In other ways also Elias was all-powerful. He made a mock of political or ecclesiastical elections, holding that a leader's power should not be subject to suffrages or renewals of confidence. Thanks to these sermons, dialogues, and the general mise en scene, the autocracy of Dowie was beyond question.
The new Elias called himself "the divine healer," and, like Schlatter, he attracted all who believed in the direct intervention of God, acting personally upon the sufferer. In their eyes he was simply the representative of God, source of health and healing. It was not he who brought about the cures, but God, and therefore the payments that were made to him were in reality payments to God. This teaching was largely the source of Dowie's power.
There were two large hotels in Chicago which were continually filled to overflowing with pilgrims from all parts who came to seek "divine healing." These left behind them sums of money—often considerable—in token of their gratitude to God; not to the prophet, who would accept nothing.
It is obvious that if none of his cures had been effectual, Dowie, in spite of his power over credulous minds, could not have succeeded. Thaumaturgy must perform its miracles. If it fails to do so, it is a fraud, and its incapacity proves its ruin. But if it accomplishes them, its fame becomes widespread. These miraculous cures generally take place, not singly, but in numbers, because there are always people who respond to suggestion, and invalids who become cured when the obligation to be cured, in the name of God, is placed upon them. Thus Chicago saw and wondered at the miracles, and had no doubts of their genuineness.
There was the case of Mr. Barnard, one of the heads of the National Bank of Chicago, whose twelve-year-old daughter was suffering from spinal curvature. She grew worse, in spite of all the efforts of the most eminent doctors and surgeons, and it seemed that nothing could be done. The child must either die, or remained deformed for the rest of her life. The father and mother were overcome with grief, and after having gone the round of all the big-wigs of the medical profession, they tried first bone-setters, then Christian Scientists, without avail. Finally they went to Dowie, who had already cured one of their friends. Up till then they had not had confidence in him, and they only went to him as a counsel of despair, so to speak, and because a careful re-reading of the Bible had persuaded them that God could and would cure all who had faith in His supreme power. Dowie, perceiving that they and their daughter had true faith, laid his hands on the child and prayed. In that same moment the curvature disappeared, and the cure was complete, for there was never any return of the trouble.
In recognition of this divine favour Mr. Barnard, who had hitherto belonged to the Presbyterian Church, voluntarily joined the Sionists, and became their chief auxiliary financier. Dowie made him manager of the Bank of Sion, under his own supervision, and confided to him the financial administration of the church.
Similarly a Mr. Peckman, whose wife he cured, and who was leader of the Baptist Church of Indiana, gave thanks to God and to Dowie, His prophet, by founding a colony affiliated to Sionism which paid its tithes regularly.
There are many other examples of successful cures, but also many failures. These, however, did not lower the prestige of the modern Elias, who said to his detractors: "God has the power to cure, and all cures are due to Him alone. He desires to cure all who suffer, for His pity is infinite; but it may very well happen that the consumptives and paralytics who come to me after being given up by the doctors, are not always cured by God, however much I pray for them. Why is this? The reason is simple. Disease and death must be looked upon as ills due to the devil, who, since the fall of the rebellious angels, is always in a state of insurrection against God. And it is certain that whoever has not faith—absolute and unquestionable faith—is in the power of Satan. The Scripture tells us precisely, 'he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; he that believeth not is condemned.' When a sufferer is not healed through my intercession, it means that in the struggle for that particular soul, the devil has been victorious."
So, supported by this thesis, Dowie triumphed over the objections of his critics, not only in the eyes of Sion, but of all Chicago. Even when he lost his only daughter, Esther, his authority was in no way affected.
Esther Dowie was twenty-one, and the pride of her father's heart. She had finished her studies at the University of Chicago, and a happy future seemed to be opening out before her. One day in the month of May she was preparing for a large reception which was being held in honour of young Booth-Clibborn, grandson of General Booth of the Salvation Army. The event was an important one, for it was hoped that this meeting would bring about an understanding between the Salvationists and the Sionists, and Miss Dowie wished to give the visitor the most gracious welcome possible. She was lighting a spirit-lamp, for the purpose of waving her hair, when a draught of air blew her peignoir into the flame. It caught fire, and the poor girl was so terribly burned that she succumbed soon afterwards, although her father and all the elders of the Church prayed at her bedside, and although Dowie permitted a doctor to attend her and to make copious use of vaseline. After her death, the jury decided that she must have been burnt internally, the flames having penetrated to her throat and lungs. Before she died she begged her father to forgive her for having disobeyed him—for Dowie strictly forbade the use of alcohol, even in a spirit-lamp—and implored the adherents of Sionism not to expose themselves to death through disobedience, as she had done.
The attitude adopted by the prophet under this blow was almost sublime. Letters of condolence and of admiration rained upon him. He wept over his daughter's dead body, and was broken-hearted, while, instead of drawing attention to the extenuating circumstances for his own inability to save her—as he would have done in all other cases—he fervently prayed to God to forgive her for having sinned against the laws of Sion. His grief was so sincere that not only the Sionists but the whole of Chicago joined in it.
Lack of faith was not the only thing that prevented cures. Omitting to pay the tithes could also render them impossible; for the tithes were due to God, and those who failed to pay them committed a voluntary offence against the divine power. When we remember that there were at least sixty thousand Sionists, it is obvious that these tithes must have amounted to an enormous sum—and of this sum Dowie never gave any account. His spiritual power was founded upon his moral power. It is certain that he tried to influence his followers for good in forbidding them alcoholic drinks and gambling, and in advising exercise and recreation in the open air, and the avoidance of medicaments and drugs which he believed did more harm than good. He said to them—"Your health is a natural thing, for health is the state of grace in man, and the result of being in accord with God, and disease has no other cause than the violation of law, religious or moral." He ordained that all should live in a state of cleanliness, industry and order, so that communal prosperity might be assured. And of this prosperity which they owed to God and to His representative, what more just than that a part of it should be given to God and to Dowie, His prophet? What more legitimate than that there should be no separation between the material life and the spiritual life?
He had a special machine constructed which registered, by a kind of clockwork, the intercessions made on behalf of the various applicants for healing. Each one would receive a printed bulletin, stating, for example—"Prayed on the 10th of March, at four o'clock in the afternoon, John A. Dowie." If the patient was not in Chicago, Dowie would pray by telephone, so that the immediate effect of the divine power might be felt. He also made use of a phonograph for recording his homilies, sermons and prayers, and these records were sent, at a fixed price, to his adherents in all parts of the world.
The city of Sion lies between Chicago and Milwaukee, about forty-two miles to the north of the former. It comprises an estate of 6400 acres on the shores of Lake Michigan. This land—some of the best in Illinois—was let out in lots, on long lease, by Dowie to his followers, and brought in thousands of dollars yearly. At the same time that he created this principle of speculation in land, he was also engaged in founding a special industry, whose products were sold as "products of Sion." His choice fell upon the lace industry, and thanks to very clever management he was able to establish large factories modelled on those of Nottingham, employing many hundreds of workers whose goods commanded a considerable sale.
Before he undertook its organisation the possessions of the Church were few. Fifteen years afterwards, it had a fortune of more than a million pounds.
In order to carry out his plan of building a town in which neither spirits nor tobacco should be sold, and which should be inhabited only by Sionists, it was necessary that all the land should belong to him, and he had to reckon with the probably exorbitant demands of the sellers. To circumvent these his real intentions had to be hidden, and with the help of his faithful auxiliaries this was successfully accomplished.
I do not know what has become of Sionism during recent years. Will the dynasty be continued after the reign of John Dowie by that of his son William Gladstone Dowie; or will the death of the prophet, as stated by those who have seen the eclipse of other stars of first magnitude, be the signal for the dissolution of the sect?
What matters, however, is the genesis and not the duration of an enchantment which has united around one central figure, so many thousands who thirsted for the simultaneous salvation of their souls and of their purses.
THE ADEPTS OF THE SUN OF SUNS
Nearly all Communistic theories when applied in practice prove failures, but there seems to be one infallible safeguard—that supplied by religion. Faith, when mingled with the trials and disenchantments of life, appears to mitigate them, and communal experiments based on religious beliefs nearly always prosper. This applies to the half-religious, half-communal sects of modern Russia, and the principle has also been adopted by the American apostles of communism.
One of these, Dr. Teed of Chicago, understood it well, and his sect was, in fact, merely a religious sect based on the principle of communal possessions. Its adherents took the name of Koreshans, after the title Koresh (or the sun) boasted by its founder. He, Koresh, "Light of Lights," "Sun of Suns," was called by Heaven to teach the truth to mortals, and to show them which road to eternal salvation they should follow in order to prosper upon earth. Founded in Chicago, the sect moved recently to Florida, and there, from day to day, Teed had the satisfaction of seeing the number of believers steadily increase.
