Foundation of Higher Learning 'guru' Imre Vallyon's followers kept in the dark about his past video

Dominico Zapata /Fairfax Media NZ

Imre Vallyon, a spiritual guru and convicted sex offender, who runs a retreat in the Waitetuna Valley near Raglan.


All around the world, Imre Vallyon's devoted followers bring their children to bask in his aura.

But it is in his lush subtropical gardens at Waitetuna Retreat near Raglan, a coastal settlement west of Hamilton, known for its surf culture and natural-living communities, that Vallyon - "The Teacher" - forms the nucleus of the Foundation of Higher Learning, a spiritual group he established 35 years ago.

His followers pay thousands to hear his esoteric teachings at his worldwide retreats - from New Zealand to the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, and his native Hungary.

Together, FHL devotees are trying to "bring light into the world," says former follower, Peter*.

Foundation of Higher Learning founder Imre Vallyon's biography says he was born with cosmic consciousness.
FOUNDATION FOR HIGHER LEARNING WEBSITE

Foundation of Higher Learning founder Imre Vallyon's biography says he was born with cosmic consciousness.

If Vallyon's followers cannot receive his teachings in person, they can purchase one of his many books, and recordings. Or he can beam direct into their homes to share his wisdom over the Internet.

Vallyon's vision: a patchwork of east and western philosophies: Yoga, Zen, Sufism, Catholicism, Mysticism and more - has gained thousands of followers around the world.

But what Vallyon does not enlighten his followers about is the time he sexually molested a young New Zealand girl who went to him seeking spiritual advice about a dead relative.

A group shot of families, including children, attend a retreat at Vallyon's Raglan property. Vallyon denied children ...
SUPPLIED

A group shot of families, including children, attend a retreat at Vallyon's Raglan property. Vallyon denied children visit the retreat near Raglan.

It was whispers of this secret part of Vallyon's past that prompted Peter and his partner to leave the group.

Stuff has agreed not to reveal their identities, as they are still connected to a European chapter and fear Vallyon's followers could cut contact with them.

They were unable to find any details of his convictions and contacted the media after they saw a photo of one of his retreats and noticed young children among the attendees.

The grounds of the Waitetuna Retreat Centre, Raglan, which a company Vallyon formerly directed purchased for $150,000 in ...
DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

The grounds of the Waitetuna Retreat Centre, Raglan, which a company Vallyon formerly directed purchased for $150,000 in the 1980s.

Allegations about Vallyon stem back to the 1970s - spanning Hamilton, Auckland and Canada. 

Ad Feedback

AN OPAQUE PAST

A 1998 sentencing report details the sexual abuse carried out by Vallyon on one young girl at one of his "institutions" a decade earlier.

Vallyon was convicted of four representative counts of indecent assault and one count of sexually violating the girl.

Vallyon says no children come to the Waitetuna retreat.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

Vallyon says no children come to the Waitetuna retreat.

​The sentencing report was released by Hamilton District Court Judge David Wilson QC.

Vallyon's encounters with his victim happened in one-on-one spiritual "teaching" sessions. The girl had travelled with her mother, a devoted follower of his, to an "institution" - not named in the report - where Vallyon was the recognised spiritual leader.

Judge R.P. Wolff's sentencing notes record that the child had gone to him alone for spiritual guidance about her dead family member.

Two of Vallyon's disciples at the retreat claimed the stories about him were either untrue, or something they had never ...
DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

Two of Vallyon's disciples at the retreat claimed the stories about him were either untrue, or something they had never heard before.

"In the guise of assisting her with self discovery or self awareness," Vallyon kissed the girl and lay on top of her on a bed.

During the time the girl remained at the institution, Vallyon indecently touched her, kissed and massaged her sexually, and on one occasion performed oral sex on her, the sentencing notes say.

Vallyon's lawyer produced 80 references from people who said he positively influenced their lives.

Imre Vallyon, a spiritual guru and convicted sex offender, based at the Waitetuna Retreat Centre, Raglan.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

Imre Vallyon, a spiritual guru and convicted sex offender, based at the Waitetuna Retreat Centre, Raglan.

That side of Vallyon's character was not revealed to many people he had influenced, Wolff remarked as he sentenced him to three years' imprisonment: "This is something that a lot of people did not see."

