The First Ascended Master Organization

The I AM Movement

 

The following information was collected from several sources. Much of the material comes from Gerald Bryan's book
"Psychic Dictatorship in America" (see References) and Charles Braden (1887-1970) who was Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Literature of Religions at Northwestern University. Braden became known for his studies of new religious movements. He wrote a book, "These Also Believe" (1949), which included a chapter on the I AM Movement.
There is too much information to write all that could be written, and hence others have written more. This is a brief overlook of the Ballards and their Ascended Masters.

 

The founders of the "I AM" Movement were Guy and Edna Ballard. They wrote under the pen names Godfre Ray King and Lotus Ray King. Supposedly the idea of the "I AM" came from the Bible story when Moses was told to go forward and lead the children of Israel out of the wilderness. Moses asked, "Who shall I say has sent me unto them?" He was told: "Say unto them: 'I AM' that 'I AM' hath sent me unto you." Thus the Movement was built upon the premise that each person had this Mighty I AM Presence as a perfect, all-knowing God-Presence that hovered over him unseen because it is on the spirit plane. From out of the Heart Center of Infinity, which they said was the Great Central Sun, each individual Presence of God comes forth clothed in a Body of Pure Light Substance. This Electronic Body in the Spirit is above every human being on earth and sustains the human form through a ray of light called the "crystal cord"  giving it "Life, the Light, the Substance and Energy" that enables the physical body to move, breathe and have Self conscious Life. This Presence held all the knowledge gained throughout all the soul's embodiments and guided the embodied soul throughout its life.

Guy Ballard met Edna Wheeler in her studio. She was an accomplished harpist. Upon seeing a gleaming gold harp on display at a music store, he felt impelled to learn more about the instrument. He was sent to Miss Wheeler's studio on the second floor and the two felt an immediate attraction. They married in 1916 when he was 38 years old, Edna was 30. By 1932 they had incorporated the I AM movement in Chicago and had found their "gold mine". Both Guy and Edna Ballard immediately became ''Anointed Messengers" and gave "discourses" or "dictations" in which they channeled the Ascended Masters. Their story begins with Guy who became interested in mining and selling stock in various gold mines in the West. In 1920's a woman who had previously lived with them for a few months financed a trip to California where they lived in a cottage up in the Sierra mountains next to a gold mine. Every day Mr. Ballard would walk the mountains searching for a gold. He supposedly was obsessed with finding a gold mine. He never had any success although he continued searching for gold long after he married Edna.

Over the years he either sold stock in mines or borrowed money to invest in his mining projects, which later he did not repay. By 1929 Guy was indicted in Chicago by the Cook County Grand Jury on charges of "Obtaining Money and Goods by Means of the Confidence Game. While warrants were issued for his arrest, he was never apprehended as he left Chicago and was away from his family for two years, supposedly staying in California under an assumed name.

It was while he was away that he claimed in his first famous book, Unveiled Mysteries, that he had his spiritual experience on Mt. Shasta with St. Germain. In the last chapter of the book he tells how he had been separated from his wife and child on the physical plane for two years. He also mentions in the first chapter that he traveled to the Far East. Since he had no money and they were extremely poor up until the I AM Movement took off, it would have been highly unlikely he could have afforded a trip to the Far East, especially with his indictment on charges of money fraud.

Both Guy and Edna Ballard were very interested in the occult. After Mr. Ballard left Chicago Mrs. Ballard worked  in a book store managed by her sister, called the Philosophers Nook, which was more of an occult bookstore. Before the Ballards founded the I AM Movement and Mr. Ballard shared his Mt. Shasta experience Mrs. Ballard published a periodical, American Occultist, and then later changed its name to The Diamond. She speaks of the I AM in those journals and sometimes used a pen name of Veritas. She speaks of the the divine inner self universal in New Thought. She also presented recommendations of suggested metaphysical books such as Leadbeater's, from Theosophy. She was very well read on all occult topics and had a huge library of occult books.

