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Denouement of the Prophets’ Cult The Church Universal and Triumphant in Decline

Denouement of the Prophets’ Cult: The Church Universal and Triumphant in Decline

Joseph P. Szimhart

Exit Counselor

Pottstown, Pennsylvania

This material was originally prepared for a presentation at AFF’s annual conference, June 14-15, 2002, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Orlando (FL) Airport.


This paper examines the historical background of Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), including Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy and the Ballard’s I Am movement, CUT’s considerable growth from its founding by Mark Prophet in the late 1950s to its heyday in the 1980s, Elizabeth Claire Prophet’s leadership of the group, controversies and lawsuits, the group’s move to Montana and allegations of possession of illegal weapons, the reorganization of the movement in the late 1990s by which time the leader was suffering from dementia, and the development of rival spin-off movements. The article concludes that the decline in membership has no single cause. Devotees have defected for a variety of reasons, most because of conflicts about the validity of the Messenger’s role and godlike status. The author expects the organization to continue to sell books and tapes and to settle in the American religious landscape with a relatively small number of from 1,000 to 3,000 devoted supporters, although this might fall below 500 within a generation.

Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), also known as the Summit Lighthouse, began with the teachings of Mark Prophet (1918-1973) in 1958. Prophet’s initial “Lighthouse of Freedom” movement was largely a heretical continuation of the I AM Activity founded by Guy and Edna Ballard in 1934. Mark Prophet also incorporated New Thought, Self-Realization Fellowship, and the Theosophy of Helena and Nicholas Roerich, who founded the Agni Yoga Society in 1921. CUT, Agni Yoga, and the I AM sect follow occult teachings of Madame Helena P. Blavatsky (1831-1891), whose Theosophical Society initiated a splintered family of Great White Lodge/Brotherhood spirit mediums and their cults. Prophet’s second wife, born Elizabeth Clare Wulf in 1939, inherited leadership of Summit Lighthouse when her husband died.

My experience with CUT is extensive and began in 1975 about the time I discovered and pursued the Agni Yoga teachings. Along with several thousands of other members, I attended three CUT conferences in California in 1979 and 1980, and I was a fringe if somewhat serious member of CUT during that period. After rejecting CUT and related teachings in 1980, I became a vocal critic who appeared many times in print and on television regarding CUT and other so-called cults. I worked as an exit counselor and deprogrammer from the mid-1980s; I wrote, consulted, and lectured widely about the “cult” issue.

This paper is a synthesis of more than 20 years of my research and experience with the group, its supporters, and its critics. The paper concentrates on factors that led to the recent disintegration of the CUT organization. Though my perspective is somewhat biased, I have considered many perspectives during the past two decades, including interviews with more than 50 members and 50 ex-members, and extensive familiarity with all significant books, court documents, articles, and media presentations on CUT. The paper will mention reasons why members reject the group, and events that marked controversy. CUT has experienced a radical decline in membership from my estimated peak of 10,000 to 15,000 active devotees during the 1978 through 1992 “doomsday” stages. Elizabeth Prophet once gave an unsubstantiated membership estimate of 75,000 to 150,000 worldwide, while scholars have estimated 30,000 to 50,000 members.[1] I believe that the group has declined to a few thousand active supporters. CUT’s serious decline from the mid-1990s coincided with the time that its leader and “messenger” presented increasing symptoms of dementia. By 1998, Elizabeth Clare Prophet received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Some ex-members estimate that CUT has lost as much as 80% of its support since 1993.[2] The paper also refers to the most complete exposure by ex-members on CUT, 400 Years of Imaginary Friends, by Kenneth Paolini and Talita Paolini (2000).
Why Church Universal and Triumphant?

An answer to the question about the basis for CUT’s name lies in the group’s myth of origins. According to ascended Master El Morya as “dictated” (channeled) by Elizabeth Clare Prophet in 1975:

In 1876, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was ordered by the Master Kuthumi and me, then known as the Masters K.H. and M., to write Isis Unveiled. Later she was given the responsibility of imparting The Secret Doctrine to the world. Commissioned by Jesus the Christ, the Ascended Master Hilarion, and Mother Mary, Mary Baker Eddy was given certain revelations, which she set forth in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Though at times beset with their own preconceptions and the burden of the mass consciousness, these witnesses codified the truth and the law of East and West as the culmination of thousands of years of their souls’ distillations of the Spirit.

Such Messengers are not trained in a day or a year or a lifetime. Embodiment after embodiment, they sit at the feet of the Masters and receive the emanations of their mantle in the power of their word and example. A number of others who were selected to perform a similar service for hierarchy failed in their initiations through the pride of the intellect and their unwillingness to submit identity totally unto the flame. They have become thereby totally self-deluded and they continue to draw innocent souls into the chaos of their delusion.

In the 1930s came the twin flames Guy W. Ballard and Edna Ballard imparting the sacred mystery of the law of the I AM, further knowledge of hierarchy, the invocation of the sacred fire, and the path of the ascension. Representatives tried and true of Saint Germain, they were commissioned to remain the only Messengers of the hierarchy of the Aquarian age until mankind should redeem a certain portion of their karma.

When that cycle was fulfilled, Saint Germain, together with the Darjeeling Council,[3] sponsored Mark and Elizabeth Prophet to carry on the work not only of the Ballards and the I AM movement, but also of Nicholas and Helena Roerich.[4] The Roerichs set forth the word of Morya destined to reach both the Russian and the American people with the energy and the enlightenment that should deter the red dragon of World Communism. And so the Mother flame of Russia and the Mother flame of America converge in spirals of freedom and victory for the sons and daughters of God in both nations and in every nation upon earth.[5]
How the Stage Was Set

Ascended Master Theater began a long time ago. This modern version, the Church Universal and Triumphant [CUT], continues an occult tradition about mysterious magicians and wise masters established by a secret society in 1614. In that year in Germany, there appeared an anonymous pamphlet, Fama Fraternitas (Account of the Brotherhood), which became a sensation throughout Europe among an elite class of spiritual seekers and occultists. The Fama purports to recount the life of a medieval knight, Christian Rosenkreuz, who journeyed to exotic places in search of the elixir of life and secret wisdom. Rosenkreuz (a symbolic name for a fictitious person) found “teachings” that employed astrology, alchemy, Kabbalism or Jewish mysticism, all integrated with the neo-Platonist tradition typical of Renaissance occultism.[6] The tradition of the Fama came to be known as Rosicrucianism. The stage was set for our modern theater of a hidden, superhuman brotherhood that protects arcane wisdom and secretly guides human affairs. Many groups, most notably the Freemasons, whose Lodges appeared formally around 1717,[7] and the Theosophical Society [TS] founded in 1875, created variations on the Rosicrucian drama of hidden masters and elite planetary guides.
Madame Blavatsky and Her Masters

Our interest is in the Theosophy established by Madame Helena P. Blavatsky (1831-1891), who was perhaps the most colorful and infamous occultist of the latter nineteenth century.[8] HPB, as her devotees refer to her, was born Helena von Hahn to an upper-class Russian family. Eccentric, willful, and high-strung from an early age, by the time she was 11, she had developed a talent for telling fantastic tales and for contacting spirits. When she wished, she learned languages and music readily. She became an accomplished if unladylike equestrian (she chose to ride like the soldiers under her father’s command). She acquired the coarse language and humor of the soldiers. Helena was an attractive young lady with stunning azure eyes, kinky hair, and elegant hands, but she was hardly a lady in manners. At age 16, on a dare that no man would have her, Helena approached Nikifor Blavatsky,[9] then age 40, was shortly betrothed, and having just turned 17 herself, she married him. At the altar, when the Orthodox priest asked Helena if she would honor and obey her husband, a relative reported that she mumbled, “I wouldn’t be a slave to God Himself, let alone a mere male.”[10] According to HPB, the brief, awkward union was not consummated, and it ended with Helena running away from the marriage. All she took from the bewildered Blavatsky was his name.

HPB traveled extensively, and in her early life, she lived from a stipend sent to her regularly by her wealthy family. She did work briefly as an equestrian in a circus, as a concert pianist, and later as a free-lance writer; but her primary pursuit was the occult and metaphysics. By 1873, HPB had settled in America, where she established herself as an exotic medium, especially in New York City and Philadelphia. Spiritualism was yet popular, and it was at a séance that she met Henry Steele Olcott, who would later help her establish the Theosophical Society. Olcott was a Civil War veteran, an attorney, a Mason, and a journalist. He was also a student of mesmerism, with skills in hypnotism. Olcott was quite taken by HPB. He basically believed her claims to spiritual and telepathic contact with hidden masters such as John King and Saint Germain, and in her apparent paranormal powers. HPB thrilled many of her early devotees with sounds, music, and written notes that magically manifested, as if from thin air. Spiritualism, however, was falling into ill repute after many exposures of fraud.[11] Olcott and Blavatsky ventured into more serious territory with the establishment of their Theosophical Society in 1875. Its stated goal was to research and reveal ancient wisdom, as well as to promote the brotherhood of mankind, no matter what the religion or culture.

By 1878, Olcott and Blavatsky established a TS presence in India. It was there that HPB revealed her contact with mysterious Indian and Tibetan masters called Koot Hoomi (a k a Kuthumi), Morya (a k a El Morya) and Djaul Khul (a k a The Tibetan). Saint Germain was another of Blavatsky’s “masters,” who were largely fictions of her imagination.[12] The Theosophists later supported Hindu and Buddhist causes of independence from colonial and Christian imperialists. HPB eschewed politics and religiosity as she concentrated on occultism, ancient wisdom, Gnosticism, and an odd array of metaphysics. From the point of view of Church Universal and Triumphant, HPB was the first in the line of modern “messengers” who channeled occult teachings from a hidden brotherhood that guides planetary affairs to revolutionize the consciousness of mankind.[13]

After Blavatsky died in 1891, her floundering cause was taken up by Annie Besant, who successfully guided that branch of the TS until her death in 1933. The influence of Blavatsky’s TS far outreaches the relatively low membership. The TS splintered shortly after HPB’s death because there immediately arose a controversy over who “the masters” would use as Secretary (HPB’s position in the TS) or “Messenger.”[14] In conflict with Besant, William Q. Judge, a TS founding member, assumed this task of Messenger. Judge formed a separate TS sect established initially as the Theosophical Society in America in 1909. An offshoot is the United Lodge of Theosophists.[15] Meanwhile, Besant came to rely on Charles W. Leadbeater (CWL), a former Anglican priest, who also claimed to have telepathic contact with the masters.[16] CUT has referenced some of Leadbeater’s teachings, especially on the chakras, spirits, and the human aura, but its leaders have avoided mention of him as a “master.”
The Ballard’s Cult and the Mighty I AM

CUT’s formation, however, depended primarily on two mediums and their teachings: Guy and Edna Ballard, who founded the I AM Activity in 1934. CUT reveres Guy Ballard, a k a Godfre Ray King, who died in 1939, as an Ascended Master. The Ballards were an eccentric couple who dabbled extensively in occultism, New Thought, Christian Science, and Theosophy for some years before appointing themselves as Messengers of the Ascended Masters, a k a the Great White Brotherhood. Much of their doctrine on ascension, affirmation and decrees, the “body electric,” suppression of negative thought, and the I AM concept borrowed heavily from the New Thought writings of Annie Rix Militz (1856-1924). Rix Militz was a key if somewhat forgotten figure in the New Thought milieu. She established the Home of Truth centers.[17] There is also some evidence that the New Thought mail-order religion of Psychiana inspired the Ballards in their formation of colored “rays” and lessons (see footnote 34).