The sentencing notes record that Vallyon did not recall the encounters.

However Judge Wolff said a cynic might take the view Vallyon's was: "a selective memory" - noting the guru appeared to remember some offending of a sexual nature in Canada. That crime was not outlined, except to say it was "not too far removed from this time".

Imre Vallyon, won the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Unpublished Manuscript and Book Awards for his series Heavens and ...
SUPPLIED

Imre Vallyon, won the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Unpublished Manuscript and Book Awards for his series Heavens and Hells of the Mind in 2009.

The Judge also noted Vallyon had a history of crimes of a similar nature from 1978 - "and no one has been able to assist me with the details as to the extent of that, or really anything too much about that at all".

Vallyon had offered money to his victim, who had not asked for it - and Judge Wolff remarked he could not escape the impression: "in some senses this is an offer to make it all go away".

At the time, Vallyon refused to accept he needed rehabilitation. There was a video that captured the guru expressing views that he did not think it inappropriate to progress young girls from spiritual to sexual teaching, the judge  noted as he sentenced Vallyon to three years' jail.

"You abused the trust of a particular vulnerable young child, possibly with a vulnerable mother as well. In the guise of spiritual advancement you embarked on a course of conduct over weeks involving sexual abuse, and severe sexual abuse… for your own gratification."

"I KISSED HER... THAT WAS IT"

Waitetuna Retreat is based in a quiet valley near Raglan, at the end of a long metal road. There are beautiful gardens and native bush with buildings dotted around them, including a dining facility and an office block.

A woman greets us, but says Vallyon is not available without an appointment.

Told that it's important, she gets the guru on the phone. "What's this about?," he asks.

His conviction for child sex offending. "That's ages ago," Vallyon complains.

Eventually he agrees to meet, and we ask the woman if she knows about Vallyon's conviction: "Yes, but it wasn't the truth."

Another older woman who says she's visiting from Hungary looks stunned when told of the offending.  

Eventually Vallyon, a stooped elderly man, emerges from a path that leads to his home in the bush above the retreat.

"I don't understand why this is coming up now," he says. "I've been in jail and it's finished and that was the end of it. I haven't heard from [the victim] or anybody ever since then."

He says the accusations against him were "exaggerated".

"There was nothing what we call serious."

So what did he do?

"I kissed her here," he says, pointing to his cheek. "That was it. She had a good lawyer and they made it into a very big case," he continues.

"I am not innocent, I did kiss her. I suppose it was wrong, yes definitely. I pleaded guilty because of my lawyer, he wasn't very good."

Vallyon's lawyer was a Queen's Counsel, John Haigh, who died in 2012.

"At that time it was really difficult to defend anything because there's a kind of a hysteria about it and... the atmosphere at that time was you had to be guilty no matter what. It was hysteria in those days."

Judge Wolff's sentencing notes made express reference to the infamous Centrepoint community, but drew no parallels between the two.

Vallyon strongly denied there had been any other allegations against him.

He said he did not tell his clients about his conviction because it was not relevant.

"It's not of any interest, there's nothing happening in that kind of energy. The teaching is very abstract it's nothing physical, nothing to do with men and women, it's just purely meditation."

He said if children came to the retreat, he did not know about it.

"This is not a children's place. If they come I don't know, I don't see them because I live upstairs, I give my talks and that's it."

WHAT IS THE FOUNDATION FOR HIGHER LEARNING?

At Waitetuna, there is a set of swings, and a trampoline.

In photos of his 2016 European and New Zealand retreats, dozens of children are visible.

Peter,* a longtime practitioner of meditation, had met Vallyon at one of the European retreats. Introduced to Vallyon as a "guru", he had felt warmth in the embrace of the movement.

"During my first year I felt like I was 'coming home'."

Vallyon's website biography explains he was born with cosmic consciousness. He emigrated from Hungary to New Zealand at age 16, in the 1950s, and by 1982 had established FHL, purchasing the Waitetuna land in 1986. 

"From a young age," the bio says; "he has had inner revelations that gave him insights into other levels of consciousness, and the deeper dimensions of our human existence."

