Imagine being somewhere sixty miles south of Seattle preparing to reconstitute and repopulate a now devastated planet. You awaken at dawn and sit cross-legged facing the sun. You connect your wrists, open your hands with right palm up and left palm down, and hold them out before your breast. You close your eyes in meditation and begin breathing deeply. You then blow vigorously with each outbreath as you repeat the exercise for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or however long it takes you to energize your brain and hormones into compatibility with the pure life-energy of the Void. This is one of the Consciousness and Energy (C&E) techniques you learned from Ramtha, the 35,000 year old spirit channeled by Judy Z. Knight. The Ram has taught you that you are the god within you.
During the past months you have survived an incredible series of catastrophes including: an intergalactic invasion by thousands of reptilian hordes in spaceships led by a dark master named Jehovah. You beheld the planetary shifts that have moved ice caps, shorelines, mountains and rivers hundreds of miles. With your stored gold you feel financially secure despite an economic collapse engineered by world bankers and politicians Tyrants aligned with Jehovah's forces that the Ram calls ?Graymen.?.
You sit before your hovel built as an underground, copper-lined shelter in 1989. You have been living there for many months surviving on dry foodstuffs, vitamin capsules and mineral supplements. You know how to hunt and forage. Two hundred yards away among some remaining tall pines are a few more fellow masters like you, all devotees of the Ramtha mystery school. All the masters are armed with guns and psychic powers. They are weary of hordes of Asian soldiers marauding in the area and fierce battles might break out. But these Orientals are no match for blasts of psychic energy that emanate from your connected palms. A quarter million Chinese had invaded the USA from Mexico where they had been hiding since 1987. Ramtha had warned you of them in 1990: "When the dragon marches, prepare to hibernate." Now only a few thousand are left and they want your supplies, your secrets, and your land. But you have remained steadfast as Ramtha has commanded.
For weeks the night had been ablaze with tremendous flashes of color among the stars as Jehovah's ships fought ruthlessly against those of Yeshewa ben Joseph, Yawee, Ramtha and the Great White Brotherhood Council of Thirteen. The latter won as predicted by your leader, Ramtha, as he spoke through the body he uses, that of JZ Knight, now a woman in late middle age.
You are also a master of forces only dreamed of by mortals throughout human history. The magic powers of fairy tales and legends are now real for you. Soon you will create new trees, grasses and streams with your powers. You will clean the air, repair the ozone layer and eradicate the viruses that cause AIDS. You will reconstruct the Edenic paradise on earth and live in harmony with it as long as you wish. You will choose when you wish to leave the body.
Despite all criticism and doubt, you persisted through several years of training under Ramtha's tutelage in the difficult C&E classes given exclusively in Yelm, WA at JZ's ranch. As a paying member of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, you penetrated the depths of your self through pagan dancing to loud music while wearing the mask of your totem animal. The revelations about C&E, how the blowing affects the brain and powers of consciousness seemed bizarre at first. Later it made sense as these powers began to appear as psychic intuitions that came true for you. Soon, you believed, levitating yourself as well as stones weighing many tons would be in your power. Ramtha promised it.
You wandered blindfolded, stumbling through fields searching for entry into a maze of canvas walls, called "the Tank", where you once victoriously found the hidden tunnel (symbolic of the Void) at the center after many hours of frustration jammed among a thousand other blindfolded Masters, some crying, some screaming and some even defecating. You crawled down through the tube and came out somewhere to be led away by helping hands before you could remove your blindfold. You conquered fear when, at Ramtha's command, you dared to run full tilt toward 500 others running toward you, all of you blindfolded, many shouting war cries. Your black eye, cracked jaw and twisted ankle were well worth the experience. Your powers increased as you took copper and other mineral supplements despite bouts of fever, cramps and other illnesses.
Ramtha taught you as ancient initiates were taught in the great Mystery Schools of Egypt, India and Greece. Hundreds had entered the classes with you but many dropped out from disgust, confusion or insanity. You managed to transcend all three of these phases and finally broke through into the Void with Ramtha. You learned secret truths that would shock the religions of the world.
You learned that the white light, the ancestors and the angels that people encounter during near death experiences are evil frauds and must be avoided lest you be thrust back into a body to reincarnate at random. Karma, you learned, is fickle and meaningless. Back then you learned so much. Now the entire planet of survivors is depending on you and a few hundred like you to save the Earth and lead them into the New Age to become Sovereign Masters like yourself after the big change.
In this last decade of the twentieth century there are a few thousand people, most in the Seattle area, who have believed that something like the scenario I just described will have actually happened. They will have become the enlightened survivors in the New Age. No, these people are not all crazy. Some are practicing doctors and nurses. Some are artists and thespians of note. Many have families but many are recently divorced. Some are poor and young, others independently wealthy, middle-aged and well educated. Most are white, middle-class women. For those familiar with New Age cults this scenario does not seem preposterous. Many of those who follow Ramtha believe they've found a way to experience the deepest secrets of the universe. Skeptics find it hard to fathom how anyone could fall for such a ?scam.? Many former followers feel wounded and angry.
In 1975 when I first heard of a secret Brotherhood that guides humanity, such as those mentioned by Theosophist Manly P. Hall in his Secret Teachings of All Ages, I was intrigued by the possibility of real communication with such beings ?if? they existed. The occult tradition of Theosophy purports to enlighten mankind with arcane knowledge from such realms of consciousness achieved by adepts, a.k.a. Rosicrucians, Ascended Masters, the Great White Brotherhood, Emissaries of Light and a host of other labels. Those unfamiliar with such esoteric hierarchies might wonder who belongs to them. Suffice it to say that the GWB includes male and female beings with "white" (pure) auras and may include saints, sages and mythological characters from any cultural group in human history.
Though these emissaries of divine light allegedly appear to some in visible, tangible bodies, their presence is hardly verifiable. Either their chosen secretaries deliver their messages in writing or they speak through borrowed or ?possessed? bodies of persons who are known as mediums, psychics, messengers or channels. Empirical proof of their reality is impossible and the evidence is controversial.
Hall did not call this secret troupe of spiritual and political guides the ?Great White Brotherhood.? In many places he did allude to ?emissaries? of the Mysteries and ?initiates? of mystery schools. Among followers of these adepts were the Rosicrucians who first came to public notice in Europe in the seventeenth century. They were simply known as a ?Brotherhood.? They allegedly guarded the arcane knowledge as initiates of the mysterious teachings of a Christian Rosenkreutz, a legendary figure with no real historical substance. Nevertheless, Rudolf Steiner, a significant twentieth century occultist contemporary with Hall, "decided that Rosenkreutz had sent his favorite disciple, Buddha, to Mars, where he had regenerated the planet as Christ had redeemed earth" (Webb 1976, 69).
