Waiting for Maitreya

Benjamin Creme was a great British eccentric
By Scott Wood

Benjamin Creme did not live to see Maitreya reveal himself to the world. The herald of the Cosmic Christ died peacefully as his home in Tufnell Park, north London in October 2016, at the age of 93.

Glaswegian Creme became famous in 1982 with his announcement, through press conferences and newspaper advertising, that the “Maitreya” had arrived to begin the New Age of Aquarius. The saviour proclaimed by all religions, Jesus, Messiah, Imam Mahdi, Krishna had arrived and was living in London on Brick Lane. At the time the British press picked the story up as “Jesus Lives in the East End says Man”. Right up to (and after) his death, adverts placed by Creme would appear in magazines and newspapers telling of the iminent arrival of the Maitreya. Francis Wheen, deputy editor of Private Eye (where Creme's organisation Share International frequently advertised) recalls receiving Creme's bulletins offering commentary on world events in the early 90s. Wheen would frequently use Creme's pronouncements (“Mrs Thatcher will retire from office soon . . . Nelson Mandela will be released soon”; “The Gulf Crisis: Maitreya has made it clear from the beginning that there will be no war”) in the diary pages of the Independent on Sunday, where he worked at the time.

Exploring Creme’s beliefs and messages is a grand tour of 19th and 20th Century occult thought running from Russian mystics, renegade Freudians, space gods, unsuspecting saviour economists and a woman who married a man to a corpse.

Who is Maitreya?

The Maitreya that Creme announced was not the future bodhisattva of Buddhist tradition. The traditional Maitreya will only come when the teaching of the Gautama Buddha has been forgotten and people are living for 80,000 years. Maitreya (Official) will reteach the world Dharma; his coming heralded by the oceans receding so that he can travel the world on foot to spread his message.

The Maitreya Benjamin Creme spoke of, and who spoke through Creme via a process called “over-shadowing”, was one of a secret brotherhood of Ascended Masters who have been guiding humanity for millennia and more. He left his Himalayan sanctuary in the late 1970s having been roused by starvation and the suffering of innocent children to teach the world universal brotherhood.

Two thousand years before, he had “manifested" through his disciple Jesus, and now he felt the 20th century needed him. He grew himself a suitable body and boarded a jumbo jet from Pakistan to Heathrow. From there he headed to Brick Lane to merge with the Bangladeshi community and take a job as a night porter at a hospital. He telepathically communicated with Creme, teleported to the shrines of the faithful, and made signs for believers to share with the world: lights in the sky, handprints left on windows, a visitation here or there. His arrival was heralded by small and diverse miracles.  

Creme’s New Age plurality made it clear that his Maitreya was the coming saviour all faiths have been waiting for:

“Christians know him as the Christ, and expect his imminent return. Jews await him as the Messiah; Hindus look for the coming of Krishna; Buddhists expect him as Maitreya Buddha; and Muslims anticipate the Imam Mahdi or Messiah.

“Although the names are different, many believe that they all refer to the same individual: the World Teacher, whose personal name is Maitreya (pronounced my-tray-ah).”

How Maitreya would bring salvation about was not made clear in Creme’s writings, or Maitreya’s pronouncements through Creme. He was a saviour, not a politician or economist, and whatever he was planning he would need our help to do it.

For a cosmic master he came across as small on detail and big on pomposity and passive aggressive guilt-tripping. Speaking through Creme in 1978, he told the world “My plan is to show you that the way out of your problems is to listen again to the true voice of God within your hearts, to share the produce of this most bountiful of worlds among your brothers and sisters everywhere.

I need your help, I call on you to aid me in my task. How can I stand aside and watch this slaughter, watch my little ones die? No, my friends, this cannot be. Therefore I am come quickly among you once more, to show you the way, point the path. But the success of my mission depends on you: you must make the choice – whether you share and learn to live peacefully as true men, or perish utterly.

“My heart tells me your answer, your choice, and is glad.”

Writing in 2010 Creme clarified this message: “Maitreya himself is at pains to clarify his position that every stone and brick of the new civilisation must be put in place by humanity itself; humanity's free will is sacrosanct.”

After Creme’s publicity efforts in 1982, Maitreya apparently met with diplomats and journalists around Brick Lane to plot further. 