His followers credit him with predicting the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake two days before it occurred. In that talk, Vallyon explains over an hour the cosmic machinations spurring the earth's turmoil, before his followers intone for 25 minutes, to a rhythmic drumbeat and soaring strings. 

Peter says the retreats entailed chanting, meditation and talks by Vallyon, who would travel over from New Zealand in the Europe summertime, attracting hordes of followers.

At first, Peter saw the group as "new age".

He recalls asking why Vallyon, who seemed to him to have a successful degree of fame, had not gone "international".

He grew concerned about what kind of group Vallyon was running - noticing the strange blend of Latin and Sanskrit chants, the "hodgepodge" of religions - and the rumours trickling in about the guru. 

When he discussed this with his partner he was told there was talk Vallyon had been jailed before - maybe in New Zealand or Australia.

"It was not exactly clear... what was the exact reason for this, so we decided to ask around to clear this up."

But no one could tell them much more - "except that there was a family that left the group and they accused Imre of indecent behaviour towards their female child". 

Peter tried to raise this with other followers - "most are very friendly and loving people that do not intend to harm others" - but was troubled by the responses.

Any rumours about Vallyon were said to be a "past life" or the work of "evil forces" that wanted to destroy the group, Peter claims.

"I quickly started feeling strange about all of this."

One day a former group member visited Peter's partner, hearing they had left the group, and told them the rumours about Vallyon were true.

In early 2016, Peter saw the photos of another retreat in Europe. Young children's faces stuck out at him starkly from the grinning crowd shots.

He could not find any information online or in his own country's records of Vallyon's past.

Troubled, and unable to let it go, Peter turned his mind to the guru's home, isolated isles across the world he had never visited before, and looked for a journalist.

A TOUR THROUGH THE ARCHIVES

Vallyon's past is almost invisible to whoever wants to know. 

He is believed to have seen the District Prisons Board in 2000 then left prison on April 19 of that year.

Its archives are managed by the Department of Corrections - which declined an Official Information Act application to view Vallyon's records - citing privacy.

Without a date and location of court in which the charges are heard, it is difficult to apply to access his archived records.

Unable to find any media coverage of his case,  Stuff requested access to his trial records in February 2016.

Judge Wilson signed off the release of Vallyon's 1998 sentencing report four months later. Access to all the trial notes would have required the newspaper making an application to Vallyon himself.

More charges exist from 1978 - details held by the North Shore District Court. A representative said the files detailing the case would have been destroyed - except for the official charging documents.

After a ten-month delay the court staff said the application for the charging documents had not been passed on when staff-members turned over. 

It began processing the request again in December after the newspaper requested it be expedited. However it was not ready by time of print.

Like many historic sex offenders, Vallyon's crimes took place long before the expository power of the internet - which immortalises the crimes of his counterparts convicted today.

His Wikipedia page reveals attempts to edit his history - one edit saying Vallyon had been tried and sentenced for "paedophilia" was made from an IP address located in Switzerland. But it was removed by Wikipedia's editing community, which requires references for such allegations. 

Peter felt "betrayed" to learn the "guru" had kept a secret past hidden from his followers, who looked to him guidance to living a pure life.

"Had I known this from the start, I would not have joined this group. My feelings started to grow stronger by seeing that Imre was being worshipped like some kind of god by many, but not all, members of the group. I highly resented that practice."

Vallyon's followers seem "brainwashed" to Peter. "Group members are so convinced that he is an enlightened being that they will not accept the real truth."

"They just all close their eyes."

The FHL is registered in New Zealand as a charity called Temple Light Trust, which, as a religious organisation means it is exempt from paying taxes. Vallyon and his wife are two of its four trustees. 

The trust declared an income of $331,957 this past financial year, with $264,323 earned from holding retreats.

*Not his real name

Do you know more? Email talia.shadwell@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

*Comments are closed

 - Sunday Star Times

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Driver still missing video

The car was almost underneath the Harbour Bridge, after having driven off Curran St, Westhaven. It was later towed, ...

After a car drove into Auckland harbour, a fisherman tried to smash windows and save the person inside.

Air NZ 'restricting sales' video

Air New Zealand is flying long-haul planes to the capital purely to refuel, as the airline struggles to cope with the ...

Air NZ is taking the extraordinary step of restricting ticket sales and halting sales of some international services.

