Kenja Communications

Carole M. Cusack

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KENJA COMMUNICATIONS TIMELINE

1922 (July 14):  Kenneth Emanuel Dyers was born (military records give 1920).

1941 (7 August):  Ken Dyers enlisted in the Australian Army.

1943:  Annette Stephens was born.

1944:  Ken Dyers was court-martialed twice, January 24 and July 4.

1946:  Ken Dyers was discharged from the Australian army on grounds of mental instability. He married Judith Scott Fox (divorced in 1950).

1948:  Janice Rita Hamilton was born.

1950:  Kenneth Emanuel Dyers copyrighted the work A Simple Accounting System.

1951:  Ken Dyers married Marie O’Donnell with whom he had two children, Mike and Steve (divorced in 1973).

1974-1977: Jan Hamilton was in the United Kingdom on an Australia Council grant studying clowning.

1978:  Ken Dyers and Jan Hamilton met and became romantically involved.

1982:  Dyers and Hamilton founded Kenja (derived from their given names). They later discovered it means “wisdom” in Japanese.

1993:  Ken Dyers was charged with eleven counts of sexual assault against four girls  between eight and fifteen years-old. He was convicted of one charge, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

1994:  A female Kenjan made false allegations of sexual assault against Stephen Mutch, a Liberal MP in the New South Wales parliament, and a vocal critic of Kenja since 1992.

1998:  Cornelia Rau was in Kenja for five months and was then forcibly ejected.

2004:  Cornelia Rau was detained by Australian security forces in April and spent ten months in a Brisbane jail and later in Baxter Detention Centre, suspected of being an illegal immigrant. She was restored to her family in February 2005.

2005:  Three different underage girls came forward with allegations of sexual abuse against Dyers, and charges were laid.

2006:  Kenja booked Balmoral Beach with the Mosman Council for its inaugural re-enactment of the landing of the First Fleet on Australia Day, January 26, 1788.

2007:  Alison Pels brought charges of sexual assault against Dyers, and her father Martin Pels left Kenja Communications.

2007 (July 25):  Ken Dyers committed suicide by gunshot after being denied an exemption from court on the grounds of ill-health.

2007:  Kenja’s “Act for Change” media campaign sought to portray Ken Dyers as a martyr to civil liberties.

2007-2019:  The stage “documentary” Guilty Until Proven Innocent toured Australia with the aim of clearing Dyers’ name.

2008:  Melissa MacLean and Luke Walker’s Beyond Our Ken documentary was released.

2012:  Annette Stephens’ autobiography, The Good Little Girl: She Stayed Quiet for a Very Long Time, was published.

FOUNDER/GROUP HISTORY

Kenneth Emanuel (“Ken”) Dyers (1922-2007) is a complex and multi-faceted figure. Hailed by Kenja and its members as a spiritual teacher, charismatic leader and “great Australian” who was brought down by envious critics and embittered persecutors (Tibbitts 2007), he is no less vigorously denounced as a delusional egomaniac, sexual predator, paedophile, and spiritual conman by his detractors. Dramatic differences often exist between the “insider” view of religious and spiritual teachers, who are revered as wise and virtuous by followers, and the way they are perceived in a wider social context (Knott 2005).  Kenja’s website, the main disseminator of the “insider” view, presents Dyers as a hero, serving in the Australian Army during World War II. He is said to have been in combat at El Alamein, Finschhafen, and Lae; his wartime experience is given as the reason for Dyers’ devising of “Energy Conversion Meditation” (ECM) and founding of Kenja in 1982, thirty-seven years after the war ended. Dyers allegedly said:

Serving in combat, I realised that perception, the human viewpoint and communication were the most important tools for survival. I returned to Australia determined to preserve the human viewpoint in all of my communications and actions. I realised that if the human viewpoint was adopted, the atrocities of war would never eventuate (‘Co-Founder: Ken Dyers’, Kenja Trust, n.d.).

In fact, Dyers’ army service was more problematic than Kenja would suggest. After an itinerant adolescence, he joined the Army in August 1941. In 1944, the year he turned twenty-two, he was court-martialed twice (National Archives of Australia 2017). In the following year he was fined twice for insubordination. There are nine army documents pertaining to Dyers featured on the Cult Education Institute (which used to be known as the Rick Ross Institute of New Jersey) website, and the reasons given for his discharge in August 1946 included “mental instability” (Cult Education Institute 2014). Dyers, and Kenja on his behalf, exaggerated the success of his military service, rather in the fashion that L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), the founder of Scientology, did. This is not surprising, as Ken Dyers was a member of the Church of Scientology for a time (Stephens 2012:83).

