The Church of the Quacks
They may talk as they please about what they call pelf, And how one ought never to think of one's self, And how pleasures of thought surpass eating and drinking-- My pleasure of thought is the pleasure of thinking How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho! How pleasant it is to have money. ~Clough.
Nature has given us a virgin continent, a clean slate upon which to write what we will. And what are we writing? What is our intellectual life? I came to the far West, which I had been taught by novelists and poets to think of as a place of freedom. I came, because I like freedom; I am staying because I like the climate. I find that what freedom means in the West is the ability of ignorant and fanatical persons to start some new, fantastical quirk of scriptural interpretation, to build a new cult around it, and earn a living out of it.
My first contact with that sort of thing was when I went to the Battle Creek Sanitarium to investigate hydrotherapy, and found myself in a nest of Seventh-day Adventists. Three generations or so ago some odd character hit upon the discovery that the Christian churches had let the devil snare them into resting on the first day of the week, whereas the Bible states distinctly that the Lord "rested on the seventh day". So here is a million dollar establishment, with a thousand or two patients and employees, and on Friday at sundown the silence of death settles upon the place, and stays settled until sundown of Saturday, when everything comes suddenly to life again, and there is a little celebration, like Easter or New Year's, with what I used to call "sterilized dancing"--the men pairing with men and the women with women.
They are decent and kindly people, and you learn to put up with their eccentricities; it is really convenient in some ways, because, as not all the city shares their delusions, there are some stores open every day of the week. But then you discover that the Sanitarium is training "medical missionaries" to send to Africa, and is teaching these supposed-to-be-scientists that evolution is a doctrine of the devil, and not proven anyhow!
You get the shrewd little doctor who is running this establishment alone in his office, and he will smile and admit that of course it is not necessary to take all Bible phrases literally; but you know how it is--there are different levels of intelligence, and so on. Yes, I know how it is. You have an institution founded upon a certain dogma, and run by means of that dogma, and it is hard to change without smashing things. It is especially convenient when servants and nurses have a religious upbringing, and do not steal the pocket-books of the patients. People will come from all over the country, and pay high prices to stay in such a sanitarium; you can make vegetarians of them, which you think more important than teaching abstract notions about their being descended from monkeys. Also you can manufacture vegetarian foods for them, and build up an enormous business--so obtaining that Power which is the thing desired of men.
This is but one illustration of a sort of thing of which I could cite a hundred. The city in which I live is headquarters of another sect, the "Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene"; primitive Methodists, Bible-worshippers not content with the King James version, but going back to the Sinaitic MS. They have a "University", located in one of the most beautiful spots that Nature ever made; an institution with seventy-five students. A couple of years ago I happened to meet the "president," who was a preacher with grease on the ample expanse of his black broadcloth waistcoat, and a speech full of the commonest grammatical errors, such as "you was" and "I seen". The past year witnessed a split, and the founding of a brand new church and "University"--because one of the preachers insisted upon preaching so much that the students got no chance to study; also because he sent home a rich man's daughter whose shirt-waists revealed too much of her fleshly nature.
And there is an even stranger phenomenon in the locality, taking you back to the Libyan desert and the time of Thais. A lady friend of mine, generously blessed with this world's goods, asks me have I seen the hermit. "Hermit?" I say, and she replies, "Didn't you know there was a hermit? He lives on a mountain, in a cave, and never has anything to do with the world. He has no books; he contemplates spiritually." I picture my friend with her large limousine, a rolling palace full of ladies, drawing up at the door of this hermit's cave. "He received you?" I ask. "Yes, he was quite polite." "And what was your impression of him?" "Oh, how he stank!" I answer that this is the odor of sanctity, and my friend thinks that I am enormously witty; I have to explain to her that I am not jesting, but that there are definite physiological phenomena incidental to the ecstatic life.
The Book of Mormon
Or let us take a trip to Salt Lake City, the headquarters of a still stranger cult.
On the morning of the 22nd of September, 1827, the Angel of the Lord delivered unto Joseph Smith, Jr., an ignorant farmer-youth in a "backwoods" part of New York State, some plates which had "the appearance of gold". As we know from the scriptures, it is the habit of the Angel of the Lord to appear in unexpected places and to make miraculous revelations to men in humble walks of life; so, as devout believers, we hold ourselves in readiness. In this case the plates were written in "reformed Egyptian"; but the Angel thoughtfully provided Joseph Smith, Jr., with Urim and Thummim, two magic stones with which to read the records. They proved to deal with a mystery which has haunted the minds of Bible students for centuries--the fate of the "lost ten tribes of Israel", who were now revealed to have been the ancestors of the American Indians. The Angel told Smith to found a new religion, and gave him prophecies concerning things in general; so, on the 6th of April, 1830, in the town of Manchester, N. Y., there was formally launched the "Church of the Latter Day Saints." Smith turned over to his followers his translation of the miraculous plates, called "The Book of Mormon"; obviously genuine, for it read precisely like the books which we already know are the revealed word of God. But, on chance that this might not be sufficient, we were offered in the preface two documents, the "Testimony of Three Witnesses", and the "Further Testimony of Eight Witnesses". The latter being the shorter, may be quoted:
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith Jr., the translator of this work, has shewn unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith hath translated, we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings there-on, all of which has the appearance of ancient work and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shewn unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith hath got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness that which we have seen, and we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
Christian Whitmer Jacob Whitmer Peter Whitmer, Jr. John Whitmer Hiram Page Joseph Smith, Sr. Hyrum Smith Saml. H. Smith
The subsequent career of the Church of the Latter Day Saints bore out the Angel's prophesies and proved conclusively its divine origin; it was persecuted as the saints of old were persecuted, and its followers proceeded to massacre the nearby unbelieving populations, just as the divinely guided Hebrews had done. Driven from place to place, they built at Nauvoo, Ill., a beautiful temple, according to plans revealed in a vision, exactly like Solomon. Finally they settled in Utah, where they have a magnificent marble tabernacle, and some 300,000 followers. The United States government, not being entirely Biblical, objected to their practice of allowing the patriarchs of the tribe to have as many wives as they could support; the government confiscated the church's property, and forced it to conceal the practice of polygamy, as is done by elderly church members in other parts of the country. Recently the head of the church, who bears the title of "Prophet, Seer and Revelator", was persuaded to permit an examination of one of its secret plates, the "Book of Abraham", by egyptologists, who found that it was ordinary Egyptian hieroglyphics, not "reformed", but containing prayers to the sun-god. But this will of course make no difference to the devout followers of Joseph--any more than it has made to devout Catholics and Episcopalians that German scholars have proven that the Bible legends and ritual have come from the Babylonians, and that the four gospels date from the second and third centuries after Christ.
