By Tatiana Prophet
I remember feeling sick in my belly as I trudged up the snowy steps to the back door of a woman’s home in Chestnut Hill, Pa. She had told me by phone, earlier in the day, what she thought of my parents’ religious writings.
“I threw them away,” she said slowly, punching up each syllable like an over-eager soap character. I’ve never forgotten those words because I had to ask her to repeat them, and she did – in the same way.
At 21 years old, I was driving my Toyota pickup, bought with money from my late grandparents, around the country. It was part adventure, part obligation: I was retracing the steps of my parents, Mark and Elizabeth Clare Prophet – going through Dad’s old address book one name at a time.
I had a journalism degree and the blessing of my mother. She wanted me to write a book about her and the father I never knew, then dead 20 years, to counteract a looming tell-all book by my sister Moira (that story, like my own, was never published).
I also had help from Ann, a crack researcher at Mom’s church who used to work for National Geographic. Ann sifted through the little leather book and helped me contact my sources.
As I drove around, I dutifully recited my decrees to Archangel Michael to protect me. It was the winter of 1994, with the infamous ice storms that strangled the Northeast for weeks.
For me, decrees were a particularly traumatizing brand of high-speed chanting that my mother would engage in pretty much all the time, even in front of the uninitiated. She shouted her head off to God while riding around in taxi cabs from Delhi to Rome – causing consternation in the cab driver’s eyes and reducing me to a mortified puddle of little girl on the floorboards.
Embarrassing as they were, decrees were still my crutch; if I did my decrees (in the privacy of my own car, of course), I would stay alive, remain unmaimed, get good grades and do good in sports. If I didn’t, I would certainly not do well in school and I might die because God could not protect me. The odds of my doom increased if I ate sugar, listened to “rock music,” smoked cigarettes, allowed boys to touch me, or drank alcohol.
Fear normally kept me tethered to my mother; but on this night, my overwhelming emotion was one of loyalty. And shock that there might be people other than evangelical Christians who hated my parents.
There I was in one of Philadelphia’s most affluent neighborhoods with Ms. Lillian Garcia, a devoted follower of the Ascended Masters. I took in the familiar pastel colors on the walls and on her clothing, along with the faint scent of roses favored by Ascended Master types. But here she was, serving me tea and telling me in the most Christ-like of language that my parents’ weekly periodical, the Pearls of Wisdom, was full of crap.
Lillian Garcia is not her real name, but it was similar. Fourteen years, and a lot of hard work, have put her actual name behind me.
She was a follower of the Bridge to Freedom, and to her, my parents were imposters. The true messenger of the Great White Brotherhood, she said, was a woman named Geraldine Innocente, who died in 1961.
All I knew from my parents was that Ms. Innocente had started out as a mouthpiece for God but had somehow gone astray, ending up dead on the shores of Long Island Sound after overdosing on barbiturates.
My mother’s tone, whenever she spoke of this woman, was dismissive. Even as a small child, I could tell she didn’t think much of her. Because there was only one sentence associated with her, I actually wondered if she even existed. Her name sounded as made-up as ours. I just wanted to know if she was pretty.
But here was someone sitting across from me who revered Ms. Innocente as much as my mother’s staff and students did her. And it was clear to me that she liked Geraldine’s personality better than my parents’.
She showed me the Bridge’s version of the decrees. And I felt like I was reading a Burger King menu for the first time, after eating McDonald’s all my life.
I had seen other decrees in print, from the “I AM” Religious Activity, but they were mostly prose, commanding “the Mighty “I AM” Presence and the entire Ascended Host to transmute and consume all human discord.” I thought my parents’ unique contribution had been rhyme, as in the Heart section of the “Heart, Head and Hand” decrees:
Violet fire thou love divine
Blaze within this heart of mine
Thou art mercy forever true
Keep me always in tune with you!
The Bridge decrees I saw that night were similar to the rhymes my parents propagated. There was no lifting of whole verses, but let’s just say the “Heart, Head and Hand” decrees no longer sounded so unique.
I already knew Dad had been a member of the Bridge to Freedom before starting his own group, The Summit Lighthouse. In fact, he attended a Bridge conference in Philadelphia not long before starting his own movement, causing a minor scandal by camping in a tent with his first wife and their five children. There, he met Frances Ekey, who left Innocente and helped him launch The Summit Lighthouse.
I consider that night in the woman’s kitchen a seminal night, not because I had been hit over the head with a new sense of copyright propriety, but because I was talking to someone who believed, spiritually, that my parents were frauds. In other words, she was not feeling the vibrations that others felt when witnessing a dictation my mother took from El Morya.
I’m sure if I had told my mother about the incident she would have said that the woman had too many entities cluttering her consciousness to be able to perceive the true messenger. And this statement would have come from “El Morya.” She was convinced of the veracity of every statement she attributed to El Morya. Her thoughts were El Morya’s thoughts.
