In Search of Maitreya An Evening with Benjamin Creme by John W. Moore
"Set aside, just for tonight, everything you think you know about the Christ"
-- Benjamin Creme
I arrived at the Berkeley Conference Center a good 20 minutes ahead of the advertised start of the night's lecture by New Age luminary Benjamin Creme. I didn't want to be too late to get a seat. It was, after all, the Berkeley leg of Creme's only North American tour this year -- an appearance in a New Age stronghold by one of its foremost (self proclaimed) prophets. I needn't have worried. The auditorium was only about one third full at the time I arrived, and not many more showed up. The continued non-appearance of Creme's much announced 'Master of Masters', the one that Creme refers to as "Lord Maitreya" (my-TRAY-uh), appears to be taking its toll on Creme's ability to draw a crowd. Perhaps what is surprising is that Creme still draws a crowd at all; it was 1975, after all, when Creme first announced that the appearance of the 'World Teacher' was imminent. Initially, Creme announced that Maitreya would arrive in "mid 1982". This was the story that he stuck with from 1975 through, well, mid 1982. After 1982 came and went, and no Maitreya, Creme explained that the Master had been "detained". He has been "coming-any-day-now" ever since.
As I found my seat, I read the small piece of paper that had been handed to me as I entered. It said:
Preceding the lecture, while Mr. Creme is seated on the stage and looking at the audience, he is being overshadowed by Maitreya the Christ
Maitreya's energy of love is poured through Mr. Creme to the audience, as a special blessing. Healings may take place during this period, depending on individual karma.
We invite you to sit quietly and enjoy this spiritual energy.
Mr. Creme was seated on a dais in the front of the room, flanked by a couple of examples of his modernist art, a puffy tangle of white hair hovering over a colorless white face. At first it seemed to me that he was sitting completely motionless; I thought perhaps that he was posing for one of several video cameras positioned around the room. But after a couple of minutes, I realized that he was in fact turning his head, ever so slowly, to sweep the entire audience in a very, very slow arc, like a surveillance camera scanning a room in slow motion. Creme was staring intently into the audience, unblinkingly, unnaturally, all the time a fixed grin pasted on his face.
Without being told, I knew that there was something else looking out into the room through the agency of Mr. Creme, mentally cataloging each member of the audience. I believed I could detect an energy in the room, all right, and it certainly seemed to be coming from the colorless figure in the front. but I didn't feel blessed, and I certainly wasn't enjoying it. To me, the feeling was more a kind of electric tension, almost a paranoia; not any kind of 'love' that I had experienced. Probably just my 'individual karma'.
Benjamin Creme was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1922. In his early years he studied widely in the "esoteric philosophy" (i.e., occult teachings) of such writers as Helena Blavatsky and Alice Bailey. Details of Mr. Creme's biography are taken from the paper Benjamin Creme: A Messenger of Hope for Humanity, downloaded from the Share International web site (http:://www.hooked.net/shareint/). Through these teachings, he came to believe in the existence of the so called 'Masters of the Earth', Blavatsky's term for a collection of beings, formerly human, who having been perfected through countless cycles of re-incarnation, now serve as guardians of the 'Divine Plan' for the human race. (Various beliefs about the 'Ascended Masters' are rampant in New Age circles; these beliefs are traceable through Blavatsky and others to the Hindu teachings on re-incarnation and the 'perfected man'.) In 1959, Creme was contacted by one of these same 'Masters', who revealed that the Christ, the Master of all Masters, would return to earth "in about twenty years". In a kind of cosmic "Mission Impossible" scenario, Creme was told that he would have a role to play in this coming return of the Christ "if he chose to accept it".
Creme chose to accept it. Since the early '70's, Creme has become a kind of Maitreyan "John the Baptist", announcing to the world the imminent return of the Christ. His efforts in this regard peaked just prior to the supposed 1982 advent, when Creme issued announcements as a series of full-page ads placed in prominent newspapers around the globe. Since that time, perhaps learning a lesson, Creme has been vague about the exact date on which Maitreya will make his advent fully publicly known. Nevertheless, Creme continues to travel the globe, tirelessly promoting the coming world-wide spectacle that he and his fellow-travelers refer to hopefully as the "Day of Declaration".
