Article

And, who are you?

The last time I saw my mother

Mom_and_family

It was a beautiful day in October, 2000, in Bozeman, Montana. My three sisters and I all managed to find ourselves there at the same time, to visit our mom. Our stepfather Edward Francis and his wife Eileen also live in Bozeman, with their son (my little brother) Seth. It was a family reunion of sorts. Moira and I flew in from Los Angeles, and Tatiana from Atlanta. Erin also lived in Bozeman with her husband John Devine.

It was not exactly a happy occasion, although parts of it seemed that way. We were all getting used to a new reality–our mother was wasting away from Alzheimer’s disease. Her body and mind were slowly losing their grip. I didn’t know how far she had fallen. The previous year, I’d come to Montana for mom’s 60th birthday celebration, April 8, 1999. That celebration was held at church headquarters in Corwin Springs, and mom still seemed more or less herself. Now, 18 months later, I didn’t know what to expect.

We gathered at the Devine’s house–all the family who were in town, and a select few other friends. Mom arrived with her caregiver team. I greeted her with a hug. “And who are you?” she asked. “I’m Sean,” I said. This was my first real brush with her Alzheimer’s. I thought she was joking, or possibly playing a game with me. “You really don’t know who I am?” I asked? “No.” she replied. “I’m your son.” I said, stunned. She looked at me with no trace of emotion. I was too shocked to speak. She greeted the rest of our family.

In the 36 years I had known my mom, she did not have a lot of happiness. On that day, even though she didn’t know who we were, I sensed that at some level she knew we were family, that she was happy and “in the moment.” But it Mom_horsewas still a shocking thing. It’s a feeling like no other. I’m sure anyone who’s ever cared for an ailing parent knows what I mean. There’s a point when the balance shifts–when a parent crosses a threshold. From being someone you relied on, who was superior, larger than life. Though it may happen gradually, especially when large distances are involved, it still seems like a moment in time. Suddenly the idol comes crashing down. What’s left is the shell of a person. Not only have they lost their power and psychological hold over you, they can’t even take care of themselves. Such is the degeneration of the human brain.

This process was made even more dramatic by the collapse of her career and ministry that had occurred over the previous 5 years. She had gradually withdrawn from public appearances, and finally she moved away from the Ranch, so she could get the full-time care she needed, and also have ready access to the local hospital.

All this had happened over a period of years, while I was busily making TV in Los Angeles. Erin had told me that mom was getting worse. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock of her question: “And, who are you?”

Bozeman_airport

Some of us regrouped in a more private area and passed a pipe around. The situation couldn’t have been more surreal. I needed some introspective time. I needed to heighten my sense of reflection. The woman I’d turned to for answers for most of my life, (who thousands of people thought was the voice of fucking GOD!!) was standing outside, and could no longer recognize her own children!

We rejoined the group, and walked mom slowly through the suburban neighborhood. Erin had her dog Millie on a leash. We laughed and talked to each other, and tried to keep mom company. To an outside observer, we could have been any typical American family walking through Pleasantville. But the irony was intense. Growing up, how many times had the four of us been paraded around by our mom, shown off to her congregation? We had walked the walk and talked the talk.

Lake

Erin and I had both been ministers and board members of the church. We’d performed weddings. We’d traveled the world by our mom’s side, me with the AV crew, Erin with the writing team. We’d watched her do the impossible, keep an impossible schedule, drive people hard. But we’d always played second fiddle. In those days, we had obeyed her orders without question. At various times over the years when we all worked for her, we’d challenged her authority. She never blinked. In the end, she gave her children the proverbial two choices: Her way or the highway. All of us had taken the highway. Today, she needed our help to get around a neighborhood.


Comments (21 comments)

Aaron Kinney / December 20th, 2005, 10:48 am / #1

That is an intense story. The role-reversal of sorts that occurs due to the passage of time is somewhat saddening. To see the person that raised you now need help from those she raised must mess with ones head. My parents are getting older and I know that day will come for me soon enough.