I have a theory about how she was capable of such unwavering conviction. If you start looking into the history of Ascended Master movements, you are likely to observe that the antics of unfettered narcissism have been going on since Helena Petrovna Blavatsky penned “Isis Unveiled.” Theosophy may be a lot more palatable in its intellectual musings, but it hatched a spider’s nest of fevered egos. If you don’t believe me, start by reading “HPB: The Extraordinary Influence of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.”
Then read the biography of Krishnamurti by Mary Lutyens. K, as he is affectionately known, was groomed and established as a messenger by Blavatsky’s administrative minions. At the age of 28, he dissolved the exclusive internal movement known as the Order of the Star and told people “Truth is a pathless land.” Many were outraged, and blamed K for failing.
But many others listened. I find his talks inspiring because they encourage the most unwavering honesty in introspection. I personally consider accuracy a prerequisite to progress.
If you’ve had any experience with my parents and the people around them, the similarities in the books I’ve mentioned will blow your mind.
My guess is you’ll see, as I saw, that the “Ascended Masters” have a pattern of speech and behavior that spans generations. It’s pretentious, it’s laced with hyperbole, and it’s incredibly audacious. It’s also easy, once you get into the rhythm of its pomposity, to convince yourself that your unbearably authoritarian personality is actually the personality of a perfected Ascended Master.
Take the first sentence of the introduction to my parents’ book, “The Science of the Spoken Word.” It is not only brazen in tone, it makes vague and unprovable statements as if they are unquestionable truth.
“To thousands of devotees of God’s light the world around, decreeing has become a â€˜joyful noise unto the LORD.’ During the past decade, those who have sought the true teachings of the Word of God have found the science of decreeing to be one of the most effective forms of meditation-a meditation that is majestically fulfilled through the power of the spoken Word.”
I’ll deconstruct the paragraph here:
- “To thousands of devotees of God’s light the world around…” This introductory clause is confusing because it’s not clear whether the preposition “to” is beginning a salutation to some lucky devotees or, as turns out to be the case, it’s being used to mean “from the point of view of devotees.” And these are not just any devotees; these are the implied “chosen” people residing at Church Universal and Triumphant or studying its teachings around the world.
- “…decreeing has become a â€˜joyful noise unto the LORD.’ ” Here we have a Bible quote that is being used to legitimize decrees, using circular logic. In other words, the sentence is stated as fact that the Bible prophesied these decrees by talking about a “joyful noise.”
- “During the past decade, those who have sought the true teachings of the Word of God have found the science of decreeing to be one of the most effective forms of meditation…” Again, we have the true teachings of, not just God, but the Word of God. These are the teachings about decrees, the Word, and people were already looking for them before they knew what they were. Second, I’m not aware of any study my mother conducted comparing decrees to other forms of meditation and their effectiveness. Further, what is the goal to be achieved through decrees and other forms of meditation, whereby effectiveness could be measured? Relaxation? Peace of mind? Psychological wholeness? Oneness with God?
- “…a meditation that is majestically fulfilled through the power of the spoken Word.” OK, so here we have an appositive showing what decreeing is. It’s apparently a “fulfilled” meditation.
So the difference between a meditation and a decree is that a decree is “fulfilled.” Pretty good deal. When you put your thoughts (desires) into words, you make them so. That is the “science” of the spoken word. If your desires do not come to pass, I learned as a child, they were not God’s will in the first place. I wonder, why would God require us to spend hours decreeing for our desires to come true, if he was going to deny us our request because it was not in accordance with God’s will? Is there really that much confusion in the matter?
Those who have faith in decrees would probably respond that God has mysterious ways and that we probably learned a lot by decreeing about something we shouldn’t have desired in the first place.
Those who like to decree believe that it helps them stay positive. I have no problem with repeating affirmations over and over. Doing such a thing programs your mind to act as if you already have the job or the spouse or the article published – and I think most of us can agree that confidence is a powerful tool for getting what we want.
I no longer decree, preferring to take steps to protect myself to the best of my ability. I believe that decreeing evokes a high similar to the runner’s high. It involves strenuous vocal activity, bringing blood to the head and prompting us to take deep breaths, and propagates the belief that we are doing something about the problem that’s plaguing us. There is a feeling of the release of pressure, stress or negativity, and the visualization of colors can be calming to the mind. But I find the practice of shouting my head off, commanding God over and over and over to wage war against my physical or imaginary enemies, beyond distasteful. I’d rather figure out how every child in this country can get his teeth fixed. Or something.
In the end, it just comes down to aesthetics. Decrees sound angry to me. Desperate. The ones that don’t sound angry just sound silly. I’d rather sing the blues to deal with my pain.
Oh, and by the way: Geraldine Innocente was beautiful. So was my mother. I wish she had chosen Krishnamurti’s way, to be a sister on the path, rather than the infallible leader she became.