If we keep our pride
Though paradise is lost
We will pay the price
But we will not count the cost
–Neil Peart, Bravado
Pride has always been a bugaboo for the faithful. It’s too close for comfort to their bêtes-noir the human ego and human will–as opposed to the will of God, the divine law and the lawgiver. In ascended master parlance, pride is what leads people to rely on their “carnal mind” and human intellect, rather than “tuning in” to their “I AM Presence” or following the “word” of God. Other than hopelessly broad generalizations, church teaching on the “carnal mind” provides no method to determine whether the inner voice that’s speaking is the former or the latter. No matter how much they cling to the idea of embodying their “divine self,” believers use the same tools as the rest of us to decide what’s right and wrong: their inner critic, experience, community standards, and human law. The much touted “I AM Presence” is an illusion borne of archaic metaphysical dualism mixed with contemporary spiritual pride.
Stripped of its mystical implications, pride remains a double edged sword. As self-esteem, it gets us up in the morning, gives us confidence and keeps us convinced we are on the right track. But pride is also what prevents us from realizing when we are in need of a mid-course correction. Bravado–foolish pride in its most extreme form (along with its ugly cousin self-justification) makes us charge ahead, no matter how badly things are going. It’s what keeps gamblers up all night at the tables, even when they are playing with borrowed money.
Today, it is clearly with great bravado that followers of the ascended masters celebrate the golden anniversary of the founding of the Summit Lighthouse, otherwise known as Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT). It was actually August 7, 1958 when my dad Marcus Lyle Prophet (known as Mark) took the fateful “dictations” from seven ascended masters that led to the organization’s founding. Having broken with his former compatriots at the Bridge to Freedom, the new dictations served an audacious political purpose as his “coming out” to his supporters. In doing so, he had to denounce Geraldine Innocenti, the messenger he had formerly followed. Ascended master students have always played “follow the messenger,” so by this act my dad was staking his claim to a portion of the fragmented movement; the leftovers from the remnants of the Mighty I AM cult which had its heyday in the 1930s. Not only did he have to establish himself as an authentic “accredited messenger,” he had to fight off internal challenges: His assistant Frances Ekey began editing his dictations after the fact, much to his chagrin. Eventually he built a fiercely loyal organization and cemented himself as its “Bishop” and unquestioned leader.
I remember the occasion when we discovered the foundational tape in 1989. It was in conjunction with a fund-raising drive I spearheaded called “Save Our Teachings.” We needed about $200,000 to convert and restore thousands of hours of old audio and video tapes that were deteriorating. So we went back into the vaults and pulled out some of the oldest reels to show members just what they were paying for. Among them was this previously unheard founding dictation of the Summit Lighthouse. We played it to the congregation and they were spellbound. I had a different reaction. Let’s just say that dad had gotten a lot better over the years at both public speaking and giving dictations. I recall being shocked at his poor early delivery, since I’d only heard him speak in the late ’60s to early ’70s–after he had mastered his craft.
It stands to reason. Dad was always good with people. In his first career, he supported his first family for years as a salesman. But giving dictations is a lot more complex than schmoozing. It’s performance art, and for him practice made perfect. However history might rate his subdued but outré inaugural oratory from 50 years ago, it was apparently good enough to convince his small group of followers. Not only did he need to act as a credible messenger of the ascended master pantheon, he had to distinguish himself from his predecessors, while not straying too far from the occult “canon.”
In considering his legacy, we need to look not only at where he came from and what motivated him, but also at what he taught and where he led his followers. Once my mother Elizabeth Clare (who was 20 years younger) joined him, and lent her youth and charisma to the organization, they became “The Two Witnesses” from Revelation–and an unstoppable force in the budding new age movement. Unfortunately for him, he did not live to see the success he’d always longed for. To be sure, life for my parents (and our family) in the ’60s was comfortable if unconventional, but The Summit Lighthouse had not yet become a worldwide movement. All the pieces were in place, though, and upon my father’s death the organization expanded five to ten fold. Their timing was just right. In 1973 it was not too late to catch the spirit of the Age of Aquarius left over from the ’60s. And the specter of cult mind control had not yet splashed its way onto the pages and screens of the collective consciousness. That changed in November 1978, after the Jonestown murder-suicides.
