Ryuho Okawa, the leader and CEO of the “Happy Science” cult, has passed away at the age of 66. Okawa, who famously claimed he could channel the spirit of any living or dead person, was rushed to the hospital after collapsing in his home on Monday from an apparent “state of cardiac arrest.” He passed away on Thursday night, and his cause of death remains unconfirmed.
Okawa had remained a controversial figure for most of his life, claiming to have received “Messages of God” and the ability to channel the spirits of the rich and famous. He would publish books based on what he said the spirits told him.
Okawa was born in 1956 in a rural area and graduated from the University of Tokyo. He founded the “Happy Science” cult in 1986 after he had an “epiphany” that he could speak with spirits, which told him that his mission was to “lead humanity to happiness.”
The group believed in Okawa’s ability to channel spirits, as well as spiritual reincarnation and the construction of a global utopia. The cult claimed to have grown the group to include members in more than 110 countries and 700 related facilities both inside and outside the country.
However, a New York Times report in 2020 cast doubt on the group’s claims, including its boast of 11 million members. Okawa’s first wife stated that the group had roughly 30,000 members in 2011.
Okawa’s son, Hiroshi, denounced his father as a con-man. In a 2020 interview with the Times, he stated that his father “relentlessly lied to his followers” and that he believed “what my father does is complete nonsense.”
Okawa launched the group’s political branch, the Happiness Realization Party, in 2009, advocating for small government based on religious teaching, a China containment policy, and limitations on the rights of the LGBTQ community. The party failed to win any national government seats as of Okawa’s death, although some members won local assembly seats.
The “Happy Science” group members have not released any statements following Okawa’s death.