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The number of abnormal persons and movements that claim the attention of students of religious phenomena is increased with each generation. They have the same or similar characteristics, and differ chiefly according to the times in which they appear. Their unusualness need not be interpreted as supernatural, although the abnormal and morbid was customarily interpreted in this way by the ancients, and many moderns, at least in point of time, are also inclined to regard the unusual as supernatural.

Scientific examination shows that such persons and movements are to be accounted for upon the theory of natural causes.

Mr. Dowie is in many ways a strange personality to say the least, and to be explained as to his ideas and achievements as a "sport" of the religious world.

"Leaving positively insane persons out of account the people who run into the exaggerated development of one idea, or are affected with a passionate wry-mindedness of one sort or another, or go askew in eccentric impulses of feeling, and cause or occasion a deal of suffering and annoyance, commonly do more harm than good in the world. It falls on others of a more wholesome and temperate wholeness of nature to make special atonement for them - to suffer for their self-indulgences, to thwart their follies, to counteract their extravagances, to smooth their difficulties, to rectify the disorders which they produce in the social body. They, meanwhile absorbed in their narrow selfishness of their one-sided or wry-minded natures, care not sincerely for any aim except so far as it serves to gratify the modes of egoistic righteousness




in which their intense and special self-love masquerades. Nevertheless by the very intensity of their self-confidence, by their constitutional insensibility to other interests, by their fanatical zeal and singleness of purpose, they sometimes get credit for their pretentions and attract followers who look up to them as semi-inspired.

The narrow intensity of faith has two ensuing effects, the one upon the individual himself, the other upon others. First. Intoxicated with the joy of his special enthusiasm, he is like a delirious or a drunken man who rejoices in everything he does as its own justification, needing neither explanation nor excuse; accordingly he has no distrust of himself, no desire for sounder assurance, no compunction for his disregard of the interests and opinions of others, even those who have most claim upon his consideration - no feeling but one of exultant self-satisfaction with what he thinks and does." (This description of the resulting character and conduct of one under a supreme delusion fits Mr. Dowie as perfectly as if it had been written concerning him. It was as a matter of fact written before Mr. Dowie began his career of self-delusion and deluding others. That he has been regardless of any other than his own opinion or interest his own people now bear abundant witness. The pity is that he was surrounded by men who had no desire or certainly no ability to curb his exceedingly selfish and unreasonable usurpations of power and his oppression of those of his humbler followers who dared to refuse to take him at his own estimate).

"Second. The intensity of belief with which he holds to a novel and seemingly forlorn opinion, his ardent devotion to it, and its final triumph in spite of opposition and against all apparent reason, when it does succeed - these are so surprising to others, who easily perceive his limitations, that the success seems more than natural, not to be accounted for except by supernatural help.

Thus it has been that religious impostors have arisen and flourished, not consciously insincere at first, perhaps, they




have deceived themselves, then imposed upon others, and in the end, by the reflex effect upon themselves of the admiration and reverence of which they are the objects, have become more or less conscious impostors, affecting the sanctity which their disciples ascribe to them. Wanting in intellectual wholeness and sincerity, by reason of a natural flaw of mental structure, it is inevitable that they become morally insincere. They delude others for their own gain or glory, and to delude others is a sure way to become by a stealthy process of self-collusion, self-deluded. It is a signal unreason to challenge reverence and authority for a person of this sort, tacitly or expressly, because of his burning zeal and sincerity, since he may be as little capable of correct observation, as incapable of self-observation, and as deeply sunk in self, as if he were actually insane. To Christian a vice zeal is not to transform it into a virtue. His nature is not well tempered, it is intemperate, and on the way therefore, to becoming distempered, and in any case the quality of its sincerity is very poor, for the sincerest person, albeit the insincerest to nature all around is the lunatic." *

We have shown that Mr. Dowie falls in the category of just such persons, and the greatness of his pretensions and the long continued success that he had in holding his people together and in building up his organization for ten years, does not invalidate in the least this estimate of his character.

His people too have been attracted for the most part because they were predisposed to follow and laud just such a person. His beliefs, and interpretations of the religious life, found them so readily, and took hold of them so completely, because they were his mental kinsfolk. His development toward delusion and deceit, and his assumption of the role of a conscious or unconscious impostor, was caused by his own insatiable self-esteem, it is true. But not less powerful has been the impulse and suggestion furnished by an


* H. M. Maudsley, "Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings," p. 171.




over credulous following. If he was under the delusion that he had been sent of God as Elijah, his people had to pass under the same delusion to remain his followers, or to falsify about the matter; for time and again he exacted the declaration from his people that they did so believe. Every signer of the Vow of a Restorationist was under this delusion, or suffered coercion of will, amounting approximately to dishonesty.

The follies and wrongs of Mr. Dowie were not caused by him alone. He has himself and his people to blame, and while the following may not as a whole be criminally and legally responsible for his character and doings, they are psychologically responsible in a large measure.

It is also true that the healings of Mr. Dowie require no element of the miraculous to explain them. The atmosphere that a man of such hypnotic influence and power as to be able to hold a large following deceived for years, would create, and the bringing together of so many of the same mental attitude, would make healing's by suggestion not only probable, but well nigh inevitable. Not that it can be shown that none of the persons healed in connection with this movement were not truly helped back to health by the infinite spirit of power and wholeness that furnishes all life and being, for any sort of healing presupposes a power past explanation and valuation in any complete sense. But what is meant by natural as used in science generally, is sufficient to account for all these cures.

What will become of the movement inaugurated and so long controlled absolutely by Mr. Dowie? The answer lies outside our province. Yet it has great interest.

Since we cannot foresee what elements of strength and weakness will he mixed in the men who shall assume leadership, we must await the developments of time. Nor can anyone predict the next move that a psychological crowd will make upon the introduction of some disintegrating influence or an influence that will deflect the current of its group life. The feeling that the people of Zion have under the new regime




that they are free, is another delusion fondly indulged and fostered by their new leaders. It may be that a sufficient number will, by enforced reflection, come to see the true state in which they are placed, and forsake leaders who are scarcely more worthy of trust and confidence than Mr. Dowie.

In any case the movement will pass out of its tense state and its uncritical devotion to certain opinions and doctrines and if it has inherent energy enough to persist, will develop a tradition, a doctrine and a cult of its own, and be influenced by the currents of modern life in some measure, but continue as a modified form of Dowieism.


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