In The Great Initiates (1899) Edouard Schure published biographies of significant religious figures, among them Rama, Krishna, Moses, Plato and Jesus. The text has been promoted by Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy. In 1960 Elisabeth Haich released her own magical autobiography in Initiation. Haich was a yoga teacher in Europe who immersed herself in the occult traditions. Perhaps the most popular initiation stories in the West stem from the 12th century's tales of knights questing for the Holy Grail during the misty days of Camelot, a tradition absorbed by many New Age groups.
There is a long list of related teachers and schools of modern occultism. Operating throughout the world today are a host of cults that claim to represent the true teachings of these ?Mysteries.? Cultures throughout the globe have instituted variations on the theme of initiation from shamanic to Masonic traditions. For our purposes Haich offers us a model of what we might understand as an initiation into a ?Mystery School? as she describes what is ostensibly a past life memory in an ancient Egyptian setting:
?My dear child," he [Pthahotep] begins, 'initiation as I have already explained to you, means to become conscious on the highest level, the divine plane. To be able to do this requires long physical and spiritual preparation. One first must strengthen the nerves to enable them to bear these high vibrations without harm, without death. The vibration belonging to creative vital energy is absolutely lethal for creatures whose consciousness has not yet reached this level. It would burn out the nerves and the nervous centres.? (Haich 160)
Storytellers about such initiations may use different terms than Haich did. For instance, cells, chakras or seals instead of ?nerves,? and prana, chi or Christ-force instead of ?vital energy.? For the unbeliever such terms amount to euphemisms projected by the spiritually needy onto somatic sensations or feelings. For believers (initiates) from opposing occult systems the terms may be inappropriate to their brand of ?truth.? Fourth Way systems that follow Gurdjieff (c1877-1949) explain inner, metaphysical energies as ?octaves? whereas Hindu systems use ?chakras,? or as in Thompson p. 225, ?sariras.?
Occult groups often issue warnings as recorded by Haich that unprepared or ignorant neophytes might suffer mental and physical harm, even death, dare they enter the ?mysteries.? Those familiar with shamans and their psychologically dangerous ecstatic ?flights? into other worlds will find many parallels here. Even though we know much more about mental illness, its causes and cures today, occultists usually reject these explanations in favor of blaming spirits and/or metaphysical forces. The mythology of occult systems often expresses a wide array of personified evil entities as well as good ones.
An oft repeated occult aphorism, ?to know, to dare, to do, and to be silent," carries the initiate through many private hells while his enthusiasm for the promised goal, i.e. the perfected and free self, sustains a weird impulse to endure even contradictory and dangerous experiences. Other aphorisms like ?as above, so below? and ?the seeker never receives more than she or he can handle? go a long way to block any critical thinking that might dissuade the initiate after the crucial first step.
This first step amounts to some kind of experience, an uncanny feeling or recognition, that the occult system or leader of the system might be the true way. The initiate wants to believe that his heart (intention) is pure and that it would only be attracted to a pure system. He or she wants to belong to the highest path, to follow a living Buddha, Jesus or Avatar. The initiate believes he is not stupid, therefore he would not make a stupid choice. The initiate wants to transmute and transcend the human condition of limitation, grasp past and future, command energy, heal the sick, and teach the ignorant through a type of mental energy.
This desire for initiation stems from dissatisfaction with the state of self and the world coupled with a desire to change things in a big way. A Haich disciple expresses his anxiety:
"No! It is not possible for life on earth to be so senseless.....There must be a completely satisfactory and sensible explanation?seen from the 'other side.' How and where can I find this 'other side' of all things that definitely must exist?" (Haich 15)
One way to learn of this ?other side? is to contact someone from there. Haich gives us her experience: "When I had seated myself to practice meditation, the phosphorescent light appeared before my inner eye as usual. Then I felt with even greater clarity than ever before that the source of light lay in the eyes of a powerful being whom I knew well. Little by little they became so clear that I no longer merely felt?I knew?that they were looking at me. I felt their glance, their brilliance, their power, their light and their love shining upon me, and in the next moment, as an effect of this glance, the last remnant of cloudy haze in my consciousness disappeared, and before me there stood, as if emerging from darkness, a majestic figure with two dark blue, infinitely deep eyes, His figure, His face and His eyes:?HE!" (Haich 137)
The other side: down rabbit hole into Alice's Wonderland, behind the looking glass, Dorothy in the land of Oz. Is this other side of fairy tales and legends merely a metaphor for something really there? Did Shakespeare write The Tempest as a tribute to secret powers he knew existed? Was Tolkien indicating an actual, virtual world once populated by elves and magicians?like the fabled worlds of Atlantis, Lemuria or Inner Earth? Did Carlos Castaneda actually study with the sorcerer, don Juan, as he describes him in all of his books? A wide variety of seekers of arcane wisdom like to think that some or all the above are true.
Walter Burkert, professor of classical philology and foremost historian of Greek religion at the University of Zurich, puts the ?mysteries? in proper perspective for us in his Ancient Mystery Cults (1987).
"Mysteries were initiation rituals of a voluntary, personal and secret character that aimed at a change of mind through experience of the sacred." (Burkert 11)
"This role of private initiative is obviously linked to the state of society that had evolved by the sixth century BC, with emphasis on the discovery of the individual; it is hardly a coincidence that the first clear evidence of mysteries proper comes from this epoch..... It is also characteristic that the advocates of rigorous state or tribal control were generally suspicious of private mysteries. Whereas Plato in his Laws was willing to allow some tolerance, Cicero the Roman and Philo the Jew advocated repression of private cults." (Burkert 11)
"Mysteries are a form of personal religion, depending on a private decision and aiming at some form of salvation through closeness to the divine." (Burkert 12)
"With the imperial [Christian] decrees of 391/92 AD prohibiting all pagan cults and with the forceful destruction of the sanctuaries, the mysteries simply and suddenly disappeared. There is not much to be said for either the Masons' or modern witches' claim that they are perpetuating ancient mysteries through continuous tradition. Mysteries could not go underground because they lacked any lasting organization. They were not self-sufficient sects; they were intimately bound to the social system of antiquity that was to pass away. Nothing remained but curiosity, which has tried in vain to resuscitate them." (Burkert 53)
"Mysteries were too fragile to survive as ?religions? on their own. They were options within the multiplicity of pagan polytheism, and they disappeared with it." (Burkert 114)
I have quoted Burkert several times because I will refer to many of his salient points in examining the pitfalls of present day cults pretending to have revived the "Mysteries" in some way. The attraction for Mysteries among modern occultists stems from a hope for "renovatio" of the self and perhaps the world. Mircea Eliade addressed this yearning for transformation and renewal among twentieth century occultists:
"What is more general is a rejection of Christian tradition the name of a supposedly broader and more efficient method for achieving an individual and, by the same stroke, a collective "renovatio." Even when these ideas are naively or even ludicrously expressed, there is always the tacit conviction that a way out of the chaos and meaninglessness of modern life exists and that this way out implies an "initiation" into, and consequently the revelation of, old and venerable secrets. It is primarily the attraction of a ?personal?initiation that explains the craze for the occult." (Eliade 64)
Eliade reminds us that the dissatisfaction with what is experienced in mainstream religions provides an impetus for one to seek initiation (rites, ecstatic experiences) into mystery schools and occultism. He also reminds us that this is not new despite the apparent explosion of neo-occultism in the present decades within the New Age Movement. Popular occultism has existed in any culture when mysticism and romanticism provide "answers" where arduous, rational approaches have failed or not been discovered. Our time and culture are no different save for the mobility of seekers and the rapid spread of neo-occult ideas through modern media.However, there is but a limited satisfaction in the seeker who participates privately through books, audio and video tapes, and personal experiences. Fulfillment most likely comes with the extended experience of personal initiation into a cult or mystery school where the seeker's progress can be validated and supported by peers and "higher initiates". As social beings we all need friends, family and the environment to reflect our image, to gain appropriate self concepts, initiates notwithstanding. Aspiring initiates who work in isolation risk insanity more than those in groups due to the dissociated nature of the content of their beliefs and the risk of losing all boundaries.
