World War II was over and the Cold War was just heating up when a metaphorical Atomic Age bomb burst in Colorado.
The American science-fiction community was still in an uproar over the Shaver Mystery, “The Most Sensational True Story Ever Told,” according to Amazing Stories magazine, a publication whose circulation had skyrocketed after it published “I Remember Lemuria!,” a fantastic story purporting to be a memoir of the extraordinary subterranean-world encounters of writer/artist Richard Sharpe Shaver, in 1945. The is-this-for-real controversy concocted by editor in chief Ray Palmer inspired Shaver Mystery Clubs to spring up around the country and fueled numerous letters from readers who shared similar memories, dreams and alleged encounters with descendants of warring extraterrestrial races: the evil Dero and the benign Tero, who lived in the hollow Earth. Life magazine called the phenomenon “the most celebrated rumpus that rocked the science fiction world.”
One of those letters, published in the October 1946 issue of Amazing Stories, came from Dr. Maurice Doreal, the Denver-based “Supreme Voice” for the Ascended Masters, super-evolved human beings who live below Tibet. Doreal had recently announced that he was moving his Brotherhood of the White Temple from central Denver to rural Colorado to wait out the coming nuclear holocaust. “Like Mr. Shaver, I have had personal contact with the Dero and even visited their underground caverns,” he now wrote. “In the outer world they are represented by an organization known loosely as ‘the Black Brotherhood,’ whose purpose is the destruction of the good principle in man…. The underground cities and caverns are, in the most part, protected by space warps, a science known to the ancients, but only touched on by modern science…. I note that many are wanting to enter these caves. For one who has not developed a protective screen this would be suicide and one who revealed their location would be a murderer….”
He described the group that the Brotherhood represented as the White Lodge, or Supreme Council of the Ascended Masters: “The masters or adepts do not rule; they guide and direct man in his spiritual evolution…. Because so many have tried to make the White Lodge a supernatural thing rather than what it is, a group of persons who have evolved mentally, physically and spiritually ahead of the mass of mankind, much misperception has arisen. It is the most coldly logical group I have ever contacted.”
Following his startling pronouncements, Doreal gave brief interviews to Time and Life magazines, then largely disappeared from public view — only to later resurface in his new Shamballa Ashrama compound near Sedalia, where he awaited the post-nuclear resurrection.
Maurice Doreal was born Claude D. Dodgin in pre-statehood Oklahoma on August 25, 1902, to Thomas D. and Alta Belle Dodgin. His father was a farmer and sometime “day laborer,” and Claude was the youngest of their six children.
The family later moved to Wichita, Kansas, where both Thomas and Claude were listed as “landscape gardeners” in the 1924 city directory. (As Doreal, he claimed part Choctaw heritage and service with the U.S. Army Signal Corps — neither of which can be verified.)
As with the children of most working-class people at the time, Claude’s formal education was limited to elementary school. This did not prove to be a handicap. He later claimed to have had his first encounter with an Ascended Master at age three, and another at age twelve. He also said he’d retained the experiences of previous incarnations so well that he didn’t need to be taught anything by the time he emerged as Claude D. Dodgin (or “Claude Doggins,” which he also gave as his birth name).
“When I was born into this life I had a full and complete memory of my past lives and incarnations. And I never had to study over again the forgotten things that most of us do. I did not have to learn to read and write. I did not have to learn mathematics or physics or chemistry, or anything else because in the past I had acquired that knowledge and had retained my attainments of the past,” Doreal wrote in Personal Experiences Among the Masters and Great Adepts in Tibet.
The most precocious kid on the planet apparently kept a low profile about his early attainments. What they did prepare him for, he later explained, was a supernatural invitation in 1925 that took him from Wichita to Calcutta, where he was then guided to Darjeeling, and from there to the secret underground kingdom in Tibet where the Ascended Masters and “great adepts” had their headquarters.
There he spent years studying esoteric knowledge before returning to Kansas as the anointed representative of the Great White Lodge to set up the Brotherhood of the White Temple. Doreal would later explain his lack of passport stamps by claiming that it was actually his astral presence that had made the journey.
A marriage license archived at Familysearch.org shows that Claude D. Dodgin, 25, and Ruth Proctor, 20, both of Altus, Oklahoma, were married in Chickasha, Oklahoma, on September 4, 1927, by the Reverend A.H. Owen, a Baptist minister.
According to city directories and the 1930 Census, from at least 1929 to 1930 the couple lived in Wichita, where they had a son and a daughter. Apparently, even Dodgin’s great attainments could not be used during the Great Depression for anything more than employment as a clerk, a cab driver and a salesman for the Kansas Brokerage Company. By 1931, the Dodgin family was living in Oklahoma City, where Claude worked as a department-store salesman.
