When Kathy Weber originally interviewed me, (previous article) we spoke for about 40 minutes.Short excerpts of the interview became part of KULR’s five-part series A Question of Faith that ran in Billings, MT and has also been posted on the KULR website.
You can see my side of the interview on YouTube in five segments. It was a wide ranging discussion about the Church, my upbringing, my exit from the church, the philosophical problems posed by my parents’ claim to speak for God, bomb shelters, weapons and my documentary in progress.
"Everybody has to have checks and balances, and when you claim to speak for god, that's a little hard."
Great line, Sean, and I think it gets to the root of how all religions were born and popularized.
When you say that your mom was just making stuff up–that can only be true if it was a conscious process. Perhaps she tapped the flow of ideas from her unconscious mind–which can seem "made up"–believing that god was the origin of the thought streams.
Or, she could have offered advice that was, in her mind, at least indirectly guided by god's influence, through her perceived regular communication with him, as to what is wrong and right.
I spent about 8 months over fiver mega-manic episodes convinced that I was the one and only son of god. Now, if my conscious mind had been functioning properly during the second, third, fourth and fifth episodes, I would have easily concluded, "Dude, we did this before, remember? You're crazy!"
So, knowing my history, one could have easily confronted me, say, during my fifth episode, from the perspective that I must be making my Jesus delusion up, since there was no way I could possibly have had the same delusion four times without knowing that it was a delusion. But it was possible, because each time I was swimming the seas of my unconscious mind.
Be careful that you don't make the mistake of trying to consciously explain what may have been an unconscious process in the mind of your mom. You might gain some insight from the experiences of a neuroanatomist who had a stroke–and felt like she had found nirvana.
Youtube has a great speech by Jill Bolte Taylor, and her analysis of how the crippling of her judgmental and organizational left-side of her brain forced her to be in the moment and not conscious of the past, future, fear, etc. Just a thought…I thought her 18 min speech was fascinating, and I certainly wasn't alone: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_tay…
Finally (and sorry so long), your documentary will discredit the entire foundation for CUT (i.e., we know what god wants you to do, etc.). Given your unique position, you should be able to make a very compelling case.
However, I'm hoping that you'll be able to sprinkle the documentary with comparisons to Christianity, for example, so that viewers don't just come away thinking, "Man, CUT is a cult and a bunch of lies–how do people believe that stuff?"
99.9% of people would expect a cult to be based on a bunch of lies.
I'd like people to watch it and think, "Man, I expected a cult to be based on lies, but now Christianity seems awfully similar…Have I based my life on lies? I don't know if I believe in god anymore."
Good point, Rusty. I've often thought that there might be some mental problem, multiple personality, etc. but since my Mom's only diagnosed brain conditions were epilepsy and Alzheimer's, I didn't want to make a non-medical diagnosis. But regardless of how the delusions came to exist, whether they were consciously "made up" (like a writer comes up with a good story), or whether she actually believed them, that doesn't change the outcome. People's lives were affected. By the way, I'm certain she was a true believer in these personalities she "channeled." Regardless, to those of us who observed her up close, there was a lot of obvious crossover from either research, past conversations, or other aspects of her conscious mind into the dictations. So it was clear there was some kind of conscious crafting of the messages by her will. I used to ask her about the mechanics of taking dictations. She explained three methods: 1) reading them off a scroll, 2) hearing the words in her mind and then repeating them, or 3) ex cathedra, where the "master" would literally take over her body and vocal chords. When I asked her to elaborate, she became very cagey and said it was private between her and the master. I never asked again. I'm interested to see if anyone in the medical community could come up with a proper diagnosis. The visions of scrolls and hearing voices could just be a side effect of the epilepsy. Many so-called prophets and mystics throughout history are now thought to have been epileptics or schizophrenics. One thing is for sure, something abnormal was going on in her brain. A normal person who hears voices would be diagnosed with mental illness and medicated. It's ironic that such a person with a more "coherent" message and a following is called a "prophet." Oddly, as her epilepsy worsened and her medication got stronger, mom had a harder time taking dictations. She used to intentionally go off the medication around conferences so she could take the dictations. That's when she had some of her worst grand mal seizures. I'll check the YouTube link, and thanks for the suggestions on the doc.
