Falling into Falun Gong
Anna’s mother had a favourite memory of her daughter she would proudly share with other Falun Gong practitioners.
How, when Anna was four, she saw her in the backseat of the family car playing with phantom lights, dancing in the air.
They were “law bodies”, her mother would explain, “small, physical manifestations of the Falun Gong emblem”.
For a time growing up in Falun Gong, Anna would tell the story too, knowing it was one her mother cherished. “I wanted to believe and be a good practitioner so my mother would be happy and, you know, give me approval,” says Anna.
In those early years, Anna watched as her mother gradually became absorbed in Falun Gong. She pulled Anna and her sibling out of a Catholic school and quit her job in the family business to take up selling books for Falun Gong. Her time was increasingly spent doing exercises, meditating, and reading the movement’s teachings.
Anna at age 4. Supplied
Master Li Hongzhi even once made an appearance at a study group in their home. Anna began to feel her mother had become more devoted to Falun Gong’s teachings than to her children.
“Part of the whole premise of the practice is getting rid of your human attachments in order to attain salvation,” says Anna. “I think a lot of parents conflate human attachment with basic parental love and emotional presence with your children.”
As a young child, Anna came to believe Falun Gong’s teachings too, but there were some that raised deeply personal questions for her. Among them was being taught that she was different to other children because her mother was Chinese and her father was European.
“The leader of Falun Gong claims that race mixing in humans is part of an alien plot to drive humanity further from the gods,” says Anna. “He says that when a child is born from an interracial marriage, that child does not have a heavenly kingdom to go to.”
Anna with her father, whose face has been blurred to protect Anna's identity. Supplied
Some practitioners have explained Master Li’s teachings as metaphorical, such as his claims that aliens walk the earth and disguise themselves as people to corrupt mankind. But Anna learned it as literal truth. At 11 years-old, her mother read her the teachings about mixed-race children.
“As an 11-year-old, to hear the teachings coming from not only the religion that you’re believing in, but from your own mother, it was very damaging,” says Anna.
The family started spending weekends and holidays at The Mountain, flying across the breadth of the US to be closer to the movement’s global base . “It was my mother’s dream for our entire family to eventually live at Dragon Springs.”