In the early 1930s, the Ballards associated with the Legion of Silver Shirts, the first fascist if ultra-patriotic party in America. Incorporated in 1933, this organization meant to establish a new Christian society modeled after Hitler’s Third Reich. The Silver Shirts’ founder, William Dudley Pelley, had been a screen writer whose early career as a journalist took him through Russia, where he witnessed horrible atrocities perpetrated against citizens by the Communist revolution. Pelley came to view the liberal Jew coupled with the Illuminati[18] as the masterminds of the Communist threat to world domination. He also believed in the now-infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery disseminated by anti-Semitic factions in nineteenth-century Russia.[19] Later, Mark and Elizabeth Prophet also presented the Protocols as “real” to their devotees.[20] Pelley was harassed legally and politically for his growing fascist activities that attracted thousands of members.[21] Edna Ballard especially absorbed much of Pelley’s political and metaphysical rhetoric, which she recycled into early I AM teachings. While Pelley struggled with the law at his headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina, many of his disaffected members joined with the Ballards to launch their I AM movement from Chicago.[22]

Beyond Theosophy, New Thought, and the Silver Shirts, a fourth significant influence came from Guy Ballard’s personal contact with Baird T. Spalding, who wrote Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East. This was a series of six volumes, the first published in 1924. Spalding lived with the Ballards briefly in 1929.[23] In his series, he recounts his claimed adventures from 1894 to 1898 in India and the Tibetan region, where he and his party of 11 met superhuman “masters” with magical powers who initiated them into mysteries of the Great I AM. Despite his claim to the contrary in volume one, Spalding had not been to the Far East until after his third volume was published in 1935.[24] Both Spalding and Ballard wrote their adventures in the magical autobiography genre, a euphemism for writing from the imagination.[25] CUT promoted the Spalding series in its bookstore at conferences I attended in 1979 and 1980, and members I knew believed the stories literally.

Guy Ballard claimed to have met Ascended Master Saint Germain[26] around 1930 on the slopes of Mt. Shasta in California. Under the name Godfre Ray King, Ballard published his incredible adventures with Saint Germain and other “masters” in two volumes, Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence. All other publications in the basic I AM series are a compilation of dictations through the Ballards from a variety of Ascended Masters including Saint Germain, Jesus, Morya, Hercules, Helios, Nada, Bob, Lord Maitreya, and many others.[27] The Mighty I AM movement sustained a meteoric rise within a few years, gaining more than 10,000 members (“50,000,” according to an elderly member I interviewed in 1975) across America, with major centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Santa Fe, and Mt. Shasta, California.[28]

The sect ran into serious setbacks by 1940. The leaders were sued in 1938. The Chicago Herald & Examiner ran a large headline, WOMAN SUES ‘GREAT “I AM,”’ on October 14, 1938. During 1923 and 1924, the Ballards had allegedly duped many clients to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a dubious Lake of Gold in California venture. Guy Ballard had claimed to have special knowledge of a secret cache of gold in a lake. The Ballards faced criminal charges in 1929 over another gold-in-the-lake venture, but they managed to avoid arrest. The indictment read, “Obtaining Money and Goods by Means of the Confidence Game.” The Ballards apparently were very convincing, but the lake never produced an ounce of gold. They continued to claim special knowledge through their Ascended Masters about large gold deposits in mountains in India and America.[29] Guy Ballard died on December 29, 1939, of painful complications from “arterio-sclerotic heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver,” despite his claim and the members’ belief that Ballard had an “eternally enduring” body and would ascend before physical death.[30]

Within months after Guy died, several I AM leaders, including Mrs. Ballard, were indicted on 18 counts of mail fraud (USA vs. Ballard, Los Angeles Superior Court, No. 14496).[31] The trial went through several stages of conviction and reversal through 1944, when remaining charges were dropped under a First Amendment protection clause pertaining to freedom of religion. The I AM leaders paid fines and were forbidden to use the U.S. Postal Service again until 1954.[32] Membership and support for the group dropped dramatically and remained relatively low until a mild revival since the 1980s that coincided with the burgeoning New Age movements.

Edna Ballard died in 1971. The I AM has remained without a Messenger since and is basically run by a committee of five leaders. It continues to have annual gatherings in Mt. Shasta, California, when reportedly 1,000 or so people convene.[33]
Thou Shalt Decree a Thing

Former members of the I AM complained in court and otherwise that they had been defrauded by the Ballards’ promises that I AM ritual techniques (decrees) could not only cure anything but would also improve and perfect the political, economic, and environmental forces that plague mankind. A central tenet of this group, and of CUT, regards the manipulation of spiritual and cosmic energies with repetitive prayer. Similar to the chant of mantras in Buddhist and Hindu sects, I AM and CUT decrees are generally chanted in a rapid staccato and sound much like an auctioneer’s delivery. CUT claims that decrees, or the Science of the Spoken Word (in CUT’s book by that title), is “the most powerful force in the universe.”[34] The formal influence for the I AM decrees came from New Thought groups that developed various styles of spoken “affirmations” that promised to not only improve one’s attitude but also to change one’s health and fortune. Some of these New Thought groups, including Psychiana,[35] blended a “science” or code of colors with affirmations. For example, chanting a particular phrase about health while visualizing a green “ray” would enhance the power of that affirmation or decree. The I AM, and heretical-to-I-AM sects such as CUT, added that these decrees would be more effective if chanted loudly, more rapidly, and repeated in groups — the larger the group, the better. If nothing else, the act of decreeing out loud induces trance through high-arousal self-hypnosis. The I AM and CUT also extended the decrees to cover political goals and often decreed against liberal and communist agendas.[36]

During CUT’s intense “shelter cycle” that began in earnest around 1987 (mentioned later in this paper), decrees played a typical, central role. CUT Keepers of the Flame were urged to use the following insert with their usual round of daily decrees:
Call for the Victory of the Twin Pillars Shelter

In the Name of the I AM THAT I AM, Elohim, Saint Germain, Portia, Guru Ma, Lanello, Padma Smabhava, Kuan Yin, and the five Dhyani Buddhas.

Gautama Buddha, Lord Maitreya, Jesus Christ

Om Vairochana Akshobhya Ratnasambhava Amitabha Amoghasiddhi Om

In the name of my Mighty I AM Presence, my Holy Christ Self and Three-fold Flame, I call to Beloved Ray-O-Light, Mighty Hercules . . . God of Gold . . . El Morya . . . Mother Mary [more than 30 sacred names are invoked in this decree], . . . for the absolute God-victory of our Twin Pillars Shelter in South Glastonbury.

I call for the binding of all opposition and supply, our completion of the project on time and ahead of time, and for the cutting free of souls needed to physically complete the shelter!

In the name of Christ I call to you Beloved Hercules for: the proper fitting blast doors, full tanks of deisel and ethanol fuel, spare parts for all life support systems lasting 7 years, bicycles installed for back-up, a complete tool room well-equipped, 7 years of nutritious and varied food for everyone, the septic system in place . . . EMP protection . . . radiation monitor . . . $80,000 to meet all our needs for material and wages . . .

[The decree insert covers a letter-sized, single-spaced, typed page and ends with the following:]

We claim the Victory of the Twin Pillars Shelter now according to God’s Will! . . . Always Victory! Amen.

The I AM taught that the emotions drive the decrees to work, so decrees must be offered with deep feeling. Their theory is that if the entire universe began because of “The Word” (John 1:1) — that God spoke the world into being — then our words have similar power. I AMers, for example, avoid saying “I am sick,” or “I have cancer,” because the spoken word can reinforce or create the disease. By using the “law of correspondences” (as above, so below) familiar to all occultists, the spoken “vibration” of the decree will set into motion the intent of the devotee. Decrees are not unlike healing invocations, spells, or curses in shamanism and witchcraft. CUT also (mistakenly) invokes a Biblical “command” (“Command Ye Me,” says God in Isaiah 45:11, in the old King James Bible) to decree as they do: :

Here God is asking you not only to petition him for grace and mercy . . . but also to command him, to command his energy to do his will in and through you . . . . He is, in fact, telling you that you must command him to descend into your being if you would experience him in your consciousness.[37]

It is of interest to note how CUT (and so many controversial groups) demands that followers use only the old King James. In this case, the translation in context does not mean that God wants us to “command” him, but the writer of Isaiah clearly admonishes anyone who would ever dare to command God, his Maker. In the NIV (New International Version) translation, for example, God through Isaiah states, “. . . do you question me?”
The Mighty I AM Splinters

By the 1950s, new Messengers represented the I AM teachings, but the Ballard group rejected all competition. The Ballards taught that they would be the last Messengers on earth until the Masters appeared again in their visible, tangible bodies. Most I AMers believed that this event would take place within a generation as a result of their decrees, but practically all the original members who taught this have died out. One I AM spin-off was the Bridge to Freedom, a small group founded in 1952 in New York around the medium Geraldine Innocente and her mother, Mary Innocente, who was an I AM student. Though there are some branches of Bridge to Freedom, one with a significant following in South America, the original group foundered in 1961 upon the suicide of Geraldine. She inspired but did not officially incorporate the group.[38] She channeled a spirit called “Thomas Printz,” a pseudonym for El Morya,[39] a master first channeled as “Morya” by Helena Blavatsky around 1880. Mark Prophet claimed that El Morya appeared to him (when Mark was 18) while he drove spikes for a railroad company. Smaller, less significant groups broke away from the I AM. Two of these groups were named Ruby Ray and Church of the Ascension.