Obviously, the prominence your mom had all her adult life through the church only intensified these strange feelings that age and time cause upon a family. Wow.

I think to work backwards with your story is a good idea for the reasons you cited. I am looking forward to your next entry!

BlackSun / December 21st, 2005, 8:43 am / #2

Hey Aaron, thanks for reading and your supportive comments.

Benson Flores / January 13th, 2006, 5:57 am / #3

Sean,

Thank you for sharing about your family and your life at the church. I know this must be painful to write about, but I suspect it will be healing for yourself and many others. It was hard for me, as a former member of the church, to watch the failing health of your mom, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for you and your sisters. Old age of any sort is hard to deal with, but the sudden memory loss of Alzheimer’s just sucks.

I, too, have only recently been able to openly talk and write about my experiences with the church. It’s one of many closets I’ve come out of since my brief stint at Camelot and 4 years on staff in Montana.

I look forward to reading your posts!

Sincerely,
Benson Flores

BlackSun / January 15th, 2006, 11:36 am / #4

Benson, yes it’s been hard to watch. But also, there is the added dimension of what her life stood for and what she did with her strength and intelligence while she had it. This makes it complex in the extreme.

I’m only glad that many such as yourself have had the courage and fortitude to move on and build lives of individualism and self-acceptance. External challenges–no matter how dire–are much easier to deal with once we have made peace with who we are.

Jen / January 17th, 2006, 4:44 pm / #5

Sean:

I hear a lot of unresolved anger in your story. Your mother’s illness is humanizing her to your family. I hope you can get past your anger and have more compassion for the sacrifices she made for you. She gave you life for one thing and she helped you to see yourself in a new light. For that you need to be grateful vs. attack her character. I hope you can get past this phase and stop bashing her. She is worth more then you are giving her credit for in your story.

Also, these teachings are not for everyone because not everyone comes in at the same attainment level(you know this). For example, Tom Cruise(who means well) needs to learn to save himself vs. try and save our world with Scientology that doesn’t fit everyone’s level of attainment.

I am sorry you feel you were given a cross to bear that was to heavy. You elected to be her son and now you need to forgive her for only being what she is… human.

When in a trap forgiveness and compassion are the fastest ways out the buddhist teaches. After your shock wears off that your mother is human too, maybe you can forgive again.

BlackSun / January 17th, 2006, 8:24 pm / #6

“I hear a lot of unresolved anger in your story”

Jen, I think you need to rethink your stance: You are starting off with a kind of holier-than-thou amateur psychoanalysis, as well as an ad hominem attack. What does that accomplish except to show how self-righteous you are?

I’m trying to offer an insider’s perspective on a woman who had a great deal of impact on many people’s lives. I’m sorry if you don’t like the picture I’m painting. But I was in a position to see things most people did not. If you have any new information to add, from first-hand experience, I’d love to hear it.

No one asks to be born. I gave my three sons life, and I don’t expect them to do anything other than be the best people they can be. They don’t owe me any loyalty or support that I don’t earn. It’s a chain. We pay back our parents by doing right by our kids. In this circumstance, I’m actually also doing right by my mom. Toward the end, she began to realize and own up to her abuses of power. She pretty much ASKED me to do what I’m doing on this journal. I will talk more about this later.

“Not everyone comes in at the same attainment level.”

This statement is meaningless unless you are talking about variations in DNA. There is no evidence whatsoever for an afterlife, or karmic board, or cosmic council, or ‘volunteering’ to be born. There is no evidence at all for claims of reincarnation. If you believe in that stuff, you probably need to see a psychiatrist.

As far as being “ready” for the ‘teachings:’ I wouldn’t be worried about that. As P.T. Barnum was reported to have said, “there’s a sucker born every minute.” My question to you is: Are you ready to give up your otherworldly fantasies and accept the world as it is? I’m guessing not, and you’d rather attack me than even entertain the possibility. You have too much of your life invested. What will it take for you to get “ready?”

