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The Belief with No Name

The Good Word

Karen Stollznow

December 21, 2010

Share International comprises an eclectic set of paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs and practices, and endeavors to appeal to people of all faiths

There is a group of people who believe that the world is a global village and all people are members of one human family. They also believe in a wider family of “Space Brothers” and “Space Sisters” who live on Mars and Venus but visit Earth frequently to protect us from ourselves. They believe that a god, who will soon emerge from hiding and rid the world of poverty, hunger, disease, and disaster, lives among us.

The ideology of this multi-religious New Age sect awkwardly combines crop circles, UFOs, socialism, messiah worship, popular religious doctrine, mediumship, astrology, Breatharianism, reincarnation, psychic healing, and doomsday prophecy. But there is no name for this belief—or these believers.

These theories can be traced back to an organization called Share International, which was founded by guru Benjamin Creme, the British author of The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom, Messages from Maitreya, the Christ, and The World Teacher for All Humanity.

Share International, which has been in existence for almost thirty years, has offices in Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam, and Tokyo. The group holds regular speaking engagements, and I attended a lecture by Michiko Ishikawa, one of Creme’s followers. “UFOs and Their Spiritual Mission” was presented before over 250 attendees, and Ishikawa gave an overview of Share International’s beliefs as she spoke about “The Emergence of the World Teacher and the role of UFOs.”

Maitreya, the World Teacher

Creme and his followers believe that Christ, the Messiah, Imam Mahdi, Krishna, and Buddha are all different names for the same being: Maitreya, the World Teacher. This claim fulfils the Buddhist prophecy of the emergence of a great teacher named Maitreya, but it also panders to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and a host of other spiritual beliefs.

Maitreya is known alternatively as a god, all gods, a teacher, a Highly-Evolved Being, the Embodiment of the Love of God, the One who Knows, a Spirit of Peace, a Colossal Cosmic Avatar, and the Architect of the Planet. Maitreya is a deity in a mortal form. Ishikawa explained, “Since July 1977 Maitreya has lived in the Asian community in London, preparing for His open mission in the world.”

Maitreya heads a posse of fourteen “Masters of Wisdom.” These are “perfected individuals” who aren’t gods or humans but rather some kind of disciples who have been reincarnated across the evolution of the planet. This belief is based on the writings of Helena Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy. According to Creme:

Share International dabbles in modern day prophecy. Its doctrine comes from Maitreya and the Masters of Wisdom (which sounds like the name of a bad 1960s folk band), via Creme. Curiously, Creme is the only link Share International has to Maitreya and the Masters.

Since 1959 Creme has been in “constant telepathic rapport” with Maitreya and the Masters. Creme uses a technique called “mental overshadowing,” although he doesn’t use the labels “channeler” or “medium.” He claims that when he is overshadowed, Maitreya or a Master possesses his body and a golden aura surrounds them both. Creme has produced “evidence” of this phenomenon. A series of photographs supposedly show Creme as he is being overshadowed by Maitreya. These are poor quality, blurry images of Creme taken without a flash; the only thing they are good evidence of is bad photography.

Maitreya and the various Masters dictate messages and prayers to Creme. These messages then appear in Share International’s monthly magazine named after the organization. Share International is published in five languages and read in seventy countries. I had to laugh when an acolyte tried to sell me a subscription to the organization’s newsletter with, “This is the only magazine that features articles by a Master of Wisdom!”

Share International has some legitimate humanitarian concerns: war, the economy, the environment, education, hunger, and poverty. It just doesn’t have a solution to these problems beyond the simplistic, “The way is sharing, the straightforward demonstration of the oneness of men.”2

Members of the organization have a Utopian goal to “end hunger and poverty, restore the earth, establish peace,” and create a “golden Civilization.” They believe the end of the world is nigh: “Humanity has a choice—to share or perish utterly.” To implement the “urgent change” required, Maitreya will soon emerge from hiding to become involved in our everyday world. Already, we are receiving glimpses of his greatness.

The Maitreyan Apparitions

According to Creme, in 1977 Maitreya materialized in a physical body in the Himalayas. Although he can teleport himself anywhere across the solar system, Maitreya instead humbly booked a flight to England.3 He resides in Brick Lane, an East End district of London known for its Bangladeshi-Sylheti community.

Information about Maitreya is scant and comes solely from Creme, who tells us the World Teacher is a 6’3” tall male of Indian descent who wears a long beard and dresses in white robes. Sometimes. Alternatively, “He can change His appearance at will. He can be old or young, man or woman, fair or dark. In this way, everyone can identify with Him.”4

As “proof” of his supernatural status, Maitreya doesn’t have a navel. He doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t eat food because he lives off “Prana,” i.e., breath. Conveniently, he can eat if socially required (which is fortunate, because Brick Lane is famous for its great curry houses). But what proof do we have of Maiterya’s existence?

