‘‘I AM’’ Religious Activity
Theosophical religious movement that originated in the
1930s. It was founded by Guy W. Ballard (1878–1939) and
Edna W. Ballard (1886–1971), who claimed to be the ‘‘accredited
messengers’’ of the ascended masters of the Great White
Brotherhood. In 1929 Guy Ballard visited Mt. Shasta, a volcano
in northern California that had for several generations been
the object of legends and mysterious stories, among them that
it was hollow and the home to occult adepts. In the slope of the
mountain, Ballard, as he later recounted the story, encountered
the ascended master Saint Germain. Saint Germain supposedly
assigned Ballard the task of initiating the Seventh Golden
age, the permanent ‘‘I AM’’ age of eternal perfection on
earth. The saint designated Ballard, his wife, and their son
Donald as the only accredited messengers of the masters.
Staying near Mt. Shasta, Ballard wrote about his experiences
in a series of letters to his wife. He returned to Chicago
and they initiated the ‘‘I AM’’ Religious Activity and organized
the Saint Germain Foundation and the Saint Germain Press. In
1934 and 1935 the press issued two initial volumes, Unveiled
Mysteries and The Magic Presence, which describe Ballard’s experiences
with the masters. In 1934 Ballard held his first ten-day
public class, in which he delivered messages for the masters by
a process known today as channeling, though leaders of the
movement reject that term. These messages were published in
The Voice of the ‘‘I AM’’ beginning in 1936, and the most important
were compiled into a set of books.
The ‘‘I AM’’ teachings build upon previous claimed contact
with ascended masters by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. Ballard
claimed to have contacted not only the several masters who
spoke to Blavatsky but also a host of additional exalted beings.
By far the largest number of messages were from Saint Germain
and the master Jesus.
Through Ballard the masters taught of the ‘‘I AM,’’ the basic
divine reality of the universe, God in action. Individualized, the
‘‘I AM’’ is the essence of each person, they said, and should be
constantly invoked and activated. It is pictured as an entity residing
above each person’s head and surrounded by golden
light and a rainbow of color. It is connected to the person by
a shaft of white light. The ‘‘I AM’’ presence is invoked by use
of decrees, affirmative commands that the ‘‘I AM’’ presence initiate
action in the self and the world. Basic in the daily activity
of an ‘‘I AM’’ student is the violet flame decree, in which a violet
flame is pictured surrounding the person and purifying him
The ‘‘I AM’’ movement has published a wide variety of decrees
to be used for all life situations. Included are a set of de773
crees used for removing negative conditions from the individual’s
life or environment. These negative decrees have been
occasionally misunderstood, and the movement has occasionally
been accused of using them to curse someone, which the
movement denies. The decrees picture the blasting away of
negative energies in the world, and strict instructions are given
to students not to decree against any person.
The ‘‘I AM’’ movement grew spectacularly during the 1930s
but ran into significant problems shortly after Guy Ballard’s
death in 1939. Several former students began to organize
against the movement, charging that its leaders were religious
frauds. In 1942 Edna Ballard, Donald Ballard, and a number
of leading students were charged with mail fraud. In the trial
the prosecutor argued that Ballard had made up the religion
and that he and other members did not believe it and operated
the foundation purely as a fraudulent moneymaking scheme.
Although the defendants were initially convicted, the convictions
were eventually overturned in an important Supreme
Court decision holding that one’s religious faith could not be
put on trial. Not until the early 1950s was the damage done by
the initial indictments reversed.
Meanwhile Edna Ballard had assumed control of the movement,
taking it out of the public spotlight. She refused to give
interviews to outsiders, and through the next decades many
supposed the movement had died out. It had actually expanded.
As of the early 1980s there were more than three hundred
‘‘I AM’’ sanctuaries and centers in North America. The movement
is now led by a board and several teachers appointed by
the Ballards. Since Edna Ballard’s death, no messages have
been received from the masters.
The Saint Germain Foundation and Press are located at
1120 Stonehedge Dr., Schaumburg, IL 60194. A summer retreat
center is located not far from Mt. Shasta, California. Every
summer, members gather for various events, closing with the
public presentation of a pageant on the life of Christ. The pageant
tells the story of Jesus’ life without mentioning the Crucifixion
and emphasizes Christ’s ascension.
Ending one’s life on earth by ascending to the realm of the
masters is a goal of ‘‘I AM’’ activity.
Germain, Saint, through Guy W. Ballard. The ‘‘I AM’’ Discourses.
Chicago Saint Germain Press, 1935.
King, Godfre Ray [Guy W. Ballard]. The Magic Presence. Chicago
Saint Germain Press, 1934.
———. Unveiled Mysteries. Chicago Saint Germain Press,
Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of American Religions. Detroit
Gale Research, 1992.