Church Universal and Triumphant


Church Universal and Triumphant
Church Universal and Triumphant
Formation 1975
Type New Religious Movement (Ascended Master Teachings religion)
Founder Elizabeth Clare Prophet

Church Universal and Triumphant is an international New Age religious organization founded in 1975 by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. It is an outgrowth (and is now the corporate parent) of The Summit Lighthouse, founded in 1958 by Prophet's husband, Mark L. Prophet. Its beliefs reflect features of the traditions of Theosophy and New Thought.[1]

Especially in its peak controversial years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Church Universal and Triumphant received criticism as a "cult,"[2][3] though academic studies rejected the negative stereotype.[4]

Contents

Name

The Catholic Church originated the phrase "Church Triumphant" to refer to Catholics in Heaven. The name "Church Universal and Triumphant" was announced by Elizabeth Clare Prophet on February 10, 1974, in a message purported to be from Pope John XXIII (referred to by the Church Universal and Triumphant as the "Ascended Master Johannes").[5] In 1919 Alice A. Bailey, in what some students of esotericism view as a reference to the future organization, prophesied that the religion of the New Age would appear by the end of the 20th century and that it would be called the Church Universal.[6]

Membership

The membership apparently peaked at about 10,000 active participants, but sharply declined following a series of crises and controversies in the early to mid-1990s.[7] Elizabeth Clare Prophet estimated in 1985 that church members numbered between 75,000 and 150,000.[8] Gordon Melton, a leading authority on new religions in the United States, estimated membership in 1993 at between 30,000 and 50,000.[9]

Theology

Gordon Melton lists the Church Universal and Triumphant as a religion of the Ancient Wisdom tradition akin to Theosophy and The "I AM" Activity.[10]

The church's theology is a syncretistic belief system, including elements of Buddhism, Christianity, esoteric mysticism, the paranormal and alchemy, with a belief in angels, elves, fairies, and other beings it calls elementals (or spirits of nature). It centers on communications supposedly received from Ascended Masters through the Holy Spirit. Many of the Ascended Masters, such as Sanat Kumara, Maitreya, Djwal Khul, El Morya, Kuthumi, Paul the Venetian, Serapis Bey, the Master Hilarion, the Master Jesus and Saint Germain, have their roots in Theosophy and the writings of Madame Blavatsky, C.W. Leadbeater, and Alice A. Bailey. Others, such as Buddha and Confucius, are historical religious figures. Some, such as Lanto, Lady Master Nada, Godfre, Lady Master Lotus, and Lanello, are Ascended Masters who were first identified as such by Elizabeth Clare Prophet. All in all, she identified more than 200 new Ascended Masters that were not identified as Masters of the Ancient Wisdom in the original teachings of Theosophy.[11]

Mark Prophet, and later his wife, claimed to be Messengers of the Ascended Masters. As such they are able to communicate with the Masters and deliver their instruction to the world. Dictations described as coming directly from the Masters were published weekly as Pearls of Wisdom.[citation needed]

Group members practice prayers, affirmations, mantras and a dynamic form of prayer known as "decrees". These serve many purposes: devotion, calling on angels for protection, calling forth the light of God on the earth, praying for healing, for wisdom, seeking to know God's will and for the transmutation of negative karma. One of the most important decrees is the Violet Flame Decree, claimed to be the most effective method of balancing karma built up in the past. The doctrine of the Seven Rays is also taught, as well as teachings about the chakras and reincarnation.[citation needed]

In the summer of 1993, a team of academic specialists conducted an interdisciplinary study of the church and its members. They published their results in "Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective," edited by James R. Lewis and J. Gordon Melton.[citation needed]

