The Spanish government has detained José Manuel Cánovas, alias “Total Transcendence,” a cult leader who reportedly administered homemade elixirs tainted with mercury to his adherents to render them unconscious.
The leader of the Mahasandhi Foundation, Cánovas, is said to have injected his followers with the drug, which he called “purified mercury,” to influence their thoughts. He used harmful psychoactive drugs and other forms of coercive manipulation to try to get his followers to do what he wanted them to do so that he might gain economic and political power.
The property in Murcia, southeast Spain, had a 200kg cache of mercury in addition to underground residences, secret labs, bunkers, and shrines.
Septic tanks on the estate contained remnants of mercury, and during the raid on the estate of Cánovas, 400 pounds of the very toxic metal element were discovered.
The complex also includes numerous cave residences, storage facilities, bunkers, and shrines. The arresting officers said that Cánovas had sworn an oath of silence and would only speak with them via blackboard communication.
For the last fifteen years, Cánovas has used the complex to administer his so-called Buddhist cult. According to the authorities, some of his followers lived in the caverns. It was unclear how many members he had recruited at first, but police claimed some of the female members had severed relations with their families to become part of the group.
Numerous accusations, including those involving public health, moral integrity, and illegal affiliation, have been leveled against Cánovas. This was used to create what was marketed as an energizing and vitalizing elixir, so-called “purified mercury,” which adherents consumed and purchased from herbalists and internet marketplaces.
While living in the caverns on the property, the former masseur and his closest followers, who disseminated his teachings via YouTube, would suffer from “symptoms produced by the neurotoxicity of mercury.” The authorities deemed merely washing manufacturing waste into the site’s septic tank as “very harmful to the environment.”
The devotees of the cult allegedly contributed financially to what was called the Mahasandhi Foundation in addition to working long hours. Contributions of up to €2,000 (£1,700) per month were requested on a page outlining the membership procedure on its now-defunct website.