Prophet, Mark and Elizabeth Clare
PROPHET, MARK AND ELIZABETH CLARE
PROPHET, MARK AND ELIZABETH CLARE . Mark (1918–1973) and Elizabeth Clare (b. 1939) Prophet (and the movements they founded, the Summit Lighthouse and Church Universal and Triumphant) are key figures in the emergence of American New Age apocalypticism during the second half of the twentieth century. The Prophets combined charismatic authority, Gnostic spirituality, patriotism, and esotericism to construct an influential system of alternative spirituality in America's New Age sub-culture.
Mark L. Prophet was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, on December 24, 1918. His devout mother reared him in the Methodist tradition, but also exposed him to the teachings of the Unity School of Christianity. Later publications of Church Universal and Triumphant claim that Prophet met the Ascended Master El Morya when he was seventeen years old and working as a railroad employee. "Ascended master" is a concept borrowed from the I AM Religious Activity, and refers to a spiritual hierarchy of advanced entities ("masters") who are responsible for the evolution of humankind. During World War II, Prophet served in the Army Air Corps and began to immerse himself in the alternative spiritual teachings of the Rosicrucians and the Self-Realization Fellowship. By the 1950s, the now-married Prophet was publishing "dictations" from El Morya anonymously for an I AM-offshoot organization, the Lighthouse of Freedom.
In 1958, Prophet moved to Washington, D.C., and founded his own organization, the Summit Lighthouse, whose mission was to publish the periodical teachings he received from the ascended masters. An inner core of followers, the Keepers of the Flame Fraternity, received advanced teachings from Prophet on such topics as decreeing, ascension, the ascended masters, reincarnation, and the coming Golden Age of spiritual illumination. Central to Prophet's eclectic version of Theosophical and I AM Activity teachings was his own role as the sole messenger for the ascended masters in the dawning Aquarian Age. Also central to his teachings was his conviction that the coming Golden Age was destined to appear first in the United States, where a race of "lightbearers" would be born. This appearance was endangered, however, by supernatural forces of evil that worked through world communism and the elite leaders of international finance and "one-world" political movements.
The purpose of humanity, according to Prophet, was to attain "ascension," a state of divinelike existence in which the human soul was united to its divine self. Before this could occur, a soul must "balance its karma," the accumulated negative energies of its past lives, and dedicate itself to the path of the ascended masters. The basic spiritual practice taught by Prophet was "decreeing," in which disciples vocalized dynamic affirmations that included the biblical name of God, "I Am." Prophet claimed that this practice gave students the power to overcome negative conditions in their lives and to create a proper relationship with their God-self. Prophet's fusion of esoteric spirituality, conspiracy theories, and right-wing political ideology would provide the catalyst for a dangerous period of apocalyptic urgency in the group during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Prophet met Elizabeth Clare Wulf (b. 1939 in Red Bank, New Jersey) at a public lecture in 1961. Wulf, a student of Russian politics at Boston University, was the daughter of a Swiss governess and a German naval officer. By 1963, Mark Prophet and Elizabeth Wulf had divorced their respective spouses, married, and moved to Fairfax, Virginia. In 1964, Elizabeth Clare Prophet was "anointed" as co-messenger for the ascended masters by Saint Germain, the ascended master responsible for the destiny of the United States.
Between 1964 and 1972, the Prophets had four children and moved Summit Lighthouse to Colorado Springs. It was during this period that the group began attracting the youth counterculture and expanding in significant numbers in the United States. The Prophets bought a mansion that became the movement's international headquarters, publishing center, and residence for themselves and their most dedicated students. They also established Montessori International, a children's school based on the teachings of Maria Montessori and the ascended masters, and Ascended Master (now Summit) University to provide advanced students with an intensive immersion in the group's system of esoteric spirituality.
Mark Prophet died suddenly on February 26, 1973. Elizabeth Clare Prophet proclaimed that her late husband's soul was now the Ascended Master Lanello. The group was able to maintain continuity of leadership during this crisis through periodic dictations from Lanello to Keepers of the Flame gatherings. In 1974, Elizabeth Clare Prophet renamed the group Church Universal and Triumphant and founded teaching centers in major cities throughout the United States. Summit Lighthouse continued as the movement's publishing arm. Prophet moved the church's headquarters to the Los Angeles area in 1976, where it remained for ten years before relocating to the Royal Teton Ranch in Corwin Springs, Montana. Prophet appeared regularly in both print and electronic media during the late 1970s and toured the United States, "stumping for higher consciousness" and preaching against the evils of abortion and communism.
The move to Montana occurred as a result of growing opposition to Church Universal and Triumphant in California and the church's increasingly apocalyptic ideology. Prophet organized seminars during the mid-1980s for her followers that featured nationally known conspiracy theorists who issued dark warnings concerning alien civilizations, AIDS, and nuclear holocaust. Beginning in 1986, in response to apocalyptic warnings from Saint Germain, the church built a series of fallout shelters on its ranch property that were designed to protect staff members from the fallout of a global thermonuclear war. By late 1989, apocalyptic fears had reached a fever pitch, and members from around the world began moving en masse to Paradise Valley, Montana. After two predicted nuclear exchanges between the Soviet Union and the United States failed to occur in 1990, disillusioned members began leaving the valley and the church became the brunt of sensational negative media stories.
In response to the organizational upheavals caused by this cycle of apocalyptic urgency, the church began a public relations offensive in 1991 to combat its media image as a doomsday cult. Prophet published a new book, The Astrology of the Four Horsemen (1991), which envisioned a more hopeful future in which it was possible to mitigate the earth's "returning karma" through dynamic decreeing. During the early 1990s, she also distanced her church from the Branch Davidians and the Montana Freemen, claiming on national television programs such as Larry King Live and Nightline that her followers were law-abiding Americans who were working peacefully for a better world. In 1995, Prophet hired a Belgian corporate consultant, Gilbert Cleirbault, to begin a radical reorganization of the church. Under Cleirbault's leadership, Church Universal and Triumphant refocused its efforts on the publication and dissemination of the Prophets' teachings and on the creation of spiritual communities throughout the world.
In 1999, Prophet disclosed that she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and turned over both temporal and spiritual authority to a leadership team that includes a president, a board of directors, and a twenty-four-member council of elders. She remains a revered figure to church loyalists but is no longer involved in the church's daily affairs.
Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. The Great White Brotherhood in the Culture, History and Religion of America. Colorado Springs, Colo., 1976.
Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. The Lost Years of Jesus: Documentary Evidence of Jesus' 17-Year Journey to the East. Livingston, Mont., 1984.
Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. The Astrology of the Four Horsemen: How You Can Heal Yourself and Planet Earth. Livingston, Mont., 1991.
Prophet, Mark L., and Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Climb the Highest Mountain: The Everlasting Gospel. Colorado Springs, Colo., 1972.
Prophet, Mark L., and Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Science of the Spoken Word. Colorado Springs, Colo., 1974.
Whitsel, Bradley C. The Church Universal and Triumphant: Elizabeth Clare Prophet's Apocalyptic Movement. Syracuse, N.Y., 2003.
Phillip Charles Lucas (2005)
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