Prophet's Daughter: A Gripping Cautionary Tale


I have posted the following five-star review of Prophet’s Daughter on Amazon. There is so much more I have to say about my sister’s landmark book. Given time constraints at the moment, this will have to suffice:

  5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Cautionary Tale, September 20, 2008


By  Sean Prophet "BlackSun" (West Hills, CA United States) – See all my reviews

Erin’s book is an outstanding document, accomplishing two extremely difficult tasks: 1) Providing a history and human context for our mother’s life, and 2) Demonstrating her difficulty coming of age while faced with the expectations of following in her mother’s footsteps, and against a backdrop of constant crisis, "divine revelation," human fame and idolatry.

It is to Erin’s credit that she did a decade of research, and consulted a wide range of sources both within our family and outside of it. Her book is factually unimpeachable when it comes to its representation of the lives of our parents and the church they founded. Erin went way beyond due-diligence as an author in having her manuscript vetted and triple-checked by every member of our family.

As someone who was right by Erin’s side through most of the events that make up her narrative, I can say that she made every attempt at laser-accuracy. In my view, she has also been gracious and erred on the side of protecting her parents and the feelings of church members at almost every level. As I read through the book, I was often astounded by her dispassionate and unbiased tone even when describing very painful situations. There were many less charitable ways she could have presented the information, and some earlier drafts reflected that.

I speak here specifically to those in CUT who may be disturbed by her revelations, which some have called "salacious." I ask: What better way is there to evaluate a person’s ethics than how they lived? I would argue that like running for public office, the very act of raising oneself up as a "guru" invites and even demands just such scrutiny. For it is in the nuance of personal life decisions that character is revealed.

I applaud Erin’s discussion of mom’s meddling in her marriage. For Erin’s marriage was by no means the only one to suffer. I saw countless people humiliated and broken up. Whenever mom used to chastise married staff members, she insisted that their spouse be present–often demanding the spouse take her side and reinforce her position. People were told on a whim that their husband or wife was a "fallen one" or "betrayer"–if that person became inconvenient to mom’s agenda. Friendships, relationships and marriages were all expendable. This kind of spiritual hubris only survived as long as it did through the shame of followers to acknowledge it–a code of silence to protect the "sanctity" of the messengership on which they based their lives. I agree with Erin that it must be exposed if it is not to be repeated.

This is reinforced by the example of my own experience. I made the decision in 1985 at the age of 21 to marry Kathleen Mattson, the pregnant mother of my eldest son. Mom was violently opposed to it. She summoned me to her house in Malibu and arranged to have my best friend (a staff member) present at an all-night session where she spiritually threatened and browbeat me and convinced me to send Kathleen away to a CUT center in Vancouver. This separation lasted about 2 months until I realized that my wife-and-son-to-be were far more important to me than mom’s blessing or spiritual pronouncements. I sent Kathleen a plane ticket, and brought her back. When I told my mom of my decision, she first threatened to excommunicate us from the church and to cut off all contact. Rather than admit she might have overreached, she preferred to compound the error by instructing followers that I and her future daughter-in-law be outcast and shunned like pariahs. Eventually she saw that I wasn’t backing down, and she agreed to marry us in a group ceremony with 9 other couples, and accepted us back into the fold. Contrary to the disaster she had predicted, our marriage lasted 10 years and produced 3 (now adult) sons whom she loved dearly. As this episode demonstrates, more people should have stood up to her over the years.

But many people did not, and allowed their lives to be knocked off track. Of course the biggest example of the folly of her spiritual authority was the decision to squander the lifetime endowment of her church in a massively paranoid exercise in survival preparation.

As Erin documents, both she and I played no small part in the shelter drama, Erin on the spiritual side, and I on the engineering side. I felt that if the prophecies were real, we should spare no expense, and we didn’t. Erin gave the confirmations the engineers were looking for, and it became a runaway train of excess.

Twenty years later, now that we have the opportunity to reflect, this memoir should be seen as a cautionary tale. Rather than CUT members circling the wagons because they are uncomfortable, they should be willing to look in the mirror. They need to realize that it was their beliefs and their elevation of the "messenger" to a place of unquestioned authority that led to every abuse. It is the authority-based tradition of "gurus" and "masters" that was the essence of the problem.

Though Erin doesn’t quite reach the same conclusion, it is to me the undeniable implication of her courageous book. Once we remove anything, including spiritual authority, from the check and balance of reasoned analysis, all bets are off. Once a person claims (and people accept) prophecy and "divine revelation," all manner of abuses and wrong turns can and will result.

Erin’s book succeeds on all counts. It’s a gripping story of our mother’s downfall into paranoia, a cautionary tale about power and group dynamics, and a very personal memoir of her struggles and triumph over adversity. As her brother, as a philosopher, and as a humanist, I’m proud beyond words.

Comments (5 comments)

Peter / September 20th, 2008, 6:50 pm / #1

Once we remove anything, including spiritual authority, from the check and balance of reasoned analysis, all bets are off. Once a person claims (and people accept) prophecy and “divine revelation,” all manner of abuses and wrong turns can and will result.

