Cultic Studies Journal
to Slaughter: 14 Years with Elizabeth Clare Phrophet
Manipulation and Society
Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society
Vol. 12, No. 2, 1995
- Lambs to Slaughter: My Fourteen Years with
Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Church Universal Triumphant
- by John Joseph Pietrangelo, Jr.
Self-published (available from John Pietrangelo, 1039 E. Gifford Dr., Tucson, AZ 85719),
1994, 143 pages.
- Reviewer: Joseph Szimhart
Lambs to Slaughter is a self-published
book about the authors 14-year hiatus as a devotee of Elizabeth Clare Prophet and
Universal and Triumphant (CUT). This is a story about manipulated devotion
and mind control from the perspective of a former true believer. It is also an intimate
look at a prophet-guru during her formative years as the leader of her own marginal
religious movement. As with nearly every notorious cult leader in recent decades, this
story includes the misuse of power, sex, and money by a less-than-genuine, self-proclaimed
spiritual leader of the planet.
Pietrangelo first met Elizabeth Prophet in 1969 when her
group was called "The Summit Lighthouse" in Colorado. He was a young and
spiritually ambitious college student from Mississippi who quickly fell under the allure
of Elizabeth Prophet and her then-husband, Mark Prophet, who founded the church in the
late 1950s. Mark and Elizabeth were spirit mediums who called themselves
"messengers." After their marriage in 1961, they claimed to be the sole living
messengers of the ascended masters of all the worlds religions, including some whose
names are idiosyncratic to the cult. In New Age parlance, they "channeled"
beings like , Jesus, Buddha, K-17, Morya, Quan Yin, Afra, Hercules, Mighty Victory,
Astrea, Shiva, Pope John XXIII, and so onmore than 35 by my count.
In actuality, today Elizabeth Prophet
heads one of the more successful sects that stem from Rosicrucianism and, more
specifically, from the Theosophical Society founded by Helena P. Blavatsky and others in
1875. Prophets church has between 5,000 and 15,000-plus adherents, with diversified
commitments worldwide. The core group of several hundred staff members is supported by an
estimated one to three thousand devotees living in Montana, where the sect is
Such sects and channelers all claim to represent a Great
White Brotherhood (GWB) of ascended masters who allegedly are guiding all of humanity into
a new age of human and planetary advancement. This new era is variously called the New
Age, the Aquarian Age, higher consciousness, a paradigm shift, or the seventh cycle or
round. Other noteworthy GWB sects are the Ramtha group
led by J.Z.
Knight near Seattle, Washington, and the Order of the Solar
Temple which performed a ritual murder/suicide in October 1994 (and again in
1995), when more than 60 devotees in Switzerland, Canada, and France died. CUTs
parent group, the nearly defunct I AM Activity, founded in 1934, has experienced a minor
revival since 1980.
Pietrangelo became a church staff member in Colorado in the
early 1970s, when he took a position as a chef in the kitchen which served a staff of 70.
"My salary was twenty dollars per month gross. So compensation for an assistant chef,
who labored some four hundred hours per month, was a grand total of five cents an hour ...
plus room and board," writes Pietrangelo (p. 18). His room was a shared barracks in
the attic of the church center. Throughout the history of CUT, staff members have been
expected to make similar sacrifices. The leaders, however, have always lived well.
The author recounts the two most significant relationships
in his life as a result of his initiation into the Summit Lighthouse, later renamed Church
Universal and Triumphant as a tax shelter (p. 84). He met his wife, Susan, during his
early years as a devotee. They had five children and remain happily married despite their
harried existence as cult members. He also met Randall (Kosp) King, the man who became
Elizabeth Prophets young, third husband after Mark Prophet died in 1973.
Pietrangelos first-person account exposes the reader
to a very personal journey into what the author once believed was the most important
position any human being could havethat of serving the one person who stood at the
crux of human destiny. In order to establish herself, Elizabeth Prophet has claimed an
incredible array of past lives including many queens and saints. Her devotees call her
"Mother," and believe she wears the crown of the World Mother (p. xvi).
Pietrangelo recounts his struggles with the Prophets, both of whom exhibited loose tempers
and a highly manipulative style of leadership, using "crisis management" and
deception: "Life in the organization, as in all cults, was a roller coaster ride with
incredible highs and fearful lows. There is never a dull moment, never a let-down of
emotional tension" (p. 72). For instance, just before Mark Prophets untimely
death and afterwards, the members were required to buy survival equipment, gold and
silver, and guns because of a predicted collapse of the economy and the onset of a war.
This activity was called "Operation Christ Command," and the Prophets maneuvered
to profit from sales of supplies to the devout. Pietrangelo points out that the church
sold products at inflated prices, 40% to 50% higher than retail, to the naïve
"chelas" (literally, slaves) (p. 73).