[…] Sean’s own blogpost about this can be found HERE, and includes his own comments on the interview, so you might want to hop over there instead. […]
[…] Sean’s own blogpost about this can be found HERE, and includes his own comments on the interview, so you might want to hop over there instead. […]
How about an expert in the delusional community? In this area, I do believe that "it takes one to know one." Not to discount the possibility that your mom knowingly perpetuated a scheme of mass deception but…
(Note: This is too long for an apology…it just poured out, who knows, I might be able to give you some insight on your mother's life. I also sense an air of stigma explaining why other BSJ readers haven't commented. Sean, your posts usually get a good amount of comments, and this is an issue that was interesting enough for the MSM in the 80s. And you were at the epicenter–any other explanation? I didn't think so.)
Okay, I've concluded that manic-depression, and, to a lesser degree, any condition that can alter the delicate balance of chemicals and neurons in the brain, like epilepsy, explain the origins of nearly all religions. Joseph Smith, I believe, was a rare example of a con man who simply made stuff up, just as you said your mom did. But I don't think your mom's story is that simple…
Epileptic seizures, like your mom suffered from, are pretty random with respect to the area of the brain affected. If a certain area gets overstimulated, the symptoms can be similar to mania, which can also target different areas of the brain with different effects. A seizure targeting a different area of the brain may make one hear colors.
Some manic-depressives call their manic episodes the worst times of their lives. My manic episodes included the best times of my life, when I felt so amazing and hyperfunctional that the only explanation my brain could produce was that I was the son of god. Self-actualization, nirvana, reaching level OT XV as a Scientologist (where your mind can fly around the world:))…I had it goin' on. A feeling of full mind-body synchronicity.
My interest in linking mental illness and other brain disorders to prominent religious figures in history developed once I concluded the following:
If the common seed of almost all sets of religious beliefs is a madman, who is convincing enough to the lowest common denominator for intelligence and knowledge of his audience at the time, then my line of attack should be the most effective means to influence the culture war.
Of course it is true that nobody could ever prove that, for example, Jesus was bipolar. But a logical, intelligent and persuasive argument that it is a real possibility, given enough visibility and credibility, has more potential to weaken the primitive mental walls of faith that regularly retard human progress than any other avenue of attack. With Christianity, I think a little doubt, spread over a lot of minds, can go a long way.
Gay rights, imo, is the second best weapon to dislodge the perverted Christian monopoly on morality in America. It's so clear which side the facts are on…
Like hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of people alive today, I thought I was a messiah-like figure while manic. But I live at a time when people are not so easily fooled as they were over 2,000 years ago. So I spent a lot of my Jesus time keeping my Jesusness to myself. Jesus just let it all hang out.
Hard to fathom a manic-depressive as such an influential leader? Winston Chuchill and Theodore Roosevelt were bipolar, and a strong case has been made that Hitler, Stalin and Napoleon were as well.
How could Bill Clinton be so intelligent, sleep only 4 hours each night as president, read an average of one book every day and yet exercise remarkably poor judgment at times?
According to many psychiatrists, he's hypomanic. He never gets depressed and generally floats around in a sort of pre-mania, usually a sweet spot for enhanced brain functioning, with no danger of delusions.
Today, Jesus is worshiped solely based on what we are led to believe are accurate quotes and descriptions of his actions in the New Testament. Now if you look at the most influential wordsmiths in history–authors, poets and songwriters–you will find a hugely disproportionate number of manic-depressives.
Charles Dickens, Kurt Cobain, Mark Twain, Thom Yorke, Ernest Hemmingway, Axl Rose, F. Scott Fitzgerald… You won't find a similar list of schizophrenics or epileptics.
