The "I am" Religious activity
The Great White Brotherhood is the name given in metaphysical/occult circles to those adepts of wisdom who have finished their earthly pilgrimages (the cycles of reincarnation and karma) and, while ascending to a higher state of existence as masters of space, time and material existence, have assumed responsibility for the cosmic destiny of the human race, both individually and collectively. Most occult groups assign a high level of importance to the Brotherhood, but some make interaction with the Ascended Masters of the Brotherhood a major focus of their existence. Of these several, two stand out as most prominent: the "I AM" Religious Activity, the original Ascended Masters group founded in the 1930s, treated below, and the Church Universal and Triumphant, founded in the 1960s. The two organizations, though frequently confused in the public media, were never connected and vary widely in their teachings.


Guy W. Ballard (1878-1939), leader of the "I AM" Ascended Master Religious Activity and co-founder with his wife Edna of the Saint Germain Foundation (its corporate expression), was born in Kansas. He married Edna Wheeler (1886-1971) in 1916 and three years later their son Donald was born. After a period in the army during World War I, he superintended his uncle's lead mine in Tucson, Arizona. Edna was an accomplished concert harpist, and like her husband, had a deep interest in metaphysics and the occult.

1930 became the turning point in the Ballards' lives. Guy Ballard, widely read in theosophical/occult literature, had heard the reports of strange occult events that had been said to occur at Mt. Shasta, a giant volcanic cone in northern California. He developed a desire to visit the mountain to investigate the rumor that a group of Divine Men called the Brotherhood of Mt. Shasta were to be found there.

One day in 1930, while hiking around the mountain he encountered another hiker, "Directly behind me stood a young man, who, at first glance, seemed to be someone on a hike like myself". The man turned out to be the Ascended Master Saint Germain. The Comte de Saint Germain was one of the most famous occultists of modern time. He had lived in eighteenth-century France, had claimed to be several centuries old, and possessed a great reputation as a mystic, alchemist and generally mysterious figure. At the time of their meeting, Ballard, thirsty from his hike, had been looking for a spring. Saint Germain offered a more refreshing drink, a creamy liquid, which had an astonishing vivifying effect upon him. Saint Germain identified the liquid as a substance coming from the Universal Supply. Over a period of time, he introduced Ballard to the astonishing powers of the Ascended Masters and led him into a number of experiences which prepared him to assume his new role as the Messenger of the Masters.

According to Ballard, Saint Germain had ascended to become a member of the Divine Spiritual Hierarchy which rules the life of the universe, and had been assigned the task of initiating the Seventh Golden Age, the permanent "I AM" Age of eternal perfection on this earth. He had searched Europe for several centuries to find someone in human embodiment through whom he could release the instructions of the Great Law of Life. Not finding anyone, he began a search in America, where he encountered Ballard. He subsequently designated Ballard, his wife Edna, and their son Donald as the only Accredited Messengers of the Ascended Masters.

As the initial experiences with Saint Germain and the other ascended beings were occurring, Ballard wrote lengthy letters to his wife in Chicago introducing her to the events. He returned to Chicago in 1931 to initiate Saint Germain's instructions. In 1932 Ballard began to release the message of Saint Germain and to bring forth the visible manifestation of the "I AM" Religious Activity. Together with his wife, he founded the Saint Germain Press and Saint Germain Foundation. Two years later, under the pen name Godfre Ray King, he published his first book, Unveiled Mysteries (1934), an account of the encounter with Saint Germain, quickly followed by its sequel, The Magic Presence (1935). He also held the first ten-day class in Philadelphia. The class was repeated in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Florida and Los Angeles. To assist in the work, the Ballards designated a group of "appointed messengers" from among their most capable students. These Messengers gave classes and toured the country speaking at various sanctuaries.

Through the 1930s, the other publications which were to become the major literary expressions of the Activity were released: "I AM" Adortions and Affirmations (1935), which gave the texts for the decrees, the affirmations and invocations regularly repeated by students of the I AM; and "I AM" Discourses (1936), a series of lectures by Saint Germain which contain the tenets of the Activity (1935). The Saint Germain Press also issued "I AM" Songs (1938), a hymnal, while Mrs. Ballard had already launched the Foundation's magazine, The Voice of the "I AM" (1936).

The success in Los Angeles led the Ballards to move there and establish a second headquarters. They also encouraged students to establish "I AM" sanctuaries and reading rooms to help strengthen the movement around the country. They promoted the idea of "I AM" schools, and the first one was established in Tenafly, New Jersey. Another was opened in Los Angeles. The movement grew in the face of public recognition of its unorthodox beliefs and practices and at one point claimed over a million students.

