Love Has Won cult: How Amy Carlson became “Mother God”

The YouTube video, posted last June, opens with mystical music and these words scrolling across a galactic background:

“The 5D ascension has begun. Mother God is here in the flesh to save all of humanity. Eyes, ears and heart open… Now.”

Then a woman who calls herself “Aurora from the First Contact Ground Crew Team” says she is here to tell the story of Mother God and the planetary ascension.

For more than 16 minutes she delivers a narrative about Mother God and her ascension that blends Christianity, Hopi beliefs, New Age spirituality, historical myths and political conspiracy theories to explain Mother God’s existence on Earth to save humanity.

“If you don’t know, we are in a full-blown planetary ascension and this is basically a full evolution of consciousness,” she says. “Humanity as a collective is evolving from a third dimension to the fifth dimension.”

The video is one of hundreds posted on YouTube and social media sites by Love Has Won, the cult based in the southern Colorado town of Moffat. Their leader’s mummified remains were found April 28 covered in a sleeping bag and wrapped in Christmas lights with glitter makeup painted around her eye sockets.

Amy Carlson, known as Mother God by dozens who follow her in person and online, had for years predicted she would ascend to a “fifth dimension” to save humanity, but observers who try to dispel the cult’s instruction believe she ultimately became a victim of her own teachings.

And now they worry that others are poised to take over, furthering their loved ones’ involvement in a delusional and dangerous life.

“Most people assume that Amy Carlson, the cult leader, is dead and all is well and all these people are going to realize this is an illusion,” said Amanda Ray, one of the leaders of Rising Above Love Has Won. “That’s not true. In the last year, Amy was a face and we were watching her decline. Where it’s dangerous is this group is rebranding. The reality is there are tons of family who are really scared and nervous. This is a really dangerous time for this group.”

Seven Love Has Won followers were arrested last month in connection with the death, which brought international attention to Carlson, the cult and the small town at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the San Luis Valley.

Four of them are charged with tampering with a deceased human body and three face charges of abuse of a corpse. All seven also are charged with two misdemeanor counts of child abuse because two children were inside the house when Saguache County sheriff’s deputies arrived to investigate a report of a dead body.

The person who reported the body is Miguel Lamboy, a Love Has Won member, and he told sheriff’s deputies the body had been brought to Moffat from California, according to an arrest affidavit.

But Ray, Carlson’s family and others want law enforcement to investigate further to figure out exactly how Carlson died and to learn how the group manages its money and controls people’s lives.

“She was messed up”

Amy Carlson’s journey from a McDonald’s supervisor to cult leader took place over 13 years, and it still confounds her family.

This week, Linda Haythorne, Carlson’s mother, sent a DNA sample to the Saguache County Coroner’s Office to help identify her daughter’s remains. Because the body was decomposing there were no fingerprints and there were no dental records to rely on, Coroner Tom Perrin said.

Over the years, Haythorne followed her daughter as she bounced around the country, building her persona as Mother God and accumulating loyal followers.

Haythorne and Carlson’s father divorced when Carlson was a child. Carlson first lived with her father but then joined her mother and stepfather a few years later. The family lived a middle-class life in Texas, where Carlson made good grades and sang in the school choir, Haythorne said.

The only problem Haythorne saw was that her daughter always made poor choices when it came to men. And one of those poor choices showed up in 2012, she said.

Carlson, who has three children, met a man online and left her family in Texas for him. It was an abrupt departure, Haythorne said, as Carlson, then 32, left a family Thanksgiving dinner and never came back.

“It was a complete shock to us,” she said. “We had no idea what was going on.”

That man referred to himself as Father God and told Carlson she was Mother God. Soon, Carlson started talking about spaceships and ascension while she was with him, said Ray, who started investigating Love Has Won last year when her brother left his wife and children to join the cult.

That man introduced Carlson to the Crestone area, long known as a spiritual place that attracts seekers and those who trying to find healing for their bodies and souls.

Carlson parted ways with the man after a couple of years and a succession of other men became Father Gods to Carlson’s Mother God.

Haythorne followed her daughter’s YouTube videos and watched as her beliefs became more strange and she became more entrenched as a cult leader. Early on, Carlson and her followers identified as the Galactic Federation of Light.

“Everything she did I totally didn’t agree on, but there was nothing I could do to talk her out of it,” Haythorne said.

For years, the teachings appeared in chat groups and in online videos, but the mission was more like a hippie commune focused on sex, drugs and a good time, Ray said.

“Amy would talk about crazy stuff,” she said.

Haythorne agreed.

“Yeah, she was messed up,” Haythorne said. “But she was healthy and knew what she was doing.”

Moving to Moffat

In mid-2018, things plunged into a darker, more bizarre world, observers said.

That’s when a man named Jason Castillo came into the picture as the next Father God and also the year the group changed its name to Love Has Won and set up a mission base in Moffat.

Previously, Carlson and her followers had moved around between Colorado, Oregon, California and Florida.

The cult members rented a home in Casita Park, a subdivision in a larger residential area known as the Baca Grande.