He had at first to put up with a good deal of ridicule, for his teaching, based upon that of Fourier, and incorporating some of the mystical ideas of Swedenborg, was not at all to the taste of his fellow-citizens. The doctor then evolved the brilliant idea of dividing his system into two doctrines—the way to heaven, or the mystical doctrine; and the way to earthly prosperity, or the economic doctrine. It was permissible to follow the second without adopting the first, and the result may easily be guessed. Attracted by the prospect of terrestrial benefits, believers flocked to the fold, and invariably ended by accepting the second half of the teaching also (the mystical doctrine), all the more willingly because their material happiness and prosperity depended on the degree of their "union" with the founder.
The mysticism of Koresh had some novel features, for the American doctor saw the wisdom of making use of some of the prestige lately gained by science. His religion, consequently, was essentially scientific. He, Koresh, was the "unique man," who, thanks to his "scientific studies" and to "celestial inspiration," could understand the mysteries of nature. He had reached the summit of scientific knowledge and the greatest possible human perfection—that is to say, "sainthood"—and all who approached him were made participators in his "holiness." Thanks to this gift, pertaining only to Koresh, his followers could "enjoy the bliss of heaven upon earth"; for the Kingdom of God upon earth was near at hand, and Koreshism was preparing the way for its disciples.
But what had to be done in order to attain the higher degrees of salvation? Teed was a sufficiently clever psychologist to know that nothing fascinates the crowd so much as mysteries and things that cannot be understood, and he acted accordingly.
His doctrine is so obscure that only those claiming divine illumination could hope to find their way amid its cloudy precepts. Let us give an example:—
"In recognition of the principal source of the force of the intrinsic and innate life of the Christian revelation, the Koreshan doctrine elevates the founder of Christianity to the place of father, become perfect, thanks to the sacrifice of his son, which it has been given to us to understand by the flesh of Jehovah."
The believers could give it whatever meaning they liked, and for those who despaired of understanding this part of the Koreshan revelation, the prophet kept in reserve thousands of other dogmas, all equally enigmatic and equally obscure. We will not attempt to discuss them!
The teaching included the attainment of perfection through marriage, and claimed omniscience for Koreshism, which could throw new light upon all things, including such subjects as astronomy and philosophy. The earth is not round, light is not diffused, as science teaches, and man has not five senses, but seven—so said Koresh. He described his doctrine as communistic and co-operative. The use of money was forbidden, its place being taken by cheques representing the amount of services rendered to the community.
The colony founded at Estero, in Florida, was almost exclusively commercial and industrial, not agricultural like most communal settlements. Electric railways and factories were built—and are still being built—there, for steam, like money, is banned in the colony of Koresh; while being in possession of a seaport, the Koreshans propose to enter into commercial relationship with the whole world.
The Bureau of Equitable Commerce directs the business affairs of the community, and at its head is the chief of the Commonwealth (or public fortune). All the inhabitants share in the general prosperity, and in order to prevent the more capable individuals from developing into capitalists, the fortunes of all are carefully equalised by means of a progressive tax upon income. The land belongs to all, and is non-transferable, like the factories. No payment is demanded of new-comers; it is enough if they bring the moral capital of an irreproachable life, and are good workers; and any poor people who desire to seek salvation in the colony are enabled to travel to it by contributions from the public funds. Absolute tolerance of all beliefs forms the spiritual basis of the sect.
New Jerusalem, the capital of the colony, covers about eighty-six square miles, having streets four hundred feet in width, and separate industrial quarters. The business affairs of the community are undeniably prosperous.
B. RELIGION AND MIRACLES
"O men born upon earth, why abandon yourselves to death, when you are permitted to obtain immortality?"
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS
The marriage between Science and the Bible, brought about by Mary Baker Eddy, has given birth to a most prosperous sect. In this amalgam, the Christianity is not of the purest, and the Science appears rather in the form of the negation of its own principles; but so great is humanity's desire for the union of revelation and experience that believers crowd from all parts to range themselves behind the hew banner.
There is something almost disconcerting in the ardour and devotion of Mrs. Eddy's followers. Truly, in the success of Christian Science we see one more proof of the ease with which a new religion can be started if, in addition to faith, it concerns itself with man's earthly welfare.
The founder of the sect was a clever woman. Well aware of the power and fascination of the mysterious, she exploited it with a profound understanding of the human heart. She mingled the realities of life with the mysteries of thought, and the sun of her revelations is always veiled by intangible clouds. From her gospel one might cull at random scores of phrases that defy human understanding. "Evil is nothing, no thing, mind or power," she says in Science and Health. "As manifested by mankind, it stands for a lie, nothing claiming to be something." And again—"Mortal existence has no real entity, but saith 'It is I.'"
The nonsensicalness of her phraseology can find no comparison save in the inconceivable chaos of her teachings. She goes so far as to imply that the supreme effort of a woman's spirit should suffice to bring about conception. Jesus Christ having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, she suggests that man should follow this example, and renounce the lusts of the flesh. "Proportionately as human generation ceases, the unbroken links of eternal, harmonious being will be spiritually discerned"—and in another place, "When this new birth takes place, the Christian Science infant is born of the spirit, born of God, and can cause the mother no more suffering."
In the explanations of the Bible given in her Key to the Scriptures we are told that when we come upon the word "fire," we are to translate it as "fear," and the word "fear" as "heat"; while we must remember that Eve never put the blame for her sin upon the serpent, but, having "learnt that corporeal sense is the serpent," she was the first to confess her misdeed in having followed the dictates of the flesh instead of those of the spirit.
Like all prophets and saviours, Mrs. Eddy was crucified during her lifetime. She had to engage in a continuous struggle with the envy and jealousy of those who sought to misrepresent her teachings and bring her glory to the dust. But she was far from being an ordinary woman, and even in childhood seemed to be marked out for an exceptional career. At the age of eight, like Joan of Arc, she heard mysterious voices, and her mother, who was of Scottish origin and subject to "attacks of religion," remembered the story of the Infant Samuel and encouraged her to speak with the Lord. But Mary was alarmed by the voices, and wept and trembled, instead of replying to them like a good child.
About her forty-fifth year, however, being in the grip of a serious illness, she did hold converse with the Lord, who told her how she might be cured. She listened and obeyed, and was cured. This was her "great initiation." She then retired from the world, and spent several years engaged in meditation and prayer, while her study of the Bible revealed to her the key to all mysteries, human and divine.
The deductions of her philosophy are often characterised by an astonishing naivete. "God being All-in-all, He made medicine," she tells us; "but that medicine was Mind. . . . It is plain that God does not employ drugs or hygiene, nor provide them for human use; else Jesus would have recommended and employed them in His healing."
She frequently makes use of ingenious statements whose very candour is disarming, but she had considerable dialectical gifts, and can argue persuasively, especially against spiritualism. In Science and Health she violently denies the authenticity of spiritualistic phenomena, "As readily can you mingle fire and frost as spirit and matter. . . . The belief that material bodies return to dust, hereafter to rise up as spiritual bodies with material sensations and desires, is incorrect. . . . The caterpillar, transformed into a beautiful insect, is no longer a worm, nor does the insect return to fraternise with or control the worm. . . . There is no bridge across the gulf which divides two such opposite conditions as the spiritual, or incorporeal, and the physical, or corporeal."
In the confusion of precepts and principles championed by Mrs. Eddy there are sometimes to be found thoughts worthy of a great metaphysician. Her teaching, when purified from admixture, does at any rate break away energetically from all materialistic doctrines.
Her literary output was considerable, for in addition to her gospel, Science and Health, she wrote The Concordance of Science and Health, Rudimentary Divine Science, Christian Science versus Paganism, and other works, including some verse.
The Christian Science churches, with their adherents, who number more than a million, are spread all over the world, each having an independent existence. They are found chiefly in the United States, England, Germany, and the British Colonies. The number of "healers" exceeds several thousands, for the most part of the female sex. In France the first "Church of Christ, Scientist" has been founded in Paris, in the Rue Magellan, under the name of Washington Palace.
The Christian Science leader denounced the established churches and spared them no criticism, and her doctrine contained a seed of truth which enabled it to triumph even over its own lack of logic and coherence.
The world, submerged in matter, either denies spirit or turns away from it. Mrs. Eddy exalts the power of spirit above that of matter, the universal goddess, by means of statements which are heroic rather than scientific.
Matter does not exist. God is all, and God is spirit; therefore all is spirit. Matter is not spirit, but is a fiction which only exists for those who persist in believing in it against the evidence of facts. As matter does not exist, and is only a lie and the invention of Satan, the body, which we see in the form of matter, does not exist either. The suffering caused by the body is simply an "error of mortal mind," for since the body does not exist, there can be no such thing as bodily suffering. Therefore instead of concerning ourselves with the healing of the supposed body, with the prevention or cure of pain and suffering, we must go straight to spirit. Spirit is perfect, and the thought of pain or disease can have no place in it. Let us then leave the curing of our bodies, and seek to rectify our spirits.