Mr. Ballard at one point was interested in fortune-telling and mediums, even becoming a medium himself long before he formed the I AM Movement. He practiced spiritualistic mediumship in Chicago—according to several people who knew him for many years—and he also studied hypnotism. In 1970 their son, Donald, gave a speech talking about his early years in the Ballard household. He said when he was about six years old (1924) the Ascended Masters spoke through his father. Many evenings they would sit and discuss subjects on the Divine Law and then his father would get very still and a shudder would run through his body and El Morya or Kuthumi would speak through him on personal subjects and family matters. After a few years Donald remembers St. Germain came through his father for the first time.

Movements the Ballards Drew From
The I AM Movement was a strange mixture of Unity, New Thought, Christian Science, Theosophy, and others, drawing upon teachings and ideas from such groups and books like:

  • Psychiana
  • The Silver Shirts
  • Spalding's, "Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East"
  • "A Dweller on Two Planets" channeled from Phylos the Tibetan
  • "The Brother of the Third Degree" by Will L. Garver
  • "Myriam and the Mystic Brotherhood" by Maude Lesseuer Howard

Bryan devotes a whole chapter documenting the plagiarism he believed that the Ballard's engaged in, especially in writing what he believed was the fictitious story of the St. Germain encounter on Mt. Shasta. Bryan enumerates dozens of words and phrases used in Ballard's Unveiled Mysteries that are practically the same wording, or capitalizing and emphasizing the same words or actions, depicted in the other stories preceding the writing of Ballard's first book. (See also Source of Ballard's Writings.) Although that book is depicted as the first of the "I AM" series, there is not one mention of the great "I AM" in the book.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Ballard were very well read on all these occult subjects and with Mrs. Ballard's access to the large body of metaphysical books in the bookstore she worked at she could easily help her husband to put together a grand story that would raise Mr. Ballard up to the status of being an exceptional person that St. Germain would signal out to bring into the mysterious fold of the ancient order of the Brothers of Mt. Shasta.

Gerald Braden recounted a conversation he had with Dr. Frank Robinson, founder of Psychiana, who told him that Guy Ballard had visited him in Moscow, Idaho, and told him he intended to start a movement. Ballard said, "I am going to make it dramatic". Robinson encouraged Ballard's ambitions but cautioned him to avoid Robinson's ideas. Braden believed that Ballard broke his word and did incorporate many of Robinson's teachings as his own.

While living in Portland, Oregon in the mid 1920's, Frank Robinson had a "vision of the future" seeing himself at the head of a new religion, one based on I Corinthians 3:16: "Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of God--and that the Spirit of God liveth in you?" It was not until he moved to Moscow, Idaho in 1928 that he formed Psychiana while he was working as a druggist in the Corner Drug Store. It was a highly successful mail-order religion and within a year 60,000 pieces of mail were received every day.  Psychiana advertised heavily in national and international publications to increase their student population. Initially when you signed up for Psychiana lessons you would pay $20 for 20 lessons, delivered bi-monthly.

Psychiana was a New Thought philosophy based on the idea of the power of positive thinking and emphasized the power of God was within everybody. The focus was on changing your attitude, changing the way you think. He included exercises in his lessons, like praying or meditating every day for five minutes. There were no ascended masters or messages from God, except what one would receive from their own personal relationship, yet Dr. Robinson was a powerful writer and speaker and when people followed his suggestions positive changed also followed. Testimonies flooded in from all over the world giving thanks to Dr. Robinson for the positive change in their health and life from following his teachings.

The name Psychiana came through a dream. A man in the dream was doing some rituals over a body and said, "This is Psychiana, the Power which will bring new life to a spiritually dead world." Several months after this dream, as Dr. Robinson was passing a clerk's desk, he saw a photograph of the same man he had seen in the dream. After obtaining his name he immediately wrote this man who was living in India asking for $40,000, which unbelievably the man sent Robinson within three weeks [News-Review (Moscow, Idaho) November 2, 1936]. Psychiana folded a few years after his death in 1948.

