Universal Medicine is a group based outside of Lismore NSW headed by Serge Benhayon. The members believe he has exclusive knowledge about reality and is the “new world teacher”
My relationship with the group is defined by my ex-wife’s involvement with them. At first I thought it was simply another healing modality she was interested in, however, upon moving to the area in 2008 I began to have concerns about her involvement and some of the ideas emanating from the group.
For my part, it impacted heavily on the time we had together as a couple and family. Lifestyle changes arrived without rhyme or reason and became increasingly onerous. My concerns regarding this were never addressed or fully discussed. At the start of 2012, we separated abruptly. I later discovered an email from Mr Benhayon encouraging just that; he branded me a ‘convenient liar’, and wrote: “why would you let Mr Lance hold you back from your glory?”
Shockingly and without precedent, I was now regularly accused of being a liar and also ‘abusive’ for disagreeing with UM doctrine or trying to discuss my concerns about UM or it’s leader.
Co-incidentally media interest was building around Benhayon at this time. A number of stories ran in major newspapers and two current affair programs aired stories on Benhayons claims which included being the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci.
Universal Medicines narrative is that a “group of (abusive) men from Bangalow pub” started the media campaign. In fact, the seeds had been laid many months before when a complaint was lodged with the TGA by a gentleman in QLD whose partners involvement with UM had also led to the breakdown of their relationship. UM now accuse the journalist Byron Kaye of lodging that complaint to create a story he could write about. (Tellingly, I drink rarely and almost never at Bangalow pub, though that allegation can still be found on UM blogs)
A relatively small story on a non-compliant herb mixture grew exponentially when a Fairfax journalist ran with a page three Sunday paper story over Benhayons reincarnation claims. Another journalist, David Leser, had already been working on a Good Weekend feature for many months which I later found out when he approached me (and ten or so others) for a comment.
None the less, the official Universal Medicine narrative is that I was behind the national media attention. I imagine this is because Benhayon is incapable of understanding that his claims of being the ‘new world teacher’ and insisting in the lead up to 2012 (Mayan calendar/”new era” in UM parlance) that members had to ‘step up, even if it meant leaving their relationships’ would result in a confluence of events that would conspire to smack him in the face.
I was one of a dozen or more (that I was aware of) disenfranchised partners at that time. The difference is Benhayon knew me personally, and I suspect he felt slighted in the realization that I had not fallen under his spell.
I was, therefore, cast as the central figure in a conspiracy. My understanding is that is still their fervent belief. That is because every so often an ex-member or the partner of a member tells me about a UM communique. And because they spend inordinate amounts of time blogging about me and working to destroy my businesses and reputation. As late as last year Benhayon was harping on about my ‘astral criminality’.
Make no mistake. I was upset by these turns of events and was struggling to get my head around what was going on. But I was not alone. During that period there was a very active group of ex-partners and family of members (some of them of high-level UMers) communicating with each other regularly.
There was, with hindsight, a naive belief that loved ones could be shocked out of their allegiance by exposing doctrinal contradictions and hitherto unknown facts about Benhayon himself.
The Group Attacks
In the second half of 2012, I first spoke to Esther Rockett. She had been to UM courses and told me her experiences had led her to fear that the group may head in the direction it appeared to be going. She soon had a blog up about UM.
UM imagine, as part of the villain narrative, that Esther is my ‘mouthpiece’. Nothing is further from the truth. Esther is an extremely intelligent and articulate woman with a fortitude few people possess. No one is going to tell her what to do, including UM or me. Her campaign is based on her own adverse experiences with the group and her background with new religious movements. I had learned some interesting things about Benhayon from people in the community who knew him prior to his millennial-eve toilet epiphany that I conveyed to her. Beyond that, her investigations and analysis are all her own. I have since learned from her.
[Esther currently has a silk and a QC representing her on spec in the defamation case brought by Benhayon against her. Altruism aside, they must have reckoned there is a fair chance of collecting costs from the plaintiff. Unlike UM rank and file, who ‘believe’ Benhayon will be vindicated, they are privy to facts and act on this basis. Update Esther has won (October 2018) the defamation claim brought against her by UM after a protracted three-year legal battle.]
The group responded in turn with a plethora of their own websites dedicated to Benhayon and their beliefs, with members jostling to fill comments with testimonials of miracle transformations and blanket denials. They spat vitriol at critics while claiming to be ‘about love’.