All over America you will find these weird Bible-cults, some of them pathetic, some of them dangerous, some of them merely grotesque. Thus, for example, there was John Alexander Dowie, who founded the "Christian Catholic Church in Zion" and dressed himself up in scarlet and purple robes with stars on. Through his Zion City Bank and Zion City Realty Company he became enormously wealthy; he finally announced himself as "Elijah the Restorer." I remember as a boy how he brought his gospel to New York, and P. T. Barnum with Tom Thumb and the white elephant never made such a sensation. The ridicule of the metropolis overwhelmed the old prophet, and he died and passed on his robes and his tabernacle and his bank to his son; straightway, according to the rule of all religions, the followers fell to quarrelling and splitting up, and suing one another in the law-courts.
Also there are the "Holy Rollers" and "Holy Jumpers", ghastly sects which cultivate the religious hysterias, and have spread like a plague among the women of our lonely prairie farms and desert ranches. The "Holy Rollers", who call themselves the "Apostolic Church", have a meeting place here in Pasadena, and any Sunday evening at nine o'clock you may see the Spirit of the Lord taking possession of the worshippers, causing moans and shrieks and convulsions; you may see a woman holding her hands aloft for seventeen minutes by the watch, making chattering sounds like an ape. This is called "talking in tongues" and is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. If you come back at eleven in the evening, you will find the entire congregation, men and women, prostrate on the floor, or hanging over the benches; and maybe a child moaning in terror, having a devil cast out.
You may be interested, perhaps, to know how to throw yourself into these convulsions. Here is a paper called "Trust", which is "published Monthly (D. V.) in the interests of Elim Faith Work and Bible Training School." Elizabeth Sisson writes on "The Pentecostal Baptism", and tells the story of her experiences. She "camped on the Word of God," she declares.
I went up to Calgary in Canada, and the leader of the mission told me, "You can go down to the mission and stay there all day. There is plenty of wood, and you can stay there all night." I went down, and there was plenty of "let go" in me. I cried, and prayed all I knew, and got wonderfully loosed.....
Then the Lord said to me, "Now, no more praying!" God told me it was mine. What was there left for me to pray about. He spoiled my praying and I took up praising. I praised God that He who worked in the Upper Room was working the same in me. I praised, and I praised, and I praised. The devil said to me, "That's mechanical." I said, "I'll praise You Lord, and if You want real praise, You'll have to put the wind in the sails."
That's the way I came through. One morning I was just getting out of bed, "this gibberish, this jargon" as the enemy likes to call it, began to come. The Lord said, "Let it babble!" I let. The babble increased, and by night I was up to my neck. I let. I still let. That's all. Someone else does the work, and it does not tire you.
And here is another paper. "Meat in Due Season: published monthly, or as often as the Lord leads." The editor quotes the Bible, "Call upon the name of the Lord," and explains that "Call means call." The word appears to have a special meaning to these pentecostal persons--it means working yourself into a frenzy of agitation; as the editor puts it, "you must lay hold of the horns of the altar." He goes on to exhort--the bold face being his:
Pray as if your very life depended upon it! The first few minutes seemingly all the powers of hell will contend every word, the next few, relief in a measure will come, more liberty in calling. In a very little while you will be dead to the room, dead to the chair, dead to everyone around you, dead to all and tremendously alive to your desperate need and emptyness; this conviction will grow as you increase calling upon Him. It maybe you'll weep, it maybe you'll perspire, it maybe your clothing will be deranged, it, maybe your throat will get sore. Never for a moment let your mind rest on the condition of your person. Open your mouth and God has promised to fill it. Ask persistently until the very floor seems to sink beneath you and the fountains of the deep, of your heart let loose. Like David, "pour out your soul" like one would pour water out of a bucket. I have seen hundreds get through right at this point. When self-thought, reticence, decorum, reserve, propriety and dignity had all been thrown to the four winds of heaven. Self was then obliterated and consciousness of person gone. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you saith the scripture, but you must draw near to Him first.
These enthusiasts derive their practices from the Shakers, a sect which originated in England, but was driven by persecution to the New World. The Shakers call themselves the "United Society of True Believers in Christ's Second Coming," and were founded by Ann Lee, who, variously termed herself the "Female Christ", the "Holy Comforter", and the "God-anointed Woman". They might be termed the suffragettes of religion, for they pray always to "Our Father and Mother, which are in heaven." They were taught the convenient doctrine that their Founder had "spiritual illumination", so that any evidence of the senses used against her might deceive. She governed through terror, holding that by her mental powers she could inflict torment upon any of her followers. Fortunately she taught absolute celibacy, and so there are now only about a thousand of her disciples.
This far western country swarms with those fanatics who await the return of Christ, and find in Bible chronology positive evidence that he is coming on a specified day. Seldom do I give a lecture on Socialism that some eager old lady does not come up to me and point out how futile are my hopes, because the Millenium will come before the Revolution. Several times I have come on an item in the newspapers, telling of a group of people, sometimes whole villages, selling their goods and going out into the fields to shout and sing and pray, expecting the vision of the Lord and His Angels in the skies. I have in my hand a pamphlet entitled "Shekineh: The Glory of God in Israel, Facts Mathematically Foretold, of the Soon Coming of Our Blessed Lord." It is earnestly, yearningly written, in that spirit of feeble-minded affectionateness which the Bible-sects seem to encourage:
Now dear reader you see that these problems tell a wonderful story which I know are the Eternal Truths of God. Jesus is soon coming. I believe that from now on we can say, next week perhaps our blessed Lord will return. Yet the time may not end till the close of the A. M. year, which will be March 20th, 1897. But let us take up the sickle of God, etc. Oh, my Christian friends, live near the Blessed Christ, and gain eternal life through Jesus Our Lord!
In the public library I find another pamphlet, entitled "The Our Race," which proves that the "lost ten tribes of Israel" are not the American Indians, but the Irish! And here is a publication of the "Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society," declaring:
The great pyramid in Egypt is a witness to all the events of the ages and of our day. The pyramid's downward passage under "a Draconis" symbolizes the course of Sin. Its first ascending passage symbolizes the Jewish Age. Its Grand Gallery symbolizes the Gospel Age. Its upper step symbolizes the approaching period of tribulation and anarchy, "Judgment" upon Christendom.
It is a Sunday morning, and I sit in the California sunshine revising this manuscript, when a decorous-looking young man approaches, having a sack over his shoulder. "From the Bible-students," he says politely, and hands me a little paper, "The Bible Students' Monthly: an Independent, Unsectarian Religious Newspaper, Specially devoted to the Forwarding of the Laymen's Home Missionary Movement for the Glory of God and Good of Humanity." The leading article is headed "The Fall of Babylon: Ancient Babylon a Type--Mystic Babylon the Antitype: Why Christendom must Suffer--the Final Outcome." A note explains:
The following article is extracted from Pastor Russell's posthumous volume entitled "The Finished Mystery," the 7th in the series of his Studies in the Scriptures and published subsequent to his death. Pastor Russell held the distinction of being the most fearless and powerful writer of modern times on ecclesiastical subjects. In this posthumous volume, which is called "his last legacy to the Christians on earth," is found a thorough exposition of every verse in the entire book of Revelation and also an elucidation of the obscure prophecy of Ezekiel. The book contains 608 pages, handsomely bound in embossed cloth.
