Story 2 — Surprise upon Surprise

Just what were we getting into?

Eileen and I stood at the entrance to ‘La Tourelle,’ the world headquarters of The Summit Lighthouse: a large, beautifully preserved, Tudor-style mansion set against a magnificent backdrop of the snow-crowned Rocky Mountain Front Range. It was February 1973, in seasonally frigid but as-usual-sun-bathed Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Photo courtesy of

What drew my wife and me to this small but rapidly growing religious organization was, most unexpectedly, the memorial service of its founder, Mark Prophet. Weeks before, I had had a serendipitous, street-corner encounter with Mr. Prophet, who thereupon visited the vegetarian restaurant we managed. That brief contact had such a profound impact upon the two of us that, despite being devoted residents of a local Sikh ashram, and being barely acquainted with the Summit group, we found ourselves bicycling across town to attend this event.

Having made the acquaintance of their revered leader, we were now about to meet the organization he single-handedly fostered, and his spouse and dynamic spiritual partner.

Quite unlike a more standard funeral service, nearly all the hundreds of attendees were dressed entirely in white. Additionally, it was clear that the mood of the congregation, while sober and reflective, was at the same time infused with a gracious, lighthearted atmosphere of love and anticipation.

In the mansion foyer, and all about the flower festooned chapel, hung captivating portraits of a variety of bygone saints and holy men and women as well as other noble personages — many of whom we recognized because of both our Christian upbringings and classical educations. These unique, lifelike portraits and skillful photographs thrilled me — especially the several portrayals of Jesus, like none of the Master I had ever beheld, one of which is reproduced immediately below.

Jesus Christ Copyright The Summit Lighthouse

Upon a discreet announcement to prepare for the service, we were ushered forward to two remaining seats near the front of the chapel. It happened I was seated next to a long-time Summit staff member, whom I afterward learned was Auriel Bessemer, an accomplished Summit-affiliated artist. We settled in as musicians played a transcendent piece from Rachmaninoff.

Soon enough, a side door opened, and a radiantly beautiful woman proceeded up to the front altar. I leaned over to Auriel and whispered, “Who is that lady?” His discreet response: “That’s Mark’s wife, Elizabeth.”

Eileen and I occasionally shared sidelong glances, marveling at the depth of Elizabeth’s love and her profound witnessing and, despite the extraordinary circumstances, the poise she maintained throughout. That the founder’s wife led the service was amazing in itself. Added to this was the poignancy of meeting each of the Prophet couple’s four young children, whom she introduced at the altar during the service.

After the singing, the prayers, some meditation interludes, Elizabeth’s intimate testimonials, and the shedding of not a few tears, we filed out one-by-one to greet Elizabeth, who was seated on the front porch, offering each attendee a serene smile, kind words, and warm thank-yous.

Awaiting our turn in the greeting line, I spied a bright, violet-colored light over a mantelpiece, with the accompanying inscription: “For our God is a consuming fire.” Not being a strong student of the Bible, I still realized vaguely that this was a scriptural passage, later finding it at Heb. 12:29. What came to me intuitively was the glad sense that here was likely a teaching about God and fire that wasn’t about pain and suffering so much as change and transmutation.

In a few short weeks, I was to learn that Summit interpretations of many scriptural passages were drawn from the mystical traditions within Christianity… or inspired by the Holy Spirit. They offered profound insights not found in the catechism of my Catholic upbringing or, for that matter, anywhere in conventional Christianity.

On occasion, when Elizabeth used the expression, “Let us open the Scripture,” her meaning went quite beyond paging through the Bible, to opening our understanding of its deeper or ‘mystery school’ teachings. I am looking forward to sharing such insights in future stories.

When our turn came to greet Elizabeth, we were quite taken by her graciousness. She took the time to learn how it was that we came to know Mark, delighting in the details of our chance encounter. It was for both of us the beginning of many years of active involvement in the organization, and working both for and with this extraordinary woman.

Elizabeth Prophet — Copyright, The Summit Lighthouse

We had learned from Elizabeth’s testimony that Mark’s passing was sudden and unexpected, creating an enormous vacuum that was apparent to even myself, an intrigued newcomer. Yet, as occurred to me at the time, this body of devoted souls seemed to acknowledge the transition of their leader as a blessing, akin to the Upper Room experience of the assembled disciples after the Resurrection of Jesus. Or likewise akin to the testimony of followers of other spiritual teachers as recorded, for example, in Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish traditions.

