Australian doomsday cult survivor warns of red flags to watch for

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A cult doomsday survivor is warning others about the red flags she missed after being recruited in Sydney when she was 21.

Carli McConkey spent 13 years working for nothing, even enduring medical sterilisation while part of a doomsday cult called Universal Knowledge in Australia.

She is now an advocate for people drawn into these groups.

It was an interest in New Age philosophy which drew her in, she tells Jesse Mulligan.

“I’d just finished university and I went to a Mind Body Spirit festival in Sydney, it was back in the mid-90s, when New Age was a big deal.”

She had a psychic reading from an individual who turned out to be a cult member, she said.

“She told me about this course called the Next Evolutionary Step, it was just, she said, just a weekend workshop. And you’ll be given all the tools that you need to help you reach your potential, lower stress, build better relationships and better health.”

A seminar at a Sydney hotel all seemed above board, she said.

“The leader was there at the front, very charismatic, and gave a great spiel.”

She wound up doing the first course and was gradually drawn in, she said.

“We were told that there were 17 other programmes, and that we needed to keep going to evolve and work through our emotions.

“It was based on cleansing your cellular memory from this lifetime, other past lifetimes and your ancestors. And that was the tool they were telling you that would help you evolve.”

At this stage, she did not see any red flags, she told Jesse Mulligan.

“Every cult is going to have a different pull and a different aetiology. But definitely at the end of that programme, because of the all of the sensory overload, we were screaming and shouting on that programme to release emotions. And I think just at the end, you’re in such a de-settled space, and you’re told that to keep going and improve, you need to do more courses.”

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