By 1932, the Dodgins were divorced. Ruth married a man who adopted the children and gave them his own name. The 1933 Oklahoma City Directory listed Claude D. Dodgin’s occupation as president of the Brotherhood of the White Temple.
On July 21, 1933, a justice of the peace married Claude D. Dodgin to Mrs. Margaret Chadwell, an Oklahoma City divorcée born Amboline Margaret Wallace in Arkansas in 1901.
By 1937, Dodgin had moved his base of operations to Los Angeles, where he and the second missus split up. A United Press story dated June 21, 1937, chortled about the cross-complaints filed between the “occult leader” and his wife: Margaret charged Claude with cheating on her; Claude complained that she denounced him in front of his disciples.
The U.S. Census taken on April 1, 1940, found “Dr. C.D. Dodgin” living in Bancroft, Colorado — a now-defunct Jefferson County hamlet — at the Court Cottage Camps on Morrison Road. He was described as a “traveling minister,” who’d been a “Transient Across Country, No Place Of Residence” by 1935. The person who described Dodgin to the census-taker was his third wife, Sonya. She said that she was born around 1908 in New York and had four years of college education, which she also claimed for her husband.
Colorado state records show that the Brotherhood of the White Temple was officially incorporated in Denver on April 11, 1942, as a religious organization whose stated goal was “to impart religious instruction to its members and to all others who may be interested in its doctrines and teachings.” The three officers of the required board were listed as Dr. C.D. Dodgin, Dr. Khereb Ramose and Dr. Kenneth Stahl.
Booklets written by Dr. Maurice Doreal, Dr. M. Doreal or just Doreal and published by the Brotherhood of the White Temple — neatly typed, crudely stenciled, mimeographed on cheap paper and stapled together — began to appear soon after. Doreal’s The Emerald Tablets of Thoth-the-Atlantean also debuted about this time; he claimed that he’d simply transcribed the work as he channeled the denizen of Atlantis. In appearance, it was about as impressive as all of Doreal’s other early works — though it’s written in a far more enigmatic style, one that has gained some popularity on occult and metaphysical websites and forums.
Doreal’s stream of booklets divided into two lines: an informational series for the general public, available at an individual cost of between 25 cents and a dollar, that outlined various esoteric beliefs, and a teaching series that was designed for “neophytes,” enrolled paying students of the Brotherhood’s correspondence school.
It’s likely that Doreal borrowed his mystery-wisdom home-study model from the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, an organization founded in 1915 by Harve Spencer Lewis. Thanks to Lewis’s advertising talents, AMORC rose above competing Rosicrucian organizations to become a flourishing outfit by the 1930s, with large ads in national publications — especially magazines of popular science, science fiction and mystery/detective stories.
To those familiar with the religion of Theosophy, founded by charismatic Russian Helena Blavatsky, Doreal’s writings about the Great White Lodge and the Ascended Masters will seem curiously similar, if not an outright rip-off. Theosophy was a common launching pad for the multitude of seers, clairvoyants, mediums, “white mahatmas,” yogis, gurus and swamis who advertised in newspapers and magazines across America in the early 1900s.
“Doreal amassed one of the world’s largest and finest occult and science-fiction libraries — over 30,000 volumes — but all he seemed to distill out of his studies was a long series of repetitive and poorly written, but highly imaginative, booklets on occult subjects,” wrote Walter Kafton-Minkel, who researched Doreal for his 1989 book Subterranean Worlds: 100,000 Years of Dragons, Dwarfs, the Dead, Lost Races, & UFOs from Inside the Earth.
In the early ’40s, Doreal’s Symbolism of the Great Seal of the United States had detailed hidden meanings of the symbol that appears on this country’s official documents and currency in a few pages. But the rest of the booklet was dedicated to the coming of the Avatar, chosen by the Ascended Masters to establish a New Age of enlightenment. With uncharacteristic modesty, Doreal said that he was only to be the Voice, or forerunner, of the Avatar, who “will appear on May 2nd 1956 in America. This is the day when the present earth cycle closes and the Golden Age of the seventh cycle will dawn.”
In several booklets, Doreal warned of the “Serpent People,” a race nearly identical to Shaver’s snake-headed Dero and a fantasy feature first popularized by Robert E. Howard’s “The Shadow People” in a 1929 issue of Weird Tales. Like the Dero, the Serpent People could shape-shift to look like humans.
By 1947, M. and Sony Doreal were established at 430 East Tenth Avenue in Denver; at the same time, “Rhereb Ramose” — a misspelling of Khereb Ramose, Doreal’s sometime partner and perhaps alter-ego, since there’s no real verification of his existence — was listed as living at 1600 Logan Street. That’s the address of the William G. Fisher mansion, a stunning edifice built in 1896 by a Denver department-store magnate who died the following year. By the ’40s, it was leased out to a variety of businesses, including the Brotherhood of the White Temple. (Today it’s the home/office of architect David Tryba.) It was from 1600 Logan that Doreal sent his missive to Amazing Stories, and also announced the imminent move of the Brotherhood to Sedalia.