Mrs. Ballard began giving private classes on metaphysical topics a few years before the Unveiled Mysteries was published. She read from Baird Spalding's books and Spalding even came and stayed at their home for a few weeks. She also read from William Dudley Pelley's publications. Pelley was an American writer and spiritualist who later became a fascist political activist, founding the Silver Shirts. In 1928 he said he had an out-of-body experience where he met God and Jesus and that he was to undertake the spiritual transformation of America. He shared his experience with the American Magazine in 1929 which became wildly successful with the public. He also published messages he supposedly received from the Masters in his magazine The New Liberator. He heavily borrowed religious ideas from the concepts found in Theosophy.

It was around 1934 that Pelley began having trouble with North Carolina and by 1942 he was charged by the government with a battery of charges related to sedition and went to prison until 1950. Some of Pelley's followers were invited to the first private class held by the Ballards in 1934, the year that Unveiled Mysteries was published. Prior to then Mrs. Ballard was a student of Pelley's spiritual philosophy and she later used a lot of his materials for her own writing and teachings. During the class the Ballard's Saint Germain won over Pelley's treasurer and he was made by Saint Germain the Associate Director of the Saint Germain activities. Pelley met with briefly with the Ballards as they tried to win him over to their movement but he declined. The first "I AM" followers were largely recruited from members of the Silver Shirts.

Bryan writes in his book that the parallels between the two organizations (Pelley's and Ballards) was amazing. He believed the Ballards were copying from Pelley's since it had begun before their movement began. Some things he noted was:

  • Pelley's movement started originally with his metaphysical personal psychic experience while residing at a mountain cottage in California. Guy Ballard started his with St. Germain on the side of a mountain in California.
  • Pelley was a writer, went to the Orient in 1917 and claimed he had contact with Secret Service investigations. Ballard later became a writer, claimed to have been in the Orient for a few years and had Secret Service connections.
  • Pelley wrote of his psychic experience in the Sierra Madre Mountains where he left his body and sojourned to some undiscovered land, wrote his story, which inundated the magazine who printed his story with mail. Pelley had an instant following and he later published messages from the Masters. Mr. Ballard shared his own psychic experience of meeting St. Germain while staying at the foot of Mt. Shasta in California. He too had an out-of-body experience with the ascended masters and later took messages from them.
  • Pelley started publishing plans for his "new government" in America. He announced his candidacy for the President of the United States. The Ballards were receiving patriotic messages over the "Light and Sound Ray" in their classes and it was later revealed by the masters that Guy Ballard was the incarnation of George Washington and Mrs. Ballard was Benjamin Franklin.


Pelley's right-hand man and treasurer helped the Ballards for a few months until he got hit by a car as he was exiting their vehicle. He was seriously injured and was abandoned by the Ballards. Although he had been promised protection by St. Germain the Ballards told him he had gotten out of the circle of protection. A short time later the Ballard's son was driving their car when he ran into a ditch and totaled the car. Although he was not hurt, Guy Ballard sustained some broken ribs. Meanwhile, Pelley wrote in his news bulletin on his fourth day of trial with North Carolina that his treasurer had abandoned him and had just gotten into a serious accident after he abandoned their cause. He described the fate of others who had also abandoned the Silver Shirts, implying leaving the Silver Shirts for other cause was not a good idea.

When Braden tried to get interviews for his book with members of the I AM Movement he had no luck. Mrs. Ballard would not meet with him and Guy by then had already passed on. The only people who would talk to him were former members who had been in the Movement and left, yet the majority of them would not say a word without first eliciting the promise that their names and any references that would link them to the Ballards would not be revealed. Braden said in all his interactions with other cults he had never experienced such an attitude. The former members of Ballards were afraid for the avalanche of calls and letters they might receive or fear of economic problems that might follow if they revealed what they knew. Below I describe some affirmations and statements made by the I AM students for the annihilation and death of some who did not fit their philosophy or supposedly were opposing them. Former students would know (and maybe believe) the power of their prayers could physically harm them. It is akin to black magic to pray against another or ask for their physical harm or demise and not a Christian act whatsoever.

