On an an early January night in 1959, Benjamin Creme first connected with the entity he now calls the Master. That chance encounter set in motion a movement that has spanned decades, based on the idea that Creme receives telepathic communications from beyond.
His followers belong to an organization called Share International, a little-known but passionate organization that believes in the impending appearance of the World Teacher, who they call Maitreya. Their core beliefs include housing and food rights, healthcare and education, and a universal truth spanning all faiths. In short: sharing is caring, they say.
Creme died Oct. 24, at age 93, after decades of leading his small but devoted following. With him died the telepathic communications they believe connected him to Maitreya, a being who encompasses Christ, the Mahdi, Krishna, and the Messiah in one, according to believers. There is no apparent heir to his other-worldly transmissions, and it’s unclear who will lead his followers as they await Maitreya.
Creme said that after that initial encounter in 1959, the Master told him about the forthcoming "Reappearance of Maitreya, the Christ, head of our planetary hierarchy," and his role in the plan. But, Creme said, he put those ideas to the side for over a decade.
In the 1970s, Creme said he began communicating with the Master again, sometimes undergoing telepathic transmissions for as many as 20 hours a day. "He forged in this period an instrument through whom he could work, and which would be responsive to his slightest impression," Creme wrote in his online biography. Despite this linkage, he insisted there was no infringement on his free will. Creme founded his first transmission meditation group in 1974 and built a glass and wood tetrahedron to use as a "transmitter-transformer instrument" that same year, as well as a "spiritual energy battery."
He soon began lecturing publicly and delivering the good news.
"When the Christ returns, he will not at first reveal his Presence, nor will the Masters who preceded him; but gradually, steps will be taken which will reveal to men that their lives among them now a man of outstanding, extraordinary potency, capacity for love and service, and with a breadth of view, far beyond the ordinary,” the Master told Creme to say. “Those who can respond to his presence and his teaching will find themselves somewhat reflecting this love, this potency, this breadth of vision, and will go into the world and spread abroad the fact that the Christ is in the world, and that men should look to that country from which a certain teaching is emanating. This will take place in a very, relatively, short period of time, and will lead to conclusive evidence that the Christ is in our midst.”
That Christ-figure, Maitreya, created his human body—that of a South Asian male—in London in 1977. He moves among us but we don’t know who he is, according to Share International followers.
“Preferring to be known simply as the Teacher, Maitreya has not come as a religious leader, but as an educator in the broadest sense ― pointing the way out of humanity's most critical problems,” the website states. “Maitreya does not intend to build a new religion around himself, nor to create followers, but to teach humanity ‘the art of Self-realization.’”
Share International followers say Maitreya is the promised figure in every faith: the Messiah, Christ, and the Mahdi, to name a few.
But the very corporeal description of Maitreya has led to a number of sightings over the years. Followers widely believe that he appeared in 1988 at a church in Nairobi, wearing white robes at a gathering for prayer and healing.
"We are nearing the time for the reign of heaven. But before that I shall come back and bring a bucketful of blessings for all of you," the man reportedly said.
The appearances kept coming.
When a Share International representative sidled up to this Daily Beast reporter at a conference earlier this year, he excitedly proclaimed that he had been in the presence of Maitreya. He knew the speaker he’d heard a few years ago was the figure touted by Creme by the ideas the man espoused, he said.
But the yearning for Maitreya has also turned into headaches for the group and those misidentified.
The group’s adherents mistakenly identified a man as Maitreya just a few years ago. Raj Patel, an economist and food activist, was surprised to one day find followers of the belief system approaching him after public appearances.
He eventually had to write a post on his blog—and in The Guardian—disavowing any link to the figure known as Maitreya.
“I always wanted to be a Prince of Something. But when opportunity comes knocking, it turns out it’s to get me to sign for a package for some other dude,” Patel wrote. "Sadly, I’m not the Messiah. I’m just a very naughty boy.”
Creme disavowed the Patel incident as a case of followers gone rogue. "I would like to make clear that we at Share International have absolutely nothing to do with this mistaken identity and we regret the inconvenience caused," he wrote in the Guardian. He cited Patel's politics—a commitment to "sharing, fraternity, justice, and co-operation"—as "part of the reason for this stilly misidentification."
The Share International website lists 239 appearances by Maitreya between 1988 and 2002. But that year, Maitreya’s appearances were “halted temporarily.” The appearances happened before Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists, according to the site.
Yet, for all of Share International’s science fiction-like ideology, an overzealous thirst to identify Maitreya may be the worst of its sins. Tax forms for Share International USA obtained by The Daily Beast identify a small budget—and, as a non-religiously-exempt organization, are readily available. It’s U.S. headquarters are on the West Coast, along with a Benjamin Creme art museum.
In its membership magazines, Share International writes about food justice, environmental issues, and other progressive causes. The November 2016 issue included an interview with anti-fracking filmmaker and activist Josh Fox, and another proclaiming a global family by citing a viral video about DNA.
Creme, the founder of the movement and communicator with the Masters, died in October. But Todd Lorentz, the group’s USA spokesman, told The Daily Beast that his passing wouldn’t change their mission.
“Very little will change in terms of the immediate work going forward and the various groups worldwide will continue undeterred in their ongoing efforts,” Lorentz said. “In fact, the events unfolding worldwide at this time demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, the conditions foretold on countless occasions to precede the emergence of Maitreya and His subsequent Day of Declaration.”
And while they await Maitreya’s emergence, followers have one last message sent from him to Creme in March 2016, “by a process of mental telepathy.”
“Judge for yourselves, My brothers, how close you are to My expectations of a new world,” Maitreya said through Creme. “This will be a world in which all men are one, in which all men fulfil the joy of creation, and fulfil with love their capacity to show the way to their brothers in simplicity and truth.”