Page-turning account of growing up at the heart of a fringe religion.
The Church Universal and Triumphant, which Prophet estimates to have had 40,000 followers worldwide at its peak, was an offshoot of earlier New Age movements combining Christian teachings, Eastern religious concepts and the channeling of messages from “ascended masters.” Starting in the early 1970s, the author’s mother, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, was at the center of the church and wielded autocratic power over her followers. Best known for ordering hundreds of adherents into underground Montana shelters in preparation for a prophesied nuclear war, the church and the Prophet family were often in the news during the early ’90s. Viewed as a spiritual heir-apparent, the author was encouraged to take up her mother’s mantel as a seer and visionary; she took on an increasingly active role in the church’s decisions, though often behind the scenes. Elizabeth Prophet’s control over her daughter’s life was complete, even down to how often she spent the night with her husband. Over time, a series of insights into her mother’s imperfections, from moral peccadilloes to frail and failing health, opened Prophet’s eyes to the inconsistencies in her teachings, leading in the end to the author’s independence. Looking back, Prophet dispassionately explores not only the cult but also her role in its day-to-day activities. Her memoir is lucidly written and entirely approachable, providing all the necessary background for understanding the story without belaboring New Age history. The author puts to good use her training as a sociologist in a text that demonstrates close reflection without wandering into self-pity or false excuses.
A must-read for anyone seeking to understand how cults operate and view themselves in relation to the world.