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"Will changing the paradigm of CUT change its basic purpose? Definitely not. The lack of accountability remains — no matter who leads or who doesn't lead."

Church Universal and Triumphant's New Paradigm Shifts in the Sand: The 1999 "Gathering of Mystics" Summer Conference Is a Collection of Misfits and Reeks of Continued Denial

By Cathleen A. Mann, MA, Ph.D. (candidate)

Paradise Valley, Montana, 1999: One day after Church Universal and Triumphant President, Gilbert Cleirbaut, announces his resignation, the controversial new-age sect released its annual 1999 report. Expensive, shiny paper cannot hide the truth — CUT has reportedly lost 50 to 90% of its membership since the infamous "fallout" shelter cycle ended in 1992. Canadian businessman Cleirbaut, much touted as bringing CUT into the 21st century as "a major world religion," has failed in his mission to do just that. The Yellowstone River which borders the 40th Annual Summer Conclave site on the Royal Teton Ranch, is a ribbon of pain, denial, and shock as conclave attendees realize their "church" is, indeed, like a monolith without its head.

Elizabeth Clare Prophet, 60, led by two attendants, sits silently for most of the conference presentations, meetings, and church blessings. Reportedly stricken with Alzheimer's disease in mid-progression, this once fiery, charismatic, and resplendent leader, seems blissfully ignorant of the controversy surrounding this final conference, and the chaos left with her slow progress toward retirement and abandonment of the 40-year sect,  began in 1958 with the Bridge to Freedom, which led to the Summit Lighthouse and Santa Barbara's Camelot, to its final end here eight miles from the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Like an aging Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire," the lines fit this scenario: "Death is not pretty. I who took the slings and arrows on my body, who bore the mortal parade toward death," the once-Guru sits and is silent.

Fittingly, three-times-dead-and-revived ex-marine, Dannion Brinkley, author of "Saved by the Light," mocked the silent, aged Prophet, alternatively calling her "ma" and "eclair — full of sweet, sticky filling." Mr. Brinkley, who had "entertained" the CUT audiences before, has some similarities in his philosophies toward death and the afterlife as does the sect. It was also clear that he was attempting to bring humor and inspiration to the much maligned sect. Mrs. Prophet was brought out for display in the first of seven community building seminars, where she made a 30-second blessing to the 2,000 gathered there and sent via "the patch" (CUT speak for closed circuit television) to the estimated 15 teaching centers worldwide. The guru had made her final entrance to this play, and left the crowd to wonder what was left of their "church" to build on, most had no desire to fight off critics, or how to deal with the estimated 15,000 throng of ex-members who called for the church to confess to allegations of mind control, deceit and duplicity, outright fraud and misrepresentation.

With Cleirbaut on his way back to Canada, and with an oblivious aged messenger, the de facto head of Church Universal and Triumphant appears to be long-term vice president, Murray Steinman. Individuals acquainted with Mr. Steinman find this a bitter pill to swallow indeed. Lacking in charisma, credibility with the adult Prophet children, and loyalty of the rank and file, Mr. Steinman is co-guardian of Mrs. Prophet, along with two of her four adult children. Steinman now rules the fallen ruler, and chained to her, will need to follow her to Bozeman, Montana, where she will reportedly move in August to be with her remaining child, five year old Seth Thomas.

From Washington, D.C. to Virginia to Colorado to Santa Barbara to Corwin Springs, the faithful have squeezed out tens of millions of dollars for sacred homes, temples and lands, that have resulted in failed deals, failed stock investments, failed pyramid schemes, and failed visions. Dozens of rusted, crumbling fallout shelters dot the pristine land which was once prime habitat for elk, grizzly bear, and cutthroat trout. Local newspapers have reported that low-income sect members now occupy the fallout shelters as living space (so they can continue to tithe to the Church), which began the media-frenzied hype of the late 1980's and early 1990's.