Doctors and surgeons, on the contrary, follow the errors of centuries in concerning themselves with the body, and causing it to absorb drugs which, having no connection with disease, can neither cure nor relieve it. "Mind as far outweighs drugs in the cure of disease as in the cure of sin. The more excellent way is divine Science in every case. . . . The hosts of Aesculapius are flooding the world with diseases, because they are ignorant that the human mind and body are myths."
A follower of the "true doctrine," according to Mrs. Eddy, is never ill for the simple reason that he does not believe in the body or in any of its infirmities. If he should be overtaken by illness, it is because his spirit is ill, and his faith not sufficiently pure.
From this results a very simple method of healing. The "healer" merely seeks to re-establish the faith of the sufferer, and to convince him of the non-reality of his illness. No medicine is given, the treatment consisting of thoughts and suggestions from Science and Health. Christian Science healers need to have a robust and unshakable faith, for if they do not succeed in their task it is because their own spirit has been infected by doubt.
Mrs. Eddy declared that our concrete and practical age required, above all, a religion of reality; that men could no longer be content with vague promises of future bliss. What they needed was a religion of the present that would end their sufferings and procure for them serenity and happiness on earth. The title of "applied Christianity" has been adopted by Christian Science, which advises us to make use of the teachings of Jesus in our daily life, and to reap all the advantages of such a practice. We have need of truth "applied" to life just as we have need of telegraphs, telephones and electric apparatus, and now—say the Scientists—for the first time in man's existence he is offered a really practical religious machinery, which enables him to overcome misfortune and to establish his happiness, his health, and his salvation on a solid basis.
The Scientists claim to have recourse to the same spiritual law by means of which Jesus effected His cures, and they declare that its efficacy is undeniable, since all Mrs. Eddy's pupils who use it are able to heal the sick. One may suggest that Jesus performed miracles because He was the Saviour of the world. Mrs. Eddy replies that statements are attributed to Him which never issued from His lips; that He said (in the Gospel according to St. John) that it was not He who spoke or acted, but His Father; and stated elsewhere, that the Son could do nothing of Himself. Also that Jesus never sent His disciples forth to preach without adding that they should also heal. "Heal the sick," was His supreme command. And that He never counselled the use of drugs or medicines.
The healing of the sick, according to Mrs. Eddy, was one of the chief functions of the representatives of the Church during the first three centuries of Christianity, her subsequent loss of importance and power being largely due to the renunciation of this essential principle.
Healing is not miraculous, but merely the result of a normal spiritual law acting in conformity with the Divine Will. The leader of the new "Scientists" explains that Jesus had no supernatural powers, and that all He did was done according to natural law. Consequently everybody, when once brought into harmony with spiritual truth, can accomplish what He accomplished.
Some of Mrs. Eddy's statements have an undeniable practical value. For instance, she attacks "fear" as one of the chief causes of human misery, and declares that it is wrong to fear draughts of air, or wet feet, or the eating and drinking of certain substances—and wrong, above all, to fear microbes.
But exaggeration is always harmful. The total suppression of fear would mean the suppression of often necessary and desirable precautions. In order to succeed, however, a religion has need of the absolute, for conditional truths are not likely to impress the public; and the founder of Christian Science was well aware of this.
Health, according to the Scientists, is truth. In order to enjoy existence, we must live in the truth and avoid sin, and ultimately death itself will disappear, being entirely superfluous. Jesus said that whoso believed on Him should never see death, and He would not have said this if death were necessary for salvation. Therefore believers are taught that humanity will in time conquer sickness and death, and that this blessed consummation will be reached when human beings attain to the heights of the Christian Science "gospel," and are guided by it in all the thoughts and actions of their everyday life. Other equally enchanting prospects are conjured up, like mirages in the desert, before the dazzled eyes of Mrs. Eddy's followers. Making use of the ancient conception of angels, she teaches that such beings are always close at hand, for angels are "God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect." "These angels of His presence . . . abound in the spiritual atmosphere of Mind."
Thus Christian Science is seen to be a religion of health, longevity and happiness, the fruits of spiritual action; a religion which denies both the theoretical and practical existence of matter.
There are, however, occasions when the invocations of "science" prove powerless to deal with rebellious matter. But this does not embarrass Mrs. Eddy. She considers that her doctrine is in advance of the age, and that men themselves must progress in order to rise to its level. Their spirits will then become pure and perfect, and matter will have no more power over them. Man will be able to live quite differently, for hygienic conditions—even those considered most indispensable—will no longer be of any importance.
One of the most irresistible attractions of Christian Science lies in its declaration that it will be possible at some future time to overcome death—a dream that has been known in all epochs. Yet, for all our love of life, how unprofitably we squander it! Our normal life could be prolonged to a hundred and fifty, or even two hundred years, but we have stupidly imposed upon ourselves an artificial barrier which we scarcely ever surpass!
Mrs. Eddy knew well what charm the possibility of destroying the "King of Terrors" would add to her doctrine, and she made effective use of it.
We may note that the idea of overcoming death can be traced back for some three thousand years or so. Hermes, the "Thrice Greatest One," taught that only "by error" had death become installed upon our planet, and that nothing in the world could ever be lost. "Death does not exist; the word 'mortal' is void of meaning, and is merely the word 'immortal' without its first syllable." He taught further that the world was the second God, immortal and alive, and that no part of it could ever die; that "the eternal" and "the immortal" must not be confused, for "the eternal" was God Uncreate, while the world which He had created and made in His own image was endowed with His immortality. Hermes also suggested that it was only necessary to send our bodily sensations to sleep in order to awake in God and rejoice in immortality!
There was a close relationship between Hermes, the Essenes of Egypt, and St. John, the author of Revelation. Indeed, if we search carefully, we find that the Gnostics of every school believed in the possibility of banishing death from the earth.
"Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (St. John iv. 14).
And what superiority over the claims of Mrs. Eddy is shown by Hermes, when he declares that in order to reach the spiritual worlds we only need to free ourselves from sensation!
Unsuspected sources of inspiration, as yet unutilised, abound in the writings of the Pythagoreans, the Essenes, and even the Neo-Platonists. The creators of future religions are likely to draw much water from these wells, but Christian Science can lay claim to be the first to have made use of the mysticism of the past in a practical fashion, so that its adherents rejoice in the prospect of endless life, even as did the visionaries of former ages.
When one examines the doctrine closely, its lack of originality becomes apparent. The idea that matter does not exist has had numerous protagonists in the realms of philosophy, and is ardently defended by Berkeley. In the dialogues of Hylas and Philonous, the latter speaks of the "absolute impossibility" of matter, which has no existence apart from spirit. But Mrs. Eddy succeeded in giving this purely metaphysical conception a concrete value in the affairs of every-day life.
She opened the first School of Christian Science Mind-healing in 1867 with one student; towards the end of the century her followers numbered close on a hundred thousand; while to-day the "Mother Church" can boast over a million adherents, to say nothing of its financial resources.
Without doubt suggestion is the basis of the miraculous cures which are the pride of Christian Science, but the prophetess and her followers have always denied this. As Jesus ignored the power of suggestion, they also must not only ignore it, but wage merciless war upon it. They deny both suggestion and matter, while making use of each—but neither the use of suggestion nor the doctrine of the non-existence of matter could alone or together have procured for the new sect its truly phenomenal success. That is due largely to ingenious methods of publicity, on the most modern lines (and is not advertisement itself one of the most effective forms of suggestion?). When one miraculous cure after another was announced, money flowed in, and Mrs. Eddy made use of it to increase the numbers of believers. Adapting herself to the mentality of her hearers, or readers, she demanded large fees for the manifestations of the "spirit" which was incarnated in herself and her helpers, and left behind her when she died, an immense personal fortune, and hundreds of prosperous churches. "Matter" does not seem to be altogether negligible, even for pure spirits who do not believe in its existence, and consider it an invention of the devil!
 See La Philosophie de la Longevite (Bibliotheque de Philosophie Contemporaine, Felix Alcan, 12th edition), by Jean Finot.
SCHLATTER, THE MIRACLE-MAN
The town of Denver, the "pearl of Colorado," was en fete. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were flocking to it from all parts of America, and all, immediately they arrived, made straight for the house of Alderman Fox, where dwelt Francis Schlatter, the greatest miracle-worker of the century. For two months Denver was able to contemplate an unparalleled variety of invalids with illnesses both rare and common, all—or nearly all—of whom departed reassured as to their progress, if not completely cured. The trains were overcrowded, the hotels overflowed with visitors, and all the States rang with hymns of praise in honour of Schlatter, the saint of Denver.
But perpetual joy is not of this world. On the 14th of November, 1895, there were still thousands of people outside Alderman Fox's house, but their grief and despair were pitiable to witness. The women sobbed, the men cursed, and all this, mingled with the woeful complaints of the sick, created an extraordinary atmosphere in the usually gay and cheerful town.
