"I Am:" Inside Mount Shasta's Eclectic Spirituality

"I Am:" Inside Mount Shasta's Eclectic Spirituality

A Story by Jennifer C

For just a few minutes at sunset, the mountain glows pink.

Below its peak, the small city of Mount Shasta, California falls into shadows as wind-chapped faces turn to watch the bright orb monopolize what’s left of the sinking sun. 

For students of the “I Am” activity, a spiritual cult prominent and founded in Mount Shasta, this moment is fundamentally sacred.

As the story goes, the teaching’s central ascended master, Saint Germain, spoke the mysteries of the world through the body of a hiker on that very same mountain barely 80 years ago.

The hiker’s husband, Guy W. Ballard, wrote it all down under the pseudonym Godfre Ray King. His stories resembled an all-inclusive package of Christianity, Taoism, metaphysics, Buddhism, and a spattering of almost every other spiritual teaching or belief system since Celtic times. His literature spurred a quiet, global movement.

But not without controversy. After Ballard passed away in 1939, his wife, who is known in the teaching as “Lotus,” and son, Donald Ballard, were sued twice for fraud by the United States government. Allegations against the duo claimed they had made a fortune by inventing a religion. After being convicted by two jury trials in 1942 and 1944, the ninth circuit overturned the rulings and when the government appealed to the Supreme Court both cases against the Ballards were vacated under the grounds that the religious issue was not within the courts’ jurisdiction.

“If I might agree to their conviction without creating a precedent, I cheerfully would do so. I can see in their teachings nothing but humbug, unattained by any trace of truth. But that does not dispose of the constitutional question whether misrepresentation of religious experience or belief is prosecutable,” added Justice Robert Houghwout Jackson.

“I would dismiss the indictment and have done with this business of judicially examining other people's faiths,” concluded Justice Orville Douglas.  

Contrary to several “I Am” pamphlets, documents, and student testimonies that insist the teaching is not a religion, the St. Germain foundation is registered under the same tax exemption status as a religious charity, IRC 501 (c)(3). But while the “I Am” teachings gained over 1 million followers in the 1950’s, patronage dwindled during the late 1960’s and talk of the “I Am” religion reverted into private back countries and mountain towns all over the world. Mount Shasta remained its central hub.

Today, the remnants of the “I Am” teachings are real and contemporary in the small city, taking disguise behind the holistic health stores and organic clothing purveyors that line Mount Shasta’s central boulevard and attract winter-land-seeking tourists.

“Mt. Shasta's extensive spiritual community stimulate the local economy and create diversity,” according to the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce.

More notable is the impression the teachings have had on the culture of Mount Shasta through its people.

When she was just 18 years old, Katrin Guest moved to Mount Shasta from her tiny hometown of Munchenbuchsee, Switzerland to be in the heart of the “I Am” teaching. Guest said the activity is “about personal responsibility and freedom, nobody tells you what to do.”

“It is more of an explanation of the laws of life than a religion,” said Guest.

Brought up Catholic, her mother was outraged when Guest first learned about the “I Am” teachings back in Switzerland. The idea that Guest had joined a cult frightened her mother.

“I was fourteen and in those days you had to take bible classes, because that’s how it was at that time in Switzerland. But it just didn’t make much sense to me,” said Guest. She recalled having a fountain of questions that the bible school teachers did not have answers to.

Then she fell in love.   

His name was Christopher and his parents were students of the “I Am” activity.

“Like most young people he wanted to do something different than his parents but they were very happy because I wanted to go to the classes so badly,” said Guest. “I Am” students go to class like Catholics go to church only, in the “I Am,” students go five to seven times a week.

“I was just barely learning English but you had to read the three volumes before you could go to class so I read them but didn’t understand just because I wanted to go to the classes so badly,” laughed Guest.

“I was just so fascinated by the way they saw the world.”

Guest describes her experience as “liberating.” She was in a dramatic rebellion against her family, grappling for answers to existential questions she had never thought possible to rectify, and reveling in the excitement of a first love.

It was in those dizzying months that she learned about the law of attraction through the “I Am” meetings. The theory states that everything an individual thinks manifests in his or her individual reality. Guest connected instantly with the theory, feeling it explained her uncontrollable attraction to Christopher.    

“I was so attracted to him I think because subconsciously I knew he had some answers I was looking for,” said Guest.