It was a spiritual honeymoon period. People had been tripping for years on pot, LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin, and all forms of outlandish social experiments. Most of them failed. Some, such as the Children of God and to a lesser extent the Hare Krishas and others, degenerated into lawsuits and scandals. Others morphed into “respectable” organizations. Erhard’s est, for example, eventually became Landmark Forum. But after Jonestown, all were tarred with the “cult” brush.
I have mixed feelings about the word “cult.” On the one hand, it’s a pejorative that ends discussion. If a group is a cult, it’s generally viewed as destructive no matter what positive things it may have accomplished. On the other hand, the term describes a group dynamic and hierarchical structure that often excludes individuality and critical thought. It covers a whole tangled mess of power relationships whereby a formerly autonomous individual can take on the beliefs and mannerisms of the group, gradually losing normal social function until they feel unable to leave.
There are elements of “cultishness” even in large corporations. But what made new religious movements in the ’60s and ’70s so powerful was that many people who joined had scarcely known any other life. They rebelled against their parents and plunged headlong into such cults at 16 or 18–or like myself and other CUT kids, were raised there. Many of us had to leave twice.
Two things kept people there: Camaraderie and philosophical investment. Some of the things taught by my parents were so outlandish as to defy any reasonable explanation. Given such extraordinary beliefs, we were either completely crazy, or it must be true. Much as current church leadership might wish otherwise, they cannot explain away some of the patently false, downright offensive, and ultimately insane things my parents believed. As they cheerfully breeze past their golden anniversary, they want to ignore their sordid foundations and trip into the light fantastic and a bright future of love, prayer, world service, and a swelling of the ranks. But as I was quoted recently in the Livingston Enterprise, “the bones of failed prophecy are buried up in Mol Heron canyon.” Indeed, the very sacred land in the “Heart of the Inner Retreat” bears testament to the paranoia and fear which gripped their former messenger. And it didn’t begin with her. As she recounted on numerous occasions, my father told her when he was practically on his deathbed in 1973 that she should move the organization “high in the Rocky mountains, and make preparations to survive.” So it took Saint Germain about 13 years (until 1986) to catch up to his messenger’s deathbed instructions.
The point is, that there is absolutely no way to avoid the contradictions and inconsistencies. There is no way to separate the “good” parts of the teaching from the pathological. Much of that pathology has now been de-emphasized and shunted to the back burner in favor of feel-good new-age pablum. But there was a time when hardcore right-wing anti-communist, borderline racist, homophobic, sci-fi and alien invasion scenarios were much discussed–even in dictations. I know, I grew up immersed in it. The Summit Lighthouse in its early days was like a theological, historical, and sociological Cuisinart, and when it spilled over and made the inevitable mess, raising logical contradictions, it was always neatly explained away.
I have to say that looking back on this stuff now, it’s shocking and it literally beggars belief. I’m frankly almost so embarrassed by it I’m reluctant to post it here. But it’s better that people know the truth:
Some unusual beliefs and practices of Mark and Elizabeth Prophet–Compiled by Tatiana Prophet
- Mark Prophet was to have once lived as Lot, the Pharaoh Ikhnaton, Aesop, Origen of Alexandria, Saint Mark, Saladin of the Crusades, King Clovis of France, Lancelot du Lac, Hiawatha, Louis the XIV, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the murdered Czarevich Nicholas Romanov. After his life as Mark Prophet, he was said to have become the ascended master Lanello.
- Elizabeth Clare Prophet was to have once lived as Lot’s wife, Nefertiti, the Tibetan mystic Yeshe Tsogyal, Saint Martha, Queen Guinevere, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Clare, Queen Marie Antoinette, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and the murdered Czarevna Tatiana Romanova of Russia.
- Their son, Sean, supposedly lived as Solomon, Tycho Brahe and Franz Lehar; their daughter Erin, as the Prophet Gideon and Gandhi; their daughter Moira, as John F. Kennedy; and their daughter Tatiana, as Czar Peter the Great and the “messenger” Helena Roerich.