Mark Prophet had contact with the Bridge to Freedom in the mid-1950s. It was through these teachings and a Bridge member, Frances Ekey, that he absorbed the I AM cult of Ascended Masters and began his Lighthouse of Freedom group. He had already pursued Rosicrucian teaching as a member; he tried to join the Freemasons but could not find a sponsor, and he studied lessons from the Self Realization Fellowship founded by Swami Paramahansa Yogananda. Mark was later to declare that Yogananda was an Ascended Master. Mark struggled as a salesman and postal worker to support his wife and five children, but his first family reported that he was obsessed with the occult and with starting a church. At one stage, he relocated the family to Washington, D.C. and changed his name to “T. V. Profit” to avoid debts.[40] By the time Mark met Elizabeth (Wulf) Ytreberg in Boston in 1960, he had a small following and had declared himself Messenger of the Ascended Masters. In 1962, Mark divorced his spouse, Phyllis, and effectively abandoned his first family with little support after he met Elizabeth. She in turn divorced her husband, Dag, who was a Christian Scientist and a law student. Elizabeth and Mark married in 1962 and had four children: Sean, Erin, Moira, and Tatiana.
Past Lives as “Curriculum Vitae”

With the dissemination of newly translated Hindu and Buddhist scriptures to the West, reincarnation captured the imaginations of many seekers in the nineteenth century. Conservative spiritualists denounced reincarnation in favor of ascension through many “levels” of afterlife, but Theosophists and most New Thought groups (especially Unity) happily accepted it. By the twentieth century, seers and mediums regularly announced who was who in a past life. The race was on for famous past lives, but unlike domain names in our cyber-space age, there is no barrier for many people to claim the same past personality. For example, I have met four former Saint Catherines of Sienna, Elizabeth Prophet being one of the claimants. To better establish their patriotic style, Guy Ballard claimed to have been George Washington, Edna claimed she was Ben Franklin, and their son, Eudonia (Donald) they said was Lafayette, who was to be a U.S. president in this life. Donald died in 1973 without ever running for office. Mark Prophet claimed many past lives, with Pharoah Iknaton, Sir Lancelot, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as the most notable. Elizabeth was his Queen Nefertiti, Mumtez Mahal for whom the Taj Mahal was built, Hypatia, Martha the disciple of Jesus, and Lady Guinevere, to name but a few.[41]

To emphasize their destiny as “appointed Messengers,” the Prophets revealed impressive past lives for their children. CUT devotees believe that Sean was King Solomon and a Buddha; Erin, the oldest daughter, was Mahatma Gandhi; Moira was John F. Kennedy; and Tatiana was Helena Roerich. Moira stated that she was quite embarrassed when she discovered that Kennedy was an adulterous womanizer. The connection with Roerich, however, appears to be a calculated one to link the Agni Yoga teachings to CUT. Mark Prophet had claimed that he cut his metaphysical teeth on the Leaves of Morya’s Garden, the first book of “inspired” writings (channeled) by Helena Roerich in the Agni Yoga series. The Prophets used the Agni Yoga books, approximately 21 in all, to teach their students, especially at the upper levels of a CUT indoctrination program called Summit University. CUT also uses images of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings liberally in its publications, without Roerich Museum permission.[42]

In my interviews and correspondence with Sina Fosdick (who died in 1983), the director of the Roerich Museum and the Agni Yoga group in New York, I mentioned the Prophets’ claim of Helena Roerich’s reincarnation as Tatiana. She was shocked and stated that it could not be. Fosdick had been a personal disciple of the Roerichs. Helena passed away in 1955 and Nicholas in 1947. Fosdick stated that she and Agni Yoga students believed that Helena had gained her victory over rebirth. She also revealed that Mark and Elizabeth Prophet had approached her (Fosdick) around 1970 to request that the AY Society join with their movement and essentially submit to “Morya’s” new messengers — them. “I politely declined,” she told me, but she was also quite convinced that the Prophets were false messengers and that their “El Morya” was not of the “hierarchy” (Great White Brotherhood).[43] Of course, Fosdick’s opinion proved nothing, because there is no way to test for past lives the way the Prophets and most New Agers present them. Our interaction is evidence of how grandiose and perhaps delusional the Prophets were. Their claims did have the effect of attracting some Agni Yoga students to CUT. In my case in 1978, I know I was very curious to meet this little girl who was “Helena Roerich.”

In 1987, I interviewed “Annie,” an ex-CUT member, who stated that “Mother” (Elizabeth Prophet) and CUT leaders were convinced that she was the reincarnation of Annie Besant; however, she reported that Mother always kept her, the renewed Annie, “in her place” as an underling. This pageant of important characters on the reincarnated CUT stage worked for and against the group. Theosophists I know reject Prophet’s claims to Blavatsky’s teachings through El Morya, and they are naturally disinclined to accept any claims that Besant is serving the CUT agenda. While members reveled in the presence of famous people among them, ex-members were embarrassed about how the theatrical silliness of the claims manipulated their devotion.
Ascending into the New Age

CUT’s tremendous growth from the small group that began around Mark Prophet in the late 1950s to its peak numbers through 1990 appeared in stages. The Summit Lighthouse moved headquarters from the East Coast to Colorado in 1966. The group named its newly purchased mansion “La Tourelle” (The Tower), and it attracted nearly 40 devoted staff members by 1969, many of whom slept in an unheated attic with no air conditioning.

Despite setbacks, as in 1973 when Mark died of a stroke, and challenges to Elizabeth’s authority as Messenger thereafter, the group managed to capitalize on the times. Changes were in the air since the revolutionary 1960s. Many seekers rejected the drug scene and turned to metaphysical means to expand consciousness. New “Jesus cults” sprouted, with groups formed around the guru invasion from the East. It was the era of est, Carlos Castaneda, mind-expanding rock music, and a punctuated interest in meditation, the occult, crystals, psychic powers, communes, and pure diets that observers tagged as the New Age Movement. And there were dissatisfied Theosophists and I AM members seeking the next messenger of the Masters.

The Prophets required not only a puritanical, quasi-monastic lifestyle with haircuts and attire most conservative Mormons or Baptists would accept; they also offered a psychedelic internal theater that kept the devotee or chela preoccupied 24 hours a day. Even in sleep, which for staff was generally inadequate, the chela’s soul was visiting “inner” temples and retreats for instruction and purification. Members were exhorted to surround themselves with “foci of light” to “anchor” the energy of the Masters on their persons and in their environments. Members even aligned their beds according to group dogma. CUT approved or generated music, and decrees played in endless loops in home sound systems. Colors, images, vegetarian diets, and even thoughts were to follow the dictates of the Masters. Members irrigated their colons regularly to keep a high level of purity. Members obeyed, or tried to, because they were led to believe that it was only in this way that they could attain their ascensions in this lifetime. The “way” was defined by their relationship with the Masters, and the only sure means was through a Messenger. Mark and Elizabeth rarely tolerated anyone who claimed to receive instruction directly from an Ascended Master.

As a devoted member of CUT, a “Keeper of the Flame,” fantastic characters and plots occupy your mental stage. Gods and goddesses, sylphs, gnomes, and undines battle with black magicians, dragons, and “dwellers on the threshhhold” as hundreds of entities crawl around your soul like vampires. Humans among us with “two-fold flames” are “robot creations” or reincarnated “laggards” from the planet Maldek, which the Prophets claimed exploded eons ago and is now the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Jesus, Buddha, K-17, and Hercules are among an array of ascended beings called the Great White Brotherhood who guide the planet’s future. As a devotee, you learn to manipulate “bolts of blue lightning” and magical “violet flame,” a “causal self” or monad floating 12 to 50 feet above your head, and a “tube of light” surrounding you that can stop bullets, entities, and viruses. You communicate with your personal “body elemental” that attends to your physical function. Rays of energy in colored frequencies blaze, blast, and consume as Ascended Masters redirect your powerful decrees perfectly to help purify your “four lower bodies.” You are a potential powerhouse of energy if you would only decree as directed at least 2.4 hours every day. Astrology comes alive through the Cosmic Clock, with an Ascended Master assigned to each astrological “house” to guide every phase of your life.
Third Marriage

In 1973, in a private ceremony, Elizabeth Prophet married Randall Kosp, a member 12 years younger than she, and had him change his name to King. King later revealed that he had a sexual affair that did not involve intercourse with Elizabeth for one year before Mark died.[44] Extramarital and all oral sexual activity had been strictly forbidden according to CUT’s “Code of Conduct” for all members. In 1975, Elizabeth held a highly successful conference at Mt. Shasta in California near the I AM Activity’s main retreat. By then, Prophet’s group had established a center in Pasadena, California. Membership rose into the thousands. In 1976, the group purchased a former Catholic seminary with a church on prime land in the Malibu foothills, and they named it Camelot. Enrollment in their Summit University increased, and it was from this venue of 12 weeks of three or four class levels that highly indoctrinated students were asked to dedicate their lives as staff members and communicants. CUT required the former to deed all their assets to the church. Elizabeth Prophet, mimicking Eastern sects, and especially the powerful Satya Sai Baba movement, added Hindu and Buddhist elements, requiring staff to dress in tunics and beads from the late 1970s into the 1980s. Prophet, called Mother by devotees, appointed herself Guru Ma with the blessing of the great Buddhist saint Padma Sambhava, who she channeled for the occasion in 1976.
Church Universal and Triumphant Is Born

In 1974, the group changed its name from Summit Lighthouse to Church Universal and Triumphant, partly to avoid losing church assets as the result of an ill-advised investment in silver futures derivatives by King and Prophet. Elizabeth Prophet came forth with a dictation from a Master who presented the new name as a “divine dispensation.” Later, King testified,

But the reason is [CUT] was started is [sic] because we wanted to divert funds from Clayton brokerage, in case they were going to win a lawsuit against the Summit Lighthouse. And also, get funds out of there in case we lost our tax-exempt status. The dictations [from Ascended Masters] came because that’s what we wanted.[45]

CUT teachings were an odd mixture of positive thinking and fear of catastrophe. On the one hand, the group followed New Thought philosophy to think positively and suppressed all “doubt and fear.” CUT claimed to have use of the “violet flame” and other rays of energy that could purify and improve anything members decreed for. On the other hand, the group taught that the “Capitalist-Communist Conspiracy,” along with the Illuminati and other secretive groups, were about to take over the world economy and that nuclear war could break out at any time. In the early 1970s, Mark Prophet established a survivalist scheme he called OCC (Operation Christ Command). OCC required staff to buy survival gear from CUT distributors, invest in gold and in food-stuffs that were to be stored in bunkers — these were stashed in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, along with a truckload of guns and ammunition. OCC was forgotten after Mark died in 1973, but doomsday rumblings rose again from Mother by the late 1970s.

