Monday, July 06, 2009

Santa Barbara 1: Land of the Cults

Though I grew up in the environs of Santa Barbara, I've never really understood or particularly liked the place.

The people are a strange mixture of the outrageously rich, entertainment celebrities, retirees, hippies, a few middle-class folk, and poor Mexicans who are essentially ignored except as cheap labor or crime statistics.

The town also seems to host more philosophical and religious cults per capita than any place in California, which is saying something.

On Chapala Street, there seemed to be one strange headquarters after another, including the 33-year-old Institute of World Culture in a lovely yellow Victorian called the Concord House...

...and the comparatively downscale, Saint Germain Foundation nearby which had the scariest logo of all.

According to their website:

In 1930 Guy W. Ballard, hiking in northern California, met the Ascended Master Saint Germain on the side of Mount Shasta. His remarkable experiences are recorded in the books, Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence, written under the pen name of Godfre Ray King. First published in 1934, the books have never been out of print. This introduction was followed by more than 3000 Discourses by the Ascended Masters. Out of this dynamic and practical instruction the "I AM" Activity was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Ballard, under the daily direction of Saint Germain.


reechard said...

Dear SFMike ... I'm picking up my jaw off the floor. I also spent early years in S.B. My parents got sucked in to a Cult that was formed from a branch of the "I Am" mov't... A merger if you will... involving a large L.A. mansion and cash assets, and people from Hunstville AL. We left S.B. to L.A. at the demand of the cult, and let's just say it didn't end well. If I get a book deal for this I'd love to use your photos. Are you open to some sort of arrangement? That could be "Photo essay by SFMike" as a section, or a few credited photos.

The central figure behind all of this, let's call her "Helen", died years ago after a long illness, and was convinced that she had ascended the physical plane and was herself a "master." I get very creeped out by this sort of thing... I may have to go down there and knock on a few doors. I can at least ask them pointed questions as a survivor of parental cult indoctrination.

reechard said...

I've updated and moved the book pitch I'm developing here.

Civic Center said...

Dear Reechard: Wow. I followed your link and saw the picture of you as a little boy cult member. Congratulations on your survival. And you are free to use my photos for any purpose whatsoever. Get hold of me at the email address off of my profile and I can send you higher resolution ones.

reechard said...

Christ on a Cracker, Mike! If I weren't thoroughly immunized against religion, I'd think His Noodley Appendage was directing things...

I had a lunch recently with Sarah Cahill, and discussed this book pitch with her.

Long ago I asked the Wikipedia oracle how to handle information on a blog, which had info not found elsewhere. I was writing Sarah's wiki bio, and you had the scoop on "A Sweeter Music."

So, I slurped your post into WebCite so it will live forever, and I hope you benefit from whatever traffic you get.

It was hilarious searching for Sarah later on, and finding my own contribution show up on scraped sites that use Wikipedia w/o even a nod or a "thank you"...

My little bit of "I Am" research today ended up more like a joke: St. Germain, a Breatharian, and a Scientologist walk into a bar...

I'll email you soon... let's keep in touch!

christine said...

ha ha. I got a 2 year job at UC Santa Barbara, and I have the same impression. Trips inland to Bakersfield in the heat make me thankful for living in the moderate climate, but many aspects of the culture here (particularly exploitation of the retail and hotel workers with high rent) are a bit negative. I'm paying 1/3 of my income to rent a room in a shabby house and the recession hasn't changed the situation at all.
BTW, our family friends who came to the US from Armenia in 1919 got into theosophy back in the 30s. I think it was more popular before television in many areas. It seemed to be a progressive idea of 'hey, the world has so many religions, but there must be one peaceful unifying idea behind it all, so let's make a melded best-of philosophy'. So they were orthodox armenians who were vegetarian and talked of reincarnation.

Unknown said...

Hi thanks for the tip, I live in Santa Barbara and was looking for something to do on this breautiful warm day and so now Im headed for the World Institute and St Germain ao if I dont come back, please alert the police, ha ha. Actually the World place sounds good, to promote the world wide brotherhood of man, and who can argue with that idea.

