The above still is taken from a hate video, posted on YouTube, (which has since been removed for copyright violation). The original photo of my mother, sister and I is from 2000 when we first found out our mom’s Alzheimers had caused her to lose the ability to recognize us. This painful moment for our family has now become the subject of hate by an anonymous troll.
A few days ago, this quotation popped up on my Google home page: “A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends,” attributed to Baltasar Gracian. And like it or not, I’ve made my share of enemies, both from my time with CUT, and now through my writing. Some such people who come to my blog either leave drive-by comments or we have a brief disagreement and that’s the last of ’em. Some email repeatedly even when asked to stop. But over the years, I’ve accumulated a few gold-plated trolls (previous post) who, for whatever reason choose to keep up the attack. And it’s not just a basic disagreement. We’re talking about wholesale character assassination. These people would like to make sure that I am ruined in every way.
But sometimes enemies also provide good motivation for me to refine my message and, I have to admit, sometimes I just enjoy making fun of them right back. It’s too easy. But it’s also sad, because the organization my parents started damaged a lot of people. No excuse to take it out on me personally, but in a strange way I understand them. My latest opponent (not so worthy) has been at it since 2005. And, thanks to him, I spent a lot of time refining the Wikipedia article on Elizabeth Clare Prophet.
Now, I’m pretty outspoken about the fact that my parents were most definitely not messengers of anything called the “Great White Brotherhood” as they claimed. First of all, if ‘god’ was going to appoint a band of his representatives to Earth, s/he wouldn’t name it something so reminiscent of the American Ku Klux Klan. But trying to balance my desire for truth with loyalty to my mother (yes, I may be outspoken, but I still love the human person who was my mom). I wanted her Wikipedia entry to be as factually accurate as possible. So imagine my surprise when I did a search on her in 2005 and found this poorly written diatribe:
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, one of the greatest American religious liars…ECP and her late husband Mark Prophet (original founder) were known by their numerous long “dictations” in which Ascended Masters or other deities would talk through them. A typical dictation would be something like this: “Beloved, more fallen ones and mean E.T.s are coming to earth…Did ECP go loony? Or was she loony all along?…In the late 90’s the Church fired most of their staff in Montana, being unable to pay for their food and housing (Even if their monthly salary wasn’t ever higher than 75 dollars a month, while ECP had swiss bank accounts).
[The rumors of “Swiss bank accounts” were never true. It was one of the few patently false claims made by Kenneth Paolini in his otherwise excellent (but now out-of-print) book “400 Years of Imaginary Friends.” My mom never ended up with any personal wealth beyond the substantial amount she spent on her living expenses. That plus her current health pension is all she has received from the church, ever. And that fact survived at least two extensive IRS audits over the years.]
The 2005 entry continued:
Now the sect, or whatever you wanna call it, is runned by a couple of exploiters…None of Prophet’ s sons or daughters took the rein of the church. All of them deserted, saying it was all bunch of lies, that “mommy was kinda cuckoo”, etc…Ironically, at this moment, her sons and daughters are using part of her false doctrine appealing old church members to collect money for ECP’s caring (she has advanced Alzheimer disease). It seems they want the past victims of ECP’s megalomania to pay for her health care as they paid for her diamond rings before…. Shame on them! “Mommy was so dedicated to God..and false ascended masters, but hey she was so kind with all of you….” How sweet.
At the time, I thought to myself O.K., this guy’s (we’ll call him RDF) pretty pissed off and not playing with a full deck. Probably a former staff member who’s bitter he spent too much time in the cult. A number of things he said were true, though, so when I modified the article, I tried to change it to the Wikipedia NPOV style, so the article would be more factual. For example:
A typical TSL ritual would be decreeing a “rally” of 3 hours on Saturdays or even the serious “exorcism”, were you take a short machete with Archangel Michael’s name on it (sold in any TSL store near you for about $25) and move the knife around so you kill (bind or whatever) the demons or bad entities around you, and saying “The light of God never fails” (or any other facsimile decree) one thousand times at least, chanting 144 times the unending decree too the Goddess Astrea or one of TSL’s greatest hits: “Reverse the tide!!, roll them back, set us free!!!” 144 times too to help the angels catch and bind the fallen angels.
Prophet’s primary technique for exorcism of entities was invocations to the Archangel Michael and to the Elohim known as Astrea. Prophet also drew on teachings by Helena Blavatsky that the use of a stainless steel blade could be useful in exorcisms (Isis Unveiled, vol. 1, pp. 362-63). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Prophet was known to spend four to six hours at a time on the altar of her church at the Royal Teton Ranch, swinging a sword with a four-foot blade in her battles with the ‘discarnate entities’. The sessions took place with hundreds of people chanting at top-speed and volume for the duration. These battles went on at such length that Prophet often became physically tired. A special ‘honor guard’ of the strongest men in the community would then take their turns on the altar swinging the sword. The organization also sold short scimitar-style swords with Archangel Michael’s name engraved on them, which members could use privately for the same purpose.