Sport: Indoor bowls team take title

Holy Cross School's champion netballers, winners of the AIMS Games netball tournament which featured 122 teams.

Holy Cross have won the AIMS Games netball title for the second time in three years.

NZ's health ranking low

New Zealand is ranked 32nd out of 188 countries on a range of global health measures related to the UN's health-related ...

New Zealand's child sex abuse rates are among the world's worst, according to a United Nations report.

Wellington

'They picked my teeth off the road'

Linda Gibson is worried a child could die after she collided with a cyclist on the controversial Island Bay cycleway.

Pedestrian injured in Island Bay bike collision blames cycleway design.

Kebab shop roasted

Upper Hutt kebab store owners must pay a Turkish couple more than $80,000 following the Employment Relations Authority's ...

Upper Hutt eatery fired worker because she wanted another child. Now it faces a $60,000 bill.

'Hard' housing choices 

2308 2013 Photo Ross Giblin, copyright Dominion Post, Fairfax.
Wellington City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery.

Chief exec warns Wellington councillors affordable housing agenda won't be easy to deliver.

'Suspect' suitcase full of clothes

A suspicious suitcase left outside the Treasury in Wellington has been found to be full of clothes.

Police stopped Wellington traffic to examine a case left outside the Treasury.

Canterbury

Flying fox saga divides community

A noisy flying fox at Muka Park in Christchurch has been tearing the local community apart.

Warring neighbourhood groups and tens of thousands of dollars have failed to reach a compromise over a noisy flying fox.

Cheap spots in favour

Cheaper suburbs are finding favour with Christchurch home buyers.

Home buyers opting for cheapest suburbs, while demand slows for pricier spots.

Motel used as crime base

Police followed a stolen car to a Christchurch motel and found a room full of stolen property.

Burglars booked a motel room under a false name and used it as a base to raid dozens of homes, police allege.

Drowned couple remembered

Avneel Ram, 25, and Sheetal Ram, 30, died after their car plunged into a lake in Halswell.

A much-loved couple who drowned in a suburban Christchurch lake will "continue to live" in the hearts of their family.

Waikato

Chapel's heavenly afterlife

St Mary's Convent Chapel in Hamilton East has been reopened after earthquake strengthening. It used to be connected to ...

Hamilton's historic convent is gone but the chapel that was attached to it has been given a new lease of life.

Gastro risk real

Dr Steve Hrudey, a drinking water expert from University of Alberta, Canada, is boiling drinking water during when ...

An expert says there's nothing stopping another outbreak like Havelock North, and tourists ought to be told.

Housing's election effect

The election has put a damper on Hamilton's housing market.

However, a lift in prices and buyer activity is expected post-election.

New  true blue ducklings

The two whio are believed to be one male and one female. Seen here at 22 days old.

It's estimated there are only 1200 adult whio left.

Taranaki

Three days, three parties

Her family travelled from as far as Kaikohe and Christchurch to celebrate her birthday with her.

One with family, one with friends and one with the rest home to finish off her 109th birthday celebrations.

Myrtle rust could surge

Manukorihi golf club was temporarily closed due to positive tests for myrtle rust in June.

The eradication of myrtle rust might not be possible, the Ministry for Primary Industries says.

Oktoberfest? Nein.

At the Oktoberfest beer festival in 2014, Sam Hagmann played traditional Swiss instrument alphorn to kick off the ...

The annual German festival party has been replaced with a "sophisticated" food and drink pairing event.

High school's redevelopment

Waitara High School Principal Daryl Warburton pictured.
The school is having a lot of changes over the next year.
Daryl ...

Waitara High Principal Daryl Warburton says the redevelopment will make a community space for adults as well as kids.

Manawatu

Voters celebrate Suffrage Day

Sandy Wilde casts her vote on Suffrage Day.

Kiwi women were first in the world to vote in national elections. They celebrated on Tuesday by voting.

Gift horse has bolted video

Punters in Palmerston North brave the cold to enjoy the eats on offer at a food truck Thursday event in The Square.

OPINION: Food truck events are hugely popular, but it seems we don't need them.

The day after the election

What if the election is a dead heat? What would Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Bill English do then?

OPINION: With deals to be done, the really key day is not September 23, but the day after.