The cause of it was that Saint Schlatter had fled from Colorado without warning in the night—whether for a short time or for ever nobody knew. The news spread far and wide, the affair assumed the proportions of a public calamity, and the Rocky Morning News and other Colorado journals shed copious tears over the sad lot of the abandoned pilgrims. Even the American newspapers, which so often foresee events that never happen, had not been able to foresee this thunderbolt that had descended in the midst of their readers.
On the previous day the saint had, as usual, given his blessing to the thousands of pilgrims gathered from all quarters, and had appeared to be in his customary state of serene kindliness. Nothing had suggested his desertion—for the disappointed crowds considered it a desertion indeed. Even Alderman Fox, deeply troubled as he was, could offer no consolation to his fellow-citizens. He, who was formerly stone-deaf, had gone one day to see Schlatter at Omaha, and when the latter took his hand his deafness had completely disappeared. Full of gratitude, he offered Schlatter a large sum of money, which was refused. He then offered the hospitality of his house at Denver, and this being accepted, Schlatter arrived there, preceded by the glory of his saintly reputation and his miraculous cures. Two months passed thus, and never had prophet a more devoted and enthusiastic disciple than the worthy alderman of Colorado's capital city. Then fell the blow!
When Alderman Fox had entered his guest's room the night before, the bed was empty. Dressed just as he had arrived, in his unique costume, Schlatter had disappeared, leaving behind him as sole trace of his visit this message:—"Mr. Fox—my mission is ended, and the Father calls me. I salute you. Francis Schlatter. November 13th."
After that he was sought for in vain. He who "intoxicated the weak soul of the people"—to quote one of the Colorado clergy—and made the land of sin ring with songs of heavenly triumph, had completely disappeared. In the words of another of them, "the plant that had grown up in barren soil was withered away by the wrath of God."
But the grief of those who had believed in him lasted for many years.
Schlatter was born in Alsace in 1855, and after his arrival in America he followed many avocations, finally adopting that of a "holy man." With head and feet bare, he traversed the States from one end to another, and proclaimed himself a messenger of heaven. He preached the love of God and peace among men. He was imprisoned, and continued to preach, and though his fellow-prisoners at first mocked at him, they ended by listening.
He only had to place his hand on the heads of the sick, and they were cured. After being released from prison, he went to Texas. His peculiar dress, bare feet, and long hair framing a face which seemed indeed to be illuminated from within, drew crowds to follow him, and he was looked upon as Elijah come to life again.
"Hearken and come to me," he said. "I am only a humble messenger sent by my Heavenly Father."
And thousands came. He cured the incurable, and consoled the inconsolable. Once he was shut up in a mad-house, but emerged more popular than ever. Then he went on a pilgrimage through the towns of Mexico, preaching his "Father's" word among the adulterers of goods and the Worshippers of the Golden Calf. An object of reverence and admiration, he blessed the children and rained miracles upon the heads of the sick, finally arriving at San Francisco in 1894. From there, still on foot and bare-headed, he crossed the Mohave Desert, spent several weeks at Flagstaff, and then continued his wanderings among the Indian tribes. They recognised his saintliness and came out in crowds to meet him, amazed at the power of the Lord as manifested by him. He spent five days in the company of the chief of the Navajos, performing many miracles, and filling with wonder the simple souls who crowded round to touch his hands. After having traversed several other districts, he stopped at Denver, which became his favourite residence. In this paradise of the New World his most startling miracles took place. It became known as his special town, and from all parts there flocked to it believers and unbelievers, good, bad and indifferent, attracted by the fame of the heavenly messenger. Women and men followed in his train, expressing their admiration and gratitude; even the reporters who came to interview him were impressed by his simplicity, and described in glowing terms the miracles accomplished by the "prophet of Denver."
The American journals which thus put themselves at his service throw a strange light upon this twentieth-century saint. For Schlatter the Silent, as some called him, only became eloquent when in the presence of newspaper reporters. He took heed to "sin not with his tongue," as the psalmist sings, and "kept his mouth with a bridle" and "held his peace," as long as "the wicked" were before him; but when confronted by reporters his thoughts became articulate, and it is only through them that his simple "Gospel" has been handed down to us. "I am nothing," he would say to them. "My Father is all. Have faith in Him, and all will be well." Or—"My Father can replace a pair of diseased lungs as easily as He can cure rheumatism. He has only to will, and the sick man becomes well or the healthy one ill. You ask me in what does my power consist. It is nothing—it is His will that is everything."
One day when a crowd of several thousands was pressing round him, Schlatter addressed a man in his vicinity.
"Depart!" he said to him, with a violence that startled all who heard. "Depart from Denver; you are a murderer!"
The man fled, and the crowd applauded the "saint," remarking that "it was not in his power to heal the wicked."
Faith in him spread even to the railway companies of New Mexico, for one day there appeared a placard of the Union Pacific Railway stating that those of the employees, or their families, who wished to consult Schlatter would be given their permits and their regular holiday. Following on this announcement, the Omaha World Herald describes the impressive spectacle of the thousands of men, women and children, belonging to all grades of the railway administration, who went to the holy man of Denver to ask pardon for their sins, or to be healed of their diseases.
Thus did the transport systems, combined with the newspapers, pay homage to the exploits of the new prophet.
And still the miracles continued. The blind saw, the deaf heard, and the cripples walked. The lamp of faith lighted in New Mexico threw its beams over the whole of America, and the remarkable charm of Schlatter's personality influenced even the most incredulous.
The fame of his deeds reached Europe, and some of the English papers told of cures so marvellous that New Mexico bade fair to become the refuge of all the incurables in the world.
In the Omaha World Herald a long article by General Test was published, in which he said: "All those who approach him find consolation and help. Dr. Keithley has been cured of deafness. . . . I have used spectacles for many years, but a touch of his hand was enough to make me have need of them no longer."
One of the officials of the Union Pacific Railway, a Mr. Sutherland, after an accident, could neither walk nor move his limbs. He was taken to Denver, and returned completely cured, not only of his inability to walk, but also of deafness that had troubled him for fifteen years.
A Mr. Stewart, who had been deaf for twenty years, was also completely cured by the saint. Nothing seemed able to resist his miraculous powers. Blindness, diphtheria, phthisis, all disappeared like magic at the touch of his hand; and gloves that he had worn proved equally efficacious.
A Mrs. Snook, of North Denver, had suffered from cancer for some months, when, worn out by pain, she sent to the holy man for the loan of one of his gloves. He sent her two, saying that she would be cured—and she was cured. The same thing happened with John Davidson of 17th Street, Denver; with Colonel Powers of Georgetown; and a dozen others, all of whom had suffered for years from more or less incurable maladies.
An engineer named Morris was cured of cataract instantaneously. A totally blind wood-cutter was able to distinguish colours after being touched by Schlatter. A Mrs. Holmes of Havelock, Nebraska, had tumours under the eyes. She pressed them with a glove given her by the prophet, and they disappeared. (This case is reported in the Denver News of November 12th, 1895.)
Gloves began to arrive from all parts, and lay in mountains on Schlatter's doorstep. He touched them with his hand, and distributed them to the crowd. Faith being the sole cause of the cures, it was unnecessary, he said, to lay hands on the sick. When he did so, it was only in order to impress the souls of those who had need of this outer sign in order to enjoy the benefits sent them by the Father through His intermediary. This explains how Schlatter was able to treat from three to five thousand people every day. He would stand with outstretched hands blessing the crowds, who departed with peace in their souls.
And the "pearl of Colorado" rejoiced, seeing how the deaf heard, the cripples walked, the blind saw, and all glorified the name of the Saint of Denver.
His disinterestedness was above suspicion, and the contempt that he showed for the "almighty dollar" filled all the believers with astonishment and admiration.
"What should I do with money?" he said. "Does not my Heavenly Father supply all my needs? There is no greater wealth than faith, and I have supreme faith in my Father."
Gifts poured in upon him, but he refused them all with his customary gentleness, so that at last people ceased to send him anything but gloves. These, after having touched them with his hands, he distributed among the sick and the unfortunate.
His fame increased with the ardour of his faith. Suspicion was disarmed, and great and small paid him homage. Out of touch as he was with modern thought, and reading nothing but the prophets, he attained to a condition of ecstasy which at last led him to announce that he was Christ come down from heaven to save his fellow-men. Having lived so long on the footing of a son of God, he now was convinced of his direct descent, and his hearers going still further, were filled with expectation of some great event which should astonish all unbelievers.
Under the influence of this general excitement he proceeded to undergo a forty days' fast. He announced this to his followers, who flocked to see the miracle, preceded by the inevitable reporters; and while fasting he still continued to heal the sick and give them his blessing, attracting ever greater crowds by his haggard visage and his atmosphere of religious exaltation.
Then, having spent forty days and forty nights in this manner, he sat down at table to replenish his enfeebled forces, and the beholders gave voice to enthusiastic expressions of faith in his divine mission.
But the famished Schlatter attacked the food laid before him with an ardour that had in it nothing of the divine. The onlookers became uneasy, and one of them went so far as to suggest that his health might suffer from this abrupt transition.