Tape Recorded Blessings:
It was now half-an-hour past the scheduled start time of the "lecture", fifty minutes since I had first arrived, and Mr. Creme was still silently scanning the audience. I had, by this point, gotten used to the feeling in the rom, but it still gave me the creeps when Creme's gaze worked its way over to my section. I noticed that some in the audience were doing their best to soak up the "healing" energy being generated, sitting with eyes closed, hands extended, mouths slowly moving in some cases. A fair number of others were, like myself, somewhat warily scanning the surroundings, perhaps trying to get a sense of who had come for the show. Finally, one of Creme's entourage stepped to the microphone to announce that two 'blessings' would now begin. These 'blessings' turned out to be rather poorly recorded tapes of someone (evidently Mr. Creme) delivering messages from none other than Maitreya himself. The delivery was mono-tone, almost trance-like; the content was self-important in Christ-like proportions. "I am all-in-all" droned Maitreya/Creme to start the first. "When mankind is somewhat prepared, mankind will hear my voice." For the next fifteen to twenty minutes the tapes droned on, Creme all the while continuing to scan back and forth across the assembled.
Finally, after at least forty-five minutes of scanning, Creme was introduced and took the podium. Suddenly, it was an engaging septuagenarian that was addressing us, the glazed look and the fixed features disappearing in an instant. I was relieved, I suppose, to find that Creme's voice was natural and lively -- with none of the monotone deadness of the recorded 'blessings'. After some brief opening remarks, Creme dived right into the subject at hand -- the coming of Maitreya. With his gentle, good-natured manner, the British accent, the scholarly air, the wooly hair, he reminded me of what I imagine C.S. Lewis must have been like in his later years. But while the manner was engaging, the message was decidedly radical. Creme began the lecture with a warning that some of the things he was about to say might be offensive to some. "But please", he enjoined, "set aside, just for tonight, everything you think you know about the Christ". He then launched into a discussion of the Masters of Wisdom, re-incarnation, the change of epochs from the age of Pisces to the age of Aquarius, and, of course, the appearance of the Christ, the "World Teacher", "Lord Maitreya".
Who Is Maitreya?
Who is this 'Christ' that Mr. Creme would have us believe in? Creme claims for Maitreya (or Maitreya claims through Creme) absolute pre-eminence: "I am all-in-all" says Creme/Maitreya. Of course, Maitreya is God; but then, so are we all (kind of), according to Creme. A brief word about Creme's cosmology is in order. According to Creme, borrowing from the pantheistic Hindu tradition, God is everything, and in everything. Therefore, we are all part of God -- we are affirmed in saying, with Shirley McClaine et al., "I am God". According to Creme, " . . . we are all divine, with the same divinity as the Christ, the Bhudda, the Krishna, . . ." Sound good? It is the essential blasphemy of Genesis 3, the lie of the serpent: "you will be like God".
What of the "only begotten from the Father", John's description of Jesus (from chapter 1 and elsewhere in John's gospel)? Creme meets this head on: the concept of the 'one and only Son of God' is a "complete misnomer" says Creme, an error of John's in attributing too much importance to the person of Jesus of Nazareth..John has since come around, evidently, as he is now one of the Masters of Wisdom, along with Peter and some other of the New Testament personages, notably Mary and, well, Jesus. Jesus, as it turns out, was simply the human vehicle through which the Christ Spirit entered the world in a particular epoch -- a carpenter from Nazareth who was 'overshadowed' by the eternal Christ principle, the true identity of which has now been revealed as, well, you know who. According to Creme, Jesus now exists as one of the perfected, the 'Master Jesus', sitting at the right hand of one 'Lord Maitreya' no less. "In fact", says Creme, "I don't know but that he isn't the best of them all" (referring to Jesus' rank with respect to rest of the assembled Masters, Maitreya himself excepted, of course).