“After your shock wears off that your mother is human too, maybe you can forgive again.”

I’m not going to sugar coat anything for you because you’ve turned ECP into some kind of personal saviour or god. Jen, YOU need to accept that she was human; it was precisely my point in this post.

Actually, my sisters and I probably saw her as more human than anyone. We accepted her for who she was, and stood by her side and devoted our lives to her for many years, warts and all.

“forgiveness and compassion”

are the biggest canards of the ‘new age.’ How much compassion do you see in the world today? How much compassion do you think has been present in the brutal process of evolution? The rules of life are set. They involve self-interest, fair exchange, hard work and competition. If you want to become a better person, make a better world, or even play to a draw at the game of life, you need to at least learn the rules.

Sandra / January 23rd, 2006, 1:17 pm / #7

Sean,

I was a member of CUT from 1985 thru
1990.

My two children attended M.I. and my husband and I were part time staff.He was in contruction, and I worked part time kitchen (Big Spur), part time school(Toddler and Primary Class)There were lots of things that I would question-only to be told that I was being rebellious :-) I liked being rebellious I guess, because I just could never stop asking questions.

We never lived in the cramped staff housing that we often heard about, instead,we were fortunate enough to own our own home in the Valley, right next to Big Spur, and we never really became part of the inner circle…However, we did get involved in building a shelter (that we we still like to visit every year)and spent every last dime on it.Lesson learned-right?

After the shelter cycle, we lost just about everything-including our home in the Valley. So we relocated back to our home state-which was humiliating, since we went through the whole emotional ritual of saying goodbye – and telling everyone that the world was coming to an end,and we were going to Montana to try to save it(my God, what were we thinking?!)…

When we returned just about penniless and literally homeless,that is when I received the best advice from my Mother-(an incredible lady who lived through two wars and survived a Japanese Concentration Camp) She said ” Honey, you can get thru this laughing, or get through this crying.Just realize, you WILL get thru this!” Such wonderful advice! I decided to take the high road to laughter-so whenever people would ask me about the “cult” and how we lost everything, I would smile and say “Yes, we belonged to a cult and lost eveything,we built a shelter that will house 100 people, and yes it was bizarre!” They would either look at me like I was some looney tune that had just been released from an insane assylum,or they would be so curious that they would have a million questions to ask-either way it is quite enjoyable.

Now 16 years later,we are quite successful, have put both of our children through college,travel quite a bit, and are in the process of building our dream home…

So in a sense, the church was a catapult in my life-it made me stand up and see what is really out there and move on and take a different approach in life.I guess there is a learning process in everything we do. There are some strange people out there with different beliefs,and I will always be open to listen, but as far as following without questioning…that will never happen again.

In regarding the CUT and the community-they to me,are two different subjects. The Church was controlling and somewhat mean spirited.I remember actually being reprimanded because I questioned why my husband had to work on Christmas Day.Once when my 5 year old came down with scarlett fever (the first case in the area after 20 some odd years)- we were told that we didn’t decree enough and because of that he didn’t have enough protection.It basically was our fault.We were reprimanded AGAIN. “Gee, thanks guys-oh and by the way…the doctor said my son will be fine…”

However, the staff and community were
some of the sweetest souls that I have ever met…I still stay in contact with many of them to this day.They helped this rebellious soul whenever they were able, and their support was what got me through those horrible times when my mouth would not stay shut :-)

So in a nutshell,we have some sad memories, some are even downright bad.But we just smile and move on.

On a lighter note, my children are now fully grown-they are more experienced and knowledgable than I ever was at their age!Thankfully,they were not deeply scarred by their experiences in the Church ( thank God)Sometimes we will talk about it and have a good laugh- ie;”remember whenever we heard rock music we had to cross our arms and legs -even in public!?” “remember when I was told ittsey bittsey spider was an evil song?” ‘remember when we were told the color red was bad – it attracted horrible entities? “Remember when El Morya was benched and we couldn’t eat sweets?” “Remember that night when we stayed in the shelter because we thought the world was coming to an end?”…God, what WERE we thinking????