"Have faith," replied Schlatter. "The Father who has permitted me to live without nourishment for forty days, will not cease to watch over His Son."
The town of Denver formed a little world apart. Miracles were in the air, faith was the only subject of conversation, and everyone dreamed of celestial joys and the grace of salvation. In this supernatural atmosphere distinctions between the possible and the impossible were lost sight of, and the inhabitants believed that the usual order of nature had been overthrown.
For instance, James Eckman of Leadville, who had been blinded by an explosion, recovered his sight immediately he arrived at Denver. General Test declared that he had seen a legless cripple walk when the saint's gaze was bent upon him. A blind engineer named Stainthorp became able to see daylight. A man named Dillon, bent and crippled by an illness several decades before, recovered instantaneously. When the saint touched him, he felt a warmth throughout his whole body; his fingers, which he had not been able to use for years, suddenly straightened themselves; he was conscious of a sensation of inexpressible rapture, and rose up full of faith and joy. A man named Welsh, of Colorado Springs, had a paralysed right hand which was immediately cured when Schlatter touched it.
All New Mexico rejoiced in the heavenly blessing that had fallen upon Denver. Special trains disgorged thousands of travellers, who were caught up in the wave of religious enthusiasm directly they arrived. The whole town was flooded with a sort of exaltation, and there was a recrudescence of childishly superstitious beliefs, which broke out with all the spontaneity and vigour that usually characterises the manifestation of popular religious phenomena.
What would have been the end of it if Schlatter had not so decisively and inexplicably disappeared?
It would be difficult to conceive of anything more extraordinary than the exploits of this modern saint, which came near to revolutionising the whole religious life of the New World. The fact that they took place against a modern background, with the aid of newspaper interviews and special trains, gives them a peculiar cachet. Indeed, the spectacle of such child-like faith, allied to all the excesses of civilisation, and backed up by the ground-work of prejudices from which man has as yet by no means freed himself, is one to provide considerable food for reflection for those who study the psychology of crowds in general, and of religious mania in particular.
The case of Schlatter is not a difficult one to diagnose. He suffered from "ambulatory automatism," the disease investigated by Professor Pitres of Bordeaux, and was a wanderer from his childhood up. Incapable of resisting the lure of vagabondage, he thought it should be possible to perform miracles because it was "God his Father" who thus forced him to wander from place to place. "All nature being directed according to His Will," said Schlatter, "and nothing being accomplished without Him, I am driven to warn the earth in order to fulfil His designs."
Being simple-minded and highly impressionable, the first cure that he succeeded in bringing about seemed to him a direct proof of his alliance with God. As Diderot has said, it is sometimes only necessary to be a little mad in order to prophesy and to enjoy poetic ecstasies; and in the case of Schlatter the flower of altruism which often blossoms in the hearts of such "madmen" was manifested in his complete lack of self-seeking and in his compassion for the poor and suffering which drew crowds around him. As to his miracles, we may—without attempting to explain them—state decisively that they do not differ from those accomplished by means of suggestion. The cases of blindness treated by Schlatter have a remarkable resemblance to that of the girl Marie described by Pierre Janet in his Psychological Automatism.
This patient was admitted to the hospital at Havre, suffering, among other things, from blindness of the left eye which she said dated from infancy. But when by means of hypnotism she was "transformed" into a child of five years of age, it was found that she saw well with both eyes. The blindness must therefore have begun at the age of six years—but from what cause? She was made to repeat, while in the somnambulistic state, all the principal scenes of her life at that time, and it was found that the blindness had commenced some days after she had been forced to sleep with a child of her own age who had a rash all over the left side of her face. Marie developed a similar rash and became blind in the left eye soon afterwards. Pierre Janet made her re-live the event which had had so terrible an effect upon her, induced her to believe that the child had no rash, and after two attempts succeeded in making her caress her (imaginary) bedfellow. The sight of the left eye returned, and Marie awoke—cured!
The saint of Denver could not, of course, make use of methods adopted by doctors in the hospitals, but he had something much stronger and more effective in his mysterious origin, his prophet-like appearance, and his airs as of one illuminated by the spirit. Suggestion, when acting upon those who are awake, spreads from one to another like an attack of yawning or of infectious laughter. Crowds are credulous, like children who look no further than their surface impressions.
The case of W. C. Dillon, who had been bent and crippled for years, but was able to straighten his limbs at once under Schlatter's influence, recalls that of the young sailor in the household of Dr. Pillet, who for several weeks was bent forward in a most painful position. He had received a severe blow at the base of the chest, after which he seemed unable to stand upright again. He was put into a hypnotic sleep, and asked if he could raise himself.
"Why not?" he replied.
"Then do so," said the doctor—and he rose from his bed completely cured.
A remarkable thing with regard to Schlatter's cures is that they were so frequently concerned with cases of paralysis. Now Charcot has proved that such cases are usually found in hysterical subjects suffering from amnesia or anaesthesia (general or partial loss of sensation), and according to modern medical research paralysis and anaesthesia are almost identical. We know, further, with what ease hypnotic suggestion can either provoke or dispel partial or general anaesthesia, and this applies equally to partial or general paralysis.
Paralysis is often, if not always, due to a simple amnesia—forgetfulness to make use of certain muscles—which can be overcome by suggestion. Schlatter, with his undeniable hypnotic power, had consequently small difficulty in accomplishing "miracles"—that is to say, in producing incomprehensible and inexplicable phenomena.
His custom of dealing with people in crowds gave him greater chances of success than if he had merely treated individual cases. "Faith is the only thing that cures," he declared—and, as if by magic, his hearers became possessed of faith and intoxicated by the benefits obtained from his divine intervention.
Truly the life of this impulse-ridden vagabond, so lacking in self-interest, so devoted to the needs of the sick and poor, throws a new light upon the souls of our contemporaries. There seems to exist in every human being, no matter how deeply hidden, an inexhaustible desire for contact with the Infinite. And this desire can be as easily played upon by the tricks of impostors as by the holiness of saints, or the divine grace of saviours.
THE DEPTHS OF THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND
SECTS IN FRANCE AND ELSEWHERE
During the second half of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, scarcely a single country has been free from religious manifestations of the most varied kind, all concerned with new ways and means of attaining salvation; and if one were to include all the different phases of occultism as well, one would be astounded at the mystical ardour of which modern humanity is possessed.
From the spiritualists and the theosophists to the crystal-gazers and the palmists, all these occult practices are, in reality, merely the result of a more or less intensified desire to communicate with the spiritual worlds.
France, although considered a country pre-eminently sceptical, has not escaped the general tendency, for even in what appeared to be the most rationalistic epoch—that of the Revolution—the "Cult of Reason" was founded, to be succeeded by the "Religion of the Supreme Being" introduced by Robespierre. And what numbers of new sects and religions can be recorded since then!
There was, first of all, the Theophilanthropy of Jean-Baptiste Chemin and Valentine Hauy, representing the faith of those who love man in God, and God in so far as He loves man. The Empire, in persecuting this doctrine, only added to its vitality, for it has hot even yet completely died out.
The religion of Father Enfantin, which had a great vogue in the last century, conformed in many respects to the name of its founder. Man and woman, united by religion, were to form priests "in duplicate" for the guidance of their flock, young and old, lovers and married couples alike. The Saint-Simonites—so admirable in some ways—allied themselves to this doctrine, and succeeded in attracting a number of sympathisers.
The life of French sects has always been of short duration, though there have existed among them many that in other countries would certainly have won for their founders the laurel-wreath of fame. Such was, for instance, the Church of France, inaugurated by the Abbe Chatel, whose idea was to entrust sacerdotal functions to the most worthy among his followers, by means of a public vote. The sect prospered for a time, but soon disappeared amid general indifference, and the Abbe ended his days as a grocer.
The doctrine of Fabre Palaprat had more success, being drawn from the esoteric teachings of the Gospel of St. John. He either suppressed or modified many of the Catholic dogmas, abandoned the use of Latin and inaugurated prayers in French.
The Fusionists were founded by Jean-Baptiste de Tourreil. After a divine revelation which came to him in the forest of Meudon, near Paris, he broke with Catholicism and preached the intimate union of man and nature. He anticipated to some extent the naturalist beliefs which spread through both France and England at the beginning of the present century, and his posthumous work entitled The Fusionist Religion or the Doctrine of Universalism gives an idea of his tendencies. There was an element of consolation in his doctrine, for the harmony between man and the universe, as taught by him, renders death only a prolongation of life itself, and makes it both attractive and desirable.
The Neo-Gnostic Church of Fabre des Essarts was condemned by Leo XIII with some severity as a revival of the old Albigensian heresy, with the addition of new false and impious doctrines, but it still has many followers. The Neo-Gnostics believe that this world is a work of wickedness, and was created not by God but by some inferior power, which shall ultimately disappear—and its creation also. While the Manichaeans teach that the world is ruled by the powers of both good and evil, God and Satan, the Neo-Gnostics declare that it is Satan who reigns exclusively upon earth, and that it is man's duty to help to free God from His powerful rival. They also preach the brotherhood of man and of nations, and it is probably this altruistic doctrine which has rendered them irresistible to many who are wearied and disheartened by the enmities and hatreds that separate human beings.