Imagine that: Jesus, the most perfected of the 'perfect men' . . . Having removed Jesus from his position as the Christ, Creme then proceeds to advance his own candidate for the role. Maitreya, as it turns out, has been operating through various World Teachers in every age (an age being an astrological period of 1000 years), overshadowing them with his own Christ spirit. Thus properly understood -- absent the errors of the New Testament writers -- Jesus is seen as simply one of a series of World Teachers who, having served their purpose, now sit at the feet of their true Lord and Master, Lord Maitreya. Creme seems to walk an interesting line with this teaching. On the one hand, not wanting to create too much separation between Maitreya and the rest of the Masters, he tries to cast Maitreya as a leader among more or less equals. On the other hand, it is quite clear that Maitreya is the Lord of the other Masters. The problem becomes apparent: to dethrone Jesus, Creme has had to do away with the concept of the "only begotten Son of God", but what he takes away with one hand, he nevertheless tries to give back (to Maitreya) with the other.
Never mind. Pay attention to this please, says Creme: something new is about to happen, something that has never happened before. In fact it has already begun: Maitreya himself has entered the world to be the World Teacher for this age, even though he has not yet publicly announced his presence. Obviously, we are blessed. The teacher himself has come to be with us, the usual "overshadowing" relationship having been dispensed with. It's all very exciting, but it does beg a couple of questions: where is he, and what is he doing?
Creme has various explanations as to just what it is that Maitreya is currently up to, and how the Maitreyan influence is even now being felt. According to Creme, the fall of the Berlin wall, the end of the cold war, the end of Apartheid in South Africa, perhaps even the Clinton Presidency, are all testimonials to the effect that Maitreya is having by dint of simply having "entered" the world. (He is now supposedly living incognito in the Pakistani section of London. Prior to that, he is reported to have dwelt for several millennia in a retreat somewhere in the Himalayas. How it is that London is more "in" the world than the Himalayas is not addressed, except for the claim that Maitreya has now assumed a bodily form.)
Who Will Believe This Stuff?
With all of the logical inconsistencies, missed dates, fantastic claims about perfected Masters living in the Himalayas, etc., etc., the question has to be raised: who is going to believe any of this stuff? One answer could be found in the crowd assembled to hear Creme's lecture. This being Berkeley and all, I had anticipated a rabble of incense-burning, love-beaded dead heads and other artifacts from the never ending summer of love which plays itself out daily on Telegraph avenue. Instead, the crowd seemed, if anything, yuppyish, stressed, mainstream. Give or take a couple of true "characters", I might have been at a service in one of the many local "progressive" churches. I was reminded of Paul's words to Timothy:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires (II Timothy 4:3, NASB)
In fairness, I must point out that Mr. Creme and his fellow travelers have, in the twenty plus years that they have been at this business, developed a fairly convincing spiel. Assuming, that is, that you are willing to "forget everything you think you know about the Christ". The pitch of the Maitreyans is familiar, yet effective. Basically, it is a platform with the following planks:
1) The world is in dire straits
2) The problems of the world are largely due to man's own competitiveness and injustice towards other men.
3) In every age, there has been provided a 'World Teacher' to show mankind the way. Maitreya is the true World Teacher, the Christ Spirit that has overshadowed each previous World Teacher, whether they were called Bhudda, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed, etc.
4) Maitreya himself has now "entered" the world to be the World Teacher for this age. He will usher in an era of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and personal fulfillment.
None of this is particularly unique, except perhaps for the details of point 3. It is the same basic game plan that has been followed by false christs throughout the ages: identify the problem, identify the hidden roots of the problem (true understanding of which usually requires some kind of 'higher' knowledge), identify the one who has come to solve the problem, promise the moon. The thing that is perhaps most striking about the teachings of Creme and his fellow Maitreyans is the lengths to which they have gone to make their message palatable to the nominal Christianity of the target audience (i.e., the West). Creme is backed by an organization known as Share International which operates, among other things, a gopher site on the Internet to distribute the teachings of Creme and his cohorts. The address for the Share International gopher is (gopher://shareintl.org:7004). Be forewarned: this stuff is poison, handle with extreme caution. Reading through the materials available at this site, and listening to Creme speak, I was repeatedly struck by how conversant the Maitreyans are with the idioms and ideas of the Christian culture. Creme and company tackle the challenge of importing Maitreya into Christianity with boldness and seeming impunity.