The Brotherhood wasn’t the only thing that was moving: As public obsessions turned away from Theosophy-ish exoticism in favor of the alarming possibilities posed by nuclear warfare, unidentified flying objects and the Shaver Mystery, Doreal’s works began to shift focus, too.
In Mysteries of the Gobi, Doreal wrote of a civilization beneath the desert inhabited by a highly advanced, benign race similar to Shaver’s Tero folks, but with one distinct difference. “Gobians” were the “real” Hebrews who became priests to the Jews, but were not Jews themselves because “Jesus was not of the Jewish race,” but descended from the Gobians, who all had fair skin, blue eyes and red or blond hair.
“I had predicted atomic war years before it came,” Doreal told the Rocky Mountain News in 1946. “I saw atomic energy at work several years ago when the Dalai Lama of Tibet ushered me into the Great White Lodge 75 miles below the Himalayas.”
By 1948, in Flying Saucers: An Occult Viewpoint, Doreal was warning that the Serpent People had disposed of Josef Stalin and “now the supreme council of the soviet is controlled by beings far wiser than they appear.”
It was time to prepare for the apocalypse.
All it took to buy into Shamballa Ashrama and prepare for the coming holocaust was $500 per person and a personality that would blend in well with the program. And if nuclear war didn’t actually hit, Doreal said, the community could become a summer resort.
Newspapers and magazines had a lot of fun with the cult led by a “baldish little man,” as the United Press referred to him in March 1948, who claimed to have met the current Dalai Lama’s predecessor and knew when atomic weapons were about to be unleashed. He was photographed wearing gold robes, seated on a silver throne that he claimed was previously owned by the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, and proclaiming the new “Shangri-La in the Rockies” to be “the center of occult wisdom in the West.”
Shamballa Ashrama was finally finished in 1953. It included about a hundred homes, a two-story house of worship, some barracks-like buildings, and a nearby cave where food could be stored for the long haul. The lead in the rocky walls of the canyon would protect residents from nuclear fallout, Doreal said. Newspapers reported that the community was moving in, for a population of about 800 residents, all told — and then the Brotherhood slammed the door on press interviews and uninvited outsiders.
In February 1953, the Post said that the Voice “has issued orders that ‘no outsiders are permitted to enter the valley except necessary workmen.’” That same month, a Wall Street Journal story reported that “the leader of the cult…predicts the attacks in May or August or September…” But months, and then years — including the formerly epic coming-of-the-Avatar year of 1956 — passed with no further public pronouncements from the Voice.
According to Colorado state records, Doreal died on November 28, 1963 — although the Brotherhood of the White Temple still does not acknowledge his death on its website.
That site also doesn’t mention Drs. Khereb Ramose or Kenneth Stahl, or even Doreal’s widow, Sonya. Once referred to as “an attractive young blonde” by a newspaper reporter, she disappeared after her husband’s death, although her name continued to appear on Doreal copyrights for some years.
Brief mentions in newspaper articles indicate that after a reported power struggle that led to a few folks founding their own metaphysical church, some of Doreal’s followers took over the Brotherhood, which remains based in the foothills of the Rampart Range between Castle Rock and Sedalia. Although its facilities were never needed as refuge from a nuclear holocaust, Shamballa Ashrama did not become a summer resort. Over the decades, some of the homes were reportedly sold to outsiders, but the compound remains off limits to uninvited outsiders.
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While the Shaver Mystery continues to fascinate sci-fi fans and inspire TV shows, movies, websites, rock-concert posters and books, Doreal remains a little-known fringe player in a realm in which science fiction merged with subterranean-world truthiness and metaphysical religion.
The Brotherhood is currently managed by a board represented by Diane E. England. Contacted for an interview regarding the Brotherhood, England declined, citing unspecified “inaccuracies” in previous newspaper and book accounts. “I know Halloween is coming up and that’s why you want to do a story now; I’m not stupid,” she said, adding that any Westword representative who appeared on Brotherhood property would be arrested.
The Brotherhood’s Facebook page is blank; its website proclaims without citation that the Brotherhood is an “internationally acclaimed metaphysical organization” but otherwise provides little information beyond Doreal’s claim to be the Voice, and the promise of learning “Bible-based” mysticism by ponying up indefinitely for “church lessons.” An online bookstore sells Doreal’s vintage pronouncements and The Emerald Tablets of Thoth-the-Atlantean in a far glossier binding than it featured in the early days.
There is also a “Donate” button on the site to enable a “love offering to the Brotherhood."