McKayla Maroney has been through a lot the past few years. The gymnast, who won gold at the 2012 Olympics when she was 16, retired from the sport in 2016 — and revealed a year later that she had been a victim of Team USA doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse. She provided a statement at his 2018 trial, where he was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison for criminal sexual assault.
Last month, Maroney, 25, criticized FBI handling of the case before a Senate Judiciary Committee: “They allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year.”
In 2019, her father died while detoxing from opioids. Maroney has also been plagued by health issues of her own. So it’s easy to understand why she would go to extremes to seek help, turning to “Master John,” leader of the Church of the Master Angels.
“I met Master John four years ago,” Maroney said in a “Let’s Get Meta” podcast. “I had what they call chronic fatigue . . . leaky gut, stomach issues so bad that I couldn’t eat anything.” (In the episode, she identifies herself only as “McKayla . . . I used to be a gymnast . . . and was in the Olympics.”)
In August, the gymnast told Elle magazine she was referred by her chiropractor to Master John Douglas, the leader of the 10-year-old church. According to the book “Medical Miracles,” by Master Angels member Dr. Richard L. Sarnat, Master John can see inside people’s and animals’ bodies and call on divine intervention to heal everything from cancer to lupus to Lyme disease to, in the case of a Jack Russell terrier pup, Parvovirus.
“He has the ability to see matter at the particle level, which is a quantum concept,” said Jeff Wagner, an attorney-turned-church spokesman. “Then he prays to angels for assistance, which has led to healing . . . through divine intervention.”
“In a second, [Master John] said, ‘Oh, that’s a bone marrow infection.’ He kind of explains in his lecture about mold that can get into your bones. He killed it for me,” Maroney said on the podcast. “I felt literally burning in my chest and my throat, like something, exploded, and I jumped. I said, ‘What was that?’ He was, like, that’s all the toxins from a terrible bone marrow infection that I just killed.”
According to Dr. Niculae Ciobanu, an oncologist with Manhattan Cancer Associates, mold in bone marrow “is rare and usually afflicts people who are immunosuppressed . . . It gets treated with intravenous medication.”
A representative for Maroney did not respond to The Post.
But Maroney believes that whatever Master John, now 50, did work: “I needed it and have not had chronic fatigue since . . . it was weird. When you are around [Master John], miracles become so . . . just a part of your life,” she said on the podcast. “Now I’m all better. I can eat normal food again.”
Operating out of North Carolina’s remote Heavenly Mountain, the church maintains two chapels along with its 14,680-pound Maha Crystal — which devotees credit as “transmuting negativity and transmitting blessings,” according to the church’s Facebook page
The group peddles $150 tokens to “cleanse food,” along with $250 prayers, $2,000 healing pendants, and $10,000 seminars.
Maroney told Elle, “It’s obviously not for everyone . . . At the end of the day, it’s my choice . . . I am not in a cult.”
Looking at the Church of the Master Angels’ Web site, which emphasizes that it is not a cult, Joel Kramer, co-author of “The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power,” told The Post, “All cults deny being cults.”
Attorney-turned church spokesman Jeff Wagner says “nobody has ever been hypnotized or brainwashed.”
As for followers believing in Master John’s touted ability to pray to God and call on angels to cure disease, Kramer added, “Desperation makes people susceptible.”
Wagner told The Post, “Nobody has ever been hypnotized or brainwashed. We are not out to hurt, harm, defame and disparage anybody.”
Christopher Hartnett, Church chairman of the board of directors, told The Post, “I will give $100,000 to anyone who shows their face and says they have been harmed by Church of the Master Angels.”
In 2016, while trying a case in Alaska, Wagner suffered what he describes as a “widowmaker” heart attack. At the hospital, Wagner told the Post, “I put my hand on the side of the [X-ray] and said to myself, ‘Master John, I know you’re busy with the whole world. But if you have a minute, I could really use a hand.’” Simultaneously, his wife called Master John, who was in Skokie, Ill., at the time.
Wagner claimed that, soon after, “The blood started to flow, my pain went down and it stabilized … [Master John] was able to see the clot, from Skokie. He reached out to the angels to move the clot and the clot moved.”
Though Wagner was being intravenously medicated at the time, he said that had nothing to do with his turnaround: “The valve on the IV was broken.”
According to the American Heart Association, victims of a “widowmaker” heart attack — caused by a blocked left artery preventing blood flow to the front of the heart — have only a 12 percent survival rate if experienced outside of a hospital setting.
After Wagner suffered a second heart attack last month, he said, Master John “was able to see coconut oil blockages. … He suggested that I look into amino acids.”
Though the Master Angels website maintains that the Church and its affiliates “are not doctors or medical professionals,” there are testimonials that Master John is able to close his eyes, call the Master Angles and ask them to remotely cure ailments through prayer. Once, after being notified by text message, Master John allegedly healed Hartnett, who said he was suffering from a virus believed to be a “taste of” COVID 19, complete with a 104-degree fever for two days.
“Fifteen minutes after [Master John was texted], he killed that virus in my body,” Hartnett said In an audio recording heard by The Post. (Hartnett confirmed the story to The Post.)