Lest one think I’m romanticizing the illness, my bipolar brothers and sisters are also disproportionately represented in jails, homeless shelters and unemployment stats. One study found that at any point in time, 60% of manic-depressives in the U.K. are unemployed.
This simply highlights the wide range of possible effects due to the wide range of potential grey-matter area(s) affected. Some get manic for an hour, some get manic for months, with all combinations of mania/depression/intensity, etc. in between.
Jesus may have needed acting skills too, and Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, and Robert Downey, Jr. are just a few famous bipolar actors.
Sean, I’ve been thinking about your mom, and I’ve reached a conclusion of sorts. Manic episodes, strokes and epileptic seizures have one thing in common: they are all capable of overstimulating pretty much any area of the brain.
Strokes and seizures seem to have a similarly wide range of effects, it depends on the individual brain and the area of the brain that is afflicted. Just like, say, a traumatic brain injury from a car accident can result in a huge range of different effects depending on which area of the brain is damaged.
Mania always caused an area of my brain to be overstumulated and flooded with too much dopamine…but, as is the case with mania, it was always a temporary condition.
It seems that a seizure, however, is much more capable of creating permanent changes, because the resulting surge of brain activity comes instantly as a shock, whereas mania builds relatively slowly over time.
I think that if your mom suffered permanent damage to her brain from a seizure, essentially leaving her in a permanent state of delusion and grandiosity, it could be easy to view her behavior as conscious decisions to, say, deceive people in order to gain power, control, etc.
Perhaps any confession she gave to you about making things up only depicted her mental state at that moment, and wasn't a conscious realization she had the whole time. Of course I have no idea what your mom was like, I only offer this as a possibility.
Alzheimer’s is another example of how the effects of these conditions can be like throwing a dart at a dart board. I have a neighbor with Alzheimer’s, and he was a very gentle man. But now that the disease has progressed, he can become mildly violent.
I know your mom has Alzheimer’s, and my point is that in the early stages, any area of the brain could be the first to be attacked. Any function of the brain could be the first to be compromised.
It's easy to view the wall of faith and delusion in America as untouchable, insurmountable. But slavery used to be widely accepted in America. Then a guy named Mark Twain captured the nation's imagination and adoration.
During his career, he had a significant impact on how Americans viewed slavery. Twain has been called America's "first rock star." He was also most definitely a manic-depressive, with a laundry list of symptoms woven into the details of his life.
But those who document history generally do so assuming that writing a novel is mentally demanding and impossible for the mentally ill. And founding a religion? Out of the question, says the ignorant historian wearing hero-worship goggles.
Just stopped by the web site to see what is up. If I saw you walking down the street I would have never recognized you, but it has been over thirty years.
Great interview Sean. I hope that the documentary plays out this well.
I have never told any one this, but when I left CUT your mother called me just before I moved out of the L. A. teaching center to apologize for the treatment that I had received from some of the staff and the churches inner circle. This is perhaps why I have come to the conclusion that although I am positive that she actually believed in what she was saying doing your mother was still being manipulated by some self-serving, power hungry members.
Thank you for speaking out like this. I too have come to understand that religion has not been the best road for humanity to travel.
My husband belonged to CUT in the early 70's before I knew him. Just this past February
he woke up one day and reverted back to his beliefs. Needless to say, it has changed my life drastically. He is a brilliant man and I can not understand how he now eats, sleeps and breathes these beliefs. He is angry everytime I disagree with him (because I am a science based person) and I truly believe that he could ultimately become the new leader. No matter what I say or do, he speaks to me in the condescending tone that I can not understand what he feels inside because I am not one of the chosen ones. I have tried to go to the Sunday services which are nice and yet I find almost all single people or people without their spouses. My head knows what I should do, but my heart is aching for the man I married. Do you think I should just move on with my life, or do you think he might come "back to earth"? It seems none of them want to actually enjoy the world around them…only their teachings. He is mesmorized and I am disheartened. There is no more "regular" life. I don't feel that God would want us to ignore the time we have on earth. My husband is determined to Ascend to become a master in this lifetime. He is in technology, so I can not receive any emails. Thank you.