Maitreya reputedly appeared before 6,000 people in Kenya on June 11, 1988. A bearded, barefooted man arrived at the Church of Bethlehem in Kawangware, Nairobi, dressed in a white robe with light emanating from his head and feet. He had this profound message for the assembled crowd: “We are nearing the time for the reign of heaven. But before that I shall come back and bring a bucketful of blessings for all of you.”5

At that, the mysterious man left and was given a ride to a nearby bus terminal by a Mr Gurnam Singh. Like the infamous vanishing hitchhiker urban legend, when they reached their destination “the man informed Mr. Singh to stop the car. On getting out, he walked a few paces beside the road and simply vanished into thin air.”6

The Masters of Wisdom, viz Creme, confirmed that this was a miraculous appearance of Maitreya. Unsurprisingly, Creme verifies every alleged sighting. He reports that Maitreya has already appeared on television and online and that he makes at least twenty-six appearances daily to individuals in apparitions or dreams. Because Maitreya is “all gods,” Creme counts claimed apparitions of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and indigenous deities as Maitreya. Share International maintains a list of Maitreya’s World Wide Appearances,7 and there are as many sightings of him as there are of Bigfoot.

Both in person and remotely, Maitreya supposedly performs miracles, specializing in “peace miracles.” Creme attributes the end of the Cold War, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and the fall of the Berlin Wall to Maitreya.8 He claims Maitreya visits hospitals anonymously and heals patients and that he has cured thousands of cases of AIDS through intercessory prayer.9 Creme is also the creator of Transmission Meditation, a form of “healing” that is “simple, safe, scientific, non-denominational, and extremely potent.”10 He believes this meditation can solve most of Share International’s global concerns.

Creme credits Maitreya with creating statues that appear to drink milk, weep, and bleed; mysterious “crosses of light”; springs of healing water; and “holy messages in fruit and vegetables.” Apparently, Maitreya’s handprint appeared on a mirror in Barcelona. The image is reputed to be three-dimensional in appearance, similar to the Shroud of Turin (which is not a fake, according to Creme). The image supposedly has healing properties, and by placing your hand over a photo of the hand, or even by simply looking at it, “you are in effect calling forth Maitreya’s healing, blessing or help—whatever is possible within karmic law.”

Creme claims to have made accurate predictions about political events, predicting (after the fact) the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California. However, most of Maitreya/Creme’s prophecies have not eventuated, and his grandiose failed proclamations have been parodied by the British media.

UFOs for God

What proof do we have of Maitreya’s impending emergence? UFOs.

Ishikawa spoke about “the reality of UFOs, because they are real. They are not fantasy or a dream but they exist based on our knowledge, and they affect our daily lives.” UFOs fly invisibly about us all the time, “but we see them only when they want us to see them. They lower their vibrations so we can see them and raise their vibrations when they want to disappear.” According to Creme, UFOs have been visiting Earth for thousands of years. Ishikawa asserted, “The light that guided the three wise men was not a star, it was a UFO.”

Creme is an adherent of UFOlogists George Adamski and Desmond Leslie and was once vice president of the Aetherius Society, a UFO-based religious movement. Creme says that UFOs have been especially prevalent since the end of World War II, but their existence is a secret that has been covered up by the government. Share International’s beliefs about UFOs incorporate various conspiracy theories and make demands for disclosure. As a Master of Wisdom dictated to Creme:

Ishikawa explains that UFOs are not “aliens” or “extraterrestrials” but “Space People.” She further insisted that we have “many Space Brothers and Space Sisters.” This ludicrous claim of discrimination against imaginary creatures reminded me of “Disclosure Activist” Jeff Peckman’s claim that “little green men” is a “racial slur.”12

Ishikawa subscribes to the “good aliens” theory: “They are not monsters. They could attack Earth with a destructive beam of light if they wanted to, but they don’t.” Abductions are commonplace too, but they for our own good. Also, Space People “only abduct the etheric body, not the physical body.”

Space People monitor us on Earth. They are far more progressed technologically than we are, and it is their role to reduce the impact of human destruction. “The Earth would be uninhabitable now without them,” Ishikawa explained. But before you ask, Space People “can’t prevent disasters because of karmic restrictions.” As a Master of Wisdom dictated to Creme:

What is the evidence for UFOs and Space People? Crop circles.

Ishikawa stated that crop circles are messages from Maitreya, delivered to us by Space People; “they are pushing love letters under the door for humanity.” Creme explains the connection:

Apparently, crop circles are created in a matter of seconds by the Space People’s ships, and they primarily appear in the south of England because Maitreya lives in London. Creme even claims that UFOs will provide us with new forms of energy that will save the world. He also believes that crop circles, astronomical phenomena, alleged UFO sightings, and natural patterns of light all herald the “Reappearance of the Christ,” the impending public emergence of Maitreya.

Someone needs to tell these people that crop circles are pranks.