- Mark and Elizabeth Prophet said they were the Two Witnesses prophesied in the Bible.
- Elizabeth Prophet’s titles expanded to Vicar of Christ, the Mother of the Flame and Guru Ma, a name “bestowed” on her by Padhma Sambhava, an 8th Century Tibetan saint who, as an ascended master, announced “through” Elizabeth in 1979 that she had “balanced 100 percent of her karma.”
- Elizabeth Clare Prophet also made pronouncements about the past embodiments of her enemies. Gregory Mull, a former follower who successfully sued her in 1986 for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress, was supposedly responsible for bringing homosexuality to earth from another planet.
- Mole people: Mark Prophet used to talk to his inner circle about “mole people,” a subterranean race that would kidnap humans and force them to work for them. This is pretty similar to a 1956 movie calledThe Mole People.”
- Keepers of the Flame lessons made reference to “Black Dog Men.”
- Elizabeth Clare Prophet at one point said the earth was hollow and contained an underground civilization, citing a 1908 book by Willis George Emerson called “The Smoky God.” The book claimed to be telling a true story about an explorer who found the society at the center of the earth.
- In his book “The Soulless One,” Mark Prophet tells of a race of humans without souls who were created by aliens known as “fallen ones.” They were also known as Mechanization Man. The “fallen ones” had superior technology and mesmerized and subjugated those living on earth, mating with them and yet somehow using their technology to create a type of human that did not have a “threefold flame.” The threefold flame was the divine spark of God, a sort of personal Holy Trinity with pink, yellow and blue flames symbolizing love, wisdom and power, respectively.
- The Jews and Arabs are fighting in the Middle East because they are carrying forward the war they waged on the planet Maldek, which they blew up with nuclear weapons. It is now the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This race of warlike peoples are called Laggards because they are old souls who have balanced enough karma to keep reembodying, but they hang around fighting each other and not making progress toward the “ascension.”
- Rock and roll musicians are fallen angels who spent centuries locked in hell and were prophesied in the bible as those who looked “like women” and were unleashed in the 20th Century (for some reason). That’s why they’re so angry.
- Based on the writings of Antony Sutton, W. Cleon Skousen, Gary Allen and others, The International Capitalist Communist Conspiracy: the Jewish bankers in Europe, including the Rothschilds, got together in the 19th century with power brokers in all countries and planned to control the world through a combination of capitalist and totalitarian means.
- The flood of Noah was the sinking of the legendary continent of Atlantis, which sank because of the misuse of technology, which was also tied in with the metaphor of the Tower of Babel, symbolizing man’s hubris.
- Another fabled ancient continent, Lemuria, was destroyed because of genetic engineering and misuses of the sacred fire, another term for sexual sins and perversions.
- In the 1980s, Elizabeth Clare Prophet put the word out among followers that California was going to endure a massive earthquake and be separated from the continent after 1986. All “lightbearers” should move away from the coasts. Many current and former followers are still afraid to live in California because of her pronouncements. Many people who did not want to live in Montana moved to Minneapolis, which was unofficially sanctioned by Elizabeth as safe.
- She also famously predicted a coming nuclear war, telling her worldwide congregation that the Soviet Union would attack the West if the United States did not prepare a space-based defense system as well as a nationwide civil defense system involving nuclear shelters for all citizens. In 1986, she set a date of January 1, 1987, but kept pushing it back until April 1990 so that church members could finish their nuclear fallout shelters. Later, when there was no attack, she told followers that the prophecy changed because this community of no more than 5,000 had built their nuclear shelters.
- Shifts in teaching were called “new dispensations.” They allowed for inconsistencies to occur. Many times there was a lag time between the close-knit community starting a new dispensation and the worldwide community hearing about it. This applied mostly to diet, such as the various phases of vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism, sugar and sugar-free foods, and the “fad diets” that would take over the community, such as the No. 1 (raw food) diet and the macrobiotic diet. Some followers attending quarterly conferences would be shocked to hear that “Mother” no longer was a vegetarian and now ate meat.