In his post-war life Kenja claims that Dyers had major successes in the publishing industry (he was an encyclopedia salesman), and as a company director. The Australian National Archives confirms that in 1950 he copyrighted a publication titled A Simple Accounting System (National Archives of Australia 2017). According to Kenja, he changed careers and became a consultant “as a communications adviser … on executive mental health” (“Co-Founder: Ken Dyers” n.d.). His second marriage ended in 1973, and five years later he met Jan Hamilton (b. 1948), an actress, playwright and former schoolteacher who at the time facilitated clowning classes. Hamilton was twenty-six years Dyers’ junior. She became his third wife, and they founded Kenja (the title combined elements of their first names) in 1982 (Elliott 2010: 4). [Image at right] They later discovered that “Kenja” meant wisdom in Japanese. Kenja claims that Dyers was stimulated to change his life around 1970, leaving his successful business to work part-time as a glazier, by concern about social trends in Australia, including the counter-culture, drug use, and promiscuity (Steel 2017). Dyers was politically and socially conservative, and Kenja always had an old-fashioned atmosphere. This was evidenced by the ballroom dancing and theatrical performances the group engaged in, presided over by Hamilton and Dyers, the matriarch and patriarch of Kenja (Cusack 2017:496). As a spiritual teacher, Dyers was the opposite of counter-cultural and permissive.

Ten years after Kenja was founded, accusations of sexual abuse were raised regarding Dyers by both adult female Kenjans and under-age girls. The Liberal (read conservative) New South Wales Member of Parliament and “anti-cult” activist Stephen Mutch (later a staff member at Macquarie University) assembled the evidence (he had friends in Kenja whose daughter was one of the complainants) and made a speech in the State Parliament on the topic in 1992. In 1993, the seventy-one-year-old Dyers, “was charged with eleven counts of sexual assault against four girls aged between eight and 15” (Elliott 2010:4). Kenja began a campaign of harassment and persecution against Mutch for his exposure of Dyers, which included threatening telephone calls and letters, Kenjans making a scene at Mutch’s 1994 wedding, stalking, and even one female Kenjan accusing him of sexual assault (a claim dismissed by the courts). In 1993, Dyers eluded the law; he was convicted on the lesser charge of indecent assault. Journalist Alex Tibbitts reported that Kenjans in 1993 were asked to lie on behalf of Ken Dyers, to discredit his accusers (Tibbitts 2008).

There were two appeals to the High Court of Australia in 2000 and 2002, and while a third trial was ordered (Maclean and Walker 2008) the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to mandate it. Katherine Biber discusses the trial from a legal perspective, explaining that the complainant, “AP,” claimed that “in 1988, when she was 13 years old, Dyers, then 66 years old, assaulted her during a ‘processing session’ in an ‘energy conversion room’. She first complained of the assault in 1993” (Biber 2005: 20). Dyers alleged he had been processing another Kenjan, Wendy Tinkler, and his personal assistant (Jan Hamilton’s sister) confirmed this. However, Tinkler was not called to the witness stand and Dyers’ statement was not made under oath. Biber arguers there was misdirection by the trial judges: for example, “comments made … to the jury about the failure of the defendant to give evidence … [where] adverse inferences may be drawn by the jury from the accused’s failure to say something in their own defence” (Biber 2005: 19). In 2005 new accusations emerged and Dyers was charged with the sexual assault of two further underage girls. He was bailed and protested his innocence; but when news of a yet another girl, Alison Pels, the daughter of long-term members of Kenja, who had come forward to lay charges against him broke in 2007 Dyers committed suicide by gunshot wound to the head on July 25, 2007 (Anon 2007).