BlackSun / January 24th, 2006, 2:05 am / #8

Sandra, thanks so much for sharing your story. I was in Montana from 1988-1993, so I was of course in the middle of all that. I was also on the shelter team, so I’m intimately familiar with what you’re describing.

It took me many years to get on my feet also. My kids fortunately barely remember any of the drama.

Anyway, it’s good to know that you got your life on track.

“However, the staff and community were
some of the sweetest souls that I have ever met…I still stay in contact with many of them to this day.”

Ditto. Most of my best friends are people I met in CUT. To me, knowing those people is worth all the years of difficulties.

Best regards to you and your family–

Linda Anderson / June 23rd, 2006, 11:14 pm / #9

Hi Sean, Thank you for sharing your feelings with us all. My mother, too went thru some difficult times towards the conclusion of her life. I am hopeful that this will be a time of healing for you and all your family and friends. We all need healing don’t we.

Love,

Linda

BlackSun / June 24th, 2006, 9:51 am / #10

Thanks, Linda. Yes, we all do need healing. What helps me most in that department is introspection, meditation, and greater appreciation of the natural universe.

Sarah Biggerstaff / June 15th, 2007, 9:27 pm / #11

I was born and raised into CUT and I am 19 years old now. My parents are not simply in the teachings, they live the teachings, my dad being a fanatic to a certain extent. I honestly cannot say whether I believe it all or not. I honestly wish so much that I could know in my heart whether it is all the honest truth, or simply a fraud and even as others have called it – a cult. I think I have never felt like a normal person after being raised in this “church.” I think a lot of that was my own self and my own personal struggles, but a lot was due to the teachings. All my life growing up I heard these same things, I was shamed upon for wearing black, red or orange and told day after day after day how sinful alcohol was, not to mention tobacco or other drugs.

My mom is honest the God one of the sweetest ladies on the face of the earth. She is so devout to the teachings and beliefs them with every fiber of her being. She frowns on me for “rejecting the truth” and my Dad honestly believes that God speaks directly to him, telling him the future on a number of different things, all of which have turned out to be wrong time and time again.

The people, the community that belong to CUT are good, honest, decent people who really believe the teachings to be the truth. I am not saying that they are not the truth, I readily accept ideas like reincarnation and other new age ideas but my doubts about the church are greater than my acceptances, at least at this point. I feel lost and alone in what I believe, like I never fit in because of this ‘secret.’ All growing up I never spoke a word of my ‘church’ to anyone, I never told anyone what I believed or didn’t, except that I was a Christian. I can’t honestly even tell people I’m a Christian anymore. Anyway, the point of this is that growing up this way has simply caused me a lot of grief, confusion and mild heart ache. My parents are living, breathing members of CUT and so I feel I have no real escape to CUT. It will always be with me, be a part of me, no matter what I do or where I go. Even if I reject CUT completely, it will always be a part of me.

Anyway, I’m not trying to turn anyone away from CUT, because I think there may be a lot of truth in the teachings. But the way the church has come across as far as condemning everything imaginable, from colors of black and red, to premarital sex, to alcohol, drugs, chocolate, sugar and the list goes on and on. Even if all of those teachings are absolutely correct, being domineering about these issues in our society today I do not see as practical. Obviously, practical is not what the church is going for, but that is my opinion coming from a 19 year old teenager being raised in the US and in this organization at the same time.

Anyhoo, my path of discovery has only begun. I guess I’m not accepting that its okay not to know what I believe, but I just wish I had more people to talk about this with. I feel very alone. In some ways I do feel like I was raised in a cult but not completely. These people are kind and true people, they honestly love God and have good intentions. Thats all I have to say for now. :)

BlackSun / June 15th, 2007, 11:09 pm / #12

Sarah,

I really do think it’s possible for people to be sincere and still deluded. I think my parents were the same way.