- During the mid to late 1990s, Elizabeth Prophet often called her staff and community into their chapel for “karmic readings.” People would come to the altar, and she publicly claimed to reveal things about their past lives. Sometimes her revelations included serious crimes such as murder or rape, or past spiritual transgressions that had caused shame to the “brotherhood.”
- Labors of Hercules: From the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, marathon decree sessions took on a new meaning. Normally reserved for quarterly conferences, lengthy decree sessions became all-day and all-night affairs, every day for weeks. They would last until the devoted would complete the “Labors of Hercules” that they were assigned. These labors included the task of defeating, through decrees and ceremonial sword swinging, millions of aliens in a ghost-like alternate reality who were usually headed toward the church’s ranch to attack it. Many times there were 144,000 spaceships with 144,000 aliens, and the faithful would be assigned 144 Astreas, which at their fastest speed, took about four hours to complete.
Reading these transparent absurdities leads me to wonder what–if anything–my parents could have ever said or done that would have convinced people they had finally “lost it.” My conclusion is that as messengers of the ascended masters, they could have said anything at all. Absolutely anything. (Well, except possibly denying the teachings).
During the “Labors of Hercules,” a friend of mine who also had close access to mom went up to one of the work crews. He had decided to play a pretty ballsy prank: He told them that he had just come from an audience with “mother” and he had the new “Labor” and people were supposed to write it down. He then proceeded to make up the most ridiculous story possible. He told the crew that mother had seen a large gang of “lesbian biker chicks” who were about to attack the Ranch on the “astral plane.” He embellished the story heartily and the crew of 15 or 20 staff members were furiously taking notes. He kept going for 5 or 10 minutes until everyone had filled a page or two. Then he laughed and said “just kidding.” People were livid. They had just been had. Curiously, most did not get the message. Their cognitive dissonance prevented it–and they kept right on with the shelter building and their feverish decreeing.
I’m continuously amazed at the ability of members to cling to these beliefs and self-justify their investments of time and money. I’m flabbergasted at the glossing over of every failed prophecy, every conspiracy theory endorsed by their founders, every false teaching, embodiment, and “karmic reading,” and every bad practical decision they ever made. Members have clearly banished every shred of critical thought and reasoning in order to follow such a hodgepodge. How can anyone in the year 2008 feel that it is still worth their time, effort and life’s energy to promote and preserve such a legacy?
They claim they do this out of devotion and humility. I say it’s pride. I say it’s hubris, and I say it’s an ultimately selfish lusting after immortality. I mean, really. Who wants to die? Every fiber of our being resists it. Believe me, I understand the problem. But wishing won’t take death away.
Some members have now “kept the flame” of The Summit Lighthouse for 50 years. Many no doubt assume they will become immortal at the end of “this life” as they are granted their ascension at the legendary “Royal Teton Retreat” for their selfless service to “the Brotherhood.” They are virtually certain to be disappointed as their bodies fail them and they die–as we all must. Their personality will rot away along with their physical brain. And they will never even realize that they failed to achieve the promised reward. It’s hard for most people to even imagine that they will have absolutely no awareness after they die. But it’s a reality we all must confront. And it’s not even that bad, really–no worse than our complete and total non-awareness before we were born.
The waste of one’s life in pursuit of the afterlife is an eternal tragedy, and one perpetuated always by fear. Fear of death leads to a grasping and seeking for answers which provide a kind of empty relief from anxiety. I say empty because the anxiety never truly goes away. Having found any relief at all, the believer feels superior and becomes addicted to this feeling. They also yearn to share it with the world. In this wise, they arrive at the conceit that they are about their “father’s business”–that of saving souls. They cheerfully spread their deadly afterlife mind-virus (so qualified because it strips them of the ability to fully enjoy and appreciate the one life that they actually have). In so doing, they believe that they are amassing the only brownie points that matter–those which they plan to cash in after death. The years tick by and eventually their mind has become so altered they can no longer imagine living without their delusions–nor their accrued brownie points.
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.
By sheer dogged determination, they force themselves to keep their spiritual pride intact, while the paradise of their actual life is lost. They will and have paid the price, but sadly they will never count the cost.