In 1900, after a letter from Jean Bricaut, the patriarch of universal Gnosticism in Lyons, the Neo-Gnostics united with the Valentinians, and their union was consecrated by the Council of Toulouse in 1903. But some years afterwards, Dr. Fugairon of Lyons (who took the name of Sophronius) amalgamated all the branches, with the exception of the Valentinians, under the name of the Gnostic Church of Lyons. These latter, although excluded, continued to follow their own way of salvation, and addressed a legal declaration to the Republican Government in 1906 in defence of their religious rights of association.
In the Gnostic teaching, the Eons, corresponding to the archetypal ideas of Plato, are never single; each god has his feminine counterpart; and the Gnostic assemblies are composed of "perfected ones," male and female. The Valentinians give the mystic bride the name of Helen.
The Gnostic rites and sacraments are complicated. There is the Consolamentum, or laying on of hands; the breaking of bread, or means of communication with the Astral Body of Jesus; and the Appareillamentum, or means of receiving divine grace.
In peculiarities of faith and of its expression some of our French sects certainly have little to learn from those of America and Russia.
The Religion of Satanism—or, as it was sometimes called, the Religion of Mercy—founded by Vintras and Boullan, deserves special mention. Vintras was arrested—unjustly, it seems certain—for swindling, and in the visions which he experienced as a result of his undeserved sufferings he believed himself to be in communication with the Archangel Michael and with Christ Himself. Having spent about twelve years in London, he returned to Lyons to preach his doctrine, and succeeded in making a number of proselytes. He died in 1875. Some years afterwards a doctor of divinity named Boullan installed himself at Lyons as his successor. He taught that women should be common property, and preached the union with inferior beings (in order to raise them), the "union of charity," and the "union of wisdom." He healed the sick, exorcised demons, and treated domestic animals with great success, so that the peasants soon looked upon him as superior to the cure who was incapable of curing their sick horses and cattle.
Vintras had proclaimed himself to be Elijah come to life; Boullan adopted the title of John the Baptist resurrected. He died at the beginning of the twentieth century, complaining of having been cruelly slandered, especially by Stanislas de Guaita, who in his Temple of Satan had accused Boullan of being a priest of Lucifer, of making use of spells and charms, and—worst of all—of celebrating the Black Mass.
The founder of the Religion of Humanity had a tragic and troublous career. Genius and madness have rarely been so harmoniously combined for the creation of something that should be durable and of real value. For one cannot doubt the madness of Auguste Comte. It was manifested in public on the 12th of April, 1826, and interrupted the success of his lectures, which had attracted all the leading minds of the time, including Humboldt himself. After a violent attack of mania, the founder of the philosophy of Positivism took refuge at Montmorency. From there he was with difficulty brought back to Paris and placed under the care of the celebrated alienist, Esquirol. He was released when only partially cured, and at the instigation of his mother consented to go through a religious marriage ceremony with Madame Comte, after which he signed the official register Brutus Bonaparte Comte! The following year he threw himself into the Seine, but was miraculously saved, and, gradually recovering his strength, he recommenced his courses of lectures, which aroused the greatest interest both in France and abroad.
The Positivist leader had always shown signs of morbid megalomania. His early works are sufficient to prove that he was the prey to an excessive form of pride, for he writes like a Messiah consciously treading the path that leads to a martyr's crown. His private troubles aggravated the malady, and the escapades of his wife, who frequently left his house to rejoin her old associates, were the cause of violent attacks of frenzy.
Later the philosopher himself was seized by an overwhelming passion for Clotilde de Vaux, a writer of pretensions who was, in reality, distinguished neither by talent nor beauty. The feeling that she inspired in him has no parallel in the annals of modern love-affairs. After some years, however, she died of consumption, and the germ of madness in Comte, which had been lying latent, again showed itself, this time in the form of a passionate religious mysticism. His dead mistress became transformed, for him, into a divinity, and he looked upon everything that she had used or touched as sacred, shutting himself up in the midst of the furniture and utensils that had surrounded her during her life-time. Three times a day he prostrated himself, and offered up fervent prayers to the spirit of Clotilde, and he often visited her grave, or sat, wrapped in meditation, in the church that she had frequented. He sought to evoke her image, and held long conversations with it, and it was under her influence that he founded a new religion based chiefly on his Positivist Catechism. In this cult, Clotilde symbolised woman and the superior humanity which shall proceed from her.
Although a profound and original thinker, Comte was like the rest in considering himself the High Priest of his own religion. He sought to make converts, and wrote to many of the reigning sovereigns, including the Tsar; and he even suggested an alliance, for the good of the nations, with the Jesuits!
But to do him justice we must admit that he led an ascetic and saint-like life, renouncing all worldly pleasures. An Englishman who saw much of him about 1851 declared that his goodness of soul surpassed even his brilliancy of intellect.
Though he had so little sympathy for the past and present religions upon whose grave he erected his own system, he himself reverted, as a matter of fact, to a sort of fetishism; and his "Humanity," with which he replaced the former "gods," manifested nearly all their defects and weaknesses.
In his Sacerdoce and Nouvelle Foi Occidentale the principal ideas are borrowed from inferior beliefs of the Asiatic races. He incorporated the arts of hygiene and medicine in his creed, and declared that medicine would reinstate the dominion of the priesthood when the Positivist clergy succeeded in fulfilling the necessary conditions.
The remarkable success of this religion is well known. Numerous sects based on Comte's doctrines were founded in all parts of the world, and his philosophy made a deep impression on the minds of thinking men, who assisted in spreading it through all branches of society. Even to-day believers in Positivism are found not only in France, but above all in North and South America. In Brazil, Comte's influence was both widespread and beneficial, and the very laws of this great Republic are based on the theories of the Positivist leader.
The value of certain of his fundamental doctrines may be questioned, equally with the ruling ideas of his religion, his Messianic role, and his priesthood. But there is nevertheless something sublime in the teaching that individual and social happiness depends upon the degree of affection and goodwill manifested in the human heart. This is no doubt one reason why the adherents of the Positivist Church are so often distinguished by their high morality and their spirit of self-sacrifice.
In addition to purely local sects and religions, France has always harboured a number of Swedenborgians, whose beliefs have undergone certain modifications on French soil. For instance, thaumaturgy was introduced by Captain Bernard, and healing by means of prayer by Madame de Saint-Amour. But Leboys des Guais, the acknowledged leader of the sect about 1850, reverted to the unalloyed doctrines of the founder, and thanks to Mlle. Holms and M. Humann, and their church in the Rue de Thouin, the Swedenborgian religion still flourishes in France to-day.
The Irvingites, founded in Scotland towards the end of the eighteenth century, also made many French converts. Irving preached the second coming of Christ, and believed that the Holy Ghost was present in himself. He waited some time for God the Father to endow him with the miraculous gifts needed for establishing the new Church, and then, finding that many of his followers were able to heal the sick with surprising success, he concluded that heaven had deigned to accept him as the "second Saviour." He organised a Catholic Apostolic Church in London, and proclaimed himself its head; while in Paris the principal church of the sect, formerly in the Avenue de Segur, has now been moved to the Rue Francois-Bonvin. Woman is excluded from the cult, and consequently the name of the Virgin is omitted from all Irvingite ceremonies, while the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Virgin are denied.
But many other sects exist in addition to those already mentioned. Often their life is short as a summer night, and they appear and disappear, leaving no trace behind them save a passing exaltation in the hearts of their followers. Those who join them seem for a time to be satisfied with dreams and illusions, but usually end by returning to the bosom of the established Church—or by being confined in an asylum.
These innumerable sects with their illusory pretensions serve to demonstrate the truth of our thesis—that the most ardent desire of present-day humanity is for the renewal or transformation of the faith to which it has grown accustomed.
A well-known critic has claimed that it is possible for all the dramatic or comic incidents that have been played in all theatres of all ages to be reduced down to thirty-six situations from the use of which not even a genius can escape. To how many main variations could we reduce the desire for reform displayed by our religious revolutionaries? The search for salvation takes on so many vague and incalculable shapes that we can only compare them to clouds that float across the sky on a windy day; but there are, all the same, signs of kinship to be discovered even between the sects that appear to be furthest apart.
The Chlysty, from whom the religion of Rasputin was partly derived, show some resemblance to the "Shakers," and to the Christian Scientists, both of whom have evolved along lines diametrically opposed. The "Shakers," direct descendants of the Huguenots, teach that the end of the world is at hand, and that all men should repent in preparation for the coming of the heavenly kingdom. Their meetings have always been characterised by visions and revelations, and they sing and dance for joy, leaping into the air and trembling with nervous excitement—to which fact they owe their name.