Around this time I received a call from Hamish Broome who said he was from the Northern Star newspaper and was writing a story about UM. I questioned if he knew of them, which he denied. I then spoke to him at length. I can’t recall the detail of this conversation but at that time I was literally beside my self with worry. I had just lost my family – something I loved and valued – and was still spinning from that and the circle of unusual events surrounding it. Sometime later I discovered Broome was, in fact, a UM member and that the call was a ruse to get information. The Northern Star management declined to act on a complaint. Broome is still with the paper.
During 2013 and 2014 my focus was on co-parenting our young child. There were a number of disagreements about schooling locations and while I experienced hostility there was relatively open communication about our child’s welfare.
In 2014 the group launched a new website dedicated to trashing critics. I managed to feature with my own page and a menu link. I was in good company along with journalists, Esther Rockett and a few others who had the temerity to disagree with UM.
The group focussed on my then online hotel booking website which was part Expedia reseller and part aggregator. I employed staff in Byron Bay and the site was ranked high for travel in online search.
The first articles were written by Rebecca Baldwin (now Rebecca Asquith) and Alison Grieg who has become the chief propagandist for Universal Medicine. The images used were from a private collection handed to the group. They were curated to ensure I looked the most villainous. Allegations had been photoshopped onto the images and the pages were keyword loaded with the name of the business. The group linked to a page set up by a competitor who we were then engaged in legal action with. The UM blog clearly challenged customers to check if they ‘trusted this man’.
By late 2014 it was impossible to visit that booking site without being confronted with the UM page. Customers were cancelling, and hoteliers were asking to be removed from the site. After a wholesale drop in booking revenue, the site was taken offline in 2015. Millions of dollars had been spent establishing that business.
I investigated taking legal action for defamation, however, I was advised that the best course of action is for commercial damages. There is a six-year period to take such action.
In late 2016 UM members, failed mayoral candidate Ray Karam and former street busker Simon Asquith, commenced a new round of online attacks starting the day my sister passed away. The group at-large have prior form on this, attacking journalist Jane Hansen on the anniversary of the death of her child. They have issued threats on Christmas Eve and even lashed out on the day of a funeral.
A part of the villain narrative UM also accuse me of making scores of vexatious and fruitless complaints since 2012. On the contrary, I lodged a complaint about Benhayon to the HCCC for breaches of the unregistered practitioners ‘code of conduct’ and more official complaints AFTER the establishment of these sites. Those were to OFT and to the ACNC about the UM ‘charity’ (College of Universal Medicine or CoUM). The latter complaint resulted in compliance action for Benhayon and later the loss of the charities DGR (gift tax refund) authority.
Had UM not established their blogs, odds are I would have done little or nothing further. Ironically, they also commenced legal action against Esther Rockett at the very time she announced she was stopping her investigations into them.
The Group Attacks Again
Rather than spending inordinate amounts of time and money on legal action, I decided to focus on another aspect of the business. I entered into a business partnership with another man who became the director of a new entity. I was the majority shareholder and provided significant funding.
In 2015 a website was established for of retail travel product that was being contracted. It was not profitable within agreed timeframes and budgets and partnership issues surfaced as a result. In mid-2017 I took over as director after ongoing disagreements and losses.
Upon termination, the former director began quoting UM blogs in not-so-veiled threats. He immediately set about establishing a copycat business contrary to non-compete clauses.
During the remainder of 2017, we became aware that the business was being white-anted by parties who were contacting suppliers and customers, encouraging them not to book with us, and to cancel holidays. This reached a peak towards the end of 2017.
Contrary to fallacious media reports I was subsequently forced to inject significant additional funds into the business to deal with a raft of problems set in motion by poor contracting and this anti-commercial activity.
In December 2017 Universal Medicine found out the name of this business and set up a new attack page to troll it. In a very short time, customers were contacting the company to cancel bookings and holidays. Online sales plummetted.
One customer who appeared to be communicating with the former director quoted UM blogs and told me she would ‘get me’. I received a death threat by text from another party. That party is friends with the former director on Facebook.
In January 2018 I was made aware of a Facebook page set up to parody the business. The page was loaded with links to the UM blogs and had copies of the images of myself. The author was encouraging people to cancel and ‘get the fat ugly cunt’.
The former director made contact with me and made wise-cracks about my age and told me he would “get me” and repeated allegations. He was seen ‘private messaging’ prospective customers and posted defamatory comments on Facebook. He engaged with my social media manager and made admissions about running a disruption campaign and speaking with customers to inflame them in a campaign to destroy the business that was co-founded by himself and funded by me.
I was approached by a man called Simon Smith who said he was “investigating” the company. He soon began making allegations while telling me it was a ‘fair investigation’. He refused to tell me who he represented or his actual credentials, though others I know in the media told me he presented himself as a cyber ‘scam’ expert and was probably pitching the story to tabloid TV shows.
