Prominent Activist and Academic Lives the Life of Brian

Here’s one I’ve missed: as is being widely reported, following an appearance on the Colbert Report, the academic and activist Raj Patel has been heralded as the long-awaited “World Teacher” Maitreya by Benjamen Creme and his Share International organisation; the New York Times reported last month that:

The Maitreya clues — his age (supposed to be born in 1972; Mr. Patel was), life experiences (supposed to have traveled from India to London in 1977; Mr. Patel was taken on a vacation there with his parents that year) race (supposed to be dark-skinned; Mr. Patel is Indian) and philosophies — all pointed to him. Some believe Maitreya will have a stutter. When Mr. Patel tripped over a few words when talking with Mr. Colbert, it was the final sign.

Patel has denied he is any such thing, and he has responded to the fuss by posting a clip from The Life of Brian on his website.

Creme has been promising that Maitreya will reveal himself for years; if you’re the sort of person who reads classified ads or looks at notices in shop windows in the UK you’re likely to have seen some reference to Creme’s lectures at Friends Meeting House and Conway Hall in London, along with perhaps this photo of an unidentified man whom Creme assures us was Maitreya putting in an appearance in Kenya in 1988. In the 1980s Creme declared that Maitreya was living among Asians in London’s East End; in 1985 some journalists arranged a meeting at an Indian restaurant in the area in the vain hope that Maitreya might be tempted to come along.

Creme made his new announcement in January; his website reports:

The way prepared by His Herald the ‘star’, Maitreya, the World Teacher, has given His first interview on American television. Millions have heard Him speak both on TV and the internet.

His open mission has begun.

He was introduced not as Maitreya, the World Teacher and Head of our Spiritual Hierarchy, but simply as a man, one of us. In this way He “ensures that men follow and support Him for the truth and sanity of His ideas rather than for His status”.

He spoke earnestly of the need for peace, achievable only through the creation of justice and the sharing of the world’s resources.

This is the first of many such interviews which will be given in the USA, Japan, Europe and elsewhere, bringing His message of hope to the world.

However, no media attention has been given to the other side of the coin – for a long time, Creme has been watched suspiciously by Christian fundamentalists who believe him to be the herald of the anti-Christ and part of a Satanic conspiracy. Inevitably (and perhaps worryingly), some YouTube videos and conspiracy theory threads are now appearing that link Patel to the anti-Christ.

In 2008-09, Creme’s teachings were also used by Christian fundamentalists to whip up “Obama is the anti-Christ” paranoia (part of a larger trend); it was noted that Obama had visited Kenya in 1988, and this site claimed to show that he was the mysterious man photographed in Nairobi; the author insists that “even to the most untrained eyes, either these two men are the same person, or they are twins/brothers or related in some other way.”

Creme’s beliefs are rooted in theosophy; he was also formerly Vice-President of the Aetherius Society, although he left in 1959 over “differences” (I blogged on another Aetherius Society-linked figure here).