The Reluctant Messiah

According to Creme, Maitreya will emerge one day soon. That day was supposed to be Monday June 21, 1982, but Maitreya never appeared. Legend has it that Creme and his minions waited for Maitreya in a stakeout in a London pub. A man in robes appeared, and the crowd gasped—until he took a drink from a bottle inside a brown paper bag.

Again in 1997, Maitreya was supposed to make an appearance but never did. Creme blamed the media for these no shows, stating that their lack of interest in the event proved that the world was not yet ready for Maitreya. Maybe the world isn’t ready for Crème.

Then there was a false messiah, if only by default. During January 2010, economist and activist Raj Patel was unwittingly identified as Maitreya by Creme’s adherents. British-born Patel, of Indian descent and author of such humanistic titles as Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing, seemed to encapsulate the exact background and philosophies of the long-awaited Maitreya. Patel had even traveled to London in 1977, although he didn’t wear a beard or dress in robes.

Patel received a flood of e-mails from people anxious for the arrival of Maitreya asking him if he was “the one.” Possibly hedging his bets, Creme’s reaction was ambiguous. But Patel was a reluctant Messiah; he had never even heard of Creme or Share International. He emphatically denied being Maitreya, and replied publicly, “Sadly, I’m not the Messiah. I’m just a very naughty boy.”

Creme eventually responded cryptically, “Maitreya’s never denied being Maitreya,” Creme said. “He’s never been asked.”15 To one journalist Creme stated, “If Maitreya was asked, ‘Are you Maitreya?,’ he would know before you said it that you were thinking it, and he could erase it from your mind. You would forget you had ever asked.”16 Patel and Creme eventually had a private meeting after which the economist described Creme as “bonkers.” But Creme is still convinced that the real Maitreya will acknowledge his true identity and that it will happen “soon.”

The First Coming

Maitreya’s arrival will be a “Day of Declaration.” On this day, Maitreya will mentally “overshadow” all of humankind, meaning he will establish telepathic communication with everyone on Earth in the native language of each individual. Then, Maitreya will send the energy of love into our hearts, and there will be miraculous healings on Earth. Finally, Maitreya will rid the world of all problems and initiate the Age of Aquarius. Ishikawa added, “and there will be new revelations we don’t even have names for!”

Share International comprises an eclectic set of paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs and practices. The group endeavors to appeal to people of all faiths, and it leverages the history and claims of established religions. Yet this belief has no name; proponents are not Maitreyans, Sharists, or Cremians. They just believe, blindly, in the confused tenets of Share International. Creme seems to play the role of guru as the only person with access to the deity, disciples, and doctrine; Share International is an organization that bears watching.

References

1. The Master (through Benjamin Creme). 2006. Invisible peril. Share International 25(5) (June). Share International, USA.

2. The Master (through Benjamin Creme). 2007. The way to the stars. Share International 26(3) (April). Share International, USA.

3. Creme, Benjamin. 1986. Maitreya’s Mission (Second Edition). Amsterdam: Share International Foundation, 46.

4. Share International. FAQ. Available at www.share-international.org/archives/appearances/faq_appearances-meeting.htm. Accessed December 13, 2010.

5. Share International. Signs and miracles: Maitreya in Nairobi. Available at www.share-international.org/background/miracles/MI_nairobi.htm. Accessed December 9, 2010

6. ibid.

7. Share International. Maitreya’s world wide appearances. Available at www.share-international.org/maitreya/Ma_wwa.htm. Accessed December 9, 2010.

8. Share International. “The World Teacher is Now Here” (handout).

9. Share International. Maitreya’s forecasts. Available at www.share-international.org/maitreya/Ma_fcst.htm. Accessed December 9, 2010.

10. Share International. Transition Meditation. Available at www.share-international.org/background/xmission/tm_main.htm. Accessed December 9, 2010.

11. The Master (through Benjamin Creme). 2009. The time of revelation. Share International 28(6) (July/August). Share International, USA.

12. Stollznow, Karen. 2010. A close encounter with Jeff Peckman. Available at www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/a_close_encounter_with_jeff_peckman/. Accessed December 8, 2010.

13. The Master (through Benjamin Creme). Share International. 2004. The path to the Sun. Share International 23(4) (December). Share International, USA.

14. Creme, Benjamin. “Crop Circles” (handout). Share International, USA–Northern California.

15. Collins, Lauren. 2010. Are you the Messiah? The New Yorker 86(38) (November 29): 32.

16. ibid.

Karen Stollznow

Karen Stollznow's photo

Karen Stollznow is an author and skeptical investigator with a doctorate in linguistics and a background in history and anthropology. She is an associate researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and a director of the San Francisco Bay Area Skeptics. A prolific skeptical writer for many sites and publications, she is the “Good Word” Web columnist for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the “Bad Language” columnist for Skeptic magazine, a frequent contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, and managing editor of CSI’s Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. Dr. Stollznow is a host of the Monster Talk podcast and writer for the Skepbitch and Skepchick blogs, as well as for the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Swift. She can be reached via email at kstollznow[at]centerforinquiry.net.