In 1979, I helped a family of CUT devotees to move to the Camelot headquarters area. They felt compelled to move because they took seriously the message that devotees must be prepared for a calamity, that headquarters would be protected by the Masters, and that it would greatly benefit their path to the ascension to be closer to Mother. The Masters and Mother encouraged the members to buy gold because paper money and bank accounts would become worthless. They bought as many gold coins as they could afford at the then rate of $500 per ounce. Gold values went down steadily after 1980, and today gold is worth $310 an ounce. Advice like this from allegedly all-knowing Masters has added to the stress and dejection members and ex-members have felt after years of devotion.

Elizabeth Prophet, like Mark, appeared to need to manipulate those around her to accept her grandiose claims and psychic powers. In contrast to the typical New Age channeler who is open to anyone channeling any being, the Prophets were exclusive and absolute. One researcher on channeling writes, “In contrast to most New Age practice, however, CUT’s principles are authoritarian and puritanical.”[46] Challengers to the CUT Messenger would either be “blue rayed” (viciously dressed down and/or demoted on staff) or instantly excommunicated. Both Elizabeth and Mark were known for their labile personalities, and they could irrationally turn on a devotee.[47] Their insecurity projected Dark Forces and demons into world affairs and onto persons not in concert with their goals. Elizabeth, an only child of Swiss parents, remained hostile to her authoritarian father even past his death. She named him Peshu Alga, the fallen angel who convinced Lucifer to rebel, and she named her mother as his consort. After her father died, Prophet had members decree for his “second death” on 13 January 1985. Prophet was angered that her parents had not transferred their assets to her before their death.[48] Devotees especially felt oppressed by the looming evil of Communism, aliens, and the liberals. Their thick, rainbow-paged decree books were filled with inserts of names of people and causes they needed to purge with their magic words or decrees. This “hit list” included names of rock stars, presidents, rival gurus, powerful organizations, drugs, and spiritual entities.[49]

Elizabeth and her third husband were separated by 1978 and divorced. Randall (Kosp) King later sued the group and settled for an undisclosed amount in 1987. Prophet married another younger, independently wealthy devotee, Ed Francis, in 1981, but not all was happy at Camelot. The California Coastal Commission denied CUT any building permits, the media produced critical articles and television news about the group, and Guru Ma’s need for expansion grew. Secretly, the leaders negotiated to purchase from Malcomb Forbes 12,000 acres in Montana just north of Yellowstone National Park for $7,000,000. Devotees were implored by the Masters to donate as much as they could spare for the “place prepared.”[50] The new headquarters, named Royal Teton Ranch, was purchased in 1981. Then, in 1982, Prophet dictating as Archangel Michael ordered members to arm themselves, and many went out to buy guns. “Michael” also directed every “Lightbearer” to gather and be prepared to survive in Montana by “January 1, 1987.”[51]
The Mull Litigation Backfires

Adding to Elizabeth Prophet’s stress was a significant legal battle with former member Gregory Mull, who joined the group in his late fifties. Mull was close to Mother Prophet for six years as a dedicated staff architect and interior decorator. I first met Mull in 1982, and we communicated regularly until his death. He sacrificed nearly everything for the group, but by 1980 he had serious misgivings. His wife, Prophet’s secretary, let him know that Prophet kept a large personal file of confidential confession letters written to her by staff and devotees. Like Mull, other devotees understood that these letters were sacred, were to be read by Mother in her Christ-self, and then literally were to be burned. Prophet would instead refer to these files to “remember” the sins confessed whenever she needed to meet with a member.[52]

Mull was also upset after Prophet and CUT sued him for $32,598. The group leaders claimed that Mull owed them the “loaned” money, but Mull proved in court that this money was never paid him as promised for his architectural services. The church attempted to coerce Mull to relinquish the debt. He was brought before Elizabeth and the board and was mercilessly berated. Mull had to leave the group. He lived in a confused and broken state for a year before he found a lawyer, Lawrence Levy, to represent his case. Mull counter sued for assault, breach of fiduciary relationship, extortion, fraud, quantum meruit, bondage, and peonage. Mull won a $1.5 million judgment against Prophet and CUT in 1986. From 1981 until his death, his life was consumed with the lawsuit, and he was repeatedly harassed and once assaulted by CUT staff. Mull’s health eventually failed, and he died from complications from multiple sclerosis months after the 1986 judgment in his favor.[53]
CUT Moves to Montana

In 1986, the group sold Camelot to a Japanese sect, Soka Gakkai, for nearly $16 million. Along with 700 staff members, approximately 2,000 members from around the world converged in Montana by the mid-1980s to establish the Royal Teton Ranch and Glastonbury communities. CUT not only implemented plans to construct a worship center, housing, and a school, but it also attempted to both farm and ranch on the land. Meat was introduced as an open option into the CUT diet as devotion became labor intensive. (Prophet’s children later disclosed that Elizabeth and her family had been eating choice cuts of meat and fish since the 1970s, while members believed Mother was a vegetarian). In 1987, Elizabeth Prophet released a prophecy, based on her astrological calculations, that the planet would enter a very Dark Cycle by 1989.[54] The members were directed to invest in and build bomb shelters to survive a nuclear strike by the Soviets. They were to finish this mammoth project by 1989. When they were behind schedule, the Masters held back the descending karma until 1990.
Prophet’s Husband and Illegal Weapons

In desperation, to prepare for survival and self-defense, Prophet’s current husband Edward (Ed Francis) clandestinely arranged a weapons purchase with CUT’s head of the security department, Vernon Hamilton. Hamilton illegally transported $150,000 worth of weapons and ammunition. Hamilton got caught, and Prophet’s husband was charged as an accessory. Both pled guilty to a felony in October 1989. Another CUT staff member, Frank Black, was also caught transporting weapons illegally from Idaho on the same day Ed Francis pled guilty. CUT had a huge stash of weapons and two armored vehicles that were legally purchased. Later, the group agreed to give these up to comply with Internal Revenue Service and federal restrictions regarding any church owning weapons for self-defense. Elizabeth Prophet publicly denied any knowledge of illegal weapons, but she did testify in court in 1993 that her staff had indeed purchased arms and ammunition since 1973 to defend the staff and church property.[55]

During the hectic preparation for the Dark Cycle, hundreds of foreign devotees were worried about how they might stay safe. Suddenly, American CUT members “courted” and married foreigners. The Immigration and Naturalization Service investigated the foreign marriages, but no prosecution came of it, to my knowledge.[56] Members who could afford it built their own blast-proof shelters. All residents on CUT properties were required to build or buy access to a shelter.

The largest underground complex would hold 750 persons, but it was not completely ready when Prophet announced, on March 15, 1990, for every staff member to go into the shelters — this was no longer a drill. Bombs were coming! Hundreds more entered smaller shelters, both in the area and some as far away as Idaho. Prophet also warned members of “astral plane” (invisible to normal sight) aliens in a huge spacecraft that hovered over the property. These aliens, 150,000 strong, stood ready to enslave the Light-bearers and humanity after the nuclear destruction.[57] Underground, the frenzied CUT members and their children shouted out their decrees to end the threat, while they found toilets and other basic shelter accommodations non-functional. A bucket brigade took waste to the surface. Nothing abnormal happened aboveground, so on March 16, every one of them climbed out to the daylight. The ranch was started up again, electricity and water utilities were turned on, and members were expected to act normally, as if this had been just another drill.

Bewildered members had given up everything, with no preparation for the future outside the group agenda that had evaporated. They would have to start from scratch, find jobs, and sort out what it all meant. Members owed thousands of dollars for supplies for which they never intended payment, because they believed that the economy would be in a shambles anyway. A construction supply store in Livingston, Montana went out of business due to non-payments. Despite many attempts to reframe the experience by stating that decrees and preparedness averted the disaster, and that the fallen Soviets were yet secretly preparing an attack, CUT leaders could not avoid the obvious. The prophecy had failed and cognitive dissonance was setting in. Thousands of members rationalized the experience for months or even years before breaking entirely with the church.[58]
Efforts to Mediate Damages
Prosecute Deprogrammers

Damage control stressed the CUT staff as more ex-members were putting pressure on the group. The press coverage and television shows were opportunities to spin the message from doomsday to a positive outlook. During the height of the bomb scare, one family arranged to have their 39-year-old daughter abducted from her home in Idaho to “deprogram” her from the group. They finally attempted an intervention in November 1991. The week-long intervention failed to dissuade her. With CUT support, she complained to the state’s prosecutors, who filed criminal charges. The group member’s mother and pregnant sister were arrested immediately. The three deprogrammers and the four security persons were arrested within months of the incident. Charges were dropped against the mother and sister. The deprogrammers (myself included) were the primary targets and were tried separately from the security persons. (State of Idaho v. Szimhart, Paolini, and Chrnalogar, No. 18597. 1993)

Kenneth Paolini, who with his wife resigned from CUT staff in 1987 and broke with CUT altogether in 1989, became a significant resource for ex-members, cult critics, and government officials seeking to expose CUT. Paolini had been Chief of Security for the group. He was an eyewitness to abusive treatment of staff members, to where secret weapons were stored, to illegal practices, and to Elizabeth Prophet’s indiscretions (which included catching her in an adulterous act of sexual intercourse with a staff member). Paolini and his wife were helping dejected staff members who wanted to quit CUT, with information and a support network. Although I was never on staff, I had spoken out against the group publicly since 1982 and was targeted on the decree hit list as an evil “deprogrammer.” CUT leaders knew that I had persuaded dozens of people to leave the group, and some of these people were very wealthy. Other groups, including the Unification Church (the Moonies) and Scientology, who sent representatives to the trial, wanted to see a conviction, to send a message to hated deprogrammers. Paolini and I were acquitted of all charges, including misdemeanors. Chrnalogar, the third deprogrammer charged, received an 11 to 1 jury vote in her favor. Charges against her were eventually dropped.[59] To avoid an expensive trial, the four security persons pled guilty to charges, and each served only two weeks in jail.
Miracle Baby

