A Japanese cult leader who famously claimed he could channel the spirit of any living or dead person has passed away at the age of 66.
Ryuho OKawa was the leader and CEO for the “Happy Science’ cult HTML2. He died on Thursday, but his cause of death is still unknown, Fuji TV reports.
Okawa had remained a controversial figure for most of his life, claiming to have received “Messages of God” and to have the ability to channel the spirits of the rich and famous. Okawa published books that were based on the messages he received from spirits.
His publications included addresses from the “guardian spirits” of Jesus Christ, former President Trump, Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He described his books as a form of “religious journalism.”
Okawa was born in 1956 in a rural area and graduated from the University of Tokyo. After having an “epiphany,” Okawa founded “Happy Science” in 1986. He believed Okawa could channel spirits and also spiritual reincarnation.
The cult claimed to have grown the group to include members in more than 110 countries and 700 related facilities both inside and outside the country. A New York Times report in 2020 cast doubt on the group’s claims, including its boast of 11 million members, instead citing Okawa’s first wife who said the group had roughly 30,000 members in 2011.
Hiroshi, Okawa’s son, denounced his father as nothing more than a con-man. He told the Times in a 2020 interview that his father “relentlessly lied to his followers” and that he believed “what my father does is complete nonsense.”
Okawa launched the group’s political branch, the Happiness Realization Party, in 2009, The Japan News reported. His party advocated for small government based on religious teaching, a China containment policy and limitations on the rights of the LGBTQ community.
The party failed to win any national government seats as of Okawa’s death, though, some members have won local assembly seats, according to France 24.
Members of the “Happy Science” party have yet to release any statements after Okawa’s passing.
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