KLAMATH FALLS, OR—According to sources within the Seventh Light compound, a rift has recently emerged within the cult over the question of whether to ordain female disciples as telepathic-vision clerics.
"It is the Singular Essence's will that our holy prophet Raymond was male, as were the initial Six Believers whom he entrusted with the Inward Knowledge," read a statement issued Monday by the group's governing body, the Acolyte Council. "Therefore we cannot condone any trans-dimensional communications, tomorrow-visions, or human or animal castrations performed by a woman."
The harsh decree was reportedly directed toward Seventh Light members who see the ordination of women as the only way to manage the cult's current shortage of telepathic-vision clerics, a problem that has grown in recent years as more clerics are defrocked for engaging in sex with underage disciples who have not yet undergone the ceremonial Rite of Public Deflowering.
"Simply put, the telepathic-vision clergy is spread too thin," said Mary Rho, 39, whose views on the issue have resulted in her expulsion from the group's compound. "Their time is consumed by minor administrative issues, such as overseeing the daily distribution of catheters or tallying the week's offerings in the blood troughs, leaving them with almost no time to monitor AM radio for signs of the prophesied wormhole."
"At this point," Rho added, "I don't see how the Council can afford to turn away any clerical aspirant—man or woman—who's willing to undergo the mandatory blinding."
For many Seventh Light adherents, however, the pragmatic argument for female ordination flies in the face of teachings set forth in the White Pamphlet, the sacred 32-page text said to have been revealed to Klamath Falls native Paul David Lassiter, the man now known to his followers as Raymond.
"The [White Pamphlet] has guided our people ever since the Ancient Times," said Jacob Chi, 57, referring to the 1978 founding of Seventh Light, just before Lassiter's conviction on three counts of racketeering and performing plasma transfusions without a license. "As the Pamphlet clearly indicates, a woman's duty is to prepare the communal family to shed their Earth Auras. To deny these facts is to deny the very word of Raymond."
"Sixfold purities to Raymond!" he added.
Other disciples have asserted, if only in private, that the prophet's writings should not be taken literally in every context.
"There's no doubting the Pamphlet provides vital instructions on how to achieve a state of heightened pleasure-depravation and prepare oneself for the Blood Dawning," said a 34-year-old cult member who asked not to be named. "But it is important to recognize that many of the parables—such as the 1972 divine annihilation of the wicked city of Portland or the Believers' 40-year trek along Interstate 5—should be interpreted metaphorically."
"Plus, pages 27 through 29 are all just Jefferson Starship lyrics," the member added.
A recent poll found that while most of the Seventh Light faithful support the ordination of female telepathic-vision clerics, many remain vehement in their opposition: 31 percent said they would not allow a woman to brand their newborn with the Marking, 23 percent said women are incapable of translating the soul-transmissions of extraterrestrial beings who await the disciples' return, and one in 10 threatened to leave the cult entirely should some woman start telling them what to do.
"It is our spiritual duty to preserve these sacred traditions," said irate survey respondent Joseph Omicron, 48. "If we let women become telepathic-vision clerics, then what's next? Allowing them to grow hair?"
Caught in the middle of this intensifying battle between Seventh Light fundamentalists and progressives are disciples who, like 24-year-old Daniel Pi, remain undecided on the question of female ordination.
"I've heard both sides make their case, and I still don't know what's best," Pi said. "Frankly, I'm not sure what the big fuss is anyway. This whole argument will be moot in six days when we board up the windows and burn ourselves alive."