Elizabeth Prophet had predicted through a Master in 1974 that she and Randall “King” would bear a fifth child, perhaps an avatar. Members I met in1975 believed she showed signs of pregnancy, but something or nothing happened, and no child arrived. In 1994, at age 55, Elizabeth Prophet gave birth to Seth T. Francis. The “miracle” baby was conceived with the assistance of sperm from her husband Ed Francis, an egg from one of Prophet’s daughters, and massive hormone therapy.[60] Prophet and her Masters had adamantly spoken out against genetic engineering, abortion, and extraordinary forms of birth manipulation — group members were not aware of the extraordinary medical intervention behind baby Seth’s birth. For a time, this happy event gave hope to CUT members, but the inevitable caught up with the group. Prophet’s brain disease progressed, and the group lacked reliable Ascended Master leadership. Her lectures and appearances became an embarrassment. The group had to find another way.
The AWARE Study: Academia with Blinders

Also in 1994, a group of scholars published a book about CUT based on a short-term study with the group in 1993.[61] Led by James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton, the study gave the sect a scholarly clean bill of health that the group used as propaganda. The entire project was stimulated by the Idaho litigation (Idaho v. Szimhart, et al. cited above), for which Lewis was retained in 1992 as an “expert witness” on behalf of the prosecution.[62] To prepare his testimony, Lewis visited the group for one week, and his impression was favorable. As it happened, the judge disallowed experts to testify for either side, but Lewis was impressed with CUT enough to offer a deal: “. . . I persuaded the Church that they would benefit by having a whole group of academics study them.” [63] At the time, the media targeted CUT as another possible “Waco,” in reference to the government assault on and suicidal holocaust suffered by the Branch Davidian sect on April 23, 1993. Like CUT, the Branch Davidian communal sect harbored weapons, distrusted the government, and held apocalyptic views. CUT was trying to distance itself from its survivalist, anti-government identity, so Lewis’ offer was a welcome opportunity. Not all the academics on the initial team were happy with the proceedings. Some CUT members were seriously interviewed and praised for their intelligence and well-being. Nothing in depth represented the critics or ex-members. The book offered little of value regarding the character and behavior of the leader.

Robert Balch and Stephan Langdon were on the AWARE team initially, but they soon realized that academic protocol and solid investigation were sorely lacking. They did not contribute to the book, but they did publish an important critique of the AWARE study: “How the problem of malfeasance gets overlooked in studies of new religions: An examination of the AWARE study of the Church Universal and Triumphant.”[64] The key criticism was that the academics fell into “group-think” and refused to look at significant “backstage realities.”
Rightsizing: Moving from Dictatorship Toward Democracy

In 1996, a highly devoted member from Canada, Gilbert Cleirbaut, a former director of human resources for Union Carbide, British Petroleum, and the government of Alberta, Canada, was hired as CUT’s president.[65] Cleirbaut knew that the church was in serious disarray, both in morale and finances. He chose to both cut staff drastically and pare away extraneous projects (such as survival shelters and ranching), and to represent the teachings in a positive light, away from fear of end times. He openly admitted the group made mistakes and abused some staff in the past (blaming this on “mid-managers,”[66] not Mother), but he felt the intent of the Teachings to save souls and to guide the planet was the real message.

Most of the staff suddenly had to find new lives and fend for themselves, while thousands of supporters worldwide began the difficult task of sorting out what was real. Cleirbaut’s effort, spelled out in 1997 in his [CUT]: Building a New Culture, A Handbook for Individual and Organizational Change, largely failed to make a difference. Infighting, scrambling for personal stability, and vying for power among Prophet’s children and her personal staff (especially with Murray Steinman, CUT PR spokesman, her primary astrologer and media consultant) over who would be Elizabeth’s guardian distracted members from any new “culture.”[67] Cleirbaut announced his resignation to a stunned audience at a major CUT conference in July 1999. CUT was caught between a more liberal approach as defined by Cleirbaut and the authoritarian paradigm under which it had operated with an active Messenger since 1958. Added to this, Elizabeth’s dementia could no longer be hidden and was made public: “Leader of Apocalyptic Sect has Alzheimer’s.” (New York Times, November 27, 1998)

Prophet’s history of brain disease stemmed from her childhood when, at an early age, she showed signs of petit mal seizure disorder, a form of epilepsy. Victims of epilepsy can experience a temporal-lobe disorder that manifests in a flooding of the mind (aura) with images and ideas of a religious or spiritual nature. This aura can precede a seizure, but seizures do not always follow an aura episode. Correlation here is speculation on my part, but I believe that Prophet’s neurological condition contributed to her mystical disposition. Also, I do not mean to suggest that dementia (Alzheimer’s) is in any way connected to epileptic conditions. Elizabeth reported her vivid visions of past lives when she was a child. Prophet’ mother, Fridy Wulf, an avid reader of Theosophy and New Thought literature, encouraged her young daughter to believe in her visions of reincarnation and introduced her to the I AM teachings and Christian Science.[68] In 1988, Elizabeth suffered a massive attack of seizures and was flown to Salt Lake City for treatment for three days. Close staff hid the attack from members; nevertheless, the treatment did not immediately reverse her dementia. Subsequent dictations and lectures were incoherent, but her smooth delivery reappeared in months.[69]
Rival Heretics Appear

In effect, CUT is left without a Messenger, but this does not mean that others are not taking up the role. Sensing Prophet’s imminent decline, ex-CUT members Monroe and Carolyn Shearer established their Temple of the Presence, a new I AM-style group. Around 1972, Mark Prophet appointed Monroe Shearer to be “Bishop” of the Summit Lighthouse. In 1975, Mother promoted him to Archbishop and vice president of CUT. In 1981, Elizabeth Prophet fired him from CUT staff, stripped him of his spiritual mantles and office, and kicked him out for abuse of power. In 1995, the Shearers emerged as the new self-appointed Messengers of the Great White Brotherhood. At first, the Shearers specifically targeted disaffected CUT members. In 2001 and 2002, they moved headquarters to Tuscon, Arizona.[70] The group is small relative to CUT, but it has already established a Website and a considerable body of dictations, workshops, and teachings.

By no means are the Shearers the only channelers of I AM or Theosophy’s Ascended Masters. In 1988, I knew of 14 active mediums who channeled Saint Germain. In 1987, one national television program, West 57th Street, did a survey on channeling and estimated 1,200 channelers in Los Angeles alone. But the Shearers specifically claim to follow Madame Blavatsky, Helena and Nicholas Roerich, Guy and Edna Ballard, and Mark Prophet (but not Elizabeth). The Schearers also claim to represent Bridge to Freedom teachings.[71]
Concluding Analysis and Remarks

After the shelter cycle preparations that declined radically after 1990, CUT’s existence became anti-climactic. Factors that made the church attractive to devotees had become internally suspect:
Exclusive contact with gods, masters, and angels through the Messenger.
A compelling purpose to guide the human race into the New Age.
Use of decrees as the most powerful tool for personal and planetary change.
An elite community living in harmony with spiritual forces.
The only true path to personal ascension into heaven in this lifetime.
Exit, Stage Left and Right

This group’s demise has no single cause, and devotees have defected for a variety of reasons. I have noted some of them. Most defections occurred as the result of conflicts about the validity of the Messenger’s role and godlike status. Many members knew that other Theosophical sects dismissed CUT’s messengers as false, and this bothered them, as it did me when I was a member. Doubts arose as a result of information from both within and without about plagiarism, and about double standards in diet, sexual habits, or other private behaviors of the Messengers. Inconsistencies between Theosophy, the I AM, Agni Yoga, the Bridge to Freedom, and CUT caused conflicts because all of these groups represented the same Ascended Masters that CUT members worshiped. Those members who dared to speak with ex-members and to read critical literature on Theosophy and spiritualism found evidence of messengers and masters wanting in credibility.[72] From messenger to messenger, the Great White Brotherhood had no consistent doctrine. For example, the I AM Saint Germain eschewed astrology, whereas the CUT Saint Germain promoted it as the Cosmic Clock.[73] For some ex-members, on hindsight, naive devotion became a rite-of-passage from which to learn how to better recognize a false system or teacher. The failed prophecy after such a heavy investment shook the faith of members in the early 1990s. And psychologically, as the Messenger Elizabeth Prophet showed more and more evidence of dementia, members questioned whether her relationship and their own with the masters was ever real.

The failure of decree magic also disillusioned members. Perhaps thousands of I AMers defected after Guy Ballard died. They were led to believe that their leader, Beloved Daddy, would ascend in this life before his physical death. I AMers decreed for the protection of their Messengers. Similarly, CUT members wondered about the power of decrees and the entire belief system when Mark Prophet suddenly died in 1973. When Elizabeth Prophet’s mental stability collapsed, there was no longer a Messenger to rationalize why the Masters allowed this to happen. Members were left to contemplate the core belief that the Messenger was somehow invincible and disease free. Yet they believed that diseases are products of internalizing negative thoughts. These beliefs appear throughout dictations by Ascended Masters and the Messengers from both the I AM and CUT since 1934. Here is one example of Ascended Master El Morya (speaking through Elizabeth Prophet) about disease in 1994:

Where do you think the diseases come from?

You throw off all disease when you internalize the Light. Nothing can harm you. But I tell you, beloved, when you internalize resentment, when you internalize that ragged, jagged energy that ties up and blocks the flow of Light within you, then you are certainly a candidate for diseases that may very well take you out of embodiment.

It is absolutely imperative, beloved, that you let go of all sense of criticism, condemnation and judgment, of being incensed that this or that wrong has been done unto you. I tell you, beloved, if you do not do this, it would be better for you to go out from the Great White Brotherhood and separate yourselves from it.[74]

With a little research, members discovered that the Roerichs, who founded Agni Yoga and wrote the teachings that CUT misappropriated for upper-level Summit University courses, were controversial, especially after 1936 when American members exposed them as charlatans.[75]

Social psychologists have demonstrated how readily people identify with roles they assume once they submit to an authority, and that they continue to comply with instruction even in abusive contexts.[76] Once a seeker assumed the role of Keeper of the Flame, there was ostensibly no turning back. The admonition went something like this: It would be better had you never accepted the Teachings than to have turned against them. And the cost could be thousands of lifetimes in spiritual darkness and a strong possibility of losing one’s ascension. True believers can create compelling reasons why not to defect from their organization or mission despite the abuse they experience. Abuse becomes purification. One study of 61 former CUT members indicates strongly that their experience in CUT rates high on the “Group Psychological Abuse” (GPA) Scale in comparison to former members of mainline religions. The GPA measures degrees of “compliance, exploitation, mind control, and anxious dependencies” factors experienced by group/cult members.[77] Without the Messenger, the rest of the belief structure can fall like a house of cards. Loyalty to the Messenger raises the level of submission to an authoritarian system and to what is later perceived as abuse by the devotee.