Bevan Hudson, a long-term member of Kenja for twenty-five years, told academic and radio journalist Rachael Kohn that at that stage in Dyers’ life he was under various stresses: he had been refused membership of the Returned Services League (RSL) Club in Bundeena, the seaside community to the south of Sydney where he lived; he had sought a permanent stay of court actions on the grounds of ill-health, which was refused because there was film of him at the Melbourne Kenja Christmas celebration in 2006 appearing in good health; and the documentary film that Melissa Maclean and Luke Walker had been given permission to make about Kenja turned out to be something other than the positive presentation of Dyers that he and Hamilton hoped for (Kohn 2008). There is no doubt, though, that it was the prospect of further court appearances, probable conviction and prison that were uppermost in his mind and the likely trigger for his suicide (Kohn 2008). Jan Hamilton continues to run Kenja, the purpose of which now appears to be to protest Dyers’ innocence, protect his reputation as a spiritual teacher and unsung genius, and to decry his critics and the “cabal” of enemies that allegedly conspired to destroy him, a group that Hamilton believes includes Stephen Mutch, Cult Aware (an anti-cult group now owned by Scientology, which has no discernible presence in Australia), and various police and legal personnel, among others (Mitchell 2018). Long-time Kenjan, Bevan Hudson, testifies that at this point group members were encouraged to entertain conspiracy theories as to how and why Dyers had been brought down (Kohn 2008). Every year on the anniversary of his death, Kenja Communications takes out expensive full-page advertisements in national and state newspapers honouring Dyers’ memory (National Library of Australia 2006-2007). Media Watch, a media review program on the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), stated in 2007 that the advertisement probably cost $130,000 and in 2009 criticised the Fairfax Media Group for running the advertisements (ABC 2009). 

DOCTRINES/BELIEFS

There is almost no academic literature on Kenja. All scholarly research into the group must make extensive use of newspaper articles, radio programs, podcasts and websites on the internet, television news items, a memoir by ex-member, Annette Stephens (Gillan 2012), and Melissa Maclean and Luke Walker’s documentary film, Beyond Our Ken (Maclean and Walker 2008). The Internet is a valuable source of information; the Kenja site has archived Dyers’ lectures, and sundry “anti-cult” online groups collect press clippings, government records, and a range of primary documents that erode, to a certain extent, the “official” hagiography of Dyers as a spiritual leader and “great Australian” (Kenja Trust n.d.) that is promoted by Kenja. The National Archives of Australia and the National Library of Australia hold certain documents. One important question that arises is whether Kenja is a spiritual or religious organisation. Stephens recalls that “Ken claimed Kenja was not a religion and had no belief system or philosophy. However, there was a belief system. It played an important role and provided Ken with the option to proclaim Kenja a religion, were that necessary” (Stephens 2012:79). Kenja Communications was marketed as a personal development movement. However, some of Dyers’ ideas can be sourced to a well-known twentieth century new religion, the Church of Scientology.

It is accepted that Dyers was a member of Scientology; a 1992 archived letter, “Suppressive Persons and Suppressive Groups List” includes Kenja, also known as Kenja Personal Ability Centre and Personal Evolvement Centre (Steel 2017). This indicates that the Church of Scientology regarded Dyers as a “squirrel,” one who misappropriated Hubbard’s “Tech” and used it in non-Scientology contexts (Cusack 2017). Dyers probably joined Scientology in the late 1950s or early 1960s (Cannane 2016:72). The length of his stay in Scientology is also unknown; Annette Stephens thinks he left in 1973, but her opinion cannot be corroborated:

Ken’s mission was to go one further than his guru, the late L. Ron Hubbard. Ken would beat him at his own game. Not that he told us early Kenjans that he had been a devotee of Scientology; it was just something that he happened to know a lot about. Ken claimed his sessions were infinitely superior to Scientology’s “Auditing”; as it was, some of his earlier processing commands were exactly the same.

Perhaps the biggest difficulty for Ken, in relating his life story, was to keep Scientology out of it. I learned later that he was an Ethics Officer and long-tern member, and that, for many years Ken has been listed by Scientology as a “suppressive”. The only man Ken called a friend (Kenjans were all his “best friends”) was an ex-Scientologist who came to Ken’s classes for some time, but he stopped coming and apparently returned to Scientology (Stephens 2012:83).

In fact, Bevan Hudson, long-time Kenjan, states that when he went on occasion to clean Dyers’ residence Ken always had the latest Scientology publications and tape-recordings, which would suggest that in the 1980s and 1990s Dyers was still in contact with, if not a member of, the Church of Scientology (Kohn 2008).