History

Mark Prophet claims he was first contacted by the Ascended Masters at the age of 18. In 1945 he joined the Rosicrucians under Max Heindel, working in a branch in Saint Louis, Missouri. He later affiliated with the Self-Realization Fellowship. In 1952 Prophet founded a group known as the Ashram, sending out periodic letters received from the Ascended Masters, in particular El Morya.[12] In about 1956 Mark Prophet came in contact with The Bridge to Freedom, an offshoot of the I AM Activity led by Geraldine Innocente. Innocente had been a member of the I AM Activity, but left in 1951 to begin her own group. Prophet studied with the Bridge until 1958 while also continuing with his own Ashram group. On August 7, 1958, Mark sent the final communication to the members of the Ashram, announcing the establishment of The Summit Lighthouse. The founding meeting of The Summit Lighthouse was held in Philadelphia on August 7, 1958. The headquarters was in Washington, D.C.[citation needed]

In 1961, Mark met Elizabeth Clare Wulf; they married in 1964 and had four children. Wulf, subsequently Elizabeth Clare Prophet, had grown up under influences including New Thought and Christian Science.[citation needed]

In January 1966, the Prophets moved their church to Colorado Springs, CO. In 1970, a second major center of the organization was established in Santa Barbara, California. The first session of Ascended Master University – a religious study center for teaching of the ancient wisdom – was held there in July 1970. (Ascended Master University was later renamed Summit University.)[citation needed]

On November 2, 1971, the church opened a branch of Montessori International, a private school based on the principles of Italian educator Maria Montessori. In later years, the school was expanded to provide a full program from preschool to Grade 12. On May 1, 1972, the church opened the Four Winds Organic Center in Colorado Springs, a health food store and organic restaurant. On February 26, 1973, Mark Prophet passed on, leaving his wife as leader.[citation needed]

Church Universal and Triumphant was incorporated as a part of the organization on May 1, 1975. The organization moved its headquarters to Pasadena, California, in 1976. In 1978, it moved to "Camelot," a 218-acre (0.88 km2) property in the Santa Monica Mountains, outside of Los Angeles.[citation needed]

In 1981, the organization purchased a 12,000-acre (49 km2) property in Montana, on the northern border of Yellowstone National Park, which it named the Royal Teton Ranch. Camelot was sold and the organization moved its headquarters to Montana in 1986.[citation needed]

The church became well known during the late 1980s when it predicted the possibility of nuclear war at the end of that decade. Members were urged to prepare by building fallout shelters and supplying them with food and other necessities.[3] The predicted date of the nuclear war was April 23, 1990.[8] When nuclear war failed to occur, Prophet claimed that the community had averted the war through their prayers. Some adherents were left in debt or bankruptcy. Since then church membership has fallen in the United States. However, the C.U.T. remains a significant presence in the area of its headquarters, and centers continue to be active in large cities across the nation. During this period, international membership has grown significantly.[citation needed]

With its decline in U.S. membership and changes in employment laws for non-profit organizations, the church was forced to downsize its headquarters staff in the late 1990s and the first years of the 2000s. In July 1996 Elizabeth Clare Prophet handed over the day-to-day running of the organization to a new president and board of directors, who oversaw this major restructuring of operations at the church headquarters. Portions of the Royal Teton were sold to the U.S. government as part of a complex sale and land-exchange agreement. A second large property that had been purchased in 1983 was sold on the open market, along with other smaller landholdings.[citation needed]

Due to health reasons, Prophet retired in 1999.[citation needed]

Controversy

During the late 80s and early 90s, articles and letters critical of the church were published in the local newspapers of the Livingston Enterprise and the Bozeman Chronicle.[13] The newspaper articles frequently labeled Church Universal and Triumphant as being a cult. The church has usually been labeled a cult by both religious and secular groups. Several of the letters were written by former Church members who raised lawsuits against the church.[2]

Controversy in the 1990s also emerged when it was discovered the Church Universal and Triumphant was amassing a very large cache of weapons. This discovery seemed to be at odds with the Church Universal and Triumphant's message to outsiders as a place of peace and harmony. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, state, and local law enforcement agencies subsequently investigated this area and found the Church Universal and Triumphant's Leaders, including Elisabeth Clare Prophet's husband, to have been complicit in obtaining and hoarding weapons.[14]