I know you’re really confused right now. I understand how hard it is to know what’s true and what’s not. It took me several years after leaving to finally say to myself “there are no masters, it was all fake.” Just think about if you had not been born into this faith, and been raised differently. You’d probably believe in whatever faith your parents taught you.

You are the age of my children, and I so wish you could be free of the load and burden you have been given.

my Dad honestly believes that God speaks directly to him, telling him the future on a number of different things, all of which have turned out to be wrong time and time again.

You need to establish a basis for what you accept and discard everything that does not meet that standard. I’d say the best you can do is to only believe what you can see and feel with your senses. Just try that for awhile and see what happens.

Regards to you,

Sean

Doris Tracey / June 20th, 2007, 2:48 am / #13

This coment is for Sarah,

This church is not for everyone right now. The members who are in the church and stay truly belong there and others come and go and that is a good thing for them. We all must seek and find who we truly are and we must follow our heart. You must have passion for what you are doing or your fire will become extinguished. We cannot live for other people, that is called idolotry. If people knew who they were, they would not be confused. I am a member of the church only because this was my calling and so far is right for me. Someday I may be called away fom this church and I will have to listen. You have to find yourself through experience, right or wrong. Your motives will determine where you end up. What are you waiting for Sarah!!!

Matthew Crown / June 30th, 2007, 9:10 am / #14

Hi Sarah. As a long time Summit associate, I would like to share a few thoughts.

I understand your pain in growing up somewhat excluded from society. As one who grew up with zero spirituality, with atheist parents, I assure you that that is also hard. “The grass always looks greener on teh other side of the fence.”

The way the teachings of the masters have been brought forth is indeed unfortunate. Avoiding the negatives has been stressed to the point of fixation while the direct personal experience of the light, beauty and higher life has too much been neglected. All the “don’ts” in the world won’t get us to heaven. Though they do have a purpose when kept in balance.

The light itself is blissful and leaves the “don’ts” as ashes in the mouth. But… if people don’t experience the Light because they are just relying on rules, then people don’t get the bliss and feel deprived.

Morya wanted the community to be a ‘gnostic’ affiliation of spiritual friends. Gnostics seek direct personal knowledge of the divine. A rule-based church is lifeless.

I suggest you pursue direct experience of the light and masters. A ‘vision quest’ might help. Ask the angels to lead you to what you need and show you the truth. And keep on asking until you get it.

You say you wish you could know in your heart if the Teachigns “are the truth”.

Even if they are the truth, the key question is how you can ***experience*** that truth yourself. Many more know *about* the truth than actually become it and experience it. May you find your own way.

Namaste…

BlackSun / June 30th, 2007, 9:55 am / #15

As one who grew up with zero spirituality, with atheist parents, I assure you that that is also hard.

Hi Matthew. I know you’re trying to rescue Sarah from her doubts. But growing up is hard, period. Confusing the issue by foisting a bunch of religious guilt trips on a young mind is practically child abuse. And so is the idea that the personal subjectivity you call “direct experience” is the cure.

Morya wanted the community to be a ‘gnostic’ affiliation of spiritual friends.

Morya is a fantasy character created out of the whole cloth by H.P. Blavatsky. You might as well say “Superman wanted,” or “Sherlock Holmes wanted.”

I suggest you pursue direct experience of the light and masters.

,,,Thereby elevating personal subjectivity and narcissism to high art. Sarah, there is no “there” there. Pursue human knowledge, science, and philosophy. Fill your head with the best information the world has to offer–facts and information that people have struggled for thousands of years to painstakingly compile. Epistemology and ontology, the nature of what is real and unreal. They are the replacement for these outmoded and fantastical escapist belief systems. Start with Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World.”