When Dyers and Hamilton met and formed Kenja, Dyers’ “Energy Conversion Meditation” was brought into relationship with Hamilton’s “klowning” classes, and the pair seemed to be equal partners. However, as Kenja developed Dyers emerged as the charismatic leader (and that charisma, even in his eighties, is apparent in Beyond Our Ken), and Hamilton was side-lined as klowning gave way to ECM and “processing.” Hamilton, in the wake of Dyers’ death, was not merely a grieving widow, but the “keeper of the flame” dedicated to the memory of the great man. Stephens joined Kenja in 1982, and she recalls the Hamilton of the 1980s with affection; the breakthrough she had when she discovered her inner clown, Clarence, had as much to do with her staying in Kenja as her visceral reaction to Dyers’ charisma (Stephens 2012:44-47). Soon she was a full-time Kenjan, seeing Jan as a role model: “I looked at Jan and felt her pride. All those people were standing and cheering her. She was our example, an ordinary woman on a world-changing journey. She must lead with elation and humility, and never falter. Ken had already made it and had nothing to prove” (Stephens 2012:58).

The beliefs of Kenja are best understood in terms of Hamilton having a particular view of the person, which made her “klowning” classes as a way to get in touch with the “inner child” (which in Kenja Communications was called “the human”) and Dyers having a view of the “spirit.” However, the way these two elements of the person were related is not the same as the general idea that humans have both a bodily and a spiritual element, found in many religions. Rather, Dyers speaks of “attached spirits” (Maclean and Walker 2008), which are basically the same as the “body thetans” found in Scientology (Urban 2011:103). Dyers’ teachings also repurposed L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology cosmological vision, to make Kenja into a vital movement, the goal of which was to save the universe, a translation of L. Ron Hubbard’s mission to “clear the planet” (Westbrook 2017:42). Bevan Hudson told Rachael Kohn that “in a group such as Kenja, there is a basic underlying sense that the world is a rotten place, and that’s why people go along to Kenja, to sort of get themselves better” (Kohn 2008). Hudson, an intelligent person and a professional musician, nevertheless thought that Dyers “introduced some wonderful galactic concepts, you know, he’d come from another planet, and he’d actually sort of cleaned up Jesus Christ and thought, Oh dammit, I’ll go down and fix them up myself, these agents for no good, you know” (Kohn 2008). He confirmed that Dyers spoke of an entity, “Xenon”, who seemingly is the Xenu of Scientology’s Operating Thetan Level 3 materials, that Dyers used Scientological terms like engrams and thetans in his explanation of Kenja teachings, and that by the late 1980s the Kenjan processors were buying and reading Scientology publications (Kohn 2008).

Thus, Dyers taught that the world was a dark and apocalyptic, and that Kenja was a vital force for good; therefore, Kenjans believed their goal was to save the world. The Kenja Communications motto is “spiritual understanding in a physical world” (Kenja Trust n.d.), and Stephens observed that:

According to Ken’s data, there is a spiritual hierarchy consisting of alien spirits, the human spirit, rogue spirits (also called attached spirits) and entities. Alien spirits came to this universe from another galaxy, via an explosion. These ruthless alien overlords, having experienced countless malevolent lives throughout the history of the universe, were punished by entrapment here on Earth (Stephens 2012:76).

This is all very clearly derived from Scientology: Dyers and Hamilton devised a workshop on “Communication With Time, Space and Energy” (which echoes Ron Hubbard’s MEST, Matter Energy Space Time); Dyers employed Hubbard’s “Tone Scale” to rank certain emotions and behaviours for Kenjans; Dyers rejected psychology and psychiatry as did Hubbard, claiming that Kenja “processing “ was all that was needed to heal illnesses; Dyers was violently anti-drugs and medication of any sort; and Kenja expelled members with serious psychological or psychiatric illnesses (Stephens 2012:85, 41, 49, 89, 51). Further, Dyers taught Kenjans that

[the] alien spirit is the supreme intelligence, separate from human bodies, but it needs a body to control, one that will do its bidding. Their phenomenal awareness lost, spirits become so deluded as to believe they were merely a human body, and controlled them blindly. Instead of freely creating the appropriate identities for the human body, it has become a narrow identity – I am not Annette, Annette is the current, small-time identity that I, the spirit, am trapped in (Stephens 2012:77).

