From 1980 to 1982 the Scottish painter Benjamin Creme traveled around the world (mostly in the United States, United Kingdom, and The Netherlands) with the message that the coming of »Maitreya the Christ« was imminent. According to Creme, Maitreya was the leader of the »Planetarian Hierarchy,« seated in the Himalayas, and had been living incognito among the people since 1977; in the summer of 1982 he would proclaim himself. Creme received that knowledge through messages telepathically communicated by one of the Himalayan Masters. After the Christ’s proclamation on worldwide television, there would be an era of peace and happiness. In that new world people will share whatever they have; sickness and evil will disappear entirely.
From the point of Light
It is recited or prayed in the transmission groups, as Creme’s followers call themselves. The Invocation contacts the energy of the Hierarchy and brings it to the people. That energy then creates an atmosphere conducive to Maitreya the Christ, thus preparing the world for his coming.
The summer of 1982 came and went. In London, Creme presented a Pakistani leader as Maitreya the Christ, but the man declined the honor of Creme’s vision. Since that time little has been heard from the movement. It still exists, however, and (at least in The Netherlands) is as active as before.
It is apparent that Creme belongs within the Theosophical tradition. His teachings are similar to those found in books by Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, and her followers. »The Masters of the Far East,« elemental to Theosophy’s worldview, parallel Creme’s Hierarchy. As does Theosophy, Creme employs the division of the world and humanity into astral, ethereal, and physical planes. What may be less readily apparent is the fact that Creme is actually using the ideas of Alice Bailey.
Alice Ann Bailey (1880-1949), born La Trobe-Bateman, had contacts at age 15 with Theosophy’s master Koot Hoomi, and by 1925 she had become a member of one of the esoteric schools. Five years earlier she established telepathic communication with master Djwhal Khul, called »The Tibetan.« Because that contact created a division in the Theosophical Society, Bailey founded a new group, known since 1923 as the Arcane School, in which members work with triangles to strengthen the Hierarchy’s energy flow toward earth.
In 1947 Bailey published The Reappearance of Christ, a book which would provide the foundation for Creme’s later ideas. In it almost everything Creme propagates can be found: the Great Invocation, overshadowing, the transmission of energy by groups, the Age of Aquarius. Here we find that the Christ can be heard and seen by everyone via radio and television--1945 is the anticipated date. The book also anticipates Creme’s Wesak feast (an annual secret gathering of the world’s Masters high atop an inaccessible mountain) and the idea of a single universal religion; it also speaks of love as a preeminently important task of the Christ. Of the new »Group of World Servers,« which she founded in 1936, Bailey writes:
The second indicated move of the Hierarchy would be the impressing of the minds of enlightened men everywhere by spiritual ideas embodying the new truths, by the »descent« (if I may so call it) of the new concepts which will govern human living and by the overshadowing of all world disciples and the New Group of World Servers by the Christ himself. This planned move of the Hierarchy is progressing well; men and women everywhere and in every department of life are enunciating those new truths which should in the future guide human living; they are building these new organizations, movements, and the groups--large or small--which will familiarize the mass of men with the reality of the need and the mode of meeting it. This they are doing because they are driven thereto by the warmth of their loving response to human distress; without formulating it thus to themselves, they are, nevertheless, working to bring into visibility the Kingdom of God on earth. No denial of these facts is possible, in view of the multiplicity of organizations, books and speeches...1)
Such a group of men and women must prepare for the Christ’s reappearance: the Christ especially desires its existence since, in the future, group consciousness will supercede individual consciousness. Bailey appeals to humanity to take part with the World Servers to prepare for the coming of Christ.
In his Lexikon des Geheimwissens, H. Miers (an outsider) defines the aim of the New Group of World Servers as
Verrnittlungsglied zwischen Hierarchie und der Menschheit, um Licht und Kraft zu empfangen und beide einzusetzen, um unter der Inspiration der Liebe, die neue Welt von Morgen zu bauen (mediators between the Hierarchy and humanity who receive and use both light and power to build the new world of the future under the inspiration of love).
Creme is clearly such a New World Server--he has done or said virtually nothing beyond what Bailey wrote in 1947. Two exceptions are worth noting, however.