"Come, come, come from the four corners of the world — come in haste" was the marketing ploy of the shelter cycle and failed recruiting effort. The shelter cycle, which hit the media like a meteor shower, centered around building fallout shelters for an "fusion of world powers" according to Prophet, which landed her in newspapers and on numerous television shows covering the unfolding events.

Professional speaker Dannion Brinkley, briefly mentioned above, is a southern, irreverent rascal who mocks the Ascended Masters, the premise upon which this sect has been built. In 1973, after losing the church's founder, Mark L. Prophet, 53, by way of the undertaker, Mrs. Prophet proclaimed herself the only living Messenger of the Great White Brotherhood and the Ascended Master Lodge. Mr. Brinkley addresses the head of this Brotherhood, St. Germain as "St. Gerry" and El Morya as "Mo." He impersonates Mrs. Prophet doing rapid fire decrees and fiats as shouting to God, calling the sacred teaching of the sect — the violet flame — "the violent flush." Impersonating Mrs. Prophet's signature Archangel Michael's four feet long sword-swinging rendition, Mr. Brinkley tells the shocked gathering — "Laugh at yourselves. It's been coming."

New CUT leaders are reportedly changing the sect's teachings and are attempting, en masse, to rewrite the cult's history as well. Murray Steinman reportedly is rewriting past emphasis on the crucifixion of Jesus for example, and stating that the Ascended Masters "have made mistakes." New CUT members pick and choose which teachings to follow, another indicator that Mrs. Prophet is no longer on the throne. Never in her glory days would this have occurred, as the Royal Teton Ranch was a time warp, micromanaged down to the utter detail. When asked about teachings of the Ascended Master El Morya in 1977 referring to a church ban on chocolate, a new CUT member stated "maybe El Morya was having a bad turban day ... we don't believe that" as she gleefully passed out chocolate ice cream cones to her children at the conference.

Long time CUT members, and particularly ex-members, are appalled at the lack of respect for the office of the Messenger and the erosion of long-standing beliefs once told were "created to save the planet." CUT, now lacking in true, dynamic leadership, bleeds from recent lawsuits and from threats of upcoming ones. There may no longer be a place for letter-of-the-law teachings when money and survival of the remaining sect membership is threatened.

Mrs. Prophet, Guru Ma, the Mother of the Flame, the Mother of the Ascension Flame, the Vicar of Christ, the World Mother, the Messenger — borrowed heavily for her teachings from the Mighty I AM group of the 1930's, from the likes of Blavatsky, Besant, Bailey, Roerich, Ballards, Mary Baker Eddy and Aimee Semple McPherson. Mrs. Prophet, who created from her own mind and own imagination the spiritual and psychological terrain upon which so many lives were cast and lost, sits silently, caught in the web of a one-way path of her own creation.

Is CUT an exploitative/destructive cult? Definitely yes. Will changing the paradigm of CUT change its basic purpose? Definitely not. The lack of accountability remains — no matter who leads or who doesn't lead. Meanwhile, Wisdom Circles are convened to lend "closure" to current CUT members wanting to "remember Mother fondly." These circles, led by trained psychologists, allow members to process their "feelings, their profound loss, and the movement upwards and outwards."

The Guru is silenced. History has taught us that what comes after is sometimes worse than what comes before. Current CUT members "pray" for the healing of Mrs. Prophet's "body temple." Thousands of ex-CUT members "pray" for justice.

Detrimental denial still remains. Psychological fallout from a dictatorship led solely by Mrs. Prophet continues. The current insensitivity of the CUT organization to its destructive swath is appalling. But the Guru sits silently and waits for the evening to end so she can return to the cult nest which bred her. No expense is spared, no luxury denied. The Guru has picked out her ascended Master name, and is prepared to make the ultra-secret ascension at the time appointed by her minions. No reconciliation or discussion of the Truth will occur this embodiment round, folks, just a mutant strand of the cult founded upon a lie.

(Cathleen Mann can be reached at and has her website at

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