The Baca Grande is considered sacred grounds to the Hopi and other Native American tribes, and the couple who developed it in the 1970s agreed to preserve space to bring together different religions to promote harmony and peace after the wife was visited by a prophet.

Over the years, permission to locate in the area has been granted selectively, and Carmelites, Buddhists and Hindus have built temples and retreats in the area.

“Love Has Won never would have qualified for any of that,” said Joanna Theriault, who sits on the Baca Grande Property Owners Association board of directors.

Instead, Love Has Won found someone to rent them a house, and observers say the connection was made because a relative of the property owner spent time in the cult.

In December, Lamboy, who is known within the group as Archangel Michael, purchased the property for $63,000, giving Love Has Won a permanent residence. Lamboy also in 2020 incorporated Love Has Won as a nonprofit organization in Colorado, listing himself as president, and obtaining 501(c)3 status from the IRS.

In Colorado, Carlson lived with her followers, often appearing in livestreamed videos from the house with the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background. The group also rented a large cabin in Salida, where the most devoted followers lived and where new recruits were brought upon arriving in Colorado.

Coercion and control

Salida is where Ray’s brother went in May 2020 after he left his wife, two children and a six-figure income in Mississippi to join Love Has Won.

The group’s members livestream multiple videos each day and they last for hours. Those videos become the gateway into the cult, and they were how Ray’s brother discovered Mother God.

He was interested in political conspiracy theories such as QAnon, the baseless belief that cannibalistic liberal pedophiles run a global child sex trafficking ring. His readings about those conspiracies led him to Love Has Won’s Facebook page because the group mentions them in their videos, his wife Ariane Whitten said.

Whitten said her husband has served in the military and was a conservative Republican who believed bills should be paid on time. The couple lived in a $500,000 house where she stayed home to raise their family. The Denver Post agreed not to publish her husband’s name since he is still recovering from his time in the cult.

“He was concerned about what fertilizer we were going to put on the grass that year,” she said.

His discovery coincided with the global coronavirus pandemic. Her husband lost his job and fell into a rabbit hole, spending more and more time online with Love Has Won.

Eventually, he signed up for personal “etheric surgery” sessions, a strange practice that believers say can remove negative energy and sickness from the body.

Whitten’s husband paid $88 per session, during which he would surrender himself to Mother God, she said. He participated in the sessions on behalf of her, their children, their mothers and even neighbors. In total, he gave the cult $15,000, she said.

His behavior at home became more unsettling. He slept less, and he started following a schedule aligned with the seven colors of the chakra, so on certain days he only ate foods and wore clothes that matched that day’s color, as ordered by the cult.

“He was just staring into the sun because they were telling him to do that to get light codes,” Whitten said.

Whitten enlisted the couple’s mother and siblings for help. She read books and called psychiatrists, but nothing stopped her husband from falling deeper into the cult’s control. She sent their children away because she feared he would start indoctrinating them.

In mid-May 2020, the couple was leaving a law office’s parking lot in Mississippi when Whitten’s husband turned left out the parking lot instead of following her in the other direction.

She followed him as he drove to the airport, then confronted him and begged him to stay. “Mother God called me home,” he told her.

A day later, Whitten saw her husband appear on a livestream from Colorado. He wasn’t visible on the next day’s video, but her brother-in-law heard them talking about how his energy was not right and he was on “the wrong side of the mountain.” They started calling police.

Then Whitten got a phone call from a hospital, and a doctor told her that her husband had been found wandering in the wilderness alone, naked, dehydrated and with cactus needles in his feet.

“He’d stared at the sun so much he’d burned his eyes terribly,” she said.

Her husband signed paperwork and the hospital released him before any family could get to Colorado. They then posted pleas for help on Facebook and two good Samaritans got involved. One volunteer from Crestone found Whitten’s husband wearing hospital scrubs and sitting under a bridge near Salida. A nurse from Denver drove there to take him back to a hotel in the city until his brother could fly out.

When her husband awoke and saw his brother, he was disoriented.

“He thought he had ascended the world into this 5D matrix and had done what Mother God and Father God wanted him to do,” Whitten said. “We had to play that game with him. ‘Yes, you did it. You’re done.’”

The brother drove Whitten’s husband home.

“He’s still healing and he will be for a long time from this,” she said. “He has tons of shame, tons of guilt. He just can’t believe he did what he did. He just can’t fathom it now that his mind is clear.”

Signs of abusive treatment

Videos from Love Has Won’s online sessions also show glimpses of abusive behavior toward followers.

Rising Above Love Has Won and the operators of a Facebook group called Love Has Won Exposed watch hours of videos and then pull clips to post online to illustrate the abuse.

In one clip, known within those circles as the “Chicken Parmesan Saga,” Carlson berates a follower because he did not bring her chicken parmesan for dinner. She and Castillo scream, swear, threaten and berate the man as he stands with his head down.

“My vision was chicken parmesan,” Carlson yells. “So the (expletive) atoms turn around on me and get me meatballs. I didn’t say meatballs. I love meatballs, but I didn’t (expletive) say that. Chicken parmesan!”