Pastor Russell used to publish a two-column sermon in some hundreds of Sunday newspapers, together with a presentment of his features--solemn, stiff, white-whiskered, set off with a "choker" and a black broadcloth coat. There are five million such faces in America, but if you have an impulse to despair for your country, remember that it produced Mark Twain and Artemus Ward, as well as Pastor Russell and the Moody and Sankey hymn-book. I quote one passage from "The Finished Mystery", in order that the reader may know what it means to "hold the distinction of being the most fearless and powerful writer of modern times on ecclesiastical subjects." Pastor Russell does not approve of the Methodists, and he quotes twelve verses of Revelation, line by line and phrase by phrase, showing how the evil course and downfall of the Wesleyan system were divinely foretold. Thus:
"But that they should be tormented five months."--In symbolic time, 150 years--5 X 30 = 150. (Ezek. 4:6.) Wesley became the first Methodist in 1728. (Rev. 9:1.) When the Methodist denomination, with all the others, was cast off from favor in 1878 (Rev. 3:14) its powers to torment men by preaching what Presbyterians describe as "Conscious misery, eternal in duration" came to an end legally, and to a large extent actually--Rev. 9:10.
P. S. A few months pass, and while this book is going to press, "The Finished Mystery" is suppressed by the government and several score "Bible Students" are landed in jail for sedition.
Such are the beliefs built on the Bible. But there are other ancient writings with strange nomenclature and ritual and symbolism, calculated to impress the unlettered; also our prophets have imaginations of their own, and can invent nomenclature and ritual and symbolism never seen in heaven nor on earth before. Thus there is Dr. Newo Newi New, who called himself "Archbishop of the Newthot Church," and gathered about him a harem of devoted females in San Francisco, and was landed in jail for using the mails to defraud. Or there is "Oahspe, the Cosmic Bible," a work of brand-new revelation with a brand-new view of the universe and all things therein:
The reader soon discovers that he must radically revise not only his ideas of celestial Cosmogony, but the order and significance of names and titles commonly applied to the Transcendental Brethren. The great provinces of Etheria are presided over by chiefs, chosen for their superior development in wisdom and love. For our solar system to cross one of these provinces requires about 3,000 years, and between them are belts of high Etherian light which take several years to pass over. The passage of each province is a cycle of earthly history, and the crossings are called Dawns of Dan.
And here is Koreshanity, a revelation vouchsafed by the Lord to Dr. C. R. Teed of Chicago in the year 1889. This new seer took the name of Koresh, which is Hebrew for Cyrus, "the Shepherd from Joseph, the Stone of Israel, the Sun-Man; the illuminating center of the Son of man", and went out on the streets of the city to preach that the earth is a hollow sphere with the stars inside. The street urchins of the pork-packing metropolis threw stones at him, and the irreverent newspapers took up his adventures, with the result that followers gathered, and now there is a flourishing colony in Florida, with a dignified magazine called "The Flaming Sword", and a collection of propaganda volumes: "The Cellular Cosmogony, an Exposition of Koreshan Universology and the New Geodesy"; "The Immortal Manhood, the Laws and Processes of its Attainment in the Flesh"; "The Great Red Dragon, by Lord Chester"; "The Coming of the Shepherd from Joseph, The Standing of the Great Ensign, by Koresh." The "Religio-science" of this Chicago revelator is based, first upon some precise measurements of the earth which prove that its surface is concave; and second upon some philological discoveries very much resembling puns. Thus the "cross of Christ" is explained in a sense of the word more common among horse-breeders than among theologians:
The highest characteristic of the alchemical law is the cross of Christ with sensual man. The cross means that the Lord God, in order to perpetuate his own being, descends into the race of sensuality.
And again, when someone asks about meteors:
"The word Heaven means things heaved up, that is, heaved up from their material basis, the earth; thus, the meteors which fall to the earth are composed of metallic, mineral, and geological substances, being materialized or actually created in the atmosphere by an alchemico-organic process from zones or belts periodically open, which precipitate their contents in the form or shape of meteors."
And perhaps I ought also to quote the "Indicia of Human Progress", by "Berthaldine, Matrona". I don't know what a "Matrona" is--unless it is a female matron. This female matron tells me that now is the "Time of Restitution", and explains that "the prolification of the human race has reached a fruition of the adultery of the truth and good of the Lord with the fallacies and evils of the mortal hells"..... We have come, it seems, to the "age of Pisces", which is "one of the greatest radical prolification"; and what we now need is the "power of polarization", so that we may join the "White Horse Army of the Most High", which is the organization of the "Aquarian age", proclaimed by Koresh on January 15th, 1891.
And here is another and even more startling revelation from Chicago, given to a seer by the name of Dr. Otoman Prince of Adusht Ha'nish, prophet of the Sun God, Prince of Peace, Manthra Magi of Temple El Katman, Kalantar of Zoroastrian Breathing and Envoy of Mazdaznan living, Viceroy-Elect and International Head of Master-Thot. If you had happened to live near the town of Mendota, Illinois, and had known the German grocer-boy named Otto Hanisch, you might at first have trouble in recognizing him through this transmogrification. I have traced his career in the files of the Chicago newspapers, and find him herding sheep, setting type, preaching prestidigitation, mesmerism, and fake spiritualism, joining the Mormon Church, then the "Christian Catholic Church in Zion", and then the cult of Brighouse, who claimed to be Christ returned. Finally he sets himself up in Chicago as a Persian Magi, teaching Yogi breathing exercises and occult sex-lore to the elegant society ladies of the pork-packing metropolis. The Sun God, worshipped for two score centuries in India, Egypt, Greece and Rome, has a new shrine on Lake Park Avenue, and the prophet gives tea-parties at which his disciples are fed on lilac-blossoms--"the white and pinkish for males, the blue-tinted for females". He wears a long flowing robe of pale grey cashmere, faced with white, and flexible white kid shoes, and he sells his lady adorers a book called "Inner Studies", price five dollars per volume, with information on such subjects as:
The Immaculate Conception and its Repetition; The Secrets of Lovers Unveiled; Our Ideals and Soul Mates; Magnetic Attraction and Electric Mating.
A Grand Jury intervenes, and the Prophet goes to jail for six months; but that does not harm his cult, which now has a temple in Chicago, presided over by a lady called Kalantress and Evangelist; also a "Northern Stronghold" in Montreal, an "Embassy" in London, an "International Aryana" in Switzerland, and "Centers" all over America. At the moment of going to press, the prophet himself is in flight, pursued by a warrant charging him with improper conduct with a number of young boys in a Los Angeles hotel.