Recent news

Elizabeth Prophet developed Alzheimer's disease in the late 1990s, and by December 2008, she was living in Bozeman, Montana under house care. This led to the church coming under the direction of a two-person presidency with a board of directors and a council of elders.[citation needed] She died October 16, 2009 at the age of 70. Prophet's legal guardian, Murray Steinman, says she suffered from advanced Alzheimer's disease and died at her apartment Thursday night.[15]

In recent years several individuals have come forward claiming to deliver dictations from the Ascended Masters, Archangels, and Elohim. Former CUT minister Monroe Shearer and his wife, former member Carolyn, founded a new activity in 1995, The Temple of The Presence, now based in Tucson, Arizona. Another former church official, David C. Lewis, claimed to be delivering dictations by some of the same Ascended Masters named in Church Universal and Triumphant as well as other Ascended Masters unmentioned before. Now based in Livingston, Montana, Lewis claimed that the process for how one applies to be a Messenger has never been made public and that the elder to whom he submitted his application told him "there won't be any more messengers." Therefore, in 2005 he set up his own new Ascended Master Teachings group called The Hearts Center which is headquartered in Livingston, Montana, very close to the headquarters of the Church Universal and Triumphant in Corwin Springs, Montana.

Organizations that recognize the Summit Lighthouse include The Temple of The Presence.[16]

The Shearers have dismissed Lewis's claim to being a Messenger, as Elizabeth Clare Prophet dismissed the Shearers' claim, and as the leader of The Bridge to Freedom, Geraldine Innocente, dismissed the claim of The Summit Lighthouse founder Mark L. Prophet. CUT continues to hold quarterly retreats at the Royal Teton Ranch and to hold Summit University sessions around the world. Retreats for teens and young adults are held internationally twice a year.[citation needed]

Church Universal and Triumphant in popular culture

Literature

Music

Since a recording by the church entitled "Invocation for Judgement Against and Destruction of Rock Music" appeared on the record Sounds of American Doomsday Cults Volume 14, it has been sampled many times by various musical artists—mainly in electronic genres. Among the most prominent of these:

Avant-garde sludge metal band The Body utilizes a sample of the Church's rhythmic chanting on the song "Empty Hearth" frm their 2010 album All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood.

Radio Documentary

  • Violet Flame, an hour long two part documentary, was originally recorded and produced by Brenda Hutchinson for New American Radio in the Winter of 1993. Hutchinson lived for three months at the headquarters for the Church Universal and Triumphant where she met and recorded members of the Church. The piece explores the political and religious philosophy from over 40 hours of recordings of chanting, services, rituals and the recorded stories and conversations with Church members and Officials, including Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Brenda revisited the Church ten years later, primarily to interview the growing and grown children she first met during her earlier visit. This New Violet Flame was commissioned and first broadcast on National Public Radio by Soundprint in 2002. It was awarded The Gracie Allen Award for short documentary from the American Women in Radio and Television (AWRT) in 2003.

Non-fiction books

  • Kenneth and Talita Paolini, parents of Inheritance cycle author Christopher Paolini, were once members but later left the organisation. They have since written the book 400 Years of Imaginary Friends: A Journey Into the World of Adepts, Masters, Ascended Masters, and Their Messengers, which discussed their experiences of the sect as well as a history of it related to other groups.[18]