The group or cult at least maintains relative boundaries and usually rejects extremists thus sustaining a semblance, at least, of a rationale. However, in isolation or not, participation in such cults may temporarily exhilarate the initiate with inflated self-concepts that easily can induce the need for more euphoric experience, more "truth". As one scholar observed, such an experience also "poses the gravest of human threats." (Lifton 420) Another observes: "It is an unfortunate fact that every occult or esoteric group attracts its quota of just those people who seem to be worst affected by the practices they are supposed to carry out?the hyper-suggestible, the sexually maladjusted, and those on the edge of desperation." (Webb, The Occult Establishment 71)
Ramtha's cult was conceived in the late nineteen seventies by a middle-aged, California housewife, then Judith Zebra Burnett, a.k.a. JZ Knight. Born Judith Hampton in Artesia, New Mexico, she grew up with a curious mix of influences, both tragic and sublime. According to her autobiography, A State of Mind, My Story (1987) she grew up in a dysfunctional family with an abusive, alcoholic father but a sturdy mother, rugged older brothers and a sister. She reported that she was "brutally raped" by a drunken uncle at age four. An unsophisticated, fundamentalist style of Christian religion influenced her ideas of God but as a young adult she rejected the notion of Satan. She was popular in high school, voted "most beautiful," and was once a rodeo queen.
According to her, JZ was disgusted by her first spouse after marrying him out of "need." She had two sons by him, Brandy and Chris. During this period she reports paranormal experiences: seeing UFO's, hearing accurate predictions in her life by a fortune teller, and being miraculously healed by a revivalist preacher. Her friends have reported that she was "possessed" temporarily at prayer meetings by an entity speaking through her called ?Demias.? JZ denied the event during a ?20/20? TV show interview.
Later she was successful at marketing, creating two corporations in cable TV. She met and married a dentist, Mark Burnett (perhaps Jeremy Wilder in her autobiography A State of Mind) in Tacoma, Washington in 1977. He shared her paranormal interests including a compulsive fascination with ?pyramid power.? It was while they were playing with cardboard pyramids in 1977 that Ramtha appeared to JZ as an alternate personality.
Burnett claimed he did not see an entity, rather he saw JZ's altered personality reacting to him or something as ?Ramtha? (Stearn 120). He subsequently became more obsessed with JZ's Ramtha personality believing it to be an autonomous spirit. JZ claims that she saw an eight foot tall, semi-transparent entity dressed in white robes of light with deep, dark eyes when Ramtha "appeared." JZ later divorced after she began an affair with Jeff Knight, her much younger third or fourth husband?Jeff told me he may have been the fourth?in 1980. Although Ramtha proclaimed JZ and Jeff to be "soul mates" they too were divorced by the late 1980s. The question remains whether Ramtha is merely JZ altered and exaggerated or something else.
In 1991 Jeff Knight contacted me after he read a critique of Ramtha I had written in 1985. Subsequently, I went to visit him and interviewed him while helping him to recover from his cult experience of ten years. I shared much information with him. In 1992 I was a witness for Jeff during an evidentiary hearing regarding his divorce settlement with JZ. At the time, Jeff was suffering from HIV that later led to AIDS. He died in 1994 with the results of the suit unresolved. In 1995 Jeff?s estate and lawyers were allotted some expenses by the court but the effort was essentially a failed one.
I learned from Jeff that JZ not only channeled Ramtha (a trademarked name, like Mickey Mouse) and the not trademarked Jesus (once), she also channeled a nineteenth century equestrian named "Charles" in private sessions with Jeff. Charles gave advice, mostly bad, about which horses to buy and sell. Until his marriage had gone sour, Jeff had had free access to the Ram for spiritual advice. All personal contact with the Ram through JZ was withdrawn when JZ found a new lover, a boy of 19 named Joe. Jeff's lawsuit included complaints that he was under undue influence during his marriage to the extent that he could be coerced by JZ, through her spirits, to do and think things he would not have normally done?like sign a divorce agreement for a relatively small and unfair financial settlement.
Even after the divorce he stayed on with the Ramtha School because he had been convinced that his physical and spiritual survival depended on participating in it. Ramtha had told him as much. By August of 1991, Jeff was convinced that JZ was merely a clever manipulator of her personality puppets, and that she enjoyed the wealth and power she had from controlling devotees. According to his closest friend, Geoff Corbin-Knight, Jeff died at peace with himself, his immediate family. Jeff Knight had no regrets about his efforts to expose Ramtha.
The Ramtha Myth
Ramtha, according to the cult myth, was once incarnated 35,000 years ago and was a warrior who became "enlightened," then ascended to reincarnate no more. JZ had been his child, Shirley MacLaine his brother, and Linda Evans, a famous actress and close confidante of JZ's since the late eighties, was allegedly connected to the family as well. More plausibly, Ramtha is loosely modeled after an incarnation of the Indian high god Vishnu in the form of Rama, the legendary warrior-god featured in the great epic, The Ramayana. Rama is one of the most popular names of ?God? in India and was reportedly the last word spoken by Mahatma Ghandi after he was shot. The historical context of the Ramayana took place less than 3,500 years ago, not 35,000 (Romesh C. Dutt 1). The accent and physical gestures at times used by JZ as Ramtha seem derivative of Yul Brynner's acting in The King and I.
