Ken Dyers: Tributes and accusations
Sydney Morning Herald
August 4, 2007
Two sets of eyes have been scanning website tributes to the late Ken Dyers. There are people grieving a good man who committed suicide last week in desperation under the weight of scurrilous allegations of sexual misconduct .
Then there are those outraged that an evil man died at his own hand rather than face a barrage of criminal charges for the systematic abuse of children under his thrall.
For supporters of the charismatic creator and guru of the spiritual healing movement Kenja Communications, the website is a fitting honour roll, filled with comments from grateful devotees whose lives had been touched by "an extraordinary life ... focusing on the spiritual essence of mankind and people's positive qualities rather than their liabilities".
But others, mainly disaffected members and anti-cult experts, view those comments as a chilling display of Dyers's control of the fragile and the innocent in his own private cult; messages from children like 14-year-old Brianna, who writes of her relationship with the 85-year-old man: "Ken was my best friend in the whole entire world. He had so much love, understanding and admiration for people. He has helped me grow so much."
Or eight-year-old Alicia, who penned "I loved him a lot ... 'cos I'm one of his bestest friends."
In life, Kenneth Emmanuel Dyers divided people. A free-thinker to some and a sexual deviant to others; a caring student of human emotion or manipulative cult leader prone to outbursts of rage; successful businessman or wealthy leech; war hero or compulsive liar.
In death his legacy remains equally divided, as allegations linger that he abused young girls in nude "conversion" sessions in his Surry Hills offices; while his wife told mourners at his funeral on Wednesday that evil forces had driven her husband to suicide.
The Kenja biography lauds Dyers as a visionary; a rags-to-riches story of achievement, as he first survived on the streets of Sydney during the Great Depression before leaving home at the age of 14 and taking odd jobs such as cleaning pots at a college, becoming a butcher and enlisting in the army.
It is here that the first questions are raised about his credibility. Dyers claimed to have served with distinction as an artillery man with the Australian 9th Division during World War II, seconded to British counter-intelligence and then seeing action at El Alamein. He also tells a story of being at Lae and Finschhafen in New Guinea where his "bodyguard", a Corporal Appel, was hit by a grenade and died in Dyers's arms - a moment "which fuelled Ken on his ceaseless drive to help people enhance their own lives".
But Dyers's war service record indicates a man with a Walter Mitty complex, who only ever achieved the rank of corporal and was demoted to private by the time he was discharged.
It also details a chequered record, including being court-martialled three times. In late 1943 he was in jail for five days awaiting trial on three charges, and eventually convicted of "conduct prejudice to the good order and military discipline". In June 1944 he went AWL for 16 days. In April 1945 he was fined for leaving his sentry post and in July fined again for misconduct. Curiously, it also refers to an assessment of his "mental instability" which is rated at 10 per cent on the day he was demobbed in August 1946.
Dyers became a businessman after the war, claiming to have marketed his own tax accounting system and invented an egg carton as well as trading in precious stones and working as a "troubleshooter" for Consolidated Press, while developing his concepts of human behaviour, which he apparently used running management classes.
Connecting the dots becomes even more difficult into the 1970s when Dyers, now recovering from two failed marriages and with two sons, apparently abandons his business career and sets himself up as a glazier so he can concentrate on helping young drug addicts. His interest in youth is unclear other than his association as an instructor of "boxing, gymnastics and tumbling" at the Rose Bay Youth Club and as a delegate for a junior rugby union association.
It is here, the website says, that he "crystallises" his ideas about meditation and positive energy into a technique he calls "energy conversion", explained as "one-on-one meditation enabling the individual, through the stillness of another, to become conscious of energies creating negative effects in their thinking and their lives, and then to dissipate them. By getting rid of that energy, the problem disappeared."
In 1978 Dyers met Jan Hamilton. The woman who would become his third wife had just returned from London on an Australia Council grant where she had studied the art of being a clown. Hamilton had begun holding clowning classes in Sydney, which she later described as "the use of particular exercises designed to reach in and touch the human part of each individual and to bring out the human in people".
The pair combined their ideas to create Kenja - based on their names - in 1982, and opened a centre in Surry Hills. A decade later, when allegations were first raised over Dyers's tactics and influence over children, Kenja was firmly established, with hundreds of devotees paying thousands of dollars to attend regular classes from sporting teams to music, choir, tap dancing, ballet, gymnastics, poetry and ballroom dancing. The cornerstone was "energy conversion sessions", which allegedly included nude one-on-one sessions, sometimes with women and children.
In 1992 an upper house Liberal MP, Stephen Mutch, described Dyers as "a seedy conman selling mumbo-jumbo garbage", using mind control to draw recruits who found themselves "involuntarily giving over their minds and incomes to Kenja".
This concerted attack became more serious the following year when police charged Dyers with 11 counts of sexual assault against four girls from two ex-Kenja families. He was acquitted of all charges, but in 2005 he was charged with another 22 counts. Dyers was committed to stand trial but the case was deferred after the NSW District Court deemed him unfit and ordered a mental health assessment.
On July 25 this year, police rang Dyers again. There were more allegations and more charges. At 11am, Dyers's body was found in his Bundeena home. He had shot himself in the head.
Police have not released details of the latest allegations but this week a Sydney man wrote to the Herald in protest to the paper accepting a paid advertisement from Dyers' followers.
The man had been a longtime Kenja member, and claimed to have contributed $500,000 to Dyers's legal defence before leaving in March after one of his daughters told him she had been repeatedly sexually abused by Dyers.
"My daughter recently told me through tears that her only crime was to have been born a girl and born into Kenja. What an indictment that is against every person in that group who refuses to take responsibility for their part in promoting lies and hypocrisy! I am disgusted."
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