When Bryan started published his pamphlets revealing what he had witnessed within the movement Mrs. Ballard told all the I AM students to buy up all the pamplets and burn them. After many book-burning bonfires the followers finanally realized they were only supporting the author in buying his books because he just continued to publish more books. Later in one of St. Germain's discourses he stated, “whether it is Unity, Christian Science or whatever it is, that attempts to bring disgrace upon this Work or condemns or criticizes it, will fail utterly and their churches will be empty!” That prophecy never came true, as both churches still exist today, although with the death of Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science is did decline.

Decrees Created
New Thought affirmations were transformed into I AM decrees by the Ballards. They claimed their rhyming verses and songs were divinely inspired and gave power to the Ascended Masters, angels, and other divine beings to intercede in the affairs of humanity. The decrees were also used to purify oneself, as well as to guide the destiny of America. The I AMers called themselves Minute Men and Women of Saint Germain and were fiercely patriotic to the divine plan presented by the Ballard's Saint Germain. The Ballards followed the weather and headed south in the winter and north in the summer giving 10-day classes where many a long hour was spent giving decrees—led by Mrs. Ballard—fighting evil. The students were taught that they could physically ascend in their bodies like Jesus did, and it was the goal of their life—outside of fighting evil. Supposedly, the main requirements in being a member were: support the accredited messengers financially, follow their teachings, and give decrees every day.

The classes were spectacular. Guy Ballard had learned what power lights and dress could wield upon the audience after attending a fake church where twelve vestal virgins made up the choir. Behind two gold chairs was a illuminated cross with flashing lights. The lightly clad virgins threw flowers among the audience. Then one virgin held a basket of strips of bread and another held a cup of wine and the audience were asked to come forward and partake of this feast and join the holy order. About 150 people came forward. The Ballards did not join the church but Guy was very impressed with the acts and their effect upon the people. It appeared the ideas were transferred into their meetings, but with a different flair.

Describing the Ballard's stage there would be mounds of gorgeous flowers decking the platform. Pine trees would be at the extreme ends of the stage where colored lights would play between the trees. On the stage, beside the podium with a microphone, was a grand piano, chairs for the Ballards and for the pianist, a singer, and a Master of Ceremonies. In the center of the stage was the “Chart of the Presence” presented as two human-like figures, the one on the top radiating many colors and the one below bathed in violet. To the left was an easel and a portrait of Jesus. To your right on the other side of the Presence chart was a golden bearded and mustached gentleman, who supposedly was the exact likeness of St. Germain. At first the Movement used Theosophy's ascended master pictures. Later new pictures were painted by Charles Sindelar who claimed that Jesus and Saint Germain sat for him. Both figures were strongly Nordic in features and looked alike in appearance with kindly,  bearded figures. Under the powerful spotlights lighted upon those paintings they were decidedly impressive. Those pictures were not only famous with I AM students, and found in every I AM sanctuary, they were the exact pictures Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) used as well as offshoots of that movement.

In the beginning, Saint Germain was the big draw. It was only after the Ballards realized in 1935 they could persuade a lot more people to follow them if they appealed to the Christian background of many Americans, that Jesus started speaking through them and his picture was hung in classes at an equal height to Saint Germain. Without the Christ many of their supporters could not accept their new "Saint Germain".

Having been a member of CUT for twenty years the similarity between the two movements was extraordinary. Mr. and Mrs. Ballard would be decked in the finest clothes, Guy with a white suit and Edna in an evening gown. Elizabeth Clare Prophet would also wear evening gowns or a sari and the altar would be decked out the same as the I AM Movement's except with two blue chairs on either side of the altar and there would be no flashing lights. Decrees would be blasted for sometimes a half a day before Elizabeth Clare Prophet would come out on the stage. Decreeing against evil was predominant, as well as for the protection of America, with the use of certain calls that would be handed out during service and then recollected after the service ended, so as not to be known by others what we were decreeing against, and what words we used.