Groups of people already prone to New Age beliefs began gathering around JZ to hear Ramtha in the late 1970's. Richard Chamberlain, the actor, reportedly hosted some of these meetings at his home?this is where Jeff told me he first met the Ram in 1980. Many other media personalities flocked to hear Ramtha in the early days including Shirley MacLaine. By 1984, the JZ/Ramtha performance was well organized with tens of thousands on the mailing list and thousands of followers, a.k.a. Masters, attending workshops for hundreds of dollars or more each. Private sessions with Ramtha were reportedly going for $1000 a half hour by the mid eighties.
With Jeff Knight's talent for horses the Ramtha organization created Messiah Arabians to enter the potentially lucrative Arabian Horse trade. Ramtha, the ?god?, encouraged some Masters to buy these special steeds at very high prices, as high as $250,000. By 1987 Ramtha's horse promotion was deemed illegal and thwarted by government intervention. Many bad investments in unfit animals were returned to dissatisfied buyers. Before JZ's divorce from Jeff, Messiah Arabians collapsed and the remaining horses were auctioned off. These horses had not only represented an investment in a fine animal but, for some members, they were also believed to be a ?reincarnated? mount that served them well in former ages, even in Atlantis. Around 1984 I attended a national Arabian Horse Show in Albuquerque and saw the Messiah exhibit. Their stud fees were low-moderate that indicated to me that the quality of their stable was overly inflated by Ramtha.
The purchase of a horse by a Master was significant for another reason?survival in the coming age. Since the early 1980's the Ram (as Ramtha is affectionately called by Masters) has prophesied a doom and gloom scenario for the planet in the near future. Members have been exhorted to move from the beaches. The area around Yelm, WA where most RSE students and JZ live, is purportedly very safe from massive geological catastrophe and polluted water. The Ram predicts that economies will collapse, gold will be the standard of exchange, and fossil fuel will be unavailable to run machines?thus the need for horses. Masters believe that significant portions of the western states will be ocean, the Mississippi basin will be a bay and much of the eastern metropolitan areas will be submerged.
Containers of survival foods are stored with gold and gear in hidden shelters underground. There are reportedly hundreds of such sites in the forests around Yelm. Many of these rudimentary shelters even have phone lines. Wealthier Masters have more elaborate shelters, of course, and with more copper insulation. One local person reportedly has done a brisk business installing copper material as insulation in Ramster (a local label for the Ram's disciples) dwellings. Locals are happy for the increased business from Ramsters but many have been alarmed by inside reports of the bizarre workshops that frequently cause physical and psychological casualties. One man in Trinidad, who I had exited from Ramtha, told me of his experience running blindfolded, full tilt into hundreds of other blindfolded Masters during an event. They did it at Ramtha?s command. Many people had broken bones, some passed out?he received a black eye and a cut on his head. It does not improve local attitudes to see Ramsters walking around Yelm at times wounded or in a daze.
However, it does help to see these people in their environment first hand, which is what I did for a few days in August of 1991, to appreciate the stories. Since 1986 I had met many of Ramtha followers who told me their stories. I had also interviewed many former followers, some who had received exit-counseling and gained a sophisticated perspective of their experiences. The situation is not unlike that in Fairfield, Iowa where a few thousand Transcendental Meditators live and where they attend Maharishi International University (MIU). Locals call them ?Roos? (short for Gurus) and notice the same dazed look in many. This is not to say that many Tmers, like Ramsters, do not do well in their businesses or jobs.
Another parallel exists around Livingston, Montana, host to a thousand or more members of Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) led by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, a.k.a. Guru Ma or Mother. Each of these three major cults "dazes" their followers by requiring them to participate in various psycho-spiritual techniques that enmesh them deeper into absorption of fantastic doctrines, myths, and pseudo-science. More of these parallels will be noted below but certain parallels between CUT and Ramtha are interesting. Both are led by middle-aged, Caucasian women who claim to be channeling information from one or more members of the previously mentioned Great White Brotherhood. Both women have been married several times, twice engaged with men considerably younger. Both have been financially successful with their religious ?business.?
The NEO-GNOSTIC IMPERATIVE
Gnosticism indicates religious beliefs derived from ancient Greek, Oriental, Jewish and Christian influences that especially deride the material creation and exalt enlightened awareness (gnosis) of the divine in human beings. Gnostics tend to divide human reality into three conditions: the hylic or sarkic meaning fleshly or earthy, the psychic meaning ignorant but somewhat savable though attuned to the earthy, and the pneumatic or spiritual meaning the Gnostics who are the only ones or ?states? capable of redemption. (For a thorough treatment of Gnosticism see Rudolf, Jonas, Churton, or Filoramo as listed in references.)
The early Christian church from Peter and Paul onward vehemently condemned most Gnostic doctrines as heresy while retrieving some gnosis especially in the Gospel of John. The most elaborate descriptions and effective attacks came from the Christian St. Irenaeus in the 2nd century, but scholars today note his lack of objectivity. There have been dozens of variations on the Gnostic themes. Gnostic sects have ranged from crude, literal and anarchic groups to highly sophisticated cults throughout the centuries. For instance, a dull-witted Gnostic might literally label certain human beings as ignorant ?hylics? or "psychics" whereas a more sophisticated Gnostic would see the hylic-psychic-pneumatic states within every person to one degree or another including themselves. Gnosticism may have reached its highest expression in the philosophy of Valentinus in the 2nd century. In the 20th century, the depth-psychology of Carl G. Jung derives much from Gnostic influence.
Some scholars, including Hans Jonas (1958), Carl Raschke (1980) and Tobias Churton (1987), find distinct similarities between our century and the 2nd century when Gnosticism reached a peak. Neo-gnosticism is flourishing today as never before. The revival reflects a rebellion against orthodoxy in science and religion that began in the 19th century, first with the Romantics and Transcendentalists, later with the occult revival and Theosophism. William Blake and Ralph Emerson were representative of early 19th century Gnostic tendencies while H.P. Blavatsky, Papus, and Annie Besant helped carry forms of Gnosticism into the twentieth century.
You might ask what is a ?Gnostic? tendency. Gnostics, like Christians and Buddhists, vary internally in doctrinal interpretation and have many sects. Unlike Christians and Buddhists, Gnostics have no founder even though Christians have tended to name Simon Magus mentioned in the canonical Acts of the Apostles as the first Gnostic. In any case, one major distinction of Gnosticism is its rejection of the material world as an ?evil? trap for pneuma (spirit) created by an ignorant Demiurge or god. In Gnostic myths an inferior creator was not seen as the father of Jesus the Christ?his ?true? father was eternal and ?alien? to the world. This dichotomy between the eternal father and the Architect of the universe (Demiurge) has been abhorrent to Christians and orthodox Jews who believe that the God of Moses was a good creator, not some ignorant and selfish despot as most Gnostic systems depict him.
