The Situation in Australia and Japan
There does not exist in Australia an official organism of surveillance over the sectarian-type movements, from which comes the difficulty of collecting information on their activities and the management of infractions linked to their practice with the ordinary means of justice and the police, in the context of the relative indifference of opinion and of political leaders regarding that which is not considered a priori as a global and dangerous phenomenon.
In effect, the sectarian phenomenon doesn’t hold the attention of the public, the public power and the media outside of cases that are serious, sporadic, or spectacular.
This state of mind finds its roots in a collective mentality that privileges freedom and individual responsibility, a society where the most varied and unexpected cults cohabit, re-form, in a certain indifference and where the intervention of the public in the private sphere - including among associations - is disapproved of.
[You can almost hear them saying under their breath, “Not like in France!”]
Contentions linked to the practice of groups of a sectarian character are treated according to their nature, either as a civil suit or under the angle of threats to persons or the public order in extreme cases. It is very exceptional that the qualifying phrase “sectarian offshoots” (dérives sectaire) is used for the case of an association with delinquent practices.
[ In other words, Australian law does quite well in handling any actual activity that contravenes the civil or legal code. Which is another way of saying that none of the surveillance proposed by Miviludes is actually necessary. It reminds me of the recent SOPA protests in the US where it was clear that the laws and regulations already in place can deal with the supposed problems of internet “piracy”, and yet the pathocrats want more and more power and control anyway.]
This situation brought an independent Senator, Nick Xenophon, to propose the creation, under the form of an “observatory”, of an official organism to follow movements of sectarian risk. The proposition for a law presented in this sense by the Senator has not been followed up at this time. Mr. Xenophon had obtained from the Economic Commission of the Senate the adoption of recommendations for better control of charity associations which called upon the generosity of the public and had the right to fiscal advantages, with the objective of creating a public “observatory”.
[Wonder if the good Senator Xenophon has read Jeremy Bentham. Sounds like his “observatory” is modeled after the Panopticon.]
This angle chosen to treat the subject of sectarian offshoots confronts a powerful culture of associations, independent spirit, and support from a considerable number of charitable structures (60,000) according to Senator Nick Xenophon). This might explain the parliamentarians lack of urgency in adding the subject to the Agenda of the Senate before the last elections.
[Damn that independent spirit and all those charities!]
The current political situation does not auger well for this proposal for the law. In fact, the Government, a minority, is worried about lasting and is therefore avoiding debates felt to be not immediately necessary.
The Senator Xenophon distinguishes himself, among his colleagues, by the passioned interest he shows in this subject. It is undeniable that Australia sees activity of groups of a sectarian risk, but no number (even approximate) is available. The only well-known and current affair that inscribes itself in the Millennarist movement appeared last year in southern Australia: It was a movement of sectarian character calling itself Agape Ministries, bestowed with a leader, Leo Rock (“Brother Rock”). Only newspaper articles, few in number, are available on this subject. This affair is actually inscribed by the prosecutors and the federal police under the angle of an “association of evil-doers”, aggravated by the possession of illegal arms.
In fact, in Australia, the movement of a sectarian character only holds the public’s attention in the case of sensational affairs. The idea of a public policy in the face of this phenomenon has a lot of trouble to progress.
In Japan, in a context marked by an expansion of beliefs and movements of a sectarian character, principally of Buddhist inspiration and with the concern to show a strict respect for the freedom of worship, the police - marked by the memory of the sarin gas attack in 1995 - exert themselves to assure the identification and surveillance of groups that present a threat of attack to persons and public security.
Since the Second World War Japan has known a significant development of “new religions” that fostered new religious legislation adopted after the war. The “Law on Religions” of 1951 permitted - in effect - the opening of a new period of religious freedom after a period of the almost exclusive promotion of Shintoism by the State. Distinct from that as well as from Buddhism, or seeking to succeed them by incorporating new elements in their doctrine, new religious movements have prospered in a country where everyone can now adhere, according to their wishes, their need, the moment or the place, to different beliefs and superstitions. The Ministry of Education, mandated for religious affairs, records that in its statistics today there are almost twice as many faithful in Japan than there are inhabitants.
In this context which is favourable to the appearance of new forms of spirituality, the recent period has seen the development of what Japanese sociologists have labelled “new new religions” (Shin Shin Shukyo), a concept forge in the opposition to “new religions” (Shin Shukyo) which appeared en masse after the war and which had themselves succeeded the “ancient new religions” of the 19th century (Kyu Shin Shukyo), such as the Tenrikyo movement.
The positioning of these new movement vis-a-vis the traditional religions - notably Buddhism - is complex. If they undeniably distinguish themselves, they also draw from elements of an esoteric inspiration, while they borrow more modern practices of spirituality.