This fits Hubbard’s characterisation of the human person as not only a body, but rather a “thetan,” a reincarnated extra-terrestrial spirit that will ultimately be liberated from the restrictions of MEST. Kenjans, like Scientologists, are taught to see themselves as a body and a mind, but overall as a spirit, an element that is immortal and thus far more important than anything that is part of mundane everyday life. When the practice of Energy Conversion Meditation (ECM) is engaged in, out of body experiences and dissociative states often occur, reinforcing Hamilton and Dyers’ teachings about the nature of the person. Thus, a personal development organization teaches metaphysical ideas that extend far beyond participants seeking to improve their communication skills or workplace competencies.

There is one further aspect of “belief” for members of Kenja that merits mention; the list of thirteen principles known as “Kenja Ethics” (Kenja Trust n.d.). These principles are:

1. Our purpose is to assist the individual to increase their self-esteem and develop their full potential to survive with joy in all facets of their life.

2. Kenja is a training ground to enable people to increase their creativity in the full spectrum of their own lives. If the individual neglects this and creates Kenja as a substitute for the creation of his/her own life, he/she is asked to leave until he/she can creatively expand his/her own individual life.

3. Any skills acquired in communication are used creatively towards other people. If an individual uses these skills destructively towards people, we will not work with that individual.

4. We acknowledge the individual’s right to experience the discovery and expression of their own spirituality as they see fit. (People of varying religions practise the work).

5. No one in Kenja engages in gossip.

6. No one assassinates another’s character.

7. The family unit is respected, and no one interferes destructively with the family unit.

8. If a man and woman are involved in a relationship no one engages in any activity that would be destructive towards that relationship.

9. We do not charge children for training they receive in Kenja.

10. Students and older teenagers either pay rates they consider they can afford or are not charged for training. (In fact most of the training, administration and creation of the action of Kenja is done for no charge. Profits made are returned to the creation of the action).

11. No one signs up for any workshops or classes in Kenja.

12. There are no courses at Kenja – only classes and workshops, complete in themselves. Activities are paid for on attendance. If any activity is paid in advance and the person does not attend, the money is refunded on request.

13. We will not work with individuals we consider we can’t help (Kenja Trust, n.d.).

At first glance this list appears fairly standard, but several of the principles are seemingly more in the breach than the observance. Annette Stephens frankly admits that her addictive response to Kenja, and to Dyers in particular, caused her to abandon her children (Gillan 2012), and there are stories of other familial and relationship breakdowns, and also of deceits practised to keep single members attached to the group. Cornelia Rau, whose mind so drastically unraveled after her involvement in Kenja in 1998, had been falsely wooed by another member, a tactic that was employed to “hook” romantically lonely people (Manne 2005). The ban on gossip meant that Kenjans rarely discussed attitudes to the leadership, or compared notes after klowning or ECM sessions, which in fact strengthened Hamilton and Dyers’ position (Maclean and Walker 2008). The final principle in reality meant that those with psychiatric or psychological problems, or anyone who asked too many questions or showed lack of willingness to devote themselves to Kenja was ejected from the group fairly quickly.

RITUALS/PRACTICES

Kenja Communications has many qualities that are more characteristic of a business than a religion. It was marketed as a self-improvement organization that could teach participants to communicate more effectively and to be personally successful. The communication tools that seminars or workshop participants were introduced to included ECM, clowning classes, and theatrical productions (Maclean and Walker 2008). [Image at right] Kenja centers offered free one-on-one personal consultations (PCs) and if one took advantage of this offer encouragement to sign up for longer courses and further processing sessions at the Kenja branches in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra resulted. Kenja is unusual, in that it remained a purely Australian movement with no international presence (Samways 1994:xi).