References

  1. ^ Lewis, James R., and J. Gordon Melton, eds. (1994). Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective. Center for Academic Publication. pp. 1-2. ISBN 978-0-819-19634-7.
  2. ^ a b Andree Brooks (April 26, 1986). "'Cults' And The Aged: A New Family Issue". The New York Times. "What is believed to be the first jury decision in this area was handed down this month. Gregory Mull, a 64-year-old architect, was awarded $1.6 million in damages in a suit against the Church Universal and Triumphant, a spiritual organization with headquarters in Malibu, Calif." 
  3. ^ a b Lorraine Locherty. "Church under fire". Calgary Herald. "Operating out of teaching centres and private homes in Calgary and other Canadian cities, the church's notoriety and its reputation as a dangerous religious cult make police nervous. A special police unit investigating cults – comprising officers from the RCMP and Edmonton and Calgary city police – now has CUT and selected Alberta members under surveillance. In the decade since it purchased an 11,300-hectare ranch in Montana, the sect has angered local citizens and tangled with virtually all levels of U.S. government, including the Internal Revenue Service. Among other things, the church is accused of building bomb shelters without permits, stockpiling weapons and leaking more than 100,000 litres of gasoline and diesel fuel into the fragile ecosystem of the area, just north of Yellowstone National Park in Montana." 
  4. ^ Lewis, James R., and J. Gordon Melton, eds. (1994). Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective. Center for Academic Publication. pp. vii-xiv. ISBN 978-0-819-19634-7.
  5. ^ Prophet, Mark L., and Elizabeth Clare Prophet; comp. and ed. by Annice Booth. (2003). The Masters and Their Retreats. Summit Univesity Press. pp. 145-46. ISBN 978-0-972-04024-2.
  6. ^ Bailey, Alice A. The Externalisation of the Hierarchy New York:1957 Lucis Publishing Co. Page 510.
  7. ^ Partridge, Christopher, ed (2004). New Religions: A Guide: New Religious Movements, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 333–334. 
  8. ^ a b New Religious Movements—Church Universal and Triumphant:
  9. ^ Lewis, James R., and J. Gordon Melton, eds. (1994). Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective. Center for Academic Publication. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-819-19634-7.
  10. ^ Melton, J. Gordon Encyclopedia of American Religions 5th Edition New York:1996 Gale Research ISBN 0-8103-7714-4 ISSN 1066-1212 Chapter 18--"The Ancient Wisdom Family of Religions" Pages 151–158; see chart on page 154 listing Masters of the Ancient Wisdom (Ascended Masters); Also see Section 18, Pages 717–757 Descriptions of various Ancient Wisdom religious organizations, including the Church Universal and Triumphant
  11. ^ Prophet, Elizabeth Clare and Prophet, Mark (as compiled by Annice Booth) The Masters and Their Retreats Corwin Springs, Montana:2003 Summit University Press "Profiles of the Ascended Masters"--Pages 13–394 More than 200 "Ascended Masters" are listed
  12. ^ El Morya, Ashram Notes (Corwin Springs, Mont.: Summit University Press, 1990)
  13. ^ Jeanie Senior (March 17, 1990). "Montana Residents Leery Of Activity Around Church Universal Property". The Oregonian. "Chris Gilbert, 16, who is a junior at Park High in nearby Livingston, told the Livingston Enterprise that after he moved in with a Livingston family, his mother visited him at his part-time job to warn him 'something might happen.' He said she invited him to rejoin his family in the church's fallout shelters. Church members have built a network of more than 40 such shelters." 
  14. ^ Don Knapp (July 8, 1993). "Church Universal and Triumphant – Watched for 20 Years". CNN. "Authorities say the Church Universal and Triumphant, over a 20-year period, stockpiled, stored, and transported a collection of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and two armored personnel carriers. The allegations stir neighbors' concerns about the stability of the church." 
  15. ^ Associated Press Oct. 16, 2009
  16. ^ White Paper – Wesak World Congress 2002. Acropolis Sophia Books & Works 2003.
  17. ^ Stirling, S. M. (2007). The Sunrise Lands. New York, NY: ROC. . Stirling, S. M. (2008). The Scourge of God. New York, NY: ROC. . Stirling, S. M. (2009). The Sword of the Lady. New York, NY: ROC. 
  18. ^ Former Church Universal and Triumphant Members Publish Book

External links

  • Church Universal and Triumphant official information [1]
  • The Summit Lighthouse official site [2]

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