Inside Matsumoto’s head: The crybaby became `god’ to thousands

At 6 years old, the tears stopped flowing from Chizuo Matsumoto. He received his first taste of power and control that would eventually lead him on a murderous pursuit of total domination.

That is the description of Matsumoto, the weeping toddler who later became the tyrannical leader of Aum Shinrikyo, by former cult doctor Ikuo Hayashi.

Hayashi, 56, was once an elite heart surgeon, but he fell under the charm of the Aum Shinrikyo founder and ended up playing a key role in the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 that killed 12.

Hayashi confessed to his crimes and helped in the prosecution of other cult members, including his former guru.

The former Aum doctor is now serving a life sentence.

He compiled an analytical report on Matsumoto in January 1998 based largely on his own experiences in the cult. The report was submitted as evidence in Hayashi’s defense.

According to the contents of the report obtained by The Asahi Shimbun, Matsumoto “suffered from a narcissistic obsession. Several traumatic setbacks led him to nurse wild, destructive ambitions.”

In the report, the doctor tried to make clear what made Matsumoto tick, what exactly brought on the chain of crimes.

The report is based on Hayashi’s direct observations of the cult leader, his disciple-guru relationship with Matsumoto, and various books penned by the spiritual leader.

The contents provide precious insight into the psychology of Matsumoto, who has refused to talk to lawyers or in his defense since fall 1996.

According to Hayashi, Matsumoto had repeatedly told him, “You come from a good family, you got a good education, you have a good profession and you married well.”

The cult leader was clearly jealous, Hayashi wrote.

“Matsumoto made it a point to bring up my life story and make a comparison. Only my name was ever mentioned in this way in front of other followers,” Hayashi wrote.

He frequently said, “I had a difficult life.”

Matsumoto, born into a poor family in Kumamoto Prefecture, was sent to live with relatives when he was 5.

According to Hayashi, Matsumoto admitted he had a crying fit every night as a boy because of his fears: “What if I just die while I’m asleep.”

He was boarded off to a school for the blind when he was 6 years old.

Most of his days there were spent in tears.

Hayashi deduces that some unresolved “grief” that Matsumoto experienced in this special closed society festered and became an integral part of his psychological makeup.

But Matsumoto was not totally blind like the other students. His sight, physical strength and quick thinking gave him a sense of power over the blind students, Hayashi wrote.

The delicious ability to control others fed Matsumoto’s already inflated ego. The conviction that “I am a special being” was born here.

It became the driving force in his adult life.

Matsumoto didn’t think much of social rules. At 27, he was arrested on suspicion of violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. He had been running a drug store that produced and sold fake medication.

But Matsumoto kept evolving. He joined the Agonshu religious group and gained valuable know-how in running a spiritual movement and attracting disciples.

The yoga studio he was soon running became his spiritual center where he preached his mantra: “To hold supernatural powers through endless spiritual training.”

Hayashi said Matsumoto’s ego fed itself, and he was soon dreaming of commandeering a group of special people to wage a terrorist campaign, bring down the government and control Japan.

Murder was soon condoned by the “supreme leader,” Hayashi wrote.

The cult leader told Hayashi: “You are a good man. It’s going to take a Tantra-vajra-yana for you to qualify,” referring to a sacred text that allows murder in the pursuit of enlightenment.

Followers opposing Matsumoto’s orders were killed by fellow members, Hayashi wrote. The cult was ruled by a reign of fear.

At its peak, Aum Shinrikyo had 1,400 followers living in its compounds, with 14,000 believers nationwide.

How could thousands of people accept the guru’s authority, hand over their lives and follow his teachings?

Hayashi wrote about his own experience. He said he joined the cult in pursuit of idealistic “virtue.” He said he was naively taken in by Matsumoto’s spiritual leadership and blinded by his charisma.

Looking back, Hayashi said his own ego was destroyed when he worshipped the leader. The once noted surgeon became a mere automaton.

Hayashi left his job at a university hospital to become a resident follower. He brought his wife and two children to the cult in the late 1980s.

He said there was one shared trait among the disciples: “We all strongly longed for acting out on goodness. We were also drawn to powerful leadership.”

Once they became cultists, Matsumoto was ready to dazzle with his “god-like aura” and his sacred texts, Hayashi wrote.

“Incidents such as those brought on by Aum could be repeated,” he wrote. He added that he penned the report in hopes of preventing that from happening.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Asahi Shimbun, Japan
Nov. 1, 2003

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday November 1, 2003.
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