May 1999 Tony was still posting rebuttals to Dateline on his web site - 15 months after the show aired! This time it was Celestial Overcontrol, claiming that Dateline NBC is controlled by Satan. Of course they always say that Satan controls anyone who disagrees with Tony. I have my own rebuttal to some of Tony's earlier complaints about Dateline.
Tony 's personality and indeed the whole community have been reshaped the program, but not for the better it seems. The community has become more shut off from the outside world and it is becoming exceedingly difficult to find out what is happening down there.
Instead of living by his teachings of live and let live and turning the other cheek, Tony 's interest in Dateline has gone way beyond obsession into childish whining. All this seems very unbecoming of a great religious leader and the highest spiritual being on the planet. A man who teaches that one should "turn the other cheek." Of course Tony couldn't take the blame for anything that happened on the show. He was an innocent victim. The Dateline producers had some sort of vendetta against him. They were practicing religious intolerance. They were looking for easy ratings with a cheap and sensationalized story. Gabriel has placed all sorts of horrible motives on the producers of Dateline, none of which are supportable by the facts, while at the same time never once conceding that maybe he did some things wrong. He fired every shot he could think of hoping something would stick. His followers believe him. I doubt many others do. Like I said, the truth was obvious to anyone who was paying attention.
There is no evidence to suggest a religious motive for NBC's selection of the Aquarian Concepts Community to be the focus of the Dateline report. I talked Dateline producer Joe Ferullo a short while after the program aired. We talked about why the show was done about the Aquarian Concepts Community and at no time did the subject of beliefs come up. All we talked about was deception and control. Tony claims he was tricked. A man with clairvoyance and a direct line to God who can be so easily duped? I urge you to watch the program for yourself and decide who was trying to trick whom. Unfortunately the ACC members themselves never got that chance. Wake up Tony, if there is nothing to report no show is going to spend an hour on the subject.
After Dateline Tony tried to get a little sympathy by claiming he has received at least some death threats since the program aired. I don't buy it. Tony has been making those same claims for years. Anytime things aren't going well and morale is down he tries to rally the troops by saying someone is trying to kill him. He did the same thing while Mark Sprague was in the community (some 5-6 years ago) and as I write this he is saying the same things again. Of course Tony has been making death threats against people who refuse to follow him for years, claiming they would be consumed in the Earth Changes if they did not obey him. I guess this is another one of Tony 's double standards where it is OK for him to make threats but not for anyone else.
Tony it seems may have decided to file a lawsuit against NBC. A follow up show is in the can but NBC lawyers will not allow it to air because of the threat of legal action. That's a shame. I'd like to see a case like this go to court. Then even more witnesses can come forward and show Tony for what he really is - and put it permanently on the public record. What does worry me is the apparent involvement of $cientology with Gabriel of Sedona. It's not that $cientology has any great love of Gabriel, but they have a common enemy and $cientology will take advantage of any opportunity to silence its opponents.
Why did Gabriel agree to appear on Dateline
You may recall during the program that Tony (Gabriel) said 'I have clairvoyance. I knew fully well where you were headed before I even sat down in this chair.' If this is true, then why did Tony agree to the interview in the first place? Why didn't Tony know about the undercover staffers from Dateline? Why couldn't Tony identify them when their presence was revealed?
