Serge Benhayon, a former tennis coach, says he merely offers treatments which complement mainstream medicine.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is urgently investigating supplements being sold by the group which have not been properly evaluated.
According to Sun-Herald reporter Heath Aston Benhayon’s followers call him ‘The One.’
They say he’s the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci. He claims massaging women’s breasts can prevent cancer. And his growing business empire, built on spiritual healing, is being funded in part by Medicare.
Based in the hills outside Lismore on the north coast of NSW, Universal Medicine reportedly has up to 1000, mainly female, devotees.
Mr Benhayon told The Sun-Herald he had no medical qualifications but stood by the effectiveness of his treatments, including ”esoteric breast massage” – administered only by women – and ”chakra-puncture”. His daughter, Natalie, 22, claims to be able to talk to women’s ovaries – for $70 an hour.
Mr Benhayon defended himself against claims a personality cult had built up around him, with dozens of relationships from Brisbane to Byron Bay and Bangalow breaking down as a result. The Sun-Herald spoke to nine men who blame Mr Benhayon for their break-ups.
But Mr Benhayon said his female students had merely discovered the ”livingness of love” from his ”esoteric way of life”. There is concern in the medical fraternity that certain treatments provided at Universal Medicine’s Lismore headquarters are being subsidised by Medicare.
A physiotherapist, Kate Greenaway, and a psychologist, Caroline Raphael – both decade-long followers of Mr Benhayon who work at Universal Medicine – encourage patients to seek GP referrals for treatment. Medicare will reimburse two-thirds of the cost for long-term injuries.
Ms Greenaway offers ”esoteric connective tissue therapy”, a technique created by Mr Benhayon. It promises to improve energy flow by ”allowing the pulse of the lymphatic system to symbiotically correspond with the body’s own ensheathing web”.
She said about 20 per cent of her clients were funded by Medicare and hundreds had experienced reduced pain as a result. Her work, which includes ”craniosacral massage”, has no evidence-based scientific backing although a study of 50 students of Universal Medicine, conducted by Ms Greenaway, found it to be effective.
John Dwyer, the former head of medicine at University of NSW, described the claim that a lymphatic pulse exists as ”utter nonsense”.
”GPs might be sending a person off in good faith to get a legitimate therapy but what this person is getting is esoteric nonsense,” he said.
The Australian Medical Association said the federal government’s pledge to reduce public money going to unproven alternative treatments needed greater focus.
In a statement, Medicare said: ”A Medicare benefit can only be paid where the service is rendered by an appropriate health practitioner and is ‘clinically relevant’ €¦ It is up to the practitioner to determine whether a service they provide meets the criteria in the Medicare Benefits Schedule.”
Mr Benhayon insisted his movement, which has expanded to Brisbane and Britain, is not a cult but ”a matter of choice and we don’t encourage the abuse of Medicare”. […]
One of the nine men who spoke to The Sun-Herald said: ”It felt like I was in a three-way marriage with Serge.” Another added: ”And I was the minor part.” Bangalow local Pippa Vickery said: ”Serge has a god complex.”
Critics claim Mr Benhayon is exerting control over his students by modifying their eating, sleeping, exercise and even lovemaking behaviour.
After women have received esoteric breast massage – and used Mr Benhayon’s protective cream to keep bad energy at bay – they are told not to allow their partners to touch them without permission.
Need a cult expert?
If you think you need the help of a cult expert, either for yourself or a loved one, we recommend you contact (in Australia) Cult Information and Family Support:
CIFS is an Australian support and information network. CIFS was initially formed by parents and family members of loved ones caught up in abusive groups.
The network has grown to include families, friends, former members and concerned individuals working together towards a common goal, toÂ provide support and develop awareness for those affected by high demand groups or cultic relationships.
Elsewhere, contact the International Cultic Studies Association — the primary network of lay and professional cult experts.