I have dipped into Ha'nish's revelations, which are a farrago of every kind of ancient mysticism--paper and binding from the Bible, illustrations from the Egyptian, names from the Zoroastrian, health rules from the Hindoos, laws from the Confucians--price ten dollars per volume. Would you like to discover your seventeen senses, to develop them according to the GaLlama principle, and to share the "expansion of the magnetic circles"? Here is the way to do it:
Inhale through nostrils for four seconds, and upon one exhalation, speak slowly:
Open, O thou world-sustaining Sun, the entrance unto Truth hidden by the vase of dazzling light.
Again inhale for four seconds, and breathe out the following sentence upon one exhalation as before:
Soften the radiation of Thy Illuminating Splendor, that I may behold Thy True Being.
I have a clipping from a Los Angeles newspaper telling of the prophet's arriving there. He takes the front page with the captivating headline: "Women Didn't Think Till They Put On Corsets". The interview tells about his mysteriousness, his aloofness, his bird-like-diet, and his personal beauty. "Despite his seventy-three years, Ha'nish evidences no sign of age. His keen blue eyes showed no sign of wavering. There were no wrinkles on his face, and his walk was that of a man of forty." The humor of this becomes apparent when we mention that at Ha'nish's trial, three or four years ago, he was proven to be thirty-five years old!
Being thus warned as to the accuracy of American journalism, we shall not be taken in by the repeated statements that the Mazdaznan prophet is a millionaire. But there is no doubt that he is wealthy; and as all Americans wish to be wealthy, I will quote his formula of prosperity, his method of accomplishing what might be called the Individual Revolution:
When hungry and you do not know where to get your next piece of bread, do not despair. Thy Father, all-loving, has provided you with everything that will meet all cases of emergency. Place your teeth tightly together, with tongue pressing against the lower teeth and lips parted. Breathe in, close lips immediately, exhaling through the nostrils. Breathe again; if saliva forms in your mouth, hold your breath so you can swallow it first before you exhale. You thus take out of the air the metal-substance contained therein; you can even taste the iron which you convert into substance required for making the blood. Should you feel that, although you have sufficient iron in the blood, there is a lack of copper and zinc and silver, place upper teeth over lower, keep lower lip tightly to lower teeth, now breathe and you can even taste the metals named. Then should you feel you need more gold element for your brain functions, place your back teeth together just as if you were to grind the back teeth, taking short breaths only. You will then learn to know that there is gold and silver all around us. That our bodies are filled with quite a quantity of gold.
What all this means is that we have a continent, with a hundred million half-educated people, materially prosperous, but spiritually starving; so any man who possesses personality, who looks in any way strange and impressive, or has hunted up old books in a library, and can pronounce mysterious words in a thrilling voice--such a man can find followers. Anybody can do it with any doctrine, from anywhere, Persia or Patagonia, Pekin or Pompei. I would be willing to wager that if I cared to come out and announce that I had had a visit from God last night, and to devote such literary and emotional power as I possess to communicating a new revelation, I could have a temple, a university, and a million dollars within five years at the outside. And if at the end of five years I were to announce that I had played a joke on the world, some one of my followers would convince the faithful that I had been an agent of God without knowing it, and that the leadership had now been turned over to him.
I would not be understood as believing that all our cults are undiluted fakery, for that would be doing injustice to some earnest people. There are, in this country, many followers of the Persian reformer, Abbas Effendi, who call themselves Babists, and who have what I am inclined to think is the purest and most dignified religion in existence. There was a man named Jacob Beilhardt, who founded a cult in Illinois with the painful name of "Spirit Fruit Colony", who nevertheless was a man of spiritual insight, a true mystic; he was honest, and so he failed, and died of a broken heart. Also there are the Christian Scientists and the Theosophists, so exasperating that one would like to throw them onto the rubbish-heap, who yet compel us to sift over their mountains of chaff for the grains of truth which will bear fruit in future.
While we western races have been exploring the natural world and perfecting the mechanical arts, the Hindoo students have been exploring the subconscious and its strange powers. What Myers and Lodge and Janet and Charcot and Freud and Jung are telling us today they had hints of a long time ago; and doubtless they have hints of other things, upon which our scientists have not yet come. I have friends, perfectly sane and competent people, who tell me that they can see auras, and use this ability as a means of judging character. Shall I say that there are no auras, simply because I do not happen to have this gift of seeing them? In the same way, having read Gurney's "Phantasms of the Living," I am not ready to ridicule the claim of the Yogi adepts, that they are able to project some kind of astral body, and to communicate with one another from distant places. But granting such occult powers in a world of economic strife, what follows? Simply new floods of charlatanism, elaborate and complicated systems of ritual and metaphysic for the deluding and plundering of the credulous.
I have seen the thing working itself out in one case known to me. A young man had a gift of mental healing; I know, because I saw it work; but it did not always work, and that was annoying. He was penniless and had a taste for power, and to eke out his erratic endowment he got himself books of Eastern lore, and day by day as I watched him I could see him becoming more and more impressive, mysterious and forbidding. Today he is a full-fledged wonder-worker, with the language of a dozen mystic cults at his tongue's end, and the reverent regard of many wealthy ladies. I have never tried to break through his guard, but I feel certain that he is a deliberate charlatan.
This is an economic process, automatic and irresistible. Just as the manufacturer of honest foods is driven out by the adulterator, so the worker of miracles drives out the sincere investigator. As a result we have here in America a plague of Eastern cults, with "swamis" using soft yellow robes and soft brown eyes to win the souls of idle society ladies. These teachers of ancient Hindoo lore despise us as a race of barbarians; but they stay--whether because of love of man or woman, I do not pretend to say.
There are the Theosophists of many brands, with schools and institutes and temples and colonies, and a doctrine as complex and detailed and fantastic as that of the Roman Catholics. I have already referred to the writings of Madame Blavatsky, a runaway Russian army officer's daughter, whose career reads like a tale out of the Arabian Nights. And there is Annie Besant, who was once an ardent worker in the Social-democratic Federation; H. M. Hyndman tells of his dismay when she went to India and walked in a procession between two white bulls! Here in California is Madame Tingley, with a colony and a host of followers in a miniature paradise. Men work at money-lending or manufacturing sporting-goods, and when they get old and tired they make the thrilling discovery that they have souls; the theosophists cultivate these souls and they leave their money to the soul-cause, and there are lawsuits and exposes in the newspapers. For, you see, there is ferocious rivalry in the game of cultivating millionaire souls; there are slanders and feuds, just as in soulless affairs. "Don't have anything to do with Madame Tingley," whispers a Theosophist lady to my wife; and when my wife in all innocence inquires, "Why not?" the awe-stricken answer comes, "She practices black magic!"
Let me add that I do not say that she practices black magic. I do not believe that she could practice it, even if she wanted to--I do not believe in black magic. My purpose is merely to show how theosophists quarrel: going back to the days of Anu and Baal and the bronze image of the Babylonian fire-god:
Let them die, but let me live! Let them be put under a ban, but let me prosper! Let them perish, but let me increase! Let them become weak, but let me wax strong!