The following day the man appeared on a livestream to explain his mistake and, as he describes how it happened, Castillo can be heard off-camera screaming, “Liar! You just lied!”

This, Ray and others said, is what happened daily as Carlson and Castillo coerced and controlled their followers.

One mother who hasn’t seen her daughter since she joined the cult in March 2018 follows her daughter by watching hours and hours of these videos.

The mother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of further alienating her daughter, said she had no idea her daughter was following Love Has Won until she received a text message saying her daughter was in California with friends. The young woman never came home.

“When I first found it I was like, ‘Holy crap!’” the mother said. “For the first two years watching this, Amy said she was going to ascend. We were like, ‘Oh my God, she’s not. This is a scam.’”

The daughter spent a few months in California and then in July 2018 she began appearing in videos from the Moffat house.

The woman said she pleaded to her daughter to come home, but her daughter blocked her messages.

The daughter’s hair color transitioned from dyed blonde to its natural brown. She lost so much weight that her clavicles protruded from her skin, the mother said. Her daughter also dropped her birth name and began using one given to her by Love Has Won.

“I thought, ‘Great, she has a name change now,’” the woman said. “That’s such a cult thing to do.”

The mother would send care packages with toilet paper, chicken noodle soup and peanut butter cups — her daughter’s favorite candies — to addresses where she thought her daughter might be.

The mother called the FBI and local sheriff’s and police departments over the years to ask for welfare checks. The last time she asked the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office to look in on her daughter, a deputy reported that the young woman, now 27, came out of the house but said she didn’t want to go home. The deputy gave her his card and left, the mother said.

The final time the mother saw her daughter on a video was April 15, and she believes her daughter was broadcasting with another woman from the Salida cabin. Then in late April, an FBI agent whom the mother has spoken with over the years called to tell the woman that Carlson was dead and they did not know her daughter’s whereabouts.

“I’m assuming if they get found, they’ll be arrested,” the mother said. “They were a big part of it.”

Turned away

In the past couple of years, Haythorne and others said Carlson appeared more frail in videos. They believe she often was drunk or on drugs. And followers carried her to and from chairs and beds.

In September, the group was escorted off an island in Hawaii by police after they violated COVID-19 protocols and offended local islanders with their co-opting of native religious practices.

At the time, Lauren Saurez, a follower, told The Denver Post they had taken Carlson there because she had cancer and was paralyzed from the waist down. But her mother and others say that diagnosis could not be accurate because Carlson never visited doctors.

In recent months, Haythorne and others believe Carlson wanted medical care. In an Oct. 15 livestream, two women talk to viewers about her health and explain that she would never go to a doctor because a doctor would not understand the process of ascending.

“There’s been moments when mom has asked us to take her to a community hospital. Nope,” a follower says. “There’s no way. We know how a hijacking works.”

Ray believes Carlson was alive as recently as April 10 because she talked to the group’s California landlord who told her he spoke to Carlson that day and she appeared to be dying. On April 16, a photo of Castillo holding Carlson in his arms circulated on the group’s private chatrooms, and Ray, who saw the picture, said Carlson was either dead or almost dead in the photo.

She and Haythorne began calling police, ambulance services, fire departments, county sheriffs and a district attorney in the Mount Shasta area to plead for intervention.

“We had well-checks done, turned away. We had ambulances go out, turned away,” Haythorne said.

Carlson’s death was confirmed in Colorado on April 28 when the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office searched the Moffat house and found the body.

Lamboy reported the body to the Salida Police Department. He was not arrested and since then has disappeared. A defense attorney, during one of the members’ recent court hearings, said Lamboy had taken the group’s money and left the area.

In an email to The Denver Post, Lamboy declined an interview request.

At the time of Carlson’s death, observers believed there were 29 devoted followers who lived in Love Has Won properties in Colorado and California. Those who were not arrested disappeared. The seven who were arrested have posted bond and are out of jail. All seven called in to a remote court hearing on Wednesday but did not disclose their locations.

After the arrests, Love Has Won took its website offline and renamed its YouTube and Facebook pages “5D Full Disclosure.” Daily livestreams are broadcast, but none of the core members have been seen on them in weeks. Instead, members in South Africa and Australia record them, along with one woman who says she is in Memphis, Tennessee.

Haythorne, Ray and the mother whose daughter has disappeared said they believe Castillo and Lamboy will become the new leaders. Already, followers are talking about Father God’s wishes in their videos. Castillo, who has a past criminal record, is one of the seven charged in connection with the discovery of Carlson’s body.

The Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Mount Shasta Police Department did not respond to interview requests from The Post.

The family members say the now-rebranded Love Has Won still has the ability to recruit new members.

“It’s extremely disheartening to see the system is failing again,” Whitten said. “No one would help me and no one would help my husband, and a woman has died because she didn’t have access to medical treatment. And they’re just allowed to go at it again.”

They hope law enforcement will investigate those men and other followers to determine their role in Carlson’s death. They believe the followers withheld food and medical treatment to facilitate their Mother God’s ascension, which she had told them for years was her purpose on Earth.

“I feel like at the end Amy became a victim of what she created,” Ray said.

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