A postmodern saviour?

The Skeptic, 6.4

Every so often, an advertisement appears in the personal ads of The Guardian, announcing a meeting: `Lecture by Benjamin Creme on the emergence of MAITREYA - THE WORLD TEACHER.' Since 1977, the Esoteric Master Maitreya has been promised as the new Saviour of the Age of Aquarius, to rescue our delicately crumbling shabby postmodern culture from the imminent self-destruction New Agers have been prophesying since the sixties.

Who exactly is this Maitreya? Basically, He is an all-purpose, multi-denominational, cross-cultural, one-size-fits-all, one-stop-shopping, saviour. When He appears in the world, Christians will see him as Christ, to Jews he will be Messiah, Buddha to Buddhists, the Imam Mahdi to Muslims, and so on. As The Emergence, the free monthly newsletter published by the Tara Center, says, He is `the same One: the World Teacher, whose personal name is Maitreya. He returns now, at the beginning of the Age of Aquarius, as the teacher and guide for those of every religion and those of no religion.'

According to a report in The Guardian of 11 June 1988, Maitreya's actual arrival in our world is not a matter of mere speculation. He's already here, and on 11 June 1988 actually appeared to a crowd of thousands in Nairobi. Mr Job Mutungi, editor of the Swahili edition of the Kenya Times, was an eye-witness to this event, and he was clearly impressed by what he saw: `I am convinced this was a miracle' he is reported as saying. `Sparks came from His feet. I saw a bright star in daytime thrice. This person appeared mysterious to the crowd, and He had a light around His head and sparks came from His feet. He promised to return with a bucketful of blessings. He blessed the crowd in Swahili, muttered a Hebrew curse, and left in a car driven by a Mr Gurnam Singh'. I suppose even World Teachers have to get from A to B, but someone is going to get a shock when Mr Singh next says `You'll never guess who I had in the back of the taxi last week, guvnor'.

Maitreya's principal earthbound spokesman is London-based artist Benjamin Creme, who has had a lifelong interest in esoteric philosophy. It was in 1952 that he received his first telepathic message `from his Master, a member of the spiritual Hierarchy, an event which came as a complete surprise to him.' Since then Creme has devoted his life to spreading the word of Maitreya, in an exhaustive schedule of meetings and lectures around the world.

Creme started to speak publicly about the impending emergence of Maitreya in 1975. In July of 1977 Maitreya descended from his ancient retreat in the Himalayas to live amongst the Asian community of London. In May 1982 Creme announced at a press conference that Maitreya was living the life of an ordinary man in London. Unfortunately, the world's media did not respond to Creme's challenge that they invite Maitreya to come forward. In 1988 Maitreya began to appear in various countries, in person and in dreams to political leaders. Manifestations of crosses of light in the sky were reported, and June saw Maitreya's alleged appearance in Nairobi. Apparently, Maitreya changes His form when He appears to individuals, choosing the most appropriate form for the - for want of a better word contactee to recognise Maitreya as the `One Teacher'.

It would be easy to present the Maitreya saga in such a way that it appears ludicrous, but this would be iniquitous. People like Benjamin Creme who believe sincerely in what they do, and act with the highest of motives, deserve respect - with the proviso, of course, that respect does not necessarily imply that one has to swallow everything someone says. Some may wish to `debunk' Creme and his claims of an esoteric being's descent from the Himalayas to one day appear simultaneously on TV screens worldwide, and to deliver His message to us all telepathically. But this would be to miss the point. The Creme/Maitreya phenomenon is a fascinating self-consistent belief system, and offers much scope for analysis from mystical, sociological and psychological points of view, to name but a few. There's nothing new in people talking about the need for saviours of one kind or another. As well as ubiquitous historical religious figures, some see philosophies, or `science' itself, as humanity's saviour, others UFO entities - Selorik from Aenstria et al - and so on. Creme's saviour is interesting because of His total coverage. Noone will be excluded, no matter what their beliefs, or lack of them. This is a nice idea, assuming that you like the idea of a saviour at all.

Maybe Maitreya is waiting in the wings, ready to complete His long-awaited emergence in a flash of world-saving energy, to present his gift of enlightenment and liberation - Hebrew curses and all - to mankind. But there are many who prefer not to have their deliverance arranged by Higher Beings, and who would rather try to solve their problems - and those of the world - themselves.


©Toby Howard 1995

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