In April 2018 Channel Nine ambushed me and made similar allegations. I contacted them and offered to show them documents to clarify the actual situation and to conduct a proper interview if they so desired, however they did not return my emails or calls. The show went to air a few weeks later (a week after the ABC aired a story about a breach of my privacy by a UM-affiliated doctor).
The first lady interviewed was the aforementioned customer who had undertaken to ‘get me’ after reading the UM blogs, and the other man interviewed is allegedly involved with the aforementioned death threat.
The former director again took to social media to gloat and wrote further inflammatory comments as though he had no involvement with the business. He again engaged the social media manager and said ‘he had got the fat ugly old cunt’ and made further inadvertent admissions about his involvement.
For a few days, Facebook was full of UM members proudly crowing about ‘exposing Lance Martin’. On the same page, people were making barely veiled physical threats and my home address and phone number were being offered. UM members began tweeting links to me, bravely calling me names.
One UM member, Dragana Brown (who is a “writer” for the Huffington Post) contacted me on twitter to express how she thought it was glorious that people were making threats. She then had her young son lecture me on my ‘behaviour’ and explain to me that karma was getting me for “defocating (sic) in your and other people homes”. Dragana assured me her son is ‘wise’.
Needless to say, that business is now adversely affected. Contrary to the sensationalist claims of the show, it has come at a financial loss. A Current Affair carelessly got their four-minute story and an “anti-Aussie’ arch-villain, which is their fodder; and Universal Medicine got what they had been looking for six years: Revenge – and ‘vindication’ of their narrative. In the name of “truth and love”.
I recount these events to highlight how damaging UM is to people outside of the group, and how lies can take hold, pass from person to person, and have real-world effects.
UM’s four-year campaign to bring me down gave the former director and customers a licence to do what they themselves are doing- to be abusive. To the point of death threats. What would happen if someone acted on that?
There is no doubt that if Universal Medicine blogs didn’t exist none of these things would have occurred. I am also not the only person UM have targetted. While suing Esther Rockett for defamation, they registered a website with the sole purpose of destroying her acupuncture business in Byron Bay.
They have attacked journalists, often in the most egregious and personal manner, questioning their integrity and even accusing them of making up stories. (although they applaud a Current Affair who flatly rejected looking at facts)
Ironically, UM claim there is a campaign against them. They are unwilling to admit that it is their outlandish claims and behaviour that bring them negative attention. They are quite prepared to destroy people that don’t agree with them without any consideration of possible consequences.
Even if UM believes it is justifiable “payback”, the questions beg:
Wouldn’t those that are enlightened and only about love be better than those that are “attacking” them?
What sort of organisation is so preoccupied with attacking critics?
What ‘world-teacher’ registers websites to conduct vindictive attacks?
How do UM members justify their hateful, deceptive and downright disloyal behaviour while claiming to be ‘awesome and full of love and light’?
The Missing World Teacher
Benhayon is surrounded by a group of enablers who produce both UM positive and critic negative commentary.
The ‘new world teacher’ is rarely seen. His events are controlled. Attendees must pre-register. He avoids the media. It’s left to his followers to spread the gospel and hence the group have spawned a myriad of offshoots all preaching his word.
Members constantly berate the media for not telling the ‘true’ story and miracle of UM, but the leader fails to have the courage of his own convictions to get out there and prove his mettle. Before 2012 he said that he would debate anyone and never step back from the ‘truth’, yet in 2018 he is well and truly missing-in-action.
However, in 2015 during one his ‘sermons’ Benhayon pontificated on how he had ‘researched’ the effects of online bullying and how people affected committed suicide at a much higher rate than average. He went on to say while this is true of normal people, and despite ‘hundreds’ of negative media articles about him since 2012 he was unaffected because he knows “the truth”.
Benhayon registered the websites that have been used to bully and harass me and others.
Perhaps had he chosen a different course of action things would be very different today. He might be striding the world stage as the world-renowned philosopher he, or his members, claim him to be.
Instead, he is hunkering down behind a bunch of befuddled followers taking pointless legal action after filling the internet with hate-blogs and fruity philosophies that say a lot more about the true nature of Universal Medicine than anything any so-called critic has to say about it.
This is the man the members worship and defend at the expense of their own reputations, families and dignity.
In a way, Benhayon is a world teacher – A teacher in “what happens when you say you know everything but are too afraid to speak for yourself”.
A teacher in what can happen when you let someone else do your thinking for you, and surrender your values in service of an ideology that convinces you that hate is called love.