To be sure, some efforts are better than others: in an attempt to reconcile the coming of Maitreya with Jesus' prophecy that the world would see the Son of Man return "on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory"(Matt 24:30b, NASB) a Creme cohort, the Rev. Howard Carey, offers this gem:
Nevertheless, many of the predictions about the Second Coming are being fulfilled, even if in an unexpected manner. The prediction that Christ would come "on the clouds of heaven" (Mt. 24:30) has already been fulfilled, but in a far different way than expected. In July 1977, having created for Himself an adult physical body, and having left His ancient retreat in the Himalayas, the Christ flew to London in a jet plane, thus fulfilling the Biblical prophecy of returning "on the clouds of heaven. (From Bible Prophecy And The Second Coming by Reverend Howard Ray Carey). Share International gopher - shareintl.org:7004. Top Menu Item #10 - Traditional Religion and the Ageless Wisdom Teachings Title: Bible Prophecy and the Second Coming.
While this example may be laughable in its crudity, not all of Creme's apologetics are so easily dismissed. The central scenario, for example, of the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and Maitreya the Christ, a damnable blasphemy to be sure, nevertheless has a certain macabre consistency, the fascination of horrific evil. Consider this example from an article by Peter Liefhebber, co-editor with Creme of the monthly Share International Journal:
In reality Jesus was a fourth-degree initiate and one of the older disciples of the Masters of Wisdom. He appeared before in biblical times as Joshua, the son of Nun, then as Isaiah, and again as Joshua in the book of Zachariah. In Palestine he made the great sacrifice of allowing himself to be used by Maitreya to fulfil His mission during the three years following the baptism in the River Jordan. During his life, Jesus also symbolically enacted the five initiations which lead one to Mastership. The experience on the cross was the enactment of the 4th initiation for Jesus (his birth, the baptism, and the transfiguration on the mount symbolize the first three), while at the same time Maitreya underwent a higher initiation. (from Jesus of Nazareth and Maitreya the Christ, by Peter Liefhebber).Share International gopher - shareintl.org:7004. Top Menu Item #10 - Traditional Religion and the Ageless Wisdom Teachings. Title: Jesus of Nazareth and Maitreya the Christ.
As a "doctrine of demons" it deserves a kind of horrified respect.
That Creme and company have an intense interest in injecting the virus of Maitreya into the body Christian is obvious. One curiosity that bears mentioning in this respect is the reported Maitreya sightings that are dutifully noted in each issue of the Share International Journal. In each monthly journal, Maitreya is reported to have appeared in various locations around the world, appearing to such and such a group of people in Canada, appearing to another group in Liverpool, and always -- "water was magnetized in the area". Whether these reports have any basis in reality cannot be confirmed or dis-confirmed by this reporter. What is remarkab le about these reports, regardless of their veracity, is that Maitreya is overwhelmingly reported to appear to groups of Christians, usually described as "conservatives" or "fundamentalist". With each account is a brief synopsis of the group's reaction: "surprisingly open", "very good reception", etc. The intention is plain: Maitreya would seek to "mislead, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24b).
Maitreya the Anti-Christ?
So, who is Maitreya? A false christ, certainly. But is he the false christ, as Creme's pretensions would suggest, or just another demonic trial balloon. It is not clear, at this point, whether even the demons themselves are sure; but the evid ence would seem to indicate the latter. Whatever the case, a couple of conclusions can be drawn:
1) God alone is sovereign. Not even the demons know the details of the timetable for the revealing of the "son of perdition". They can draw conclusions based on their experience of thousands of years of history, and presumably based on super-human intellect, but in the end no one but God knows when the "time of the end" will be.
2) The man of sin, when revealed, if not actually Maitreya, will likely resemble Maitreya in many ways, particularly with respect to Maitreya's claims to the Christhood and claimed relationship to the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
But we already knew these things.
Creme claims that Maitreya will soon make a televised announcement in the USA on a "major network". Shortly thereafter, Creme claims, will come the "Day of Declaration" when Maitreya will make a global simulcast announcing his arrival. But then, of course, Creme has been making these claims for years. If however, by off chance, you happen to be flipping through the channels sometime in the "near future", and come across a bearded, scowling figure who calls himself 'Lord Maitreya' making fantastic claims about his own historical importance, rest assured that I, for one, will be holding out for a Christ who doesn't arrive by jumbo jet.
Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:42, NASB)
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