In the 1930’s Guy and Edna Ballard founded the original Ascended Master Teachings religious movement, the “I AM activity.” This activity was an offshoot of Theosophy (we’ll get to that in another post) and a predecessor of several New Age religions. In it’s hay day the movement had up to a million followers and is still active today, but on smaller scale; their motto is “Spiritual, Educational and Practical.” It seems that all new religions get their names from some dead or little used language; I AM is no different. There is an ancient Sanskrit mantra, So Ham, which means I am that I am and so I AM took it’s name.
It seems that Guy Ballard or Godfre Ray King his pseudonym, was hiking on Mount Shasta when he encountered a man who introduced himself as Saint Germain, an 18th century alchemist and regular proponent of theosophical religions. After that Ballard allegedly started talking with ascended masters regularly and founded saint Germain Press to publish their books.
In 1935, the Ballard’s hosted a gathering at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium that drew 6,000 people and they led the audience in prayers, affirmations and decrees, including adoration’s to God. According to the group’s teachings the Ascended Masters included Jesus, and that Ascension was entering heaven alive, so I AM calls itself Christian. It also claims a direct link to the Declaration of Independence, which they believe Saint Germain inspired and guided. Yet after Ballard’s death in 1939, his widow and her son were charged with 18 counts of mail fraud. The case went to the Supreme Court which vacated the conviction on the second appeal.
The group teaches that the “mighty I AM Presence” is God existing in each person’s higher self and that a light, the “Violet Flame” can be generated by the I AM Presence to surround each person who expresses mercy and forgiveness. The goal of the teachings are purification so that the believer can become an Ascended Master when leaving their body.
“The movement teaches that the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent creator God (‘I AM’ – Exodus 3:14) is in all of us as a spark from the Divine Flame, and that we can experience this presence, love, power and light – the power of the Violet Consuming Flame of Divine Love – through quiet contemplation and by repeating ‘affirmations’ and ‘decrees’. By ‘affirming’ something one desires, one can cause it to happen.”
I AM’s Emphasis on personal freedom, embracing patriotic symbols, positive thinking, overlap with such New Age movements as Religious Science.
As of 2007 the Saint Germain Foundation has a reading room on Mount Shasta, while it’s headquarters are in Schaumburg, Illinois and a 12 story I Am Temple is in downtown Chicago, Illinois.