Book Review - All the Emperors Men

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1996, Volume 13, Number 2, pages 221-225. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - All the Emperor's Men

Garry A. Greenwood

Electronically published by Strictly Literary, Croncourt Pty. Ltd, Queensland, Australia (ACN 010 748 777, P.O. Box 491, Moorooka 4105, Queensland, Australia), 1995, 110 pages. (Private print edition for North America, send bank draft, $33 Australian dollars, payable to Garry Greenwood, P.O. Box 408, Alstonville, NSW 2477, Australia.)

My 6-year-old daughter enjoys watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? The stories on this youthoriented program are "scary," with themes that include ghosts, paranormal occurrences, and magic powers. One show, about a young girl who conjures up a ghoulish spirit with a magical incantation, tells the audience to beware that magic can be dangerous if not properly handled. My daughter understands that TV magic is only make believe; she is quick to point it out without any coaching from me. Millions of adults throughout the world, however, are prone to superstitions and a belief in magical powers. New religious movements and therapies that borrow from ancient shamanic and occult traditions tap into this propensity for adult belief in magical power. One such new religion based in Japan is Mahikari.

According to Mahikari promotional literature, Mahikarinowaza [the act of Mahikari] was introduced [in 1959 in Japan] to save mankind from a crisis and to perform miracles. In a November 1993 flyer distributed by the Washington, D.C.based Sukyo Mahikari center, the group claims the following: Sukyo Mahikari does not rely on faith healing because no belief is required by the person receiving Divine Light ... Sukyo Mahikari is not a religion. It is not necessary to give up any religious practices or beliefs in order to become a person who can give Divine Light to others.... Regardless of the nature of your interest, you are welcome to receive Divine Light as often as you wish. There is no fee.

The author of All the Emperor's Men portrays Mahikari as a faithhealing religious cult that demands a lot of money from its believers and indoctrinates members to believe that Mahikari is the only true spirituality that will save mankind. Greenwood also tells us that the movement has a major split, and has suspicious political agendas. Author Greenwood was a member of the Mahikari movement for 17 years. He and his wife were first attracted to it in Australia in 1976. He soon rose high in the Australian ranks of the Mahikari, becoming an international minister within 12 years. The Greenwoods were recruited into the Sukyo branch of Mahikari, headed by a woman called Keishu. She claimed to inherit the "throne" of the sect from her "father" when he, Yoshikazu Okada, died in 1974. According to the author, however, the legal heir, however, was Mr. Sekae Sekiguchi. His sect is called Sekai Mahikari Bunmei Kyodan. Greenwood estimates that both sects have more than one million (perhaps two million) followers each. Two thirds of both sects are Japanese; the rest, from many other nations. Yoshikazi Okada is the Ainspired" founder claimed by both sects, but after a meticulous search, Greenwood says that he discovered that Y. Okada "borrowed" his teachings from a Mr. Mokichi Okada (1882B1955). M. Okada was a student of Japanese Shinto and an art aficionado. He joined another Shintobased sect called Omotokyo, but by 1934 he founded his own "healing" sect called Sekai Kyusei Kyo (SKK). Apparently, Y. Okada was a member of SKK before 1959, but current Mahikari members deny this.

Mahikari initiates receive a goldplated pendant, or talisman, which they are not to take off. It protects them from evil spirits. Members practice a highly suggestive healing technique called "Okiyomi." The technique utilizes the hands which allegedly project "Divine Light" according to the "will of God." This divine energy allegedly comes from the current leader who is most in tune with God and is worshiped as God incarnate. The groups are classic, pyramid organizations with a militaristic loyalty within their ranks. Members are "free to leave," but phobia indoctrination about loss of protection from evil spirits is pervasive in the Mahikari sects. During Mahikari "blessings," the blessed often exhibit trances, body twitching, convulsions, and speaking in strange sounds--not unlike participants in charismatic Christian sects. These often-dramatic "possessions by spirits" convince new members that the spirit world is real. Within the movement stories abound about paranormal healing and curses as a result of Mahikari "treatments."

My work with persons affected by Mahikari supports Greenwood's assertions of Mahikari's tremendous phobia indoctrination. Though one client had rejected the group, he still, after several months, had a "fear" of letting me touch his talisman, which was now in a box in his closet. But Greenwood maintains that Mahikari is more than its stated purpose, which is to "save mankind from crisis and to perform miracles." Greenwood suggests that Mahikari is a continuation of the ancient Japanese cult of "State Shintoism," which upholds the notion that all civilization and spiritual awakening started in Japan. This is one of Mahikari's alleged "secrets." Other secret doctrines claim that both Moses and Jesus originally studied in Japan and returned there after doing their missions in the Middle East. Photos of their graves with crosses on them are provided for initiates.

Mahikari belief also claims that the current emperor of Japan is divinely ordained and that Japan is the "pure" race that should rule the world, hence Greenwood's title, All the Emperor's Men. Such nationalist drives fueled much of prewar and World War II Japanese military thinking. Greenwood ties Nazi philosopher and Hitler mentor Karl Haushofer with Japanese fascist theory. Haushofer may have been most responsible for inspiring Hitler and Japanese leaders (through the Green Dragon Society of Japan) with occult formulations. Greenwood invokes the esoteric criticisms of occult fascism by René Guenon, an "occultist" who wrote to expose the evil within his own camp early in this century.

A key pseudo-document taught by the Mahikari, but spread earlier by Haushofer in Germany and Japan, is the "Protocols of the Wise Old Men of Zion" [sic, typically known as "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"]. The Protocols read as if they were written by "Jewish Masons" with a sophisticated conspiracy to rule the world. The document, perhaps a century old, is an antiSemitic forgery intent on discrediting Jewish people. Nevertheless, the "plan" intrigued fascists for two reasons: Jews could become a scapegoat for worldly ills, and a similar strategy could be implemented to undermine the "Zionist" conspiracy. Haushofer's alleged occult powers were legendary among Japanese and German fascists. He eventually committed suicide, harakiri style in Japan, in keeping with a pact many fascist occultists made if their ventures failed. According to Greenwood, Mahikari, like many Western occult groups, believes that it was part of God's plan that the Nazis exterminate millions of Jews. Mahikari also believes that they are "blessed" with the same occult power known to Haushofer and the Japanese fascists. Greenwood parallels Mahikari teaching with the now infamous Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth sect).

Greenwood covers many other interesting aspects of the Mahikari, but we are most exposed to his journey out of the Keishu sect. During much of his tenure as a minister he helped to raise the billions needed to build a solid gold shrine to Mahikari in Japan. He tells of people who "gave everything" for this cause and who are now "penniless." The Keishu branch completed their shrine in 1983. To Greenwood's dismay, he discovered that the Sekai sect had done them one better, with an even grander gold shrine. Greenwood's diligent effort to expose Mahikari as a deceptive cult ends with his description of how the group can induce fear and guilt to control its members. Greenwood relates how most of his time was spent traveling for group causes. As a minister he hardly knew his children. He describes the large gatherings in Japan, attended by current heads of state, with tens of thousands chanting en masse. The Mahikari even implemented a "youth core" with highly regimented behaviors recommended for children. Greenwood utilizes mind-control theory (mainly citing Leon Festinger and Steve Hassan) to help the reader understand how this 17-year journey happened to an otherwise intelligent man and his wife.

Joseph Szimhart

Cult Information Specialist

Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1996