This led to futher scouting missions in the East End, in search of the World Teacher: On 31 July 1985, largely through the efforts of one freelance journalist who had actually seen Maitreya in His local area in 1984 and who was convinced of the truth of Creme’s information, an internationally representative group of 22 influential journalists met in an Indian restaurant in London’s East End hoping that Maitreya or an envoy would approach them there.

Maitreya did not show; a “man in old robes and a faraway look in his eye” turned out to be “a tramp begging for cigarettes” wrote the correspondent for the Guardian.

Jesus of Nairobi

He did appear, according to Creme, at a “healing gathering” in Nairobi, Kenya in 1988. Photographs show a tall, thickly bearded man in white robes and turban who walked among the crowd, healing those who needed it. The man did not name himself but spoke with the organiser of the gathering, Prophetess Mary Sinaida Akatsa. He is referred to by Akasta as Jesus and his message to the crowd was not one of universal brotherhood. He told Akasta that as a messenger of God “whoever places obstacles” in her path "will themselves be halted”. Akasta and her church are controversial and, like everyone mentioned here, worthy of an article to herself. She and her Jerusalem Church of Christ distribute food to the needy and run regular “healing” session but recently “sinners” have been slapped and fined, gay people are banned and adulterous husbands are made to publicly to carry their wives as a penance. In 1998 Akasta preceded over a marriage ceremony between a man and his dead would-be wife, at a “well attended service led... with someone holding the bride’s hand so that she could ‘slide’ a ring on her husband’s finger.”

It would appear that Creme assimilated this appearance into his own Maitreya mythos, claiming this Jesus as his own Master. When speaking to the Independent in 1993 he told them that Maitreya/Jesus “appears in the particular thought-forms that people have of their Christ" so it would be fine if he appeared in another part of the world looking completely different. However, in 2013 Akasta denied she had brought Jesus to the gathering claiming the “Indian looking man” only came for prayers and that her “enemies used his presence to spread rumours” and make her look bad. 

Mistaken identity

After the Brick Lane dinner and no-show of 1985 Creme announced that due to “media harassment” Maitreya had moved from East London to south-west London. But the media were essential to the mission.

Maitreya’s intention was to talk to the world on a “Day of Declaration” that depended on every television station on the planet agreeing to go live with an interview with him. Maitreya’s face would appear simultaneously on every screen on the globe and communicate telepathically to everyone: “his thoughts, his ideas, his call to humanity for justice, sharing, right relationships and peace, will take place silently, telepathically. Each of us will hear him inwardly in our own language.”

In 2010, Creme, who by now had been waiting for Maitreya’s “imminent” appearance for 51 years, revealed that the Master of all Masters “physically came on a well-known television programme on a major network in the United States, but undeclared as Maitreya, just as one of us.”  

His followers decided that Creme must have meant Dr Raj Patel, a British-born economist living in America. The first Patel knew of this was when he started to receive “a trickle, then a flood” of emails. After googling "Maitreya" Patel blogged that he was not the messiah, just a very naughty boy. Sometime later Patel and Creme met in San Francisco to discuss this “mistaken identity” over biscuits. Patel concluded that Creme’s beliefs were “domestic and banal” as well as “bonkers”.

Who was Benjamin Creme?

The man behind the Messiah was born in Glasgow on 5 December 1922, the second of three children. In the autobiographical sketch on the website of Share International (Creme’s magazine and organisation), he describes his four or five-year-old self watching the effects of the wind through the window:

“[N]ot the effect of the wind on the trees or leaves, but the wind itself. I would watch the movements of the air and try to guess whether it was a north, south, east or west wind blowing. When I went to school, I learned that the air was invisible, the wind likewise, and forgot, I do not remember whether gradually or suddenly, my ability to see what of course was some level of the etheric planes of matter.”

At 14 he read Alexandra David Neel’s tales of miracles in Magic and Mystery in Tibet and soon worked his way through the writings of Rolf Alexander, Helena Blavatsky, Henry Olcott , Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Paul Brunton, Patanjali, Alice Bailey, Swami Vivekananda and many more – a reading list of Theosophical thought and the foundations of the New Age movement.

Madame Blavatsky

In the 1940s Creme built an orgone accumulator after studying the work of Wilhelm Reich. Reich (1897-1957) was an Austrian psychoanalyst who worked under Freud but whose promotion of permissive sexuality for all, including unmarried couples, disturbed the psychiatric and Marxist communities whose beliefs he was attempting to combine. Freud was bemused; writing in 1928 that Reich saluted “in the genital orgasm the antidote to every neurosis. Perhaps he might learn […] to feel some respect for the complicated nature of the psyche”.