As to how the miracles happen, Master John told a reporter from the website Awake to Oneness of having a “direct telepathic link to some very high Angelic Beings who had an agenda for mankind.” He explained how “being able to scan frequencies … to identify energy or matter … has allowed me to find many cures and treatments for diseases that are not understood by medical science, and also to see where science may be coming in from the wrong angle.”
He also mentioned his ability to “killing microorganisms,” describing it as “quite easy.”
There are very few photos of Master John online, and the church declined to provide one to The Post or make him available for an interview. “He hasn’t given an interview in nine years,” Wagner said. “He is very busy with other things. One by one, he is helping people.”
As Hartnett continued on the recording, “I’ve personally witnessed over 25,000 healings, whether it is cancer, whether it is lupus [performed by Master John]. He’ll be the first to tell you that healing takes place because the master angels work through him and they’re powered by the divine power, mercy, and forgiveness of God … I’ve seen so many miracles I don’t even know what to do with them.”
Master John was born in Australia and raised by parents, according to Wagner, “with a spiritual background.” His birth name remains a mystery. As per Hartnett, Master John later changed his surname to Douglas because his reputation as a healer was such that “he would come home and have eight people waiting [at his residence, hoping to be healed]. He wanted a private life.” By around nine years of age, Master John began having what Wagner called “celestial vision. He would say to kids on the playground, ‘I see your cartoons. Do you see mine?’ That was how he would describe angelic beings.”
According to his official biography, Master John was educated in a monastery. He later made a living as a night-time janitor in Sydney, eventually starting his own maintenance company. By day, he began meeting with people who believed in his healing power to heal through angels.
“Master John … can see inside people’s bodies. This isn’t voodoo witchcraft or anything. This is a prayer to God,” Wagner said.
During the aughts, Master John made his way to the United States where he fell in with a clutch of wealthy Chicagoans who embraced his claims to work closely with God and angels.
“He helped” these followers, Wagner said, through his purported visions, ability to look inside them, and his inspiring presence. “A group then wanted to make it easier for Master John to be in the United States and help [other] people. So we formed a church.” Around this time, The “Master” title was dreamed up by Hartnett.
While Master John, who is, Hartnett said, single and “a lifelong celibate,” lives in Sydney, Australia, the church is based on Heavenly Mountain largely because Hartnett lives there. He arranged to purchase the land on which a chapel now stands, welcoming visitors to hear Master John’s audio tapes.
“In 2017,” Wagner added, “the IRS granted us status as a public charity.” A charity that, according to its 2018 tax return, realized $3,070,621 in total revenue and wound up with net assets or fund balances of $1,425,679.
Members are asked to pay suggested donations of up to $10,000 for seminars known as Elite Development Courses. Wagner, who told The Post that not everyone pays full freight, described the coursework as “sacred knowledge … There would be a series of lectures over four days. [Master John] may speak with [an attendee] individually if that’s what the angels suggest should happen.”
Maroney — known for her trademark “not impressed” smirk — told Elle that she attended two Church events in 2018. This year, according to Wagner, 600 people attended Elite Development Courses, held on Heavenly Mountain.
The church also requests $250 for what’s called Karmic Mitigation Blessing Directed Prayer and is recommended before marriage or beginning a new job.
Maroney has posted several photos to social media of herself wearing a pendant — gold ones go for nearly $2,000 — affiliated with the Church of the Master Angels. On the group’s website, the six-sided star with circles overlapping its points is said to “reduce the negative effects of electromagnetic radiation, negative thoughts, and negative emotions while energizing and empowering the immune system, aura, and energy fields.”
There’s also an animal version, which can be attached to a cat or dog’s collar, for $149.99 — to “create an energetic matrix that disperses radiation, negative thoughts and negative emotions from a pet’s energy fields.” Tokens said to fight cold and flu, repair infections caused by mold, or sanitize and energize food — “place … under each dish or beverage for five to ten seconds” — are $149.99 each.
You can buy an herbal “Heart And Body Extract” for $108 or a supplement derived from volcanic minerals for $58.
A clergyman who works near Heavenly Mountain told The Post that he isn’t buying Master John’s special access to angels angle: “I think it’s New Age philosophy and I have a different take on it. It would be hard to be part of a Christian community and embrace their teachings.”
Steve Shubin, a former Los Angeles cop who made a fortune by inventing the Fleshlight sex toy, is a member of the Church. “I am so anti-cult, it’s a joke,” Shubin, who has a home on Heavenly Mountain, said to The Post. “Nobody tells Steve Shubin what to do. Master John is the most soulful person I have ever met.”
As for Maroney, Shubin said, “For her, this organization was amazing. She has to recover from a lot.”
Shubin and other church members may know Maroney, but it seems some of the people the Olympian was once closest to have been cut out of her life.
She used to be, as Maroney has described it, “best friends … [who] pretty much know everything about each other” with fellow Team USA gymnast Kyla Ross. But Ross told The Post, “I don’t speak with her so much. I’m not sure who she speaks to.”
For her part, by turning to the church, Maroney seems to be playing it carefully after all the hurt she’s experienced. As she told Elle: “There are dark people and darker energies that see you and don’t wish you well. I like to feel like I’m protected in some way.”