It took the author 14 years of sometimes tortured belief
before he and his wife finally made the break from CUT and
Elizabeth Prophet in 1983. It may be difficult for some people to understand how an
otherwise intelligent man could do this. What most people do not understand is the process
that someone goes through before and after conversion to any extremist view and allegiance
to that view. Pietrangelo intersperses his story with commentary about the persuasiveness
of the leaders and how their subtle and not-so-subtle influences led to his mind control,
or "brainwashing." Only too late did he realize how much his emotional
investment in the group promise could be manipulated.
The promise included not only the ultimate opportunity for
personal and planetary salvation, but also the power with which to subvert and conquer all
evil. The two most important elements in the CUT formula for salvation are a strong
allegiance to Mother and the practice of decreeing. Decreeing is a form of rapid chanting
of a large collection of prayers, commands, and invocations used by CUT members for
self-improvement, planetary purification, and self-defense. CUT teachings include
identifying a host of "dark forces" in the guise of black magicians, spirit
entities, and evil, colored rays that become pervasive in the consciousness of the
believer. Pietrangelo was caught in this tangled web of forces, which only Mother Prophet
could truly identify for him. He had unwittingly entered a psychic minefield with only one
way out: through Mothers directionthat is, until 1983 when he had an intimate
chat with his longtime friend Randall King.
This is perhaps the most revealing and most controversial
portion of Lambs to Slaughter. By 1980 Randall King had been divorced from Prophet
and exiled from the cult. After many months of confused existence, King began to collect
his wits and his self-esteem. He met with Gregory Mull, another former CUT member, who had
been sued by CUTs leader for money. In order to protect himself, Mull initiated a
countersuit claiming fraud, psychological slavery, and money owed him from six years of
unpaid services as a church architect. Mull had been kicked out by Prophet after he
learned that she was using the devotees written confessions as references when they
were supposed to have been burned. King became a star witness for Mull, who won his case
against Prophet and CUT. In 1986 Mull was awarded approximately 1.5 million dollars.
Pietrangelo reports that Prophet tried to manipulate him
into testifying against King in her behalf, but she made one too many errors. Prophet
tried to convince Pietrangelo that King once had threatened her with a knife and drew
blood. Pietrangelo confronted King with this information. It was then that King, shocked
by the lie, opened up to his friend and told his bizarre tale, a tale that included months
of erotic massages and mutual masturbation with Mother, even before Mark Prophet died.
According to King, one week after Marks death, Elizabeth brought forth (channeled)
Mother Mary, like a personality puppet, to marry her and Randall in a very private
ceremony, after which they had intercourse.
Sex among the Philistines or the unenlightened is one
thing, but in CUT teachings, extramarital sexual contact has been strictly forbidden. It
was not the sex, however, that bothered Pietrangelo; he was most angered by the ugly
duplicity of the woman to whom he had submitted his souls salvation, albeit a woman
he had begun to dislike. He told his wife what he had learned. They both snapped out of
their enchantment with CUT and left, never to return.
Pietrangelos testimony is tinged with remnants of a
wounded disciple who is still angry, even though he claims to have recovered. He lacks the
cool objectivity of a trained sociologist who might overlook anecdotal evidence in an
assessment of CUT. I can imagine some scholars I know dismissing Pietrangelo as merely
another disgruntled person seizing on anything that might feed a "reaction
formation." I do not see him in that light.
Since 1980 I have interviewed many former CUT staffers and
several dozen former members. From 197980 I myself was a devoted student of
CUTs teachings and attended three CUT conferences, so I have some idea of the nature
of the group. Pietrangelos story is well within the realm of truthof that I am
quite certain. The value of his book is inestimable for the curious new recruit who has
doubts, and for the burnt-out staff person who may be wondering whom he or she may have
been serving all those years.
Another book was published on CUT earlier in 1994 by more
sympathetic scholars (Church Universal and Triumphant in Scholarly Perspective,
edited by J.R. Lewis and J.G. Melton, published by Syzygy: Journal of
Alternative Religion and Culture). Compared to Lambs to Slaughter,
Lewis and Meltons presentation is anemic, lacking all sense of the exaggerated drama
within the cult, and provides no convincing analysis of the all-important leader,
Prophets staged grandiosity as well as her childish
vulnerability come through strongly in Pietrangelos portrayal of her. However, he
often lapses into an old game that ex-cult members play: "my guru was better than
your guru," meaning that Mother was more conniving, convincing, clever, and classy
than other false prophets. He writes, "Elizabeth is unequaled .... A more skillful
Sophist can not be found" (p. 38). The suggestion is: "It took the best
to program me. I would not have fallen for just anybody." Of course, such
claims are subjective because even the most committed seekers rarely submit to more than
two or three gurus before they finally get the point.
If anything, that is the point of the book: once a person
is conned into the orbit of a manipulative leader and the system controlled by one, it
could be a long time before one realizes how deep the deception and how sinister the
manipulation had been. Lambs to Slaughter is the honest confession of
one who now does.
Joseph P. Szimhart
Cult Information Specialist/Exit Counselor