He didn’t: Reich discovered “orgone” a universal life force that could organise matter and protected humans from most physical ailments. Reich invented the orgone accumulator to gather this force and use it to bust clouds and aid the orgone-deficient. Orgone appears to be like the Force in Star Wars if Yoda was a Freudian who was really into everyone having sex.  It’s concentrated presence brings with it a blueish light.

Creme’s own experiments with his accumulator were worthier. With it he “became consciously aware of, and extremely sensitive to, energy currents; so much so that eventually I could tell when an atomic bomb had been exploded in the Pacific or wherever.”

Belief in the benevolent masters guiding humanity was first popularised by the Russian medium Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) who founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. She began as a spiritualist who, instead of communicating with the afterlife, communicated remotely (and by letter) with the hidden Ascended Masters of the Himalayas. After her death Theosophy fractured into differing forms, including the more overtly Christian version of American writer Alice A Bailey (1880-1949). In 1948 Baily wrote The Reappearance of the Christ; her “Great Invocation” was a prayer to bring Christ out of hiding and, like Maitreya, into the cities to usher in the Age of Aquarius. To hasten this return she and her followers booked time on radio stations to broadcast their message and readings of the Great Invocation. Bailey’s urgent need for a returning Master and the use of mass media to spread esoteric message is echoed in Creme’s own practice of the back but hidden Maitreya.

“Prepare yourself! You are to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament”

Creme’s first contact with the masters was in 1959, but he had to wait until 1972 for further messages. By 1974 he had amassed a group of followers who invented and practised “Transmission Meditation”. This would allow Maitreya and other masters to “over-shadow” Creme: over-shadowing is similar to when a spirit speaks through a medium or psychic. Via this communication Creme published The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom in 1979  to continue, perhaps complete, Bailey’s own quest.

There is a missing link in Creme’s beliefs that he did not discuss as readily as Bailey and Reich. In 1957-58 he was a member of the Aetherius Society, who believed that the Masters had ascended from planet Earth to the rest of the planets of the solar system. Jesus was originally from Venus, as was the Master Aetherius. Mars Sector 6 was the Master most concerned with matters on the unenlightened Earth.

The Aetherius Society was founded by Sir George King (not a knight of this realm) in the mid-1950s. King was a London cab driver and yoga adept of 10 years when one night, as was doing the washing up in his flat, a disembodied voice announced to him: “Prepare yourself! You are to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament.”

Eight days later a Master of Yoga passed through King’s locked door to speak with him to prepare him for “Contact with the Gods from Space”, the title of one of King’s many books.

The Aetherius Society used spiritual batteries, like orgone accumulators, for collecting prayer energy for future use. Visiting the society’s Los Angeles headquarters, Gregory Bishop wrote about charging a battery in Donna Kossy’s 1994 book Kooks.

The prayers of Aetherius Society members and “anyone who prays for peace” would be collected and then amplified 3,000 times by a 1-1 ½ mile long invisible satellite called “Satellite #3” orbiting the earth. Bishops and the Aetherius members performed the Buddhist chant “om mani padme hum” at the battery in a room with two blue lights. The side of the box was opened, the chanting reached the correct frequency and 30 minutes of prayer was collected.

Things did not go so well as the second session. George King himself left the “etheric plan” he was residing on to tell his followers they were not charging the battery efficiently and that they were shouting at the battery “like a lot of frigging idiots”.

This energy was used to balance Earth’s karma, ease the suffering in a troubled spot on earth and, more tangibly with Operation Bluewater, prevent an earthquake that would have destroyed California in the 1960s.

King began his career with meetings at Caxton Hall in London, where he publicly channelled the Ascended Masters from the other planets. Richard Lawrence, Executive Secretary of the Aetherius Society for Europe, told me Creme was part of committee that assisted George King but received no training in channelling the masters himself.  

Some at the Aetherius Society, said Lawrence, felt that Creme’s public over-shadowing by Maitreya was very similar to George King’s own contact with the space Masters (Lawrence was keen to make it clear that he was not criticising Creme, simply sharing what he felt was an Aetherius Society influence on Creme’s work.). The Space Gods would speak through King in perfect English. At one gathering in 1957 Patrick Moore asked the Venusian Master Aetherius a question in Norwegian which “caused bafflement”. Moore repeated the question in French and still no answer came. The title of his 1976 book on “independent thinkers” Can You Speak Venusian? is inspired by his encounters with George King.