This is the other side of the fair shield of religious faith. Why, if there be a power which loves and can be persuaded to aid us, may there not also be a power which hates, and can be persuaded to destroy? No religion has ever been able to answer this, and therefore none has ever been able to escape from devil-terrors. Even Jesus was pursued by Satan, and the Holy Catholic Church has its ceremonies for the exorcising of demons, and a most frightful formula for cursing. And here are our friends the Christian Scientists, proclaiming the unreality of all evil, their ability to banish disease by convincing themselves that they are perfect in God--yet tormented by a squalid phobia called "Mental Malpractice", or "Malicious Animal Magnetism".
Christian Science is the most characteristic of American religious contributions. Just as Billy Sunday is the price we pay for failing to educate our base-ball players, so Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy is the price we pay for failing to educate our farmer's daughters.
That she had a power to cure disease I do not doubt, because I have a little of it myself. At first my opinion was that her "Science" made its way by curing the imaginary ailments of the idle rich. If a person has nothing to do but think that he is sick, you can work easy miracles by persuading him to think that he is well; and if he has nothing to do but think that he is well, he will help you to build marble churches and maintain propaganda societies. But recently I have experimented with mental healing--enough to satisfy myself that the subconscious mind which controls our physical functions can be powerfully influenced by the will.
I told the story of some of these experiments in Hearst's Magazine for April, 1914. Suffice it here to say that if you will lay your hands upon a sick person, forming a vivid mental picture of the bodily changes you desire, and concentrating the power of your will upon them, you may be surprised by the results, especially if you possess anything in the way of psychic gifts. You do not have to adopt any theories, you do not have to do it in the name of any divinity, ancient or modern; the only bearing of such ideas is that they serve to persuade people to make the experiment, and to make it with persistence and intensity. So it has come about that "miracles" of healing are associated with "faith"; and so it comes about that scientists are apt to flout the subject. But read of the work of Janet and Charcot and their followers at the Salpetriere; they have proven that all kinds of seeming-organic ailments may be entirely hysterical in nature, and may be cured by the simplest form of suggestion. Understanding this, you may find it more easy to credit the fact that cripples do sometimes throw away their crutches in the grotto of Lourdes. For my part, I can believe that Jesus performed all the miracles of healing attributed to him --including the raising up of people pronounced to be dead by the ignorance of that time. I am convinced that in the new science of psycho-analysis we have a universe as vast as the universe of the atom or of the stars.
The Christian Scientists have got hold of this power; they have mixed it up with metaphysic and divinity, and built some four or five hundred churches, and printed the Mother Church alone knows how many million pamphlets and books. I once invested three of my hard-earned dollars for a copy of the Eddy Bible, and let myself be stunned and blinded by the flapping of metaphysical wings. It is unadulterated moonshine--as the Platonist and Berkeleyan and Hegelian and other orthodox collegiate metaphysical magi can prove to you in one minute. What interests me about the phenomenon is not the slinging of tremendous words, but the strictly Yankee use which is made of them. There is no nonsense about saving your soul in Christian Science; what it is for is to remove your wen, to nail down your floating kidney, and to enable you to hustle and make money. We saw in our politics the growth of a Party of the Full Dinner-Pail; contemporaneous therewith, and corresponding thereto, we see in our religious life the development of a Church of the Full Pocket-Book.
It is a strict religion--strictly cash. The heads of the cult do not issue cheap editions of "Science and Health, With Key to the Scriptures", to relieve the suffering of the proletariat; no--the work is copyrighted, in all its varying and contradictory editions, and the price is from three to seven-fifty, according to binding. Treatments cost from three dollars to ten, whether you come and get them or take them over the telephone. And we have no nonsense about charity, we don't worry about the poor who fester in our city slums; because poverty is a product of Mortal Mind, and we offer to all men a way to get rich right off the bat. You may come to our marble churches and hear people testify how through the power of Divine Mind they were enabled to anticipate a rise in the stock-market. If you don't avail yourself of the opportunity, the fault is yours, and yours also the punishment.
As to the management of the Church, the Roman Catholic hierarchy is a Bolshevik democracy in comparison. The Church is controlled by an absolutely irresponsible self-perpetuating body of five men, who alone dictate its policy. I have in my hand a letter from a Christian Science healer who was listed as an "authorized practitioner", and who withdrew from the Church because of its attitude on public questions. He sends me a copy of his correspondence with the editors of the "Christian Science Monitor", containing a detailed analysis of the position of that paper on such issues as the Ballinger land-frauds. He writes:
I am thoroughly convinced now that the policy of the Church is consciously plutocratic. The only recommendation I have heard of the latest appointee to the Board of Directors is that he is one of the richest men in the movement.
After the Titanic disaster, Senator La Follette brought in a carefully drawn bill to compel steamship companies to provide life-boats and trained crews. The "Christian Science Monitor" opposed this bill; and when my correspondent cited the fact, he brought out a quaint bit of metaphysical logic, as follows:
One would prefer to travel on a vessel without a single boat, rather than on some other vessels which were loaded down with life-boats, where the government of Mind was not understood!
Science and Wealth
The truth is that the brand of Mammon was on our Yankee religion from the day of its birth. In the first edition of her new Bible "Mother" Eddy dropped the hint to her readers: "Men of business have said this science was of great advantage from a secular point of view." And in her advertisements she threw aside all pretense, declaring that her work "Affords an opportunity to acquire a profession by which one can accumulate a fortune." When her pupils did accumulate, she boasted of their success; nor did she neglect her own accumulating.
It has been a dozen years since I looked into this cult; in order to be sure that it has not been purified in the interim, I proceed to a street corner in my home city, where is a stand with a sign: "Christian Science Literature." I take four sample copies of a magazine, the "Christian Science Sentinel", published by the Mother Church in Boston, and turn to the "Testimonials of Healing". In the issue of August 11, 1917, Mary C. Richards of St. Margarets-on-Thames, England, testifies: "Through a number of circumstances unnecessary to relate, but proving conclusively that the result came not from man but from God, employment was found." In the issue of December 2, 1916, Frances Tuttle of Jersey City, N. J., testifies how her sister was successfully treated for unemployment by a scientist practitioner. "Every condition was beautifully met." In the same issue Fred D. Miller of Los Angeles, Cal., testifies: "Soon after this wonderful truth came to me, Divine Love led me to a new position with a responsible firm. The work was new to me, but I have given entire satisfaction, and my salary has been advanced twice in less than a year." In the issue of January 27, 1917, Eliza Fryant of Agricola, Miss., testifies how she cured her little dog of snake-bite and removed two painful corns from her own foot. In the issue of August 4, 1917, Marcia E. Gaier, of Everett, Wash., testifies how it suddenly occurred to her that because God is All, she would drop her planning and outlining in regard to real estate properties, "upon which for nine months all available material methods were tried to no effect." The result was a triumph of "Principle".
While working in the yard one morning and gratefully communing with God, the only power, I suddenly felt that I should stop working and prepare for visitors on their way to look at the property. I obeyed this very distinct command, and in about an hour I greeted two people who had searched almost the entire city for just what we had to offer. They had been directed to our place by what to material sense would seem an accident, but we know it was the divine law of harmony in its universal operation.