The new Japanese spiritualities seem to have particularly multiplied in the compost of individual situations of solitude, of disarray, and of anxiety which modern Japanese society was not able to prevent from appearing. They also profited from the weakening of traditional forms of framing [”Framing - Encadrement - The concept of encadrement means the various social structures that are used to shape or form the members of society. You might simply call it forms of social control, though Miviludes can’t get away with explicitly calling it that. In military usage is means “officering the troops”, which is probably a good way of understanding the concept.] In response to this frequent loss of landmarks, the Japanese “new new religions” that have developed have often accentuated the “spiritual world” as well as paranormal phenomena, and individual psychic and mental transformations. While Millennarisms and Messianisms had practically disappeared from the preceding “new religions”, these mystic manifestations take the most diverse forms today and can sometimes lead to radical protests of the apocalyptic type.
The Juridical Framework and the Modes of Diffusion of “New Religious Movements”
In terms of the Law of 1951, renovated in 1995, the denomination “religious organization” applies to any “group” (Dantai) that has as its principal aim transmitting its doctrine, practicing its rites, educating and guiding its adepts and which possesses to this effect certain specific places of worship, such as sanctuaries, monasteries, churches, convents and other similar institutions.
Attached to the recognition of the religious juridical personality (Shukyo Hojin) is a fiscal regime which is particularly advantageous and which can be excessively attractive and, which also favours numerous offshoots (dérives).
According to an analysis taken from a study seminar on the expansion of the new Japanese religious movements, organized by London University in 1995 and which remains pertinent in all points:
“The new Japanese religions work to put forward the universal aspects of their dogmas and their practices when they implant themselves in other countries. This missionary zeal is classed in three forms: cultural organizations, peace movements, and movements of ‘faith healing’.
“A number of them conserve however a nationalist orientation that expresses itself in the idea that Japan is thought of as a ‘promised land’, ‘world centre’, and Japanese civilization as the new civilization of the 21st century.”
Typology of Movements of a Sectarian Character in Japan
We can estimate that there are about 1600 actual movements that make up the nebula of new Japanese organizations of a sectarian character, the membership can vary from several dozen adherents to several million faithful.
A typology by type of danger or threat to public order remains delicate to establish. The official Japanese approach remains in effect dominated by strict respect for freedom of worship and expression, and the concept of groups of a sectarian character that represents a risk to public order is relatively foreign to Japanese authorities. [Ho ho! The poor Japanese. The French pathocrats will be happy to help them see the error of their ways!] We can nevertheless estimate that the following groups are primarily affected by the phenomenon of mental control encouraged by messages of the “apocalyptic” type:
Two groups which are the heirs of the Aoum sect: Aleph and Hikari no wa (Circle of Light).
The first, created in 2000, groups those faithful who the police consider are still under the influence of the original guru, Shoko Asahara, who is in prison and condemned to death.
The second has been led since its formation in 2007 by the ex-spokeman of Aoum, Fumihiro Joyu, creator of Aleph, from which he was chased following a split between the hardline elements and the reformists. Even though Hikari no wa has made excuses for the sarin gas attack of 1005 and wishes to indemnify the victims, it remains largely suspect and is the object of strict controls in the same manner as Aleph.
After having been the talk of the town in the 1990s and in the early 2000s. the Pana Wave movement, which emanated from a religious group called Chino-Shoho (True Law of Chino) in no longer under the fire of current events.
This religious group created by Yuko Chino in 1977 combines elements borrowed from Christianity, Buddhism and New Age currents. It has focused since the 1980s on the struggle against electromagnetic waves. Its message includes an apocalyptic dimension: the group predicted, notably between 2003 and 2005 the destruction of a large part of humanity. It announced the disappearance of Japan in the ocean because of an attack by a group of extremists, cataclysmic cosmic events, rain of magma and the glaciation of the Earth beginning in 2007.
These predictions had the value of attracting the attention of the media. This notoriety permitted the movement to count 1300 members in 2003. No estimate is available today.
Even if it is weakened, Pana Wave could nevertheless try to profit from symbolic deadlines and are among the movements under surveillance by the AISP (Public Security Investigation Agency), the Japanese government agency that takes care of national security, both on Japanese territory and abroad and is under the Ministry of Justice.
Its principal publication is a book by Yuko Chino which appeared in 2008: Climb on the Wings of a Phoenix. Towards Salvation in a New Sky.
Two violent groups of a sectarian character were targeted by police these last years, Fujitaisekiji Kenshokai, which predicted the coming destruction of Japan, and Kigenkai. These two movements are suspected of violence on certain of their members.
Other well-established religious movements also spread a content that is partially or largely apocalyptic:
• The movement of a sectarian character Sukyo Mahikari, founded in 1959, and its dissident group Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyodan owe their origin to Yoshikazu Okada, who claims to have received from the god Su the revelation that “the time has come for the world to pass from a material civilization to a spiritual civilization.”
This message, which warns its faithful against the growing frequent multiplication of natural, political, and social disorders that hit the planet, invites them to find salvation and purification in the teachings of Master Okada and the “practice of the spread of the true light” (Mahikari no Gyo) by techniques of the laying of the hands.
Sukyo Mahikari, whose headquarters is in Takayama (Gifu Department) counts between 800,000 and one million adepts around the world and its subgroup, Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyodan, counts 75,000. An office of Sukyo Mahikari is located in Paris.