The second distinct Gnostic tendency parallels secret Hermetic initiation rites and magical notions that varied according to the particular cult. In contrast to ?secret? initiations, the Christian notion since the original Pentecost was to teach openly, even to "shout it from the rooftops" and claim no hidden teaching. The mystery-religion type of secret initiation was rejected (Eliade 64). These two reasons were most responsible for the Christian persecution of Gnostics since the 3rd century. If the Gnostic had power he must have gotten it from a source other than the God of Abraham and Jesus, a.k.a. Yahweh (Jehovah) since he rejected this creator-god. That the Gnostic must therefore be serving an evil god was a conclusion drawn by early Christian leaders. St. Polycarp of Smyrna in the 2nd century called the famous Gnostic Marcion "the firstborn of Satan." This antagonism exists today between neo-Gnostic cults like Ramtha and mainline Christianity.
This ?battle of the gods? aside, Ramtha's appeal lies in the attraction and perhaps the need for personal spiritual experiences that can ?confirm? a seeker's faith. What the Ramtha Master does not know is that these experiences are easily orchestrated, even in less sophisticated cults, through various trance and suggestion techniques. In and of themselves the experiences can be exhilarating, paranormal, or supernatural. Phobia induction regarding the immanent collapse of the environment and economy fueled by stories of reptilian invaders from outer space work to pressure the member into the ?only? avenue to salvation?Ramtha's mystery school where the knowledge and power to transcend death and ignorance are taught and ?experienced.?
Specifically, the group leader injects phobias through various methods. The first is offering information that feeds suspicions already present in the student. Suspicions about government conspiracies, sinister UFOs and powerful truths suppressed by orthodox religion might be some of them In 1989 the Ramtha organization released The Last Waltz of the Tyrants edited by Judi Pope Koteen. The text included ?prophecies? by Ramtha first given in late 1987. He warned about flaming "zippers" in the Ring of Fire (volcanic zones created by plate tectonics), about the "Graymen" who rule the planet's economy in a sinister way, about where to live to survive, about how to handle your money so the ?Bank? can not trace it, and about leaving your family behind if you have to.
On leaving your family:
"And those of you who have families who can not see any of this as a truth, you are in a very precarious position and you are putting your family there with you?yes you are. The greatest thing you can do is save up your food and apply your savings to these investments as best you can. There are going to be enough things happening very shortly that will cause the people either to revolt or to start making dynamic changes in their lives. And if it simply a matter of relationships and you are going forward and living the Lord God of Your Being and someone is holding you back, leave that person!" (Koteen 119)
On the future:
"....Well, your brothers [GWB including Ramtha] will help you clean up the stratosphere. They know how to do it. Through re-seeding and stabilization of its movement and weather patterns, the Earth, by the year 2042, will again look like it did when I knew it [35,000 years ago]. Growth will be lush and life will be green, skies blue and water clean; ...And it will heal itself. It is already seen. It is set in destiny....It is law. So be it!" (Koteen 83) [brackets mine]
Ramtha suggests that Masters store food and gold currency to last till 2042 as well as learning to use primitive tools, crafts and hunting weapons.
"Remember I told you that many of your banks already have your debit card? ...use it if you have nothing else as a vehicle for transferring money-paper money. Do not purchase your gold from banks, for they have a record of you." (Koteen 119)
On eternal life:
"And the moment that the great seventh seal opens the pituitary, the death hormone will be no more in the body...It has been there since women began their season of blood and men began to spill their seed....There is a death hormone secreted from the pituitary and it is responsible for the shrinking of the thymus....the longevity organ in the body....And it is attitude alone that causes this in the body. It is your willing acceptance of attitudes that create your whole destiny, your reality, your environment." (Koteen 131)
Ramtha has framed his bizarre pseudo-science about hormones and ?seals? in long-winded lectures during the workshops on ?Consciousness and Energy? (C&E). The devoted and curious dare to believe that the breathing exercises (that cause hyperventilation and trance) will help them tap into the ?Void? of truth and transform themselves to overcome the "death hormone." After the hoped for transformation the human will becomes a divine will and can do virtually anything.
"You encounter and embrace a grander thought, grander knowledge, the process of adventure called ?unlimited."? (Koteen 131)
The faithful listen to tapes and read transcripts of these lectures until they are practically memorized. Ramtha supplies them with childish looking charts and illustrations on the nature of energy and consciousness. (Even though the information is highly irrational the faithful soak up each tidbit because they believe that a ?higher self??or analogical mind according to Ramtha doctrine?is mystically absorbing the truth.
The JZ/Ram?s confident air and strong delivery?not unlike an amateur performer mimicking a British Professor, hooks most of the wide-eyed seekers completely. They want it to be true. My image is one of children enraptured by a fascinating fairy tale told by a puppet.
JZ/Ramtha is not unlike her predecessor, the seer Edgar Cayce (d 1945) though the latter did not walk about his audience and perform. Cayce?s predictions about the rediscovery of Atlantis and catastrophic earth changes have proven wrong. He predicted in 1943 that China would lean toward the Christian faith ?in the next 25 years.? (Godwin 104). Ramtha predicts that by 1999 ?many places that are familiar to you today will not even look the same...? (Koteen 66). While I was in Yelm, I bought a large map of I AM America at Thunder Market, a food store favored by students of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment (RSE). The I AM map shows North America at the year 2001. Let us merely note that the map has an ocean beach at Phoenix, AZ, an island around Mt. Rainier, and Memphis, TN borders a vast waterfront named Harvest Bay. Ramtha, however, has not been that specific.
The Thunder Market in Yelm has been one of several hangouts for RSE students. The bulletin board inside was (in 1990) crammed with posters for workshops and ads for books and pamphlets. Classes were offered on ?Getting Out of the Tax System,? drumming, creating instant mixes, and learning ?Ultrascience Now!? for $15 a class. Copper foil and flakes (as a food additive) are on sale. Regarding copper ingestion friends and families of Ramsters fear that copper poisoning could result. The scientific literature on copper has it that we get more than enough of the mineral naturally. It is a ?stimulant? to the brain but too much can cause hyperactivity and even psychosis (Pfeiffer 324-40). In any case, RSE students seem to care little for science?Ramtha is teaching them ultrascience. I did find one poster advertising a significant book, Matrix II: The Abduction and Manipulation of Humans Using Advanced Technology (3rd edition by Val Valerian (Leading Edge Research Group, 1991). It cost $52 for over 600 velo-bound pages.