There was certainly no love lost between King and Creme. In a lecture published as Eternal Recognition of Operation Sunbeam (1983) King describes “frantic communications asking me if it were true that the Lord Maitreya was living with some Pakistanis in the slums of London and that, sometime last July I believe it was, He was going to declare himself the next Master to come to Earth.”

It was not true King said, he himself had met Maitreya, and he knew of “someone from England who collected $200,000 from well-intentioned people so he could buy press coverage of this event”.

Perhaps Creme’s first contact from the Masters was when he was part of the Aetherius Society. On 23 November 1958 George King received a message whilst atop “Brown Willy Holy Mountain”. A Lord of Karma informed King that an Interplanetary Master would be coming shortly in vegetarian shoes. The announcement was recorded in the book Contact with the Gods from Space.

“His shoes will be soft-topped, yet not made of the skin of animals. He will approach the Earth leaders. They will ask of him, His credentials. He will produce these. His magic will be greater than any upon Earth – greater than the combined materialistic might of all the armies. And they who heed not His words, shall be removed from the Earth.”

Last Meetings

Was this was the trigger for Creme’s own contact from the Masters in 1959? Creme did still speak of the masters in space. At one of his monthly talks in London in 1999 I attended he casually mentioned that John the Baptist was currently on Pluto. In 2010 Creme told an audience of 600 in San Fransico of “invisible brothers” from other inhabited planets in our solar system had been on Earth to help mankind escape its problems and usher in a new age.

Creme’s talks were fascinating, but not challenging. Creme’s acceptance of all narratives into the Maitreya story almost made them cosy. Journalist Mick Brown started his book The Spiritual Tourist with an autumn 1984 trip to a Creme gathering at Friends Meeting House on Euston Road. He went with his pal Van Morrison and described a “curious assortment” of about 100 people crammed into a backroom. He warmed to Creme’s relaxed and self-deprecating manner.

In 1999 I followed in Brown’s spiritual footsteps to Conway Hall in Holborn. The format was the same, Maitreya’s journey, the Day of Declaration and the overshadowing: the sparkle went out of Creme’s eyes as Maitreya gazed across the room. It was the only thing that evening that was unsettling; something was happening that was either magic or madness. Otherwise Creme was completely relaxed onstage. He presented a painting of Jesus by an American follower as a blond white dude rather than the dark skinned man Creme spoke about. It was fine though, the Masters can create physical bodies for themselves and everything spiritual could find a home in Creme and Maitreya’s teachings.

Creme retired from travelling in 2012. When the editor of Little Atoms visited Friend’s Meeting House in 2015, he said “about 20 people turned up, split roughly one third devotees, one third curious, one third mad and sad. The message was pretty much unchanged.” Crème was not there and a video from the 1990s was shown in his place.

Following on from Creme’s death: where now for Share International and the preparations for the new age? Dr David V Barrett, an expert in new religious movements, described them being: “in the immediate post-prophetic stage. If they have a well-structured organisation which only really used Creme as a figurehead, they can probably keep going.” As far as we know no one else is being over-shadowed by Maitreya at present. Should someone else start speaking with the Master a split may happen – if the message changes dramatically with the medium or mediums if more than one present begins to hear from Maitreya.

The organisation has found new ways of spreading the word in recent years, no doubt with one eye on the possible departure of Benjamin Creme before the arrival of Maitreya. In meetings Creme encouraged followers to contact local newspapers about Maitreya and in February 2016 user jeremycorbynsupport left a number of comments on a Guardian story on Cosmic particles inside pyramids could unlock mystery of how they were built encouraging reader to seek Share International’s website.  The blog Counterpunch, “The Fearless Voice of the American Left Since 1993” has posted four articles by Graham Pebbles discussing Creme and Maitreya. The followers of our saviour may be trying to bring him to the attention of those who may listen more, the media on the left. Pebbles is a director of UK based charity The Create Trust who “organises and runs Educational Aid and social development programmes” in London, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.  Maitreya, via Creme, is quoted on the front page of their website. The eternal master may be with us for a little while yet.