The couple moved to the United States to pursue their “I Am” educations but Christopher fell in love with an American woman and left Guest broken hearted. 

“I thought we were soul mates. I thought we were going to get married and have children” said Guest.

She lost the guy but clung to the teachings in his place. When she felt weak or out of control she repeated “I Am” affirmations.

“I just tell myself over and over, ‘I am victorious, I am victorious, I am victorious’ and the bad thoughts eventually leave and I am victorious,” said Guest. She said the affirmation “I am” allows individuals to manifest who they want to be by the power of thought. In her teachings, “I Am” means “God.”  

Two marriages and three kids after Christopher, Guest is again surrounded by the solitude of snow covered mountains. Only now they are not the Alps and Christopher has been married to the American for 20 years. Guest practices her “I Am” activity as devout as if it were a religion and she, a faithful follower.

Her bedroom is fashioned after the revered violet flame, which is a purple-colored fire resembling the Bible’s burning bush. Bad karma collected in past lifetimes can be annihilated by concentrating on the violet flame. Guest’s satin bedspread is the color of the violet flame. She makes her bed every morning, placing a lavender sachet and purple heart-shaped pillow at its head. The sheets, the lampshades, and half of her wardrobe are violet.

Pictures of Saint Germain and other ascended masters who have died after dedicating their lives to perfecting what Guest calls the “inner goodness” or “inner light” litter the white plaster walls, hang suspended by thumb tacks above her bed.

Saint Germain has a head the shape of an upside-down arrow, a beard, a receding hair line, and dark, wide, dissonant eyes. He’s cloaked in blue, the color of power, according to the teachings. He is almost identical to Jesus Christ, who is also one of the many ascended masters who deliver the teachings through certain mediums or human channels.

Then there is Astrea Dear, a fairy-like female with the same dissonant eyes as the others, the same Technicolor ray of sunshine expanding in the background.

Her image, like some of the other renditions of the different ascended masters to be seen around town in coffee shops, boutiques, and gas stations, is a strange hybrid of a child’s cartoon drawing and a psychedelic photograph. It is framed in gold, the holy color, and Astrea Dear wears a gown the color of a Shasta sunset: pink- the color of love.  

“The mountain glows the color of love,” said Guest, watching the sunset.

The Ballard’s St. Germain Foundation is now the only registered trademark authorized to print official “I Am” texts. From its headquarters in Schaumberg, Illinois, on the outskirts of Chicago some thousand miles from its origin, the Foundation publishes and distributes a library of texts and pastel pamphlets through the St. Germain Press, a fully-owned subsidiary of the Corporation. The St. Germain Press has over 40 trade and service marks exclusive to the Foundation, including lessons on the violet flame; the tiny, ringed “R” looped quietly beneath every mention of the flame. On the St. Germain Press, Inc. webpage, visitors can shop for bright colored greeting cards, books, pamphlets, and “I Am” approved musical CD’s and inspirational DVD’s.

“I Am” dictionaries translate the language of the teaching into French, German, Italian, and Spanish. An annual magazine subscription costs $48. A European trip to follow the living steps of St. Germain’s journey on earth? $3,377, with a $500 registration deposit.

Then there is the compound. The “I Am” community owns private acreage just beneath the mountain, where “I Am” students can pay to live and practice. Once a year, around 1,000 people pay or volunteer to stay on the property for a prayer event they call Conclave. Rent is $300 a month, plus $10 per meal. During the remainder of the year, the property is gated.

And then the channeling. A huge salt warehouse that packages and sells special crystal salts for hygiene and gourmet cooking hosts channeling events where “I Am” students pay $30 each to have self-proclaimed mediums deliver sacred messages from the ascended masters. They sit around in an assortment of vibrating massage chairs, drinking organic green tea to fend off negative energies. They take turns on the DKN Technology XGS Series Whole Body Vibration Machine, a $2,495 piece of equipment used to prepare the body for its heavenly ascension. Lava lamps bubble on the window sill, the mountain towering in the background.

If you ask me, it was all about money, as shown by them being accused of fraud by the Supreme Court,” said Paul Kreizenbeck. Kreizenbeck grew up in Mount Shasta around the “I Am” teachings. He is not a student of the practice and calls himself “an informed skeptic.”   

Guest said the “I Am” teaching does not ask anything monetary from its students.