@M.K.Asenbauer, thanks for your support. I'm trying to remember you. Not sure if I would recognize you either. Did you live at the LATC at the same time as I lived at the Ashram?
@Jean, this is one of the most heartbreaking comments I've ever read on BSJ. How long have you been with him? I've got so much to say here, I might have to devote a whole article to the subject. I'm very sorry for your loss.
Jean, you are not alone. Sadly, I am faced with the exact same situation. I'm engaged to a man that is going through the same thing that your husband is going through. His entire family believes in CUT's teachings, and over time, my fiance has become a shell of his former self. His entire life has been based on what they teach to be true, and as a result, he has become embroiled in a war within himself, depressed and angry that he has somehow failed God, and will never be able to ascend. I can no longer count the number of times I've fallen asleep crying, while he stays awake half the night being depressed and thinking that he will never balance his karma and become a master. To the outside world, it might seem laughable, but his entire life has become nothing but a guilt-ridden existence. It has disrupted literally every facet of my life, to the point where I honestly don't think I can stay with him. I desperately want to help him, but he refuses to accept anything I say, because I'm not one of the "chosen ones" either. I believe that there is a possibility that there is a consciousness, or a higher power, and that the universe is not here by accident, but I detest the idea of religion altogether. Sadly, this makes him very upset, and he yells at me, saying horrible things about himself because he's still "reincarnating" and hasn't become a messenger of God. He and his family have given thousands and thousands of dollars to CUT, yet they are filing bankruptcy. I feel like I have nowhere else to turn, and that no one can understand what I am going through. Life is too short to be obsessed with feeling inadequate about ideas that we don't know to be factual. It makes me wonder just how many lives have been ruined because of religious sects like this one. I'm truly heartbroken, and I am so sorry that there are people going through this too.
[…] It all goes back to the initial pride of the true believer. They never get over that initial euphoria of believing they have actually found the exception to the rules of life and death. They never get over the feeling that they can travel outside their bodies–and they yearn to do so permanently. In so doing, they feel they will rise triumphantly above us mere mortals. Their inner subjective feelings of oneness, light, and love (and the wish to be immortal) trump all reason, scholarship, and empirical evidence. Oftentimes, they become so obsessed, they even become inaccessible to those who love them. Unfortunately, this equation is totally invisible to those so infected. […]
Sean, I met you briefly in late 1990. There’s no way you would remember me, but I remember you and I sure remember your mother. I wanted to seek your comment on the AWARE study that was conducted at the Church’s behest by so-called religious scholars, J. Gordon Melton & James R. Lewis. (Church Universal & Triumphant in Scholaly Perspective). Both of these academics have admitted to scientific methodology problems in their study. However, both still are saying that CUT was not then, and has never been, a destructive belief system. I think that Dr. Melton was “intoxicated” with the charisma of your mother (and she was very charismatic). I would very much like to hear your views on this study and any inside information you can provide on its methodology, results, subjects, interviews….and perhaps some information on how the study was viewed and used by the CUT publicity machine.
@R, how many dreamers throughout history have wasted their lives chasing immortality? Wouldn’t it be great if any of us could do something that would make us live forever? But we can’t. The sooner your husband snaps out of it, the less of his life he will toss down the garbage disposal. At some point, you will also have to ask yourself how much of your own life you want to discard living with someone who would rather sulk all night than come to bed and ravish you. Hard as it may be, you may have to leave this man. You clearly deserve better, but only if you demand it.
@Jean, sad as it is same goes for you. My only caveat would be that if you can come to an agreement on getting your physical and logistical needs met, and you can stomach the God-talk, you may find other reasons to stay together. But I’ve seen it countless times: once a person is consumed with dreams of immortality, they usually all but abandon their mortal life.