This group’s levels of demand and potential manipulation increased dramatically once a member joined the staff. At the staff level, while Elizabeth Prophet was yet functional, CUT maintained a totalistic style of manipulation that ex-members deemed highly abusive. Demand for decrees could double to 4 hours or more on any day. There was never enough time for staff to keep up with reading, lectures, and services, so guilt and shame were on a constant high level. Nearly all staff experienced pressure to give all of one’s assets and money, yet the median salary for most full-time staff was often less than $75 a month. The Messengers demanded confession letters and written requests to engage in relationships or to have a baby. Members believed that Ascended Masters, who could report to the Messenger, watched every aspect of their mental and physical life. Messengers often arranged or made powerful suggestions for marriage partners. Sensual experience and appetites were influenced and controlled by cult doctrine. Members were to avoid all music, colors, food, news, movies, and books not approved by the Messengers. Strict codes of conduct influenced behavior, attire, and sexual contact, even among married members.

Exit costs in CUT remain high. Members know that to encounter and accept the Teachings, on one hand, is the greatest blessing, but, on the other, to dare to doubt is dangerous to one’s spiritual attainment. To defect from the CUT path is even worse and could cast the seeker into thousands of rounds of reincarnations before his or her chance for “ascension” presents again. To turn against the Messengers and deny the existence, per se, of the Masters, as did I, is the worst possible contamination and could earn the critic essential extinction in the Lake of Fire. As mentioned above, Elizabeth Prophet led group members to decree that this dark fate apply to her despised, deceased father. Other exit costs are more mundane and could include investments in bomb-shelter spaces and church-owned properties, friendship with remaining members, and years of effort to comply. For committed members, the damage of mind control or “brainwashing” occurs at the exit process as defection progresses. Similar to the effects of a divorce, the defector struggles with self-doubt, loss of esteem, confusion, and anxiety, all of which take a toll during the recovery process. Gregory Mull, the ex-member who successfully sued CUT and Prophet, told me he felt he was in utter darkness for a year after his defection in 1980. He said he often became suicidal but hung on by repeating the Lord’s Prayer as his lifeline to something real and sacred.

Mull’s dark exit year featured a host of phobias and made him temporarily paranoid. I first met Mull in 1982 and helped him with research through his trial till he died in 1986. His transition was characteristic of most former CUT members I knew. Members of CUT and similar groups that emphasize occult and psychic powers as a way of spiritual advancement will inadvertently come to believe in evil forces and demons. CUT calls them dark forces and entities. These “demons” follow most ex-members in their exit process. Like Mull, they fear attack even after, or especially after, rejecting the Messenger and after stopping the chant of protective decrees. For example, I awoke with stomach cramps for two months after I rejected CUT, and I struggled not to believe these were psychic attacks. Recovery often includes a reaching out for help to dispel phobias about demon presence or attack. I went to a Carmelite nun I knew who chose to pray over me — the “attacks” ended immediately despite my skepticism about demons. More often, ex-members engage psychotherapists to assist them in their adjustments, but I have heard many extraordinary stories like mine as well. Psychotherapists are especially helpful when they allow the recovering client to educate them about the cult first. Teachings from groups like CUT appear bizarre at first hearing, but there are explanations for any residual phobia and paranoia. Nearly any negative experience, illness, or accident has potential attribution to an autonomous evil force. Members I've interviewed fully expect such attack; thus, they do not think of defection without worry.

A final exit cost features embarrassment. I found it not unusual for former CUT members to hide their involvement and even deny for years that they were in a cult. Resumes for long-term staff were and are always a problem to creatively revise for potential employment. Reconnecting with family and friends who welcomed the returned prodigal also meant a tacit acknowledgment that a mistake had occurred, that the family and friends had been “right.” Adding to this embarrassment are two decades of legal and public national and international exposure, on record, of this “strange cult.”
Is There a Future for Church Universal and Triumphant?

The Summit Lighthouse, under which the CUT teachings are copyrighted through Summit University Press, will apparently continue to sell and promote books, videotapes, audiotapes, CD-ROMS, and retreats. Church Universal and Triumphant is the active spiritual community of the Summit Lighthouse, which “embodies precepts, practices and rituals that are based on the essential truths found at the heart of all faiths.”[78] Since the demise of the Messenger, the CUT community has not only experienced a free fall of defections, but several factions also have emerged. The Chicago community has split into two camps, Rhode Island and Greek devotees have declared autonomy, and groups in Europe and South America are talking about doing the same. Two leadership styles remain in conflict, with one seeking to continue the theocratic paradigm set up by Mark Prophet, and the other proposing a more democratic style. One recent petition in 2002 to Keepers of the Flame argues for an individualistic approach to save CUT: “We must find ways to stay united not only now but to forestall further breakdowns within our organization. Otherwise our rapidly declining membership will only continue to dwindle away.”[79]

I believe CUT will likely settle in the American religious landscape with a relatively small number of from 1,000 to 3,000 devoted supporters, but it would not surprise me if CUT’s supporters eventually (within a generation) fell below 500. Current 2002 indicators are not encouraging for CUT, as one ex-member stated that the mailing list for the all-important Pearls of Wisdom, which contains messages from the Masters, is down to 1700.[80] Great White Brotherhood groups in general have difficulty retaining new members due to intramural competition among hundreds of New Age sects and less continuous venues such as self-improvement workshops and retreats. Evidence comes from the Theosophical Society experience (Adyar branch), which gained almost 50,000 new members during the decade of the 1920s, yet showed a net gain of only 3,000, to put the membership then at 45,000. Fully one-third of those members defected in 1929 after J. Krishnamurti dissolved the Order of the Star of the East, an exciting cult of 30,000 members that Theosophists formed to support him as the World Teacher.[81] In 1980, the Theosophical Society noted a continuing decline in membership.[82] The lecture and meeting format of the TS lacks the drama and purpose of years past. Guy Ballard had said that he wanted to make his movement “dramatic.”[83] Great White Brotherhood drama depends on a Messenger or medium that performs on stage either as a living avatar, like Krishnamurti did when he spoke as World Teacher, or as a medium possessed by an Ascended Master spirit. CUT continues to advertise as the only source for the “essential truth” in all the world religions, but it is likely that this grandiose claim will ring hollow without an active Messenger.

Without the drama around a Messenger, Great White Brotherhood groups have had difficulty defining their purpose. On the one hand, they want to not be called a religion, while on the other they claim to represent the occult truths behind all religions. Members from any religion are welcome and superficially allowed to practice any religion they wish; yet, as “mystery schools,” GWB groups do have initiatory rituals that call for total commitment. As controversial movements, they often influence members to deny a darker history that continues to keep careful seekers from joining or remaining. Bruce Campbell’s advice regarding the Theosophical Society and Madame Blavatsky is instructive:

But what may be called the “darker side” of H. P. B. is not reflected in Theosophical accounts of her life. These accounts have ignored or denied that she won attention in part through the use of fraud; that she lied when she thought it would help her public image; and that her treatment of others was at times manipulative, cruel, and selfish. To present H. P. B. plausible to outsiders, Theosophists would have to integrate these two sides of her personality into a single interpretation. The psychological obstacles to this are large, because leaders are viewed as models and legitimators of groups.[84]

[1] Never cooperative with requests to disclose an official count of members, CUT nevertheless has had many levels of support not easily estimated. At its peak (late 1970s through late 1980s) it had more than 700 permanent staff members, and from 3,000 to 5,000 would attend quarterly conferences. A group of scholars produced a sympathetic book that offered an estimate of “30,000 to 50,000” members of CUT [Lewis, J. & Melton, J. G. (Eds.). (1994). Church Universal & Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective. p. 20].

“The group has over 200 groups in 38 countries . . . . According to Elizabeth Prophet in 1985, the group’s membership was between 75,000 and 150,000, but she refused to be any more specific.” (Plummer, William. “Turmoil in a California Camelot.” People Weekly, 1 July 1985: 74, as quoted on:

[2] “In the past few years [CUT] chopped its staff from 750 to 172.” (Legge, Gordon. “Church Universal and Triumphant: Bad prediction puts sect on the skids.” Calgary Herald, April 4, 1998.)

[3] There is some conflict within CUT teaching about which “masters” sponsored the organization. According to the current official Website, “What Is Church Universal and Triumphant? The Ascended Masters Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha are the sponsors of Church Universal and Triumphant.” (2002). See

The “Darjeeling Council” includes El Morya, who is “Chief of the Darjeeling Council,” according to many CUT-related sources. See

During my devotional tryst with the group in 1979, I was clearly taught that El Morya had taken on the “karma” to sponsor Mark and Elizabeth Prophet. They were to be the messengers of a “new dispensation” of Ascended Master teachings after the I AM Activity because those devotees had failed Saint Germain by misusing the decrees.

[4] The Roerichs were a well-connected, Russian couple who led a colorful life. The “eye” and pyramid symbol on the U.S. dollar was inspired by Nicholas Roerich’s influence. In 1929, American supporters built a 33-story building on West 103rd in Manhattan that housed the Roerich Museum and his Corona Mundi Institute on the first three floors. Roerich was nominated for the Nobel Peace Award in 1929. The most complete, sympathetic biography is the fine book by Jacqueline Decter (1989), Nicholas Roerich: The Life & Art of a Russian Master, but Decter does report on the controversies as well. The Roerichs were controversial cult leaders who counted Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace and many wealthy Americans as their disciples for a time. For a well-researched history of the controversy surrounding Roerich, read The Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia, by Karl Meyer and Shareen B. Brysac (1999), Chapters 18 and 19. R. C. Williams’ book (1980), Russian Art and American Money, is not sympathetic, but it has useful information in a chapter on Roerich. For an extensive history of Roerich’s influence on Henry Wallace and the U.S. government, read Chapter 8 of American Dreamer by John Culver and John Hyde (2000). Nicholas Roerich’s Symbolist peers in the art community regarded him as a “charlatan and an intriguer.” (The spiritual in art: Abstract painting, 1890-1985. (1986). Los Angeles County Museum of Art. p. 170). Nevertheless, Roerich made quite an impact early in his career with his set and costume designs for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russ performance of Le Sacre du Printemps in Paris in 1913. The struggling Agni Yoga Society in Russia has enjoyed a revival since 1988, and Roerich was reinstated as an important Russian artist and “comrade” in Soviet Russia after WWII. See and

[5]El Morya [as channeled through Elizabeth Clare Prophet. (1975). The Chela and the path. pp. 121-122].