CUT used a lot of the I AM Movement's songs and decrees, with a little modification, and later more decrees were added. Some of the powerful calls were the I AM Movement's, "smash," "blast," "shatter," "annihilate," "dissolve," "consume," "explode," "stop," and "destroy". These words were used to bring about the judgment and end of the power of people, organizations, and situations they opposed, with the added addition in the I AM Movement of "Blast them all from the earth today!"  Because of the I AM Movement's focus on America as the appointed nation of the Ascended Masters, followers tended to be super-patriotic, as well as conservative in social and economic affairs. They opposed strikes, labor unions, and communism. The I AM Movement was highly opposed to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal program, which was in existence during the Movement's peak years. Some of their decrees even went so far as to decree the death of certain individuals, including the Roosevelts. At inner core member's meetings they would unite together and say, “Blast! blast! blast! their carcasses from the face of the earth forever!”

Death of Guy Ballard
A crisis and decline of the organization happened after 1939. The belief in a bodily ascension was the primary goal of the I AM students. The followers were frequently told they would ascend physically into heaven like Jesus, and even that Guy, Edna, and their son Donald were all to ascend at the same time in a triple ascension. Yet as elderly devoted members passed away doubt in what was being taught crept in. Guy Ballard had preached that his physical body was indestructible. He told his followers that his body was so charged with light that nothing could harm him physically, although as stated earlier he was hurt in the car accident. He also said he was given the opportunity to ascend but chose not to.

During one of the Ballard's classes Guy Ballard became sick. For three days he suffered and an emergency operation was performed at home, but to no avail, he died on 29 December 1939 from heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver. During the class Edna managed to keep the fact secret, stating that Guy was away working on important matters with St. Germain. Three days later, on 1 January 1940, local and national newspapers announced his death stating that Mrs. Ballard officiated at his funeral and Ballard's body was cremated. Mrs. Ballard had to not only cover her tracts but reverse words earlier received from her "Jesus" stating that the ascension can only be obtained in the physical. She announced Mr. Ballard had ascended after his death under a new dispensation and was now an ascended master. In the years that followed she announced many other members who had died as newly ascended ascended masters.

Then, further bad news fell upon the Movement. In 1940, Edna Ballard, her son Donald, and other I AM leaders were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on eighteen counts of mail fraud in California. Part of the indictment read: The jury charges that the defendants did unlawfully, knowingly, and willfully devise and intend to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud, and for obtaining money and property and promises from a large number of persons ... and that class of persons who could or might be induced by means of any of the fraudulent or false devices, etc., to purchase books, magazines, etc., and each of them to become followers or who might be induced to accept the teachings of the I Am movement and who might be induced to give, send and pay their money and give other things of value to said defendants. (U.S.A. v. Ballard, Los Angeles Super. Ct., No. 14496)

The long trial concluded with a dismissal of charges 8 September 1941. Prosecutors reinstated the charges. The second trial began 2 December 1941 and lasted 32 days. This time the Ballards were convicted and charged with eighteen counts of mail fraud on the basis of claims made in books sent through the mail. Edna Ballard and her son were fined and given suspended jail time. The Ballards appealed; the judgment was reversed. The government appealed; the conviction was sustained in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ballards appealed again, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1944. Meanwhile, their use of the postal service was denied. The Court handed down a decision in 1946. With the decision split three ways, a second Supreme Court ruling voided the original indictments on improper grand jury selection on the grounds that women were improperly excluded from the jury panel. (U.S.A. v. Ballard, Los Angeles Dist. Ct., No. 14588) Mrs. Ballard remained under probation and the restriction to use the U.S. postal service continued for another year.

Through the 1940's I AM students understandably left in droves during the lengthy legal battles and unexpected death of Mr. Ballard. Edna, Donald, and hundreds of followers retreated from Los Angeles to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mrs. Ballard died in 1971 and Elizabeth Clare Prophet and her Ascended Masters announced Edna's ascension and status as Ascended Lady Master Lotus. The Movement continues today on a much smaller scale. They continue today to believe that no one during or after their accredited messengers (the Ballards) are valid messengers.

