Guru Ma's got troubles. Lots of them.
At the age of 59, she has both a preschool
child and Alzheimer's disease.
All four of her
adult children have turned their back on the Church Universal and
Triumphant, the institution she spent almost 40 years building.
Three of them have publicly criticized her church and the way she
ran it. One even calls it a "dangerous cult."
Her fourth marriage has crumbled.
she'll be out of a $96,000-a-year job, although church officials
have agreed to pay her a $67,000 annual retirement
A judge must decide who will make her
legal, financial and business decisions in the future. Another
judge may have to decide whether she retains partial custody of her
fifth child, 4-year-old Seth.
And the world
isn't out of hot water yet. Though she has choked back the alarmist
tone of statements she made 10 years ago, her recent prophecies
said that apocalypse still could be just around the corner. It all
depends on how people
"The coming age, the
Aquarian Age, can be a time of turmoil, war and even cataclysm,"
Elizabeth Clare Prophet said last November, three days before
doctors told her of the Alzheimer's disease. "Or it can be a time
of tremendous spiritual and technological progress."
She says she has lived hundreds of lifetimes.
"I believe that my preparations for my life's call had been ongoing
for a number of embodiments and that this lifetime was to be the
culmination of my soul's tutoring in the universal mysteries of
Christ," Prophet said in a church promotional
Born Elizabeth Clare Wulf on April 8,
1939, in Long Branch, N.J., to a World War I German U-boat captain
and his Swiss wife, Prophet grew up being called Betty. She says
she had her first metaphysical experience as a small child; while
playing in a sandbox, she suddenly remembered doing the same thing
thousands of years earlier along the banks of the
Though she denied it for years, she now
admits she has suffered most of her life from epileptic seizures, a
condition that has worsened in recent years. She told her followers
about her Alzheimer's disease on New Year's Day, at a conference in
Miami. A few weeks later, she announced plans to retire this
Her first marriage, at the age of 20,
was to Dag Ytreburg, a Norwegian-born lawyer. It ended a year
later, after she met Mark Prophet, a former traveling salesman 19
years her senior, married and the founder of what was then called
The Summit Lighthouse. Within two years, Mark Prophet, too,
divorced, leaving behind his five children by his first wife, and
he married Elizabeth on March 16, 1963.
met before, Elizabeth says, in Arthurian Camelot. She was Guinevere
and Mark was Lancelot.
The union produced four
children; Sean, now 34 and a video producer in Los Angeles; Erin,
33, a writer in Bozeman, Mont.; Moira, 30, a marketing executive in
Los Angeles; and Tatiana, 27, a graduate student in
Mark taught Elizabeth to take
"dictations': Dozens of Ascended Masters ranging from Buddha to
Jesus to K 17 (head of the "cosmic secret service') have spoken
through her mouth on subjects ranging from reincarnation to global
The Ascended Masters, she says, are
"extensions of God." They speak only through her, according to CUT
doctrine, and they have done so more than 2,000 times. She
sometimes closes her eyes during a dictation, or looks serenely at
the crowd before her, often with her hands to her temples, bent
slightly at the waist. Her voice raises in pitch and takes on a
nasal tone. "The energy ... is stupendous," she told an interviewer
in 1989. "It is exhilarating."
After living in
Washington, D.C., for several years, the Prophets moved their
growing church to Colorado Springs, Colo., where Mark died suddenly
of a stroke in 1973. According to the church, he is now considered
an Ascended Master called Lanello, a combination of the names
Lancelot and Longfellow, two of his previous
Prophet's followers call her Mother or
Guru Ma. Her other titles include Vicar of Christ, Messenger,
Mother of the Flame.
A few months after Mark's
death, Prophet married an aide, the former Randall Kosp, who had
changed his name to King. The church grew rapidly in the 1970s and
moved to Santa Barbara, and then Malibu, where it purchased a
former private college that church members renamed
The marriage to King ended in a bitter
1980 divorce. King has said he no longer follows the church's
teachings but he believes that Prophet believes in them. "She
honestly thinks she's doing it for the greater good of mankind,"
King said in 1990.
Prophet married Ed Francis,
11 years her junior, in 1981. In 1994, when Prophet was 55 years
old, she bore a son, Seth Thomas Francis. Prophet and Francis
divorced in 1998 and the child spends time with both
Many CUT members remain devoted to her
every word and credit her with bringing them spiritual
enlightenment, taking them closer to God, showing them the pathway
to ascension. They believe she has the power to tell people who
they were in past lives, and they compare her to biblical prophets
of the Old Testament. Others, including her daughter Moira, are
less kind. They say she's a hypocrite, a megalomaniac and a
Among some, distrust runs so deep
that they scoff when she says she has
"I don't buy it,"
said former member Peter Arnone, adding that it could be a stunt
designed to keep her from testifying in potential lawsuits filed by
ex-members. Her doctors and family members say that Arnone's
assertions couldn't be further from the sad truth. People close to
her say the disease is in its moderate
"In any conversation of
length, you realize that there's something lacking," said one
A Montana judge has been asked to
decide soon who will become her guardian. Church vice president
Murray Steinman is Prophet's choice. Sean, Erin and Moira Prophet,
however, are fighting that move in court, saying Steinman has a
conflict of interest and that they can do a better
The disease may have been worsening for the
last five years, according to the Prophet children. The Alzheimer's
diagnosis "helped to explain some of the difficulties we have had
in our relationships in the 1990s," Sean, Erin and Moira Prophet
wrote in an open letter to church members earlier this year.