In 1939, because of attacks by the media and the appearance of hecklers in the midst of the classes and in order to keep a serene atmosphere in the classes (which had been attended by some 7,000 people in Los Angeles), Ballard discontinued the open classes. It became necessary for sincere followers to obtain a special card of admission. He continued regularly to instruct those who had become students of the teachings until his death in December 1939.

Shortly before Ballard's death, several former members of the movement became vocal critics of the Ballards. One former student, Gerald B. Bryan, wrote a series of booklets and one book, Psychic Dictatorship in America, attacking Guy Ballard's integrity and accusing him of plagiarizing much of the religion from old occult books. Other students initiated lawsuits against the Foundation. These suits in turn led to a criminal indictment of Edna and Donald Ballard, along with several staff members. They were charged with mail fraud, i.e., "for using the mails to operate a religion they knew to be false in order to obtain the money of their students". Overwhelmingly the student body supported the Ballards and the Foundation.

When the case finally came to trial in 1942, the Ballards were convicted. Subsequently, the Post Office Department denied the Foundation and Press use of the mails. The convictions were reviewed for the first time by the Supreme Court in 1944, and the Court ruled, in one of its most quoted opinions, that members of a new religion could not be held accountable before a judge and/or jury for the sufficiency of their faith as a grounds for continuing to propagate it. However, a lower court again upheld the conviction which was reviewed and reversed a second time by the Supreme Court in 1946. The criminal charges behind it, the "I AM" turned to the correlative actions against the Foundation. Another eight years of legal action was required before the Post Office removed its ban on the Foundation's use of the mails in 1954. Up to that time, it had been forced to distribute literature by American Express. Finally, in 1957, the Foundation's tax-exempt status was granted.

In 1941, as legal actions proceeded, Edna Ballard moved from the hostile atmosphere in Los Angeles and established her headquarters in Santa Fe, New Mexico (though the official headquarters always remained in Chicago). A branch of the Saint Germain Press, which had just been established in Denver that same year, also moved to Santa Fe, as did the school previously opened in Los Angeles. It offered classes for elementary and high school grades. She further expanded the youth program by initiating the youth conclaves in 1943.

The rebuilding of the movement could begin in earnest, after the final dismissal of the various charges. It was done with little public fanfare. In 1948 national conclaves of the membership were resumed, and that same year a twelve-story building was purchased in Chicago's Loop to serve both the large concentration of followers there and to be a national teaching center. In 1951, a resort center, the famous Shasta Springs Water Co., was purchased, and Mt. Shasta became the scene of two annual national conclaves for both youth and senior students. The youth conclave featured a pageant of the life of Christ, "I AM Come!", one of the few Activity events open to the public.

Throughout the 1950s Edna Ballard expanded the Teachings, The Saint Germain Series (the basic textbooks of the Activity which currently numbers eleven volumes). She also recorded over two thousand dictations from the Ascended Masters. Her son Donald had resigned in 1957 as vice-president of the Foundation and withdrew from the "I AM" Activity. He managed his own manufacturing business but continued to handle most of the recording activity for the Foundation and Press. By the mid-1960s she was heard on twenty-five radio stations. After her death in 1971, the movement's leadership passed to the Board of Directors, which had been established in 1932 and had previously served under the Ballard's guidance.

Beliefs and practices:

Though the spiritual hierarchy, that group of beings who constitute the spiritual cosmos and are popularly called the Great White Brotherhood, have been referred to in occult texts for generations, the contact begun with the Ascended Masters through Guy Ballard led to the releasing of what the "I AM" Religious Activity believed to be a three-fold Truth not previously known outside of the Masters secret retreat centers:

  • the knowledge of the Individualized Presence of God which is known as the "Mighty I Am Presence," God in Action
  • the use of the Violet Consuming Flame of Divine Love
  • the Ascended Masters' use of God's Creative Name, "I AM"

The Activity affirms the reality of One God who is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent and who rules all creation. As the Life of the Universe, God permeates all things and is individualized for dynamic action. From the "I AM" perspective, light is the dominant form taken by divine realities. At the heart of our universe the Great Central Sun, the source of the God's power and authority, emanates forth as the "Mighty I AM Presence". As that Presence goes forth and is individualized, creation is brought into existence. Each individual begins as a spark from the divine flame. The "I AM Presence" is the light in the electron and the cells of the body; it is the light in the mind and heart. However, the misuse of the divine energy over the centuries has resulted in the present condition of humanity, manifest in discord, hate, impurities and death which hide the perfection, harmony, love, purity and life which is God and His "I Am Presence".