Any other tips of cults I can check out? Ive been to Unitarian and Unity Church and will go to Center of the Hear church soon, and have gone to the most famous cult here, Calvary Chapel. Actually arent all churches cults in a sense, jus that they are approved cults.

The cult I actually believe in is the channeling of pure consciousness "spirits" like Jane Roberts channeling of Seth and Mary Ennis' channeling of "Elias" at who speak of an ongoing huge earth changing shift in consciousness and I actually believe them. Call me crazy. Smiley. You may have heard of similar, Abraham and Bashar being perhaps the most famous. I think The Abraham channeler , Esther Hicks was on Oprah. SMiley.

Steve Lord Santa Barbara, Ca.

Civic Center said...

I received the following note from Alexander Meinhardt and he asked me to post it here:

Hello, first of all, thank God you survived the cult horror, it is really terrible how many people get involved in terrible and disturbing situations by malicious people who create such organizations.

Now I'm an "I AM" Student of the "I AM" Activity of the Saint Germain Foundation (the one founded by Mr and Mrs Ballard and their son Donald in the '30s) and I find it unfair to say that the cult that your parents were involved with is a "branch of the I AM Movement", because you'll see, there is no such thing as branches in the "I AM" Activity, it only works through many "I AM" Temples, Sanctuaries and Reading Rooms throughout the world, and It has nothing to do with any cult or fraud at all, the only activities sponsored by the "I AM" Activity of the Saint Germain Foundation are the Group Meetings in which the ONLY THING we do is to Sing to God - The "Beloved Mighty I AM Presence" (or the God Presence within as you can call it) and Call to the "Presence" and the Ascended Host (through the "I AM" Decrees - a form of prayer)to Protect, Purify and Raise America, the world and humanity to a Peaceful, Respectful, Harmonious and High Standard Way of Life :-) The Meetings (called "I AM" Classes) Are Completely Free, we Do Not Pay for admission and We Do Not Have To Do Anything Else outside this events. We only pay for books if we want to buy them, but if you don't want or you can't buy them you can read them and use them in the "I AM" Temples, Sanctuaries and Reading Rooms of the world for FREE, you can also find them in many Public Libraries such as the Library of Congress.

What happens is that many malicious people have been miss-using for their selfish and evil interests the name of the Beloved Ascended Master Saint Germain and many of His vocabulary such as "I AM", "I AM" Presence, Violet Flame, Ascended Master, and many other words given and used by the Real Ascended Masters and Their Only Real Accredited Messengers: The Beloved Ballards (who we believe to be now Ascended Beings since they made the change, Mr Ballard in December 1939, Mrs Ballard in 1970 and their Son Donald in 1972, they passed on by natural causes by the way).

So we are not a cult and we do not harm people in any way, we only worship God in a very Conservative and Oldfashioned Harmonious Manner going to church one, two or three days per week (there might be some people who like to go everyday and another ones who just go some day as in any of the Catholic or Evangelical Churches, and we are only differenced from these in the Name we give to God which for us is "I AM" and the manner in wich we pray, and there is nothing spiritualistic in our activities and no such things as channeling or anything that kind is used in any of the Saint Germain Foundation activities), The "I AM" Activity of the Saint Germain Foundation and the Saint Germain Press are not related with any other person or organization at all, and you can find more Official Information at and

Many Blessings of Divine Love to You!”

reechard said...

Mike! How are you! Thanks for posting this, sorry if I caused any trouble :)

My experience confirms what he says; Esther was the I AM person she was quite harmless and sweet as I recall. She had a large house and assets, which eventually were owned by Helen, from Hunstville, AL, in a "cult takeover" of sorts.

Did I say "branch?" I mean "hideous perversion of the I AM activity" lol

And might I just compliment you on the length of your blog tail Mike!

Some poor woman contacted me about the evil opera queen at the hamilton, on the board...

reechard said...

a *Mae West wink* got eaten by html