[6] Crim, K. (Ed.). (1981). The perennial dictionary of world religions.

[7] Waite, A.E. (1970, 1994). A new encyclopaedia of Freemasonry. pp. xxxiii-xxxiv. The Freemasons find their roots mainly in medieval guilds that constructed cathedrals and other sacred buildings. These guilds formed lodges that instituted rituals, ancient teachings, and initiations that members held in secret because Freemason doctrine was heretical within the antagonistic Roman Church and believed by Masons to be dangerous in the hands of the uninitiated.

[8] There are a host of sources on H. P. Blavatsky and the formation of the Theosophical Society. If you were to pick one, I recommend Ancient Wisdom Revived by Bruce F. Campbell (1980). Marion Meade’s (1980) Madame Blavatsky is a thorough, historical biography that I found both readable and sympathetic. Sylvia Cranston’s (1994) HPB: The Extraordinary Life and Influence of Helena Blavatsky is a study most Theosophists promote, as they would Mary K. Neff’s (1971) Personal Memoirs of H.P. Blavatsky. Peter Washington’s (1993) Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon is less sympathetic but informative about the context of HPB’s influence, her story, and that of related “Western” gurus such as J. Krishnamurti, R. Steiner, and G. Gurdjieff.

[9] Nikifor Blavatsky was Vice-Governor of the Province of Yerivan in Armenia.

[10] Neff, Mary K. (1967). Personal memoirs of H. P. Blavatsky. Quest Books. p. 17.

[11] Brandon, Ruth. (1983). The spiritualists: The passion for the occult in the 19th & 20th centuries.

[12] Johnson, K. Paul. (1994). The masters revealed: Madame Blavatsky and the myth of the great white lodge. Written by a Theosophist, this is a rigorous and honest look at who and what were “the masters.”

[13] El Morya. (1975).

[14] Early Theosophy, especially in the 1880s, organized according to the Masonic model of lodges. By 1885, the TS chartered 121 lodges under the Adyar section, most of which were in India and the Far East. Lodges comprised as few as several members to many dozens. Each lodge could, and many did, develop independently with local leadership. [See Peter Washington’s (1993) Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon, p. 68.] Theosophy continues to splinter, with many factions divided over an esoteric Buddhist orientation (the Adyar or Blavatsky/Besant lines) and a Christ-centered or Western orientation (Anna Kingsford followers from 1884; Rudolf Steiner followers from 1913). The I AM leaned more toward the Western view, as did CUT, but CUT added religious Hindu elements despite leaning heavily on Biblical and Gnostic tradition.

[15] is an official Web site of the United Lodge of Theosophists. It is of interest that the front page states, “The true Theosophist belongs to no cult or sect, yet belongs to each and all.”

[16] Leadbeater had a controversial career, rejected at one stage by Besant and the TS for homosexual acts with minors, but he was later reinstated. Leadbeater and another former Anglican priest, Bishop Wedgewood, established the Liberal Catholic Church in 1916. The LCC, still a small sect, is a ritualistic style of Theosophy with symbols and garments borrowed from Anglicanism and Catholicism.

[17] Simmons, John K. “The forgotten contribution of Annie Rix Militz to the Unity School of Christianity,” Nova Religio, Vol. 2, No. 1, October, 1998.

Also, for Militz and New Thought influence on the Ballard I AM movement, the best source I found is the J. Gordon Melton chapter in Lewis and Melton (Eds.), (1994), Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective.

[18] Quoting Robert Gillette: “A man named Adam Weishaupt founded a secret society in Bavaria in 1776 that had as its goal, to rule the world. The methods they would use would be assassinations, bribery, blackmail, revolutions, and espionage. Their model of organization was similar to the Jesuit Order and the steps and degrees of Freemasonry. They intended to control and manipulate banks and bankers, money-lending powers, the world’s financiers. They intended to cause economic collapses, wars, bloody uprisings, and revolutions around the world, with each upheaval calculated to re-structure the status quo, leaving the Illuminati in greater positions of influence, and poised for their next step. The main enemies or ‘targets’ of The Illuminati in the 1700s were the kings and queens, the monarchies of Europe, and the Church. The two most-remembered Illuminati-caused revolutions in history were the French Revolution and Reign of Terror (1788-1799), and the Russian Revolution of 1917 that first made Communism a world power. The Illuminati and its diabolical conspiracy was very real. These things actually happened and are a matter of world history. The Illuminati Conspiracy got exposed. The authorities made raids and seized Illuminati documents. In its day, this was all public headline news, not some obscure, rare, or arcane knowledge. There you have the basic gist of it. That is the starting point. That is what people usually mean by ‘The Illuminati.’” See

[19] Go to for the entire text of Protocols of Elders of Zion.

[20] CUT referred to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion during Mark Prophet’s reign and into the late 1970s, according to Gregory Mull and other “upper level” ex-members from that period, who recall CUT leaders taking the Protocols seriously as a secret Jewish document.

[21] The relationship the Ballards had with the Silver Shirts is documented by Gerald Bryan (1940) in his Psychic Dictatorship in America. Bryan wrote his polemic against the Ballards and the Mighty I AM as a series of pamphlets that were published as a book by Truth Publications and reissued in 2000 by Paolini International, LLC. Go to to purchase copies.

Pelley was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison in 1942 and was released in 1950. Many sources testify to his fascist leanings. This one is typical: “In his [Pelley’s] book The Door to Revelation he describes how he launched his ‘Silver Shirts’ on 31 Jan 1933, the day after Hitler took power in Germany. He organized the ‘protestant militia of America,’ naming them the Silver Shirts. This, he explained, was a great Christian militia, a body of uniformed men to fight communism. The ‘Silver Rangers’ were the equivalent of Hitler’s storm troopers. He went on to explain it as a ‘peaceful movement hanging the entire economic system of the country in a colossal corporation in which every citizen will hold a share of common stock, drawing dividends sufficient for an ample living.’ It would ‘save America from a Jewish-sponsored communist plot.’ See

[22] The Ballards courted and managed to recruit Pelley’s right-hand man and treasurer, who helped them successfully launch their Mighty I AM movement, then based in Chicago, in 1934. Bryan (1940), Chapter 3.

[23] Bryan, Gerald. (1940). Psychic dictatorship in America. p. 111 (p. 87 in the Paolini, 2000 edition).

[24] Spalding, Baird T. (1924, 1964). Life and teachings of the masters of the Far East. Spalding’s recent publisher, DeVorss & Co., acknowledges that no corresponding evidence, photographs, or maps exist to support Spalding’s claims in a forward to the series. More damaging to Spalding is the testimony of Paul Brunton: “An American, Baird T. Spalding, wrote 3 volumes on his visits to Tibet and about the lives and teachings of the ‘Masters of the Far East’ before he had ever left the American continent. He attached himself, with a party of 14 disciples, to me for a couple of weeks when I was in India at the time [after 1935 to 1940, because the third volume came out in 1935] . . . . He finally admitted that the books dealt with visits made in his astral body, not in his physical body as readers were led to believe.” (from The Sensitives, Vol. Eleven, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, 1987, p. 252). Although there is no reason to disbelieve Brunton, as Spalding’s volumes read like Western occult fantasies unrelated to any Tibetan religions, Brunton himself has been exposed as a charlatan, most notably by Jeffrey M. Masson [Masson (1993), My Father’s Guru: A Journey Through Spirituality and Disillusion]. Masson’s autobiographical book describes growing up with Brunton, often living in his household as a guest of his parents, who were Brunton’s disciples.

In his forward to the first (1924) volume of the Far East series, Spalding unequivocally states, “In presenting The Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, I wish to state that I was one of a research party of eleven persons that visited the Far East in 1894.” It is not a stretch to see why Ballard felt he could do likewise in claiming his adventures with Saint Germain without mentioning that these were wholly imaginary in his “astral body.”

[25] The Golden Ass by Apuleius (second century C.E.) is an ancient precedent for magical autobiography. In the nineteenth century, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote Zanoni, which he based on an anonymous manuscript he purportedly found. Zanoni, a Rosicrucian adventure novel, influenced Blavatsky and Ballard. In the twentieth century, T. Lobsang Rampa wrote The Third Eye and a series of occult adventure books in this genre. Carlos Castaneda wrote a popular series based on his imagined adventures with the mythic sorcerer, don Juan Matus. Naïve readers (and I was once among them), however well educated, believe that these compelling stories are from actual experiences of the author, merely because the author claims they are “real.”

[26] Gerald Bryan (1940) largely discredited Ballard’s stories about mystical adventures with Saint Germain. Bryan documented many passages plagiarized from prior sources. See Psychic Dictatorship in America, Chapter 14. Ballard’s character Saint Germain is based on an intriguing occultist and spy (for King Louis XV of France) who lived in Europe during the eighteenth century. Known then by some as Comte de Saint Germaine, he was one of many talented pseudo-aristocrats of that day who dabbled in the arts, magic, and occult wisdom. Some say the count took his name from a city in Italy, San Germano, where he may have spent his youth. Contemporaries described his abilities in painting and music as remarkable, but regarded him as an unimpressive poet and playwright. His true identity remains vague, as do his birth and death dates. Rational sources state he died in 1784 at around age 75 or 80, but many neo-occultists claim he never died and may have been alive since the time of Christ. Others, including CUT founders, claim “Saint Germain” was Sir Francis Bacon (yet alive) as he who wrote the Shakespeare plays. In concert with the I AM, CUT claims that Saint Germain “ascended” sometime after the eighteenth century. For the basic occultist view, see

[27] In my interviews with an elderly I AM student, Bertha Ingram, in 1975 and 1976, I learned that there were more than “3,000” such dictations or lessons from the “Masters.”

[28] Bryan, p. 251, states that “50,000 joined in Chicago alone” by 1939.

[29] Bryan, Chapter 20.

[30] Bryan, Chapter 35.

[31] See,, and

[32] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). 400 years of imaginary friends. pp. 234-235.

[33] Membership numbers for the I AM, CUT, and similar groups are notoriously difficult to estimate because the groups rarely or never disclose an independently confirmed census or a financial accounting. My estimate of the I AM gathering comes from a man I interviewed who attended in 1999. That number could be off either way by hundreds.