Notably, Mark received his Prophet surname from his father’s Irish heritage. Elizabeth of course shared the surname through marriage, and likewise in the performance of their mission together.

The last name was — certainly for the Summit followers — a fateful irony. For, as I was so soon to learn, Mark and Elizabeth were indeed prophets, not only for their thousands of followers, but subsequently to this very day for many thousands of others who have made their acquaintance, as it were, through the body of written and audio/video testimony they left behind.

That this prophetic role was controversial then, in the early 1960s, and up to now, as we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, is hardly surprising. I am unabashedly one — among many — who consider the Prophet appellation appropriate and, indeed, conferred according to an intent or a grace from on high.

To be frank, we all know our modern-day spiritual marketplace is crowded with claims and controversies, and discrimination is a watchword for all who seek higher understanding. At the same time, as Mark and Elizabeth recognized, while firmly versed in the Christian tradition and advancing the profound teachings found throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are other world religions that are storehouses of spiritual wisdom.

The Prophets were early advocates of the work of the theologian Huston Smith, the renowned author of The World’s Religions, a book that deserves the widest possible distribution. They observed, like Smith, the parallels between Christian mysticism and the core teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc., citing the axiom that ‘there are many paths leading to the mountaintop’… while also acknowledging there are no doubt paths that meander and trail downward.

Echoing the Prophets, one critic of The World Religions book offers this: “Emphasizing the inner — rather than institutional — dimensions of these religions, Smith convincingly conveys the unique appeal and gifts of each of the traditions and reveals their hold on the human heart and imagination.”

Both Mark and Elizabeth, beginning in the 1960s and ’70s, were brilliantly profiling major issues involving virtually every aspect of the quality of life and our national and human destiny. Often literally decades before America and Western society came to embrace their observations as accurate and worthy of widespread understanding.

In upcoming blogs, we will discuss some of the remarkable prophecies inspired upon them — showing precise observations and predictions made far in advance of confirming events. This so as to highlight why many seekers find the Summit teachings a source of inspiration and profound insight, and as well to consider on occasion why others, from differing perspectives, dispute them.

In any case, here is a Summit University Press publication containing many of these predictions: SAINT GERMAIN’S PROPHECY FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM — What to expect through 2025. by Elizabeth Clare Prophet

Mark and Elizabeth were untiring and prolific. In their over twelve years together, and Elizabeth’s 28 additional years, they authored hundreds of books and thousands of audio and video productions, and held quarterly conferences and regular seminars across America and around the globe.

I was privileged to make Mark’s acquaintance, and to serve extensively over many years with Elizabeth herself, as well as for many years with the dynamic and diverse staff that have comprised the organization through to the present day.

I would add here that, despite the high esteem in which these leaders were held, and the sobering task they shouldered in directing a worldwide movement, both were warm, approachable, compassionate, and generous souls. Their legacy endures in the hearts of the untold thousands — and, really, millions — whose lives have been touched, and will continue to be influenced, by their remarkable lives of service.

All that is written here is offered for the reader’s consideration — and welcome involvement. Not in polemic form, for I trust we can be open and straightforward with one another, without the need to argue ‘our side’ of a conversation. Even a casual scroll through today’s social media platforms reveals the dismal returns from that sort of interaction.

Please come along with me in this endeavor. As stated in my bio, I will be covering experiences gleaned from not only The Summit Lighthouse but other intentional spiritual communities, and welcoming respectful, two-way discussions. As we look into alternative modes of living that offer practical community innovations, especially as we proceed into the uncertain, opaque future that lies before America and the wider world.

Article tags:

· progressive revelation

· fate and destiny

· life mission

· prophets and prophecy





My 5 decades of adulthood have been lived inside intentional communities. Harvesting life experiences, from the profound to the humorous, I am eager to share.

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Timothy Joseph Connor

Timothy Joseph Connor

My 5 decades of adulthood have been lived inside intentional communities. Harvesting life experiences, from the profound to the humorous, I am eager to share.

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