Matrix II is an everything-you-wanted-to-know-book about government conspiracies, UFOs, alien abductions, mind control experiments, the ?Gray? society and charts of government testing sites. Valerian is so taken with his work that he tells us we ?might throw all the other books on the subject away.? Former RSEers believe that JZ read early on editions of Matrix II and documents like it (there are many in the paranoid underground) to formulate Ramtha?s ideas in the Last Waltz of the Tyrants.
Fantasies and warnings were reinforced for the students when Bill Cooper came to speak to them in Washington. Cooper published his obsessions in Behold a Pale Horse (Light Technology Publishing, 1991). In it he roams from Illuminati conspiracies to Catholic bashing. He asserts that ?the driver? shot John F. Kennedy and that aliens in UFOs collaborate with a secret world government. Cooper claims he had an intelligence position in the military. He also claims that he is being led by God to warn upstanding citizens of corruption in the highest places. He especially targets the Masons who he says will be responsible if he is murdered (Cooper 79).
Another method for inducing phobias is to convince the target that once he or she has been exposed to ?the truth,? turning away from it is spiritual suicide or worse. Some cult victims I have interviewed have lived in fear of 10,000 or more lifetimes of hellish existence before they can ever approach the ?true path? again. If they walked away from a cult with this impression of personal and cosmic failure, depression and other symptoms like stomach cramps, headaches, insomnia ensued. The effect is not unlike that in victims of ritual abuse?or the therapy-induced memory of such abuse?who have told me of fears about death serums injected into them by cult leaders. They believe that the serum will activate if they snitch on the cult.
Coupled with that method is the pressure of time?if you do not choose now you may miss the only opportunity to truth, glory, and salvation. Ramtha clearly states that ?he? has come ?at a time of critical choice? (Koteen 143). The deceased cult leader, Rajneesh (a.k.a. Osho), once exhorted: "Come, I say come, for I may not be here for long.? J Z Knight may have other reasons for stimulating urgency that have more to do with her health or mortality. This theme of cult leaders projecting their personal demise and hope for ?renovatio? onto the entire cosmos is nothing new. Delusions of grandeur can work as compensations for wounded psyches seeking health and wholeness. Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science was a paranoid type who projected her personal ills onto ?Malicious Animal Magnetism,? a type of mental energy aimed at her by her enemies. The Church Universal and Triumphant has been predicting the immanent collapse of the world order since the early 1970s.
Not unlike RSE and similar ?schools,? ancient Gnostic sects proclaimed the appearance of a radical Christ through their myths. Ramtha had proclaimed that he was ?Christ? for us in this age (Ramtha Dialogues, The Church I AM, summer, 1984). Gnostics who thrived between the second and fourth centuries rejected the God (Yahweh, Jehovah) of the Jews. They identified Yahweh with a Greek version of the Demiurge?the god that created the physical universe. Some Gnostics myths called him ?Iadaboath.? This latter god was a cosmic mistake that emanated from the true realm or ?Pleroma? of deities (Aeons). ?Sophia,? one of the female aspects of the youngest Aeon tried an experiment without her divine counterpart. She formed Ialdaboath and he was ugly to behold?a serpent-lion. She tried to cover ?him? with light but it did not work?the Aeons noted her error.
Meanwhile, Ialdaboath created the physical universe and proclaimed himself the Creator. The Aeons were upset because he was trapping pure light in physical matter by using special powers embodied in cosmic beings called Archons. When Ialdaboath created Adam in his image, he deigned to extract from Adam the hidden power that the Darkness (Iadaboath) pursued. Out of Adam?s ?rib? he embodied the ?Thought of Light? in female form, Eve. Sophia then conspired with the Aeons (read Great White Brotherhood in Ramtha terms) to send one of their own, the Christ disguised as Jesus, to reveal the true nature of spiritual reality. The Christ would also teach human beings how to break free of Ialdaboath?s (Yahweh or Jehovah) matter-bound laws. Through this ?light? in Eve, Christ taught Adam to eat of the Tree of Knowledge (gnosis) and look upon his true perfection. We can see how the Ramtha mystery school has adapted its New Age techniques to aid the students to achieve this ?gnosis.?
Ialdaboath/Yahweh had forbidden Adam to eat of the Tree of Knowledge lest he ?sees? his true perfection. The Serpent in the Genesis story of the Bible served the Archons? interests by teaching Adam the lust of procreation. True Gnostics denounced procreation because the act would further the purposes of the false God of Creation?to trap Light in matter thereby keeping the Darkness alive. Although procreation was a taboo, certain Gnostics consumed sexual fluids during rituals among some Gnostic sects that believed that the sexual fluids contained the Light. Women had equal status with men in these sects, for the most part, because this reflected the state of the Aeons. Bisexuality and asexuality took precedence over heterosexuality.
Gnostic schools varied widely in their expressions of dualism?the strict division between spirit and fallen matter?not unlike many New Age groups in our time that express Gnostic themes. One common Gnostic theme was rebellion against the existing order of secular authorities. To the Gnostic, the dark Demiurge generated state laws through his people be they the Romans, Jews, or Orthodox Christians. It was not uncommon for the Romans to persecute Gnostics along with Christians. There has been a similar rebellious attitude, if not practice, among Ramtha devotees toward a government that they perceive as corrupted by ?Graymen.? We note this, for instance, with the ?Debit Card? phobias and tax evasion workshops.
The Gnostic believed that if Adam could ?see? or know his true perfection, he would not be bound by the physical laws of the Creator God. While science tends to pursue practical understanding and respect for these laws of nature, the RSE students, as their Gnostic forbears, strive to quickly transcend such limitations through ritual techniques and enlightenment. The RSE members, like their New Age counterparts, are often attracted to quack medicine and pseudo-science in their hope to transcend establishment wisdom. Besides self-medicating with copper flakes, some RSE students have experimented with Takyon Capsule T-1 that creates a ?unified field that can be unequivocally and distinctly felt by you and others.? Another product aimed at Ramtha students was ?Bio Water Catalyst (methylsulfonylmethane) that changes the structure of WATER, and makes water as it has never been known to man, in its more perfect state...as water was in the beginning of time? (Alana Love brochure, displayed at Thunder Market).
Gnostic sects tended to be pessimistic about the entire physical creation?they wanted it ended with all spirit reunited with Spirit. Ramtha teachings tend to be pessimistic about the present state of the Planet Earth and its economy but optimistic that a New Age can be wrought through RSE training and techniques, an age that will see the Earth restored to its pristine, Edenic state. This new world, that is to appear sometime before this generation ends, will transcend ?traps? like rational science, orthodox religions (especially Christian), current political systems, and commonsense experience.