“It’s all based on love-give,” said Guest.

But Jeremy Zantiel, 27, said students of the cult pay plenty in guilt trips. Zantiel was raised in the “I Am” school in Mount Shasta, literally a white plaster school house where “I Am” children receive a full, private k-12 education built around the teachings.  

“They may not ask anything of you but if you break a rule they give you the evil eye,” said Zantiel. When Zantiel was a student at the “I Am” school he was caught by a peer eating chicken at a Chinese restaurant in town. Meat eating is strictly forbidden in the “I Am” teaching. Doctrines explain that the chaos the animal feels in its moment of death is transferred into its meat and absorbed by the body during consumption. The fellow student approached Zantiel, smashed his plate on the ground, and told the school teachers that Zantiel had eaten meat. Zantiel was reprimanded by the school, which contacted his parents who pleaded with the school not to suspend him.  

Like meat, sex is also a no-go. Affection is encouraged, but sexuality is altogether banned. Fathers and mothers kiss their teenagers on the forehead, cheeks, and mouth. Friends sit in each other’s arms, kissing their hands and noses, cooing into each others’ ears. But premarital sex exploits the physical body and taints the mind, according to teachings. Sex for pleasure, even after marriage, is also banned, said Zantiel. Sex is reserved exclusively for reproduction.  

While protecting the body through a healthy diet and exercise is also part of the “I Am” teachings, some students supplement their lack of sex with sweets; chocolate in particular, said Zantiel and Kreizenbeck. At a gathering at the local “I Am” school, students and parents are instructed to bring deserts for a sweets-only pot luck. Someone brings a salad that goes largely untouched. Big plastic mixing bowls full of miniature candy bars don’t stay full for very long and empty pie dishes trim the pop-up tables in the recreation room.

“Eat chocolate! You have to do something,” said Zantiel, chewing on a Snickers. Zantiel visits the school and his family in Mount Shasta during the holidays. Celebrations are traditional, except for the Christmas feast which is usually a whole-wheat vegetable lasagna and a side salad, same for Thanksgiving.

Zantiel said he doesn’t mind the vegetarian Christmas dinners because afterwards, there is always a surplus of chocolates, candies, and pie. 

But “I Am” students are taught to take it easy on the sweets so that their bodies and minds are in perfect shape for their ascension. Only those students who follow the exact teachings of the Ballards make their ascension, which is the “I Am” equivalent of making it to heaven only ascendants are believed to literally vibrate and float up into the sky while they are still alive. Physical fitness helps prepare the body for the vibrations, which come at such a rapid pace that the body’s imperfections go “unregistered,” and are erased.

Physical perfection is also important for the coming of the golden age. Soon the golden age will come, said Guest. Overnight, while the world sleeps, everything will begin its transformation. By morning, “the truth will be revealed. There will be no more disguises,” said Guest.

“I’ve been waiting all my life for this. There have been several times in the past where it has almost happened but we have messed it up. Now it is bound to happen,” said Guest. Guest depicts the golden age as similar to a reckoning or Armageddon, only there are no gory details about anyone burning in Hell. There is no Hell. Those who do not study “the truth” will simply be unprepared and exposed for their folly.

“I’m counting on it within the next two or three years,” said Guest. “It will be beautiful.”

Take that, 2012.

© Jennifer Chaussee


*It is your responsibility to understand copyright law.

© 2011 Jennifer C

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I liked this. I have looked over quite a few religions myself, out of my own curiosity. Through looking at each one, I have found that they are all the same thing, only wrapped in a different expression. Anyone who seeks religion is really seeking themselves. And those who look to find God are only seeking themselves as well. People will condemn whatever they will condemn, but they won't condemn themselves. They will say, "God is not real" or "Faith is just a bunch of hocus pocus, but they will never say that they themselves aren't real, or that they are hocus pocus.

And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am; and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.
Exodus 3:14 KJV

Posted 8 Years Ago

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Added on December 13, 2011
Last Updated on December 14, 2011
Tags: I Am, religion, spirituality, cult, California, Mount Shasta, love, life, people, interests


Jennifer C
Jennifer C

Sacramento, CA

I am a poet and non-fiction writer. **All my work is copyrighted. It is your responsibility to understand copyright laws but just as a quick tutorial, they exist as a formality to protect the br.. more..

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