In tracing out their history we find many striking analogies with the sects of our own day. It was in 1770 that the "Shakers" believed Christ to have reincarnated in the body of Anne Lee, the daughter of a Manchester blacksmith. Although married, she preached—like Mrs. Eddy a hundred years later—the benefits of celibacy, the only state approved by God. Her convictions were so sincere, and her expression of them so eloquent, that when charged with heresy she succeeded in converting her accusers. The cult of virginity was adopted by her followers, who considered her their "Mother in Christ," inspired from on high; and when she counselled them to leave England and emigrate to the New World, they followed her unquestioningly, even to embarking in an old and long-disused vessel for the Promised Land. Arrived there, however, their lot was not a happy one, for they met with much persecution, and Anne Lee herself was imprisoned. But after her release she preached with greater force and conviction than ever the end of sexual unions and the near approach of the Kingdom of God. Her eloquence attracted many, and even today her religion still has followers. Among their settlements we may mention that of Alfred, Maine, where a number of "spiritual families" live harmoniously together, convinced that the Kingdom of God has already descended upon earth, and that they are existing in a state of celestial purity like that of the angels in heaven. They refuse to eat pork or to make use of fermented drinks, and dancing still plays a part in their religious services. Sometimes, in the midst of the general excitement, a sister or a brother will announce a message that has been delivered by some unseen spirit, whereupon all the hearers leap and dance with redoubled vigour.
To-day, even as a hundred years ago, the "Shakers" affirm, not without reason, that Heaven and Hell are within ourselves, and that that is why we must live honestly and well in order to share in the heavenly kingdom from which sinners are excluded. Just so do Christian Scientists declare that we may be led by faith towards heaven, happiness and health.
Even murder, that most extreme perversion of all moral feeling, has been adopted as a means of salvation by several Russian sects as well as by the Hindus, evolving in widely contrasted environments. The general desire to gain, somehow or other, the favour of the "Eternal Principle of Things," thus expresses itself in the most varied and the most unlikely forms, one of the most striking being that of the "religion of murder," which throws a lurid light upon the hidden regions of man's subconscious mind.
THE RELIGION OF MURDER
There are certain periodical publications which as a rule are neither examined nor discussed. Yet their existence dates back for many years, and in this age of filing and docketing they must by now provide a regular gold-mine for the study of human psychology. What increases their value is that they avoid all attempt at "literary effect." No picked phrases, no situations invented or dramatised to suit the taste of the author; nothing but facts taken from real life and recorded by the functionaries of His Majesty the Emperor of India. We are referring to those very interesting Reports of the Indian Government to which we owe practically all our knowledge of fakirism and its miracles, of the artificial conservation of human life in the tomb, and of the strangulation rites of the Thugs. They are indeed a valuable contribution to the study of the perversions of religious faith—that most alluring and yet least explored section of psychology.
A librarian at the British Museum showed me some years ago one of the most suggestive documents that the art of cartography has ever produced. It was the famous map prepared by Captain Paton, about 1890, for the British Government, showing the various neighbourhoods in which the Thugs had strangled and buried their victims. Drawn up according to precise information furnished by several leaders of the sect, it indicated every tomb in the province of Oudh, where the majority of the worshippers of the goddess Kali were to be found. The written descriptions that accompanied the map were particularly interesting, for—like Swift, when he enumerated the benefits that would accrue to the starving Irish people if they killed their children like sheep and ate them instead of mutton—Captain Paton felt himself compelled to record the glorious deeds of some of the most valiant of the Thugs. He gave details which would have rejoiced the imagination of a de Quincey or an Edgar Allan Poe. About 5200 murders had been committed by a company of forty people, all highly thought of and commanding general respect. At their head was the venerable Buhram, who laid claim to 931 assassinations during his forty years of religious activity in the province of Oudh. The second in merit, one Ramson, had strangled 608 people. The third, it is true, could only claim about 500, but he had reached this figure in thirty years, and had made a record of 25 murders in one year. Others had to their credit 377, 340 and 264 assassinations respectively, after which one dropped from these heights to figures of twenty, ten or even only five annual murders in honour of Kali. This record undoubtedly represented the supreme flower of the religion of this goddess, who not only taught her followers the art of strangulation, but also succeeded in hiding their deeds from the suspicious eyes of unbelievers.
Murders followed thick and fast, one upon another, but though thousands of Hindus, rich and poor, young and old, were known to disappear, their terrified families scarcely dared to complain. English statisticians go so far as to say that from thirty to fifty thousand human lives were sacrificed every year on the altar of this fatal goddess, who, desiring to thwart the growth of the too prolific life-principle in the universe, incited her worshippers to the suppression and destruction of human beings. But while using her power to shelter her followers from suspicion and discovery, Kali expected them, for their part, to take care that none witnessed the performance of her duties. One day misfortune fell upon them. A novice of the cult had the daring to spy upon the goddess while she was occupied in destroying the traces of her rite, and Kali's divine modesty being wounded, she declared that in future she would no longer watch over the earthly safety of her followers, but that they themselves must be responsible for concealing their deeds from the eyes of men. Thus, after having worshipped her with impunity for centuries, the Thugs all at once found themselves exposed to the suspicions of their fellow-countrymen, and above all, of the British Government. Captain Sleeman played the part of their evil genius, for in his anger at their abominable deeds he decided, in spite of the resistance offered by the heads of the East India Company, to wage war to the knife against the religion of Kali. Such alarming reports were received in England that at last the home authorities were aroused, and in 1830 a special official was appointed to direct operations (the General Superintendent of Operations against Thuggee). Captain Sleeman was chosen to fill the appointment, and he dedicated to it all his courage and practically his whole life. The tale of the twenty years' struggle that followed would put the most thrilling dramas of fiction in the shade.
In the works founded on Captain Sleeman's reports, and above all in his own official documents, are found remarkable accounts of the ways in which the Thugs lured their victims to their doom.
A Mongol officer of noble bearing was travelling to the province of Oudh accompanied by two faithful servants. He halted on his way near the Ganges, and was there accosted by a group of men, polite in speech and respectable in appearance, who asked permission to finish their journey under his protection. The officer refused angrily and begged them to let him go on his way alone. The strangers tried to persuade him that his suspicions were unjust, but, seeing his nostrils inflate and his eyes gleam with rage, they finally desisted. The next day he met another group of travellers, dressed in Moslem fashion, who spoke to him of the danger of travelling alone and begged him to accept their escort. Once more the officer's eyes flashed with rage; he threatened them with his sword, and was left to proceed in peace. Many times again the brave Mongol, always on his guard, succeeded in thwarting the designs of his mysterious fellow-travellers, but on the fourth day he reached a barren plain where, a few steps from the track, six Moslems were weeping over the body of one who had succumbed to the hardships of the journey. They had already dug a hole in the earth to inter the corpse, when it was discovered that not one of them could read the Koran. On their knees they implored the Mongol officer to render this service to the dead. He dismounted from his horse, unable to resist their pleadings, and feeling bound by his religion to accede to their request.
Having discarded his sword and pistols, he performed the necessary ablutions, and then approached the grave to recite the prayers for the dead. Suddenly cloths were thrown over his own and his servants' heads, and after a few moments all three were precipitated into the yawning hole.
It may be asked why so much cunning was needed in order to add a few more members to the kingdom of the dead. The reason is that the Thugs were forbidden to shed human blood. The sacrifice could only be accomplished through death by strangling. It might often be easy enough to fall upon solitary travellers, but woe to the Thug who in any way brought about the shedding of blood! Consequently they had to have recourse to all sorts of ingenious methods for allaying suspicion, so that their victims might be hastened into the next world according to the rites approved by their implacable goddess. They believed in division of labour, and always acted collectively, employing some to entice the victim into the trap, and others to perform the act of strangulation, while in the third category were those who first dug the graves and afterwards rendered them invisible.
The murders were always accomplished with a kind of cold-blooded fanaticism, admitting neither mercy nor pity, for the Thug, convinced that his action would count as a special virtue for himself in the next life, also believed that his victim would benefit from it.
Feringhi, one of the most famous of Indian stranglers, who also held a responsible official position, was once asked if he was not ashamed to kill his neighbour.
"No," he replied, "because one cannot be ashamed to fulfil the divine will. In doing so one finds happiness. No man who has once understood and practised the religion of Thuggee will ever cease to conform to it to the end of his days. I was initiated into it by my father when I was very young, and if I were to live for a thousand years I should still continue to follow in his footsteps."
The Thugs of each district were led by one whom they called their jemadar, to whom they gave implicit obedience. The utmost discretion reigned among them, and they never questioned the plans of their superiors. We can imagine how difficult it was to combat a fanaticism which feared nothing, not even death; for when death overtook them, as it sometimes did, in the performance of their rites, they merely looked upon it as a means of drawing nearer to their goddess.
