Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Me

Yesterday M. pointed out to me a small AP story in Sunday's Denver Post that I had overlooked: the death of Elizabeth Clare Prophet, head of the Church Universal and Triumphant, one of the chief motivators of the "cults scare" of the 1970s-1980s.

("Suffered from dementia for years" -- there may be some cynical chuckles at that line from ex-CUT members and their families, even though it was Alzheimer's dementia.)

Her hometown newspaper in New Jersey offers photos of her at various ages and more links.

But I owe her thanks for sending me to graduate school, for in the 1970s, when I came back to Colorado after my undergraduate years at Reed, CUT (then called "Summit Lighthouse") was headquartered at One Broadmoor Avenue, Colorado Springs, a prestigious address, in a red-brick 1930s mansion built by some Oklahoman oilman.

I had never heard of Summit Lighthouse and as a Pagan was not too interested in quasi-gnostic metaphysical magical chanting--they called it "decreeing"--but a visiting friend wanted to see it, and so we went.

We picked up some pamphlets and got a tour of the public rooms from some of the followers, who despite the content of the teachings, had a definite Young Republican vibe too them. We did not meet Elizabeth Clare Prophet herself.

(If there was magic worked on behalf of President Reagan, CUT was working it.)

Later, as a reporter for the Colorado Springs Sun, I was approached by Mrs. Prophet's disaffected ex-secretary, who offered herself as a source for a feature story on the group. Mrs. Prophet herself did not do interviews--as high as an outsider could go was the group's spokesman, Murray Steinman.

And I was introduced to the whole network of "anti-cult" groups, parents' groups, and so on, not to mention one stream of American metaphysical religion, going back to the "I Am" movement and even farther.

Writing that story (and a couple of others on other groups) gave me more satisfaction than my regular work on the business beat. I credit them with nudging me towards an eventual decision to go to graduate school in religious studies, because I realized that as a newspaperman I could not really examine new religious movements in any depth.

Later, too, my chief interest in CUT was whether they would sell some of the land they bought for their "end of the world" retreat north of Yellowstone National Park in a deal arranged by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to keep an elk-migration corridor open.

Metaphysical movements come and go, but the elk should endure.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Pitch313 said...

Growing up in California, I learned of several occult and metaphysical movements as my parents briefly and with some scepticism remarked on them. One of these was original the I Am movement. My parents probably knew of I AM from general news reports and bar talk.

A little later, my science fiction fandom growing, I discovered that I AM had links with the Hollow Earth, UFOs, space brothers, and such.

Stil later, when i learned that Prophet and her church had taken over I AM, I tried, with little success, to see what CUT was about. I could deal with underground cities in Mt. Shasta but not all the Ascended Masters.

Her passing turns a page on pre WWII American occultism.

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

Actually, it was her husband, Mark Prophet, who died in 1973, who formed the real link between I Am and Summit Lighthouse. He was older than she and brought her into it all, as I understand.

10:13 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home