Once you understand a good chunk of human knowledge, you can still meditate and go on personal vision quests without the risk of wasting decades of your life skittering off into unreality and boundless delusion.

‘Spirituality,’–like the religion in which both you and I were raised–is a fool’s paradise.

Matthew Crown / June 30th, 2007, 11:50 am / #16

Sean, as I was reading your response, I had to laugh- not disrespectfully, but, you really are a lot like your mom. You have remarked on her remarkable lack of introspection in many things.

I might suggest you try phrases in your dialogue such as

“It seems to me” or “It looks to me like”

“It may be that…”

“I have seen indications that…”

Although it may seem to be an indulgence in thy dreaded “personal subjectivity” to use such terms, looked at another way it is actually a form of objectivity.

And it makes dialogue much more fulfilling.

Vondir

BlackSun / June 30th, 2007, 12:19 pm / #17

…teachings of the masters have been brought forth…higher life has too much been neglected…The light itself is blissful…Morya wanted the community…

All stated as absolute truths without a trace of irony. You might try taking your own advice, Matthew ;-)

you really are a lot like your mom.

And whose teachings are you following? Vondir, dude. The joke’s on you.

Matthew Crown / June 30th, 2007, 2:35 pm / #18

Duly noted. I shall try to take my own advice and mend why ways.

“All stated as absolute truths…”

I guess it is rather a bother to be continually qualifying one’s decided opinions as such. Is there some type of happy middle point?

Say hi to Kathleen for me, if you like- from “Matthew Crow”

BlackSun / June 30th, 2007, 2:52 pm / #19

Is there some type of happy middle point?

I like to stick with empiricism, evidence, and probability. It’s a lot less confusing. I’ll pass the message along to Kathleen.

BTW: Crow is soooo much better than Crown, in my opinion. :-)

kezia / November 4th, 2007, 10:01 pm / #20

Would anyone be willing to answer a few quick questions for me… from either side of the debate? I’m going to publish an article shortly on…”The I am that I am: The CUT Child” and I want to give a factual approach, cooled from the situation so that the reader might step in and create their own opinion based on what affect that the church had on a child.” I have a close friend who carries pejorative feelings about the church and I want to honor his experience with fact, not opinion.

Thank you.

Kayla / November 13th, 2008, 8:26 pm / #21

I realize that no one has posted under this blog for awhile, but this message is for Sarah Biggerstaff.
I was just wanting to let her know that she is now alone in her confusion. I am about 21 years old and trying to figure out my background in the the teachings. I was born in the teachings and my dad used to be on staff. I only lived in Montana for a few years, as we we were not down there legally, as we are Canadian. At the age of 16, I started to question the Church of Universal and Triumphant. Not being sure what was real and what was not. It wasn’t until these past couple of months did I really get interested in finding the truth.
It’s been quite an experience growing up thinking one thing and then finding out things were not as they seemed. Unlike Sarah though, my mom shares my views and is enjoying Erin Prophets book very much. I don’t talk to my father anymore, but from what I hear, he is realizing the truth as well.
I wish I could cut myself off from the church completely, but I still have many friends who are still in the church and some who don’t consider themselves members anymore. I don’t want to lose these friends as they are the only ones who understand where I come from and what it is like growing up in the teachings. I have always felt a great connection with these friends. Though, however I dread the day that I may lose a friendship based on two different ideas of the truth.
Sean, I find your site very informative and look forward to the shelter documentary. One of my earliest memories if of that night of going into the shelter and crying as I was frightened and being carried by my mom who was pregnant with my sister at the time. It’s neat to see everything from a adult perspective and understanding it all now.
I believe the church is not right for me at this moment and not sure if it will ever be again. I do consider myself spiritual and may call on “Arc-Angel Micheal” from time to time, but that’s about it. I’m not interested in being apart of another church until I feel it is right. I feel in the meantime I needs comes to terms with my past and move on.

I apologize if I don’t make sense at times, I just have too many things to say at once.

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