After this no one will wonder that John M. Tutt, in a Christian Science lecture at Kansas City, Mo., should proclaim:
My friends, do you know that since the world began Christian Science is the only system which has intelligently related religion to business? Christian Science shows that since all ideas belong to Mind, God, therefore all real business belongs to Him.
As I said, these people have the new-old power of mental healing, They blunder along with it blindly, absurdly, sometimes with tragic consequences; but meantime the rank and file of the pill-doctors know nothing about this power, and regard it with contempt mingled with fear; so of course the hosts of sufferers whom the pill-doctors cannot help flock to the healers of the "Church of Christ, Scientist". According to the custom of those who are healed by "faith", they swallow line, hook, and sinker, creed, ritual, metaphysic and divinity. So we see in twentieth-century America precisely what we saw in B. C. twentieth-century Assyria--a host of worshippers, giving their worldly goods without stint, and a priesthood, made partly of fanatics and partly of charlatans, conducting a vast enterprise of graft, and harvesting that thing desired of all men, power over the lives and destinies of others.
And of course among themselves they quarrel; they murder one another's Mortal Minds, they drive one another out, they snarl over the spoils like a pack of hungry animals. Listen to the Mother, denouncing one of her students--a perfectly amiable and harmless youth whose only offense was that he had gone his own way and was healing the sick for the benefit of his own pocket-book:
Behold! thou criminal mental marauder, that would blot out the sunshine of earth, that would sever friends, destroy virtue, put out Truth, and murder in secret the innocent, befouling thy track with the trophies of thy guilt--I say, Behold the "cloud" no bigger than a man's hand already rising on the horizon of Truth, to pour down upon thy guilty head the hailstones of doom.
The Nero of today, regaling himself through a mental method with the torture of individuals, is repeating history, and will fall upon his own sword, and it shall pierce him through. Let him remember this when, in the dark recesses of thought, he is robbing, committing adultery and killing. When he is attempting to turn friend away from friend, ruthlessly stabbing the quivering heart; when he is clipping the thread of life and giving to the grave youth and its rainbow hues; when he is turning back the reviving sufferer to his bed of pain, clouding his first morning after years of night; and the Nemesis of that hour shall point to the tyrant's fate, who falls at length upon the sword of justice.
In a certain city of America is a large building given up entirely to the whims of pretty ladies. Its floors are not floors but "Promenades", and have walls of glass, behind which, as you stroll, you see bonnets from Paris and opera cloaks from London, furs from Alaska and blankets from Arizona, diamonds from South Africa and beads from the Philippines, grapes from Spain and cherries from Japan, fortune-tellers from Arabia and dancing-masters from Petrograd and "naturopaths" from Vienna. There are seventy-three shops, by actual count, containing everything that could be imagined or desired by a pretty lady, whether for her body, or for that vague stream of emotion she calls her "soul". One of the seventy-three shops is a "Metaphysical Library", having broad windows, and walls in pastel tints, and pretty vases with pink flowers, and pretty gray wicker chairs in which the reader will please to be seated, while we probe the mysteries of an activity widely spread throughout America, called "New Thought."
We begin with a shelf of magazines having mystical titles: Azoth; Master Mind; Aletheian; Words of Power; Qabalah; Comforter; Adept; Nautilus; True Word; Astrological Bulletin; Unity; Uplift; Now. And then come shelves of pretty pamphlets, alluring to the eye and the purse; also shelves of imposing-looking volumes containing the lore and magic of a score of races and two score of centuries--together with the very newest manifestations of Yankee hustle and graft.
As in the case of Christian Science, these New Thoughters have a fundamental truth, which I would by no means wish to depreciate. It is a fact that the mysterious Source of our being is infinite, and that we are only at the beginning of our thinking about it. It is a fact that by appeal to it we can perform seeming miracles of mental and moral regeneration; we can stimulate the flow of nervous energy and of the blood, thus furthering the processes of bodily healing. But the fact that God is Infinite and Omnipotent does not bar the fact that He has certain ways of working, which He does not vary; and that it is our business to explore and understand these ways, instead of setting our fancies to work imagining other ways more agreeable to our sentimentality.
Thus, for example, if we want bread, it is God's decree that we shall plant wheat and harvest it, and grind and bake and distribute it. Under conditions prevailing at the moment, it appears to be His decree that we shall store the wheat in elevators, and ship it in freight cars, and buy it through a grain exchange, with capital borrowed from a national bank; in other words, that our daily bread shall be the plaything of exploiters and speculators, until such a time as we have the intelligence to form an effective political party and establish Industrial Democracy. But when you come to study the ways of God in the literature of the New Thought, do you find anything about the Millers' Trust and the Bakers' Trust and how to expropriate these agencies of starvation? You do not!
What you find is Bootstrap-lifting; you find gentlemen and lady practitioners shutting their eyes and lifting their hands and pronouncing Incantations in awe-inspiring voices--or in Capital Letters and LARGE TYPE: "God is infinite, God is All-Loving, GOD WILL PROVIDE. Bread is coming to you! Bread is coming to you!! BREAD IS COMING TO YOU!!!"
You think this is exaggeration? If so, it is because you have never entered the building of the pretty ladies, and sat in the gray wicker chairs of the metaphysical library. One of the highest high-priestesses of the cults of New Nonsense is a lady named Elizabeth Towne, editor of "The Nautilus"; and Priestess Elizabeth tells you:
I believe the idea that money wants you will help you to the right mental condition. Be a pot of honey and let it come.
I look over this Priestess' magazine, and find it full of testimonials and advertisements for the conjuring of prosperity. "Are you in the success sphere?" asks one exhorter; the next tells you "How to enter the silence. How to manifest what you desire. The secret of advancement." Another tells: "How a Failure at Sixty Won Sudden Success; From Poverty to $40,000 a year--a Lesson for Old and Young Alike." The lesson, it appears, is to pay $3.00 for a book called "Power of Will." And here is another book:
Master Key: Which can unlock the Secret Chamber of Success, can throw wide the doors which seem to bar men from the Treasure House of Nature, and bids those enter and partake who are Wise enough to Understand and broad enough to Weigh the Evidence, firm enough to Follow their Own Judgment and Strong enough to Make the Sacrifice Exacted.
"Dollars Want Me"
I turn to the shelves of pamphlets. Here is a pretty one called "All Sufficiency in All Things," published by the "Unity School of Christianity", in Kansas City; it explains that God is God, not merely of the Soul, but also of the Kansas City stockyards.
This divine Substance is ever abiding within us, and stands ready to manifest itself in whatever form you and I need or wish, just as it did in Elisha's time. It is the same yesterday, today and forever. Abundant Supply by the manifestation of the Father within us, from within outward, is as much a legitimate outcome of the Christ life or spiritual understanding as is bodily healing..... "Know that I am God--all of God, Good, all of Good. I am Life. I am Health. I am Supply. I am the Substance."