Some Challenging Beliefs
Mrs. Ballard instituted a number of challenging beliefs during her reign, as well as did Mr. Ballard with her. Both the Ballards excluded black people from their movement supposedly to keep racial purity. Present day I AM Movement has reversed that teaching. The Ballards also taught that sex between married couples is only to be used for procreation as it weakens the body and opens one to entities (this belief mostly continue in CUT), although the inner higher echelon were celibate because the teachings stated you could not earn your ascension otherwise. When students discovered that  "Animal forms were created in the beginning by powerful black magicians" (Ballards, Voice Oct. 1936: 22) they began to abandon and kill their pets because " ... It is the duty of every I AM Student to call the Mighty I AM Presence and Ascended Masters to free all animal life from its discord, limitation and imperfection" (Ballards, Voice Oct. 1937: 30).

The Ballards taught that “the mighty I AM presence” cannot do its perfect work in anyone who eats meat. Mr. Ballard in his address at the Shrine auditorium in 1938 stated that the followers of Saint Germain should never eat anything that had a face. Since animals are filled with fear, that fear may be transmitted to the person who eats the animal. (Something the Summit Lighthouse/CUT also gave voice to.)

The Ballards rarely quoted from the Bible. Their "Jesus" in a dictation published in "The Voice" of February 1936, “I urge the students everywhere, with all the love at my command, to forget everything else you have ever studied. Stand one hundred per cent in and with your ‘mighty I am Presence’ and the ‘I Am Discourses’ by Saint Germain..." If we take that literally it would also include "forget the Bible you have studied". Would the real Jesus actually say those words, when the historical Jesus used the Old Testament teachings, often quoting the verses, during his ministry?

Two pastors in 1938 attended a Ballard meeting with about five thousand people. When Mr. Ballard proclaimed a secret that "Daddy and Momma (Ballard) loves you. St. Germain loves you." the audience sprang to their feet. Pastor L. T. Talbot and Pastor J. C. O'Hair remained seated. Quickly, the St. Germain minute men (devoted followers) ordered them to arise and honor Saint Germain or to get out of the building. They were forced from the auditorium.

The "I AM" Movement made use of many affirmations. One such affirmation was “O Michael, archangel, thou true source of divine light, we praise thee, we bless thee, we serve thee, we worship thee.” Jews and Christians are forbidden to worship the angels. (Col. 2:18, Rev. 22:8-9) Jesus also rebuked Satan (one of God's original angels) when he said he would give him the kingdoms of the world if he would worship him. (Mat. 4:8-10)

Mr. Ballard delivered a message from Jesus that was published in the May, 1936 issue of issue of 'The Voice of the I AM'. He said: "I want to say to the whole world: 'Every human being who rejects my beloved brother, Saint Germain, rejects me, and don't forget it. My beloved brother, Saint Germain, is just as real as I am, and is an ascended being. He is completing the work which I started two thousand years ago. May the whole world understand that and give obedience to it.' "

The Lord Jesus said in His great intercessory prayer, recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John, "Father, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." The last sayings of Christ while on the cross was, “It is finished" (John 19:30) is found only in the Gospel of John, the Greek translation means “paid in full.” When Jesus uttered those words, He was stating the Law is fulfilled. Jesus had eliminated the debt owed by mankind—the debt of sin. The work long promised, long expected by prophets and saints, is done. The exhausting work of His ministry was done, the persecutions and mockeries, and the pangs of the garden and the cross, are ended, and man is redeemed. Would the real Jesus have claimed that another being was finishing the work he began two thousand years ago?

Although I was never a member of the Movement, its teachings have been promulgated by all other ascended master activities since. If the foundation of I AM is not that we are I AM, but only God is I AM, we have made ourselves equal with God believing each of us has an I AM Self. Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8: 58). The Jews recognized His claim to deity when He said, "Before Abraham was, I am." And because they refused to acknowledge Him as Lord, they sought the more to slay Him. I AM, is the name of God, (Ex 3:14) and was before Abraham. Our Lord the Christ existed before Abraham. He did not come into being, he existed before creation. Can we say the same? Did we not come into being after the Creation?