Addendum 2: The Atheistic Gods of The Cause as Respective Saviors of Humanity

Samuel Morris described his inspiration to take up the Cause in the guise of Father Jehovia as a vision that he had of drowning men who were calling out for him to save them.[1] He soon traveled to Baltimore to do just that.

One of the drowning men he saved was George Baker Jr., a young storefront Baptist Church Sunday school teacher. In the class of Father Jehovia, Baker discovered God in himself. He did so first as God in the Jesus or Sonship degree and as such he acted as the messenger of Father Jehovia, Father Jehovia being God in the fatherhood degree. As such, he was Father Jehovia’s number two.

After leaving Father Jehovia’s school on his own mission, the young Messenger would organize his own school of students/followers who would, in turn, recognize him as the pinnacle of the fatherhood expression of God as Father Divine.[2] In his own ministry, Father Divine would reiterate to his followers that because of his presence in the world as the Jesus archetype, he actually “saved Mankind” in general and the USA in particular from its own self-destructive tendencies manifested through both its blatant and subliminal racism and its development of nuclear weapons. He had done so, he said, not only by his presence but also by his blessing of Democracy, all of which had been possible due to his dutiful and purposeful “conscious interrupt” and his overturning the false sky God concept of the normative Christian. By this, he meant that he saved humanity from its downward spiral under the phantom God of Christianity and made possible a utopia of righteousness by his appearance and his life in practice as the embodied true God, Father Divine.[3]

His widow and successor in the cause as head of the Peace Mission, Mother “Sweet Angel” Divine, would later eulogize her deceased husband by reminding all that his supreme sacrifice of “suffering and dying” for the Cause and his beliefs set the stage for the redemption of all mankind.[4]

In the theological world of Father Jim Jones, the exact same heterodox New Thought axioms, shared in the previous schools of the cause, were applied to the life – and ultimate death – of him and his group, Peoples Temple.

To his followers, then, Jones was the Jesus archetype, who actually saved Mankind from its own self-destructive tendencies. Like Fathers Jehovia and Divine before him, he did this as a “conscious interrupt,” manifesting as an embodied God or principle in the flesh and then birthing and shepherding the Peoples Temple and ultimately sacrificing it – and himself. Thus for Peoples Temple, Jim Jones, and all who died together with him for the cause in Jonestown participated in a supreme redemptive act of victory.[5] Thus, from the perspective of a loyalist to the Cause of Peoples Temple, the murders and suicides could be seen as the same willing sacrifice of Jesus or of the Christ at Golgotha in the New Testament. For such ones, Jonestown was the actual reality in real time of the Jesus in the Bible.[6]

The specific events at Jonestown were a unique occurrence, both to the orthodox and to the heterodox sects of the New Thought movement, yet their theoretical underpinnings and ideological roots can be understood as a peculiar outgrowth of New Thought ideology.[7] Yet it would be a singularly apologist view that reinterprets the horrific events of November 1978 as a tragic, but necessary, event, of self sacrifice that set the stage for the redemption of Mankind in heterodox, marginal, New Thought.

Unfortunately most Temple members who may have held this view and who could expound on it directly from a source of personal conviction by definition perished at Jonestown. Survivors who may have initially held this view were under intense social and psychological pressure to relinquish it. Given subsequent developments among the scattered community of Peoples Temple survivors, it would appear that most of them ultimately did so, although it is not known for certain that all did.

Notes

[1] Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1995), 27.

[2] Watts, 27-30.

[3] The New Day, Vol. 37 no 32. Peace Mission Publications.

[4] Mother Divine, The Peace Mission Movement (New York: Anno Domini Father Divine Publications, 1982), 99-101.

[5] Richard Tropp’s Last Letter from Jonestown, November 18, 1978.

[6] Jones often talked about sacrifice and giving one’s life for the cause even as a more effective remedy to save the people than Jesus’ on the cross. “If I could die on a cross and save all of you people from some real or imaginary sin I would say, ‘Get me the cross, and put it in the ground and nail my hands as fast as you can, ‘cause I’d be glad to save you with one act.’” David Chidester, Salvation and Suicide: An Interpretation of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and Jonestown (Bloomington and Indianapolis: University of Indiana Press, 1988. Revised ed. titled Salvation and Suicide: Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and Jonestown, 2003), 126.

Also see Rev. Jim Jones‘ January 1973, Redwood Valley Temple talk in which he said: “That’s a great, great heroic sacrifice. I say living is much more of a sacrifice than dying on a cross because if I could die on a cross and save all of you people.” Q 1027, Q 1023, and Q 273

[7] Although killing and committing revolutionary suicide for the cause at Jonestown at the command of Jim Jones is indeed an unique occurrence, the power and the depth of belief as engendered by the Atheistic Gods of this metaphysical heterodox subset of New Thought run very deep and resilient in some individuals.

George Baker Jr. was converted by Father Jehovia in 1907. After he left the group six years later – and although he would never refer back to his life before or during the time he was a student of Father Jehovia and would shroud his mortal origins in a calculated air of mystery – Baker, throughout his subsequent career as Father Divine, nonetheless remained utterly faithful to what he learned in Father Jehovia’s group until his death in 1965.

This intense depth of belief extended to Father Divine’s loyal followers. For example: In 1942, after moving the international headquarters of his operation from New York City to Philadelphia under duress, Father Divine issued a curse on his former home. In 2012, some 70 years after the fact, a Divine follower posted an observation online reiterating this curse and listed the evils that befell the city – including the World Trade Centers attacks of September 11 2001 – as just retribution for New York City’s long term and ongoing failure to apologize to Father. The posting has since been removed.

In addition, a small and dwindling group of ageing devotees still gathers around Father Divine’s 90-year-old widow, Mother Divine, to sing praises to her long deceased husband at his mountaintop castle in rural eastern Pennsylvania, 50 years after his passing.

With this track record of deep and fanatical devotion engendered by these groups, it may be reasonable to think that somewhere, a few individuals may still unswervingly claim to know that Father – in any one of his three earthly manifestations last century – is God, for some time to come.

Originally posted on October 30th, 2015.

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