It seems obvious that either Tony 's clairvoyance completely failed him or he finally got caught in his con. It is rather more likely that instead of being clairvoyant, Tony was so giddy and finally getting the kind of media attention he fully believes he deserves that the thought he might end up looking like a complete fool never occurred to him. Think about it. Here you've got a guy, already absolutely convinced of his own greatness, who is surrounded by nearly 100 people who reaffirm this feeling for him on a daily basis. This is a guy who always gets his way. One day a major network news program rings up and says "we are interested in you" and what do you expect Tony to think? Naturally Tony, being the way he is, assumes the only reason they could possibly want to do a story is because they have seen his greatness and want to expose the whole world to it. Tony fully expected to use Dateline to stage a media event with a glossed over and glamorized view of himself and his community. So he try's to stage this whole elaborate charade. My dad, a former TV director and producer was assigned as the Dateline crews guide on the staged guided tour of the ACC. You can't tell me Tony didn't make that choice deliberately so my dad could keep an eye on the crew and ensure they didn't see anything they shouldn't. Tony even tried to provide the Dateline producer with a list of questions to ask, hoping to promote his agenda while at the same time distracting Dateline from the stuff he does not want them to report. Tony wanted the interview conducted his way. No journalist worthy of the name lets the subject dictate the questions in an interview.
Unfortunately for Tony, Dateline was not there to film his infomercial. They were there to film the truth and what Gabriel wanted them to see was not the truth. Can you imagine Tony 's horror that someone would walk into his community and not bend over to his every whim? He is so accustomed to having that sort of control that it probably never even occurred to him that he could not control Dateline too. Tony expected that the world would finally get to see Gabriel for the glorious person he is. The public got to see Tony for what he really is all right, but it wasn't very glorious. For that glory exists only in Tony 's own mind. The real truth was obvious for the rest of us to see.
It is a proven fact that TV shows that present a positive view about the paranormal or unusual get higher ratings and make sponsors happier than a negative story does. Thank you Joe Ferullo and NBC Dateline for having the courage to do such a truthful piece in spite of the temptation to make it a warm and fuzzy feel-good story of the week as such groups often get on TV. Both sides of the story were presented, and it was obvious where the truth is. Several other network news programs were also looking in to doing a story on The Aquarian Concepts Community around the same time and there is every evidence those stories would have been quite similar.
I hope everyone who visits this site has seen the February 1998 special that NBC Dateline did on Gabriel of Sedona. If not, transcripts are still available from Burrelles Transcripts (1-800-420-2626). Unfortunately, video cassette's of the program are not currently available. I think the reason is that Gabriel had threatened a defamation lawsuit and therefore Dateline could not re-air or sell tapes of the program until that issue is settled.
Some people have wondered if my ex-wife and I received any payment for our interview on Dateline. To make it clear, and please pass it on if anyone ask, that neither my ex-wife or myself received any payment what so ever for our interviews on Dateline NBC. They did mention that I was writing a book on my experiences, but there was no deal made with between them and me for them to even mention it. They did not even mention the name of my book.
My intentions were to expose what I felt was a community that uses emotional manipulation and fear tactics on people that, for what ever reason, are vulnerable to the teachings and deceptions of faith that Gabriel teaches. These teachings and deceptions have carefully been rehearsed over the years to convince individuals of their legitimacy. I did the interview simply because I feel that what they are doing is wrong and is hurting people. Maybe not physically, but in a worse way. To deprive people of their individuality and their God given ability to choose what they want to believe in without the use of fear. In my option he is robbing people of their faith, because Gabriel is trying to get people to put their faith in him more than God.
Reprint of Urantia Foundation Statement to Dateline NBC regarding Gabriel of Sedona and the Aquarian Concepts Community
NBC network website
A review of the Dateline story from a student of the Urantia Book
Even more than a year later, Gabriel still can not get over Dateline. This is an article the ACC's lawyer Celinas had published in the Spring 1999 issue of Communities magazine. There are major flaws and factual errors in this article, which I will be addressing in the near future. It appears much of the false and misleading information in this article was provided by the Church of Scientology - which is not at all surprising. Statements like "Many of West's former CAN associates have been convicted of multiple felonies and have extensive criminal records, including charges of false imprisonment, rape, and kidnapping" are simply untrue. They are the result of Scientology "Fair Game" dis-information campaigns. Celinas, as a lawyer should know enough to check facts in such matters.
If you want to find out more about what CAN is really all about now since it was forced into bankruptcy with frivolous lawsuits and purchased covertly by the Church of $cientology, go here.
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