This sentence says everything that has to be said about the goals of a democratic society for participation, transparency and cooperation and good governance, and their subversion by religious groups who strive for power in the name of whatever god and want to control other peoples lives.

AmenAS/Happy&Free: .) / September 20th, 2008, 7:45 pm / #2

Sean, hi, Awesome material ! The historical significance of this bk, ur site, my future bk & anyone elses for that matter, is a profound directon for further clearance on the dangers of religion. Along w/ whats been exposed already historicly for centuries & recently through the last 15 yrs w/ the Catholic Church covering their Priest’s sexual misbehavior w/ children of their congregation.
I met Sean thru my ex-step dad, boyfriend to my Mom, at the time of meeting Sean. Sam & Sean were going to North Western the same time in Chicago. Saw Sean around our “church” w/ alot of talk & gossip going around to what was going on between his Mother & him at the time. But I had the unique experience to hear from Sean’s own lips answers to questions from my Mom to him about Rock-n-Roll, sex, his mom, life. I was nine when I met Sean & heard his answers/comments. Sean, remember someone threw ur Head-n-Shoulders shampoo all out in the tub?
It was me = ) I was unaware on a Sat at the “church” how awefully bored I was and had a mischevious idea while in the blue bthrm to throw out all the shampoo into the tub, thinking when the person turns the water on it’ll fill up w/ so many bubbles & it would be soooo funny & the perfect joke!!!
Didn’t happen that way = (
Sean Sun morning days later, sat in the kichen on a counter & stoped every kid that passed by asking if he or she did it ? When u got to me, grabbing me by my arm, I said “No” & u asked me again “R u sure?” Like I was going to let u know it was me! Well eventually I got caught for other pranks I commited ; )
Going bk to subject, I’m sure as hecht buying this bk. It will be a significant healing & closure process for me growing up in the Teachings, going thru what I did as a child of a woman who entered them when I was 5 yrs old & drove me literally to a nerveous break down by the time I reached 21. I myself still am considering a very big lawsuit against the Catholic Church but my son is 8 1/2 & doesn’t deserve the publicity it would get. So it’ll have to wait.
In my bk, probably would be an old woman by the time I get to writting it, I will have alot to contribute to stuff that went on in C.U.T., besides my own life experiences w/ religion as a Latina.
After reading Erin’s bk, I will definatly be emailing Erin my gratitude for her integrity in accomplishing an important historical need! In 94, I heard from my Mother, she from the source, who Erin confided in, about Erin’s divorce. I could only think why in the world is Erin talking about such a private thing to Stanley Soszynski, when this is something a daughter discusses w/ their Mother, best friend &/or Sister’s?! S.S was like an Uncle to me from my childhood in Chicago, he was very close to my family. Finding out about Erin’s divorce this way proved to me one more time how much “Mother”, “Guru-Ma”, “The Messenger” was out of line on so many things including her lack of closesness & love w/ her own children!
I am very happy for u Sean, ur Kids, Kathleen & all ur Sister’s for having the Peace, Freedom, Love & Healing in ur lives now.
It is unfortunate that a disease like Alziemers allowed the opportunity for all of u to come closer together w/ ur Mother.
Love, not judgment, is what our world needs at all times to succed !
Peace & Love to u & ur sister’s always. I got to know all of u a little eccept for Moira.
Sincerely, a Human Sister,
Amen Amparo Sigala

Wilma / October 2nd, 2008, 1:25 pm / #3

I read the book. To be honest, I couldn't put it down, finished it in one sitting (minus dinner with my family). It's a very well written book, an honest and sober account of your sister's personal experiences. As an ex member, it's so awesome to get to read an account from basically part of the source of it all.

Sean, I can imagine you're very proud of your sister. The book is so well written and is so raw and honest. I've often wondered what it would have been like, to grow up like that. I was happy to read the four of you get along so well now.

How's your documentary coming?

kathy hartley / October 5th, 2008, 6:37 pm / #4

I have also read Erin Prophet’s book. I was a very active member of Church Universal for 15 years although never joined the staff- I got out with the survival activity in Montanan as it didn’t make sense to me-if these teaching were true, why the need to resort to fear & desperation? I saw many members lose their life savings building those unbelievable shelters. Elizabeth Clare Prophet was a wonderful teacher in many ways, and as a teacher, I appreciate and respect that. However, I am deeply saddened what she put her children through and many people I cared about. Thank you for your courage in writing the book, Erin, and thank you, Sean, for your comments. It is helpful for closure and healing. My best, Kathy Hartley

charles alexander / December 29th, 2008, 10:47 am / #5

As a humanist/agnostic student of American-based religions (of which Christian Science and Theosophy, and Mormonism are well-known examples). I found Erin Prophet's book to be informative, insightful, and well written. I also found it astounding that so many sincere people were taken in by this long-running (going back to the Ballards) panoply of mysticism, magic, and downright mental quackery. And, in spite of all that has happened — the negative media publicity, the bomb shelter fiasco, the failure of the so-called Ascended Masters to protect their beloved messenger from a sad, secluded, alienated end — apparently CUT still continues to this day, albeit it without its colorful leader (like HBP she was that) or the spiritual "authority" it once held and enjoyed. El Morya perhaps has finally been benched for good!

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