SOME RAMTHA PRECURSORS
Madame Helena P. Blavatsky
In 1891, perhaps the most colorful occultist since the Renaissance, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (HPB), died. She more than any single woman influenced the direction neo-Gnosticism and occultism would take in the 20th century. She was born premature as Helena von Hahn in the area of Ukraine in 1831. Her father was a military officer and her mother, a famous writer. At her baptism were portents of religious rebellion when a priest's robes caught on fire from candles. She grew up in sophisticated surroundings with nannies but was rebellious from an early age, hanging out with the soldiers and learning to ride a horse like one. By age eleven she was giving s?ances that many adults attended, including a priest who brought holy water with him. Spiritualism was just then becoming the rage in the Western world.
Helena could be a precocious learner achieving skills at the piano and at languages. She was a great storyteller even as a child. When Helena was 17 her nanny, frustrated with the teenager?s raucous character, charged that no man would ever have her. Helena took up the dare and charmed an older soldier who proposed marriage. During the ceremony when the priest asked her to promise to love and obey her husband she answered she would not obey God let alone a mere man! The stormy affair lasted about three weeks at which time Helena took to the road allegedly never having consummated the marriage. She took nothing from her husband save the name she made famous, Blavatsky. Her mother, while dying in 1842 when Helena was but eleven, exclaimed: "...perhaps it is best that I am dying, so at least I shall be spared seeing what befalls Helena! Of one thing I am certain, her life will not be as that of other women, and she will have much to suffer" (Neff 17).
Helena disappeared from home for ten years after her failed marriage. Her father sent her stipends during her travels?most likely to keep her away, but Helena did later earn some of her livelihood as a pianist and an equestrian in a circus. She traveled widely throughout Europe, Egypt and the Middle East. She was allegedly wounded fighting in a war, spent time in the United States and India and left an unproved legend that she had penetrated deepest Tibet where she met her Masters. By the time she arrived in America for the second time in 1873 she had immersed herself in a wide range of occult and spiritualistic lore.
Her reputation as a seer spread. Many, including Abner Doubleday who founded baseball, came to the exotic flat of this now massive woman with the azure eyes and animal-head tobacco pouch hung around her neck. Prominent in her flat among a host of stuffed animals was a baboon dressed to resemble Charles Darwin holding a copy of his The Origin of Species (Washington 44-45). The devoted and the curious came to her for inspiration and to experience the psychic phenomena alleged to be attending her. As she smoked her hand-rolled cigarettes she spun tales and spoke of exotic philosophies. She soon met Henry Steele Olcott, an American Civil War veteran and journalist investigator of spiritualist phenomena, who was to combine his life's energies with HPB's. They and a small group of occultists formed the Theosophical Society in 1875 to promote the unveiling of religious truths and the brotherhood of man. HPB was the original ?secretary.?
Blavatsky had said that she was 100 years ahead of her time. In a sense that may well have been prophetic if we consider the immense growth in the channeling of dead masters and spirits since 1975. HPB's form of channeling evolved from popular mediumship or spirit-possession into a complete takeover of her body by many "Masters." They included Morya, Koot Hoomi (a.k.a. Kuthumi), Djual Khul, Serapis, and the Old Man of the Hills. Earlier in her career as a spiritualist the less exotic John King (the ghost of an Englishman in a turban) spoke through her. She claimed that the proper ?jiva? (soul) had abdicated her body around 1875. In today's New Age jargon, she would have been classed as a ?walk-in? (Montgomery, Aliens Among Us, 1985). Most of her channeling took the form of ?Mahatma? letters and long, didactic tomes like The Secret Doctrine that appeared at the end of her life.
Annie Besant (1847-1933), a London journalist and Fabian Socialist, met HPB after a publisher sent her to review The Secret Doctrine. The Old Woman?s charisma was sufficiently intact to convert the young reviewer into a disciple. Annie studied with HPB until the aging occultist died. Besant rose quickly in the TS ranks due to her brief but intimate relationship with HPB. Soon Besant teamed up with Charles W. Leadbeater (1847-1934), a former Anglican minister with homosexual tendencies, who became the channeler-secretary of the Masters in that branch of Theosophy. The TS was already splintering after HPB's death due to internal squabbles and power struggles. By the early 20th century there were three main American groups and several in Europe and England.
It is difficult to find any modern occult or metaphysical teaching, including the New Thought churches stemming from Phineas P. Quimby, that the original TS has not influenced in some way. A few of the more significant ones were: the Agni Yoga Society founded in 1921 by Nicolas (d 1947) and Helena Roerich (d 1955), a society that had some influence on the F.D. Roosevelt administration. The Agni Yoga Society was praised by former communist leader M. Gorbechev in Russia. G.I. Gurdjieff (d 1949) and his most important student, P.D. Ouspensky, generated many Fourth Way groups that promote something called the Work that influences a host of modern cults. The order of The Golden Dawn attracted the somewhat deranged occultist Aleister Crowley as well as the fine poet William Butler Yeats. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) broke with the TS after the turn of the century to found his Anthroposophical Society. The TS emphasis on Eastern Masters and their promotion of two children as the new World Teachers in 1913 irritated Steiner.
Besant and Leadbeater teamed up to promote the next ?World Teacher,? a messianic figure in the person of Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986). This young lad would transform and be taken over by a spirit Leadbeater called ?Alcyone.? After much training, much wavering, under Leadbeater, Krishnamurti denounced his World Teacher mantle in 1929 spending the rest of his long life as a singular guru who claimed to teach no ?path.? Leadbeater had a checkered career as a Theosophist, being once dismissed for seven years for "immoral" acts with young males. In 1916 he and J.I. Wedgewood founded the Liberal Catholic Church that blended Theosophical occultism with Anglican trappings. Wedgewood died a madman but Leadbeater sustained mild success, his writings on occult and yoga topics still selling in neo-occult circles and New Age bookstores.
An interesting parallel to the Ramtha student's use of copper comes by way of Leadbeater and the ?Manor," an occult education center he maintained in Sydney, Australia.
"On their arrival in Australia Leadbeater met the Lutyens on the quay in a purple cassock, supported on the arm of his golden-haired favorite. In the Manor itself, Leadbeater's acolyte slept in the principal's copper-lined [my emphasis] room, the copper was very suitable for occult purposes." (Webb, The Occult Underground, 97)
However, long before Leadbeater's death and Krishnamurti's devastating denunciation of the reality of the Masters, Theosophy's founder had been discredited by many scholars and psychical researchers. When the Society for Psychical Research investigated Blavatsky in 1884-5 they reported that she had faked much of the so-called miraculous phenomena. They found evidence of a hidden panel connected to HPB's bedroom that led to a shrine where letters from the Masters would ?precipitate? from spiritual realms as answers to written requests?a sort of astral post. The SPR also found evidence that a dummy that HPB had concocted to look like a ?Master.? Visitors would sometimes notice it in the dim light of evening as HPB glibly pointed ?him? out. The dummy was known among Blavatsky's confederates as ?Christofolo? (Campbell 90).