First is the position of Maitreya. In Alice Bailey’s books that master plays no important role: he is mentioned only once as the Buddha, whose coming is expected by the Buddhists. Elsewhere in the Theosophical tradition we meet Maitreya more frequently: he is the (somewhat vague) bodhisattva Maitreya, connected with love and wisdom, officially on a higher level with the Masters and the highest adepts, but never presented as leader of the Planetarian Hierarchy. In Bailey’s books the most important members of the Hierarchy are the Christ and the Buddha, the Christ being the name of a person rather than, as Creme sees the matter, of a function or office. Seemingly, the importance of Maitreya within Creme’s teachings depends on the message communicated by Creme’s unknown master. While Creme diverges from Bailey in that respect, he nonetheless remains squarely within the Theosophical tradition. On the whole, Bailey’s thoughts on the Christ’s reappearance are essentially unchanged by Creme.
The second exception is that Creme sets a fixed date for Maitreya’s reappearance. Although convinced that the Christ will reappear, Bailey refused to mention a specific time, saying that »the exact date of His coming is known only to Him and a few of His senior workers...«
One thing is most necessary to have in mind.. It is not for us to set the date for the appearance of the Christ or to expect any spectacular aid or curious phenomena. If our work is rightly done, He will come at the set and appointed time. How, where, or when He will come is none of our concern. Our work is to do our utmost and on as large a scale as possible to bring about right human relations, for His coming depends upon our work...2)
The positiveness with which Creme announced the Christ’s coming in the middle of 1982 contrasts sharply with Bailey’s vision. The difference is not surprising: after Bailey’s death many groups came into being, each of whom claimed to rightly propagate her ideas. Whereas the groups differ from each other (the Arcane School, for instance, would not acknowledge Creme’s actions or his announcement of Maitreya’s return), they all, nevertheless, remain within the perimeters of Bailey’s thought. Even Creme’s new revelations don’t wholly contradict Bailey’s philosophy. For that matter, his new revelations aren’t entirely new. Theosophist Annie Besant declared in 1909 that the new Messiah/Avatar/Christ should come quickly. Three years later he was found in Krishnamurti, a young Indian boy who later rejected the role. Besant’s proclamation of the new Messiah also caused divisions in Theosophy: Rudolf Steiner broke away and founded Anthroposophy.
Creme belongs to the Theosophical tradition, whose connection to world religions is much debated. Whereas Theosophy claims to present the most real truths found within Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, there are actually few points of contact between the teachings of Theosophy and those major religions. Neither Christianity, Hinduism, nor Buddhism envisages a Planetarian Hierarchy of Masters in the Himalayas or telepathic communication between the masters of esoteric schools and their followers. None of those three world religions espouse a world history with »Atlantic« or »Lemurian« periods and their corresponding ancient races; none of the three share Theosophy’s view of the habitation of other planets.
Although at some points Theosophy resembles those three major religions, on the whole their contents differ considerably. Creme’s view of the Christ as a universal function, and of Jesus as the Christ’s disciple who is reincarnated in the person of Apollonius of Tyana (who was in fact a contemporary of Jesus), finds no support in Christian tradition. Buddhism acknowledges a bodhisattva Maitreya who shall reappear in the future, but he does not rank among the highest in the Hierarchy of Masters, and his coming is never announced or calculated. That Maitreya should have a »Christ function« is unthinkable within Buddhism. Theosophy presents an image of humanity and the world that has little to do with Hinduism, in spite of the former’s use of Sanskrit and words resembling Sanskrit. Only in some ideas about reincarnation and the use of yoga is there similitude between Hinduism and Theosophy.
Theosophy--as does Creme--appeals to the esoteric tradition. Its claim is that within every religion there exists an occult esoteric tradition, much older than the religion itself, concealed for centuries, but rediscovered in 1875 when Helena Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society and H. S. Olcott made his public appearance. Some secret traditions may exist in the world’s religions, but as far as can be known, their contents differ significantly from Theosophy’s teachings. If the esoteric tradition of Theosophy, Alice Bailey, Benjamin Creme, and others is true, it must be taken as a point of faith. The Theosophist tradition remains unsupported by the scriptures, doctrines, or histories of the world’s major religions.
Dr. Kranenborg is a research professor at the Institute for the Study of Religion, the Free University. Amsterdam. He specializes in those new religious movements in the West whose roots lie in Eastern religions and philosophies.