In Internet Era, an Unwilling Lord for New Age Followers [Excerpts]
Raj Patel’s desk sits in a dusty, cement-floored nook in his garage, just beyond a parked gray Prius, near the washer and dryer. They are humble surroundings for a god.
“It is absurd to be put in this position, when I’m just some bloke,” Mr. Patel said.
A native of London now living on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Mr. Patel suddenly finds himself an unlikely object of worship, proclaimed the messiah Maitreya by followers of the New Age religious sect Share International.
Mr. Patel’s journey from ordinary person to unwilling lord is a case of having the wrong résumé at the wrong moment in history. For this is a time when human yearning to find a magical cure for the world’s woes can be harnessed to the digital age’s instant access to a vast treasure-trove of personal information.
[Patel] is charming, and as a graduate of Oxford, Cornell University and the London School of Economics, he is considered brilliant, although he is self-effacing. He readily admits to being imperfectly human.
People began to believe otherwise on Jan. 14 in London when Benjamin Creme, the leader of Share International, who is also known as the Master, proclaimed the arrival of Maitreya. The name of the deity has Buddhist roots, but in 1972, Mr. Creme prophesied the coming Maitreya as a messiah for all faiths called the World Teacher.
Mr. Creme did not name the messiah, but he revealed clues that led his devotees to fire up their search engines on a digital scavenger hunt that would lead them to The One.
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...it was the final sign.
“It became a flood,” said Mr. Patel, referring to a torrent of e-mail messages that asked: “Are you The One?” He removed the contact information from his Web site, but dozens of pages, discussion groups and videos have emerged online proclaiming his holiness.
Mr. Patel has emphatically and publicly denied being Maitreya. Bad move. According to the predictions, “Maitreya will neither confirm, or will fail to confirm, he is Maitreya,” said Cher Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Share International.
(James, In Internet Era, an Unwilling Lord for New Age Followers, New York Times Online, February 4, 2010)
[TBC: This is now the second time that Benjamin Crème has pointed to someone purporting to be the World Teacher or Christ. In Matthew:24:23 the Lord reminds us, “if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.”]