Scottish Esotericist Who Claimed Maitreya Appeared in Kenya in 1988 Has Died

Here’s one I missed from a few weeks ago – an obituary in the Daily Telegraph:

Benjamin Creme, who has died aged 93, was a Scottish painter, esotericist and author who spent much of his life as an evangelist for the coming of a “new world teacher”, whom Creme called Maitreya.

…He first came to international attention in 1982, when he took out a series of full-page advertisements in newspapers in Europe and America and staged a press conference in Los Angeles proclaiming the arrival of  Maitreya who, according to Creme, had left his abode in the Himalayas in a “self-created” human body and flown from Pakistan in a jumbo jet to London, where he was working as a night porter in a hospital.

maitreya-kenyaCreme was head of a Theosophical group called Share International, and he was most famous for promoting the claim that Maitreya had appeared at a prayer meeting in Nairobi in 1988, where he had been identified as Jesus. Photographs of a mysterious Arab- or Indian-looking figure (right) became a familiar sight in Share International’s advertising in newspapers and New Age magazines and in newsagents’ windows.

The story has its origins with an article that appeared in the Kenya Times, the content of which is summarised on Share International’s website:

About 6,000 worshippers at Muslim Village, Kawangware, Nairobi, believe they saw Jesus Christ, in broad daylight last week.

The scene was at the Church of Bethlehem, where Mary Sinaida Akatsa conducts miracle prayers, praying for the sick, the blind, cripples, mad people, and the barren.

…She announced that God had spoken to her and told her to “await a miracle because a very important guest would be coming to give her a very vital message.”

Five minutes later, she asked those who were singing to stop as the messenger had arrived. “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus of Nazareth!” went the loud whispers from the crowd as they raised up their hands in divine welcome.

…It took the crowd nearly 20 minutes to recover after the man left the meeting in a car belonging to a Mr Gurnam Singh, who offered to give him a lift. But it will probably take Mr Singh his lifetime to recover from the shock he got two minutes later. On reaching the bus terminus, the man informed Mr Singh to stop the car. On getting out, he walked a few paces beside the road and simply vanished into thin air.

The UPI produced a follow-up piece, which explained that the original article had been headlined “Did Jesus Christ come to Nairobi?” and that there had been speculation that the appearance had been arranged because of large crowds at a Reinhardt Bonnke rally nearby. It adds that according to Singh, the man had “asked to be dropped at the no. 56 bus stop ‘to alight and head for heaven'”. A later report suggests that rather than vanishing “into thin air”, the man had “vanished into the crowd” at the bus stop.

The UPI also noted that the Kenya Times happened “to be conducting a big circulation drive under the tutelage of a team of British tabloid experts”, and Akatsa has more recently claimed that she had been misrepresented:

A few years [before 1988], Prophetess Mary Akatsa, founder of the Jerusalem Church of Christ had prophesied that the Messiah would drop by her church.

Mary Sinaida Dorcas Akatsa now denies she brought Jesus Christ to Nairobi. She says the Indian looking man with long beards had “only came for prayers.”

“But my enemies used his presence to spread rumours and make me look bad in the eyes of the public,” says Prophetess Akatsa, who rose to prominence in the 1980s and 90s through her prayers and healing to the sick and disabled.

So far as I am aware, the “Indian looking man” has never been identified. The appropriation of the story by an occult group based in the UK and USA (California, inevitably) is a particularly striking example of how religious ideas are spread and their meaning transformed. And the interest was reciprocated, with some fundamentalist Christians in turn incorporating Creme’s claims into their own beliefs about the coming of the anti-Christ.

Ironically, Creme’s death came just a few weeks ahead of reports that a bearded Australian backpacker named Daniel Christos is exciting similar interest in Kenya; according to Mpasho,

social media was awash with news that Jesus was spotted on the streets of Nairobi walking barefoot. Kenyans went ahead to take selfies with the heavily bearded man who resembled Jesus (at least according to the movies we’ve watched about the son of God) and the whole nation couldn’t stop talking about him.

UPDATE: In the comments, Alex reminds me of how an academic named Raj Patel became the focus of attention for Creme’s followers in 2010. I wrote about it at the time.

5 Responses

  1. Zech 5 reveals “Freemasonry by Theosophy”

  2. Surely you haven’t forgotten that time Creme identified food policy blogger Raj Patel as the World-Teacher?

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/mar/19/raj-patel-colbert-report-benjamin-creme

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