Kenjans were expected to take part in many activities, from sports training to full-scale theatrical performances, and they were expected also to raise money for Kenja by selling flowers and other commercial activities. Scholars would be likely to characterize Kenja as a “high demand” group. Hamilton and Dyers argued that engagement with creative activities led to spiritual development, and increased members’ communication abilities.  It is more likely that these extra-curricular activities were designed to take up the whole of a member’s free time, and most of his/her income. Former lawyer Melissa Maclean and ex-actor Luke Walker first discussed making a documentary about Kenja because Walker had attended Kenja for six months. In an interview with journalist Rebecca Albeck, Maclean says he was not popular with Kenjans because he “asked too many questions” (Albeck 2009:89). Walker realized he would not be able to make a documentary as he was known to the group, so Maclean approached Dyers and Hamilton and began filming what would become Beyond our Ken. Walker was intrigued by the charges against Dyers, and the disappearance of members like Cornelia Rau and Richard Leape, and views the film in two parts, a positive view of life for some Kenjans, then a negative view that emerges in the second half:

Was it deceitful for me to hang out with Kenja, leave and make a film about them? [But that] was the only way to see it candidly. Had I not understood how innocent, and in some cases beneficial, the world of Kenja was, we wouldn’t have constructed the film as we did. For the first half-hour you see their world, you understand why people are attracted to it, you understand the positive side. Only after that do we start to deconstruct it … (Albeck 2009:89).

The activities that Kenjans engage with in the first part of Beyond Our Ken are chiefly sport-based and theatrical. Jan Hamilton is the leading figure in encouraging this sort of artistic and expressive performances. In Beyond Our Ken Hamilton spoke of Kenja creating a “safe” environment for members, in which people could learn to sing, dance, act, do gymnastics, play netball, and many other entertaining and skill-building activities.

The principal spiritual activity, Energy Conversion Meditation (ECM), can be understood as a version of the Scientology Training Routines (TRs) with elements of auditing in the mix. In Beyond Our Ken Maclean and Walker filmed Hamilton and Dyers doing ECM (Maclean and Walker 2008). This involved sitting knee to knee for a time staring into Dyers’ eyes. Ex-Scientologist Perry Scott described OT TR0 (Operating Thetan Confronting) as “sit with eyes closed for hours, not moving or twitching, ‘confronting’ [the] coach” and TR0 Confronting as sitting “with eyes open for hours, not moving or twitching, ‘confronting’ coach … 2 hrs recommended” (Scott n.d.)  Melissa Maclean was told she could not film Kenja without having done ECM, and initially Dyers “processed” her. This was unsuccessful; he accused her of “having issues” with men and said he could not work with her (Kohn 2008). Hamilton then took over. Maclean found ECM very uncomfortable, seeing it as entirely focused on the negative, digging up bad experiences and memories (in particular thoughts that the person felt were not their own) allegedly to be rid of them (Fidler 2008). This is very like the Scientology practice of auditing.

When Stephen Mutch discussed Kenja in the New South Wales Parliament, he stated that ECM was a trigger for hypnotic states, and was a technique used to “brainwash” members:

From discussions with past members of Kenja, I am satisfied that this organisation utilises dangerous and covert hypnotic induction techniques to exert mind control for unscrupulous purposes over recruits who are drawn into the organisation by deceit. Unsuspecting people are surreptitiously brought under the control of Ken Dyers and Jan Hamilton so that they become virtual slaves, involuntarily giving over their minds and incomes to Kenja. Dyers professes to have acquired God-like knowledge and to have developed a theory of energy conversion which brings with it unique insights into the meaning of life. The truth is that Ken Dyers is a seedy con man and his theory is mumbo jumbo garbage (Mutch 1993).

Dyers claimed that hypnosis was banned in Kenja. Also, Mutch’s statements are flawed, as it is now agreed by legal professionals, psychiatrists, religious studies scholars, and psychologists that “brainwashing” is a misleading term, and the phenomenon is invalid and/ or non-existent. However, Mutch is to be credited as he had collected evidence of abusive practices such as Dyers’ sexual touching of female Kenjans, and genital touching and sex during ECM. His presentation of this material in the NSW Parliament was an important step in bringing Kenja into the public eye.

Annette Stephens experienced dissociative states during ECM with Dyers, to the extent that during her first session with Dyers she is uncertain whether sexual activity occurred or not:

An enclosed balcony [at Hamilton and Dyers’ home] was set up as his session room …

“Do you mind taking your clothes off?”

Of course I took them off. Why not, in front of Ken? As processee, I had sometimes undressed. It would benefit the session: energy could flow unimpeded.

“Are you comfortable?”