The rest of the article received similar treatment. None of the true things RDF had claimed were removed, just cleaned up and factually verified by myself and others. And he never came back to try to vandalize the article, so I figured he’d been satisfied with the edits and moved on. Then in July of ’06, he found my blog post where I talked about my mom’s apology and acknowledgement of her abuses. He had this to say:
Your whole story is laced throughout with pity for your mom. Poor ECP! She DID feel sorry and she DID write letters to everyone. Wow that just makes all the shit she foisted on everyone so much easier to bear…You make it sound like ECP was just misguided and not actually evil. She knew exactly what she was doing as did you father and together they created a monster which destroyed countless lives…I for one would like to hear more about how bad she REALLY felt; especially around those same years in the late nineties, just as she was telling everyone to build bomb shelters and buys guns…
Sue me for offering an olive branch of sympathy to my ailing mother. RDF failed to understand that the whole reason I started Black Sun Journal was to talk about those types of issues, and wake people up and prevent more of them from being hurt and fooled as CUT enters its second generation. But as a humanist, atheist, and scientific naturalist, I consider all churches to be somewhere on a spectrum between fraud and entertainment. We hear about the sex scandals, the misallocation of funds, and the intrigue in mainstream churches with increasing regularity. So the abuses I saw in CUT seem kind of run-of-the-mill to me at this point, though some of them do make for some interesting anecdotes.
Another important goal of starting BSJ was to dig into my own shadow. It was also a big part of my coming to terms with my past, the mistakes I’d made, and the people I hurt. I’ve also been quite clear all along that my mother indeed believed in the work she was doing, as I did at the time. I can bear witness to the fact that she justified her methods in the name of “the greater good.” (Which is why I have such a problem with most forms of utilitarianism–but that’s a story for another post.) Believing you have a mandate from god has led to some of the worst abuses in all of history. CUT under Elizabeth Clare Prophet was no exception to that rule. It happened “in the name of God.” And like religious corruption everywhere, it couldn’t have happened (previous post) without the symbiotic support of the believers.
But RDF’s bitter streak knew no bounds, and my every attempt to be candid about the things that really happened at the Church, (there’s a lot of that type of material on BSJ) even agreeing with him, was met with more bile and vitriol. From June of ’07:
Oh Sean, when I read your story about what your mom said to you, I almost cried. More like cried out loud: what a fucking bunch of shit! Who the hell do you think you’re fooling! Even after all these years Sean the best you can do is write a blatantly emotionally manipulative piece intended only to elicit our sympathy for your mom and for yourself. Just how fucked up are you Sean? There is no medication for your kind of mental illness and that of your mom, and do you know why? Modern medicine can do nothing to cure liars, cheaters, and sociopaths like your mom and yourself. Why don’t you try writing some pieces which describe your mom’s many outrageous misuses of power? Why don’t you tell us all how you treated other staff members when you were on staff. Yes, please Sean tell us all how much of a total asshole you were and be specific; give us all the sordid details will you. I mean obviously you and your mom are truly sorry for what you have perpetrated upon the former members of this church. Obviously you and your mom truly desire to make amends. So let’s have it Sean tell it all like it was and PLEASE spare us the sob-story bullshit about your mom feeling sorry about fucking everyone over for 30+ years because no one believes you or her. So please won’t you, your lying bitch of a mom, and your whimpy spneless sisters finally tell the world the truth about how you messed up thousands of people’s lives? Oh yeah, what am I thinking, that a bunch of genetic mutants such as yourselves would even know what the truth is?! I hope you all get back a million times the suffereing you caused others through your fucking church.
What RDF has never explained in his angry outbursts is why he spent so much time in CUT in the first place. He has never taken responsibility for his vulnerability, desire for answers, and gullibility which led him to check his critical thinking skills at the door. He’s never owned up to how people like himself and other believers lent legitimacy to an organization like CUT which was promoting such patently false and outlandish fantasies.
It’s also been well over a decade since my sisters and I left the church and repudiated its teachings. Yet we’ve still become a convenient target for this latest venom. Though you’d think the above comment would have been sufficient, RDF wasn’t done by a long shot. He again tried to vandalize Wikipedia (it was quickly reverted, of course). A few days later, he sent me an email saying “…oh by the way try u-tubing your mommie;-)”
What I found was the most juvenile and pathetic hate video I’d ever seen. RDF took a couple of dozen pictures of my family pilfered from my sisters’ website, (including the one shown at the top of the article) and covered them with schoolyard insults in large red block letters. This is how I became the “gay atheist.” In one of my retorts to RDF, I remarked that it would be funny if I was actually gay, because “Gay Atheist” would make a great T-shirt.
After speaking with my sisters, we reported RDF’s video to Google as a copyright violation, and had it taken down. But I’m quite sure we haven’t heard the last from this irascible fruitcake. The fact that I agree with him, that the church was and is a fraud, doesn’t seem to temper his rage in the least. He won’t be happy until he has secured some pound of flesh. This whole episode demonstrates how truly difficult it is to put a cult experience fully behind you–whether member, leader, or the leader’s family. But at this point I’m resigned to the fact: Dealing with trolls like him goes with the territory.