And here is W. W. Atkinson of Chicago, author of a work called "Mind Power". Would you like to be an Impressive Personality? Mr. Atkinson will tell you exactly how to do it; he will give you the secret of the Magnetic Handclasp, of the Intense, Straight-in-the-eye Look; he will tell you what to say, he will write out for you Incantations which you may pronounce to yourself, to convince yourself that you have Power, that the INDWELLING PRESENCE with all its MIGHT is yours. Mr. Atkinson rebukes mildly the tendency of some of his fellow Bootstrap-lifters to employ these arts for money-making; but you notice that his magazine, "Advanced Thought", does not decline the advertisements of such too-practical practitioners.
Next comes a gentleman with the musical name of Wallace Wattles, who tells in one pamphlet "How to Be a Genius", and in another pamphlet "How to Get What you Want". The thing for you to do is--
Saturate your mentality through and through with the knowledge that YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO..... Look upon the peanut-stand merely as the beginning of the department store, and make it grow; you can.
And Mr. Wattles wattles on, in an ecstasy of acquisitiveness:
Hold this consciousness and say with deep, earnest feeling: I CAN succeed! All that is possible to any one is possible to me. I AM success. I do succeed, for I am full of the Power of Success.
Imagine, if you please, a poor devil chained in the treadmill of the capitalist system--a "soda-jerker", a "counter-jumper", a book-keeper for the Steel Trust. His chances of rising in life are one in ten thousand; but he comes to the Metaphysical Library, and pays the price of his dinner for a pamphlet by Henry Harrison Brown, who was first a Unitarian clergyman, and then an extra-high Bootstrap-lifter in San Francisco, an Honorary Vice-President of the International New Nonsense Alliance. Mr. Brown will tell our soda-jerker or counter-jumper exactly how to elevate himself by mental machinery. All calculations of probabilities are delusions of the senses; if you have faith, you can move, not merely mountains, but Riker-Hegeman's, Macy's, or the Steel Trust. "How to Promote Yourself " is the title of one of Mr. Brown's pamphlets, in which he explains that--
Your wants are impressed on the Divine Mind only by your faith. A doubt cuts the connection.
A second pamphlet, which we are told is now in its thirtieth edition, bears the thrilling title of "Dollars Want Me!" In it Mr. Brown lays claim to being a pioneer:
I believe that this little monograph is the first utterance of the thought that each individual has the ability so to radiate his mental forces that he can cause the Dollars to feel him, love him, seek him, and thus draw at will all things needed for his unfoldment from the universal supply.
"What are Dollars?" asks our author; and answers:
Dollars are manifestations of the One Infinite Substance as you are, but, unlike you, they are not Self-Conscious. They have no power till you give them power. Make them feel this through your thought-vibrations as you feel the importance of your work. They will then come to you to be used.
"What is Poverty?" Mr. Brown asks, and answers himself:
Poverty is a mental condition. It can be cured only by the Affirmation of Power to cure: I am a part of the One, and, in the One, I possess all! Affirm this and patiently wait for the manifestation. You have sown the thought seed.
And our author goes on to hand out packages of these thought-seeds--"Affirmations" as they are called, in the jargon of the New Conjuring:
I desire a deep consciousness of financial freedom. I desire that the flow of prosperity become equalized. I desire a greater consciousness of my power to attract the dollar. The Indwelling Power cares for my purse. I own whatever I desire. I can afford to use dollars for my happiness. I always have a good bank account. I actually see it. My one idea of the law is to use, use, USE.
If the symbolism of the Episcopal Church is of the palace, and that of the non-conformist sects of the counting-house, that of the International New Nonsense Alliance is of Wall Street and the "ticker". "What is your rating in the Spiritual Bradstreet?" asks William Morris Nichols in the publication of the " 'Now' Folk", San Francisco:
Is it low or high? Is your credit with the Bank of the Universe good or poor? If you draw a spiritual draft are you sure of its being honored?
If you can answer that last question affirmatively, you are on the road to become a Master in Spiritual Financiering.
Have you an account with the First (and only) Bank of Spirit? If not, then you should at once open one therewith. For no one can afford to keep less than a large deposit of spiritual funds with that Bank.
And how do you proceed to open your account? It is very simple:
Intend the mind in the direction indicated by your desire. Seek for the Light and Guidance by which you may open up the way for your Spiritual Substance, which governs material supply, to reach you and make you as rich as you ought to be, in freedom and happiness. All this you can, and when in earnest, will do.
I turn over the advertisements of this publication of the " 'Now' Folk". One offers "The Business Side of New Thought." Another offers "The Books Without an If", with your money back IF you are not satisfied! Another offers land in Bolivia for two dollars an acre. Another quotes Shakespeare: " 'Tis the mind that makes the body rich." Another offers two copies of the "Phrenological Era" for ten cents.
There is apparently no delusion of any age or clime which cannot find dupes among the readers of this New Nonsense. One notice commands:
Stop! A Revelation! A Book has been written entitled "Strands of Gold" or "From Darkness into Light!"
The Most Wonderful Book of the Ages: The Acquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, Transcribed from the Book of God's Remembrance, the Akashic Records.
And here is an advertisement published in Mr. Atkinson's paper:
Numerology: the Universal Adjuster! Do you know: What you appear to be to others? What you really are? What you want to be? What would overcome your present and future difficulties? Write to X, Philosopher. You will receive full particulars of his personal work which is dedicated to your service. No problem is too big or too small for Numerology. Understanding awaits you.
And looking in the body of the magazine, you find this Philosopher imparting some of this Understanding. Would you like, for example, to understand why America entered the War? Nothing easier. The vowels of the Words United States of America are uieaeoaeia, which are numbered 2951561591, which added make 45, or 4 plus 5 equals 9. You might not at first see what that has to do with the War--until the Philosopher points out that "9 in the number of completion, indicating the end of a cosmic cycle." That, of course, explains everything.
And here is a work on what you perhaps thought to be a dead science, Astrology. It is called "Lucky Hours for Everybody: A True System of Planetary Hours by Prof. John B. Early. Price One Dollar." It teaches you things like this:
Saturn's negative hours are especially good for all matters relating to gold-mining..... The Sun negative rules the emerald, the musical note D sharp, and the number four. The lunar hours are a good time to deal in public commodities, and to hire servants of both sexes.....
A recent lady visitor informed me that she had made several vain attempts to transact important business in the hours ruled by Jupiter, usually held to be fortunate, while she was nearly always fortunate in what she began in the hours ruled by Saturn. Upon investigation I found her name was ruled by the Sun negative, and that she had Capricorn with Saturn therein as her ascendant at birth, which explains.
And finally, here is a London "scientist", reported in the "Weekly Unity" of Kansas City, who proves his mental power over two-horse power oil engines which fail to act. "Going a little apart, he came back in a few minutes and said: 'The engine is all right now and will work satisfactorily.' and without any further difficulty it did." We are told how Dr. Rawson gave a demonstration of his method to a newspaper reporter the other day. Fixing his gaze as though looking into space, he apparently became absorbed in deep contemplation and said aloud: "There is no danger; man is surrounded by divine love; there is no matter; all is spirit and manifestation of spirit."