Ken gathered more cushions, plumping and moving them. Here or there? He was laughing and personal. He hardly noticed my nakedness; he was fully dressed.

Sitting opposite me, he bypassed the formalities of a session and just said the word “start” … As I looked into Ken’s bone-still eyes, I feared I might disappear into my still surging mists. My neck was tense and I sank into the cushions.

The session finished; to me it had barely begun. Two and a half hours had passed.

Ken lay on top of me with his trousers and underpants hanging down around his ankles. Uncertainty flooded my senses.

Ken stood. Dressed. Smiled. “That was a great session Annette.”

He asked for feedback. I stumbled.

I had failed to see any pictures, let alone another movie in my head.

I noted the colour of Ken’s penis.

I wondered, the question brief, did we? If Ken had touched me, let alone had sex with me, I would surely have known.

How could a woman have sex and not know it?

If nothing else, I would have noticed the smell of semen. I liked its sticky pungency.

From the depths of my unconscious mind, something had involuntarily asserted its authority. I shut my uncertainty down and closed it off. Nothing had happened. I concluded. In session, Ken had released my unpleasant energies. That was it. I should know. I was there with Ken in the session.

“It was,” I said “a fabulous session; years of pain just flew away.”

“That was an important session, Annette. Take a little time, pamper your human, fluff it up a little and walk along the beach.”

I had no time for a beach walk; unease shivered and I disobeyed Ken (Stephens 2012:67-68).

Stephens was in a fragile mental state; Kenja attracted vulnerable people. Her experience was not uncommon; Melissa Maclean said that she was informed by ex-members that Jan Hamilton had at first been unaware that Dyers was having sex with female Kenjans in his ECM sessions (this extended to other qualified “processors” of both sexes, who were told to deal with problems around sex with sex, usually mutual masturbation though oral sex and full intercourse were also possible). When Hamilton found out she “shut it [sex in ECM] down for a while” (Fidler 2008). The disastrous effects that this kind of practice had on fragile people was the main reason why the group, never large or famous in the manner of Scientology, was covered by Australian journalists at sundry times.

ORGANIZATION/LEADERSHIP 

Ken Dyers and Jan Hamilton were the leaders of Kenja Communications. [Image at right] In Beyond Our Ken David Millikan, a Uniting Church minister who interviewed Dyers before he suicided, and who has written on various “cults” in Australia, attested to Dyer’s power and presence. In the case of charismatic leadership, charisma is not only “intrinsically” a quality of the leader.  Followers assist by reflecting the charisma back on the leader, and certain members of the group have a special role in creating or crafting the impression of charisma. For Kenja Communications, Jan Hamilton was the chief steward of Dyers’ leadership. She is celebrated as the “co-founder” despite the clear demarcation between her “klowning” and Dyers’ “research” into the human spirit. The public work of Kenja Communications is dedicated to restoring and honoring the work of Dyers, and Hamilton is the chief agent of this activity.

There are several activities that Kenja continues to organise more than a decade after Dyers’ death. The most important of these, arguably, is the “theatre documentary” Guilty Until Proven Innocent, which is staged around Australia by those who continue to be Kenjans (“A Witch Hunt” n.d.). This is a valuable activity, as Dyers’ charisma is no longer available directly to potential members. His story, presented as a conspiracy bringing down a great Australian, is an emotive tool to attract new members. Dyers is a “martyr”, denied justice and driven to suicide by jealous and malicious enemies (Kohn 2008). Kenja maintains centres in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra; at its greatest extent there were many more centres; Melissa Maclean believes that Kenja will continue, though she is uncertain for how long and in what condition (Kohn 2008). Jan Hamilton is now over seventy, and it is extremely difficult to determine whether a new generation of Kenjans exists.

It seems unlikely, however, as many aspects of Dyers’ self-presentation and the Hamilton curation of his post-mortem reputation are out of step with attitudinal change in twenty-first century Australia. For example, every year Kenja books a picnic site at Balmoral Beach in Sydney with Mosman Council, in order to stage a re-enactment of the landing on the First Fleet, which was captained by Arthur Philip, the first Governor of New South Wales, on 26 January (Tang 2017). This date is a public holiday, Australia Day, celebrating the start of White settlement. However, for Indigenous Australian this date has been commemorated as “Invasion Day” and mourned as the occasion of the illegal seizure of their land and the commencement of the destruction of their culture. Younger Australians are sympathetic to this revisionist position, and Kenja’s re-enactment of the landing of the First Fleet appears old-fashioned, colonialist, and perhaps even racist to contemporary Australians. Other activities that attest to the continued presence of Kenja include children’s concerts and communication seminars. However, these activities, like Guilty Until Proven Innocent and the Australia Day re-enactment are unlikely to be very successful, as they attract constant negative press coverage (Tran 2016).