The origin of this extraordinary religion seems to be hidden in the mists of the past, though European travellers claim to have met with it in India in the seventeenth century. We may note that during the Mahometan invasion all sorts of crimes were committed in the name of religion, and possibly the murders in honour of Kali were a survival from this time. As years went by the sect increased rapidly, and many of the most peaceable Hindus were attracted by it, and joined it in the capacity of grave-concealers, spies, or merely as passive adherents who contributed large sums of money. In Sleeman's time about two thousand Thugs were arrested and put to death every year, but nevertheless their numbers, towards the end of the nineteenth century, were steadily increasing. (Of recent years, however, a considerable diminution has been shown.) In 1895 only three are recorded to have been condemned to death for murder; in 1896, ten; and in 1897, twenty-five; while travellers in Rajputana and the Hyderabad district speak of much higher figures. The Thugs always bear in mind the maxim that "dead men tell no tales," and their practice of killing all the companions of the chosen victim, as well as himself, renders the detection of their crimes extremely difficult; while their mastery of the art of getting rid of corpses frequently baffles the authorities. Further, the terrified families of the victims, dreading reprisals, often fail to report the deaths, so that the sect has thus been enabled to continue its murderous rites in spite of all measures taken to stamp it out.
They avoid killing women, except in the case of women accompanying a man who has been doomed to death, when they must be sacrificed in order to prevent their reporting the crime. Stranger still, they admit that murder is not always a virtuous action, but that there are criminal murders which deserve punishment.
"When a Thug is killed," said one of them to the celebrated Sleeman, "or when one does not belong to the sect, and kills without conforming to the rites, it is a crime, and should be punished."
They seem to experience a strange and voluptuous pleasure when performing their rites of strangulation—a pleasure increased, no doubt, by the knowledge that their goddess looks on with approval. Yet even the most hardened among them is capable of the greatest chivalry when women are concerned, and a rigorous inquiry into the details of thousands of their crimes has failed to reveal any single attempt at violation. A Thug returning from one of his ritualistic expeditions may show himself to be a good and affectionate husband and father, and a charitable neighbour. Apart from numerous acts of assassination, on which he prides himself, his conduct is usually irreproachable. No wonder that he fills the English magistrates with stupefaction, and that justice does not always dare to strike when it can act more effectively by persuasion or seclusion.
All things evolve with the passage of time, and in the twentieth century even the rite of strangulation has undergone changes. From the main sect of Thuggee, other branches of a new and unlooked-for type have sprung. These, instead of strangling their neighbours, prefer to poison them, the virtue being the same and the method easier and more expeditious. Their proceedings, though more difficult to control, are quite as lucrative for Kali, the devourer of human life, and if they have made their goddess less notorious than did the Thugs, they certainly worship her with equal ardour.
THE REINCARNATIONIST'S PARADISE
Amid luxuriant vegetation, in an enchanting position overlooking the Pacific Ocean, flourishes the religion of reincarnation "without beginning and without end." Its followers, gathered there from all parts of the world, steep themselves in the atmosphere of fraternal love and general benevolence which is exhaled by this doctrine of the evolution of souls, leading to ultimate perfection.
The scenes which greet the dazzled eyes of the visitor are of such extreme beauty that he might well believe himself to have been miraculously transported to ancient Hellas. Greek theatres and temples gleam whitely in the shade of majestic palm-trees, and groups of young people dressed like the youths and maidens of ancient Athens may be seen taking part in rhythmic dances and elaborate processions.
Amid the dirt and chaos of our modern world this Grecian city seems to have sprung up as by a miracle, fully reconstituted not only in its outer appearance but also in its inner life of harmony and peace. Theosophists of every degree, who in other lands seem so often to lose themselves in a mist of vague dreams and metaphysical speculations, have here succeeded in expressing their ideals in concrete form.
Why postpone the paradise promised by Karma, the fundamental law of life? Why not seek to enjoy it now, without delay? So a number of the scattered disciples of Madame Blavatsky, following their new guide, Catherine Tingley, set to work to construct their holy city in California, on the shores of the Pacific, like the Jews who followed Moses to the Promised Land.
These teachings, handed down through untold ages, rejoice to-day in a setting that would surely have astonished their Hindu or Egyptian progenitors; and the revelations which came to Madame Blavatsky after her discovery of the forgotten truths of a dim and distant past bid fair to revivify our time-worn planet. Since the war there has been a tremendous revival of theosophical propaganda in allied and neutral countries, in the Old World and in the New, and without doubt Theosophy, together with Christian Science—to which it is in many ways opposed—is destined to undergo striking developments.
The new theory of metempsychosis saw the light about fifty years ago. It was brought to the United States by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a Russian lady of noble birth and high educational attainments, whose thought had been influenced partly by the esoteric wisdom of the past and partly by the religious unrest of her native land.
The doctrine of reincarnation has been accepted in India and Egypt for at least three thousand years. It was taught secretly in the Eleusinian mysteries. The philosophy of Pythagoras and of Plato is deeply impregnated with it. The Early Christian Church, as well as the Gnostics, admitted it tacitly, but in the fourth century it was condemned by the Fathers of the Church and banished from orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless it has always had an irresistible attraction for thoughtful minds, and many of the greatest thinkers, artists and poets of all ages have been firmly convinced of its truth.
Once installed in New York the Russian prophetess sowed far and wide the seeds of her new faith, whose consolatory doctrine attracted many who were saddened by the phenomenon of death, while at the same time it brought her many enemies.
After a time she departed for India, where her teachings became considerably enriched and widened by local and historical influences. She died in London in 1891.
We will pass in silence over the calumnious and dishonourable accusations which poisoned her years of triumph, and with which it has been sought to tarnish her memory. In these days we slander our prophets instead of killing them—a procedure which may cause them greater suffering, but has no effect upon the spread of their doctrines.
Madame Blavatsky's philosophy is set forth in a series of elaborate works of which the chief are The Secret Doctrine, the Key to Theosophy, and Isis Unveiled, constituting, according to the author, a key to the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology. To this medley of thoughts and facts drawn from the mystical wisdom of all countries and all ages, the magic of the writer's style gives a peculiar force and flavour, and though she may not always convince, she certainly offers food for thought and speculation—which is, perhaps, even more essential.
Her frequent lack of precision and clearness seems only to enhance the effect of her affirmations and revelations. A prophet who could easily be understood by intelligences of all grades would soon come to grief, for religious teachers, like philosophers and metaphysicians, seem to be esteemed and admired largely in proportion to the vagueness of their doctrines. The works of Madame Blavatsky are worthy of being classed among the most obscure, and for that very reason have every chance of endurance.
In spite of the differences that arose among the principal Theosophists (who included Colonel Olcott, William Q. Judge, and Annie Besant) after their leader's death, Catherine Tingley succeeded in rallying large numbers of the American believers to her banner, and founded a colony at Point Loma, California, under the name of "the universal and theosophical brotherhood," which was approved by the Theosophical conferences held in New York and Chicago in 1898.
Theosophy is in fact a philosophy of altruism, whose main tenets are brotherly love and justice. By following truth the soul becomes purified, and after a life consecrated to others and guided by the laws of justice, the individual may hope to reincarnate in some higher form. As the poet of Sakuntala has said—"In other existences we all have loved and wept"—but the divine Kalidasa teaches that past lives should not be spoken of, "for the mystery of rebirth is sacred."
The duality of our being is shown, on the one hand, in our earthly sins and failures, and on the other in the spiritual aspirations which ever urge us on to greater heights. The law of Karma affirms the relationship between cause and effect, and teaches that "as a man sows, so shall he also reap"—and consequently, the better our thoughts and actions now, the greater our advancement in the next life.
It is in the teachings of the divine Krishna that we find the original source of the greater part of modern Theosophy. His precepts are full of consolation for restless minds, and have the power to reconcile us not only to death, but to life.
In the vast store-house of the world's legends there is none more beautiful than that of the immaculate maiden Devaki, who in a divine ecstasy, amid strains of celestial music, brought forth the child of Mahadeva, Sun of Suns, in perfect serenity and bliss; while the story of Krishna's life, his dangers and temptations, his virtues and his beauty, his wisdom and his final supreme initiation, has provided the Hindu world with conceptions of a grandeur, originality and depth rarely met with elsewhere. To this well of wisdom came Plato and Pythagoras, and drew from it the chief ingredients of their philosophies; and here, too, we receive from the lips of Krishna, thirty centuries before the birth of Christ, the first faint intimations of the immortality of the soul.
He taught his disciples that man, living upon earth, is triple in essence, possessing spirit, mind and body. When he succeeds in harmonising the two first, he attains the state of Sattva, and rejoices in wisdom and peace. When he succeeds in harmonising mind and body only, he is in the state of Raja, which is unstable and dangerous. When the body preponderates, he is in the state of Tamas, "that bindeth by heedlessness, indolence and sloth." Man's lot depends therefore on the correlation of these three states. When he dies in the state of Sattva, his soul rises to regions of the utmost purity and bliss, and comprehends all mysteries, in close communion with the Most High. This is true immortality. But those who have not escaped from Raja and Tamas must return to earth and reincarnate in mortal bodies.