No one ever accused Blavatsky of not having a sense of humor but even she was outraged when her first major work, Isis Unveiled (1877), was denounced by scholars as a sham that depended on plagiarism. The implication was that HPB herself derived the text from books she had coupled with her imagination and experience and not from ?Masters.? The Secret Doctrine fared no better at the hands of scholars who found up to 2000 instances of plagiarism in it (Campbell 33). Nevertheless, HPB's texts have sold continually to enthusiastic seekers of the ?ancient wisdom? to this day.
Blavatsky?s Masters may not have been the great adepts with magical powers that she claimed, but there is some evidence that she was reinventing actual political and religious leaders who were then involved in freeing India from British rule. These ?Mahatmas? had an interest in any European, Russian, and American allies, Theosophists not excluded. Once dubbed as The Great Game (see Peter Hopkirk, 1990) the rule over India was a prize that many nations sought even during the British occupation. To many of India?s leaders, national autonomy also meant religious and cultural preservation. Blavatsky and her Theosophists naively tried to preserve and transmit the ancient, hidden teachings of the East to the West, but they were more interested in magic than philosophy and tradition.
The I AM ACTIVITY
Guy W. Ballard, (Godfre Ray King) died in a hospital in 1939 after a painful illness. In 1940 his wife, Edna Ballard (Lotus Ray King) and several accomplices were indicted by the Federal Court in California on 19 counts of fraud. By 1946 the case was thrown out of court on a technicality but not before the incredible story of one of America's most colorful cults became known in the national press. As a combination of Blavatsky's Theosophy, elements of New Thought and the rapid chanting of affirmations and spells called ?decreeing,? the I AM Activity thrived during the desperate days of the Great Depression with thousands of followers.
The Ballards formed their I AM Activity in 1934 after spending some time with William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts, an overtly fascist form of Theosophy. Pelley was arrested in 1934 for his fascist activities in North Carolina. Many of his followers transferred their allegiance to Ballard whose teachings also had racist overtones celebrating tall, blue-eyed, blond Ascended Masters and forbidding Negro men to enter the cult due to Black peoples? alleged race karma. Many occultists at the turn of the century and thereafter believed that the black race was a result of godlike beings or Caucasians mating with apes in Africa.
Unlike Blavatsky who mostly wrote messages from the Masters, the Ballards elaborately staged and recited their channelings at Masonic Temples, Unity Churches and any place where they could transmit the words of more than twenty Ascended Masters including Jesus, Arcturus, Comte de Saint Germain as well as HPB's Morya, Djual Khul and Koot Hoomi (a.k.a. Kuthumi).
During the 1920's the Ballards were struggling occultists who made money from Edna's music lessons or Guy's ?goldmine engineering.? The latter often turned out to be confidence games he played on unwary investors (Bryan 137). Guy was acquainted with Baird T. Spalding, the author of The Teachings of the Masters of the Far East, and shared some of his spiritual notions about the Masters. Spalding?s five volumes have been popular with many of Ramtha's followers. The books are based on Spalding's alleged Far Eastern travels and mystical experiences. There is one problem; Spalding wrote the first three travelogues before he ever left the American continent. He told Paul Brunton that he made these first visits in the ?astral body? (Brunton 252). Brunton, himself another occultist-poseur, has been exposed by many former disciples (Masson 1993).
Ballard's own magical autobiographies, Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence, written in the early 1930's about his alleged experiences with the Ascended Master Saint Germain, borrows much from Spalding and other sources. In fact, plagiarism exists from The Prince of Atlantis by Lillian E. Roy, A Dweller on Two Planets about Phylos the Thibetan, and The Brother of the Third Degree by W. Garver (1894) (Bryan 107-10).
In the early to mid 1980s JZ Knight called her organization the ?Church I AM? and clearly claimed to be part of the Great White Brotherhood system of teachings that includes Blavatsky and the Ballards. In fact, JZ channeled a harsh version of Jesus as a ?Yeshewa ben Joseph? at least once, but it did not seem to catch on, whereas the Ballards were quite successful with their version of Jesus. The Ballard's style of channeling, a performance on stage with lavish costumes, New Age music and pots of flowers has been imitated by many including JZ Knight and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the present leader of Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT).
CHURCH UNIVERSAL AND TRIUMPHANT
In 1958 an obscure psychic, Marcus L. Prophet, gave his family fits when his obsession with channeling Ascended Masters' messages gave way to a new sect of the GWB called ?The Lighthouse.? Later it was changed to ?The Summit Lighthouse? and claimed to combine the teachings of the I AM Activity and a small I AM offshoot called ?The Bridge to Freedom? whose leader had allegedly committed suicide. Prophet?s Lighthouse also borrowed from Agni Yoga teachings. "Mark" Prophet attracted a young devotee of the Masters in Elizabeth Wulf Yrtberg in the early 1960s and married her after they divorced their respected spouses. Mark left his first wife and children without support and fathered four more with Elizabeth before he died in 1973. Since his death the Summit Lighthouse grew to many thousands of followers worldwide with most concentrated in the United States. Under Elizabeth the sect changed its name to Church Universal and Triumphant moving its headquarters from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles and, by the mid 1980s, to southwestern Montana.
The "cult" label has haunted CUT since its inception. The present leader, much like the Ballards, promotes herself as the exclusive messenger of the Ascended Masters to this planet. Since the Masters include virtually all heroic, mythical and saintly figures from many cultures throughout history, Elizabeth Prophet (a.k.a. Guru Ma and Mother) represents the purest gateway to God for the followers, JZ Knight not withstanding.
Former followers and staff members have repeatedly complained of deception in the teachings, coercion to give more money and time, and of illicit behavior on the part of Elizabeth Prophet. The latter ranges from venting her temper (a.k.a. "blue raying") at the staff to promiscuity and greed. Gregory Mull, a former member and architect, successfully sued Mrs. Prophet and CUT for fraud and psychological slavery in 1982. Mull died in 1986 due to an illness but received $1.5 million after CUT's appeals failed to impress the court. Lately, Elizabeth's fourth husband, Edward Francis, was arrested and convicted of illegal purchase and transport of weapons.
By 1975 CUT had established Summit University, a non-accredited series of 12 week courses designed to indoctrinate new members. Each of the "quarters" is ostensibly sponsored by an Ascended Master. SU parodies ancient mystery schools in that many ?initiations? take place, the highest being to commit one's life and resources to Mother and the Ascended Masters. Fasting, restricted diets, colonics, much decreeing, strict dating rules and intense schedules with disrupted sleep patterns have been the common experiences of the "chelas" attending these quarters. Frustration and burnout have been common complaints of former fulltime staff.