[34] Prophet, Mark & Prophet, Elizabeth. (1965-1986 editions). The science of the spoken word. First page, pre-enumeration.

[35] In 1929, Frank B. Robinson (1886-1948) founded Psychiana in Moscow, Idaho. See Robinson was known as the “Mail Order Prophet” because he ran his entire “church” by sending lessons and tracts to teach customers his Psychiana system. He rarely if ever met a “parishioner,” but he became quite wealthy from Psychiana business and donations. To his credit, he was a philanthropist and a benefit to Idaho. Robinson color-coded his affirmations, and there is some evidence that this influenced Guy and Edna Ballard when they were designing their decrees. “Dr. Robinson, founder of Psychiana, told the writer in a personal conversation in Moscow, Idaho, that Ballard had come to see him in Moscow and told him he intended starting a movement. ‘Go ahead,’ said Robinson, ‘just so you don’t infringe on my material.’ ‘I am going to make it dramatic,’ said Ballard; and certainly he did just that.” [Charles Braden. (1949). These also believe. p. 268.]

[36] CUT followed the I AM in maintaining a secret “hit list” of particularly egregious persons (As a deprogrammer, I had been on the CUT list.) The staff decreed that an ensemble of cosmic bombs and storms assault and purify a target of any impurity. If physical ruin or death resulted, the devotee was led to believe that it was the target’s fault for not letting go of his or her sinful nature. CUT has used decree phrases such as “Bolts of blue lightning”; “Blue lightning bombs descend” (Paolini, p. 277); and “Omritas, hurl your violet flame balls into the earth now” (I heard and spoke this decree at a CUT conference in 1979). Both the I AM and CUT used “Smash, Blast, Annihilate, Shatter, Dissolve, and Consume,” or blasting decrees, in which particular names appeared as insertions (Paolini & Paolini, pp. 227-231; Bryan, Chapter 34).

[37] Prophet & Prophet. (1965-1986 editions). pp. 83-84.

[38] Devotees of Geraldine Innocente and the Bridge to Freedom rarely admit to or know of her suicide, preferring to say it was her “transition.” For example, see and

G. Innocente reportedly took an overdose of sleeping pills and tranquilizers on or before June 21, 1961, when she died (Paolini & Paolini, p. 237). During my year and a half of involvement with CUT in 1979 and 1980, I heard from devoted members that Innocente had committed suicide, especially from I AM members who defected from the older movement and knew the history intimately.

[39] “Como editor del ‘Diario de El Puente a la Libertad’ [The Bridge to Freedom Journal], una revista mensual, El Morya utilizó el nombre de pluma ‘Thomas Printz’ (Thomas imprime). Los Maestros Ascendidos dieron los Dictados a través de Lady Miriam, el Rayo Gemelo de El Morya, quien, a la sazón, se encontraba encarnada como Geraldine Innocente.” See

[40] Schmook, Kathy. (1990). Purely for Prophet [unpublished].

[41] For a complete list of the Prophets’ past lives, see Paolini & Paolini (2000), 400 Years of Imaginary Friends, p. 243.

[42] In 1989, in New York, I interviewed Daniel Entin, who took over as director of the Roerich Museum after Sina Fosdick passed away. He stated they never gave permission to Summit Lighthouse to use images of Roerich paintings that the Museum owns, but they were not going to pursue litigation, trusting that CUT’s “karma” would eventually rectify the situation.

[43] Fosdick, Sina. Personal letter to Joseph P. Szimhart. February 10, 1982.

[44] Pietrangelo, John J. (1994). Lambs to slaughter (John Pietrangelo, self-published). pp. 113-117.

[45] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). pp. 248-249.

[46] Brown, Michael F. (1997). The channeling zone: American spirituality in an anxious age. pp. 126-129.

[47] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). p. 244 and Chapter 24.

[48] Ibid. P. 263.

[49] Ibid. Sample decree insert, pp. 277-278.

[50] Ibid. p. 274.

[51] Ibid. The entire dictation is quoted on pages 274-276.

[52] Ingalls, Rory. (1982). Videotape interview by Gregory Mull with an ex-staff member who quit in 1976.

[53] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). pp. 269-271.

[54] Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. “Prophecy for the 1990s III,” Pearls of Wisdom, Vol.33, No. 8. Dark Cycles were announced by the Masters in 1969, which led previously to the OCC crisis. In 1987, CUT released an internal document called “Astrology from Mother’s Hallowe’en Prophecy.” The four-page missive is heavily laden with dire warnings of a Soviet strike against America. For example, article 17: “On November 27, 1989, just two weeks later, transiting Mars will conjoin Pluto at 15 degrees Scorpio. This is one of the peak dates for the start of war between the United States and the Soviet Union.”

[55] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). p. 294.

[56] An INS agent called me twice for information during this period.

[57] Paolini [& Paolini. (2000). ?]. pp. 278-293 thoroughly cover the “shelter crisis“ period.

[58] Festinger, Leon et al. (1956). When Prophecy Fails is a famous psycho-social study of a small Chicago cult that predicted a doomsday. Members also believed that an alien spacecraft would save them. The study tested “cognitive dissonance” theory that predicted that true believers would try to rationalize failed prophecies. Like Prophet, the head of this cult, Dorothy Martin, was a medium who claimed knowledge of space aliens and intimate contact with Ascended Masters.

[59] The facts of the case won out despite the effort by CUT and prosecutors to mistakenly cast me as the “heavy.” They assumed I arranged the intervention. Out of all the actors, I had the least to do with the case, and I was the last to show up, not knowing beforehand that an abduction had taken place.

[60] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). p. 298.

[61] Lewis, James R. & Melton, James G. (Eds.). (1994). Church Universal and Triumphant in scholarly perspective. Stanford, California: Center for Academic Publication.

[62] Ibid. p. viii. “In the fall of 1992 I [James R. Lewis] was contacted by [CUT] and asked to testify as an expert witness in the State of Idaho vs. Szimhart, et al. case.”

[63] Ibid. p. xi.

[64] Shupe, Anson. (Ed.). (1998). Wolves within the fold: Religious leadership and abuses of power.

[65] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). p. 298.

[66] Lewis, et al. (1994). p. xiii. To quote a naïve-sounding James Lewis in his introduction, “. . . [CUT] has suffered from what might be called ‘middle management’ problems. By this I mean that, as the church grew, there came a point at which it was no longer possible for the Messenger to have direct personal contact with every member, and certain not-particularly-sensitive individuals came to function as intermediaries.”

[67] I monitored several Internet newsgroups, both by members and ex-members of CUT, since 1996. I kept many of the emails and documents that spoke widely of the infighting and divisions over conservative vs. liberal approaches to reorganization.

[68] In 1978, when I first approached CUT’s teachings seriously, my good friend, Faith Perry, who helped found the CUT Albuquerque Teaching Center, told me that Mother suffered from petit mal seizures for which she sometimes received treatment. In the early 1980s, I spoke frequently with Gregory Mull and his daughter, Linda, who had traveled to New Jersey to interview Elizabeth’s parents, who confirmed their daughter’s epilepsy. They were also quite against her marriage to Mark and her role as a messenger.

Kathy Schmook, author of the unpublished, investigative expose on CUT, Purely for Prophet (1990), also confirmed Prophet’s history of epilepsy through interviews with Prophet’s daughter, Moira, and neighbors who knew “Betty Clare” well when she was a child (Chapter 16, pp. 11-15).

[69] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). pp. 280-281.

[70] See

[71] Paolini & Paolini. (2000). Chapter 25.

[72] Following is a sample of resources that have helped some seekers get past “crude,” Messenger-based Theosophy:

Bharati, Agehananda. (1980). The ochre robe. Bharati stated, “But I think Mme. Blavatsky and Leadbetter [sic] were frauds, pure and simple.” See

Buckman, R. & Sabbagh, K. (1995). Magic or medicine? An investigation of healing and healers.

Butler, E. M. (1948, 1993). The myth of the magus.

Decker, Ronald, et al. (1996). A wicked pack of cards: The origins of the occult tarot.

Fideler, David. (1993). Jesus Christ, sun of God: Ancient cosmology and early Christian symbolism.

Tester, Jim. (1987). A history of western astrology.

[73] The “I AM” discourses. (1934, 1945). p. 173 and pp. 259, 260: “Do not let your attention ever be held by these many manifestations — astrology, the power of numbers, spiritualism . . .”

[74] Prophet, Elizabeth and Mark. (1958-1998). Pearls of wisdom, Vol. 37 No. 40, Beloved El Morya (October 2, 1994).

[75] From footnote 4: For a well-researched history of the controversy surrounding Roerich, read The Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia, by Karl Meyer and Shareen B. Brysac (1999), Chapters 18-19.

R. C. Williams’ (1980) Russian Art and American Money is not sympathetic, but has useful information in a chapter on Roerich.

For an extensive history of Roerich’s influence on Henry Wallace and the U.S. government, read Chapter 8 of American Dreamer by John Culver and John Hyde (2000).

Nicholas Roerich’s Symbolist peers in the art community regarded him as a “charlatan and an intriguer. ” [The Spiritual in Art: Abstract painting, 1890-1985. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (1986). p. 170]

[76] Winn, Denise. (1983). The manipulated mind. Brainwashing, conditioning and indoctrination. London: Octogon.

Cialdini, Robert B. (1984). Influence: The new psychology of modern persuasion. Quill.

Pratkanis, Anthony and Aronson, Elliot. (1991). Age of propaganda: The everyday use and abuse of persuasion. Freeman.

[77] Gasde, Irene. (1997). “Cult experience: Abuse, psychological distress, close relationships, and personality characteristics” (Master of Science thesis submitted to Montana State University, Bozeman, MT.)

[78] See

[79] May 15, 2002 email from CUTfocus newsgroup.

[80] Paolini, Kenneth. June 17, 2002 email.

[81] Campbell, Bruce F. (1980). “Theosophical Society membership peaked in 1929 at 45,000,” Ancient Wisdom Revived. p.128; also see p. 195.

[82] “In spite of conflicts and splits, and a high membership turnover rate, the TS as an organization grew, from 1875 till 1928. The Theosophical Society attracted many thousands; it lost many again, though, especially after 1929.” de Tollenaere, Herman. (1996). The politics of divine wisdom: Theosophy and labour, national, and women's movements in Indonesia and South Asia, 1875-1947. See

[83] Braden, Charles. (1949). These also believe. p. 268.

[84] Campbell. (1980). p. 198.