Arrest after fleeing police

Police chased a stolen car on State Highway 1, near Sanson, after it failed to stop.

Two police pursuits in two days after drivers in stolen cars fail to stop.

Nelson

Person critical

A 40-year-old male was flown to Wellington Hospital in a critical condition following an accident involving two trucks ...

A two-truck crash on SH6 south of Murchison has left a person in a critical condition.

Right to vote marked

Elizabeth Coleman, a relative by marriage of Kate Sheppard, leads walkers from the Church Steps in Nelson during the ...

Suffrage Day walk at Nelson draws 80 people, including a relative of Kate Sheppard.

Leader by example

Green Party leader James Shaw, left, and Nelson candidate Matt Lawrey walk along Rocks Rd in Nelson where Shaw announced ...

Green Party leader James Shaw pledges $23m to fix Rocks Rd.

Brook Stream clear after drop

Landcare Research water testing of the Brook Stream (pictured) post poison drop shows "no detectable residue" the Brook ...

No detectable poison residue found in the Brook Stream after drop the sanctuary says.

Marlborough

Owners highly motivated

New Zealand King Salmon's new barge is launched with air bags acting as rollers.

Four bedrooms, two bathrooms, 240 tonnes of fish feed. Wait, what?

Beaten for saying no

Blenheim man Tui Simon Kara admitted assault with intent to injure at the Blenheim District Court. (File photo)

Blenheim man violently attacks partner after being refused oral sex.

'Burt Munro of the skies' video

Burt Munro with his 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle.

In classic Burt Munro fashion, Graeme Frew's No 35 World War II fighter plane almost didn't make it to the start.

Driver critical after crash

A 40-year-old male was flown to Wellington Hospital in a critical condition following an accident involving two trucks ...

A two-truck crash on SH65 south of Murchison left a person in a critical condition.

South Canterbury

Parking meters stolen

Six parking meters have been stolen in Timaru, four from Bank St, and the other two from Strathallan St.

Police are looking for information after the theft of six parking meters in Timaru.

Rules could change

Minister Nick Smith said he endorsed the idea low-emission burners should only be introduced when old burners have ...

Meeting told Nick Smith will progress changes to national air standards.

Two escape fire video

Two people are in hospital after a well involved house fire near Timaru on Tuesday morning.

Elderly man carried wife over his shoulder as their house burned to the ground.

Fairlie helps crash victims

Fairlie Volunteer Fire Brigade firefighter Jeff Haugh, school bus driver Astrid Johns and firefighter Sam Haugh were ...

Bus driver, dairy owner and emergency staff among those who responded to bus crash.

Otago

Clyde's 'day of reckoning'

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan above Clyde.

The Central Otago township of Clyde faces a potential $34 million sewage system upgrade to meet national water policy standards.

Pair rescued from waterfall

Two people have been rescued from the top of a waterfall near Queenstown. (File photo)

Two people have been rescued from a steep track above a waterfall at a popular rockclimbing spot near Queenstown.

No Southern Utd games for Invercargill

Southern United's Michael Hogan challenges Leo Villa from Team Wellington in the air during their match at Rugby Park in ...

While Southern United won't play any national league matches in Invercargill this summer, they are still likely to visit the deep south.

Changes under way at hospital

An independent review of Dunedin Hospital's urology department has been carried out after several patients experienced ...

Health Minister expresses ''full confidence'' in Dunedin Hospital management after concerns were raised over life-threatening delays.

Southland

Upgrade planned for Elles Rd intersection

Lake St was the site of a crash between a train and a logging truck earlier in September.

One of Invercargill's most hazardous intersections is set for a major upgrade.

Tiwai celebrates

NZ Aluminium Smelters general manager Gretta Stephens, with Southland Girls' High School students Imogen Brankin, Tayla ...

Southland Girls' High School and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters are celebrating 10 years of working together.

Grandad makes innovative playground

Neil Hall watches his grandson, Jack Shepherd, having fun in the playground he built using a 1946 Austin truck.

Jack Shepherd is having a ball in the playground made by his grandad.

Seal lion shot

Department of Conservation staff have found a second critically endangered sea lion shot on a Catlins beach.

DOC staff have found a second critically endangered sea lion shot.

Ad Feedback