Sekai Christ-Kyo Toitsu Shinrei Kyokai (Association of the Holy Spirit for the Unification of World Christianity or the Unification Church) is an international religious movement founded by the Reverend Sun Muyng Moon - also known under the name Reverend Moon - in Korea in 1954. Strong with 180,000 members around the world, present notably in Korea and the United States, it also has roots in Japan.
The Unification Church spreads an apocalyptic message in predicting the inevitability and necessity of a third world war. This war, led both through the force of arms and the domain of ideas, will permit the unification of of current world, split between democracy and communism, through the final destruction of communism and the coming of divine sovereignty.
[No discussion of the the Unification Church when they discussed the US. Of course, given the strong links between conservative leaders in the US and the Moonies, including through the Washington Times, owned by Moon, it looks like Miviludes is cherry picking their arguments.]
Fujitaiseki Kenshokai: this religious group with its headquarters in Saitama, north of Tokyo, is an offshoot of a split in the Nichiren Shoshu (Authentic School of Nichiren) following a disagreement of the interpretation of Buddhist doctrines. It is presided over by Asaï Shoei.
Kenshokai claims near 1.4 million members. Its body of thought, resumed in a publication in 2004, Japan Which Disobeyed St Nichiren is Condemned to Disappear, predicts the total destruction of Japan following a series of ecological, earth, and political catastrophes: earthquakes, bankruptcies, exceptional climatic events, famine, epidemics, civil war, and foreign invasions. The movements threatens the Japanese who continue to disobey Nichiren, from the repetition of these natural disasters up to a final conflagration provoked by a Third World War.
Kofuku No Kagaku (Happy Science), founded in Japan in 1986 by Ryuho Okawa, also called El Cantare, who remains the president; this religious group claims to make a synthesis of different gods, wise men or prophets that proceeded them, from Mohammed and Buddha, passing by Christ, Zeus, Confucius or Socrates.
Its doctrine is presented in two publications in 1987: The Law of the Sun and The Law of Yellow Gold, edited by Ryuho Okawa. It includes an apocalyptic content: a prediction of the end of civilization during the two coming centuries due to an amplification of natural catastrophes, earthquakes, tidal waves and floods.
This movement, with its headquarters in Tokyo, counted in 2009 a total of 32 principal temples and 200 local temples on
Japanese territory, 6 temples abroad (London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seoul, and Taiwan) and 37 antenna in the whole world (India, Bulgaria, Uganda, etc.).
In May 2009, the group formed its own political formation, the Party for the Realization of Happiness, which managed to present 345 candidates in the legislative elections of August 2009. If this party didn’t manage to obtain a single seat in Parliament, it nevertheless got nearly a million votes.
The Kyoto region, in the west of Japan, also counts two important groups of a sectarian character that are particularly active and proselytizing:
Shinji Shumeikai, founded by Miho Koyama, which counts 300,000 adepts and numerous branches in the world, notably in Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, and Paris. Very active, this group used its immense riches to construct near Kyoto, in Shiga, a giant museum, the Miho Museum. This work of the architect Pei, which houses hundreds of art works of great value - notably Japanese, Asiatic and Oriental antiques destined to honour the “unlimited potential of the human spirit” - has met with great success with the public with a strong frequentation by tourists.
Above the inoffensive artistic messages it spreads, the organization upholds also an apocalyptic message by teaching that a divine process of human purification, which started in 1881, and which hit its second phase in 1931, should culminate in the near future with a term of a period of great destruction and reconstruction without historical precedent. This announced catastrophe can however be avoided, for the profit of a world without sickness, poverty and discord, by grace of “a taste for beauty and art, to the virtues of organic agriculture and, over all, by grace of the practice of ‘Jorei’, the art of healing by deflecting spiritual light onto others.”
Agonshu, a movement that now counts more than 700,000 members and which is based upon the Tantric esoteric tradition of Buddhism. It advocates the disciplines of meditation, of fasting, and endurance (ice water showers). It also includes rites of protection of the faithful against reprisals of their deceased ancestors who are unhappy with their negligent descendants.
Agonshu organizes every year on February 11 in Kyoto the Festival of the Stars (Hoshi Matsuri) during which thousands of disciples execute, with the founder of the movement, Kirimaya, traditional magic rites which permit the realization of the pilgrims’ prayers.
Withe the exception of Pana Wave, the only group to have prophecized the Apocalypse, which should have come to pass according to this movement of a sectarian character in 2005, no Japanese groups appear to concentrate their message on an apocalyptic event concerning the year 2012.
The Buddhist imprint - work on the individual and control over the passions - of the majority of the movements of a sectarian character in Japan does not seem to go in the sense of a Millennarist or global Apocalyptic vision of the world and the destiny of man.
If a pessimistic reading of the evolution of society and climate exists within the bosom of certain large groups like Happy Science or Mahikari, these very somber visions of the future do not appear however to constitute the heart of the process of recruitment and action for these groups.
Nevertheless, in a country that remains marked by the sarin gas attacks of the group Aoum, the Japanese police and security services remain vigilant.