As the individualized "I AM Presence", God is the Master within each person, the Christ Self. God is also individualized within each of the members of the hierarchy who govern the cosmos, this planet and solar system. Members of the hierarchy are known as the Ascended Masters of Love, Light and Perfection. They are the guardians of humanity and have worked through the centuries from the invisible, as well as the physical, to awaken, bless, enlighten, and lift humankind out of the self-created situation in which it now finds itself. Once like other humans, they have, through a series of reembodiments, overcome the present condition and by atuning themselves to the I AM Presence, ascended into the light . To follow their path is the goal of each person. One of the Ascended Masters is the Master Jesus. Through his ministry and ascension, He released the Christ Light, the "Mighty I AM Presence", to give the earth the forward movement out of darkness and hate into the Light of Divine Love. A picture of the Master Jesus adorns the platform of every I Am sanctuary, next to that of Saint Germain. The emphasis placed upon his work and teaching by the Activity leads the members to affirm themselves as members of a Christian religion.

The Activity also teaches that each Ascended Master radiates a certain color, an aspect of the divine light representative of a specific divine quality. "Clean, clear, bright colors," said Mrs. Ballard, "are rivers of blessing from the realms of light, the source of all perfection". However, members generally refrain from wearing red or black or having objecta of these colors in their immediate environment. Black is indicative of hate, death and destruction. Red is associated with anger, irritation and impurity. When impurity is removed from red, for example, it will be transformed instantly into gold.

Within the "I AM" Activity, contact with the Ascended Masters and cooperation with their work is a central goal of each individual's life. Through their Authorized Messengers, the Ballards, the Ascended Masters regularly communicated with the "I AM" membership. Those communications were delivered before gatherings of members, published in the monthly periodical, and the more prominent ones collected and reprinted in the textbooks. (In all, over 3,000 dictations from the Masters were received during the Ballards' lifetime). In these dictations the Masters presented a total program of guidance for both individual development and effective action in the world.

Each person in his fullness is pictured in the chart of the "Mighty I Am Presence" which also is to be found on the platform of "I AM" sanctuaries. The individual is shown possessing a "Mighty I AM Presence", a higher self, which is the focus of the Light and Power of God within the self. The "I AM" is the designation of God's creative word or power in action in everyone. It is pictured as a being of light surrounded by a rainbow of lights, above each person and connected to each conscious self by a thread of luminosity. The purpose of the I AM Activity is to release the I AM power within and to make it available for the student to use, in cooperation with the Ascended Masters, in the elimination of evil and the advent of freedom and justice in the world. Each person is also shown surrounded by a violet flame, a cylinder of light created by the "I AM Presence". It is released to function whenever the individual calls forth his/her "I AM Presence" to consume discord and impurity in the world.

The most definitive activities for "I AM" members by which they seek to attune themselves to their "I AM" Presence," and thus align themselves to the path of the Ascended Masters, are

  • quiet contemplation
  • the repetition of affirmations and decrees

Affirmations are sentences that affirm the individual's attunement to God and the blessing due to the person as a result of that attunement. A decree is a fiat spoken from the standpoint of the higher self, the "Mighty I Am Presence," and may be, depending upon the occasion, preaceful, calming or powerful in content and/or enunciation. The repetition of decrees is devotional activity, and all decrees are given in the Name of God, the "Beloved Mighty I AM Presence" and in the Name of the Ascended Master Jesus the Christ. Decrees are repeated daily for the release of the violent Consuming Flame and the dissipation of discord in the individual's environment. One typical decree, repeated in a strong commanding voice, might be:

In the Name of God, the "Beloved Mighty I AM Presence", and in the Name of the Beloved Ascended Jesus Christ, I Am the Strength, the Courage, the Power to move forward steadily through all experiences, whatever they may be, by the glorious Presence with "I AM". "I AM" the Commanding Presence, the Exhaustless Energy, the Divine Wisdom, causing every desire to be fulfilled. The "Presence which I AM!" remains untouched by disturbing outer conditions. Serene, I fold my wings and abide in the Perfect Action of the Divine Law and Justice of my Being, comanding all things within my radiance to appear in Perfect Divine Order!.

Students are taught basic decrees from the beginning of their work in the movement, and booklets of decrees for every occasion have been published.

Freedom was a persistent theme in the teaching of the Ascended Masters, who assigned America a special role in the unfolding Plan for the coming Golden Age. As a result, the Activity and its members have become known for their patriotism and love of country. American flags are prominently displayed at all "I AM" centers, and patriotic literature is integral to all their teaching activity.