@Victoria Essex, I was not that closely connected with the AWARE study. I do know that it was part of a P.R. push to counter the negative national publicity CUT received following the guns and shelter stories in 1989 and 1990. I remember the board meetings about it. The academics were given the red-carpet treatment, they may have even been paid (I don’t have documentation of that) and it’s pretty clear their results reflected the favorable treatment. They were at very least given unprecedented access. Just like in the pharmaceutical industry, it matters who sponsors or pays for studies. The person you really should talk to is Timothy Connor. From what I recall, he was liaison with the scholars. I haven’t talked to Timothy in years, but the last I knew he was still a believer. So I don’t know how cooperative he would be. But you’re definitely right to suspect the study.
I actually lived at the Ashram, in the house that faced Arlington Avenue. I'm not surprised that you can't place me., we had very little contact and you had to deal with so many people.
Jean & R, hello & empathise w/ ur plightes greatly !!! I grew up in the Teaching’s, no longer a part of them. I’ve written here a little bit of my personal journey at “Happy Birthday, Mom!” also Sean’s kept quite a couple of my comments on several of his articles here. I have a Mother who will not let go & her continued interpretations of the Teachings has damaged, torn & distant us in our relationship as adults, my childhood w/ her wasn’t easy but I feel we were closer then. Any religion has pros & cons to veiws for individuals in the religion. I agree w/ Sean’s recomendation’s, it’s the reational & logical way to go but the heart’s emotional state & attachment will not have an easy time agreeing w/ it or fullfilling it at all for that matter.
Being that I see thru ur writting how much passion is involved here I recommend from personal experience to use psychology to ur advantage. Find material within the Teaching’s of The SLH/CUT to help them thru their very severe spiritual (emotional) depression. I know the teachings very well have spoken against these states of cosciousness, it’s unhealthyness & dangers. These men really need to read them so they can see what they r doing to themselves & their fam. If u can see that they r responging like children being put down by their parents in this case figures of authority nxt to God, they r in a state incapable to see rationally what they r going thru &/or doing to themselves. They need u to help them find the written material to free them from their interpretations, reading from SLH/CUT material that is NOT accepting in their beliefs / interpretations will make it very hard for them to say to either of u “U don’t understand”. I don’t see these men concluding any time soon that the Teachings r hogwash, bad, incorrect, untrue, just unneccessary, a waste of time or just not to be taken so so seriously. I know of dozons of individuals that got in the SLH/CUT as supplementation for their “spiritual” paths not falling in or following it religiously. Ur husbands r clinicly depressed lady’s & feelings from these beliefs have made them so. Unfortunatly I’m not a psychologist but hope to be one speacialising on these sort of problems / issues. I know what they r going thru, I went thru it exactly for my self (pls read my input at “H B Mom) but here I am doing better, away from SLH/CUT, though it took some yrs, I don’t stand alone as a testimony to u that persons in such a state aren’t hopeless cases!!! The bottom line is There Is Hope ! ! Look into their diets, they could be deficient in nutriants / vit, stress, over wkd etc. I see this as real serious psychlogical breakdowns of the person’s identity, mind, emotional health-well being & a turning point in their indentification of who they r, what they want to be, believe & accept – what we know as a mid-life crises. Nothing in life seems to take less when it comes to love & fam! So this is, as far as I’m concerned a battle of Love for ur marriages to these men uv committed ur heart’s too!!! Send them to the Spa for a wkend !! I would love to be in touch if u lady’s would like to, just ask Sean for my email.
Sean if u choose not to keep this pls fw d it to the lady’s Jean & R atleast, thks!
Sean, I am a member of KOF, at this time. I wonder if you ever saw your mother preparing a dictation. I think it is very difficult to speak for an hour or more without any preparation. In addition, I would like to know if you have any physical evidence or logic proof that demonstrates that the dictations were not given by teachers. Thank you very much
You can’t prove a negative. That’s not how science works. You examine evidence, create a theory, design an experiment to test the theory, then if the experiment is successful you prove a positive. The phrasing of your question makes an unprovable a priori assumption, also known as a presupposition. This is not a logically sound approach.
