Morton Dilkes – USA
Benjamin Crème Raj Patel
The connection between Theosophy and contemporary culture is often surprising and sometimes weird. A recent example is attested by an article in the New Yorker magazine of November 29, 2010, entitled “Are You the Messiah?” The focus of the article is Raj Patel, a naturalized U.S. citizen, economist, and scholar at the University of California at Berkeley, who is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and more recently The Value of Nothing, a New York Times best-seller book. He is a left-leaning activist who has criticized the World Bank, World Trade Organization, and United Nations.
A secondary focus of the New Yorker article is Benjamin Creme (and here comes in Theosophy). Creme is a Scottish artist and writer who is the founder of a movement with ideas derived from Theosophy but with strong messianic leanings. In the 1970s he began promoting the idea that a new World Teacher, Maitreya, would appear to guide humanity in the new Aquarian Age. In 1982, Creme paid for newspaper advertisements internationally to announce the imminent appearance of Maitreya, whom he reported to be living among the Asian community in East London.
The New Yorker article relates Creme’s general ideas about Maitreya to Theosophy and particularly to Besant, Leadbeater, and Krishnamurti. His specific ideas, however, which he claims to have gotten from Maitreya both face-to-face and telepathically, are all his own. They include Maitreya’s appearance on television with viewers all over the world understanding him in their own languages. The first announced date for Maitreya’s public appearance was the summer solstice of June 21, 1982. It passed uneventfully. Then in January 2010, Creme announced that Maitreya had already given a television interview in the U.S. Almost immediately a clip was posted on You-Tube showing a TV interview with Raj Patel and entitled “Was This the First Maitreya Interview?”
Raj Patel says that the report of his messiahship came as a surprise, which he amusedly rejects. Creme has refused to affirm or unreservedly to deny it. And so the matter is grist to the New Yorker’s mill, the subject of Web chatter, and a weird example of how Theosophy continues to connect with our world.