ISSUES/CHALLENGES

Kenja was brought into the public eye by Stephen Mutch’s speech in the NSW Parliament in 1992, and the 1993 sexual assault charges against Ken Dyers made the group a household name. Two of the three existing scholarly articles and chapters that address Kenja (all as merely one of a number of case studies), those by Katherine Biber on the Dyers vs the Queen legal case in 1993 and by James T. Richardson on media treatment of new religions in Australia (which discusses charges Kenja brought to the Australian Journalists’ Association against a journalist who referred to Kenja as a  “cult”) focus on those early scandals (Biber 2005; Richardson 1996:294-95). Apart from sexual charges against Dyers, two other crises caused image management problems for Kenja. These were the Cornelia Rau case and a number of former Kenjans who suffered mental breakdowns and disappeared or committed suicide. Melissa Maclean and Luke Walker gave time in Beyond Our Ken to the cases of Richard Leape and Michael Beaver. Both developed mental illness; Leape suffered from profound depression and disappeared in 1993 (Doherty 2006), and the schizophrenic Beaver, a member of Kenja for two years, suicided (Mutch 1993).

Cornelia Rau was a German citizen who was an Australian permanent resident. She came to the notice of the press in 2005 when it was discovered that she had been unlawfully held for ten months in 2004-2005 in Baxter Detention Centre for illegal immigrants. Rau was mentally ill and had given a false name, Anna Brotmeyer, to the police who had initially arrested her in Queensland (Manne 2005). Rau was released from detention and returned to her family in early 2005, suffering from schizophrenia. It subsequently was disclosed that in 1998, while on holiday from her job as a Qantas flight attendant, she had joined Kenja. Academic and social commentator Robert Manne described how Rau’s psychiatric state declined as she was exposed to Kenjan practices, including the “confront.” Mann explained that “confronts” were the “unveiling an individual’s innermost secrets and feelings in a public forum without prior warning,” intended to reinforce the Kenjan’s dependence on the approval of Dyers and membership of the group (Manne 2005). Rau was criticised for her lack of artistic ability, told she had an “evil spirit,” and lured by the false romantic attentions of a Kenjan man, which was seemingly a “standard Kenja technique, designed to keep sexually insecure and romantically lonely young people coming back” (Manne 2005). Rau experienced psychosis after a particularly savage “confront” and Hamilton and Dyers took her to Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, put her on a ’plane, and told never to return to Kenja. Later Rau “repeatedly claimed that she had been sexually assaulted while at Kenja. When 60 Minutes asked her why she had refused to give her real name to immigration authorities, she spoke of her fear of being captured by the sect” (Manne 2005).

Kenja, under the leadership of Hamilton, also persecutes Dyers’ accusers. Hamilton is convinced that it was the allegations made by Alison Pels (whose parents were in Kenja for decades and whose father Martin Pels contributed significantly to Dyers’ legal costs) that caused Dyers to suicide. She went to extraordinary lengths to torment Alison Pels, including the staging of a fake audition (for Anton Chekov’s The Three Sisters) on October 17, 2007. Pels, seeking to become an actress, was invited to audition, where she was verbally attacked by Hamilton, who was dressed as a man (Kontominas 2008). Alison Pels sought legal protection from the group, and court proceedings revealed that Hamilton and Kenja faked alibis for themselves for the day of the audition. The main challenges that Kenja faces in the future are that Hamilton and the continuing members are aging, their protective attitude to Dyers’ reputation and their contempt for the legal processes of Australian courts are unappealing to potential new members, and their attitudes and social practices are out of touch with contemporary multi-cultural, tolerant Australia.

IMAGES

Image #1: Kenja founders Ken Dyers and Jan Hamilton.
Image #2: A Kenja gathering.
Image #3: The Kenja logo.

REFERENCES

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