The proper question is, what evidence exists that anyone other than Mark or Elizabeth Clare Prophet was speaking during the dictations? Since you seem to place a lot of stock in their teachings, I’d be asking myself that question if I were you. The evidence is that their voice is on tape. Since a person’s vocal chords are controlled by their brain, the physical evidence shows that the dictations originated in their brain.
It’s hard for a concert pianist to perform for over an hour at a time with no sheet music. Yet they do it. People understand that for musicians, practice makes perfect. Dictations to me were a form of performance art that got better over time. Go compare some of the earliest dictations to the later. You will see what I mean.
Dad’s first dictation on I believe 8-7-58 would be a poor example, and you might want to look for my Mom’s first dictation around 1964. I believe it was purported to be from the master “Rex.” Neither were very good performances.
[…] Boiled down, ninety-nine percent of religious apologetics (and for that matter, new-age and psychic apologetics) consists of shifting the burden of proof. This comes up so often that it almost seems to be a defense hard-wired into the human brain when presented with any kind of inconvenient factual problem. This leads me to wonder what selection pressure might have favored this trait and for what reason. An interesting study for the evolutionary psychologists. […]
I agree with you, Sean. I understand that logic and I agree with it fully. I am sure that there is no way to prove that the dictations were given by the Ascended Masters. But I would like to Know if you have had any evidence that your mother prepared the dictates in advance. I know that one person can be trained to deliver dictations, but the answer that I am asking for is easy and require one “yes” or one “not”. This theme is very important for me. Thank you very much for your responses. I apologise if you feel uncomfortable by my insistence. Considers that I am Spanish and I do not speak English well, so I can express myself the wrong way.
Fantastic interview. Thanks. You have a healthy compassionate overview of your unique upbringing.
Curious how I found Black Sun Journal. Last night, I was a watching a rerun of a 1958 television drama called “The Man In The Funny Suit” which starred Keenan Wynn & his father Ed Wynn, both playing themselves, in a drama about child/parent emotional cleavage reverberating in the son’s adulthood. That brought back remembrance of the late Keenan Wynn, a fine thespian craftsman, being linked to your mom’s church. In the blink of a google, I was led to your journalistic domain.
In further relativity, just the night before I had been watching a YouTube.com presentation of Richards Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris & Christopher Hitchens in discussion as “The 4 Horsemen” of theist warfare, secular humanism, etc. Fancy that.
Keep up the good work, lad!
Hi Sean,My name is Kirsten Andrews. I attened 7th, 8th, and 9th grade in Pasadena. I was asked to leave, told that I was creating karma by not doing what I knew was right.Found you this evening because someone that I loved like a father is in Montana and I wanted to find him, Christopher Allen. l have pics of you, Erin, and lots of friends on outtings, like Catalina Island. I was with Fritz and Cecilia with Patrick in this trailor alone, and your Mom had us doing work detail forever! I had a couple of boyfriends, Curt and Kyle, maybe held hands on occasion.Remember Julie,Heather, Phillip,Gretchen,Kenny,Brain, and others. Cecilia Freeman and I hung out after we left. Interview was well said, and you deffinately grew out of your nerdy self! Lol! take care, Kirsten
Hey Kirsten, of course I remember you! Great to hear from you. I'll send you a more detailed reply by email…
Fascinating stuff, Sean. Really looking forward to your documentary, I hope it's still happening. I met your mother once briefly in the late 80s at some new age expo. She seemed horrified by my scruffy non-mainstream appearance and gave me one of her tapes for free, saying "here, you need this." It was very condescending, but I imagine that she was trying to be nice. I listened to it a few times but it was really horrible stuff… the St Germaine Waltz and what have you. I was really into mysticism in my late teens and early twenties. I got into the Ascended Masters after a friend of mine found a copy of Ballard's I AM Discourses in the trash. They really appealed to me because they seemed like cartoon spiritual superheroes and it was all so fantastical and fun to imagine it was true for awhile. I've also had a lifelong interest in various cults and their leaders. I'll always be fascinated by your mother. I'm glad you're telling your story.