You might at first find difficulty in believing what can be accomplished by "demonstrations" such as this; not merely are two-horse power oil engines made to work, but the whole gigantic machine of Prussian militarism is prevented from working. You may recall how Arthur Machen's magazine story of the Angels of Mons was taken up and made into a Catholic legend over-night; now here is a New-Nonsense legend, complete and perfect, going the rounds of our Nonsense magazines:
London, Dec. 14.--Shell-proof and bullet-proof soldiers have been discovered on the European battle-fronts. Heroes with "charmed lives" are being made every day, according to Frederick L. Rawson, a London scientist, who insists he has found the miraculous way by which they are developed. He calls it "audible treatment". "Practical utilization of the powers of God by right thinking," is the agency through which Dr. Rawson declares he can so treat a man that he will not be harmed when hundreds of men are being shot dead beside him. This amazing treatment includes a new type of prayer. It is being administered to hundreds of men audibly, and to hundreds more by letter. Nothing since the war began has aroused so much talk of modern miracles as have many of the statements of Dr. Rawson.......
At the taking of a wood there were five hundred yards of "No Man's Land" to be crossed. Our troops could not get across. Then Capt. --------, who practices this method of prayer, treated them for an hour before they started, and not a man was knocked out. He was the only officer left out of eighty in his brigade. He simply held onto the fact that man is spiritual and perfect and could not be touched. A bullet fired from a revolver only five yards away hit him over the chest, tore his shirt and went out at the shoulder. But it never penetrated his chest. He was frequently in a hail of shells and bullets which did not touch him.
The Graft of Grace
All this is grotesque; but it is what happens to religions in a world of commercial competition. It happens not merely to Christian Science and New Thought religions, Mazdaznan and Zionist, Holy Roller and Mormon religions, but to Catholic and Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Methodist and Baptist religions. For you see, when you are with the wolves you must howl with them; when you are competing with fakirs you must fake. The ordinary Christian will read the claims of the New Thought fakers with contempt; but have I not shown the Catholic Church publishing long lists of money-miracles? Have I not shown the Church of Good Society, our exclusive and aristocratic Protestant Episcopal communion, pretending to call rain and to banish pestilence, to protect crops and win wars and heal those who are "sick in estate"--that is, who are in business trouble?
The reader will say that I am a cynic, despising my fellows; but that is not so. I am an economic scientist, analyzing the forces which operate in human societies. I blame the prophets and priests and healers for their fall from idealism; but I blame still more the competitive wage-system, which presents them with the alternative to swindle or to starve.
For, you see, the prophet has to have food. He has frequently got along with almost none, and with only a rag for clothing; in Palestine and India, where the climate is warm, a sincere faith has been possible for short periods. But the modern prophet who expects to influence the minds of men has to have books and newspapers; he will find a telephone and a typewriter and postage-stamps hardly to be dispensed with, also in Europe and America some sort of a roof over his meeting place. So the prophet is caught, like all the rest of us, in the net of the speculator and the landlord. He has to get money, and in order to get it he has to impress those who already have it--people whose minds and souls have been deformed by the system of parasitism and exploitation.
So the prophet becomes a charlatan; or, if he refuses, he becomes a martyr, and founds a church which becomes a church of charlatans. I care not how sincere, how passionately proletarian a religious prophet may be, that is the fate which sooner or later befalls him in a competitive society--to be the founder of an organization of fools, conducted by knaves, for the benefit of wolves. That fate befell Buddha and Jesus, it befell Ignatius Loyola and Francis of Assisi, John Fox and John Calvin and John Wesley.
A friend of mine who has made a study of "Spiritualism" describes to me the conditions in that field. The mediums are people, mostly women, with a peculiar gift; whether we believe in the survival of personality, or whether we call it telepathy, does not alter the fact that they have a rare and special sensitiveness, a new faculty which science must investigate. They come, poor people mostly--for the well-to-do will seldom give their time to exacting and wearisome experiments. They come, wearing frayed and thin clothing, shivering with cold, obviously undernourished; and their survival depends upon their producing "phenomena"--which phenomena are capricious, and will not come at call. So, what more natural than that mediums should resort to faking? That the whole field should be reeking with fraud, and science should be held back from understanding an extraordinary power of the subconscious mind?
Ever since we came to Pasadena, various ladies have been telling us about the wondrous powers of a mulatto-woman, a manicurist at the city's most fashionable hotel. The other day, out of curiosity, my wife and I went; the moment the "medium" opened her mouth my wife recognized her as the person who has been trying for several months to get me on the telephone to tell me how the spirit of Jack London is seeking to communicate with me! The seance was a public one, a gathering composed, half of wealthy and cultured society-women, and half of confederates, people with the dialect and manners of a vaudeville troupe. A megaphone was set in the middle of the floor, the room was made dark, a couple of hymns were sung, and then the spirit of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes spoke through the megaphone with a Bowery accent, and gave communications from relatives and friends of the various confederates. "Jesus is with us", said Dr. Holmes. "The spirit of Jesus bids you to study spiritualism." And then came the voice of a child: "Mamma! Mamma!" "It is little Georgie!" cried Dr. Holmes; and one of the society ladies started, and answered, and presently burst into tears. A marvelous piece of evidence--especially when you recall that the story of this mother's bereavement had been published in all the papers a couple of months before!
And this kind of swindling is going on every night in every city of America. It goes on wholesale for months every summer at Lily Dale, in New York State, where the spiritualists hold their combination of Chautauqua and Coney Island. And the same thing is going on in the field of mental healing, and of all other "occult" forces and powers, whether real or imaginary. It is going on with new spiritual fervors, new moral idealisms, new poetry, new music, new painting, new sculpture. The faker, the charlatan is everywhere--using the mental and moral and artistic forces of life as a means of delivering himself from economic servitude. Everywhere I turn I see it--credulity being exploited, and men of practical judgment, watching the game and seeing through it, made hard in their attitude of materialism. How many men I know who sit by in sullen protest while their wives drift from one new quackery to another, wasting their income seeking health and happiness in futile emotionalism! How many kind and sensitive spirits I know--both men and women--who pour their treasures of faith and admiration into the laps of hierophants who began by fooling all mankind and ended by fooling themselves!
In each one of the cults of what I have called the "Church of the Quacks", there are thousands, perhaps millions of entirely sincere, self-sacrificing people. They will read this book--if anyone can persuade them to read it--with pain and anger; thinking that I am mocking at their faith, and have no appreciation of their devotion. All that I can say is that I am trying to show them how they are being trapped, how their fine and generous qualities are being used by exploiters of one sort or another; and how this must continue, world without end, until there is order in the material affairs of the race, until justice has been established as the law of man's dealing with his fellows.
THE END of BOOK SIX.
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